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Title: Pearl-Fishing; Choice Stories from Dickens' Household Words; Second Series
Author: Dickens, Charles
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Pearl-Fishing; Choice Stories from Dickens' Household Words; Second Series" ***

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available at The Internet Archive)



           [Illustration: Faithfully yours Charles Dickens]



                            PEARL-FISHING.

                            CHOICE STORIES,

                                 FROM

                       Dickens’ Household Words.

                            SECOND SERIES.

                                AUBURN:
                        ALDEN, BEARDSLEY & CO.
                              ROCHESTER:
                        WANZER, BEARDSLEY & CO.
                                 1854.

      ENTERED, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1854, by

                        ALDEN, BEARDSLEY & CO.,

In the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of the United States for the
                    Northern District of New York.

                           THOMAS B. SMITH,
                     STEREOTYPER AND ELECTROTYPER,
                       216 William Street, N. Y.



The Publisher’s Notice.


The large demand for the _First Series_ of this publication, has
confirmed the publishers in their opinion of its worth and its
adaptability to meet the wants and tastes of the reading public, and
induced them to issue, in rapid succession, the present volume, which
will be found not less interesting and worthy of attention.

The publishers also announce their intention of continuing this series,
which has been received with so much public favor.

June, 1854.



Contents.


                                             PAGE

  I.--THE YOUNG ADVOCATE                        7

 II.--THE LAST OF A LONG LINE                  33

III.--THE GENTLEMAN BEGGAR                    107

 IV.--EVIL IS WROUGHT BY WANT OF THOUGHT      130

  V.--BED                                     167

 VI.--THE HOME OF WOODRUFFE THE GARDENER      184

 VII.--THE WATER-DROPS                        287

VIII.--AN EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY               325



I.

The Young Advocate.


Antoine de Chaulieu was the son of a poor gentleman of Normandy, with a
long genealogy, a short rent-roll, and a large family. Jacques Rollet
was the son of a brewer, who did not know who his grandfather was; but
he had a long purse and only two children. As these youths flourished in
the early days of liberty, equality, and fraternity, and were near
neighbors, they naturally hated each other. Their enmity commenced at
school, where the delicate and refined De Chaulieu being the only
gentilhomme among the scholars, was the favorite of the master (who was
a bit of an aristocrat in his heart) although he was about the worst
dressed boy in the establishment, and never had a sou to spend; while
Jacques Rollet, sturdy and rough, with smart clothes and plenty of
money, got flogged six days in the week, ostensibly for being stupid and
not learning his lessons--which, indeed, he did not--but, in reality,
for constantly quarrelling with and insulting De Chaulieu, who had not
strength to cope with him. When they left the academy, the feud
continued in all its vigor, and was fostered by a thousand little
circumstances arising out of the state of the times, till a separation
ensued in consequence of an aunt of Antoine de Chaulieu’s undertaking
the expense of sending him to Paris to study the law, and of maintaining
him there during the necessary period.

With the progress of events came some degree of reaction in favor of
birth and nobility, and then Antoine, who had passed for the bar, began
to hold up his head and endeavored to push his fortunes; but fate seemed
against him. He felt certain that if he possessed any gift in the world
it was that of eloquence, but he could get no cause to plead; and his
aunt dying inopportunely, first his resources failed, and then his
health. He had no sooner returned to his home, than, to complicate his
difficulties completely, he fell in love with Mademoiselle Natalie de
Bellefonds, who had just returned from Paris, where she had been
completing her education. To expiate on the perfections of Mademoiselle
Natalie, would be a waste of ink and paper; it is sufficient to say that
she really was a very charming girl, with a fortune which, though not
large, would have been a most desirable acquisition to De Chaulieu, who
had nothing. Neither was the fair Natalie indisposed to listen to his
addresses; but her father could not be expected to countenance the suit
of a gentleman, however well-born, who had not a ten-sous piece in the
world, and whose prospects were a blank.

While the ambitious and love-sick young barrister was thus pining in
unwelcome obscurity, his old acquaintance, Jacques Rollet, had been
acquiring an undesirable notoriety. There was nothing really bad in
Jacques’ disposition, but having been bred up a democrat, with a hatred
of the nobility, he could not easily accommodate his rough humor to
treat them with civility when it was no longer safe to insult them. The
liberties he allowed himself whenever circumstances brought him into
contact with the higher classes of society, had led him into many
scrapes, out of which his father’s money had one way or another released
him; but that source of safety had now failed. Old Rollet having been
too busy with the affairs of the nation to attend to his business, had
died insolvent, leaving his son with nothing but his own wits to help
him out of future difficulties, and it was not long before their
exercise was called for. Claudine Rollet, his sister, who was a very
pretty girl, had attracted the attention of Mademoiselle de Bellefonds’
brother, Alphonso; and as he paid her more attention than from such a
quarter was agreeable to Jacques, the young men had more than one
quarrel on the subject, on which occasions they had each,
characteristically, given vent to their enmity, the one in contemptuous
monosyllables, and the other in a volley of insulting words. But
Claudine had another lover more nearly of her own condition of life;
this was Claperon, the deputy-governor of the Rouen jail, with whom she
made acquaintance during one or two compulsory visits paid by her
brother to that functionary; but Claudine, who was a bit of a coquette,
though she did not altogether reject his suit, gave him little
encouragement, so that betwixt hopes, and fears, and doubts, and
jealousies, poor Claperon led a very uneasy kind of life.

Affairs had been for some time in this position, when, one fine morning,
Alphonse de Bellefonds was not to be found in his chamber when his
servant went to call him; neither had his bed been slept in. He had been
observed to go out rather late on the preceding evening, but whether or
not he had returned, nobody could tell. He had not appeared at supper,
but that was too ordinary an event to awaken suspicion; and little alarm
was excited till several hours had elapsed, when inquiries were
instituted and a search commenced, which terminated in the discovery of
his body, a good deal mangled, lying at the bottom of a pond which had
belonged to the old brewery. Before any investigations had been made,
every person had jumped to the conclusion that the young man had been
murdered, and that Jacques Rollet was the assassin. There was a strong
presumption in favor of that opinion, which further perquisitions tended
to confirm. Only the day before, Jacques had been heard to threaten M.
de Bellefonds with speedy vengeance. On the fatal evening, Alphonse and
Claudine had been seen together in the neighborhood of the now
dismantled brewery; and as Jacques, betwixt poverty and democracy, was
in bad odor with the prudent and respectable part of society, it was not
easy for him to bring witnesses to character, or prove an
unexceptionable alibi. As for the Bellefonds and De Chaulieus, and the
aristocracy in general, they entertained no doubt of his guilt; and
finally, the magistrates coming to the same opinion, Jacques Rollet was
committed for trial, and as a testimony of good will Antoine de
Chaulieu was selected by the injured family to conduct the prosecution.

Here, at last, was the opportunity he had sighed for! So interesting a
case, too, furnishing such ample occasion for passion, pathos,
indignation! And how eminently fortunate that the speech which he set
himself with ardor to prepare, would be delivered in the presence of the
father and brother of his mistress, and perhaps of the lady herself! The
evidence against Jacques, it is true, was altogether presumptive; there
was no proof whatever that he had committed the crime; and for his own
part he stoutly denied it. But Antoine de Chaulieu entertained no doubt
of his guilt, and his speech was certainly well calculated to carry
conviction into the bosom of others. It was of the highest importance to
his own reputation that he should procure a verdict, and he confidently
assured the afflicted and enraged family of the victim that their
vengeance should be satisfied. Under these circumstances could anything
be more unwelcome than a piece of intelligence that was privately
conveyed to him late on the evening before the trial was to come on,
which tended strongly to exculpate the prisoner, without indicating any
other person as the criminal. Here was an opportunity lost. The first
step of the ladder on which he was to rise to fame, fortune, and a wife,
was slipping from under his feet!

Of course, so interesting a trial was anticipated with great eagerness
by the public, and the court was crowded with all the beauty and fashion
of Rouen. Though Jacques Rollet persisted in asserting his innocence,
founding his defence chiefly on circumstances which were strongly
corroborated by the information that had reached De Chaulieu the
preceding evening,--he was convicted.

In spite of the very strong doubts he privately entertained respecting
the justice of the verdict, even De Chaulieu himself, in the first flush
of success, amid a crowd of congratulating friends, and the approving
smiles of his mistress, felt gratified and happy; his speech had, for
the time being, not only convinced others, but himself; warmed with his
own eloquence, he believed what he said. But when the glow was over, and
he found himself alone, he did not feel so comfortable. A latent doubt
of Rollet’s guilt now burnt strongly in his mind, and he felt that the
blood of the innocent would be on his head. It is true there was yet
time to save the life of the prisoner, but to admit Jacques innocent,
was to take the glory out of his own speech, and turn the sting of his
argument against himself. Besides, if he produced the witness who had
secretly given him the information, he should be self-condemned, for he
could not conceal that he had been aware of the circumstance before the
trial.

Matters having gone so far, therefore, it was necessary that Jacques
Rollet should die; so the affair took its course; and early one morning
the guillotine was erected in the court-yard of the jail, three
criminals ascended the scaffold, and three heads fell into the basket,
which were presently afterwards, with the trunks that had been attached
to them, buried in a corner of the cemetery.

Antoine de Chaulieu was now fairly started in his career, and his
success was as rapid as the first step towards it had been tardy. He
took a pretty apartment in the Hôtel de Marbœuf, Rue Grange-Batelière,
and in a short time was looked upon as one of the most rising young
advocates in Paris. His success in one line brought him success in
another; he was soon a favorite in society, and an object of interest to
speculating mothers; but his affections still adhered to his old love
Natalie de Bellefonds, whose family now gave their assent to the
match--at least, prospectively--a circumstance which furnished such an
additional incentive to his exertions, that in about two years from the
date of his first brilliant speech, he was in a sufficiently flourishing
condition to offer the young lady a suitable home. In anticipation of
the happy event, he engaged and furnished a suite of apartments in the
Rue du Helder; and as it was necessary that the bride should come to
Paris to provide her trousseau, it was agreed that the wedding should
take place there, instead of at Bellefonds, as had been first
projected; an arrangement the more desirable, that a press of business
rendered M. de Chaulieu’s absence from Paris inconvenient.

Brides and bridegrooms in France, except of the very high classes, are
not much in the habit of making those honeymoon excursions so universal
in this country. A day spent in visiting Versailles, or St. Cloud, or
even the public places of the city, is generally all that precedes the
settling down into the habits of daily life. In the present instance St.
Denis was selected, from the circumstance of Natalie having a younger
sister at school there; and also because she had a particular desire to
see the Abbey.

The wedding was to take place on a Thursday; and on the Wednesday
evening, having spent some hours most agreeably with Natalie, Antoine de
Chaulieu returned to spend his last night in his bachelor apartments.
His wardrobe and other small possessions, had already been packed up and
sent to his future home; and there was nothing left in his room now, but
his new wedding suit, which he inspected with considerable satisfaction
before he undressed and lay down to sleep. Sleep, however, was somewhat
slow to visit him; and the clock had struck _one_ before he closed his
eyes. When he opened them again, it was broad day-light; and his first
thought was, had he overslept himself? He sat up in bed to look at the
clock which was exactly opposite, and as he did so, in the large mirror
over the fire-place, he perceived a figure standing behind him. As the
dilated eyes met his own, he saw it was the face of Jacques Rollet.
Overcome with horror he sunk back on his pillow, and it was some minutes
before he ventured to look again in that direction; when he did so, the
figure had disappeared.

The sudden revulsion of feeling such a vision was calculated to occasion
in a man elate with joy, may be conceived! For some time after the death
of his former foe, he had been visited by not unfrequent twinges of
conscience; but of late, borne along by success, and the hurry of
Parisian life, these unpleasant remembrances had grown rarer, till at
length they had faded away altogether. Nothing had been further from his
thoughts than Jacques Rollet, when he closed his eyes on the preceding
night, nor when he opened them to that sun which was to shine on what he
expected to be the happiest day of his life! Where were the high-strung
nerves now! The elastic frame! The bounding heart!

Heavily and slowly he arose from his bed, for it was time to do so; and
with a trembling hand and quivering knees, he went through the processes
of the toilet, gashing his cheek with the razor, and spilling the water
over his well-polished boots. When he was dressed, scarcely venturing to
cast a glance in the mirror as he passed it, he quitted the room and
descended the stairs, taking the key of the door with him for the
purpose of leaving it with the porter; the man, however, being absent,
he laid it on the table in his lodge, and with a relaxed and languid
step proceeded on his way to the church, where presently arrived the
fair Natalie and her friends. How difficult it was now to look happy
with that pallid face and extinguished eye!

“How pale you are! Has anything happened? You are surely ill?” were the
exclamations that met him on all sides. He tried to carry it off as well
as he could, but felt that the movements he would have wished to appear
alert were only convulsive; and that the smiles with which he attempted
to relax his features, were but distorted grimaces. However, the church
was not the place for further inquiries; and while Natalie gently
pressed his hand in token of sympathy, they advanced to the altar, and
the ceremony was performed; after which they stepped into the carriages
waiting at the door, and drove to the apartments of Madame de
Bellefonds, where an elegant _déjeuner_ was prepared.

“What ails you, my dear husband?” inquired Natalie, as soon as they were
alone.

“Nothing, love,” he replied; “nothing, I assure you, but a restless
night and a little overwork, in order that I might have to-day free to
enjoy my happiness!”

“Are you quite sure? Is there nothing else?”

“Nothing, indeed; and pray don’t take notice of it, it only makes me
worse!”

Natalie was not deceived, but she saw that what he said was true; notice
made him worse; so she contented herself with observing him quietly, and
saying nothing; but, as he _felt_ she was observing him, she might
almost better have spoken; words are often less embarrassing things than
too curious eyes.

When they reached Madame de Bellefonds’ he had the same sort of
questioning and scrutiny to undergo, till he grew quite impatient under
it, and betrayed a degree of temper altogether unusual with him. Then
everybody looked astonished; some whispered their remarks, and others
expressed them by their wondering eyes, till his brow knit, and his
pallid cheeks became flushed with anger. Neither could he divert
attention by eating; his parched mouth would not allow him to swallow
anything but liquids, of which, however, he indulged in copious
libations; and it was an exceeding relief to him when the carriage,
which was to convey them to St. Denis, being announced, furnished an
excuse for hastily leaving the table. Looking at his watch, he declared
it was late; and Natalie, who saw how eager he was to be gone, threw her
shawl over her shoulders, and bidding her friends _good morning_, they
hurried away.

It was a fine sunny day in June; and as they drove along the crowded
boulevards, and through the Porte St. Denis, the young bride and
bridegroom, to avoid each others eyes, affected to be gazing out of the
windows; but when they reached that part of the road where there was
nothing but trees on each side, they felt it necessary to draw in their
heads, and make an attempt at conversation, De Chaulieu put his arm
round his wife’s waist, and tried to rouse himself from his depression;
but it had by this time so reacted upon her, that she could not respond
to his efforts, and thus the conversation languished, till both felt
glad when they reached their destination, which would, at all events,
furnish them something to talk about.

Having quitted the carriage, and ordered a dinner at the Hôtel de
l’Abbaye, the young couple proceeded to visit Mademoiselle Hortense de
Bellefonds, who was overjoyed to see her sister and new brother-in-law,
and doubly so when she found that they had obtained permission to take
her out to spend the afternoon with them. As there is little to be seen
at St. Denis but the Abbey, on quitting that part of it devoted to
education, they proceeded to visit the church, with its various objects
of interest; and as De Chaulieu’s thoughts were now forced into another
direction, his cheerfulness began insensibly to return. Natalie looked
so beautiful, too, and the affection betwixt the two young sisters was
so pleasant to behold! And they spent a couple of hours wandering about
with Hortense, who was almost as well informed as the Suisse, till the
brazen doors were open which admitted them to the Royal vault.
Satisfied, at length, with what they had seen, they began to think of
returning to the inn, the more especially as De Chaulieu, who had not
eaten a morsel of food since the previous evening, owned to being
hungry; so they directed their steps to the door, lingering here and
there as they went, to inspect a monument or a painting, when, happening
to turn his head aside to see if his wife, who had stopt to take a last
look at the tomb of King Dagobert, was following, he beheld with horror
the face of Jacques Rollet appearing from behind a column! At the same
instant his wife joined him, and took his arm, inquiring if he was not
very much delighted with what he had seen. He attempted to say yes, but
the word would not be forced out; and staggering out of the door, he
alleged that a sudden faintness had overcome him.

They conducted him to the Hôtel, but Natalie now became seriously
alarmed; and well she might. His complexion looked ghastly, his limbs
shook, and his features bore an expression of indescribable horror and
anguish. What could be the meaning of so extraordinary a change in the
gay, witty, prosperous De Chaulieu, who, till that morning, seemed not
to have a care in the world? For, plead illness as he might, she felt
certain, from the expression of his features, that his sufferings were
not of the body but of the mind; and, unable to imagine any reason for
such extraordinary manifestations, of which she had never before seen a
symptom, but a sudden aversion to herself, and regret for the step he
had taken, her pride took the alarm, and, concealing the distress she
really felt, she began to assume a haughty and reserved manner towards
him, which he naturally interpreted into an evidence of anger and
contempt. The dinner was placed upon the table, but De Chaulieu’s
appetite, of which he had lately boasted, was quite gone, nor was his
wife better able to eat. The young sister alone did justice to the
repast; but although the bridegroom could not eat, he could swallow
champagne in such copious draughts, that ere long the terror and remorse
that the apparition of Jacques Rollet had awakened in his breast were
drowned in intoxication. Amazed and indignant, poor Natalie sat
silently observing this elect of her heart, till overcome with
disappointment and grief, she quitted the room with her sister, and
retired to another apartment, where she gave free vent to her feelings
in tears.

After passing a couple of hours in confidences and lamentations, they
recollected that the hours of liberty granted, as an especial favor, to
Mademoiselle Hortense, had expired; but ashamed to exhibit her husband
in his present condition to the eyes of strangers, Natalie prepared to
re-conduct her to the _Maison Royale_ herself. Looking into the
dining-room as they passed, they saw De Chaulieu lying on a sofa fast
asleep, in which state he continued when his wife returned. At length,
however, the driver of their carriage begged to know if Monsieur and
Madame were ready to return to Paris, and it became necessary to arouse
him. The transitory effects of the champagne had now subsided; but when
De Chaulieu recollected what had happened, nothing could exceed his
shame and mortification. So engrossing indeed were these sensations
that they quite overpowered his previous one, and, in his present
vexation, he, for the moment, forgot his fears. He knelt at his wife’s
feet, begged her pardon a thousand times, swore that he adored her, and
declared that the illness and the effect of the wine had been purely the
consequences of fasting and over-work. It was not the easiest thing in
the world to re-assure a woman whose pride, affection, and taste, had
been so severely wounded; but Natalie tried to believe, or to appear to
do so, and a sort of reconciliation ensued, not quite sincere on the
part of the wife, and very humbling on the part of the husband. Under
these circumstances it was impossible that he should recover his spirits
or facility of manner; his gaiety was forced, his tenderness
constrained; his heart was heavy within him; and ever and anon the
source whence all this disappointment and woe had sprung would recur to
his perplexed and tortured mind.

Thus mutually pained and distrustful, they returned to Paris, which they
reached about nine o’clock. In spite of her depression, Natalie, who
had not seen her new apartments, felt some curiosity about them, whilst
De Chaulieu anticipated a triumph in exhibiting the elegant home he had
prepared for her. With some alacrity, therefore, they stepped out of the
carriage, the gates of the Hôtel were thrown open, the _concierge_ rang
the bell which announced to the servants that their master and mistress
had arrived, and whilst these domestics appeared above, holding lights
over the balustrades, Natalie, followed by her husband, ascended the
stairs. But when they reached the landing-place of the first flight,
they saw the figure of a man standing in a corner as if to make way for
them; the flash from above fell upon his face, and again Antoine de
Chaulieu recognized the features of Jacques Rollet!

From the circumstance of his wife’s preceding him, the figure was not
observed by De Chaulieu till he was lifting his foot to place it on the
top stair: the sudden shock caused him to miss the step, and, without
uttering a sound, he fell back, and never stopped till he reached the
stones at the bottom. The screams of Natalie brought the concierge from
below and the maids from above, and an attempt was made to raise the
unfortunate man from the ground; but with cries of anguish he besought
them to desist.

“Let me,” he said, “die here! What a fearful vengeance is thine! Oh,
Natalie, Natalie!” he exclaimed to his wife, who was kneeling beside
him, “to win fame, and fortune, and yourself, I committed a dreadful
crime! With lying words I argued away the life of a fellow-creature,
whom, whilst I uttered them, I half believed to be innocent; and now,
when I have attained all I desired, and reached the summit of my hopes,
the Almighty has sent him back upon the earth to blast me with the
sight. Three times this day--three times this day! Again! again!”--and
as he spoke, his wild and dilated eyes fixed themselves on one of the
individuals that surrounded him.

“He is delirious,” said they.

“No,” said the stranger! “What he says is true enough,--at least in
part;” and bending over the expiring man, he added, “May Heaven forgive
you, Antoine de Chaulieu! I was not executed; one who well knew my
innocence saved my life. I may name him, for he is beyond the reach of
the law now,--it was Claperon, the jailor, who loved Claudine, and had
himself killed Alphonse de Bellefonds from jealousy. An unfortunate
wretch had been several years in the jail for a murder committed during
the frenzy of a fit of insanity. Long confinement had reduced him to
idiocy. To save my life Claperon substituted the senseless being for me,
on the scaffold, and he was executed in my stead. He has quitted the
country, and I have been a vagabond on the face of the earth ever since
that time. At length I obtained, through the assistance of my sister,
the situation of concierge in the Hôtel Marbœuf, in the Rue
Grange-Batelière. I entered on my new place yesterday evening, and was
desired to awaken the gentleman on the third floor at seven o’clock.
When I entered the room to do so, you were asleep, but before I had time
to speak you awoke, and I recognized your features in the glass.
Knowing that I could not vindicate my innocence if you chose to seize
me, I fled, and seeing an omnibus starting for St. Denis, I got on it
with a vague idea of getting on to Calais, and crossing the Channel to
England. But having only a franc or two in my pocket, or indeed in the
world, I did not know how to procure the means of going forward; and
whilst I was lounging about the place, forming first one plan and then
another, I saw you in the church, and concluding you were in pursuit of
me, I thought the best way of eluding your vigilance was to make my way
back to Paris as fast as I could; so I set off instantly, and walked all
the way; but having no money to pay my night’s lodging, I came here to
borrow a couple of livres of my sister Claudine, who lives in the fifth
story.”

“Thank Heaven!” exclaimed the dying man; “that sin is off my soul!
Natalie, dear wife, farewell! Forgive! forgive all!”

These were the last words he uttered; the priest, who had been summoned
in haste, held up the cross before his failing sight; a few strong
convulsions shook the poor bruised and mangled frame; and then all was
still.

And thus ended the Young Advocate’s Wedding Day.



II.

The Last of a Long Line.


Sir Roger Rockville of Rockville was the last of a very long line. It
extended from the Norman Conquest to the present century. His first
known ancestor came over with William, and must have been a man of some
mark, either of bone and sinew, or of brain, for he obtained what the
Americans would call a prime location. As his name does not occur in the
Roll of Battle Abbey, he was, of course, not of a very high Norman
extraction; but he had done enough, it seems, in the way of knocking
down Saxons, to place himself on a considerable eminence in this
kingdom. The centre of his domains was conspicuous far over the country,
through a high range of rock overhanging one of the sweetest rivers in
England. On one hand lay a vast tract of rich marsh land, capable, as
society advanced, of being converted into meadows; and on the other, as
extensive moorlands, finely undulating, and abounding with woods and
deer.

Here the original Sir Roger built his castle on the summit of the range
of rock, with huts for his followers; and became known directly all over
the country of Sir Roger de Rockville, or Sir Roger of the hamlet on the
Rock. Sir Roger, no doubt, was a mighty hunter before the lord of the
feudal district: it is certain that his descendants were. For
generations they led a jolly life at Rockville, and were always ready to
exchange the excitement of the chase for a bit of the civil war. Without
that the country would have grown dull, and ale and venison lost their
flavor. There was no gay London in those days, and a good brisk skirmish
with their neighbors in helm and hauberk was the way of spending their
season. It was their parliamentary debate, and was necessary to stir
their blood. Protection and Free Trade were as much the great topics of
interest as they are now, only they did not trouble themselves so much
about Corn-bills. Their bills were of good steel, and their protective
measures were arrows a cloth-yard long. Protection meant a good suit of
mail; and a castle with its duly prescribed moats, bastions,
portcullises, and donjon keep. Free Trade was a lively inroad into the
neighboring baron’s lands, and the importation thence of goodly herds
and flocks. Foreign cattle for home consumption was as _striking an
article_ in their markets as in ours, only the blows were expended on
one another’s heads, instead of the heads of foreign bullocks--that is,
bullocks from over the Welch or Scotch Marches, as from beyond the next
brook.

Thus lived the Rockvilles for ages. In all the iron combats of those
iron times they took care to have their quota. Whether it was Stephen
against Matilda, or Richard against his father, or John against the
barons; whether it were York or Lancaster, or Tudor or Stuart. The
Rockvilles were to be found in the _mêlée_, and winning power and
lands. So long as it required only stalwart frames and stout blows, no
family cut a more conspicuous figure. The Rockvilles were at Bosworth
Field. The Rockvilles fought in Ireland under Elizabeth. The Rockvilles
were staunch defenders of the cause in the war of Charles I. with his
Parliament. The Rockvilles even fought for James II. at the Boyne, when
three-fourths of the most loyal of the English nobility and gentry had
deserted him in disgust and indignation. But from that hour they had
been less conspicuous.

The opposition to the successful party, that of William of Orange, of
course brought them into disgrace; and though they were never molested
on that account, they retired to their estate, and found it convenient
to be as unobtrusive as possible. Thenceforward you heard no more of the
Rockvilles in the national annals. They became only of consequence in
their own district. They acted as magistrates. They served as high
sheriffs. They were a substantial county family, and nothing more.
Education and civilization advanced; a wider and very different field of
action and ambition opened upon the aristocracy of England. Our fleets
and armies abroad, our legislature at home, law and the church,
presented brilliant paths to the ambition of those thirsting for
distinction, and the good things that follow it. But somehow the
Rockvilles did not expand with this expansion. So long as it required
only a figure of six feet high, broad shoulders, and a strong arm, they
were a great and conspicuous race. But when the head became the member
most in request, they ceased to go ahead. Younger sons, it is true,
served in army and in navy, and filled the family pulpit, but they
produced no generals, no admirals, no arch-bishops. The Rockvilles of
Rockville were very conservative, very exclusive, and very stereotype.
Other families grew poor, and enriched themselves again by marrying
plebeian heiresses. New families grew up out of plebeian blood into
greatness, and intermingled the vigor of their fresh earth with the
attenuated aristocratic soil. Men of family became great lawyers, great
statesmen, great prelates, and even great poets and philosophers. The
Rockvilles remained high, proud, bigoted, and _borné_.

The Rockvilles married Rockvilles, or their first cousins, the
Craigvilles, simply to prevent property going out of the family. They
kept the property together. They did not lose an acre, and they were a
fine, tall, solemn race--and nothing more. What ailed them?

If you saw Sir Roger Rockville,--for there was an eternal Sir
Roger--filling his office of high sheriff,--he had a very fine carriage,
and a very fine retinue in the most approved and splendid of antique
costumes;--if you saw him sitting on the bench at quarter sessions, he
was a tall, stately, and solemn man. If you saw Lady Rockville shopping,
in her handsome carriage, with very handsomely attired servants; saw her
at the county ball, or on the race-stand, she was a tall, aristocratic,
and stately lady. That was in the last generation--the present could
boast of no Lady Rockville.

Great outward respect was shown to the Rockvilles on account of the
length of their descent, and the breadth of their acres. They were
always, when any stranger asked about them, declared, with a serious and
important air, to be a very ancient, honorable, and substantial family.
“Oh! a great family are the Rockvilles, a very great family.”

But if you came to close quarters with the members of this great and
highly distinguished family, you soon found yourself fundamentally
astonished; you had a sensation come over you, as if you were trying,
like Moses, to draw water from a rock without his delegated power. There
was a goodly outside of things before you, but nothing came of it. You
talked, hoping to get talking in return, but you got little more than
“noes” and “yeses,” and “oh! indeeds!” and “reallys,” and sometimes not
even that, but a certain look of aristocratic dignity or dignification,
that was meant to serve for all answers. There was a sort of resting on
aristocratic oars or “sculls,” that were not to be too vulgarly
handled. There was a feeling impressed on you, that eight hundred years
of descent and ten thousand a-year in landed income did not trouble
themselves with the trifling things that gave distinction to lesser
people--such as literature, fine arts, politics, and general knowledge.
These were very well for those who had nothing else to pride themselves
on, but for the Rockvilles--oh! certainly they were by no means
requisite.

In fact, you found yourself, with a little variation, in the predicament
of Cowper’s people,

        ---- who spent their lives
    In dropping buckets into empty wells,
    And _growing tired_ of drawing nothing up.

Who hasn’t often come across these “dry wells” of society; solemn gulfs
out of which you can pump nothing up? You know them; they are at your
elbow every day in large and brilliant companies, and defy the best
sucking bucket ever invented to extract anything from them. But the
Rockvilles were each and all of this adust description. It was a family
feature, and they seemed, if either, rather proud of it. They must be
so; for proud they were, amazing proud; and they had nothing besides to
be proud of, except their acres, and their ancestors.

But the fact was, they could not help it. It was become organic. They
had acted the justice of peace, maintained the constitution against
upstarts and manufacturers, signed warrants, supported the church and
the house of correction, committed poachers, and then rested on the
dignity of their ancestors for so many generations, that their skulls,
brains, constitutions, and nervous systems, were all so completely
moulded into that shape and baked into that mould, that a Rockville
would be a Rockville to the end of time, if God and Nature would have
allowed it. But such things wear out. The American Indians and the
Australian nations wear out; they are not progressive, and as Nature
abhors a vacuum, she does not forget the vacuum wherever it may be,
whether in a hot desert, or in a cold and stately Rockville;--a very
ancient, honorable, and substantial family, that lies fallow till the
thinking faculty literally dies out.

For several generations there had been symptoms of decay about the
Rockville family. Not in its property, that was as large as ever; not in
their personal stature and physical aspect. The Rockvilles continued, as
they always had been, a tall and not bad-looking family. But they grew
gradually less prolific. For a hundred and fifty years past there had
seldom been more than two, or at most three, children. There had
generally been an heir to the estate, and another to the family pulpit,
and sometimes a daughter married to some neighboring squire. But Sir
Roger’s father had been an only child, and Sir Roger himself was an only
child. The danger of extinction to the family, apparent as it was, had
never induced Sir Roger to marry. At the time that we are turning our
attention upon him, he had reached the mature age of sixty. Nobody
believed that Sir Roger now would marry; he was the last, and likely to
be, of his line.

It is worth while here to take a glance at Sir Roger and his estate.
They bore a strange contrast. The one bore all the signs of progress,
the other of a stereotyped feudality. The estate which in the days of
the first Sir Roger de Rockville had been half morass and half
wilderness, was now cultivated to the pitch of British agricultural
science. The marshlands beyond the river were one splendid expanse of
richest meadows, yielding a rental of four solid pounds per acre. Over
hill and dale on this side for miles, where formerly ran wild deer, and
grew wild woodlands or furze-bushes, now lay excellent farms and
hamlets, and along the ridge of the ancient cliffs rose the most
magnificent woods. Woods, too, clothed the steep-hill sides, and swept
down to the noble river, their very boughs hanging far out over its
clear and rapid waters. In the midst of these fine woods stood Rockville
Hall, the family seat of the Rockvilles. It reared its old brick walls
above the towering mass of elms, and travellers at a distance recognized
it for what it was, the mansion of an ancient and wealthy family.

The progress of England in arts, science, commerce, and manufacture,
had carried Sir Roger’s estate along with it. It was full of active and
moneyed farmers, and flourished under modern influences. How lucky it
would have been for the Rockville family had it done the same.

But amid this estate there was Sir Roger solitary, and the last of the
line. He had grown well enough--there was nothing stunted about him, so
far as you could see on the surface. In stature, he exceeded six feet.
His colossal elms could not boast of a properer relative growth. He was
as large a landlord, and as tall a justice of the peace, as you could
desire; but, unfortunately, he was, after all, only the shell of a man.
Like many of his veteran elms, there was a very fine stem, only it was
hollow. There was a man, just with the rather awkward deficiency of a
soul.

And it were no difficult task to explain, either, how this had come
about. The Rockvilles saw plainly enough the necessity of manuring their
lands, but they scorned the very idea of manuring their family. What!
that most ancient, honorable, and substantial family, suffer any of the
common earth of humanity to gather about its roots! The Rockvilles were
so careful of their good blood, that they never allied it to any but
blood as pure and inane as their own. Their elms flourished in the
rotten earth of plebeian accumulations, and their acres produced large
crops of corn from the sewage of towns and fat sinks, but the Rockvilles
themselves took especial care that no vulgar vigor from the rich heap of
ordinary human nature should infuse a new force of intellect into their
race. The Rockvilles needed nothing; they had all that an ancient,
honorable, and substantial family could need. The Rockvilles had no need
to study at school--why should they? They did not want to get on. The
Rockvilles did not aspire to distinction for talent in the world--why
should they? They had a large estate. So the Rockville soul, unused from
generation to generation, grew--

    Fine by degrees and _spiritually_ less,

till it tapered off into nothing.

Look at the last of a long line in the midst of his fine estate. Tall he
was, with a stoop in his shoulders, and a bowing of his head on one
side, as if he had been accustomed to stand under the low boughs of his
woods, and peer after intruders. And that was precisely the fact. His
features were thin and sharp; his nose prominent and keen in its
character; his eyes small, black, and peering like a mole’s, or a hungry
swine’s. Sir Roger was still oracular on the bench, after consulting his
clerk, a good lawyer,--and looked up to by the neighboring squires in
election matters, for he was an unswerving tory. You never heard of a
rational thing that he had said in the whole course of his life; but
that mattered little, he was a gentleman of solemn aspect, of stately
gait, and of a very ancient family.

With ten thousand a-year, and his rental rising, he was still, however,
a man of overwhelming cares. What mattered a fine estate if all the
world was against him? And Sir Roger firmly believed that he stood in
that predicament. He had grown up to regard the world as full of little
besides upstarts, radicals, manufacturers, and poachers. All were
banded, in his belief, against the landed interest. It demanded all the
energy of his very small faculties to defend himself and the world
against them.

Unfortunately for his peace, a large manufacturing town had sprung up
within a couple of miles of him. He could see its red-brick walls, and
its red-tiled roofs, and its tall smoke-vomiting chimneys, growing and
extending over the slopes beyond the river. It was to him the most
irritating sight in the world; for what were all those swarming weavers
and spinners but arrant radicals, upstarts, sworn foes of the ancient
institutions and the landed interests of England? Sir Roger had passed
through many a desperate conflict with them for the return of members to
parliament. They brought forward men that were utter wormwood to all his
feelings, and they paid no more respect to him and his friends on such
occasions than they did to the meanest creature living. Reverence for
ancient blood did not exist in that plebeian and rapidly multiplying
tribe. There were master manufacturers there actually that looked and
talked as big as himself, and _entre nous_, a vast deal more cleverly.
The people talked of rights and franchises, and freedom of speech and of
conscience, in a way that was really frightful. Then they were given
most inveterately to running out in whole and everlasting crowds on
Sundays and holidays into the fields and woods; and as there was no part
of the neighborhood half so pleasant as the groves and river banks of
Rockville, they came swarming up there in crowds that were enough to
drive any man of acres frantic.

Unluckily, there were roads all about Rockville; foot roads, and high
roads, and bridle roads. There was a road up the river side, all the way
to Rockville woods, and when it reached them, it divided like a fork,
and one prong or footpath led straight up a magnificent grove of a mile
long, ending close to the hall; and another ran all along the river
side, under the hills and branches of the wood.

Oh, delicious were these woods! In the river there were islands, which
were covered in summer with the greenest grass, and the freshest of
willows, and the clear waters rushed around them in the most inviting
manner imaginable. And there were numbers of people extremely ready to
accept this delectable invitation of these waters. There they came in
fine weather, and as these islands were only separated from the
main-land by a little and very shallow stream, it was delightful for
lovers to get across--with laughter, and treading on stepping stones,
and slipping off the stepping-stones up to the ankles into the cool
brook, and pretty screams, and fresh laughter, and then landing on those
sunny, and to them really enchanted, islands. And then came fishermen,
solitary fishermen, and fishermen in rows; fishermen lying in the
flowery grass, with fragrant meadow-sweet and honey-breathing clover all
about their ears; and fishermen standing in file, as if they were
determined to clear all the river of fish in one day. And there were
other lovers, and troops of loiterers, and shouting roysterers, going
along under the boughs of the wood, and following the turns of that most
companionable of rivers. And there were boats going up and down; boats
full of young people, all holiday finery and mirth, and boats with
duck-hunters and other, to Sir Roger, detestable marauders, with guns
and dogs, and great bottles of beer. In the fine grove, on summer days,
there might be found hundreds of people. There were pic-nic parties,
fathers and mothers with whole families of children, and a grand
promenade of the delighted artisans and their wives or sweethearts.

In the times prior to the sudden growth of the neighboring town, Great
Stockington, and to the simultaneous development of the love-of-nature
principle in the Stockingtonians, nothing had been thought of all these
roads. The roads were well enough till they led to these inroads. Then
Sir Roger aroused himself. This must be changed. The roads must be
stopped. Nothing was easier to his fancy. His fellow-justices, Sir
Benjamin Bullockshed and Squire Sheepshank, had asked his aid to stop
the like nuisances, and it had been done at once. So Sir Roger put up
notices all about, that the roads were to be stopped by an Order of
Session, and these notices were signed, as required by law, by their
worships of Bullockshed and Sheepshank. But Sir Roger soon found that it
was one thing to stop a road leading from One-man-Town to Lonely Lodge,
and another to attempt to stop those from Great Stockington to
Rockville.

On the very first Sunday after the exhibition of those notice-boards,
there was a ferment in the grove of Rockville, as if all the bees in the
county were swarming there, with all the wasps and Hornets to boot.
Great crowds were collected before each of these obnoxious placards, and
the amount of curses vomited forth against them was really shocking for
any day, but more especially for a Sunday. Presently there was a rush at
them; they were torn down, and simultaneously pitched into the river.
There were great crowds swarming all about Rockville all that day, and
with looks so defiant that Sir Roger more than once contemplated
sending off for the Yeoman Cavalry to defend his house, which he
seriously thought in danger.

But so far from being intimidated from proceeding, this demonstration
only made Sir Roger the more determined. To have so desperate and
irreverent a population coming about his house and woods, now presented
itself in a much more formidable aspect than ever. So, next day, not
only were the placards once more hoisted, but rewards offered for the
discovery of the offenders, attended with all the maledictions of the
insulted majesty of the law. No notice was taken of this, but the whole
of Great Stockington was in a buzz and an agitation. There were posters
plastered all over the walls of the town, four times as large as Sir
Roger’s notices, in this style:--

“Englishmen! your dearest rights are menaced! The Woods of Rockville,
your ancient, rightful, and enchanting resorts, are to be closed to you.
Stockingtonians! the eyes of the world are upon you. ‘Awake! arise! or
be forever fallen!’ England expects every man to do his duty! And your
duty is to resist and defy the grasping soil-lords, to seize on your
ancient Patrimony!”

“Patrimony! Ancient and rightful resort of Rockville!” Sir Roger was
astounded at the audacity of this upstart, plebeian race. “What! they
actually claimed Rockville, the heritage of a hundred successive
Rockvilles, as their own. Sir Roger determined to carry it to the
Sessions; and at the Sessions was a magnificent muster of all his
friends. There was Sir Roger himself in the chair; and on either
hand, a prodigious row of county squirearchy. There was Sir
Benjamin Bullockshed, and Sir Thomas Tenterhook, and all the
squires,--Sheepshank, Ramsbottom, Turnbull, Otterbrook, and Swagsides.
The Clerk of the Session read the notice for the closing of all the
footpaths through the woods of Rockville, and declared that this notice
had been duly, and for the required period publicly posted. The
Stockingtonians protested by their able lawyer Daredeville, against any
order for the closing of these ancient woods--the inestimable property
of the public.

“Property of the public!” exclaimed Sir Roger. “Property of the public!”
echoed the multitudinous voices of indignant Bullocksheds, Tenterhooks,
and Ramsbottoms. “Why, Sir, do you dispute the right of Sir Roger
Rockville to his own estate?”

“By no means;” replied the undaunted Daredeville; “the estate of
Rockville is unquestionably the property of the honorable baronet, Sir
Roger Rockville; but the roads through it are the as unquestionable
property of the public.”

The whole bench looked at itself; that is, at each other, in wrathful
astonishment. The swelling in the diaphragms of the squires Otterbrook,
Turnbull, and Swagsides, and all the rest of the worshipful row, was too
big to admit of utterance. Only Sir Roger himself burst forth with an
abrupt--

“Impudent fellows! But I’ll see them ---- first!”

“Grant the order!” said Sir Benjamin Bullockshed; and the whole bench
nodded assent. The able lawyer Daredeville retired with a pleasant
smile. He saw an agreeable prospect of plenty of grist to his mill. Sir
Roger was rich, and so was Great Stockington. He rubbed his hands, not
in the least like a man defeated, and thought to himself, “Let them go
at it--all right.”

The next day the placards on the Rockville estate were changed for
others bearing “STOPPED BY ORDER OF SESSIONS!” and alongside of them
were huge carefully painted boards, denouncing on all trespassers
prosecutions according to law. The same evening came a prodigious
invasion of Stockingtonians--tore all the boards and placards down, and
carried them on their shoulders to Great Stockington, singing as they
went, “See, the Conquering Heroes come!” They set them up in the centre
of the Stockington market-place, and burnt them, along with an effigy of
Sir Roger Rockville.

That was grist at once to the mill of the able lawyer Daredeville. He
looked on, and rubbed his hands. Warrants were speedily issued by the
Baronets of Bullockshed and Tenterhook, for the apprehension of the
individuals who had been seen carrying off the notice-boards, for
larceny, and against a number of others for trespass. There was plenty
of work for Daredeville and his brethren of the robe; but it all ended,
after the flying about of sundry mandamuses and assize trials, in Sir
Roger finding that though Rockville was his, the roads through it were
the public’s.

As Sir Roger drove homeward from the assize, which finally settled the
question of these footpaths, he heard the bells in all the steeples of
Great Stockington burst forth with a grand peal of triumph. He closed
fast the windows of his fine old carriage, and sunk into a corner; but
he could not drown the intolerable sound. “But,” said he, “I’ll stop
their pic-nic-ing. I’ll stop their fishing. I’ll have hold of them for
trespassing and poaching!” There was war henceforth between Rockville
and Great Stockington.

On the very next Sunday there came literally thousands of the jubilant
Stockingtonians to Rockville. They had brought baskets, and were for
dining, and drinking success to all footpaths. But in the great grove
there were keepers, and watchers, who warned them to keep the path, that
narrow well-worn line up the middle of the grove. “What! were they not
to sit on the grass?”--“No!”--“What! were they not to pic-nic?”--“No!
not there!”

The Stockingtonians felt a sudden damp on their spirits. But the river
bank! The cry was. “To the river bank! There they _would_ pic-nic.” The
crowd rushed away down the wood, but on the river bank they found a
whole regiment of watchers, who pointed again to the narrow line of
footpath, and told them not to trespass beyond it. But the islands! they
went over to the islands. But there too were Sir Roger’s forces, who
warned them back! There was no road there--- all found there would be
trespassers, and be duly punished.

The Stockingtonians discovered that their triumph was not quite so
complete as they had flattered themselves. The footpaths were theirs,
but that was all. Their ancient license was at an end. If they came
there, there was no more fishing; if they came in crowds, there was no
more pic-nic-ing; if they walked through the woods in numbers, they must
keep to Indian file, or they were summoned before the county magistrates
for trespass, and were soundly fined; and not even the able Daredeville
would undertake to defend them.

The Stockingtonians were chop-fallen, but they were angry and dogged;
and they thronged up to the village and the front of the hall. They
filled the little inn in the hamlet--they went by scores, and roving all
over the churchyard, read epitaphs

    That teach the rustic moralists to die,

but don’t teach them to give up their old indulgences very
good-humoredly. They went and sat in rows on the old churchyard wall,
opposite to the very windows of the irate Sir Roger. They felt
themselves beaten, and Sir Roger felt himself beaten. True, he could
coerce them to the keeping of the footpaths--but, then, they had the
footpaths! True, thought the Stockingtonians, we have the footpaths, but
then the pic-nic-ing, and the fishing, and the islands! The
Stockingtonians were full of sullen wrath, and Sir Roger was--oh, most
expressive old Saxon phrase--HAIRSORE! Yes, he was one universal wound
of vexation and jealousy of his rights. Every hair in his body was like
a pin sticking into him. Come within a dozen yards of him; nay, at the
most, blow on him, and he was excruciated--you rubbed his sensitive
hairs at a furlong’s distance.

The next Sunday the people found the churchyard locked up, except during
service, when beadles walked there, and desired them not to loiter and
disturb the congregation, closing the gates, and showing them out like a
flock of sheep the moment the service was over. This was fuel to the
already boiling blood of Stockington. The week following, what was their
astonishment to find the much frequented inn gone! it was actually gone!
not a trace of it; but the spot where it had stood for ages, turfed,
planted with young spruce trees, and fenced off with post and rail! The
exasperated people now launched forth an immensity of fulminations
against the churl Sir Roger, and a certain number of them resolved to
come and seat themselves in the street of the hamlet and there dine; but
a terrific thunderstorm, which seemed in league with Sir Roger, soon
routed them, drenched them through, and on attempting to seek shelter in
the cottages, the poor people said they were very sorry, but it was as
much as their holdings were worth, and they dare not admit them.

Sir Roger had triumphed! It was all over with the old delightful days at
Rockville. There was an end of pic-nic-ing, of fishing, and of roving in
the islands. One sturdy disciple of Izaak Walton, indeed, dared to fling
a line from the banks of Rockville grove, but Sir Roger came upon him
and endeavored to seize him. The man coolly walked into the middle of
the river, and, without a word, continued his fishing.

“Get out there!” exclaimed Sir Roger, “that is still on my property.”
The man walked through the river to the other bank, where he knew that
the land was rented by a farmer. “Give over,” shouted Sir Roger, “I tell
you the water is mine.”

“Then,” said the fellow, “bottle it up, and be hanged to you! Don’t you
see it is running away to Stockington?”

There was bad blood between Rockville and Stockington forever.
Stockington was incensed, and Sir Roger was hairsore.

A new nuisance sprung up. The people of Stockington looked on the
cottagers of Rockville as sunk in deepest darkness under such a man as
Sir Roger and his cousin the vicar. They could not pic-nic, but they
thought they could hold a camp-meeting; they could not fish for roach,
but they thought they might for souls. Accordingly there assembled
crowds of Stockingtonians on the green of Rockville, with a chair and a
table, and a preacher with his head bound in a red handkerchief; and
soon there was a sound of hymns, and a zealous call to come out of the
darkness of the spiritual Babylon. But this was more than Sir Roger
could bear; he rushed forth with all his servants, keepers, and
cottagers, overthrew the table, and routing the assembly, chased them to
the boundary of his estate.

The discomfited Stockingtonians now fulminated awful judgments on the
unhappy Sir Roger, as a persecutor and a malignant. They dared not enter
again on his parish, but they came to the very verge of it, and held
weekly meetings on the highway, in which they sang and declaimed as
loudly as possible, that the winds might bear their voices to Sir
Roger’s ears.

To such a position was now reduced the last of the long line of
Rockville. The spirit of a policeman had taken possession of him. He had
keepers and watchers out on all sides, but that did not satisfy him. He
was perpetually haunted with the idea that poachers were after his game,
that trespassers were in his woods. His whole life was now spent in
stealing to and fro in his fields and plantations, and prowling along
his river side. He lurked under hedges, and watched for long hours
under the forest trees. If any one had a curiosity to see Sir Roger,
they had only to enter his fields by the wood side, and wander a few
yards from the path, and he was almost sure to spring out over the
hedge, and in angry tones demand their name and address. The descendant
of the chivalrous and steel-clad De Rockvilles was sunk into a restless
spy on his own ample property. There was but one idea in his
mind--encroachment. It was destitute of all other furniture but the
musty technicalities of warrants and commitments. There was a stealthy
and skulking manner in everything that he did. He went to church on
Sundays, but it was no longer by the grand iron gate opposite to his
house, that stood generally with a large spider’s web woven over the
lock, and several others in different corners of the fine iron tracery,
bearing evidence of the long period since it had been opened. How
different to the time when the Sir Roger and Lady of Rockville had had
these gates thrown wide on a Sunday morning, and, with all their train
of household servants at their back, with true antique dignity, marched
with much proud humility into the house of God. Now, Sir Roger--the
solitary, suspicious, undignified Sir Roger, the keeper and policeman of
his own property--stole in at a little side gate from his paddock, and
back the same way, wondering all the time whether there was not somebody
in his pheasant preserves, or Sunday trespassers in his grove.

If you entered his house, it gave you as cheerless a feeling as its
owner. There was the conservatory, so splendid with rich plants and
flowers in his mother’s time--now a dusty receptacle of hampers, broken
hand-glasses, and garden tools. These tools could never be used, for the
gardens were grown wild. Tall grass grew in the walks, and the huge
unpruned shrubs disputed the passage with you. In the wood above the
gardens, reached by several flights of fine, but now moss-grown, steps,
there stood a pavilion, once clearly very beautiful. It was now damp and
ruinous--its walls covered with greenness and crawling insects. It was
a great lurking-place of Sir Roger when on the watch for poachers.

The line of the Rockvilles was evidently running fast out. It had
reached the extremity of imbecility and contempt--it must soon reach its
close.

Sir Roger used to make his regular annual visit to town; but of late,
when there, he had wandered restlessly about the streets, peeping into
the shop-windows; and if it rained, standing under entries for hours
together, till it was gone over. The habit of lurking and peering about,
was upon him; and his feet bore him instinctively into those narrow and
crowded alleys where swarm the poachers of the city--the trespassers and
anglers in the game preserves and streams of humanity. He had lost all
pleasures in his club; the most exciting themes of political life
retained no piquancy for him. His old friends ceased to find any
pleasure in him. He was become the driest of all dry wells. Poachers,
and anglers, and Methodists, haunted the wretched purlieus of his fast
fading-out mind, and he resolved to go to town no more. His whole
nature was centred in his woods. He was forever on the watch; and when
at Rockville again, if he heard a door clap when in bed, he thought it a
gun in his woods, and started up, and was out with his keepers.

Of what value was that magnificent estate to him?--those superb woods;
those finely-hanging cliffs; that clear and _riant_ river coming
travelling on, and taking a noble sweep below his windows,--that
glorious expanse of neat verdant meadows stretching almost to
Stockington, and enlivened by numerous herds of the most beautiful
cattle--those old farms and shady lanes overhung with hazel and wild
rose; the glittering brook, and the songs of woodland birds--what were
they to that worn-out old man, that victim of the delusive doctrine of
blood, of the man-trap of an hereditary name?

There the poet could come, and feel the presence of divinity in that
noble scene, and hear sublime whispers in the trees, and create new
heavens and earths from the glorious chaos of nature around him, and in
one short hour live an empyrean of celestial life and love. There could
come the very humblest children of the plebeian town, and feel a throb
of exquisite delight pervade their bosoms at the sight of the very
flowers on the sod, and see heaven in the infinite blue above them. And
poor Sir Roger, the holder, but not the possessor of all, walked only in
a region of sterility, with no sublimer ideas than poachers and
trespassers--no more rational enjoyment than the brute indulgence of
hunting like a ferret, and seizing his fellow-men like a bull-dog. He
was a specimen of human nature degenerated, retrograded from the divine
to the bestial, through the long-operating influences of false notions
and institutions, continued beyond their time. He had only the soul of a
keeper. Had he been only a keeper, he had been a much happier man.

His time was at hand. The severity which he had long dealt out towards
all sorts of offenders made him the object of the deepest vengeance. In
a lonely hollow of his woods, watching at midnight with two of his men,
there came a sturdy knot of poachers. An affray ensued. The men
perceived that their old enemy, Sir Roger, was there; and the blow of a
hedge-stake stretched him on the earth. His keepers fled--and thus
ignominiously terminated the long line of the Rockvilles. Sir Roger was
the last of his line, but not of his class. There is a feudal art of
sinking, which requires no study; and the Rockvilles are but one family
among thousands who have perished in its practice.

       *       *       *       *       *

In Great Stockington there lived a race of paupers. From the year of the
42d of Elizabeth, or 1601, down to the present generation, this race
maintained an uninterrupted descent. They were a steady and unbroken
line of paupers, as the parish books testify. From generation to
generation their demands on the parish funds stand recorded. There were
no _lacunæ_ in their career; there never failed an heir to these
families; fed on the bread of idleness and legal provision, these people
nourished, increased, and multiplied. Sometimes compelled to work for
the weekly dole which they received, they never acquired a taste for
labor, or lost the taste for the bread for which they did not labor.
These paupers regarded this maintenance by no means as a disgrace. They
claimed it as a right,--as their patrimony. They contended that
one-third of the property of the Church had been given by benevolent
individuals for the support of the poor, and that what the Reformation
wrongfully deprived them of, the great enactment of Elizabeth
rightfully--and only rightfully--restored.

Those who imagine that all paupers merely claimed parish relief because
the law ordained it, commit a great error. There were numbers who were
hereditary paupers, and that on a tradition carefully handed down, that
they were only manfully claiming their own. They traced their claims
from the most ancient feudal times, when the lord was as much bound to
maintain his villein in gross, as the villein was to work for the lord.
These paupers were, in fact, or claimed to be, the original _adscripti
glebæ_, and to have as much a claim to parish support as the landed
proprietor had to his land. For this reason, in the old Catholic times,
after they had escaped from villenage by running away and remaining
absent from their hundred for a year and a day, dwelling for that period
in a walled town, these people were among the most diligent attendants
at the Abbey doors, and when the Abbeys were dissolved, were, no doubt,
among the most daring of these thieves, vagabonds, and sturdy rogues,
who, after the Robin Hood fashion, beset the highways and solitary farms
of England, and claimed their black mail in a very unceremonious style.
It was out of this class that Henry VIII. hanged his seventy-two
thousand during his reign, and, as it is said, without appearing
materially to diminish their number.

That they continued to “increase, multiply, and replenish the earth,”
overflowing all bounds, overpowering by mere populousness all the severe
laws against them of whipping, burning in the hand, in the forehead or
the breast, and hanging, and filling the whole country with alarm, is
evident by the very act itself of Elizabeth.

Among these hereditary paupers who, as we have said, were found in
Stockington, there was a family of the name of Deg. This family had
never failed to demand and enjoy what it held to be its share of its
ancient inheritance. It appeared from the parish records, that they had
practised in different periods the crafts of shoe-making, tailoring, and
chimney-sweeping; but since the invention of the stocking frame, they
had, one and all of them, followed the profession of stocking-weavers,
or as they were there called, stockingers. This was a trade which
required no extreme exertion of the physical or intellectual powers. To
sit in a frame, and throw the arms to and fro, was a thing that might
either be carried to a degree of extreme diligence, or be let down into
a mere apology for idleness. An “idle stockinger” was there no very
uncommon phrase, and the Degs were always classed under that head.
Nothing could be more admirably adapted than this trade for building a
plan of parish relief upon. The Degs did not pretend to be absolutely
without work, or the parish authorities would soon have set them to some
real labor,--a thing that they particularly recoiled from, having a very
old adage in the family, that “hard work was enough to kill a man.” The
Degs were seldom, therefore, out of work, but they did not get enough to
meet and tie. They had but little work if times were bad, and if they
were good, they had large families and sickly wives or children. Be
times what they would, therefore, the Degs were due and successful
attendants at the parish pay-table. Nay, so much was this a matter of
course, that they came at length not even to trouble themselves to
receive their pay, but sent their young children for it; and it was duly
paid. Did any parish officer, indeed, turn restive, and decline to pay a
Deg, he soon found himself summoned before a magistrate, and such pleas
of sickness, want of work, and poor earnings brought up, that he most
likely got a sharp rebuke from the benevolent but uninquiring
magistrate, and acquired a character for hard-heartedness that stuck to
him.

So parish overseers learned to let the Degs alone; and their children
regularly brought up to receive the parish money for their parents, were
impatient as they grew up to receive it for themselves. Marriages in the
Deg family were consequently very early, and there were plenty of
instances of married Degs claiming parish relief under the age of
twenty, on the plea of being the parent of two children. One such
precocious individual being asked by a rather verdant officer why he had
married before he was able to maintain a family, replied, in much
astonishment, that he had married in order to maintain himself by parish
assistance. That he never had been able to maintain himself by his
labor, nor ever expected to do it; his only hope, therefore, lay in
marrying and becoming the father of two children, to which patriarchal
rank he had now attained, and demanded his “pay.”

Thus had lived and flourished the Degs on their ancient patrimony, the
parish, for upwards of two hundred years. Nay, we have no doubt whatever
that, if it could have been traced, they had enjoyed an ancestry of
paupers as long as the pedigree of Sir Roger Rockville himself. In the
days of the most perfect villenage, they had, doubtless, eaten the bread
of idleness, and claimed it as a right. They were numerous, improvident,
ragged in dress, and fond of an ale-house and of gossip. Like the blood
of Sir Roger, their blood had become peculiar through a long persistence
of the same circumstances. It was become pure pauper blood. The Degs
married, if not entirely among Degs, yet among the same class. None but
a pauper would dream of marrying a Deg. The Degs, therefore, were in
constitution, in mind, in habit, and in inclination, paupers. But a pure
and unmixed class of this kind does not die out like an aristocratic
stereotype. It increases and multiplies. The lower the grade, the more
prolific, as is sometimes seen on a large and even national scale. The
Degs threatened, therefore, to become a most formidable clan in the
lower purlieus of Stockington, but luckily there is so much virtue even
in evils, that one, not rarely cures another. War, the great evil,
cleared the town of Degs.

Fond of idleness, of indulgence, of money easily got, and as easily
spent, the Degs were rapidly drained off by recruiting parties during
the last war. The young men enlisted, and were marched away; the young
women married soldiers that were quartered in the town from time to
time, and marched away with them. There were, eventually, none of the
once numerous Degs left except a few old people, whom death was sure to
draft off at no distant period with his regiment of the line which has
no end. Parish overseers, magistrates, and master manufacturers,
felicitated themselves at this unhoped-for deliverance from the ancient
family of the Degs.

But one cold, clear winter evening, the east wind piping its sharp
sibilant ditty in the bare-shorn hedges, and poking his sharp fingers
into the sides of well broad-clothed men by way of passing jest, Mr.
Spires, a great manufacturer of Stockington, driving in his gig some
seven miles from the town, passed a poor woman with a stout child on her
back. The large ruddy-looking man in the prime of life, and in the
great-coat and thick-worsted gloves of a wealthy traveller, cast a
glance at the wretched creature trudging heavily on, expecting a pitiful
appeal to his sensibilities, and thinking it a bore to have to pull off
a glove and dive into his pocket for a copper; but to his surprise there
was no demand, only a low curtsey, and the glimpse of a face of singular
honesty of expression, and of excessive weariness.

Spires was a man of warm feelings; he looked earnestly at the woman, and
thought he had never seen such a picture of fatigue in his life. He
pulled up and said,

“You seem very tired, my good woman.”

“Awfully tired, sir.”

“And are you going far to-night?”

“To Great Stockington, sir, if God give me strength.”

“To Stockington!” exclaimed Mr. Spires. “Why you seem ready to drop.
You’ll never reach it. You’d better stop at the next village.”

“Ay, sir, it’s easy stopping for those that have money.”

“And you’ve none, eh?”

“As God lives, sir, I’ve a sixpence, and that’s all.”

Mr. Spires put his hand in his pocket, and held out to her the next
instant half-a-crown.

“There stop, poor thing--make yourself comfortable--it’s quite out of
the question to reach Stockington. But stay--are your friends living in
Stockington--what are you?”

“A poor soldier’s widow, sir. And may God Almighty bless you!” said the
poor woman, taking the money, the tears standing in her large brown eyes
as she curtsied very low.

“A soldier’s widow,” said Mr. Spires. She had touched the softest place
in the manufacturer’s heart, for he was a very loyal man, and vehement
champion of his country’s honor in the war. “So young,” said he, “how
did you lose your husband?”

“He fell, sir,” said the poor woman; but she could get no further; she
suddenly caught up the corner of her gray cloak, covered her face with
it, and burst into an excess of grief.

The manufacturer felt as if he had hit the woman a blow by his careless
question; he sat watching her for a moment in silence, and then said,
“Come, get into the gig, my poor woman; come, I must see you to
Stockington.”

The poor woman dried her tears, and heavily climbed into the gig,
expressing her gratitude in a very touching and modest manner. Spires
buttoned the apron over her, and taking a look at the child, said in a
cheerful tone to comfort her, “Bless me, but that is a fine thumping
fellow, though. I don’t wonder you are tired, carrying such a load.”

The poor woman pressed the stout child, apparently two years old, to her
breast, as if she felt it a great blessing and no load: the gig drove
rapidly on.

Presently Mr. Spires resumed his conversation.

“So you are from Stockington?”

“No, sir; my husband was.”

“So: what was his name?”

“John Deg, sir.”

“Deg?” said Mr. Spires. “Deg, did you say?”

“Yes, sir.”

The manufacturer seemed to hitch himself off towards his own side of the
gig, gave another look at her, and was silent. The poor woman was
somewhat astonished at his look and movement, and was silent too.

After awhile Mr. Spires said again, “And do you hope to find friends in
Stockington? Had you none where you came from?”

“None, sir, none in the world!” said the poor woman, and again her
feelings seemed too strong for her. At length she added, “I was in
service, sir, at Poole, in Dorsetshire, when I married; my mother only
was living, and while I was away with my husband, she died. When--when
the news came from abroad--that--when I was a widow, sir, I went back to
my native place, and the parish officers said I must go to my husband’s
parish, lest I and my child should become troublesome.”

“You asked relief of them?”

“Never; oh, God knows, never! My family have never asked a penny of a
parish. They would die first, and so would I, sir; but they said I might
do it, and I had better go to my husband’s parish at once--and they
offered me money to go.”

“And you took it, of course?”

“No, sir; I had a little money, which I had earned by washing and
laundering, and I sold most of my things, as I could not carry them, and
came off. I felt hurt, sir; my heart rose against the treatment of the
parish, and I thought I should be better among my husband’s
friends--and my child would, if anything happened to me; I had no
friends of my own.”

Mr. Spires looked at the woman in silence. “Did your husband tell you
anything of his friends? What sort of a man was he?”

“Oh, he was a gay young fellow, rather, sir; but not bad to me. He
always said his friends were well off in Stockington.”

“He did!” said the manufacturer, with a great stare, and as if bolting
the words from his heart in a large gust of wonder.

The poor woman again looked at him with a strange look. The manufacturer
whistled to himself, and giving his horse a smart cut with the whip,
drove on faster than ever. The night was fast settling down; it was
numbing cold; a gray fog rose from the river as they thundered over the
old bridge; and tall engine chimneys, and black smoky houses loomed
through the dusk before them. They were at Stockington.

As they slackened their pace up a hill at the entrance of the town, Mr.
Spires again opened his mouth.

“I should be sorry to hurt your feelings, Mrs. Deg,” he said, “but I
have my fears that you are coming to this place with false expectations.
I fear your husband did not give you the truest possible account of his
family here.”

“Oh, Sir! What--what is it?” exclaimed the poor woman; “in God’s name,
tell me!”

“Why, nothing more than this,” said the manufacturer, “that there are
very few of the Degs left here. They are old, and on the parish, and can
do nothing for you.”

The poor woman gave a deep sigh, and was silent.

“But don’t be cast down,” said Mr. Spires. He would not tell her what a
pauper family it really was, for he saw that she was a very feeling
woman, and he thought she would learn that soon enough. He felt that her
husband had from vanity given her a false account of his connections;
and he was really sorry for her.

“Don’t be cast down,” he went on, “you can wash and iron, you say; you
are young and strong; those are your friends. Depend on them, and
they’ll be better friends to you than any other.”

The poor woman was silent, leaning her head down on her slumbering
child, and crying to herself; and thus they drove on, through many long
and narrow streets, with gas flaring from the shops, but with few people
in the streets, and these hurrying shivering along the payment, so
intense was the cold. Anon they stopped at a large pair of gates; the
manufacturer rung a bell, which he could reach from his gig, and the
gates presently were flung open, and they drove into a spacious yard,
with a large handsome house, having a bright lamp burning before it, on
one side of the yard, and tall warehouses on the other.

“Show this poor woman and her child to Mrs. Craddock’s, James,” said Mr.
Spires, “and tell Mrs. Craddock to make them very comfortable; and if
you will come to my warehouse to-morrow,” added he, addressing the poor
woman, “perhaps I can be of some use to you.”

The poor woman poured out her heartfelt thanks, and following the old
man servant, soon disappeared, hobbling over the pebbly pavement with
her living load, stiffened almost to stone by her fatigue and her cold
ride.

We must not pursue too minutely our narrative. Mrs. Deg was engaged to
do the washing and getting up of Mr. Spire’s linen, and the manner in
which she executed her task insured her recommendations to all their
friends. Mrs. Deg was at once in full employ. She occupied a neat house
in a yard near the meadows below the town, and in those meadows she
might be seen spreading out her clothes to whiten on the grass, attended
by her stout little boy. In the same yard lived a shoemaker, who had two
or three children of about the same age as Mrs. Deg’s child. The
children, as time went on, became play-fellows. Little Simon might be
said to have the free run of the shoemaker’s house, and he was the more
attracted thither by the shoemaker’s birds, and by his flute, on which
he often played after his work was done.

Mrs. Deg took a great friendship for this shoemaker; and he and his
wife, a quiet, kind-hearted woman, were almost all the acquaintances
that she cultivated. She had found out her husband’s parents, but they
were not of a description that at all pleased her. They were old and
infirm, but they were of the true pauper breed, a sort of person, whom
Mrs. Deg had been taught to avoid and to despise. They looked on her as
a sort of second parish, and insisted that she should come and live with
them, and help to maintain them out of her earnings. But Mrs. Deg would
rather her little boy had died than have been familiarized with the
spirit and habits of those old people. Despise them she struggled hard
not to do, and she agreed to allow them sufficient to maintain them on
condition that they desisted from any further application to the parish.
It would be a long and disgusting story to recount all the troubles,
annoyance, and querulous complaints, and even bitter accusations that
she received from these connections, whom she could never satisfy; but
she considered it one of her crosses in her life, and patiently bore it,
seeing that they suffered no real want, so long as they lived, which was
for years; but she would never allow her little Simon to be with them
alone.

The shoemaker neighbor was a stout protection to her against the greedy
demands of these old people, and of others of the old Degs, and also
against another class of inconvenient visitors, namely, suitors, who saw
in Mrs. Deg a neat and comely young woman with a flourishing business,
and a neat and soon well-furnished house, a very desirable acquisition.
But Mrs. Deg had resolved never again to marry, but to live for her boy,
and she kept her resolve in firmness and gentleness.

The shoemaker often took walks in the extensive town meadows to gather
groundsell and plantain for his canaries and gorse-linnets, and little
Simon Deg delighted to accompany him with his own children. There
William Watson, the shoemaker, used to point out to the children the
beauty of the flowers, the insects, and other objects of nature; and
while he sate on a stile and read in a little old book of poetry, as he
often used to do, the children sate on the summer grass, and enjoyed
themselves in a variety of plays.

The effect of these walks, and the shoemaker’s conversation on little
Simon Deg was such as never wore out of him through his whole life, and
soon led him to astonish the shoemaker by his extraordinary conduct. He
manifested the utmost uneasiness at their treading on the flowers in the
grass; he would burst with tears if they persisted in it; and when asked
why, he said they were so beautiful, and that they must enjoy the
sunshine, and be very unhappy to die. The shoemaker was amazed, but
indulged the lad’s fancy. One day he thought to give him a great treat,
and when they were out in the meadows, he drew from under his coat, a
bow and arrow, and shot the arrow high up in the air. He expected to see
him in an ecstacy of delight; his own children clapped their hands in
transport, but Simon stood silent, and as if awestruck. “Shall I send up
another?” asked the shoemaker.

“No, no,” exclaimed the child, imploringly. “You say God lives up there,
and he mayn’t like it.”

The shoemaker laughed, but presently he said, as if to himself, “There
is too much imagination there. There will be a poet, if we don’t take
care.”

The shoemaker offered to teach Simon to read, and to solidify his mind,
as he termed it, by arithmetic, and then to teach him to work at his
trade. His mother was very glad; and thought shoemaking would be a good
trade for the boy; and that with Mr. Watson she should have him always
near her. He was growing now a great lad, and was especially strong, and
of a frank and daring habit. He was especially indignant at any act of
oppression of the weak by the strong, and not seldom got into trouble by
his championship of the injured in such cases amongst the boys of the
neighborhood.

He was now about twelve years of age; when, going one day with a basket
of clothes on his head to Mr. Spires’s for his mother, he was noticed by
Mr. Spires himself from his counting-house window. The great war was
raging; there was much distress amongst the manufacturers; and the
people were suffering and exasperated against their masters. Mr. Spires,
as a staunch tory, and supporter of the war, was particularly obnoxious
to the work-people, who uttered violent threats against him. For this
reason his premises were strictly guarded, and at the entrance of his
yard, just within the gates, was chained a huge and fierce mastiff, his
chain allowing him to approach near enough to intimidate any stranger,
though not to reach him. The dog knew the people who came regularly
about, and seemed not to notice them, but on the entrance of a stranger,
he rose up, barked fiercely, and came to the length of his chain. This
always drew the attention of the porter, if he were away from his box,
and few persons dared to pass till he came.

Simon Deg was advancing with the basket of clean linen on his head,
when the dog rushed out, and barking loudly, came exactly opposite to
him, within a few feet. The boy, a good deal startled at first, reared
himself with his back against the wall, but at a glance perceiving that
the dog was at the length of his tether, he seemed to enjoy his
situation, and stood smiling at the furious animal, and lifting his
basket with both hands above his head, nodded to him, as if to say,
“Well, old boy, you’d like to eat me, wouldn’t you?”

Mr. Spires, who sate near his counting-house window at his books, was
struck with the bold and handsome bearing of the boy, and said to a
clerk, “What boy is that?”

“It is Jenny Deg’s,” was the answer.

“Ha! that boy! Zounds! how boys do grow! What that’s the child that
Jenny Deg was carrying when she came to Stockington; and what a strong,
handsome, bright-looking fellow he is now!”

As the boy was returning, Mr. Spires call him to the counting-house
door, and put some questions to him as to what he was doing and
learning, and so on. Simon, taking off his cap with much respect,
answered in such a clear and modest way, and with a voice that had so
much feeling and natural music in it, that the worthy manufacturer was
greatly taken with him.

“That’s no Deg,” said he, when he again entered the counting-house, “not
a bit of it. He’s all Goodrick, or whatever his mother’s name was, every
inch of him.”

The consequences of that interview was, that Simon Deg was very soon
after perched on a stool in Mr. Spires’ counting-house, where he
continued till he was twenty-two. Mr. Spires had no son, only a single
daughter; and such were Simon Deg’s talents, attention to business, and
genial disposition, that at that age Mr. Spires gave him a share in the
concern. He was himself now getting less fond of exertion than he had
been, and placed the most implicit reliance on Simon’s judgment and
general management. Yet no two men could be more unlike in their
opinions beyond the circle of trade. Mr. Spires was a staunch tory of
the staunch old school. He was for Church and King, and for things
remaining forever as they had been. Simon, on the other hand, had
liberal and reforming notions. He was for the improvement of the people,
and their admission to many privileges. Mr. Spires was, therefore, liked
by the leading men of the place, and disliked by the people. Simon’s
estimation was precisely in the opposite direction. But this did not
disturb their friendship; it required another disturbing cause--and that
came.

Simon Deg and the daughter of Mr. Spires, grew attached to each other;
and, as the father had thought Simon worthy of becoming a partner in the
business, neither of the young people deemed that he would object to a
partnership of a more domestic description. But here they made a
tremendous mistake. No sooner was such a proposal hinted it, than Mr.
Spires burst forth with the fury of all the winds from the bag of
Ulysses.

“What! a Deg aspire to the hand of the sole heiress of the enormously
opulent Spires?”

The very thought almost cut the proud manufacturer off with an
apoplexy. The ghosts of a thousand paupers rose up before him, and he
was black in the face. It was only by a prompt and bold application of
leeches and lancet, that the life of the great man was saved. But there
was an end of all further friendship between himself and the expectant
Simon. He insisted that he should withdraw from the concern, and it was
done. Simon, who felt his own dignity deeply wounded too, for dignity he
had, though the last of a long line of paupers--his own dignity, not his
ancestors’--took silently, yet not unrespectfully, his share--a good,
round sum, and entered another house of business.

For several years there appeared to be a feud and a bitterness between
the former friends; yet it showed itself in no other manner than by a
careful avoidance of each other. The continental war came to an end; the
manufacturing distress increased exceedingly. There came troublous
times, and a fierce warfare of politics. Great Stockington was torn
asunder by rival parties. On one side stood pre-eminent, Mr. Spires; on
the other towered conspicuously, Simon Deg. Simon was grown rich, and
extremely popular. He was on all occasions the advocate of the people.
He said that he had sprung from, and was one of them. He had bought a
large tract of land on one side of the town; and intensely fond of the
country and flowers himself, he had divided this into gardens, built
little summer-houses in them, and let them to the artisans. In his
factory he had introduced order, cleanliness, and ventilation. He had
set up a school for the children in the evenings, with a reading-room
and conversation-room for the work-people, and encouraged them to bring
their families there, and enjoy music, books, and lectures. Accordingly,
he was the idol of the people, and the horror of the old school of the
manufacturers.

“A pretty upstart and demagogue I’ve nurtured,” said Mr. Spires often to
his wife and daughter, who only sighed and were silent.

Then came a furious election. The town, for a fortnight, more resembled
the worst corner of Tartarus than a Christian borough. Drunkenness,
riot, pumping on one another, spencering one another, all sorts of
violence and abuse ruled and raged till the blood of all Stockington was
at boiling heat. In the midst of the tempest were everywhere seen,
ranged on the opposite sides, Mr. Spires, now old and immensely
corpulent, and Simon Deg, active, buoyant, zealous, and popular beyond
measure. But popular though, he still was, the other and old tory side
triumphed. The people were exasperated to madness; and when the chairing
of the successful candidate commenced, there was a terrific attack made
on the procession by the defeated party. Down went the chair, and the
new member, glad to escape into an inn, saw his friends mercilessly
assailed by the populace. There was a tremendous tempest of sticks,
brick-bats, paving-stones, and rotten eggs. In the midst of this, Simon
Deg, and a number of his friends, standing at the upper window of a
hotel, saw Mr. Spires knocked down, and trampled on by the crowd. In an
instant, and, before his friends had missed him from among them, Simon
Deg was then darting through the raging mass, cleaving his way with a
surprising vigor, and gesticulating, and no doubt shouting vehemently to
the rioters, though his voice was lost in the din. In the next moment
his hat was knocked off, and himself appeared in imminent danger; but,
another moment, and there was a pause, and a group of people were
bearing somebody from the frantic mob into a neighboring shop. It was
Simon Deg, assisting in the rescue of his old friend and benefactor, Mr.
Spires.

Mr. Spires was a good deal bruised, and wonderfully confounded and
bewildered by his fall. His clothes were one mass of mud, and his face
was bleeding copiously; but when he had had a good draught of water, and
his face washed, and had time to recover himself, it was found that he
had received no serious injury.

“They had like to have done for me though,” said he.

“Yes, and who saved you?” asked a gentleman.

“Ay, who was it? who was it?” asked the really warm-hearted
manufacturer; “let me know? I owe him my life.”

“There he is!” said several gentlemen, at the same instant pushing
forward Simon Deg.

“What, Simon!” said Mr. Spires, starting to his feet. “Was it thee, my
boy?” He did more, he stretched out his hand; the young man clasped it
eagerly, and the two stood silent, and with a heartfelt emotion, which
blended all the past into forgetfulness, and the future into a union
more sacred than esteem.

A week hence and Simon Deg was the son-in-law of Mr. Spires. Though Mr.
Spires had misunderstood Simon, and Simon had borne the aspect of
opposition to his old friend in defence of conscientious principle, the
wife and daughter of the manufacturer had always understood him, and
secretly looked forward to some day of recognition and re-union.

Simon Deg was now the richest man in Stockington. His mother was still
living to enjoy his elevation. She had been his excellent and wise
house-keeper, and she continued to occupy that post still.

Twenty-five years afterwards, when the worthy old Spires was dead, and
Simon Deg had himself two sons attained to manhood; when he had five
times been mayor of Stockington, and had been knighted on the
presentation of a loyal address; still his mother was living to see it;
and William Watson, the shoe-maker, was acting as the sort of orderly at
Sir Simon’s chief manufactory. He occupied the Lodge, and walked about,
and saw that all was safe, and moving on as it should do.

It was amazing how the most plebeian name of Simon Peg had slid, under
the hands of the Heralds, into the really aristocratical one of Sir
Simon Degge. They had traced him up a collateral kinship, spite of his
own consciousness, to a baronet of the same name of the county of
Stafford, and had given him a coat of arms that was really astonishing.

It was some years before this that Sir Roger Rockville breathed his
last. His title and estate had fallen into litigation. Owing to two
generations having passed without any issue of the Rockville family
except the one son and heir, the claims, though numerous, were so
mingled with obscuring circumstances, and so equally balanced, that the
lawyers raised quibbles and difficulties enough to keep the property in
Chancery, till they had not only consumed all the ready money and
rental, but had made frightful inroads into the estate itself. To save
the remnant, the contending parties came to a compromise. A neighboring
squire, whose grandfather had married a Rockville, was allowed to secure
the title, on condition that the rest carried off the residuum of the
estate. The woods and lands of Rockville were announced for sale!

It was at this juncture that old William Watson reminded Sir Simon Degge
of a conversation in the great grove of Rockville, which they had held
at the time that Sir Roger was endeavoring to drive the people thence.
“What a divine pleasure might this man enjoy,” said Simon Deg to his
humble friend, “if he had a heart capable of letting others enjoy
themselves.”

“But we talk without the estate,” said William Watson, “what might we do
if we were tried with it?”

Sir Simon was silent for a moment; then observed that there was sound
philosophy in William Watson’s remark. He said no more, but went away;
and the next day announced to the astonished old man that he had
purchased the groves and the whole ancient estate of Rockville!

Sir Simon Degge, the last of a long line of paupers, was become the
possessor of the noble estate of Sir Roger Rockville of Rockville, the
last of a long line of aristocrats!

The following summer, when the hay was lying in fragrant cocks in the
great meadows of Rockville, and on the little islands in the river, Sir
Simon Degge, Baronet of Rockville,--for such was now his title--through
the suggestion of a great lawyer, formerly recorder of the borough of
Stockington to the crown--held a grand fête on the occasion of his
coming to reside at Rockville Hall, henceforth the family seat of the
Degges. His house and gardens had been restored to the most consummate
order. For years Sir Simon had been a great purchaser of works of art
and literature, paintings, statuary, books, and articles of antiquity,
including rich armor and precious works in ivory and gold.

First and foremost he gave a great banquet to his wealthy friends, and
no man with a million and a half is without them--and in abundance. In
the second place, he gave a substantial dinner to all his tenantry, from
the wealthy farmer of five hundred acres to the tenant of a cottage. On
this occasion he said, “Game is a great subject of heart-burning, and of
great injustice to the country. It was the bane of my predecessor; let
us take care it is not ours. Let every man kill the game on the land
that he rents--then he will not destroy it utterly, nor allow it to grow
into a nuisance. I am fond of a gun myself, but I trust to find enough
for my propensity to the chase in my own fields and woods--if I
occasionally extend my pursuit across the lands of my tenants, it shall
not be to carry off the first-fruits of their feeding, and I shall still
hold the enjoyment as a favor.”

We need not say that this speech was applauded most vociferously.
Thirdly, and lastly, he gave a grand entertainment to all his
work-people, both of the town and the country. His house and gardens
were thrown open to the inspection of the whole assembled company. The
delighted crowd admired immensely the pictures and the pleasant gardens.
On the lawn, lying between the great grove and the hall, an enormous
tent was pitched, or rather a vast canvas canopy erected, open on all
sides, in which was laid a charming banquet; a military band from
Stockington barracks playing during the time. Here Sir Simon made a
speech as rapturously received as that to the farmers. It was to the
effect, that all the old privileges of wandering in the grove, and
angling, and boating on the river, were restored. The inn was already
rebuilt in a handsome Elizabethan style, larger than before, and to
prevent it ever becoming a fane of intemperance, he had there posted as
landlord, he hoped for many years to come, his old friend and
benefactor, William Watson. William Watson should protect the inn from
riot, and they themselves the groves and river banks from injury.

Long and loud were the applauses which this announcement occasioned. The
young people turned out upon the green for a dance, and in the evening,
after an excellent tea--the whole company descended the river to
Stockington in boats and barges decorated with boughs and flowers, and
singing a song made by William Watson for the occasion, called “The
Health of Sir Simon, last and first of his Line.”

Years have rolled on. The groves and river banks and islands of
Rockville are still greatly frequented, but are never known to be
injured: poachers are never known there, for four reasons. First, nobody
would like to annoy the good Sir Simon; secondly, game is not very
numerous there; thirdly, there is no fun in killing it where there is
no resistance; and fourthly, it is vastly more abundant in other
proprietors’ demesnes, and _it is_ fun to kill it there, where it is
jealously watched, and there is a chance of a good spree with the
keepers.

And with what different feelings does the good Sir Simon look down from
his lofty eyrie, over the princely expanse of meadows, and over the
glittering river, and over the stately woods to where Great Stockington
still stretches farther and farther its red brick walls, its red-tiled
roofs, and its tall smoke-vomiting chimneys. There he sees no haunts of
crowded enemies to himself or any man. No upstarts, nor envious
opponents, but a vast family of human beings, all toiling for the good
of their families and their country. All advancing, some faster, some
slower, to a better education, a better social condition, a better
conception of the principles of art and commerce, and a clearer
recognition of their rights and their duties, and a more cheering faith
in the upward tendency of humanity.

Looking on this interesting scene from his distant and quiet home, Sir
Simon sees what blessings flow--and how deeply he feels them in his own
case--from a free circulation, not only of trade, but of human
relations. How this corrects the mischiefs, moral and physical, of false
systems and rusty prejudices;--and he ponders on schemes of no ordinary
beauty and beneficence yet to reach his beloved town through them. He
sees lecture halls and academies, means of sanitary purification, and
delicious recreation, in which baths, wash-houses, and airy homes figure
largely; while public walks extend all round the great industrial hive,
including wood, hills, meadow, and river in their circuit of many miles.
There he lived and labored; there live and labor his sons; and there he
trusts his family will continue to live and labor to all future
generations; never retiring to the fatal indolence of wealth, but aiding
onwards its active and ever-expanding beneficence.

Long may the good Sir Simon live and labor to realize these views. But
already in a green corner of the pleasant churchyard of Rockville may
be read this inscription on a marble headstone:--“Sacred to the Memory
of Jane Deg, the mother of Sir Simon Degge, Bart., of Rockville. This
stone is erected in honor of the best of Mothers by the most grateful of
sons.”



III.

The Gentleman Beggar

AN ATTORNEY’S STORY.


One morning, about five years ago, I called by appointment on Mr. John
Balance, the fashionable pawnbroker, to accompany him to Liverpool, in
pursuit for a Levanting customer,--for Balance, in addition to pawning,
does a little business in the sixty per cent. line. It rained in
torrents when the cab stopped at the passage which leads past the
pawning boxes to his private door. The cabman rang twice, and at length
Balance appeared, looming through the mist and rain in the entry,
illuminated by his perpetual cigar. As I eyed him rather impatiently,
remembering that trains wait for no man, something like a hairy dog, or
a bundle of rags, rose up at his feet, and barred his passage for a
moment. Then Balance cried out with an exclamation, in answer apparently
to a something I could not hear, “What, man alive!--slept in the
passage!--there, take that, and get some breakfast for Heaven’s sake!”
So saying, he jumped into the “Hansom,” and we bowled away at ten miles
an hour, just catching the Express as the doors of the station were
closing. My curiosity was full set,--for although Balance can be free
with his money, it is not exactly to beggars that his generosity is
usually displayed; so when comfortably ensconced in a _coupé_, I
finished with--

“You are liberal with your money this morning; pray, how often do you
give silver to street cadgers?--because I shall know now what walk to
take when flats and sharps leave off buying law.”

Balance, who would have made an excellent parson if he had not been bred
to a case-hardening trade, and has still a soft bit left in his heart
that is always fighting with his hard head, did not smile at all, but
looked as grim as if squeezing a lemon into his Saturday night’s punch.
He answered slowly, “A cadger--yes; a beggar--a miserable wretch, he is
now; but let me tell you, Master David, that that miserable bundle of
rags was born and bred a gentleman; the son of a nobleman, the husband
of an heiress, and has sat and dined at tables where you and I, Master
David, are only allowed to view the plate by favor of the butler. I have
lent him thousands, and been well paid. The last thing I had from him
was his court suit; and I hold now his bill for one hundred pounds that
will be paid, I expect, when he dies.”

“Why, what nonsense you are talking! you must be dreaming this morning.
However, we are alone, I’ll light a weed, in defiance of Railway law,
you shall spin that yarn; for, true or untrue, it will fill up the time
to Liverpool.”

“As for yarn,” replied Balance, “the whole story is short enough; and as
for truth, that you may easily find out if you like to take the
trouble. I thought the poor wretch was dead, and I own it put me out
meeting him this morning, for I had a curious dream last night.”

“Oh, hang your dreams! Tell us about this gentleman beggar that bleeds
you of half-crowns--that melts the heart even of a pawnbroker!”

“Well, then, that beggar is the illegitimate son of the late Marquis of
Hoopborough by a Spanish lady of rank. He received a first-rate
education, and was brought up in his father’s house. At a very early age
he obtained an appointment in a public office, was presented by the
marquis at court, and received into the first society, where his
handsome person and agreeable manners made him a great favorite. Soon
after coming of age, he married the daughter of Sir E. Bumper, who
brought him a very handsome fortune, which was strictly settled on
herself. They lived in splendid style, kept several carriages, a house
in town, and a place in the country. For some reason or other, idleness,
or to plead his lady’s pride he said, he resigned his appointment. His
father died, and left him nothing; indeed, he seemed at that time very
handsomely provided for.

“Very soon Mr. and Mrs. Molinos Fitz-Roy began to disagree. She was
cold, correct--he was hot and random. He was quite dependent on her, and
she made him feel it. When he began to get into debt, he came to me. At
length some shocking quarrel occurred; some case of jealousy on the
wife’s side, not without reason, I believe; and the end of it was Mr.
Fitz-Roy was turned out of doors. The house was his wife’s, the
furniture was his wife’s, and the fortune was his wife’s--he was, in
fact, her pensioner. He left with a few hundred pounds ready money, and
some personal jewellery, and went to a hotel. On these and credit he
lived. Being illegitimate, he had no relations; being a fool, when he
spent his money he lost his friends. The world took his wife’s part,
when they found she had the fortune, and the only parties who interfered
were her relatives, who did their best to make the quarrel incurable. To
crown all, one night he was run over by a cab, was carried to a
hospital, and lay there for months, and was during several weeks of the
time unconscious. A message to the wife, by the hands of one of his
debauched companions, sent by a humane surgeon, obtained an intimation
that ‘if he died, Mr. Croak, the undertaker to the family, had orders to
see to the funeral,’ and that Mrs. Molinos was on the point of starting
for the Continent, not to return for some years. When Fitz-Roy was
discharged, he came to me limping on two sticks, to pawn his court suit,
and told me his story. I was really sorry for the fellow, such a
handsome, thoroughbred-looking man. He was going then into the west
somewhere, to try to hunt out a friend. ‘What to do, Balance,’ he said,
‘I don’t know. I can’t dig, and unless somebody will make me their
gamekeeper, I must starve or beg, as my Jezebel bade me when we parted!’

“I lost sight of Molinos for a long time, and when I next came upon him
it was in the Rookery of Westminster, in a low lodging-house, where I
was searching with an officer for stolen goods. He was pointed out to
me as the ‘gentleman cadger,’ because he was so free with his money when
‘in luck.’ He recognized me, but turned away then. I have since seen
him, and relieved him more than once, although he never asks for
anything. How he lives, Heaven knows. Without money, without friends,
without useful education of any kind, he tramps the country, as you saw
him, perhaps doing a little hop-picking or hay-making, in season, only
happy when he obtains the means to get drunk. I have heard through the
kitchen whispers that you know come to me, that he is entitled to some
property; and I expect if he were to die his wife would pay the hundred
pound bill I hold; at any rate, what I have told you I know to be true,
and the bundle of rags I relieved just now is known in every thieves’
lodging in England as the ‘gentleman cadger.’”

This story produced an impression on me,--I am fond of speculation, and
like the excitement of a legal hunt as much as some do a fox-chase. A
gentleman a beggar, a wife rolling in wealth, rumors of unknown
property due to the husband; it seemed as if there were pickings for me
amidst this carrion of pauperism.

Before returning from Liverpool, I had purchased the gentleman beggar’s
acceptance from Balance. I then inserted in the “Times” the following
advertisement: “_Horatio Molinos Fitz-Roy_.--If this gentleman will
apply to David Discount, Esq., Solicitor, St. James’s, he will hear of
something to his advantage. Any person furnishing Mr. F.’s correct
address, shall receive 1_l._ 1_s._ reward. He was last seen,” &c. Within
twenty-four hours I had ample proof of the wide circulation of the
“Times.” My office was besieged with beggars of every degree, men and
women, lame and blind, Irish, Scotch, and English, some on crutches,
some in bowls, some in go-carts. They all knew him as “the gentleman,”
and I must do the regular fraternity of tramps the justice to say that
not one would answer a question until he made certain that I meant the
“gentleman” no harm.

One evening, about three weeks after the appearance of the
advertisement, my clerk announced “another beggar.” There came in an old
man leaning upon a staff, clad in a soldier’s great coat all patched and
torn, with a battered hat, from under which a mass of tangled hair fell
over his shoulders and half concealed his face. The beggar, in a weak,
wheezy, hesitating tone, said, “You have advertised for Molinos
Fitz-Roy. I hope you don’t mean him any harm; he is sunk, I think, too
low for enmity now; and surely no one would sport with such misery as
his.” These last words were uttered in a sort of piteous whisper.

I answered quickly, “Heaven forbid I should sport with misery; I mean
and hope to do him good, as well as myself.”

“Then, Sir, I am Molinos Fitz-Roy!”

While we were conversing candles had been brought in. I have not very
tender nerves--my head would not agree with them--but I own I started
and shuddered when I saw and knew that the wretched creature before me
was under thirty years of age and once a gentleman. Sharp, aquiline
features, reduced to literal skin and bone, were begrimed and covered
with dry fair hair; the white teeth of the half-open mouth chattered
with eagerness, and made more hideous the foul pallor of the rest of the
countenance. As he stood leaning on a staff half bent, his long, yellow
bony fingers clasped over the crutch-head of his stick, he was indeed a
picture of misery, famine, squalor, and premature age, too horrible to
dwell upon. I made him sit down, sent for some refreshment, which he
devoured like a ghoul, and set to work to unravel his story. It was
difficult to keep him to the point; but with pains I learned what
convinced me that he was entitled to some property, whether great or
small there was no evidence. On parting, I said “Now Mr. F., you must
stay in town while I make proper inquiries. What allowance will be
enough to keep you comfortably?”

He answered humbly after much pressing, “Would you think ten shillings
too much!”

I don’t like, if I do those things at all, to do them shabbily, so I
said, “Come every Saturday and you shall have a pound.” He was profuse
in thanks of course, as all such men are as long as distress lasts.

I had previously learned that my ragged client’s wife was in England,
living in a splendid house in Hyde Park Gardens, under her maiden name.
On the following day the Earl of Owing called upon me, wanting five
thousand pounds by five o’clock the same evening. It was a case of life
or death with him, so I made my terms and took advantage of his pressure
to execute a _coup de main_. I proposed that he should drive me home to
receive the money, calling at Mrs. Molinos in Hyde Park Gardens, on our
way. I knew that the coronet and liveries of his father, the Marquis,
would ensure me an audience with Mrs. Molinos Fitz-Roy.

My scheme answered. I was introduced into the lady’s presence. She was,
and probably is, a very stately, handsome woman, with a pale complexion,
high solid forehead, regular features, thin, pinched, self-satisfied
mouth. My interview was very short. I plunged into the middle of the
affair, but had scarcely mentioned the word husband, when she
interrupted me with “I presume you have lent this profligate person
money, and want me to pay you.” She paused, and then said, “He shall not
have a farthing.” As she spoke, her white face became scarlet.

“But, Madam, the man is starving. I have strong reasons for believing he
is entitled to property, and if you refuse any assistance, I must take
other measures.” She rang the bell, wrote something rapidly on a card;
and, as the footman appeared, pushed it towards me across the table,
with the air of touching a toad, saying, “There, Sir, is the address of
my solicitors; apply to them if you think you have any claim. Robert,
show the person out, and take care he is not admitted again.”

So far I had effected nothing; and, to tell the truth, felt rather
crest-fallen under the influence of that grand manner peculiar to
certain great ladies and to all great actresses.

My next visit was to the attorneys Messrs’. Leasem and Fashun, of
Lincoln’s Inn Square, and there I was at home. I had had dealings with
the firm before. They are agents for half the aristocracy, who always
run in crowds like sheep after the same wine-merchants, the same
architects, the same horse-dealers, and the same law-agents. It may be
doubted whether the quality of law and land management they get on this
principle is quite equal to their wine and horses. At any rate, my
friends of Lincoln’s Inn, like others of the same class, are
distinguished by their courteous manners, deliberate proceedings,
innocence of legal technicalities, long credit and heavy charges.
Leasem, the elder partner, wears powder and a huge bunch of seals, lives
in Queen Square, drives a brougham, gives the dinners and does the
cordial department. He is so strict in performing the latter duty, that
he once addressed a poacher who had shot a Duke’s keeper, as “my dear
creature,” although he afterwards hung him.

Fashun has chambers in St. James Street, drives a cab, wears a tip, and
does the grand haha style.

My business lay with Leasem. The interviews and letters passing were
numerous. However, it came at last to the following dialogue:--

“Well, my dear Mr. Discount,” began Mr. Leasem, who hates me like
poison. “I’m really very sorry for that poor dear Molinos--knew his
father well; a great man, a perfect gentleman; but you know what women
are, eh, Mr. Discount? My client won’t advance a shilling, she knows it
would only be wasted in low dissipation. Now don’t you think (this was
said very insinuatingly)--don’t you think he had better be sent to the
work-house; very comfortable accommodation there, I can assure you--meat
twice a week, and excellent soup; and then, Mr. D., we might consider
about allowing you something for that bill.”

“Mr. Leasem, can you reconcile it to your conscience to make such an
arrangement. Here’s a wife rolling in luxury, and a husband starving!”

“No, Mr. Discount, not starving; there is the work-house, as I observed
before; besides, allow me to suggest that these appeals to feeling are
quite unprofessional--quite unprofessional.”

“But, Mr. Leasem, touching this property which the poor man is entitled
to.”

“Why, there again, Mr. D., you must excuse me; you really must. I don’t
say he is, I don’t say he is not. If you know he is entitled to
property, I am sure you know how to proceed; the law is open to you, Mr.
Discount--the law is open; and a man of your talent will know how to use
it.”

“Then, Mr. Leasem, you mean that I must in order to right this starving
man, file a Bill of Discovery to extract from you the particulars of his
rights. You have the Marriage Settlement, and all the information, and
you decline to allow a pension, or afford any information; the man is to
starve, or go to the work-house?”

“Why, Mr. D., you are so quick and violent, it really is not
professional; but you see (here a subdued smile of triumph), it has been
decided that a solicitor is not bound to afford such information as you
ask, to the injury of his client.”

“Then you mean that this poor Molinos may rot and starve, while you
keep secret from him, at his wife’s request, his title to an income, and
that the Court of Chancery will back you in this iniquity?”

I kept repeating the word “starve,” because I saw it made my respectable
opponent wince. “Well, then, just listen to me. I know that in the happy
state of our equity law, Chancery can’t help my client; but I have
another plan; I shall go hence to my office, issue a writ, and take your
client’s husband in execution--as soon as he is lodged in jail, I shall
file his schedule in the Insolvent Court, and when he comes up for his
discharge, I shall put you in the witness-box, and examine you on oath,
‘touching any property of which you know the insolvent to be possessed,’
and where will be your privileged communications then?”

The respectable Leasem’s face lengthened in a twinkling, his comfortable
confident air vanished, he ceased twiddling his gold chain, and at
length he muttered, “Suppose we pay the debt?”

“Why, then, I’ll arrest him the day after for another.”

“But, my dear Mr. Discount, surely such, conduct would not be quite
respectable?”

“That’s my business; my client has been wronged, I am determined to
right him, and when the aristocratic firm of Leasem and Fashun takes
refuge, according to the custom of respectable repudiators, in the cool
arbors of the Court of Chancery, why, a mere bill-discounting attorney,
like David Discount, need not hesitate about cutting a bludgeon out of
the Insolvent Court.”

“Well, well, Mr. D., you are so warm--so fiery; we must deliberate, we
must consult. You will give me until the day after to-morrow, and then
we’ll write you our final determination; in the, meantime send us copy
of your authority to act for Mr. Molinos Fitz-Roy.”

Of course I lost no time in getting the gentleman beggar to sign a
proper letter.

On the appointed day came a communication with the L. and F. seal,
which I opened not without unprofessional eagerness. It was as follows:

    “_In re Molinos Fitz-Roy and Another._

     “Sir,--In answer to your application on behalf of Mr. Molinos
     Fitz-Roy, we beg to inform you that under the administration of a
     paternal aunt who died intestate, your client is entitled to two
     thousand five hundred pounds eight shillings and sixpence, Three
     per Cents; one thousand five hundred pounds nineteen shillings and
     fourpence, Three per Cents Reduced; one thousand pounds, Long
     Annuities; five hundred pounds, Bank Stock; three thousand five
     hundred pounds, India Stock, besides other securities, making up
     about ten thousand pounds, which we are prepared to transfer over
     to Mr. Molinos Fitz-Roy’s direction forthwith.”

Here was a windfall! It quite took away my breath.

At dusk came my gentleman beggar, and what puzzled me was how to break
the news to him. Being very much overwhelmed with business that day, I
had not much time for consideration. He came in rather better dressed
than when I first saw him, with only a week’s beard on his chin; but, as
usual, not quite sober. Six weeks had elapsed since our first interview.
He was still the humble, trembling, low-voiced creature, I first knew
him.

After a prelude, I said, “I find, Mr. F., you are entitled to something;
pray, what do you mean to give me in addition to my bill for obtaining
it?” He answered rapidly, “Oh, take half; if there is one hundred
pounds, take half; if there is five hundred pounds, take half.”

“No, no, Mr. F., I don’t do business in that way, I shall be satisfied
with ten per cent.”

It was so settled. I then led him out into the street, impelled to tell
the news, yet dreading the effect; not daring to make the revelation in
my office for fear of a scene.

I began hesitatingly, “Mr. Fitz-Roy, I am happy to say that I find you
are entitled to.... ten thousand pounds!”

“Ten thousand pounds!” he echoed. “Ten thousand pounds!” he shrieked.
“Ten thousand pounds!” he yelled, seizing my arm violently.

“You are a brick,---- Here, cab! cab!” Several drove up--the shout might
have been heard a mile off. He jumped in the first.

“Where to?” said the driver.

“To a tailor’s, you rascal!”

“Ten thousand pounds! ha, ha, ha!” he repeated hysterically, when in the
cab; and every moment grasping my arm. Presently he subsided, looked me
straight in the face, and muttered with agonizing fervor, “What a jolly
brick you are!”

The tailor, the hosier, the bootmaker, the hairdresser, were in turn
visited by this poor pagan of externals. As by degrees under their hands
he emerged from the beggar to the gentleman, his spirits rose; his eyes
brightened; he walked erect, but always nervously grasping my arm;
fearing, apparently, to lose sight of me for a moment, lest his fortune
should vanish with me. The impatient pride with which he gave his order
to the astonished tradesman for the finest and best of everything, and
the amazed air of the fashionable hairdresser when he presented his
matted locks and stubble chin to be “cut and shaved,” may be _acted_--it
cannot be described.

By the time the external transformation was complete, and I sat down in
a _café_ in the Haymarket opposite a haggard but handsome
thoroughbred-looking man, whose air, with the exception of the wild eyes
and deeply-browned face, did not differ from the stereotyped men about
town sitting around us, Mr. Molinos Fitz-Roy had already almost
forgotten the past; he bullied the waiter, and criticized the wine, as
if he had done nothing else but dine and drink and scold there all the
days of his life.

Once he wished to drink my health, and would have proclaimed his whole
story to the coffee-room assembly in a raving style. When I left he
almost wept in terror at the idea of losing sight of me. But, allowing
for these ebullitions--the natural result of such a whirl of events--he
was wonderfully calm and self-possessed.

The next day his first care was to distribute fifty pounds among his
friends the cadgers, at a house of call in Westminster, and formally to
dissolve his connection with them; those present undertaking for the
“fraternity,” that for the future he should never be noticed by them in
public or private.

I cannot follow his career much further. Adversity had taught him
nothing. He was soon again surrounded by the well-bred vampires who had
forgotten him when penniless; but they amused him, and that was enough.
The ten thousand pounds were rapidly melting when he invited me to a
grand dinner at Richmond, which included a dozen of the most agreeable,
good-looking, well-dressed dandies of London, interspersed with a
display of pretty butterfly bonnets. We dined deliciously, and drank as
men do of iced wines in the dog-days--looking down from Richmond Hill.

One of the pink bonnets crowned Fitz-Roy with a wreath of flowers; he
looked--less the intellect--as handsome as Alcibiades. Intensely excited
and flushed, he rose with a champagne glass in his hand to propose my
health.

The oratorical powers of his father had not descended on him. Jerking
out sentences by spasms, at length he said, “I was a beggar--I am a
gentleman--thanks to this----”

Here he leaned on my shoulder heavily a moment, and then fell back. We
raised him, loosened his neckcloth--

“Fainted!” said the ladies--

“Drunk!” said the gentlemen--

He was _dead_!



IV.

“Evil is Wrought by Want of Thought.”


“It must come some day; and come when it will, it will be hard to do, so
we had best go at once, Sally. I shall have more trouble with Miss
Isabel than you will with Miss Laura; for I am twice the favorite you
are.”

So said Fanny to her cousin, who had just turned to descend the
staircase of Aldington Hall, where they had both lived since they were
almost children, in attendance on the two daughters of the old baronet,
who were near their own ages, and had always treated them with great
kindness.

“I am not sure of that,” replied Sally, “for Miss Laura is so seldom put
out, that when once she is vexed, she will be hard to comfort; and I am
sure, Fanny, she loves me every bit as well as Miss Isabel does you,
though it is her way to be so quiet. I dare say she will cry when I say
I must go; but then John would be like to cry too, if I put him off
longer.”

This consideration restored Sally’s courage, and she proceeded with
Fanny to the gallery into which the rooms of their young mistresses
opened; but here Fanny’s heart failed her; and, stopping short, she
said,

“Suppose we tell them to wait awhile longer, as the young ladies are
going to travel. We might as well see the world first, and marry in a
year or two. But still,” added she, after a pause, “I could not find it
in my heart to say so to Thomas; and I promised him to speak to-day.”

Each cousin then knocked at the door of her mistress. Laura was not in
her room, and Sally went to seek her below stairs; but Isabel called to
Fanny to go in.

Fanny obeyed, and walking forward a few steps, faltered out, with many
blushes, that as young Thomas had kept company with her for nearly a
twelvemonth, and had taken and furnished a little cottage, and begged
hard to take her home to it; she was sorry to say, that if Miss Isabel
would give her leave, she wished to give warning and to go from her
service in a month.

Fanny’s most sanguine wishes or fears, must have been surpassed by the
burst of surprise and grief that followed her modest statement. Isabel
reproached her; refused to take her warning; declared she would never
see her again if she left the Hall, and that rather than be served by
any but her dear Fanny, she would wait upon herself all her life. Fanny
expostulated, and told her mistress that, foreseeing her unwillingness
to lose her, she had already put Thomas off several months; and that at
last, to gain further delay, she had run the risk of appearing selfish,
by refusing to marry him till he had furnished a whole cottage for her.
This, she said he had--by working late and early--accomplished in a
surprisingly short time, and had the day before claimed the reward of
his industry. “And now, Miss,” added she, “he gets quite pale, and
begins to believe I do not love him, and yet I do, better than all the
world, and could not find it in my heart to vex him, and make him look
sad again. Yesterday he seemed so happy, when I promised to be his wife
in a month.” Here Fanny burst into tears. Her sobs softened Isabel, who
consented to let her go; and after talking over her plans, became as
enthusiastic in promoting, as she had at first been, in opposing them.
Thomas was to take Fanny over to see the cottage, that evening, and
Isabel, in the warmth of her heart, promised to accompany them. Fanny
thanked her with a curtesy, and thought how pleased she ought to be at
such condescension in her young mistress, but could not help fearing
that her sweetheart would not half appreciate the favor.

After receiving many promises of friendship and assistance, Fanny
hastened to report to Sally the success of her negotiation. Sally was
sitting in their little bedroom, thoughtful, and almost sad. She
listened to Fanny’s account; and replied in answer to her questions
concerning Miss Laura’s way of taking her warning, “I am afraid, Fanny,
you were right in thinking yourself the greatest favorite, for Miss
Laura seemed almost pleased at my news; she took me by the hand, and
said, ‘I am very glad to hear you are to marry such a good young man as
every one acknowledges John Maythorn to be, and you may depend upon my
being always ready to help you, if you want assistance.’ She then said a
deal about my having lived with her six years, and not having once
displeased her, and told me that master had promised my mother and yours
too, that his young ladies should see after us all our lives. This was
very kind, to be sure; but then Miss Isabel promised you presents
whether you wanted assistance or not, and is to give you a silk gown and
a white ribbon for the wedding, and is to go over to the cottage with
you; now Miss Laura did not say a word of any such thing.”

Fanny tried to comfort her cousin by saying it was Miss Laura’s quiet
way; but she could not help secretly rejoicing that her own mistress
was so generous and affectionate.

In the evening the two sweethearts came to lead their future wives to
the cottages, which were near each other, and at about a mile from the
Hall. John had a happy walk. He learned from Sally that he was to “take
her home” in a month, and was so pleased at the news, that he could
scarcely be happier when she bustled about, exclaiming at every new
sight in the pretty bright little cottage. The tea-caddy, the cupboard
of china, and a large cat, each called forth a fresh burst of joy. Sally
thought everything “the prettiest she had ever seen;” and when John made
her sit in the arm-chair and put her feet on the fender, as if she were
already mistress of the cottage, she burst into sobs of joy. We will not
pause to tell how her sobs were stopped, nor what promises of unchanging
kindness, were made in that bright little kitchen; but we may safely
affirm that Sally and John were happier than they had ever been in their
lives, and that old Mrs. Maythorn, who was keeping the cottage for
Sally, felt all her fondest wishes were fulfilled as she saw the two
lovers depart.

Fanny and Thomas, who had left them at the cottage door, walked on to
their own future home, quite overwhelmed by the honor Miss Isabel was
conferring on them by walking at their side.

“You see, Miss,” said Thomas, as he turned the key of his cottage-door,
“there is nothing to speak of here, only such things as are necessary,
and all of the plainest; but it will do well enough for us poor folks;”
and as he threw open the door, he found to his surprise that what had
seemed to him yesterday so pretty and neat, now looked indeed “all of
the plainest.” The very carpet, and metal teapot, which he had intended
as surprises for Fanny, he was now ashamed of pointing out to her, and
he apologized to Isabel for the coarse quality of the former, telling
her it was only to serve till he could get a better.

“Yes,” answered she, “this is not half good enough for my little Fanny,
she must have a real Brussels carpet. I will send her one. I will make
your cottage so pretty, Fanny, you shall have a nice china tea set, not
these common little things, and I will give you some curtains for the
window.” Thomas blushed as this deficiency was pointed out. “Why, Miss,”
said he, “I meant to have trained the rose tree over the window, I
thought that would be shady, and sweet in the summer, and in the winter,
why, we should want all the day-light; but then to be sure, curtains
will be much better.”

“Yes, Thomas,” replied the young lady, “and warm in the winter; you
could not be comfortable with a few bare rose stalks before your window,
when the snow was on the ground.” This had not occurred to Thomas, who
now said faintly, “Oh, no, Miss,” and felt that curtains were
indispensable to comfort.

Similar deficiencies or short-comings were discovered everywhere, so
that even Fanny, who would at first be pleased with all she saw, in
spite of the numerous defects that seemed to exist everywhere, gradually
grew silent and ashamed of her cottage. She did her utmost to conceal
from Thomas how entirely she agreed with her mistress, and as this
generous young lady finished every remark, by saying “I will get you
one,” or “I will send you another,” she felt that all would be right
before long.

As Thomas closed the door, he wondered how in his wish to please Fanny
he could have deceived himself so completely as to the merits of his
cottage and furniture; but he too comforted himself by remembering how
his kind patroness was to remedy all the defects; “though,” thought he,
“I should have liked better to have done it all well myself.”

The lady and the two lovers walked homewards, almost without speaking,
till they overtook John and Sally, who were whispering and laughing,
talking of their cottage, Mrs. Maythorn’s joy at seeing them happy,
their future plans for themselves and her, and all in so confused a way,
that though twenty new subjects were started and discussed, none came to
and conclusion, but that John and Sally loved each other and were very,
very happy.

“What ails you, Thomas?” said John. “Has any one robbed your house? I
told you it was not safe to leave it,” but seeing Miss Isabel, he
touched his hat and fell back to where Fanny was talking to her cousin.
Isabel, however, left them that she might take a short cut through the
park, while they went round by the road.

At the end of the walk, Sally was half inclined to be dissatisfied with
her furniture, so much had Fanny boasted of the improvements that were
to be made in her own, but she could not get rid of the first impression
it had made on her, and in a few days she quite forgot the want of
curtains and carpet, and could only remember the happy time when she sat
in the arm-chair with her foot on the fender.

As the month drew to a close, the two sisters made presents to their
maids. Laura gave Sally a merino dress, a large piece of linen, a cellar
full of coals, and a five pound note. Isabel gave Fanny a silk gown
that cost three guineas, a beautiful white bonnet ribbon, a small
chimney glass (for which she kindly went into debt), three left-off
muslin dresses, a painting done by her own hand, in a handsome gilt
frame, and a beautiful knitted purse. Besides all this, she told Fanny
it was still her intention to get the other things she had promised for
the cottage, as soon as she had paid for the chimney glass. “I am very
sorry,” she said, “that just now I am so poor, for unfortunately, as you
know, I have had to pay for those large music volumes I ordered when I
was in London, and which after all I never used. It always happens that
I am poor when I want to make presents.”

Fanny stopped her mistress with abundant thanks for the beautiful things
she had already given her. “I am sure, Miss,” said she, “I shall
scarcely dare wear these dresses, they look so lady-like and fine; Sally
will seem quite strange by me. And this purse too, Miss; I never saw
anything so smart.”

Isabel was quite satisfied that she had eclipsed her sister in the
number and value of her gifts, but she still assured Fanny she had but
made a beginning. Large and generous indeed, were this young lady’s
intentions.

On the wedding morning Isabel rose early and dressed herself without
assistance, then crossing to the room of the two cousins, she entered
without knocking. Sally was gone, and Fanny lay sleeping alone.

“How pretty she is!” said Isabel to herself. “She ought to be dressed
like a lady to-day. I will see to it;” then glancing proudly at the silk
gown, which was laid out with all the other articles of dress, ready for
the coming ceremony, her heart swelled with consciousness of her own
generosity. “I have done nothing yet,” continued she; “she has been with
me nearly six years, and always pleased me entirely, then papa promised
her mother that he should befriend her as long as we both lived, and he
has charged us both to do our utmost for our brides. Laura has bought
Sally a shawl, I ought to give one too--what is this common thing?
Fanny! Fanny! wake up. I am come to be your maid to-day, for you shall
be mistress on your wedding morning and have a lady to dress you. What
is this shawl? It will not do with a silk dress, wait a minute,” and off
she darted, leaving Fanny sitting up and rubbing her eyes trying to
remember what her young mistress had said. Before she was quite
conscious, Isabel returned with a Norfolk shawl of fine texture and
design, but somewhat soiled. “There,” said she, throwing it across the
silk gown, “those go much better together. I will give it you, Fanny.”

“Thank you, Miss,” said Fanny, in a tone of hesitation; “but--but
suppose, Miss, I was to wear Thomas’ shawl just to-day, as he gave it me
for the wedding, and John got Sally one like it--I think, Miss--don’t
you think, Miss, it might seem unkind to wear any other just to-day?”

“Why, it is just to-day I want to make you look like a lady, Fanny; no,
no, you must not put on that white cotton-looking shawl with a silk
dress, and this ribbon,” said Isabel, taking up the bonnet, proudly.
Fanny looked sad, but the young mistress did not see this, for she was
examining the white silk gloves that lay beside the bonnet. “These,”
thought she, “are not quite right, they look servantish, but my kid
gloves would not fit her, besides, I have none clean, and it is well,
perhaps, that she should have a few things to mark her rank. Yes, they
will do.”

There was so much confusion between the lady’s offering help, and the
maid’s modestly refusing it, that the toilette was long in completing.
At last, however, Isabel was in ecstasies. “Look,” said she, “how the
bonnet becomes you! and the Norfolk shawl, too, no one would think you
were only a lady’s-maid, Fanny. Stop, I will get a ribbon for your
throat.” Off she flew, and was back again in five minutes. “But what is
that for, Fanny? Are you afraid it will rain this bright morning?”

Fanny had, in Isabel’s absence, folded Thomas’ shawl, and hung it across
her arm. “I thought, Miss,” answered she, blushing, “that I might just
carry it to show Thomas that I did not forget his present, or think it
too homely to go to church with me.”

“Impossible,” said Isabel, who, to do her justice, we must state, was
far too much excited to suspect that she was making Fanny uncomfortable;
“you will spoil all. There, put the shawl away,--that’s right, you look
perfect. Go down to your bridegroom, I hear his voice in the hall, I
will not come too, though I should like above all things to see his
surprise, but I should spoil your meeting, and I am the last person in
the world to do anything so selfish. One thing more, Fanny: I shall give
you two guineas, that you may spend three or four days at L----, by the
sea-side; no one goes home directly, you would find it very dull to
settle down at once in your cottage; tell Thomas so.” Isabel then
retired to her room, wishing heartily that she could part with half her
prettiest things, that she might heap more favors on the interesting
little bride.

Laura’s first thought that morning had also been of the little orphan,
who had served her so long and faithfully, and whom her father had
commended to her special care. She, too, had risen early, but without
dressing herself, she went across to Sally. Sally was asleep, with the
traces of tears on her cheeks; Laura looked at her for a few moments,
and remembered how, when both were too young to understand the
distinction of rank, they had been almost play-mates; she wiped from her
own eyes a little moisture that dimmed them, then putting her hand
gently on Sally’s shoulder, she said, “Wake, Sally, I call you early
that you may have plenty of time to dress me first and yourself
afterwards. I know you would not like to miss waiting on me, or to do it
hurriedly for the last time. You have been crying, Sally, do not color
about it, I should think ill of you if you were not sorry to leave us,
you cannot feel the parting more than I do. I dare say I shall have hard
work to keep dry eyes all day, but we must do our best, Sally, for it
will not for John to think I grudge you to him, or that you like me
better than you do him.”

“Oh, no, Miss!” replied Sally, who felt at that moment that she could
scarcely love any one better than her kind mistress. “Still John will
not be hard upon me for a few tears,” added she, putting the sheet to
her eyes.

“Come, come, Sally, this will not do, jump up and dress yourself
quickly, that you may be ready to brush my hair when I return from the
dressing-room; you must do it well to day, for you know I am not yet
suited with a maid, and do it myself to-morrow.”

This roused Sally, who dressed in great haste and was soon at her post.
Laura asked her many questions about her plans for the future, and found
with pleasure that most things had been well considered and arranged.
“There is only one thing, Miss,” said Sally, in conclusion, “that we are
sorry for, and it is that we cannot offer old Mrs. Maythorn a home. She
has no child but John, and will sadly feel his leaving her.”

“But why cannot she live with you and work as she does now, so as to pay
you for what she costs?”

“Why, Miss, where she is she works about the house for her board, and
does a trifle outdoors besides, that gets her clothing. John says it
makes him feel quite cowardly, as it were, to see his old mother working
at scrubbing and scouring, making her poor back ache, when he is so
young and strong; yet we scarcely know if we could undertake for her
altogether. I wish we could.”

“How much would it cost you?”

“A matter of four shillings a week; besides, we must get a bed and
bedding. That we could put up in the kitchen, if we bought it to shut up
in the day-time, and, as John says, Mrs. Maythorn would help us nicely
when we get some little ones. But it would cost a deal of money to begin
and go on with.”

“I will think of this for you, Sally. It would be easy for me to give
you four shillings a week now, but I may not always be able to do it. I
may marry a poor man, or one who will not allow me to spend my money as
I please, and were Mrs. Maythorn to give up her present employments,
she would not be able to get them back again three or four years hence,
nor would she, at her age, be able to meet with others; and if you would
find it difficult to keep her now, you would much more when you have a
little family; so we must do nothing hastily. I will consult papa; he
will tell me directly whether I shall be right in promising you the four
shillings a week. If I do promise it, you may depend on always having
it.”

“Oh, thank you, thank you, Miss, for the thought: I will tell John
directly I see him; the very hope will fill him with joy.”

“No,” said Laura, “do not tell him yet, Sally, for you would be sorry to
disappoint him afterwards, if I could not undertake it. Wait a day or
two, and I will give you an answer; or, if possible, it shall be sooner.
Now, thank you for the nice brushing: I will put up my hair while you go
and dress; it is getting late. If you require assistance, and Fanny is
not in your room, tap at my door, for I shall be pleased to help you
to-day.”

Laura was not called in; but when she thought the toilette must be
nearly completed, went to Sally with the shawl which she had bought for
her the day before. As she entered, Sally was folding the white one John
had given her. “I have brought you a shawl,” said Laura, “which I want
you to wear to-day; it is much handsomer than that you are folding. See,
do you like it?”

“Yes, Miss,” said Sally, “it is a very good one, I see,” and she began
to re-fold the other; but Laura noticed the expression of disappointment
with which she made the change, and taking up the plain shawl, said, “I
do not know whether this does not suit your neat muslin dress better
than mine. Did you buy it yourself, Sally?”

“No, Miss, it was John’s present; but I will put on yours this morning,
if you please, Miss, and I can wear John’s any day.”

“No, no,” replied Laura, “you must put on John’s to-day. It matters but
little to me when you wear mine, so long as it does you good service;
but John will feel hurt if you cast his present aside on your
wedding-day, because some one else has given you a shawl worth a few
shillings more.” So Laura put the white shawl on the shoulders of Sally,
who valued it more than the finest Cashmere in the world.

As Sally went down stairs, she saw Fanny in tears on the landing. “I
cannot think how it is,” answered she, in reply to Sally’s questioning,
“but just on this day, when I thought to feel so happy, I am quite low.
Miss Isabel has been so kind, she has dressed me, and quite flustered me
with her attentions. See what nice things she has given me--this
shawl--though for that matter, I’d rather have worn Thomas’s. Oh, how
nice you look. Dear, so neat and becoming your station, and with John’s
shawl, too, but then Miss Laura has made you no present.”

“Yes, a good shawl and a promise besides, but I well tell you about that
another time. Let us go in now, they must be waiting for us.”

Fanny felt so awkward in her fine clothes, that she could scarcely be
prevailed on to encounter the gaze of the servants; but her
good-natured cousin promising to explain that all her dress was given
and chosen by her mistress, she at last went into the hall. Sally’s
explanation was only heard by a few of the party, and as Fanny, in
trying to conceal herself from the gaze of the astonished villagers,
slunk behind old Mrs. Maythorn, she had the mortification of hearing her
say to John, in the loud whisper peculiar to deaf people, “I am so glad,
John, the neat one is yours; I should be quite frightened to see you
take such a fine lady as Fanny to the altar; it makes me sorry for
Thomas to see her begin so smart.”

When the ceremony was over, the party returned to the Hall, where a
hospitable meal had been provided for all the villagers of good
character who chose to partake of it. It was a merry party, for even
Fanny, when every one had seen her finery long enough to forget it,
forgot it herself. Thomas was very good-natured about the shawl, and
delighted at the prospect of spending a few days at L----. He and Fanny
talked of the boat-excursions they would have, the shells they would
gather for a grotto in their garden, and the long rambles they would
take by the sea-side, till they wondered how ever they could have been
contented with the prospect of going to their cottage at once.

As the pony-chaise which the good baronet had lent for the day, drove up
to take the bridal party to L----, for John and Sally were also to spend
one day there, the two young ladies came to take leave of their
_protégées_. Laura said, “Good-bye, Sally, I have consulted papa, and
will undertake to allow you four shillings a week as long as Mrs.
Maythorn lives. Here is a sovereign towards expenses; you will not, I am
sure, mind changing your five pound note for the rest.”

Isabel said, “Good-bye, Fanny. I am very, very sorry to disappoint you
of your treat at L----, but I intended to have borrowed the two pounds
of Miss Laura, and I find she cannot lend them to me. Never mind, I am
sure you will be happy enough in your little cottage. I never saw such a
sweet little place as it is.” So the bridal party drove away.

In less than a week the cousins were established in their new abode.
Sally settled and happy; but Fanny, unsettled, always expected the new
carpet, the china tea-set, and the various other alterations that Isabel
had suggested and promised to make. The young lady, however, was
unfortunate with her money. At one time she lost a bank-note; at
another, just as she was counting out money for the Brussels carpet, the
new maid entered to tell her that sundry articles of dress were “past
mending,” and must be immediately replaced. One thing after another
nipped her generous intentions in the bud, and at last she was obliged
to set out for her long-expected journey to France without having done
more towards the fulfilment of her promises than call frequently on
Fanny, to remind her that all her present arrangements were temporary,
and that she should shortly have almost everything new.

“Good-bye, Fanny,” said she at parting; “I shall often write to you,
and send you money. I will not make any distinct promise, for I dare say
I shall be able to do more than I should like to say now.”

Laura had given Sally a great many useful things for her cottage, but
made no promise at parting. She said, “Be sure you write to me, Sally,
from time to time, to say how you are going on, and tell me if you want
help.”

When Isabel was gone, Fanny saw that she must accustom herself to her
cottage as it was, and banish from her mind the idea of the
long-anticipated improvements. It was, however, no easy task. The window
once regarded as bare and comfortless still seemed so, in spite of
Fanny’s reasoning that it was no worse than Sally’s, which always looked
cheerful and pretty. To be sure, John, who did not think of getting
curtains, had trained a honeysuckle over it, still that made but little
show at present. The carpet, too, so long regarded as a coarse temporary
thing, never regained the beauty it first had to the eye of Thomas, as
he laid it down the evening before he took Fanny to the cottage; and
Fanny could never forget, as she arranged her tea-things, that Miss
Isabel had called them “common little things;” so of all the other
pieces of furniture that the young lady had remarked upon. Sally’s house
was, in reality, more homely than her cousin’s, yet as she had never
entertained a wish that it should be better, and as Laura had been
pleased with all its arrangements, she bustled about it with perfect
satisfaction; and even to Fanny it seemed replete with the comfort her
own had always wanted.

At the end of three months Isabel enclosed an order for three pounds to
Fanny, desiring her to get a Brussels carpet, and if there was a
sufficient remainder, to replace the tea seat.

“I would rather,” said Fanny to her cousin, “put up with the old carpet
and china, and get a roll of fine flannel, some coals, an extra blanket
or two, and a cradle for the little one that’s coming, for it will be
cold weather when I am put to bed; but I suppose as Miss Isabel has set
her mind on the carpet and china, I must get them.”

A week or two after John was invited, with his wife and mother, to drink
tea from Fanny’s new china. It was very pretty, so was the carpet, and
so was Fanny making tea, elated with showing her new wealth.

“Is not Miss Isabel generous?” asked she, as she held the milk-pot to be
admired.

“I sometimes wish Miss Laura had as much money to spare,” replied Sally;
“for she lets me lay it out as I please, and I could get a number of
things for three guineas.”

“Fie, Sally,” said her husband; “are not three shillings to spend as one
pleases, better than three guineas laid out to please some one else?”

“Nonsense, John,” said Fanny, pettishly; “how can a carpet for my
kitchen be bought to please any one but me?”

“John isn’t far wrong either,” answered her husband; “but the carpet is
very handsome, and does please you and me too, now it is here.”

Time passed on, and Fanny gave birth to a little girl. Isabel stood
sponsor for her by proxy, sending her an embroidered cloak and lace cap,
and desiring that she should be called by her own name. Little Bella was
very sickly, and as her mother had not been able to procure her good
warm clothing, or lay in a large stock of firing, she suffered greatly
from cold during the severe winter that followed her birth. The spring
and summer did not bring her better health; and as Fanny always
attributed her delicacy to the want of proper warmth in her infancy, she
took a great dislike to the Brussels carpet, which now lay in a roll
behind a large chest, having been long ago taken up as a piece of
inconvenient luxury in a kitchen. “I wish you could find a corner for it
in your cottage, Sally,” said she, “for I never catch a sight of it
without worrying myself to think how much flannels and coals I might
have bought with the money it cost.”

Laura frequently sent Sally small presents of money, but Isabel, though
not so regular as her sister, surprised every one by the splendor of
her presents, when they did come. As Bella entered her second year she
received from her godmother a beautiful little carriage, which Thomas
said must have “spoilt a five-pound note.” This was Isabel’s last gift,
for it was at about this time that she accepted an offer from a French
count, and became so absorbed in her own affairs, that she forgot Fanny
and Bella too. Poor Bella grew more and more sickly every month; the
apothecary ordered her beef tea, arrowroot, and other strengthening
diet, but work was slack with Thomas, and it was with difficulty that he
could procure her the commonest food. “I am sure,” said Fanny to her
cousin, as little Bella was whining on her knee, “that if only Miss
Isabel were here, she would set us all right. She never could bear to
see even a stranger in distress.”

“I wish,” said Thomas, “that great folks would think a little of what
they don’t see. I’ll lay anything Miss Isabel gives away a deal of
money, more than enough to save our little one, to a set of French
impostors that cry after her in the street, and yet, when she knows our
child is ill, she never cares, because she can’t see it grow thin, or
hear it cry.”

“For shame, Thomas,” said his wife, “do not speak so rudely of the young
lady. Have you forgotten the pretty carriage she sent Bella, and how
pleased we were when it came?”

“I don’t mean any harm,” answered her husband; “only it strikes me that
Miss was pleased to buy the carriage because it was pretty, and seemed a
great thing to send us, and that she wouldn’t have cared a straw to give
us a little cash, that would have served us every bit as well.”

“I never heard you so ungrateful, Thomas. Of course she wouldn’t,
because she wished to please us.”

“Or herself, as John said; but maybe I am wrong; only it goes to my
heart to see the child want food while there is a filagree carriage in
the yard that cost more than would keep her for six months.”

“Well, cheer up,” said Sally; “Miss Laura will be coming home soon, and
I’ll lay anything she won’t let Bella die of want.”

“I’m afraid she won’t think of giving to me, Sally,” said Fanny
despondingly; “I was never her maid, you know.”

“You wouldn’t fear, if you knew Miss Laura as I do, Fanny; she never
cares who she helps so long as the person is deserving, and in want. She
has no pride of that sort.”

Isabel’s marriage was put off, and Laura’s return, consequently,
postponed. As Bella grew worse every day, and yet no help came, the
unselfish Sally wrote to her patroness, telling her of poor Fanny’s
distress, and begging her either to send her help, or speak on her
behalf to her sister.

Isabel was dressing for a party when Laura showed her Sally’s letter.
“Poor Fanny,” said she, “I wish I had known it before I bought this
wreath. I have, absolutely, not a half-franc in the world. Will you buy
the wreath of me at half-price, it has not even been taken from its
box.”

“I do not want it,” said Laura, “but I will lend you some money.”

“No, I cannot borrow more,” said her sister despondingly. “I owe you
already for the flowers, the brooch, the bill you paid yesterday, and I
know not what else besides; but I will tell Eugène there is a poor
Englishwoman in distress, I am sure he will send her something.”

Eugène gave her a five-franc piece.

It was late one frosty evening when Sally ran across to her cousin’s
cottage, delighted to be the bearer of the long hoped-for letter. Fanny
was sitting on the fender before a small fire, hugging her darling to
her breast, and breathing on its little face to make the air warmer.
“I’m afraid,” said she, in answer to Sally’s inquiries, “that the child
won’t be here long;” and she wiped away a few hot tears that had forced
their way as she sat listening to the low moans of the little sufferer.

“But I have good news for you,” said her cousin, cheerfully. “Here is a
letter from Miss Isabel at last. I would not tell you before, but I
wrote to Miss Laura, saying how you were expecting every week to be put
to bed again, and how Bella was wasting away, and see, I was right about
her, she has sent you a sovereign, and her sister’s letter, no-doubt,
contains a pretty sum.”

Fanny started up, and could scarcely breathe as she broke the seal. What
was her disappointment on seeing an order for five shillings!

“I am very sorry, my good Fanny,” said Isabel, “that just now I have no
money. A charitable gentleman sends you five shillings, and as soon as I
possibly can, I will let you have a large sum. I have not yet paid for
the carriage I sent you, and as the bill has been given me several
times, I must discharge it before I send away more money. I hope that by
this time, little Bella is better.”

Fanny laid her child upon the bed, and putting her face by its side,
shed bitter tears. Sally did not speak, and so both remained till Thomas
came in from his work. Fanny would have hidden the letter from him, but
he saw and seized it in a moment.

“Five guineas for a carriage, and five shillings for a child’s life,”
said he with a sneer, as he laid it down. “Do not look for the large
sum, Fanny, you won’t get it; but I will work hard, and bury the child
decently.”

Fanny felt no inclination to defend her mistress. For the first time, it
occurred to her that Thomas and John might be right in their judgment of
her. She raised Bella, as Thomas, who had been twisting up the money
order, was about to throw it in the fire. He caught a sight of the
child’s wan face, and, advancing to the bed, said, in a softened tone,
“Do you know father, pretty one?” and as Bella smiled faintly, he added,
“I will do anything for your sake. Here, Fanny, take the money, and get
the child something nourishing.”

Bella seemed to revive from getting better food; and the apothecary held
out great hope of her ultimate recovery, if the improved diet could be
continued; but expenses fell heavily on Thomas, Fanny was put to bed
with a fine strong little boy, and, although Sally and Mrs. Maythorn
devoted themselves to her and Bella, the anxiety she suffered from
being separated from her invalid child, added to her former constant
uneasiness, and want of proper food, brought on a fever that threatened
her life. In a few days she became quite delirious. During this time
Isabel was married, and Laura returned to England.

When Fanny regained her consciousness she was in the dark, but she could
see some one standing by the window. On her speaking the person advanced
to her side. “Do not be startled to find me here,” said a sweet soft
voice. “Sally has watched by your side for three nights, and when I came
this evening she looked so ill that I insisted on her going to bed;
then, as we could find no one on whose care and watchfulness we could
depend, I took her place. You have been in a sound sleep. Dr. Hart said
you would wake up much better. Are you better?”

“Yes, ma’am, a deal better; but where am I, and who is it with me?”

“You are in your own pretty cottage, and Miss Laura is with you. You
expected me home, did you not?”

“Oh, thank God; who sent you, dear Miss Laura? How is--but may-be I had
best not ask just while I am so weak. Is the dear boy well?”

“Yes, quite well; and Bella is much better. I have sent her for a few
days to L----, with Mrs. Maythorn; the sea air will do her good.”

“Oh, thank you--thank you--dear young lady, for the thought. I seem so
bound up in that dear child, that nothing could comfort me for her loss.
How good and kind you are, Miss--you do all so well and so quietly!”

“Yes, Fanny, dear,” said Thomas, coming from behind the curtain and
stooping to kiss his wife. “Miss Laura has saved you and Bella, and me,
too, for I couldn’t have lived if you had died; and has found me work;
and all without making one great present, or doing anything one could
speak about. I’ll tell you what it is, wife, dear, Miss Isabel does all
for the best, but it is just as she feels at the moment. Now Miss
Laura--if I may be so bold to speak, Miss--Miss Laura does not give to
please her own feelings, but to do good. I can’t say it well, but do you
say it for me, Miss; I want Fanny to know the right words, to teach the
little ones by-and-by. You know what I wish to say, Miss Laura.”

“Yes, Thomas,” said Laura, blushing, “but I do not say you are right.
You mean, I think, that my sister acts from impulse, and I from
principle. Is that it?”

“I suppose that’s it, Miss,” said Thomas, considering, and apparently
not quite satisfied.

“You have no harder meaning, I am sure,” said Laura, quietly, “because I
love my sister very much.”

“Certainly not, Miss,” returned Thomas. “But, myself, if I may take the
liberty of gratefully saying so, I prefer to be acted to on principle,
and think it a good deal better than impulse.”



V.

Bed.

    “Oh, Sleep! it is a gentle thing,
      Beloved from pole to pole!”


Was the heart’s cry of the Ancient Mariner at the recollection of the
blessed moment when the fearful curse of life in death fell off him, and
the heavenly sleep first “slid into his soul.” “Blessings on sleep!”
said honest Sancho Panza: “it wraps one all around like a mantle!”--a
mantle for the weary human frame, lined softly, as with the down of the
eider-duck, and redolent of the soothing odors of the poppy. The fabled
cave of Sleep was in the land of Darkness. No ray of the sun, or moon,
or stars, ever broke upon that night without a dawn. The breath of
somniferous flowers floated in on the still air from the grotto’s
mouth. Black curtains hung round the ever-sleeping god; the Dreams stood
around his couch; Silence kept watch at the portals. Take the winged
Dreams from the picture, and what is left? The sleep of matter.

The dreams that come floating through our sleep, and fill the dormitory
with visions of love or terror--what are they? Random freaks of the
fancy? Or is sleep but one long dream, of which we see only fragments,
and remember still less? Who shall explain the mystery of that loosening
of the soul and body, of which night after night whispers to us, but
which day after day is unthought of? Reverie, sleep, trance--such are
the stages between the world of man and the world of spirits. Dreaming
but deepens as we advance. Reverie deepens into the dreams of
sleep--sleep into trance--trance borders on death. As the soul retires
from the outer senses, as it escapes from the trammels of the flesh, it
lives with increased power within. Spirit grows more spirit-like as
matter slumbers. We can follow the development up to the last stage.
What is beyond?

    “And in that _sleep of death_, what dreams may come!”

says Hamlet--pausing on the brink of eternity, and vainly striving to
scan the inscrutable. Trance is an awful counterpart of sleep and
death--mysterious in itself, appalling in its hazards. Day after day
noise has been hushed in the dormitory--month after month it has seen a
human frame grow weaker and weaker, wanner, more deathlike, till the
hues of the grave colored the face of the living. And now he lies,
motionless, pulseless, breathless. It is not sleep--is it death?

Leigh Hunt is said to have perpetrated a very bad pun connected with the
dormitory, and which made Charles Lamb laugh immoderately. Going home
together late one night, the latter repeated the well-known proverb, “A
home’s a home, however homely.” “Ay,” added Hunt, “and a bed’s a bed,
however _bedly_.” It is a strange thing, a bed. Somebody has called it a
bundle of paradoxes; we go to it reluctantly, and leave it with regret.
Once within the downy precincts of the four posts, how loth we are to
make our exodus into the wilderness of life. We are as enamored of our
curtained dwelling as if it were the land of Goshen or the cave of
Circe. And how many fervent vows have those dumb posts heard broken!
every fresh perjury rising to join its cloud of hovering fellows, each
morning weighing heavier and heavier on our sluggard eyelids. A caustic
proverb says,--we are all “good risers at night;” but woe’s me for our
agility in the morning. It is a failing of our species, ever ready to
break out in all of us, and in some only vanquished after a struggle
painful as the sundering of bone and marrow. The Great Frederic of
Prussia found it easier, in after life, to rout the French and
Austrians, than in youth to resist the seductions of sleep. After many
single-handed attempts at reformation, he had at last to call to his
assistance an old domestic, whom he charged, on pain of dismissal, to
pull him out of bed every morning at two o’clock. The plan succeeded,
as it deserved to succeed. All men of action are impressed with the
importance of early rising. “When you begin to turn in bed, its time to
turn out,” says the old Duke; and we believe his practice has been in
accordance with his precept. Literary men--among whom, as Bulwer says, a
certain indolence seems almost constitutional--are not so clear upon
this point: they are divided between Night and Morning, though the best
authorities seem in favor of the latter. Early rising is the best
_elixir vitæ_: it is the only lengthener of life that man has ever
devised. By its aid the great Buffon was able to spend half a
century--an ordinary lifetime--at his desk; and yet had time to be the
most modish of all the philosophers who then graced the gay metropolis
of France.

Sleep is a treasure and a pleasure; and, as you love it, guard it
warily. Over-indulgence is ever suicidal, and destroys the pleasure it
means to gratify. The natural times for our lying down and rising up are
plain enough. Nature teaches us, and unsophisticated mankind followed
her. Singing birds and opening flowers hail the sunrise, and the hush of
groves and the closed eyelids of the parterre mark his setting. But “man
hath sought out many inventions.” We prolong our days into the depths of
night, and our nights into the splendor of day. It is a strange result
of civilization! It is not merely occasioned by that thirst for varied
amusement which characterizes an advanced stage of society--it is not
that theatres, balls, dancing, masquerades, require an artificial light,
for all these are or have been equally enjoyed elsewhere beneath the eye
of day. What is the cause, we really are not philosopher enough to say;
but the prevalence of the habit must have given no little pungency to
honest Benjamin Franklin’s joke, when, one summer, he announced to the
Parisians as a great discovery--that the sun rose each morning at four
o’clock; and that, whereas, they burnt no end of candles by sitting up
at night, they might rise in the morning and have light for nothing.
Franklin’s “discovery,” we dare say, produced a laugh at the time, and
things went on as before. Indeed, so universal is this artificial
division of day and night, and so interwoven with it are the social
habits, that we shudder at the very idea of returning to the natural
order of things. A Robespierre could not carry through so stupendous a
revolution. Nothing less than an avatar of Siva the destroyer--Siva
with his hundred arms, turning off as many gas-pipes, and replenishing
his necklace of human skulls by decapitating the leading
conservatives--could have any chance of success; and, ten to one, with
our gassy splendors, and seducing glitter, we should convert that pagan
devil ere half his work was done.

But of all the inventions which perverse ingenuity has sought out, the
most incongruous, the most heretical against both nature and art, is
reading in bed. Turning rest into labor, learning into ridicule. A man
had better be up. He is spoiling two most excellent things by attempting
to join them. Study and sleep--how incongruous! It is an idle coupling
of opposites, and shocks a sensible man as much as if he were to meet
in the woods the apparition of a winged elephant. Only fancy an elderly
or middle-aged man (for youth is generally orthodox on this point),
sitting up in bed, spectacles on his nose, a Kilmarnock on his head, and
his flannel jacket round his shivering shoulders,--doing what? Reading?
It may be so--but he winks so often, possibly from the glare of the
candle, and the glasses now and then slip so far down on his nose, and
his hand now and then holds the volume so unsteadily, that if he himself
didn’t assure us to the contrary, we should suppose him half asleep. We
are sure it must be a great relief to him when the neglected book at
last tumbles out of bed to such a distance that he cannot recover it.

Nevertheless, we have heard this extraordinary custom excused on the no
less extraordinary ground of its being a soporific. For those who
require such things, Marryat gives a much simpler recipe--namely, to
mentally repeat any scraps of poetry you can recollect; if your own, so
much the better. The monks of old, in a similar emergency, used to
repeat the seven Penitential Psalms. Either of these plans, we doubt
not, will be found equally efficacious, if one is able to use them--if
anxiety of mind does not divert him from his task, or the lassitude of
illness disable him for attempting it. Sleep, alas! is at times fickle
and coy; and, like most sublunary friends, forsakes us when most wanted.
Reading in that repertory of many curious things, the “Book of the
Farm,” we one day met with the statement that “a pillow of hops will
ensure sleep to a patient in a delirious fever when every other
expedient fails.” We made a note of it. Heaven forbid that the recipe
should ever be needed for us or ours! but the words struck a chord of
sympathy in our heart with such poor sufferers, and we saddened with the
dread of that awful visitation. The fever of delirium! when incoherent
words wander on the lips of genius; when the sufferer stares strangely
and vacantly on his ministering friends, or starts with freezing horror
from the arms of familiar love! Ah! what a dread tenant has the
dormitory then. No food taken for the body, no sleep for the brain! a
human being surging with diabolic strength against his keepers--a human
frame gifted with superhuman vigor only the more rapidly to destroy
itself! Less fearful to the eye, but more harrowing to the soul, is the
dormitory whose walls enclose the sleepless victim of Remorse. No
poppies or mandragora for him! His malady ends only with the fever of
life. _Ends?_ Grief, anxiety, “the thousand several ills that flesh is
heir to,” pass away before the lapse of time or the soothings of love,
and sleep once more folds its dove-like wings above the couch.

“If there be a regal solitude,” says Charles Lamb, “it is a bed. How the
patient lords it there; what caprices he acts without control! How
king-like he sways his pillow,--tumbling and tossing, and shifting, and
lowering, and thumping, and flatting, and moulding it to the
ever-varying requisitions of his throbbing temples. He changes _sides_
oftener than a politician. Now he lies full-length, then half-length,
obliquely, transversely, head and feet quite across the bed; and none
accuses him of tergiversation. Within the four curtains he is absolute.
They are his Mare Clausum. How sickness enlarges the dimensions of a
man’s self to himself! He is his own exclusive object. Supreme
selfishness is inculcated on him as his only duty. ’Tis the two Tables
of the Law to him. He has nothing to think of but how to get well. What
passes out of doors or within them, so he hear not the jarring of them,
affects him not.”

In this climate a sight of the sun is prized; but we love to see it most
from bed. A dormitory fronting the east, therefore, so that the early
sunbeams may rouse us to the dewy beauties of morning, we love. Let
there also be festooned roses without the window, that on opening it the
perfume may pervade the realms of bed. Our night-bower should be
simple--neat as a fairy’s cell, and ever perfumed with the sweet air of
heaven. It is not a place for showy things, or costly. As fire is the
presiding genius in other rooms, so let water, symbol of purity, be in
the ascendant here; water, fresh and unturbid as the thoughts that here
make their home--water, to wash away the dust and sweat of a weary
world. Let no _fracas_ disturb the quiet of the dormitory. We go there
for repose. Our tasks and our cares are left outside, only to be put on
again with our hat and shoes in the morning. It is an asylum from the
bustle of life--it is the inner shrine of our household gods--and should
be respected accordingly. We never entered during the ordinary process
of bed-making--pillows tossed here, blankets and sheets pitched hither
and thither in wildest confusion, chairs and pitchers in the middle of
the floor, feathers and dust everywhere--without a jarring sense that
sacrilege was going on, and that the _genius loci_ had departed. Rude
hands were profaning the home of our slumbers!

A sense of security pervades the dormitory. A healthy man in bed is free
from everything but dreams, and once in a life-time, or after adjudging
the Cheese Premium at an Agricultural Show--the nightmare. We once heard
a worthy gentleman, blessed with a very large family of daughters,
declare he had no peace in his house except in bed. There we feel as if
in a city of refuge, secure alike from the brawls of earth and the
storms of heaven. Lightning, say old ladies, won’t come through,
blankets. Even tigers, says Humboldt, “will not attack a man in his
hammock.” Hitting a man when he’s down is stigmatized as villanous all
the world over; and lions will rather sit with an empty stomach for
hours than touch a man before he awakes. Tricks upon a sleeper! Oh,
villanous! Every perpetrator of such unutterable treachery should be put
beyond the pale of society. The First of April should have no place in
the calendar of the dormitory. We would have the maxim, “Let sleeping
dogs lie,” extended to the human race. And an angry dog, certainly, is a
man roused needlessly from his slumbers. What an outcry we Northmen
raised against the introduction of Greenwich time, which defrauded us of
fifteen minutes’ sleep in the morning; and how indiscriminate the
objurgations lavished upon printers’ devils! Of all sinners against the
nocturnal comfort of literary men, these imps are the foremost; and
possibly it was from their malpractices in such matters that they first
acquired their diabolic cognomen.

The nightcap is not an elegant head-dress, but its comfort is
undeniable. It is a diadem of night; and what tranquillity follows our
self-coronation! It is priceless as the invisible cap of Fortunatus;
and, viewless beneath its folds, our cares cannot find us out. It is
graceless. Well; what then? It is not meant for the garish eye of day,
nor for the quizzing glass of our fellow-men, or of the ridiculing race
of women; neither does it outrage any taste for the beautiful in the
happy sleeper himself. We speak as bachelors, to whom the pleasures of a
manifold existence are unknown. Possibly the æsthetics of night are not
uncared for when a man has another self to please, and when a pair of
lovely eyes are fixed admiringly on his upper story; but such is the
selfishness of human nature, that we suspect this abnegation of comfort
will not long survive the honeymoon. The French, ever enamored of
effect, and who, we verily believe, even _sleep_, “_posé_,” sometimes
substitute the many-colored silken handkerchief for the graceless
“_bonnet-de-nuit_.” But all such substitutes are less comfortable and
more troublesome; and of all irritating things, the most irritable is a
complex operation in undressing. Æsthetics at night, and for the weary!
No, no. The weary man frets at every extra button or superfluous knot,
he counts impatiently every second that keeps him from his couch, and
flies to the arms of sleep as to those of his mistress. Nevertheless,
French novelette writers make a great outcry against nightcaps. We
remember an instance. A husband--rather good-looking fellow--suspects
that his wife is beginning to have too tender thoughts towards a
glossy-ringletted Lothario who is then staying with them. So, having
accidentally discovered that Lothario slept in a huge peeked nightcowl,
and knowing that ridicule would prove the most effectual disenchanter,
he fastened a string to his guest’s bell, and passed it into his own
room.

At the dead of night, when all were fast asleep, suddenly Lothario’s
bell rang furiously. Upstarted the lady--“their guest must be
ill;”--and, accompanied by her husband, elegantly coiffed in a turbaned
silk handkerchief, she entered the room whence the alarum had sounded.
They find Lothario sitting up in bed--his cowl rising pyramid-fashion, a
fool’s cap all but the bells--bewildered and in ludicrous consternation
at being surprised thus by the fair Angelica; and, unable to conceal his
chagrin, he completes his discomfiture by bursting out in wrathful abuse
of his laughing host for so betraying his weakness for nightcaps.

The Poetry of the Dormitory! It is an inviting but too delicate a
subject for our rough hands. Do not the very words call up a vision? By
the light of the stars we see a lovely head resting on a downy pillow;
the bloom of the rose is on that young cheek, and the half-parted lips
murmur as in a dream: “Edward!” Love is lying light at her heart, and
its fairy wand is showing her visions. May her dreams be happy!
“Edward!” Was it a sigh that followed that gentle invocation? What would
the youth give to hear that murmur,--to gaze like yonder stars on his
slumbering love. Hush! are the morning-stars singing together--a lullaby
to soothe the dreamer? A low dulcet strain floats in through the window;
and soon, mingling with the breathings of the lute, the voice of youth.
The harmony penetrates through the slumbering senses to the dreamer’s
heart; and ere the golden curls are lifted from the pillow, she is
conscious of all. The serenade begins anew. What does she hear?

    “Stars of the summer night!
         Far in yon azure deeps,
     Hide, hide your golden light!
         She sleeps!
     My lady sleeps!
         Sleeps!

     Dreams of the summer night!
         Tell her her lover keeps
     Watch! while in slumbers light
         She sleeps
     My lady sleeps!
         Sleeps!”



VI.

The Home of Woodruffe the Gardener.


I.

“How pleased the boy looks, to be sure!” observed Woodruffe to his wife,
as his son Allan caught up little Moss (as Maurice had chosen to call
himself before he could speak plain) and made him jump from the top of
the drawers upon the chair, and then from the chair to the ground. “He
is making all that racket just because he is so pleased he does not know
what to do with himself.”

“I suppose he will forgive Fleming now for carrying off Abby,” said the
mother. “I say, Allan, what do you think now of Abby marrying away from
us?”

“Why, I think it’s a very good thing. You know she never told me that we
should go and live where she lived, and in such a pretty place, too,
where I may have a garden of my own, and see what I can make of it--all
fresh from the beginning, as father says.”

“You are to try your hand at the business, I know,” replied the mother,
“but I never heard your father, nor any one else, say that the place was
a pretty one. I did not think new railway stations had been pretty
places at all.”

“It sounds so to him, naturally,” interposed Woodruffe. “He hears of a
south aspect, and a slope to the north for shelter, and the town seen
far off; and that sounds all very pleasant. And then, there is the
thought of the journey, and the change, and the fun of getting the
ground all into nice order, and, best of all, the seeing his sister so
soon again. Youth is the time for hope and joy, you know, love.”

And Woodruffe began to whistle, and stepped forward to take his turn at
jumping Moss, whom he carried in one flight from the top of the drawers
to the floor. Mrs. Woodruffe smiled, as she thought that youth was not
the only season, with some people, for hope and joy.

Her husband, always disposed to look on the bright side, was
particularly happy this evening. The lease of his market-garden ground
was just expiring. He had prospered on it; and would have desired
nothing better than to live by it as long as he lived at all. He desired
this so much that he would not believe a word of what people had been
saying for two years past, that his ground would be wanted by his
landlord on the expiration of the lease, and that it would not be let
again. His wife had long foreseen this; but not till the last moment
would he do what she thought should have been done long before--offer to
buy the ground. At the ordinary price of land, he could accomplish the
purchase of it; but when he found his landlord unwilling to sell, he bid
higher and higher, till his wife was so alarmed at the rashness, that
she was glad when a prospect of entire removal opened. Woodruffe was
sure that he could have paid off all he offered at the end of a few
years; but his partner thought it would have been a heavy burden on
their minds, and a sad waste of money; and she was therefore, in her
heart, obliged to the landlord for persisting in his refusal to sell.

When that was settled, Woodruffe became suddenly sure that he could pick
up an acre or two of land somewhere not far off. But he was mistaken;
and, if he had not been mistaken, market-gardening was no longer the
profitable business it had been, when it enabled him to lay by something
every year. By the opening of a railway, the townspeople, a few miles
off, got themselves better supplied with vegetables from another
quarter. It was this which put it into the son-in-law’s head to propose
the removal of the family into Staffordshire, where he held a small
appointment on a railway. Land might be had at a low rent near the
little country station where his business lay; and the railway brought
within twenty minutes’ distance a town where there must be a
considerable demand for garden produce. The place was in a raw state at
present; and there were so few houses, that, if there had been a choice
of time, the Flemings would rather have put off the coming of the family
till some of the cottages already planned had been built; but the
Woodruffes must remove in September, and all parties agreed that they
should not mind a little crowding for a few months. Fleming’s cottage
was to hold them all till some chance of more accommodation should
offer.

“I’ll tell you what,” said Woodruffe, after standing for some time, half
whistling and thinking, with that expression on his face which his wife
had long learned to be afraid of, “I’ll write to-morrow--let’s see--I
may as well do it to-night;” and he looked round for paper and ink.
“I’ll write to Fleming, and get him to buy the land for me at once.”

“Before you see it?” said his wife, looking up from her stocking
mending.

“Yes. I know all about it, as much as if I were standing on it this
moment; and I am sick of this work--of being turned out just when I had
made the most of a place, and got attached to it. I’ll make a sure thing
of it this time, and not have such a pull at my heart-strings again. And
the land will be cheaper now than later; and we shall go to work upon it
with such heart, if it is our own! Eh?”

“Certainly, if we find, after seeing it, that we like it as well as we
expect. I would just wait till then.”

“As well as we expect! Why, bless my soul! don’t we know all about it?
It is not any land-agent or interested person, that has described it to
us; but our own daughter and her husband; and do not they know what we
want? The quantity at my own choice; the aspect capital; plenty of water
(only too much, indeed); the soil anything but poor, and sand and marl
within reach to reduce the stiffness; and manure at command, all along
the railway, from half-a-dozen towns; and osier-beds at hand (within my
own bounds if I like) giving all manner of convenience for fencing, and
binding, and covering! Why, what would you have?”

“It sounds very pleasant, certainly.”

“Then, how can you make objections? I can’t think where you look, to
find any objections?”

“I see none now, and I only want to be sure that we shall find none when
we arrive.”

“Well! I do call that unreasonable! To expect to find any place on earth
altogether unobjectionable! I wonder what objection could be so great as
being turned out of one after another, just as we have got them into
order. Here comes our girl. Well, Becky, I see how you like the news!
Now, would not you like it better still if we were going to a place of
our own, where we should not be under any landlord’s whims? We should
have to work, you know, one and all. But we would get the land properly
manured, and have a cottage of our own in time; would not we? Will you
undertake the pigs, Becky?”

“Yes, father; and there are many things I can do in the garden too. I am
old and strong, now; and I can do much more than I have ever done here.”

“Aye; if the land was our own,” said Woodruffe, with a glance at his
wife. She said no more, but was presently up stairs putting Moss to bed.
She knew, from long experience, how matters would go. After a restless
night, Woodruffe spoke no more of buying the land without seeing it; and
he twice said, in a meditative, rather than a communicative way, that he
believed it would take as much capital as he had to remove his family,
and get his new land into fit condition for spring crops.


II.

“You may look out now for the place. Look out for our new garden. We are
just there now,” said Woodruffe to the children as the whistle sounded,
and the train was approaching the station. It had been a glorious autumn
day from the beginning; and for the last hour, while the beauty of the
light on fields and trees and water had been growing more striking, the
children, tired with the novelty of all that they had seen since
morning, had been dropping asleep. They roused up suddenly enough at the
news that they were reaching their new home; and thrust their heads to
the windows, eagerly asking on which side they were to look for their
garden. It was on the south, the left-hand side; but it might have been
anywhere, for what they could see of it. Below the embankment was
something like a sheet of gray water, spreading far away.

“It is going to be a foggy night,” observed Woodruffe. The children
looked into the air for the fog, which had always, in their experience,
arrived by that way from the sea. The sky was all a clear blue, except
where a pale green and a faint blush of pink streaked the west. A large
planet beamed clear and bright; and the air was so transparent that the
very leaves on the trees might almost be counted. Yet could nothing be
seen below for the gray mist which was rising, from moment to moment.

Fleming met them as they alighted; but he could not stay till he had
seen to the other passengers. His wife was there. She had been a
merry-hearted girl; and now, still so young, as to look as girlish as
ever, she seemed even merrier than ever. She did not look strong, but
she had hardly thrown off what she called “a little touch of the ague;”
and she declared herself perfectly well when the wind was anywhere but
in the wrong quarter. Allan wondered how the wind could go wrong. He had
never heard of such a thing before. He had known the wind too high, when
it did mischief among his father’s fruit trees; but it had never
occurred to him that it was not free to come and go whence and whither
it would, without blame or objection.

“Come--come home,” exclaimed Mrs. Fleming, “Never mind about your bags
and boxes! My husband will take care of them. Let me show you the way
home.”

She let go the hands of the young brothers, and loaded them, and then
herself, with parcels, that they might not think they were going to lose
everything, as she said; and then tripped on before to show the way. The
way was down steps, from the highest of which two or three chimney-tops
might be seen piercing the mist which hid everything else. Down, down,
down went the party, by so many steps that little Moss began to totter
under his bundle.

“How low this place lies!” observed the mother.

“Why, yes;” replied Mrs. Fleming. “And yet I don’t know. I believe it is
rather that the railway runs high.”

“Yes, yes; that is it,” said Woodruffe. “What an embankment this is! If
this is to shelter my garden to the north--”

“Yes, yes, it is. I knew you would like it,” exclaimed Mrs. Fleming. “I
said you would be delighted. I only wish you could see your ground at
once; but it seems rather foggy, and I suppose we must wait till the
morning. Here we are at home.”

The travellers were rather surprised to see how very small a house this
“home” was. Though called a cottage, it had not the look of one. It was
of a red brick, dingy, though evidently new; and, to all appearance, it
consisted of merely a room below, and one above. On walking round it,
however, a sloping roof in two directions gave a hint of further
accommodation.

When the whole party had entered, and Mrs. Fleming had kissed them all
round, her glance at her mother asked, as plainly as any words, “Is not
this a pleasant room?”

“A pretty room, indeed, my dear,” was the mother’s reply, “and as nicely
furnished as one could wish.”

She did not say anything of the rust which her quick eye perceived on
the fire-irons and the door-key, or of the damp which stained the walls
just above the skirting-board. There was nothing amiss with the ceiling,
or the higher parts of the wall,--so it might be an accident.

“But, my dear,” asked the mother, seeing how sleepy Moss looked, “Where
are you going to put us all? If we crowd you out of all comfort, I shall
be sorry we came so soon.”

As Mrs. Fleming led the way upstairs, she reminded her family of their
agreement not to mind a little crowding for a time. If her mother
thought there was not room for all the newly arrived in this chamber,
they could fit out a corner for Allan in the place where she and her
husband were to sleep.

“All of us in this room?” exclaimed Becky.

“Yes, Becky; why not? Here, you see, is a curtain between your bed and
the large one; and your bed is large enough to let little Moss sleep
with you. And here is a morsel of a bed for Allan in the other corner;
and I have another curtain ready to shut it in.”

“But,” said Becky, who was going on to object. Her mother stopped her by
a sign.

“Or,” continued Mrs. Fleming, “if you like to let Allan and his bed and
curtain come down to our place, you will have plenty of room here; much
more than my neighbors have, for the most part. How it will be when the
new cottages are built, I don’t know. We think them too small for new
houses; but, meantime, there are the Brookes sleeping seven in a room no
bigger than this, and the Vines six in one much smaller.”

“How do they manage, now?” asked the mother. “In case of illness, say;
and how do they wash and dress?”

“Ah! that is the worst part of it. I don’t think the boys wash
themselves--what we should call washing--for weeks together; or at least
only on Saturday nights. So they slip their clothes on in two minutes;
and then their mother and sisters can get up. But there is the pump
below for Allan, and he can wash as much as he pleases.”

It was not till the next day that Mrs. Woodruffe knew--and then it was
Allan who told her--that the pump was actually in the very place where
the Flemings slept,--close by their bed. The Flemings were, in truth,
sleeping in an outhouse, where the floor was of brick, the swill-tub
stood in one corner, the coals were heaped in another, and the light
came in from a square hole high up, which had never till now been
glazed. Plenty of air rushed in under the door, and yet some more
between the tiles,--there being no plaster beneath them. As soon as Mrs.
Woodruffe had been informed of this, and had stepped in, while her
daughter’s back was turned, to make her own observations, she went out
by herself for a walk,--so long a walk, that it was several hours before
she reappeared, heated and somewhat depressed. She had roamed the
country round, in search of lodgings; and finding none,--finding no
occupier who really could possibly spare a room on any terms,--she had
returned convinced that, serious as the expense would be, she and her
family ought to settle themselves in the nearest town,--her husband
going to his business daily by the third-class train, till a dwelling
could be provided for them on the spot.

When she returned, the children were on the watch for her; and little
Moss had strong hopes that she would not know him. He had a great cap
of rushes on his head, with a heavy bulrush for a feather; he was stuck
all over with water-flags and bulrushes, and carried a long osier wand,
wherewith to flog all those who did not admire him enough in his new
style of dress. The children were clamorous for their mother to come
down, and see the nice places where they got these new playthings; and
she would have gone, but that their father came up, and decreed it
otherwise. She was heated and tired, he said; and he would not have her
go till she was easy and comfortable enough to see things in the best
light.

Her impression was that her husband was, more or less (and she did not
know why), disappointed; but he did not say so. He would not hear of
going off to the town, being sure that some place would turn up
soon,--some place where they might put their heads at night; and the
Flemings should be no losers by having their company by day. Their
boarding all together, if the sleeping could but be managed, would be a
help to the young people,--a help which it was pleasant to him, as a
father, to be able to give them. He said nothing about the land that was
not in praise of it. Its quality was excellent; or would be when it had
good treatment. It would take some time and trouble to get it in
order,--so much that it would never do to live at a distance from it.
Besides, no trains that would suit him ran at the proper hours; so there
was an end of it. They must all rough it a little for a time, and expect
their reward afterwards.

There was nothing that Woodruffe was so hard to please in as the time
when he should take his wife to see the ground. It was close at hand;
yet he hindered her going in the morning, and again after their early
dinner. He was anxious that she should not be prejudiced, or take a
dislike at first; and in the morning, the fog was so thick that
everything looked dank and dreary; and in the middle of the day, when a
warm autumn sun had dissolved the mists, there certainly was a most
disagreeable smell hanging about. It was not gone at sunset; but by
that time Mrs. Woodruffe was impatient, and she appeared--Allan showing
her the way--just when her husband was scraping his feet upon his spade,
after a hard day of digging.

“There, now!” said he, good-humoredly, striking his spade into the
ground, “Fleming said you would be down before we were ready for you;
and here you are!--Yes, ready for you. There are some planks coming, to
keep your feet out of the wet among all this clay.”

“And yours, too, I hope,” said the wife. “I don’t mind such wet, after
rain, as you have been accustomed to; but to stand in a puddle like this
is a very different thing.”

“Yes--so ’tis. But we’ll have the planks; and they will serve for
running the wheelbarrow, too. It is too much for Allan, or any boy, to
run the barrow in such a soil as this. We’ll have the planks first; and
then we’ll drain, and drain, and get rare spring crops.”

“What have they given you this artificial pond for,” asked the wife, “if
you must drain so much?”

“That is no pond. All the way along here, on both sides the railway,
there is the mischief of these pits. They dig out the clay for bricks,
and then leave the places--pits like this, some of them six feet deep.
The railways have done a deal of good for the poor man, and will do a
great deal more yet; but, at present, this one has left those pits.”

“I hope Moss will not fall into one. They are very dangerous,” declared
the mother, looking about for the child.

“He is safe enough there, among the osiers,” said the father. “He has
lost his heart outright to the osiers. However, I mean to drain and fill
up this pit, when I find a good out-fall; and then we will have all high
and dry, and safe for the children. I don’t care so much for the pit as
for the ditches there. Don’t you notice the bad smell?”

“Yes, indeed, that struck me the first night.”

“I have been inquiring to-day, and I find there is one acre in twenty
hereabouts occupied with foul ditches like that. And then the overflow
from them and the pits, spoils many an acre more. There is a stretch of
water-flags and bulrushes, and nasty coarse grass and rushes, nothing
but a swamp, where the ground is naturally as good as this; and, look
here! Fleming was rather out, I tell him, when he wrote that I might
graze a pony on the pasture below, whenever I have a market-cart. I ask
him if he expects me to water it here.”

So saying, Woodruffe led the way to one of the ditches which, instead of
fences, bounded his land; and, moving the mass of weed with a stick,
showed the water beneath, covered with a whitish bubbling scum, the
smell of which was insufferable.

“There is plenty of manure there,” said Woodruffe; “that is the only
thing that can be said for it. We’ll make manure of it, and sweep out
the ditch, and deepen it, and narrow it, and not use up so many feet of
good ground for a ditch that does nothing but poison us. A fence is
better than a ditch any day. I’ll have a fence, and still save ten feet
of ground, the whole way down.”

“There is a great deal to do here,” observed the wife.

“And good reward when it is done,” Woodruffe replied. “If I can fall in
with a stout laborer, he and Allan and I can get our spring crops
prepared for; and I expect they will prove the goodness of the soil.
There is Fleming. Supper is ready, I suppose.”

The children were called, but both were so wet and dirty that it took
twice as long as usual to make them fit to sit at table; and apologies
were made for keeping supper waiting. The grave half-hour before Moss’s
bed-time was occupied with the most solemn piece of instruction he had
ever had in his life. His father carried him up to the railway, and made
him understand the danger of playing there. He was never to play there.
His father would go up with him once a day, and let him see a train
pass; and this was the only time he was ever to mount the steps, except
by express leave. Moss was put to bed in silence, with his father’s
deep, grave voice, sounding in his ears.

“He will not forget it,” declared his father. “He will give us no
trouble about the railway. The next thing is the pit. Allan, I expect
you to see that he does not fall into the pit. In time, we shall teach
him to take care of himself; but you must remember, meanwhile, that the
pit is six feet deep--deeper than I am high; and that the edge is the
same clay that you slipped on so often this morning.”

“Yes, father,” said Allan, looking as grave as if power of life and
death were in his hands.


III.

One fine morning in the next spring, there was more stir and
cheerfulness about the Woodruffes’ dwelling than there had been of late.
The winter had been somewhat dreary; and now the spring was anxious; for
Woodruffe’s business was not, as yet, doing very well. His hope, when he
bought his pony and cart, was to dispatch by railway to the town the
best of his produce, and sell the commoner part in the country
neighborhood, sending his cart round within the reach of a few miles. As
it turned out, he had nothing yet to send to the town, and his agent
there was vexed and displeased. No radishes, onions, early salads, or
rhubarb were ready, and it would be some time yet before they were.

“I am sure I have done everything I could,” said Woodruffe to Fleming,
as they both lent a hand to put the pony into the cart. “Nobody can say
that I have not made drains enough, or that they are not deep enough;
yet the frost has taken such a hold that one would think we were living
in the north of Scotland, instead of in Staffordshire.”

“It has not been a severe season either,” observed Fleming.

“There’s the vexation,” replied Woodruffe. “If it had been a season
which set us at defiance, and made all sufferers alike, one must just
submit to a loss, and go on again, like one’s neighbors. But, you see,
I am cut out, as my agent says, from the market. Everybody else has
spring vegetables there, as usual. It is no use telling him that I never
failed before. But I know what it is. It is yonder great ditch that does
the mischief.”

“Why, we have nothing to do with that.”

“That is the very reason. If it was mine or yours, do you think I should
not have taken it in hand long ago? All my draining goes for little
while that shallow ditch keeps my ground a continual sop. It is all
uneven along the bottom;--not the same depth for three feet together
anywhere, and not deep enough by two feet in any part. So there it is,
choked up and putrid; and, after an hour or two of rain, my garden gets
such a soaking that the next frost is destruction.”

“I will speak about it again,” said Fleming. “We must have it set right
before next winter.”

“I think we have seen enough of the uselessness of speaking,” replied
Woodruffe, gloomily. “If we tease the gentry any more, they may punish
you for it. I would show them my mind by being off,--throwing up my
bargain at all costs, if I had not put so much into the ground that I
have nothing left to move away with.”

“Don’t be afraid for me,” said Fleming, cheerfully. “It was chiefly my
doing that you came here, and I must try my utmost to obtain fair
conditions for you. We must remember that the benefit of your outlay has
all to come.”

“Yes; I can’t say we have got much of it yet.”

“By next winter,” continued Fleming, “your privet hedges and screens
will have grown up into some use against the frost; and your own
drainage----. Come, come, Allan, my boy! be off! It is getting late.”

Allan seemed to be idling, re-arranging his bunches of small radishes,
and little bundles of rhubarb, in their clean baskets, and improving the
stick with which he was to drive; but he pleaded that he was waiting for
Moss, and for the parcel which his mother was getting ready for Becky.

“Ah I my poor little girl!” said Woodruffe. “Give my love to her, and
tell her it will be a happy day when we can send for her to come home
again. Be sure you observe particularly, to tell us how she looks; and,
mind, if she fancies anything in the cart,--any radishes, or whatever
else, because it comes out of our garden, be sure you give it her. I
wish I was going myself with the cart, for the sake of seeing Becky; but
I must go to work. Here have I been all the while, waiting to see you
off. Ah! here they come! you may always have notice now of who is coming
by that child’s crying.”

“O, father! not always!” exclaimed Allan.

“Far too often, I’m sure. I never knew a child grow so fractious. I am
saying, my dear,” to his wife, who now appeared with her parcel, and
Moss in his best hat, “that boy is the most fractious child we ever had;
and he is getting too old for that to begin now. How can you spoil him
so?”

“I am not aware,” said Mrs. Woodruffe, her eyes filling with tears,
“that I treat him differently from the rest; but the child is not well.
His chilblains tease him terribly, and I wish there may be nothing
worse.”

“Warm weather will soon cure the chilblains, and then I hope we shall
see an end of the fretting.--Now, leave off crying this minute, Moss, or
you don’t go. You don’t see me cry with my rheumatism, and that is worse
than chilblains, I can tell you.”

Moss tried to stifle his sobs, while his mother put more straw into the
cart for him, and cautioned Allan to be careful of him, for it really
seemed as if the child was tender all over. Allan seemed to succeed best
as comforter. He gave Moss the stick to wield, and showed him how to
make believe to whip the pony, so that before they turned the corner,
Moss was wholly engrossed with what he called driving.

“Yes, yes,” said Woodruffe, as he turned away to go to the garden,
“Allan is the one to manage, him. He can take as good care of him as any
woman without spoiling him!”

Mrs. Woodruffe submitted to this in silence; but with the feeling that
she did not deserve it.

Becky had had no notice of this visit from her brothers; but no such
visit could take her by surprise; for she was thinking of her family all
day long, every day, and fancying she should see them whichever way she
turned. It was not her natural destination to be a servant in a
farm-house; she had never expected it,--never been prepared for it. She
was as willing to work as any girl could be; and her help in the
gardening was beyond what most women are capable of; but it was a bitter
thing to her to go among strangers, and toil for them, when she knew
that she was wanted at home by father and mother, and brothers, and just
at present by her sister too; for Mrs. Fleming’s confinement was to
happen this spring. The reason why Becky was not at home while so much
wanted there was, that there really was no accommodation for her. The
plan of sleeping all huddled together as they were at first would not
do. The girl herself could not endure it; and her parents felt that she
must be got out at any sacrifice. They had inquired diligently till they
found a place for her in a farm-house, where the good wife promised
protection, and care, and kindness; and fulfilled her promise to the
best of her power.

“I hope they do well by you here, Becky,” asked Allan, when the surprise
caused by his driving up with a dash had subsided, and everybody had
retired, to leave Becky with her brothers for the few minutes they could
stay. “I hope they are kind to you here.”

“O, yes,--very kind. And I am sure you ought to say so to father and
mother.”

Becky had jumped into the cart, and had her arms round Moss, and her
head on his shoulder. Raising her head, and with her eyes filling as she
spoke, she inquired anxiously how the new cottages went on, and when
father and mother were to have a home of their own again. She owned, but
did not wish her father and mother to hear of it, that she did not like
being among such rough people as the farm servants. She did not like
some of the behavior that she saw; and, still less, such talk as she was
obliged to overhear. When _would_ a cottage be ready for them?

“Why, the new cottages would soon be getting on now,” Allan said; but he
didn’t know, nobody fancied the look of them. He saw them just after the
foundations were laid; and the enclosed parts were like a clay-puddle.
He did not see how they were ever to be improved; for the curse of wet
seemed to be on them, as upon everything about the Station. Fleming’s
cottage was the best he had seen, after all, if only it was twice as
large. If anything could be done to make the new cottages what cottages
should be, it would be done: for everybody agreed that the railway
gentlemen desired to do the best for their people, and to set an example
in that respect; but it was beyond anybody’s power to make wet clay as
healthy as warm gravel. Unless they could go to work first to dry the
soil, it seemed a hopeless sort of affair.

“But, I say, Becky,” pursued Allan, “you know about my garden--that
father gave me a garden of my own.”

Becky’s head was turned quite away; and she did not look round, when she
replied,

“Yes; I remember. How does your garden get on?”

There was something in her voice which made her brother lean over and
look into her face; and, as he expected, tears were running down her
cheeks.

“There now!” said he, whipping the back of the cart with his stick;
“something must be done, if you can’t get on here.”

“O! I can get on. Be sure you don’t tell mother that I can’t get on, or
anything about it.”

“You look healthy, to be sure.”

“To be sure I am. Don’t say any more about it. Tell me about your
garden.”

“Well: I am trying what I can make of it, after I have done working with
father. But it takes a long time to bring it round.”

“What! is the wet there, too?”

“Lord, yes! The wet was beyond everything at first. I could not leave
the spade in the ground ten minutes, if father called me, but the water
was standing in the hole when I went back again. It is not so bad now,
since I made a drain to join upon father’s principal one; and father
gave me some sand, and plenty of manure; but it seems to us that manure
does little good. It won’t sink in when the ground is so wet.”

“Well, there will be the summer next, and that will dry up your garden.”

“Yes. People say the smells are dreadful in hot weather, though. But we
seem to get used to that. I thought it sickly work, just after we came,
going down to get osiers, and digging near the big ditch that is our
plague now: but somehow, it does not strike me now as it did then,
though Fleming says it is getting worse every warm day. But come--I must
be off. What will you help yourself to? And don’t forget your parcel.”

Becky’s great anxiety was to know when her brothers would come again. O!
very often, she was assured--oftener and oftener as the vegetables came
forward; whenever there were either too many or too few to send to the
town by rail.

After Becky had jumped down, the farmer and one of the men were seen to
be contemplating the pony.

“What have you been giving your pony lately?” asked the farmer of Allan.
“I ask as a friend, having some experience of this part of the country.
Have you been letting him graze?”

“Yes, in the bit of meadow that we have leave for. There is a good deal
of grass there, now. He has been grazing there these three weeks.”

“On the meadow where the osier beds are? Ay! I knew it by the look of
him. Tell your father that if he does not take care, his pony will have
the staggers in no time. An acquaintance of mine grazed some cattle
there once; and in a week or two, they were all feverish, so that the
butcher refused them on any terms; and I have seen more than one horse
in the staggers, after grazing in marshes of that sort.”

“There is fine thick grass there, and plenty of it,” said Allan, who did
not like that anybody but themselves should criticise their new place
and plans.

“Ay, ay; I know,” replied the farmer. “But if you try to make hay of
that grass, you’ll be surprised to find how long it takes to make, and
how like wool it comes out at last. It is a coarse grass, with no
strength in it; and it must be a stronger beast than this that will bear
feeding on it. Just do you tell your father what I say, that’s all; and
then he can do as he pleases; but I would take a different way with that
pony, without loss of time, if it was mine.”

Allan did not much like taking this sort of message to his father, who
was not altogether so easy to please as he used to be. If anything vexed
him ever so little, he always began to complain of his rheumatism--and
he now complained of his rheumatism many times in a day. It was managed,
however, by tacking a little piece of amusement and pride upon it. Moss
was taught, all the way as they went home, after selling their
vegetables, how much everything sold for; and he was to deliver the
money to his father, and go through his lesson as gravely as any big
man. It succeeded very well. Everybody laughed. Woodruffe called the
child his little man-of-business; gave him a penny out of the money he
brought; and when he found that the child did not like jumping as he
used to do, carried him up to the railway to listen for the whistle, and
see the afternoon train come up, and stop a minute, and go on again.


IV.

Fleming did what he could to find fair play for his father-in-law. He
spoke to one and another--to the officers of the railway, and to the
owners of neighboring plots of ground, about the bad drainage, which was
injuring everybody; but he could not learn that anything was likely to
be done. The ditch--the great evil of all--had always been there, he
was told, and people never used to complain of it. When Fleming pointed
out that it was at first a comparatively deep ditch, and that it grew
shallower every year from the accumulations formed by its uneven bottom,
there were some who admitted that it might be as well to clean it out;
yet nobody set about it. And it was truly a more difficult affair now
than it would have been at an earlier time. If the ditch was shallower,
it was much wider. It had once been twelve feet wide, and it was now
eighteen. When any drain had been flowing into it, or after a rainy day,
the contents spread through and over the soil on each side, and softened
it, and then the next time any horse or cow came to drink, the whole
bank was made a perfect bog; for the poor animals, however thirsty,
tried twenty places to find water that they could drink before going
away in despair. Such was the bar in the way of poor Woodruffe’s success
with his ground. Before the end of summer his patience was nearly worn
out. During a showery and gleamy May and a pleasant June, he had gone
on as prosperously as he could expect under the circumstances; and he
confidently anticipated that a seasonable July and August would set him
up. But he had had no previous experience of the peculiarities of
ill-drained land; and the hot July and August, from which he hoped so
much, did him terrible mischief. The drought which would have merely
dried and pulverized a well-drained soil, leaving it free to profit much
by small waterings, baked the overcharged soil of Woodruffe’s garden
into hard hot masses of clay, amidst which his produce died off faster
and faster every day, even though he and all his family wore out their
strength with constant watering. He did hope, he said, that he should
have been spared drought at least; but it seemed as if he was to have
every plague in turn; and the drought seemed, at the time, to be the
worst of all.

One day Fleming saw a welcome face in one of the carriages; Mr. Nelson,
a director of the railway, who was looking along the line to see how
matters went. Though Mr. Nelson was not exactly the one, of all the
directors, whom Fleming would have chosen to appeal to, he saw that the
opportunity must not be lost; and he entreated him to alight, and stay
for the next train.

“Eh! what!” said Mr. Nelson; “what can you want with us here? A station
like this! Why, one has to put on spectacles to see it!”

“If you would come down, sir, I should be glad to show you....”

“Well; I suppose I must.”

As they were standing on the little platform, and the train was growing
smaller in the distance, Fleming proceeded to business. He told of the
serious complaints that were made for a distance of a few miles on
either hand, of the clay pits left by the railway brickmakers, to fill
with stagnant waters.

“Pho! pho! Is that what you want to say?” replied Mr. Nelson. “You need
not have stopped me just to tell me that. We hear of those pits all
along the line. We are sick of hearing of them.”

“That does not mend the matter in this place,” observed Fleming. “I
speak freely, sir, but I think it my duty to say that something must be
done. I heard a few days ago, more than the people hereabouts
know,--much more than I shall tell them--of the fever that has settled
on particular points of our line; and I now assure you, sir, that if the
fever once gets a hold in this place, I believe it may carry us all off
before anything can be done. Sir, there is not one of us within half a
mile of the station that has a wholesome dwelling.”

“Pho! pho! you are a croaker,” declared Mr. Nelson. “Never saw such a
dismal fellow! Why, you will die of fright, if ever you die of
anything.”

“Then, sir, will you have the goodness to walk round with me, and see
for yourself what you think of things. It is not only for myself and my
family that I speak. In an evil day I induced my wife’s family to settle
here, and....”

“Ay! that is a nice garden,” observed Mr. Nelson, as Fleming pointed to
Woodruffe’s land. “You are a croaker, Fleming. I declare I think the
place is much improved since I saw it last. People would not come and
settle here if the place was like what you say.”

Instead of arguing the matter, Fleming led the way down the long flight
of steps. He was aware that leading the gentleman among bad smells and
over shoes in a foul bog would have more effect than any argument was
ever known to have on his contradictious spirit.

“You should have seen worse things than these, and then you would not be
so discontented,” observed Mr. Nelson, striking his stick upon the
hard-baked soil, all intersected with cracks. “I have seen such a soil
as this in Spain, some days after a battle, when there were scores of
fingers and toes sticking up out of the cracks. What would you say to
that?--eh?”

“We may have a chance of seeing that here,” replied Fleming; “if the
plague comes, and comes too fast for the coffin-makers,--a thing which
has happened more than once in England, I believe.”

Mr. Nelson stopped to laugh; but he certainly attended more to business
as he went on; and Fleming, who knew something of his ways, had hopes
that if he could only keep his own temper, this visit of the director
might not be without good results.

In passing through Woodruffe’s garden, very nice management was
necessary. Woodruffe was at work there, charged with ire against railway
directors and landed proprietors, whom, amidst the pangs of his
rheumatism, he regarded as the poisoners of his land and the bane of his
fortunes; while, on the other hand, Mr. Nelson, who had certainly never
been a market gardener, criticized and ridiculed everything that met his
eye. What was the use of such a tool-house as that?--big enough for a
house for them all. What was the use of such low fences?--of such high
screens?--of making the walks so wide?--sheer waste?--of making the beds
so long one way, and so narrow another?--of planting or sowing this and
that?--things that nobody wanted. Woodruffe had pushed back his hat in
preparation for a defiant reply, when Fleming caught his eye, and, by a
good-tempered smile, conveyed to him that they had an oddity to deal
with. Allan, who had begun by listening reverently, was now looking from
one to another in great perplexity.

“What is that boy here for, staring like a dunce? Why don’t you send him
to school? You neglect a parent’s duty if you don’t send him to school.”

Woodruffe answered by a smile of contempt, walked away, and went to work
at a distance.

“That boy is very well taught,” Fleming said, quietly. “He is a great
reader, and will soon be fit to keep his father’s accounts.”

“What does he stare in that manner for, then? I took him for a dunce.”

“He is not accustomed to hear his father called in question, either as a
gardener or a parent.”

“Pho! pho! I might as well have waited, though, till he was out of
hearing. Well, is this all you have to show me? I think you make a great
fuss about nothing.”

“Will you walk this way?” said Fleming, turning down towards the osier
beds, without any compassion for the gentleman’s boots or olfactory
nerves. For a long while Mr. Nelson affected to admire the reed, and
water-flags, and marsh-blossoms, declared the decayed vegetation to be
peat soil, very fine peat, which the ladies would be glad of for their
heaths in the flower-garden,--and thought there must be good fowling
here in winter. Fleming quietly turned over the so-called peat with a
stick, letting it be seen that it was a mere dung-heap of decayed
rushes, and wished Mr. Nelson would come in the fowling season, and see
what the place was like.

“The children are merry enough, however,” observed the gentleman. “They
can laugh here, much as in other places. I advise you to take a lesson
from them, Fleming. Now, don’t you teach them to croak.”

The laughter sounded from the direction of the old brick-ground; and
thither they now turned. Two little boys were on the brink of a pit, so
intent on watching a rat in the water and on pelting it with stones,
that they did not see that anybody was coming to disturb them. In answer
to Mr. Nelson’s question, whether they were vagrants, and why vagrants
were permitted there, Fleming answered that the younger one--the
pale-faced one--was his little brother-in-law; the other--

“Ay, now, you will be telling me next that the pale face is the fault of
this place.”

“It certainly is,” said Fleming. “That child was chubby enough when he
came.”

“Pho, pho! a puny little wretch as ever I saw--puny from its birth, I
have no doubt of it. And who is the other--a gypsy?”

“He looks like it,” replied Fleming. On being questioned, Moss told that
the boy lived near, and he had often played with him lately. Yes, he
lived near, just beyond those trees; not in a house, only a sort of
house the people had made for themselves. Mr. Nelson liked to lecture
vagrants, even more than other people; so Moss was required to show the
way, and his dark-skinned playfellow was not allowed to skulk behind.

Moss led his party on, over the tufty hay-colored grass, skipping from
bunch to bunch of rushes, round the osier-beds, and at last straight
through a clump of elders, behind whose screen now appeared the house,
as Moss had called it, which the gypsies had made for themselves. It was
the tilt of a wagon, serving as a tent. Nobody was visible but a woman,
crouching under the shadow of the tent, to screen from the sun that
which was lying across her lap.

“What is that that she’s nursing? Lord bless me! Can that be a child?”
exclaimed Mr. Nelson.

“A child in the fever,” replied Fleming.

“Lord bless me!--to see legs and arms hang down like that!” exclaimed
the gentleman; and he forthwith gave the woman a lecture on her method
of nursing--scolded her for letting the child get a fever--for not
putting it to bed--for not getting a doctor to it--for being a gypsy,
and living under an alder clump. He then proceeded to inquire whether
she had anybody else in the tent, where her husband was, whether he
lived by thieving, how they would all like being transported, whether
she did not think her children would all be hanged, and so on. At first,
the woman tried a facetious and wheedling tone, then a whimpering one,
and, finally, a scolding one. The last answered well. Mr. Nelson found
that a man, to say nothing of a gentleman, has no chance with a woman
with a sore heart in her breast, and a sick child in her lap, when once
he has driven her to her weapon of the tongue. He said afterwards, that
he had once gone to Billingsgate, on purpose to set two fisherwomen
quarrelling, that he might see what it was like. The scene had fulfilled
all his expectations; but he now declared that it could not compare with
this exhibition behind the alders. He stood a long while, first trying
to overpower the woman’s voice; and, when that seemed hopeless, poking
about among the rushes with his stick, and finally, staring in the
woman’s face, in a mood between consternation and amusement;--thus he
stood, waiting till the torrent should intermit; but there was no sign
of intermission; and when the sick child began to move and rouse itself,
and look at the strangers, as if braced by the vigor of its mother’s
tongue, the prospect of an end seemed farther off than ever. Mr. Nelson
shrugged his shoulders, signed to his companions, and walked away
through the alders. The woman was not silent because they were out of
sight. Her voice waxed shriller as it followed them, and died away only
in the distance. Moss was grasping Fleming’s hand with all his might
when Mr. Nelson spoke to him, and shook his stick at him, asking him how
he came to play with such people, and saying that if ever he heard him
learning to scold like that woman, he would beat him with that stick; so
Moss vowed he never would.

When the train was in sight by which Mr. Nelson was to depart, he turned
to Fleming, with the most careless air imaginable, saying, “Have you
any medicine in your house?--any bark?”

“Not any. But I will send for some.”

“Ay, do. Or,--no--I will send you some. See if you can’t get these
people housed somewhere, so that they may not sleep in the swamp. I
don’t mean in any of your houses, but in a barn, or some such place. If
the physic comes before the doctor, get somebody to dose the child. And
don’t fancy you are all going to die of the fever. That is the way to
make yourselves ill; and it is all nonsense, too, I dare say.”

“Do you like that gentleman?” asked Moss, sapiently, when the train was
whirling Mr. Nelson out of sight. “Because I don’t--not at all.”

“I believe he is kinder than he means, Moss. He need not be so rough;
but I know he does kind things sometimes.”

“But, do you like him?”

“No, I can’t say I do.”

Before many hours were over, Fleming was sorry that he had admitted
this, even to himself; and for many days after he was occasionally
heard telling Moss what a good gentleman Mr. Nelson was, for all his
roughness of manners. With the utmost speed, before it would have been
thought possible, arrived a surgeon from the next town, with medicines,
and the news that he was to come every day while there was any fear of
fever. The gypsies were to have been cared for; but they were gone. The
marks of their fire and a few stray feathers which showed that a fowl
had been plucked, alone told where they had encamped. A neighbor, who
loved her poultry yard, was heard to say that the sick child would not
die for want of chicken broth, she would be bound; and the nearest
farmer asked if they had left any potato-peels and turnip tops for his
pig. He thought that was the least they could do after making their
famous gypsy stew (a capital dish, it was said) from his vegetables.
They were gone; and if they had not left fever behind, they might be
forgiven, for the sake of the benefit of taking themselves off. After
the search for the gypsies was over, there was still an unusual stir
about the place. One and another stranger appeared and examined the low
grounds, and sent for one and another of the neighboring proprietors,
whether farmer, or builder, or gardener, or laborer; for every one who
owned or rented a yard of land on the borders of the great ditch, or
anywhere near the clay-pits or osier-beds.

It was the opinion of the few residents near the Station that something
would be done to improve the place before another year; and everybody
said that it must be Mr. Nelson’s doings, and that it was a thousand
pities that he did not come earlier, before the fever had crept thus far
along the line.


V.

For some months past, Becky had believed without a doubt, that the day
of her return home would be the very happiest day of her life. She was
too young to know yet that it is not for us to settle which of our days
shall be happy ones, nor what events shall yield us joy. The promise had
not been kept that she should return when her father and mother removed
into the new cottage. She had been told that there really was not, even
now, decent room for them all; and that they must at least wait till the
hot weather was completely over before they crowded the chamber, as they
had hitherto done. And then, when autumn came on, and the creeping mists
from the low grounds hung round the place from sunset till after
breakfast the next day, the mother delayed sending for her daughter,
unwilling that she should lose the look of health which she alone now,
of all the family, exhibited. Fleming and his wife and babe prospered
better than the others. The young man’s business lay on the high ground,
at the top of the embankment. He was there all day while Mr. Woodruffe
and Allan were below, among the ditches and the late and early fogs.
Mrs. Fleming was young and strong, full of spirit and happiness; and so
far fortified against the attacks of disease, as a merry heart
strengthens nerve and bone and muscle, and invigorates all the vital
powers. In regard to her family, her father’s hopeful spirit seemed to
have passed into her. While he was becoming permanently discouraged, she
was always assured that everything would come right next year. The time
had arrived for her power of hope to be tested to the utmost. One day
this autumn, she admitted that Becky must be sent for. She did not
forget, however, to charge Allan to be cheerful, and make the best of
things, and not frighten Becky by the way.

It was now the end of October. Some of the days were balmy
elsewhere--the afternoons ruddy; the leaves crisp beneath the tread; the
squirrel busy after the nuts in the wood; the pheasants splendid among
the dry ferns in the brake, the sportsman warm and thirsty in his
exploring among the stubble. In the evenings the dwellers in country
houses called one another out upon the grass, to see how bright the
stars were, and how softly the moonlight slept upon the woods. While it
was thus in one place, in another, and not far off, all was dank, dim,
dreary and unwholesome; with but little sun, and no moon or stars; all
chill, and no glow; no stray perfumes, the last of the year, but sickly
scents coming on the steam from below. Thus it was about Fleming’s
house, this latter end of October, when he saw but little of his wife,
because she was nursing her mother in the fever, and when he tried to
amuse himself with his young baby at meal-times (awkward nurse as he
was) to relieve his wife of the charge for the little time he could be
at home. When the baby cried, and when he saw his Abby look wearied, he
did wish, now and then, that Becky was at home; but he was patient, and
helpful, and as cheerful as he could be, till the day which settled the
matter. On that morning he felt strangely weak, barely able to mount the
steps to the station. During the morning, several people told him he
looked ill; and one person did more. The porter sent a message to the
next large Station that somebody must be sent immediately to fill
Fleming’s place, in case of his being too ill to work. Somebody came;
and before that, Fleming was in bed--certainly down in the fever. His
wife was now wanted at home; and Becky must come to her mother.

Though Becky asked questions all the way home, and Allan answered them
as truthfully as he knew how, she was not prepared for what she
found--her father aged and bent, always in pain, more or less, and far
less furnished with plans and hopes than she had ever known him; Moss,
fretful and sickly, and her mother unable to turn herself in her bed.
Nobody mentioned death. The surgeon who came daily, and told Becky
exactly what to do, said nothing of anybody dying of the fever, while
Woodruffe was continually talking of things that were to be done when
his wife got well again. It was sad, and sometimes alarming, to hear the
strange things that Mrs. Woodruffe said in the evenings when she was
delirious; but if Abby stepped in at such times, she did not think much
of it, did not look upon it as any sign of danger; and was only thankful
that her husband had no delirium. His head was always clear, she said,
though he was very weak. Becky never doubted, after this, that her
mother was the most severely ill of the two; and she was thunderstruck
when she heard one morning the surgeon’s answers to her father’s
questions about Fleming. He certainly considered it a bad case; he would
not say that he could not get through; but he must say it was contrary
to his expectation. When Becky saw her father’s face as he turned away
and went out, she believed his heart was broken.

“But I thought,” said she to the surgeon, “I thought my mother was most
ill of the two.”

“I don’t know that,” was the reply, “but she is very ill. We are doing
the best we can. You are, I am sure,” he said, kindly; “and we must hope
on, and do our best till a change comes. The wisest of us do not know
what changes may come. But I could not keep your father in ignorance of
what may happen in the other house.”

No appearances alarmed Abby. Because there was no delirium, she
apprehended no danger. Even when the fatal twitchings came, the arm
twitching as it lay upon the coverlid, she did not know it was a symptom
of anything. As she nursed her husband perfectly well, and could not
have been made more prudent and watchful by any warning, she had no
warning. Her cheerfulness was encouraged, for her infant’s sake, as well
as for her husband’s and her own. Some thought that her husband knew his
own case. A word or two,--now a gesture, and now a look,--persuaded the
surgeon and Woodruffe that he was aware that he was going. His small
affairs were always kept settled; he had probably no directions to give;
and his tenderness for his wife showed itself in his enjoying her
cheerfulness to the last. When, as soon as it was light, one December
morning, Moss was sent to ask if Abby could possibly come for a few
minutes, because mother was worse, he found his sister alone, looking at
the floor, her hands on her lap, though her baby was fidgetting in its
cradle. Fleming’s face was covered, and he lay so still that Moss, who
had never seen death, felt sure that all was over. The boy hardly knew
what to do; and his sister seemed not to hear what he said. The thought
of his mother,--that Abby’s going might help or save her,--moved him to
act. He kissed Abby, and said she must please go to mother; and he took
the baby out of the cradle, and wrapped it up, and put it into its
mother’s arms; and fetched Abby’s bonnet, and took her cloak down from
its peg, and opened the door for her, saying, that he would stay and
take care of everything. His sister went without a word; and, as soon as
he had closed the door behind her, Moss sank down on his knees before
the chair where she had been sitting, and hid his face there till some
one came for him,--to see his mother once more before she died.

As the two coffins were carried out, to be conveyed to the churchyard
together, Mr. Nelson, who had often been backward and forward during the
last six weeks, observed to the surgeon that the death of such a man as
Fleming was a dreadful loss.

“It is that sort of men that the fever cuts off,” said the surgeon.
“The strong man, in the prime of life, at his best period, one may say,
for himself and for society, is taken away,--leaving wife and child
helpless and forlorn. That is the ravage that the fever makes.”

“Well; would not people tell you that it is our duty to submit?” asked
Mr. Nelson, who could not help showing some emotion by voice and
countenance.

“Submit!” said the surgeon. “That depends on what the people mean who
use the word. If you or I were ill of the fever, we must resign
ourselves, as cheerfully as we could. But if you ask me whether we
should submit to see more of our neighbors cut off by fever as these
have been, I can only ask in return, whose doing it is that they are
living in a swamp, and whether that is to go on? Who dug the clay pits?
Who let that ditch run abroad, and make a filthy bog? Are you going to
charge that upon Providence and talk of submitting to the consequences?
If so, that is not my religion.”

“No, no. There is no religion in that,” replied Mr. Nelson, for once
agreeing in what was said to him. “It must be looked to.”

“It must,” said the surgeon, as decidedly as if he had been a railway
director, or king and parliament in one.


VI.

“I wonder whether there is a more forlorn family in England than we are
now,” said Woodruffe, as he sat among his children, a few hours after
the funeral.

His children were glad to hear him speak, however gloomy might be his
tone. His silence had been so terrible that nothing that he could say
could so weigh upon their hearts. His words, however, brought out his
widowed daughter’s tears again. She was sewing--her infant lying in her
lap. As her tears fell upon its face, it moved and cried. Becky came and
took it up, and spoke cheerfully to it. The cheerfulness seemed to be
the worst of all. Poor Abby laid her forehead to the back of her chair,
and sobbed as if her heart would break.

“Ay, Abby,” said her father, “your heart is breaking, and mine too. You
and I can go to our rest, like those that have gone before us; but I
have to think of what will become of these young things.”

“Yes, father,” said Becky gently, but with a tone of remonstrance, “you
must endeavor to live, and not make up your mind to dying, because life
has grown heavy and sad.”

“My dear, I am ill--very ill. It is not merely that life is grown
intolerable to me. I am sure I could not live long in such misery of
mind; but I am breaking up fast.”

The young people looked at each other in dismay. There was something
worse than the grief conveyed by their father’s words in the hopeless
daring--the despair--of his tone when he ventured to say that life was
unendurable.

Becky had the child on one arm; with the other hand she took down her
father’s plaid from its peg, and put it round his rheumatic shoulders,
whispering in his ear a few words about desiring that God’s will should
be done.

“My dear,” he replied, “it was I who taught you that lesson when you
were a child on my knee, and it would be strange if I forgot it when I
want so much any comfort that I can get. But I don’t believe (and if you
ask the clergyman, he will tell you that he does not believe) that it is
God’s will that we, or any other people, should be thrust into a swamp
like this, scarcely fit for the rats and the frogs to live in. It is
man’s doing, not God’s, that the fever makes such havoc as it has made
with us. The fever does not lay waste healthy places.”

“Then why are we here?” Allan ventured to say. “Father, let us go.”

“Go! I wonder how or where! I can’t go, or let any of you go. I have not
a pound in the world to spend in moving, or in finding new employment.
And if I had, who would employ me? Who would not laugh at a crippled old
man asking for work and wages?”

“Then, father, we must see what we can do here, and you must not forbid
us to say ‘God’s will be done!’ If we cannot go away, it must be His
will that we should stay and have as much hope and courage as we can.”

Woodruffe threw himself back in his chair. It was too much to expect
that he would immediately rally; but he let the young people confer, and
plan, and cheer each other.

The first thing to be done, they agreed, was to move hither, whenever
the dismal rain would permit it, all Abby’s furniture that could not be
disposed of to her husband’s successors. It would fit up the lower room.
And Allan and Becky settled how the things could stand so as to make it
at once a bed-room and sitting-room. If, as Abby had said, she meant to
try to get some scholars, and keep a little school, room must be left to
seat the children.

“Keep a school?” exclaimed Woodruffe, looking round at Abby.

“Yes, father,” said Abby, raising her head. “That seems to be a thing
that I can do; and it will be good for me to have something to do. Becky
is the stoutest of us all, and....”

“I wonder how long that will last,” groaned the father.

“I am quite stout now,” said Becky; “and I am the one to help Allan with
the garden. Allan and I will work under your direction, father, while
your rheumatism lasts; and....”

“And what am I to do?” asked Moss, pushing himself in.

“You shall fetch and carry the tools,” said Becky; “that is, when the
weather is fine, and when your chilblains are not very bad. And you
shall be bird-boy when the sowing season comes on.”

“And we are going to put up a pent-house for you, in one corner, you
know, Moss,” said his brother. “And we will make it so that there shall
be room for a fire in it, where father and you may warm yourselves, and
always have dry shoes ready.”

“I wonder what our shoe leather will have cost us by the time the spring
comes,” observed Woodruffe. “There is not a place where we ever have to
take the cart or the barrow that is not all mire and ruts; not a path in
the whole garden that I call a decent one. Our shoes are all pulled to
pieces; while the frost, or the fog, or something or other, prevents our
getting any real work done. The waste is dreadful. Nothing should have
made me take a garden where none but summer crops are to be had, if I
could have foreseen such a thing. I never saw such a thing
before,--never--as market-gardening without winter and spring crops.
Never heard of such a thing!”

Becky glanced towards Allan, to see if he had nothing to propose. If
they could neither mend the place nor leave it, it did seem a hard case.
Allan was looking into the fire, musing. When Moss announced that the
rain was over, Allan started, and said he must be fetching some of
Abby’s things down, if it was fair. Becky really meant to help him; but
she also wanted opportunity for consultation, as to whether it could
really be God’s will that they should neither be able to mend their
condition nor to escape from it. As they mounted the long flight of
steps, they saw Mr. Nelson issue from the Station, looking about him to
ascertain if the rain was over, and take his stand on the embankment,
followed by a gentleman who had a roll of paper in his hand. As they
stood, the one was seen to point with his stick, and the other with his
roll of paper, this way and that. Allan set off in that direction,
saying to his sister, as he went,

“Don’t you come. That gentleman is so rude, he will make you cry. Yes, I
must go, and I won’t get angry; I won’t indeed. He may find as much
fault as he pleases; I must show him how the water is standing in our
furrows.”

“Hallo! what do you want here?” was Mr. Nelson’s greeting, when, after a
minute or two, he saw Allan looking and listening. “What business have
you here, hearkening to what we are saying?”

“I wanted to know whether anything is going to be done below there. I
thought, if you wished it, I could tell you something about it.”

“You! what, a dainty little fellow like you?--a fellow that wears his
Sunday clothes on a Tuesday, and a rainy Tuesday too! You must get
working clothes and work.”

“I shall work to-morrow, Sir. My mother and my brother-in-law were
buried to-day.”

“Lord bless me! You should have told me that. How should I know that
unless you told me?” He proceeded in a much gentler tone, however,
merely remonstrating with Allan for letting the wet stand in the
furrows, in such a way as would spoil any garden. Allan had a good ally,
all the while, in the stranger, who seemed to understand everything
before it was explained. The gentleman was, in fact, an agricultural
surveyor--one who could tell, when looking abroad from a height, what
was swamp and what meadow; where there was a clean drain, and where an
uneven ditch; where the soil was likely to be watered, and where flooded
by the winter rains; where genially warmed, and where fatally baked by
the summer’s sun. He had seen, before Allan pointed it out, how the
great ditch cut across between the cultivated grounds and the little
river into which those grounds should be drained; but he could not know,
till told by Allan, who were the proprietors and occupiers of the
parcels of land lying on either side the ditch. Mr. Nelson knew little
or nothing under this head, though he contradicted the lad every minute;
was sure such an one did not live here, nor another there; told him he
was confusing Mr. Smith and Mr. Brown; did not believe a word of Mr.
Taylor having bought yonder meadow, or Mrs. Scott now renting that
field. All the while, the surveyor went on setting down the names as
Allan told them; and then observed that they were not so many but that
they might combine, if they would, to drain their properties, if they
could be relieved of the obstruction of the ditch--if the surveyor of
highways would see that the ditch were taken in hand. Mr. Nelson
pronounced that there should be no difficulty about the ditch, if the
rest could be managed; and then, after a few whispered words between the
gentlemen, Allan was asked first, whether he was sure that he knew where
every person lived whose name was down in the surveyor’s book; and next,
whether he would act as guide to-morrow. For a moment he thought he
should be wanted to move Abby’s things; but, remembering the vast
importance of the plan which seemed now to be fairly growing under his
eye, he replied that he would go; he should be happy to make it his
day’s work to help, ever so little, towards what he wished above
everything in the world.

“What makes you in such a hurry to suppose we want to get a day’s work
out of you for nothing?” asked Mr. Nelson. He thrust half-a-crown into
the lad’s waistcoat pocket, saying that he must give it back again, if
he led the gentleman wrong. The gentleman had no time to go running
about the country on a fool’s errand; Allan must mind that. As Allan
touched his hat, and ran down the steps, Mr. Nelson observed that boys
with good hearts did not fly about in that way, as if they were merry,
on the day of their mother’s funeral.

“Perhaps he is rather thinking of saving his father,” observed the
surveyor.

“Well; save as many of them as you can. They seem all going to pot as it
is.”

When Allan burst in, carrying nothing of Abby’s, but having a little
color in his cheeks for once, his father sat up in his chair, the baby
suddenly stopped crying, and Moss asked where he had been. At first, his
father disappointed him by being listless--first refusing to believe
anything good, and then saying that any good that could happen now was
too late; and Abby could not help crying all the more because this was
not thought about a year sooner. It was her poor husband that had made
the stir; and now they were going to take his advice the very day that
he was laid in his grave. They all tried to comfort her, and said how
natural it was that she should feel it so; yet, amidst all their
sympathy, they could not help being cheered that something was to be
done at last.

By degrees, and not slow degrees, Woodruffe became animated. It was
surprising how many things he desired Allan to be sure not to forget to
point out to the surveyor, and to urge upon those he was to visit. At
last he said he would go himself. It was a very serious business, and he
ought to make an effort to have it done properly. It was a great effort,
but he would make it. Not rheumatism, nor anything else, should keep him
at home. Allan was glad at heart to see such signs of energy in his
father, though he might feel some natural disappointment at being left
at home, and some perplexity as to what, in that case, he ought to do
about the half-crown, if Mr. Nelson should be gone home. The morning
settled this, however. The surveyor was in his gig. If Allan could hang
on, or keep up with it, it would be very well, as he would be wanted to
open the gates, and to lead the way in places too wet for his father,
who was not worth such a pair of patent waterproof tall boots as the
surveyor had on.

The circuit was not a very wide one; yet it was dark before they got
home. There are always difficulties in arrangements which require
combined action. Here there were different levels in the land, and
different tempers and views among the occupiers. Mr. Brown had heard
nothing about the matter, and could not be hurried till he saw occasion.
Mr. Taylor liked his field best, wet--would not have it drier on any
account, for fear of the summer sun. When assured that drought took no
hold on well-dried land in comparison with wet land, he shook with
laughter, and asked if they expected him to believe that. Mrs. Scott,
whose combination with two others was essential to the drainage of three
portions, would wait another year. They must go on without her; and
after another year, she would see what she would do. Another had
drained his land in his own way long ago, and did not expect that
anybody would ask him to put his spade into another man’s land, or to
let any other man put his spade into his. These were all the
obstructions. Everybody else was willing, or at least, not obstructive.
By clever management, it was thought that the parties concerned could
make an island of Mrs. Scott and her field, and win over Mr. Brown by
the time he was wanted, and show Mr. Taylor that, as his field could no
longer be as wet as it had been, he might as well try the opposite
condition--they promising to flood his field as often and as thoroughly
as he pleased, if he found it the worse for being drained. They could
not obtain all they wished, where everybody was not as wise as could be
wished; but so much was agreed upon as made the experienced surveyor
think that the rest would follow; enough, already, to set more laborers
to work than the place could furnish. Two or three stout men were sent
from a distance; and when they had once cut a clear descent from the
ditch to the river, and had sunk the ditch to seven feet deep, and made
the bottom even, and narrowed it to three feet, it was a curious thing
to see how ready the neighbors became to unite their drains with it. It
used to be said, that here--however it might be elsewhere--the winter
was no time for digging; but that must have meant that no winter-digging
would bring a spring crop; and that therefore it was useless. Now, the
sound of the spade never ceased for the rest of the winter; and the
laborers thought it the best winter they had ever known for constant
work. Those who employed the labor hoped it would answer--found it
expensive--must trust it was all right, and would yield a profit by and
by. As for the Woodruffes, they were too poor to employ laborers. But
some little hope had entered their hearts again, and brought strength,
not only to their hearts, but to their very limbs. They worked like
people beginning the world. As poor Abby could keep the house and sew,
while attending to her little school, Becky did the lighter parts (and
some which were far from light) of the garden work, finding easy tasks
for Moss; and Allan worked like a man at the drains. They had been
called good drains before; but now, there was an outfall for deeper
ones; and deeper they must be made. Moreover, a strong rivalry arose
among the neighbors about their respective portions of the combined
drainage; and under the stimulus of ambition, Woodruffe recovered his
spirits and the use of his limbs wonderfully. He suffered cruelly from
his rheumatism; and in the evenings felt as if he could never more lift
a spade; yet, not the less was he at work again in the morning, and so
sanguine as to the improvement of his ground, that it was necessary to
remind him, when calculating his gains, that it would take two years, at
least, to prove the effects of his present labors.


VII.

It was observed by Woodruffe’s family, during one week of spring of the
next year, that he was very absent. He was not in low spirits, but
absorbed in thought, and much devoted to making calculations with pencil
and paper. At last, out it came, one morning at breakfast.

“I wonder how we should all like to have Harry Hardiman to work with us
again?”

Every one looked up. Harry! where was Harry? Was he here? Was he coming?

“Why, I will tell you what I have been thinking,” said their father. “I
have thought long and carefully, and I believe I have made up my mind to
send for Harry, to come and work for us as he used to do. We have not
labor enough on the ground. Two stout men to the acre is the smallest
allowance for trying what could be made of the place.”

“That is what Taylor and Brown are employing now on the best part of
their land,” said Allan; “that is, when they can get the labor. There is
such difference between that and one man to four or five acres, as there
was before, that they can’t always get the labor.”

“Just so; and therefore,” continued Woodruffe, “I am thinking of sending
for Harry. Our old neighborhood was not prosperous when we left it, and
I fancy it cannot have improved since; and Harry might be glad to follow
his master to a thriving neighborhood; and he is such a careful fellow
that I dare say he has money for the journey,--even if he has a wife by
this time, as I suppose he has.”

Moss looked most pleased, where all were pleased, at the idea of seeing
Harry again. His remembrance of Harry was of a tall young man, who used
to carry him on his shoulders, and wheel him in the empty water-barrel,
and sometimes offer to dip him into it when it was full, and show him
how to dig in the sand-heap with his little wooden spade.

“Your rent, to be sure, is much lower than in the old place,” observed
Abby.

“Why, we must not build upon that,” replied the father; “rent is rising
here, and will rise. My landlord was considerate in lowering mine to £3
per acre, when he saw how impossible it was to make it answer; and he
says he shall not ask more yet on account of the labor I laid out at the
time of the drainage. But when I have partly repaid myself, the rent
will rise to £5; and, in fact, I have made my calculations in regard to
Harry’s coming at a higher rent than that.”

“Higher than that?”

“Yes; I should not be surprised if I found myself paying, as
market-gardeners near London do, ten pounds per acre before I die.”

“Or rather, to let the ground to me for that, father,” said Allan, “when
it is your own property, and you are tired of work, and disposed to turn
it over to me. I will pay you ten pounds per acre then, and let you have
all the cabbages you can eat besides. It is capital land, and that is
the truth. Come--shall that be a bargain?”

Woodruffe smiled, and said he owed a duty to Allan. He did not like to
see him so hard worked as to be unable to take due care of his own
corner of the garden;--unable to enter fairly into the competition for
the prizes at the Horticultural Show in the summer. Becky now, too,
ought to be spared from all but occasional help in the garden. Above
all, the ground was now in such an improving state that it would be
waste not to bestow due labor upon it. Put in the spade where you would,
the soil was loose and well-aired as needs be: the manure penetrated it
thoroughly; the frost and heat pulverized, instead of binding it; and
the crops were succeeding each other so fast, that the year would be a
very profitable one.

“Where will Harry live, if he comes?” asked Abby.

“We must get another cottage added to the new row. Easily done! Cottages
so healthy as these new ones pay well. Good rents are offered for
them,--to save doctors’ bills and loss of time from sickness;--and, when
once a system of house-drainage is set a-going, it costs scarcely more
in adding a cottage to a group, to make it all right, than to run it up
upon solid clay as used to be the way here. Well, I have a good mind to
write to Harry to-day. What do you think of it,--all of you?”

Fortified by the opinion of all his children, Mr. Woodruffe wrote to
Harry. Meantime, Allan and Becky went to cut the vegetables that were
for sale that day; and Moss delighted himself in running after and
catching the pony in the meadow below. The pony was not very easily
caught, for it was full of spirit. Instead of the woolly insipid grass
that it used to crop, and which seemed to give it only fever and no
nourishment, it now fed on sweet fresh grass, which had no sour stagnant
water soaking its roots. The pony was so full of play this morning that
Moss could not get hold of it. Though much stronger than a year ago, he
was not yet anything like so robust as a boy of his age should be; and
he was growing heated, and perhaps a little angry, as the pony galloped
off towards some distant trees, when a boy started up behind a bush,
caught the halter, brought the pony round with a twitch, and led him to
Moss. Moss fancied he had seen the boy before, and then his white teeth
reminded Moss of one thing after another.

“I came for some marsh plants,” said the boy. “You and I got plenty once
somewhere hereabouts, but I cannot find them now.”

“You will not find any now. We have no marsh now.”

The stranger said he dared not go back without them; mother wanted them
badly. She would not believe him if he said he could not find any. There
were plenty about two miles off, along the railway, among the clay-pits,
he was told; but none nearer. The boy wanted to know where the clay-pits
hereabouts were. He could not find one of them.

“I will show you one of them,” said Moss; “the one where you and I used
to hunt rats.” And, leading the pony, he showed his old gypsy
play-fellow all the improvements, beginning with the great ditch,--now
invisible from being covered in. While it was open, he said, it used to
get choked, and the sides were plastered after rain, and soon became
grass-grown, so that it was found worth while to cover it in; and now it
would want little looking to for years to come. As for the clay-pit,
where the rats used to pop in and out,--it was now a manure-pit, covered
in. There was a drain into it from the pony’s stable and from the
pig-styes; and it was near enough to the garden to receive the refuse
and sweepings. A heavy lid, with a ring in the middle, covered the pit,
so that nobody could fall in in the dark, and no smell could get out.
Moss begged the boy to come a little further, and he would show him his
own flower-bed; and when the boy was there, he was shown everything
else: what a cart-load of vegetables lay cut for sale; and what an arbor
had been made of the pent-house under which Moss used to take shelter,
when he could do nothing better than keep off the birds; and how fine
the ducks were,--the five ducks that were so serviceable in eating off
the slugs; and what a comfortable nest had been made for them to lay
their eggs in, beside the water-tank in the corner; and what a variety
of scarecrows the family had invented,--each having one, to try which
would frighten the sparrows most. While Moss was telling how difficult
it was to deal with the sparrows, because they could not be frightened
for more than three days by any kind of scarecrow, he heard Allan
calling him, in a tone of vexation, at being kept waiting so long. In an
instant the stranger boy was off,--leaping the gate, and flying along
the meadow till he was hidden behind a hedge.

Two or three days after this one of the ducks was missing. The last time
that the five had been seen together was when Moss was showing them to
his visitor. The morning after Moss finally gave up hope, the glass of
Allan’s hotbed was found broken, and in the midst of the bed itself was
a deep foot-track, crushing the cucumber plants, and, with them,
Allan’s hopes of a cucumber prize at the Horticultural Exhibition in the
summer. On more examination, more mischief was discovered, some cabbages
had been stolen, and another duck was missing. In the midst of the
general concern, Woodruffe burst out a-laughing. It struck him that the
chief of the scarecrows had changed his hat; and so he had. The old
straw hat which used to flap in the wind so serviceably was gone, and in
its stead appeared a helmet,--a saucepan full of holes, battered and
split, but still fit to be a helmet to a scarecrow.

“I could swear to the old hat,” observed Woodruffe, “if I should have
the luck to see it on anybody’s head.”

“And so could I,” said Becky, “for I mended it,--bound it with black
behind, and green before, because I had not green ribbon enough. But
nobody would wear it before our eyes.”

“That is why I suspect there are strangers hovering about. We must
watch.”

Now Moss, for the first time, bethought himself of the boy he had
brought in from the meadow; and now, for the first time, he told his
family of that encounter.

“I never saw such a simpleton,” his father declared. “There, go along
and work! Now, don’t cry, but hold up like a man and work.”

Moss did cry; he could not help it; but he worked too. He would fain
have been one of the watchers, moreover; but his father said he was too
young. For two nights he was ordered to bed, when Allan took his dark
lantern, and went down to the pent-house; the first night accompanied by
his father, and the next by Harry Hardiman, who had come on the first
summons. By the third evening, Moss was so miserable that his sisters
interceded for him, and he was allowed to go down with his old friend
Harry.

It was a starlight night, without a moon. The low country lay dim, but
unobscured by mist. After a single remark on the fineness of the night,
Harry was silent. Silence was their first business. They stole round the
fence as if they had been thieves themselves, listened for some time
before they let themselves in at the gate, passed quickly in, and locked
the gate (the lock of which had been well oiled), went behind every
screen, and along every path, to be sure that no one was there, and
finally, perceiving that the remaining ducks were safe, settled
themselves in the darkness of the pent-house.

There they sat, hour after hour, listening. If there had been no sound,
perhaps they could not have borne the effort; but the sense was relieved
by the bark of a dog at a distance, and then by the hoot of the owl that
was known to have done them good service in mousing, many a time; and
once, by the passage of a train on the railway above. When these were
all over, poor Moss had much ado to keep awake, and at last his head
sank on Harry’s shoulder, and he forgot where he was, and everything
else in the world. He was awakened by Harry’s moving, and then
whispering quite into his ear:--

“Sit you still. I hear somebody yonder. No--sit you still. I won’t go
far--not out of call; but I must get between them and the gate.”

With his lantern under his coat, Harry stole forth, and Moss stood up,
all alone in the darkness and stillness. He could hear his heart beat,
but nothing else, till footsteps on the path came nearer and nearer.
They came quite up; they came in, actually into the arbor; and then the
ducks were certainly fluttering. In an instant more, there was a gleam
of light upon the white plumage of the ducks, and then light enough to
show that this was the gypsy boy, with a dark lantern hung round his
neck, and, at the same moment, to show the gypsy boy that Moss was
there. The two boys stood, face to face, motionless from utter
amazement, and the ducks had scuttled and waddled away before they
recovered themselves. Then, Moss flew at him in a glorious passion, at
once of rage and fear.

“Leave him to me, Moss,” cried Harry, casting light upon the scene from
his lantern, while he collared the thief with the other hand. “Let go,
I say, Moss. There, now we’ll go round and be sure whether there is any
one else in the garden, and then we’ll lodge this young rogue where he
will be safe.”

Nobody was there, and they went home in the dawn, locked up the thief in
the shed, and slept through what remained of the night.

It was about Mr. Nelson’s usual time for coming down the line; and it
was observed that he now always stopped at this station till the next
train passed,--probably because it was a pleasure to him to look upon
the improvement of the place. It was no surprise therefore to Woodruffe
to see him standing on the embankment after breakfast; and it was
natural that Mr. Nelson should be immediately told that the gypsies were
here again, and how one of them was caught thieving.

“Thieving! So you found some of your property upon him, did you!”

“Why, no. I thought myself that it was a pity that Moss did not let him
alone till he had laid hold of a duck or something.”

“Pho! pho! don’t tell me you can punish the boy for theft, when you
can’t prove that he stole anything. Give him a whipping, and let him
go.”

“With all my heart. It will save me much trouble to finish off the
matter so.”

Mr. Nelson seemed to have some curiosity about the business; for he
accompanied Woodruffe to the shed. The boy seemed to feel no awe of the
great man whom he supposed to be a magistrate, and when asked whether he
felt none, he giggled and said “No;” he had seen the gentleman more
afraid of his mother than anybody ever was of him, he fancied. On this,
a thought struck Mr. Nelson. He would now have his advantage of the
gypsy woman, and might enjoy, at the same time, an opportunity of
studying human nature under stress--a thing he liked, when the stress
was not too severe. So he passed a decree on the spot that, it being now
nine o’clock, the boy should remain shut up without food till noon, when
he should be severely flogged, and driven from the neighborhood; and
with this pleasant prospect before him, the young rogue remained,
whistling ostentatiously, while his enemies locked the door upon him.

“Did you hear him shoot the bolt?” asked Woodruffe. “If he holds to
that, I don’t know how I shall get at him at noon.”

“There, now, what fools people are! Why did you not take out the bolt? A
pretty constable you would make! Come--come this way. I am going to find
the gypsy-tent again. You are wondering that I am not afraid of the
woman, I see; but, you observe, I have a hold over her this time. What
do you mean by allowing those children to gather about your door? You
ought not to permit it.”

“They are only the scholars. Don’t you see them going in? My daughter
keeps a little school, you know, since her husband’s death.”

“Ah, poor thing! poor thing!” said Mr. Nelson, as Abby appeared on the
threshold, calling the children in.

Mr. Nelson always contrived to see some one or more of the family when
he visited the station; but it so happened, that he had never entered
the door of their dwelling. Perhaps he was not himself fully conscious
of the reason. It was, that he could not bear to see Abby’s young face
within the widow’s cap, and to be thus reminded that hers was a case of
cruel wrong; that if the most ordinary thought and care had been used in
preparing the place for human habitation, her husband might be living
now, and she the happy creature that she would never be again.

On his way to the gypsies, Mr. Nelson saw some things that pleased him
in his heart, though he found fault with them all. What business had
Woodruffe with an additional man in his garden? It could not possibly
answer. If it did not, the fellow must be sent away again. He must not
burden the parish. The occupiers here seemed all alike. Such a fancy for
new labor! One, two, six men at work on the land within sight at that
moment, over and above what there used to be! It must be looked to.
Humph! he could get to the alders dryshod now; but that was owing
solely to the warmth of the spring. It was nonsense to attribute
everything to drainage. Drainage was a good thing; but fine weather was
better.

The gypsy-tent was found behind the alders as before, but no longer in a
swamp. The woman was sitting on the ground at the entrance as before,
but not now with a fevered child laid across her knees. She was weaving
a basket.

“Oh, I see,” said Woodruffe, “this is the way our osiers go.”

“You have not many to lose, now-a-days,” said the woman.

“You are welcome to all the rushes you can find,” said Woodruffe; “but
where is your son?”

Some change of countenance was seen in the woman; but she answered
carelessly that the children were playing yonder.

“The one I mean is not there,” said Woodruffe, “We have him safe--caught
him stealing my ducks.”

She called the boy a villain--disowned him, and so forth; but when she
found the case a hopeless one, she did not, and, therefore, probably
could not scold--that is, anybody but herself and her husband. She
cursed herself for coming into this silly place, where now no good was
to be got. When she was brought to the right point of perplexity about
what to do, seeing that it would not do to stay, and being unable to go
while her boy was in durance, she was told that his punishment should be
summary, though severe, if she would answer frankly certain questions.
When she had once begun giving her confidence, she seemed to enjoy the
license. When her husband came up, he looked as if he only waited for
the departure of his visitors to give his wife the same amount of
thrashing that her son was awaiting elsewhere. She vowed that they would
never pitch their tent here again. It used to be the best station in
their whole round--the fogs were so thick! From sunset to long after
sunrise, it had been as good as a winter night, for going where they
pleased without fear of prying eyes. There was not a poultry-yard or
pig-stye within a couple of miles round, where they could not creep up
through the fog. And they escaped the blame, too; for the swamp and
ditches used to harbor so much vermin, that the gypsies were not always
suspected, as they were now. Till lately, people shut themselves into
their homes, or the men went to the public-house in the chill evenings;
and there was little fear of meeting any one. But now that the fogs were
gone, people were out in their gardens, on these fine evenings, and
there were men in the meadows, returning from fishing; for they could
angle now, when their work was done, without the fear of catching an
ague in the marsh as they went home.

Mr. Nelson used vigorously his last opportunity of lecturing these
people. He had it all his own way, for the humility of the gypsies was
edifying. Woodruffe fancied he saw some finger-talk passing, the while,
though the gypsies never looked at each other, or raised their eyes from
the ground. Woodruffe had to remind the Director that the whistle of the
next train would soon be heard; and this brought the lecture to an
abrupt conclusion. On his finishing off with, “I expect, therefore, that
you will remember my advice, and never show your face here again, and
that you will take to a proper course of life in future, and bring up
your son to honest industry;” the woman, with a countenance of grief,
seized one hand and covered it with kisses, and the husband took the
other hand and pressed it to his breast.

“We must make haste,” observed Mr. Nelson, as he led the way quickly
back; “but I think I have made some impression upon them. You see now
the right way to treat these people. I don’t think you will see them
here again.”

“I don’t think we shall.”

As he reached the steps the whistle was heard, and Mr. Nelson could only
wave his hand to Woodruffe, rush up the embankment, and throw himself
panting into a carriage. Only just in time!

By an evening train he re-appeared. When thirty miles off, he had wanted
his purse, and it was gone. It had no doubt paid for the gypsies’ final
gratitude.

Of course, a sufficient force was immediately sent to the alder clump;
but there was nothing there but some charred sticks, and some clean pork
bones, this time, instead of feathers of fowls, and a cabbage leaf or
two. The boy had had his whipping at noon, after a conference with his
little brother at the keyhole, which had caused him to withdraw the
bolt, and offer no resistance. Considering his cries and groans, he had
run off with surprising agility, and was now, no doubt, far away.


VIII.

The gypsies came no more. The fogs came no more. The fever came no more,
at least, in such a form as to threaten the general safety. Where it
still lingered, it was about those only who deserved it,--in any small
farm-house, where the dung-yard was too near the house; and in some
cottage where the slatternly inmates did not mind a green puddle or
choked ditch within reach of their noses. More dwellings arose, as the
fertility of the land increased, and invited a higher kind of tillage;
and among the prettiest of them was one which stood in the corner,--the
most sunny corner,--of Woodruffe’s paddock. Harry Hardiman and his wife
and child lived there, and the cottage was Woodruffe’s property.

Yet Woodruffe’s rent had been raised, and pretty rapidly. He was now
paying eight pounds per acre for his garden-ground, and half that for
what was out of the limits of the garden. He did not complain of it; for
he was making money fast. His skill and industry deserved this; but
skill and industry could not have availed without opportunity. His
ground once allowed to show what it was worth, he treated it well; and
it answered well to the treatment. By the railway he obtained what
manure he wanted from the town; and he sent it back by the railway to
town in the form of crisp celery and salads, wholesome potatoes and
greens, luscious strawberries, and sweet and early peas. He knew that a
Surrey gardener had made his ground yield a profit of two hundred and
twenty pounds per acre. He thought that, with his inferior market, he
should do well to make his yield one hundred and fifty pounds per acre;
and this, by close perseverance, he attained. He could have done it more
easily if he had enjoyed good health; but he never enjoyed good health
again. His rheumatism had fixed itself too firmly to be entirely
removed; and for many days in the year, he was compelled to remain
within doors, or to saunter about in the sun, seeing his boys and Harry
at work, but unable to help them.

From the time that Allan’s work became worth wages in addition to his
subsistence, his father let him rent half a rood of the garden-ground
for three years, saying--

“I limit it to three years, my boy, because that term is long enough for
you to show what you can do. After three years, I shall not be able to
spare the ground at any rent. If you fail, you have no business to rent
ground. If you succeed, you will have money in your pocket wherewith to
hire land elsewhere. Now you have to show us what you can do.”

“Yes, father,” was Allan’s short but sufficient reply.

It was observed by the family that, from this time forward, Allan’s eye
was on every plot of ground in the neighborhood which could, by
possibility, ever be offered for hire; yet did his attention never
wander from that which was already under his hand. And that which was so
great an object to him became a sort of pursuit to the whole family.
Moss guarded Allan’s frames, and made more and more prodigious
scarecrows. Their father gave his very best advice. Becky, who was no
longer allowed, as a regular thing, to work in the garden, found many a
spare half-hour for hoeing and weeding, and trimming and tying up, in
Allan’s beds; and Abby found, as she sat in her little school, that she
could make nets for his fruit trees. It was thus no wonder that, when a
certain July day in the second year arrived, the whole household was in
a state of excitement, because it was a sort of crisis in Allan’s
affairs.

Though breakfast was early that morning, Becky and Allan and Moss were
spruce in their best clothes. A hamper stood at the door, and Allan was
packing in another, which had no lid, two or three flower-pots, which
presented a glorious show of blossom. Abby was putting a new ribbon on
her sister’s straw bonnet; and Harry was in waiting to carry up the
hampers to the station. It was the day of the Horticultural Show at the
town. Woodruffe had been too unwell to think of going till this morning;
but now the sight of the preparations, and the prospect of a warm day,
inspired him, and he thought he would go. At last he went, and they were
gone. Abby never went up to the station; nobody ever asked her to go
there, not even her own child, who perhaps had not thought of the
possibility of it. But when the train was starting, she stood at the
upper window with her child, and held him so that he might lean out, and
see the last carriage disappear as it swept round the curve. After that
the day seemed long, though Harry came up at the dinner-hour to say what
he thought of the great gooseberry in particular, and of everything else
that Allan had carried with him. It was holiday time, and there was no
school to fill up the day. Before the evening, the child became
restless, and Abby fell into low spirits, as she was apt to do when left
long alone; so that Harry stopped suddenly at the door when he was
rushing in to announce that the train was within sight.

“Shall I take the child, Miss?” said Harry. (He always called her
“Miss.”) “I will carry him---- But, sure, here they come! Here comes
Moss,--ready to roll down the steps! My opinion is that there’s a
prize.”

Moss was called back by a voice which everybody obeyed. Allan should
himself tell his sister the fortune of the day, their father said.

There were two prizes, one of which was for the wonderful plate of
gooseberries; and at this news Harry nodded, and declared himself
anything but surprised. If that gooseberry had not carried the day,
there would have been partiality in the judges, that was all; and nobody
could suppose such a thing as that. Yet Harry could have told, if put
upon his honor, that he was rather disappointed that everything that
Allan carried had not gained a prize. When he mentioned one or two, his
master told him he was unreasonable; and he supposed he was.

Allan laid down upon the table, for his sister’s full assurance, his
sovereign, and his half-sovereign, and his tickets. She turned away
rather abruptly, and seemed to be looking whether the kettle was near
boiling for tea. Her father went up to her; and on his first whispered
words, the sob broke forth which made all look round.

“I was thinking of one, too, my dear, that I wish was here at this
moment. I can feel for you, my dear.”

“But you don’t know--you don’t know--you never knew----.” She could not
go on.

“What don’t I know, my dear?”

“That he constantly blamed himself for saying anything to bring you
here. He said you had never prospered from the hour you came, and
now----”

And now Woodruffe could not speak, as the past came fresh upon him. In a
few moments, however, he rallied, saying,

“But we must consider Allan. He must not think that his success makes us
sad.”

Allan declared that it was not about gaining the prizes that he was
chiefly glad. It was because it was now proved what a fair field he had
before him. There was nothing that might not be done with such a soil as
they had to deal with now.

Harry was quite of this opinion. There were more and more people set to
work upon the soil all about them; and the more it was worked the more
it yielded. He never saw a place of so much promise. And if it had a
bad name in regard to healthiness, he was sure that was unfair,--or no
longer fair. He and his were full of health and happiness, as they hoped
to see everybody else in time; and, for his part, if he had all England
before him, or the whole world, to choose a place to live in, he would
choose the very place he was in, and the very cottage, and the very
ground to work on that had produced such a gooseberry and such
strawberries as he had seen that day.



VII.

The Water-Drops.

A FAIRY TALE.


I.

THE SUITORS OF CIRRHA, AND THE YOUNG LADY; WITH A REFERENCE TO HER PAPA.

Far in the west there is a land mountainous, and bright of hue, wherein
the rivers run with liquid light; the soil is all of yellow gold; the
grass and foliage are of resplendent crimson; where the atmosphere is
partly of a soft green tint, and partly azure. Sometimes on summer
evenings we see this land, and then, because our ignorance must refer
all things that we see, to something that we know, we say it is a mass
of clouds made beautiful by sunset colors. We account for it by
principles of Meteorology. The fact has been omitted from the works of
Kaemtz or Daniell; but, notwithstanding this neglect, it is well known
in many nurseries, that the bright land we speak of, is a world
inhabited by fairies. Few among fairies take more interest in man’s
affairs than the good Cloud Country People; this truth is established by
the story I am now about to tell.

Not long ago there were great revels held one evening in the palace of
King Cumulus, the monarch of the western country. Cirrha, the daughter
of the king, was to elect her future husband from a multitude of
suitors. Cirrha was a maiden delicate and pure, with a skin white as
unfallen snow; but colder than the snow her heart had seemed to all who
sought for her affections. When Cirrha floated gracefully and slowly
through her father’s hall, many a little cloud would start up presently
to tread where she had trodden. The winds also pursued her; and even men
looked up admiringly whenever she stepped forth into their sky. To be
sure they called her Mackerel and Cat’s Tail, just as they call her
father Ball of Cotton; for the race of man is a coarse race, and calling
bad names appears to be a great part of its business here below.

Before the revels were concluded, the King ordered a quiet little wind
to run among the guests, and bid them all come close to him and to his
daughter. Then he spoke to them as follows:--

“Worthy friends! there are among you many suitors to my daughter Cirrha,
who is pledged this evening to choose a husband. She bids me tell you
that she loves you all; but since it is desirable that this our royal
house be strengthened by a fit alliance with some foreign power, she has
resolved to take as husband one of those guests who have come hither
from the principality of Nimbus.” Now, Nimbus is that country, not
seldom visible from some parts of our earth, which we have called the
Rain-Cloud. “The subjects of the Prince of Nimbus,” Cumulus continued,
“are a dark race, it is true, but they are famed for their beneficence.”

Two winds, at this point, raised between themselves a great disturbance,
so that there arose a universal cry that somebody should turn them out.
With much trouble they were driven out from the assembly; thereupon,
quite mad with jealousy and disappointment, they went howling off to
sea, where they played pool-billiards with a fleet of ships, and so
forgot their sorrow.

King Cumulus resumed his speech, and said that he was addressing
himself, now, especially to those of his good friends who came from
Nimbus. “To-night, let them retire to rest, and early the next morning
let each of them go down to Earth; whichever of them should be found on
their return to have been engaged below in the most useful service to
the race of man, that son of Nimbus should be Cirrha’s husband.”

Cumulus, having said this, put a white nightcap on his head, which was
the signal for a general retirement. The golden ground of his dominions
was covered for the night, as well as the crimson trees, with cotton. So
the whole kingdom was put properly to bed. Late in the night the moon
got up, and threw over King Cumulus a silver counterpane.


II.

THE ADVENTURES OF NEBULUS AND NUBIS.

The suitors of the Princess Cirrha, who returned to Nimbus, were a-foot
quite early the next morning, and petitioned their good-natured Prince
to waft them over London. They had agreed among themselves, that by
descending there, where men were densely congregated, they should have a
greater chance of doing service to the human race. Therefore the
Rain-Cloud floated over the great City of the World, and, as it passed
at sundry points, the suitors came down upon rain-drops to perform their
destined labor. Where each might happen to alight depended almost wholly
upon accident; so that their adventures were but little better than a
lottery for Cirrha’s hand. One, who had been the most magniloquent among
them all, fell with his pride upon the patched umbrella of an early
breakfast woman, and from thence was shaken off into a puddle. He was
splashed up presently, mingled with soil, upon the corduroys of a
laborer, who stopped for breakfast on his way to work. From thence,
evaporating, he returned crest-fallen to the Land of Clouds.

Among the suitors there were two kind-hearted fairies, Nebulus and
Nubis, closely bound by friendship to each other. While they were in
conversation, Nebulus, who suddenly observed that they were passing over
some unhappy region, dropped, with a hope that he might bless it. Nubis
passed on, and presently alighted on the surface of the Thames.

The district which had wounded the kind heart of Nebulus was in a part
of Bermondsey, called Jacob’s Island. The fairy fell into a ditch; out
of this, however, he was taken by a woman, who carried him to her own
home, among other ditch-water, within a pail. Nebulus abandoned himself
to complete despair, for what claim could he now establish on the hand
of Cirrha? The miserable plight of the poor fairy we may gather from a
description given by a son of man of the sad place to which he had
descended. “In this Island may be seen, at any time of the day, women
dipping water, with pails attached by ropes to the backs of the houses,
from a foul fetid ditch, its banks coated with a compound of mud and
filth, and strewed with offal and carrion; the water to be used for
every purpose, culinary ones not excepted; although close to the place
whence it is drawn, filth and refuse of various kinds are plentifully
showered into it from the outhouses of the wooden houses overhanging its
current, or rather slow and sluggish stream; their posts or supporters
rotten, decayed, and in many instances broken, and the filth dropping
into the water, to be seen by any passer by. During the summer, crowds
of boys bathe in the putrid ditches, where they must come in contact
with abominations highly injurious.”[1]

So Nebulus was carried in a pail out of the ditch to a poor woman’s
home, and put into a battered saucepan with some other water. Thence,
after boiling, he was poured into an earthen tea-pot over some stuff of
wretched flavor, said to be tea. Now, thought the fairy, after all, I
may give pleasure at the breakfast of these wretched people. He pictured
to himself a scene of love as preface to a day of squalid toil, but he
experienced a second disappointment. The woman took him to another room
of which the atmosphere was noisome; there he saw that he was destined
for the comfort of a man and his two children, prostrate upon the floor
beneath a heap of rags. These three were sick; the woman swore at them,
and Nebulus shrunk down into the bottom of the tea-pot. Even the thirst
of fever could not tolerate too much of its contents, so Nebulus, after
a little time, was carried out and thrown into a heap of filth upon the
gutter.

Nubis, in the meantime, had commenced his day with hope of a more
fortunate career. On falling first into the Thames he had been much
annoyed by various pollutions, and been surprised to find, on kissing a
few neighbor drops, that their lips tasted inky. This was caused, they
said, by chalk pervading the whole river in the proportion of sixteen
grains to the gallon. That was what made their water inky to the taste
of those who were accustomed to much purer draughts. “It makes,” they
explained, “our river-water hard, according to man’s phrase; so hard as
to entail on multitudes who use it, some disease, with much expense and
trouble.”

“But all the mud and filth,” said Nubis, “surely no man drinks that?”

“No,” laughed the River-Drops, “not all of it. Much of the water used in
London passes through filters, and a filter suffers no mud or any
impurity to pass, except what is dissolved. The chalk is dissolved, and
there is filth and putrid gas dissolved.”

“That is a bad business,” said Nubis, who already felt his own drops
exercising that absorbent power for which water is so famous, and
incorporating in their substance matters that the Rain-Cloud never
knew.

Presently Nubis found himself entangled in a current, by which he was
sucked through a long pipe into a meeting of Water-Drops, all summoned
from the Thames. He himself passed through a filter, was received into a
reservoir, and, having asked the way of friendly neighbors, worked for
himself with small delay a passage through the mainpipe into London.

Bewildered by his long, dark journey underground, Nubia at length saw
light, and presently dashed forth out of a tap into a pitcher. He saw
that there was fixed under the tap a water-butt, but into this he did
not fall. A crowd of women holding pitchers, saucepans, pails, were
chattering and screaming over him, and the anxiety of all appeared to be
to catch the water as it ran out of the tap, before it came into the tub
or cistern. Nubis rejoiced that his good fortune brought him to a
district in which it might become his privilege to bless the poor, and
his eye sparkled as his mistress, with many rests upon the way, carried
her pitcher and a heavy pail upstairs. She placed both vessels, full of
water, underneath her bed, and then went out again for more, carrying a
basin and a fish-kettle. Nubis pitied the poor creature, heartily
wishing that he could have poured out of a tap into the room itself to
save the time and labor of his mistress.

The pitcher wherein the good fairy lurked, remained under the bed
through the remainder of that day, and during the next night, the room
being, for the whole time, closely tenanted. Long before morning, Nubis
felt that his own drops and all the water near him had lost their
delightful coolness, and had been busily absorbing smells and vapors
from the close apartment. In the morning, when the husband dipped a
teacup in the pitcher, Nubis readily ran into it, glad to escape from
his unwholesome prison. The man putting the water to his lips, found it
so warm and repulsive, that, in a pet, he flung it from the window, and
it fell into the water-butt beneath.

The water-butt was of the common sort, described thus by a member of the
human race:--“Generally speaking, the wood becomes decomposed and
covered with fungi; and indeed, I can best describe their condition by
terming them filthy.” This water-butt was placed under the same shed
with a neglected cesspool, from which the water--ever absorbing--had
absorbed pollution. It contained a kitten among other trifles. “How many
people have to drink out of this butt?” asked Nubis. “Really I cannot
tell you,” said a neighbor Drop. “Once I was in a butt in Bethnal Green,
twenty-one inches across, and a foot deep, which was to supply
forty-eight families.[2] People store for themselves, and when they know
how dirty these tubs are, they should not use them.” “But the labor of
dragging water home, the impossibility of taking home abundance, the
pollution of keeping it in dwelling-rooms and under beds.” “Oh, yes,”
said the other Drop; “all very true. Besides, our water is not of a sort
to keep. In this tub there is quite a microscopic vegetable garden, so I
heard a doctor say who yesterday came hither with a party to inspect
the district. One of them said he had a still used only for distilling
water, and that one day, by chance, the bottoms of a series of
distillations boiled to dryness. Thereupon, the dry mass became heated
to the decomposing point, and sent abroad a stench plain to the dullest
nose as the peculiar stench of decomposed organic matter. It infected,
he said, the produce of many distillations afterwards.”[3] “I tell you
what,” said Nubis, “water may come down into this town innocent enough,
but it’s no easy matter for it to remain good among so many causes of
corruption. Heigho!” Then he began to dream of Princess Cirrha and the
worthy Prince of Nimbus, until he was aroused by a great tumult. It was
an uproar caused by drunken men. “Why are those men so?” said Nubis to
his friend. “I don’t know,” said the Water-Drop, “but I saw many people
in that way last night, and I have seen them so at Bethnal Green.” A
woman pulled her husband by, with loud reproaches for his visits to the
beer-shop. “Why,” cried the man, with a great oath, “where would you
have me go for drink?” Then, with another oath, he kicked the water-butt
in passing--“You would not have me to go there!” All the bystanders
laughed approvingly, and Nubis bade adieu to his ambition for the hand
of Cirrha.


III.

     NEPHELO GOES INTO POLITE SOCIETY, AND THEN INTO A DUNGEON--HIS
     ESCAPE, RECAPTURE, AND HIS PERILOUS ASCENT INTO THE SKY, SURROUNDED
     BY A BLAZE OF FIRE.

Nephelo was a light-hearted subject of the Prince of Nimbus. It is he
who often floats, when the whole cloud is dark, as a white vapor on the
surface. For love of Cirrha, he came down behind a team of rain-drops
and leaped into the cistern of a handsome house at the west end of
London.

Nephelo found the water in the cistern greatly vexed at riotous
behavior on the part of a large number of animalcules. He was told that
Water-Drops had been compelled to come into that place, after undergoing
many hardships, and had unavoidably brought with them germs of these
annoying creatures. Time and place favoring, nothing could hinder them
from coming into life; the cistern was their cradle, although many of
them were already anything but babes. Hereupon, Nephelo himself was
dashed at by an ugly little fellow like a dragon; but an uglier little
fellow, who might be a small Saint George, pounced at the dragon, and
the heart of the poor fairy was the scene of contest.

After awhile there was an arrival of fresh water from a pipe, the flow
of which stirred up the anger of some decomposing growth which lined the
sides and bottom of the cistern. So there was a good deal of confusion
caused, and it was some time before all parties settled down into their
proper places.

“The sun is very hot,” said Nephelo. “We all seem to be getting very
warm.” “Yes, indeed,” said a Lady-Drop; “it’s not like the cool
Cloud-Country. I have been poisoned in the Thames, half filtered, and
made frowzy by standing, this July weather, in an open reservoir. I’ve
travelled in pipes laid too near the surface to be cool, and now am
spoiling here. I know if water is not cold it can’t be pleasant.” “Ah,”
said an old Drop, with a small eel in one of his eyes; “I don’t wonder
at hearing tell that men drink wine, and tea, and beer.” “Talking of
beer,” said another, “is it a fact that we’re of no use to the brewers?
Our character’s so bad, they can’t rely on us for cooling the worts, and
so sink wells, in order to brew all the year round with water cold
enough to suit their purposes.” “I know nothing of beer,” said Nephelo;
“but I know that if the gentlemen and ladies in this cistern were as
cold as they could wish to be, there wouldn’t be so much decomposition
going on among them.” “Your turn in, sir,” said a polite Drop, and
Nephelo leaped nimbly through the place of exit into a china jug placed
ready to receive him. He was conveyed across a handsome kitchen by a
cook, who declared her opinion that the morning’s rain had caused the
drains to smell uncommonly. Nephelo then was thrown into a kettle.

Boiling is to an unclean Water-Drop, like scratching to a bear, a
pleasant operation. It gets rid of the little animals by which it had
been bitten, and throws down some of the impurity with which it had been
soiled. So, after boiling, water becomes more pure, but it is, at the
same time, more greedy than ever to absorb extraneous matter. Therefore,
the sons of men who boil their vitiated water ought to keep it covered
afterwards, and if they wish to drink it cold, should lose no time in
doing so. Nephelo and his friends within the kettle danced with delight
under the boiling process. Chattering pleasantly together, they compared
notes of their adventures upon earth, discussed the politics of
Cloud-Land, and although it took them nearly twice as long to boil as it
would have done had there been no carbonate of lime about them, they
were quite sorry when the time was come for them to part. Nephelo then,
with many others, was poured out into an urn. So he was taken to the
drawing-room, a hot iron having, in a friendly manner, been put down his
back, to keep him boiling.

Out of the urn into the tea-pot; out of the tea-pot into the slop-basin;
Nephelo had only time to remark a matron tea-maker, young ladies
knitting, and a good-looking young gentleman upon his legs, laying the
law down with a tea-spoon, before he (the fairy, not the gentleman) was
smothered with a plate of muffins. From so much of the conversation as
Nephelo could catch, filtered through muffin, it appeared that they were
talking about tea.

“It’s all very well for you to say, mother, that you’re confident you
make tea very good, but I ask--no, there I see you put six spoonfuls in
for five of us. Mother, if this were not hard water--(here there was a
noise as of a spoon hammering upon the iron)--two spoonfuls less would
make tea of a better flavor and of equal strength. Now, there are three
hundred and sixty-five times and a quarter tea-times in the year ----”

“And how many spoonfuls, brother, to the quarter of a tea-time?”

“Maria, you’ve no head for figures. I say nothing of the tea consumed at
breakfast. Multiply----”

“My dear boy, you have left school; no one asks you to multiply. Hand me
the muffin.”

Nephelo, released, was unable to look about him, owing to the high walls
of the slop-basin which surrounded him on every side. The room was
filled with pleasant sunset light, but Nephelo soon saw the coming
shadow of the muffin-plate, and all was dark directly afterwards.

“Take cooking, mother. M. Soyer[4] says you can’t boil many vegetables
properly in London water. Greens won’t be greens; French beans are
tinged with yellow, and peas shrivel. It don’t open the pores of meat,
and make it succulent, as softer water does. M. Soyer believes that the
true flavor of meat cannot be extracted with hard water. Bread does not
rise so well when made with it. Horses----”

“My dear boy, M. Soyer don’t cook horses.”

“Horses, Dr. Playfair tells us, sheep, and pigeons, will refuse hard
water if they can get it soft, though from the muddiest pool.
Race-horses, when carried to a place where the water is notoriously
hard, have a supply of softer water carried with them to preserve their
good condition. Not to speak of gripes, hard water will assuredly
produce what people call a staring coat.”

“Ah, no doubt, then, it was London water that created Mr. Blossomley’s
blue swallow-tail.”

“Maria, you make nonsense out of everything. When you are Mrs.
Blossomley----”

“Now pass my cup.”

There was a pause and a clatter. Presently the muffin-plate was lifted,
and four times in succession there were black dregs thrown into the face
of Nephelo. After the perpetration of these insults he was once again
condemned to darkness.

“When you are Mrs. Blossomley, Maria,” so the voice went on, “when you
are Mrs. Blossomley, you will appreciate what I am now going to tell you
about washerwomen.”

“Couldn’t you postpone it, dear, until I am able to appreciate it. You
promised to take us to Rachel to-night.”

“Ah!” said another girlish voice, “you’ll not escape. We dress at seven.
Until then--for the next twelve minutes you may speak. Bore on, we will
endure.”

“As for you, Catherine, Maria teaches you, I see, to chatter. But if
Mrs. B. would object to the reception of a patent mangle as a wedding
present from her brother, she had better hear him now. Washerwoman’s
work is not a thing to overlook, I tell you. Before a shirt is worn out,
there will have been spent upon it five times its intrinsic value in the
washing-tub. The washing of clothes costs more, by a great deal, than
the clothes themselves. The yearly cost of washing to a household of the
middle class amounts, on the average, to about a third part of the
rental, or a twelfth part of the total income. Among the poor, the
average expense of washing will more probably be half the rental if they
wash at home, but not more than a fourth of it if they employ the Model
Wash-houses. The weekly cost of washing to a poor man averages certainly
not less than fourpence halfpenny. Small tradesmen, driven to economize
in linen, spend perhaps not more than ninepence; in the middle and upper
classes, the cost weekly varies from a shilling to five shillings for
each person, and amounts very often to a larger sum. On these grounds,
Mr. Bullar, Honorary Secretary to the Association for Promoting Baths
and Wash-houses, estimates the washing expenditure of London at a
shilling a week for each inhabitant, or, for the whole, five millions of
pounds yearly. Professor Clark--”

“My dear Professor Tom, you have consumed four of your twelve minutes.”

“Professor Clark judges from such estimates as can be furnished by the
trade, that the consumption of soap in London is fifteen pounds to each
person per annum--twice as much as is employed in other parts of
England. That quantity of soap costs six-and-eightpence; water, per
head, costs half as much, or three-and-fourpence; or each man’s soap and
water costs throughout London, on an average, ten shillings for twelve
months. If the hardness of the water be diminished, there is a
diminution in the want of soap. For every grain of carbonate of lime
dissolved in each gallon of any water, Mr. Donaldson declares two ounces
of soap more for a hundred gallons of that water are required. Every
such grain is called a degree of hardness. Water of five degrees of
hardness requires, for example, two ounces of soap; water of eight
degrees of hardness, then will need fifteen; and water of sixteen
degrees, will demand thirty-two. Sixteen degrees, Maria, is the hardness
of Thames water--of the water, mother, which has poached upon your
tea-caddy. You see, then, that when we pay for the soap we use at the
rate of six-and-eightpence each, since the unusual hardness of our water
causes us to use a double quantity, every man in London pays at an
average rate of three-and-fourpence a year his tax for a hard water
through the cost of soap alone.”

“Now you must finish in five minutes, brother Tom.”

“But soap is not the only matter that concerns the washerwoman and her
customers. There is labor, also, and the wear and tear; there is a
double amount of destruction to our linen, involved in the double time
of rubbing and the double soaping, which hard water compels washerwomen
to employ. So that, when all things have been duly reckoned up in our
account, we find that the outlay caused by the necessities for washing
linen in a town supplied like London with exceedingly hard water, is
four times greater than it would be if soft water were employed. The
cost of washing, as I told you, has been estimated at five millions
a-year. So that, if these calculations be correct, more than three
millions of money, nearly four millions, is the amount filched yearly
from the Londoners by their hard water through the wash-tub only. To
that sum, Mrs. Blossomley, being of a respectable family and very
partial to clean linen, will contribute of course much more than her
average proportion.”

“Well, Mr. Orator, I was not listening to all you said, but what I heard
I do think much exaggerated.”

“I take it, sister, from the Government Report; oblige me by believing
half of it, and still the case is strong. It is quite time for people to
be stirring.”

“So it is, I declare. Your twelve minutes are spent, and we will always
be ready for the play. If you talk there of water, I will shriek.”

Here there arose a chatter which Nephelo found to be about matters that,
unlike the water topic, did not at all interest himself. There was a
rustle and a movement; and a creaking noise approached the drawing-room,
which Nephelo discovered presently to be caused by papa’s boots as he
marched upstairs after his post-prandial slumberings. There was more
talk uninteresting to the fairy; Nephelo, therefore, became drowsy; his
drowsiness might at the same time have been aggravated by the close
confinement he experienced in an unwholesome atmosphere beneath the
muffin-plate. He was aroused by a great clattering; this the maid caused
who was carrying him down stairs upon a tray with all the other
tea-things.

From a sweet dream of nuptials with Cirrha, Nephelo was awakened to the
painful consciousness that he had not yet succeeded in effecting any
great good for the human race; he had but rinsed a teapot. With a faint
impulse of hope the desponding fairy noticed that the slop-basin in
which he sat was lifted from the tray, in a few minutes after the tray
had been deposited upon the kitchen-dresser. Pity poor Nephelo! By a
remorseless scullery-maid he was dashed rudely from the basin into a
trough of stone, from which he tumbled through a hole placed there on
purpose to engulf him,--tumbled through into a horrible abyss.

This abyss was a long dungeon running from back to front beneath the
house, built of bricks--rotten now, and saturated with moisture. Some of
the bricks had fallen in, or crumbled into nothingness; and Nephelo saw
that the soil without the dungeon was quite wet. The dungeon-floor was
coated with pollutions, travelled over by a sluggish shallow stream,
with which the fairy floated. The whole dungeon’s atmosphere was foul
and poisonous. Nephelo found now what those exhalations were which rose
through every opening in the house, through vent-holes and the
burrowings of rats; for rats and other venom tenanted this noisome den.
This was the pestilential gallery called by the good people of the
house, their drain. A trap door at one end confined the fairy in this
place with other Water-Drops, until there should be collected a
sufficient body of them to negotiate successfully for egress.

The object of this door was to prevent the ingress of much more foul
matter from without; and its misfortune was, that in so doing it
necessarily pent up a concentrated putrid gas within. At length Nephelo
escaped; but, alas! it was from a Newgate to a Bastille--from the drain
into the sewer. This was a long-vaulted prison running near the surface
underneath the street. Shaken by the passage overhead of carriages, not
a few bricks had fallen in; and Nephelo hurrying forward, wholly
possessed by the one thought--could he escape?--fell presently into a
trap. An oyster-shell had fixed itself upright between two bricks
unevenly jointed together; much solid filth had grown around it; and in
this Nephelo was caught. Here he remained for a whole month, during
which time he saw many floods of water pass him, leaving himself with a
vast quantity of obstinate encrusted filth unmoved. At the month’s end
there came some men to scrape, and sweep, and cleanse; then with a
sudden flow of water, Nephelo was forced along, and presently, with a
large number of emancipated foulnesses, received his discharge from
prison, and was let loose upon the River Thames.

Nephelo struck against a very dirty Drop.

“Keep off, will you?” the Drop exclaimed. “You are not fit to touch a
person, sewer-bird.”

“Why, where are you from, my sweet gentleman?”

“Oh! I? I’ve had a turn through some Model Drains. Tubular drains they
call ’em. Look at me; isn’t that clear?”

“There’s nothing clear about you,” replied Nephelo. “What do you mean by
Model Drains?”

“I mean I’ve come from Upper George Street through a twelve-inch pipe
four or five times faster than one travels over an old sewer-bed;
travelled express, no stoppage.”

“Indeed!”

“Yes. Impermeable, earthenware, tubular pipes, accurately dove-tailed. I
come from an experimental district. When it’s all settled, there’s to be
water on at high pressure everywhere, and an earthenware drain pipe
under every tap, a tube of no more than the necessary size. Then these
little pipes are to run down the earth; and there’s not to be a great
brick drain running underneath each house into the street; the pipes run
into a larger tube of earthenware that is to be laid at the backs of
all the houses; these tubes run into larger ones, but none of them very
monstrous; and so that there is a constant flow, like circulation of the
blood; and all the pipes are to run at last into one large conduit,
which is to run out of town with all the sewage matter and discharge so
far down the Thames, that no return tide ever can bring it back to
London. Some is to go branching off into the fields to be manure.”

“Humph!” said Nephelo. “You profess to be very clever. How do you know
all this?”

“Know? Bless you, I’m a regular old Thames Drop. I’ve been in the
cisterns, in the tumblers, down the sewers, in the river, up the pipes,
in the reservoirs, in the cisterns, in the teapots, down the sewers, in
the river, up the pipes, in the reservoirs, in the cisterns, in the
saucepans, down the sewers, in the Thames--”

“Hold! Stop there now!” said Nephelo. “Well, so you have heard a great
deal in your lifetime. You’ve had some adventures, doubtless?”

“I believe you,” said the Cockney-Drop. “The worst was when I was pumped
once as fresh water into Rotherhithe. That place is below high-water
mark; so are Bermondsey and St. George’s, Southwark. Newington, St.
Olave’s, Westminster, and Lambeth, are but little better. Well, you
know, drains of the old sort always leak, and there’s a great deal more
water poured into London than the Londoners have stowage room for, so
the water in low districts can’t pass off at high water, and there’s a
precious flood. We sopped the ground at Rotherhithe, but I thought I
never should escape again.”

“Will the new pipes make any difference to that?”

“Yes; so I am led to understand. They are to be laid with a regular
fall, to pass the water off, which, being constant, will be never in
excess. The fall will be to a point of course below the water level, and
at a convenient place the contents of these drains are to be pumped up
into the main sewer. Horrible deal of death caused, Sir, by the damp in
those low districts. One man in thirty-seven died of cholera in
Rotherhithe last year, when in Clerkenwell, at sixty-three feet above
high water, there died but one in five hundred and thirty. The
proportion held throughout.”

“Ah, by the bye, you have heard, of course, complainings of the quality
of water. Will the Londoners sink wells for themselves?”

“Wells! What a child you are! Just from the clouds, I see. Wells in a
large town get horribly polluted. They propose to consolidate and
improve two of the best Thames Water Companies, the Grand Junction and
Vauxhall, for the supply of London, until their great scheme can be
introduced; and to maintain them afterwards as a reserve guard in case
their great scheme shouldn’t prove so triumphant as they think it will
be.”

“What is this great scheme, I should like to know?”

“Why, they talk of fetching rain-water from a tract of heath between
Bagshot and Farnham. The rain there soaks through a thin crust of
growing herbage, which is the only perfect filter, chemical as well as
mechanical--the living rootlets extract more than we can, where impurity
exists. Then, Sir, the rain runs into a large bed of silicious sand,
placed over marl; below the marl there is silicious sand again--Ah, I
perceive you are not geological.”

“Go on.”

“The sand, washed by the rains of ages, holds the water without soiling
it more than a glass tumbler would, and the Londoners say that in this
way, by making artificial channels and a big reservoir, they can collect
twenty-eight thousand gallons a day of water nearly pure. They require
forty thousand gallons, and propose to get the rest in the same
neighborhood from tributaries of the River Wey, not quite so pure, but
only half as hard as Thames water, and unpolluted.”

“How is it to get to London?”

“Through a covered aqueduct. Covered for coolness’ sake, and
cleanliness. Then it is to be distributed through earthenware pipes,
laid rather deep, again for coolness’ sake in the first instance, but
for cleanliness as well. The water is to come in at high pressure, and
run in iron or lead pipes up every house, scale every wall. There is to
be a tap in every room, and under every tap there is to be the entrance
to a drain-pipe. Where water supply ends, drainage begins. They are to
be the two halves of a single system. Furthermore, there are to be
numbers of plugs opening in every street, and streets and courts are to
be washed out every morning, or every other morning, as the traffic may
require, with hose and jet. The Great Metropolis mustn’t be dirty, or be
content with rubbing a finger here and there over its dirt. It is to
have its face washed every morning, just before the hours of business.
The water at high pressure is to set people’s invention at work upon the
introduction of hydraulic apparatus for cranes, et cætera, which now
cause much hand labor and are scarcely worth steam-power. Furthermore--”

“My dear friend,” cried Nephelo, “you are too clever. More than half of
what you say is unintelligible to me.”

“But the grand point,” continued the garrulous Thames drop, “is the
expense. The saving of cisterns, ball-cocks, plumbers’ bills, expansive
sewer-works, constant repairs, hand labor, street-sweeping, soap, tea,
linen, fuel, steam-boilers now damaged by incrustation, boards,
salaries, doctors’ bills, time, parish rates--”

The catalogue was never ended, for the busy Drop was suddenly entangled
among hair upon the corpse of a dead cat, which fate also the fairy
narrowly escaped, to be in the next minute sucked up as Nubis had been
sucked, through pipes into a reservoir. Weary with the incessant
chattering of his conceited friend, whose pride he trusted that a night
with puss might humble, Nephelo now lurked silent in a corner. In a
dreamy state he floated with the current underground, and was half
sleeping in a pipe under some London street, when a great noise of
trampling overhead, mingled with cries, awakened him.

“What is the matter now?” the fairy cried.

“A fire, no doubt, to judge by the noise,” said a neighbor quietly.
Nephelo panted now with triumph. Cirrha was before his eyes. Now he
could benefit the race of man.

“Let us get out,” cried Nephelo; “let us assist in running to the
rescue.”

“Don’t be impatient,” said a drowsy Drop. “We can’t get out of here till
they have found the Company’s turncock, and then he must go to this plug
and that plug in one street, and another, before we are turned off.”

“In the meantime the fire--”

“Will burn the house down. Help in five minutes would save a house. Now
the luckiest man will seldom have his premises attended to in less than
twenty.”

Nephelo thought here was another topic for his gossip in the Thames. The
plugs talked of with a constant water-supply would take the sting out of
the Fire-Fiend.

Presently among confused movements, confused sounds, amid a rush of
water, Nephelo burst into the light--into the vivid light of a great
fire that leapt and roared as Nephelo was dashed against it! Through the
red flames and the black smoke in a burst of steam, the fairy reascended
hopeless to the clouds.


IV.

RASCALLY CONDUCT OF THE PRINCE OF NIMBUS.

The Prince of Nimbus, whose good-nature we have celebrated, was not good
for nothing. Having graciously permitted all the suitors of the Princess
Cirrha to go down to earth and labor for her hand, he took advantage of
their absence, and, having the coast clear, importuned the daughter of
King Cumulus with his own addresses. Cirrha was not disposed to listen
to them, but the rogue her father was ambitious. He desired to make a
good alliance, and that object was better gained by intermarriage with a
prince than with a subject. “There will be an uproar,” said the old
man, “when those fellows down below come back. They will look black and
no doubt storm a little, but we’ll have our royal marriage
notwithstandstanding.” So the Prince of Nimbus married Cirrha, and
Nephelo arrived at the court of King Cumulus one evening during the
celebration of the bridal feast. His wrath was seen on earth in many
parts of England in the shape of a great thunderstorm on the 16th of
July. The adventures of the other suitors, they being thus cheated of
their object, need not be detailed. As each returns he will be made
acquainted with the scandalous fraud practised by the Prince of Nimbus,
and this being the state of politics in Cloud-Land at the moment when we
go to press, we may fairly expect to witness five or six more
thunderstorms before next winter. Each suitor, as he returns and finds
how shamefully he has been cheated, will create a great disturbance; and
no wonder. Conduct so rascally as that of the Prince of Nimbus is enough
to fill the clouds with uproar.



VIII.

An Excellent Opportunity.


In one of the dirtiest and most gloomy streets leading to the Rue Saint
Denis, in Paris, there stands a tall and ancient house, the lower
portion of which is a large mercer’s shop. This establishment is held to
be one of the very best in the neighborhood, and has for many years
belonged to an individual on whom we will bestow the name of Ramin.

About ten years ago, Monsieur Ramin was a jovial red-faced man of forty,
who joked his customers into purchasing his goods, flattered the pretty
_grisettes_ outrageously, and now and then gave them a Sunday treat at
the barrier, as the cheapest way of securing their custom. Some people
thought him a careless, good-natured fellow, and wondered how, with his
off-hand ways, he contrived to make money so fast, but those who knew
him well saw that he was one of those who “never lost an opportunity.”
Others declared that Monsieur Ramin’s own definition of his character
was, that he was a “_bon enfant_,” and that “it was all luck.” He
shrugged his shoulders and laughed when people hinted at his deep
scheming in making, and his skill in taking advantage of Excellent
Opportunities.

He was sitting in his gloomy parlor one fine morning in Spring,
breakfasting from a dark liquid honored with the name of onion soup,
glancing at the newspaper, and keeping a vigilant look on the shop
through the open door, when his old servant Catherine suddenly
observed:--

“I suppose you know Monsieur Bonelle has come to live in the vacant
apartment on the fourth floor?”

“What!” exclaimed Monsieur Ramin in a loud key.

Catherine repeated her statement, to which her master listened in total
silence.

“Well!” he said, at length, in his most careless tones, “what about the
old fellow?” and he once more resumed his triple occupation of reading,
eating, and watching.

“Why,” continued Catherine, “they say he is nearly dying, and that his
housekeeper, Marguerite, vowed he could never get up stairs alive. It
took two men to carry him up; and when he was at length quiet in bed,
Marguerite went down to the porter’s lodge and sobbed there a whole
hour, saying, ‘Her poor master had the gout, the rheumatics, and a bad
asthma; that though he had been got up stairs, he would never come down
again alive; that if she could only get him to confess his sins and make
his will, she would not mind it so much; but that when she spoke of the
lawyer or the priest, he blasphemed at her like a heathen, and declared
he would live to bury her and everybody else.’”

Monsieur Ramin heard Catherine with great attention, forgot to finish
his soup, and remained for five minutes in profound rumination, without
so much as perceiving two customers who had entered the shop and were
waiting to be served. When aroused, he was heard to exclaim:

“What an excellent opportunity!”

Monsieur Bonelle had been Ramin’s predecessor. The succession of the
latter to the shop was a mystery. No one ever knew how it was that this
young and poor assistant managed to replace his patron. Some said that
he had detected Monsieur Bonelle in frauds which he threatened to
expose, unless the business were given up to him as the price of his
silence; others averred that, having drawn a prize in the lottery, he
had resolved to set up a fierce opposition over the way, and that
Monsieur Bonelle, having obtained a hint of his intentions, had thought
it most prudent to accept the trifling sum his clerk offered, and avoid
a ruinous competition. Some charitable souls--moved no doubt by Monsieur
Bonelle’s misfortune--endeavored to console and pump him; but all they
could get from him was the bitter exclamation, “To think I should have
been duped by _him_!” For Ramin had the art, though then a mere youth,
to pass himself off on his master as an innocent provincial lad. Those
who sought an explanation from the new mercer, were still more
unsuccessful. “My good old master,” he said in his jovial way, “felt in
need of repose, and so I obligingly relieved him of all business and
botheration.”

Years passed away; Ramin prospered, and neither thought nor heard of his
“good old master.” The house, of which he tenanted the lower portion,
was offered for sale; he had long coveted it, and had almost concluded
an agreement with the actual owner, when Monsieur Bonelle unexpectedly
stepped in at the eleventh hour, and by offering a trifle more secured
the bargain. The rage and mortification of Monsieur Ramin were extreme.
He could not understand how Bonelle, whom he had thought ruined, had
scraped up so large a sum; his lease was out, and he now felt himself at
the mercy of the man he had so much injured. But either Monsieur Bonelle
was free from vindictive feelings, or those feelings did not blind him
to the expediency of keeping a good tenant; for though he raised the
rent, until Monsieur Ramin groaned inwardly, he did not refuse to renew
the lease. They had met at that period; but never since.

“Well, Catherine,” observed Monsieur Ramin to his old servant on the
following morning, “how is that good Monsieur Bonelle getting on?”

“I dare say you feel very uneasy about him,” she replied with a sneer.

Monsieur Ramin looked up and frowned.

“Catherine,” said he, dryly, “you will have the goodness, in the first
place, not to make impertinent remarks; in the second place, you will
oblige me by going up stairs to inquire after the health of Monsieur
Bonelle, and say that I sent you.”

Catherine grumbled and obeyed. Her master was in the shop, when she
returned in a few minutes, and delivered with evident satisfaction the
following gracious message:

“Monsieur Bonelle desires his compliments to you, and declines to state
how he is; he will also thank you to attend to your own shop, and not to
trouble yourself about his health.”

“How does he look?” asked Monsieur Ramin with the most perfect
composure.

“I caught a glimpse of him, and he appears to me to be rapidly preparing
for the good offices of the undertaker.”

Monsieur Ramin smiled, rubbed his hands, and joked merrily with a
dark-eyed grisette, who was cheapening some ribbon for her cap. That
girl made an excellent bargain that day.

Towards dusk the mercer left the shop to the care of his attendant, and
softly stole up to the fourth story. In answer to his gentle ring, a
little old woman opened the door, and giving him a rapid look, said
briefly,

“Monsieur is inexorable; he won’t see any doctor whatever.”

She was going to shut the door in his face, when Ramin quickly
interposed, under his breath, with, “_I_ am not a doctor.”

She looked at him from head to foot.

“Are you a lawyer?”

“Nothing of the sort, my good lady.”

“Well, then, are you a priest?”

“I may almost say, quite the reverse.”

“Indeed, you must go away; master sees no one.”

Once more she would have shut the door, but Ramin prevented her.

“My good lady,” said he, in his most insinuating tones, “it is true I am
neither a lawyer, a doctor, nor a priest. I am an old friend, a very old
friend of your excellent master; I have come to see good Monsieur
Bonelle in his present affliction.”

Marguerite did not answer, but allowed him to enter, and closed the door
behind him. He was going to pass from the narrow and gloomy ante-chamber
into an inner room--whence now proceeded a sound of loud coughing--when
the old woman laid her hand on his arm, and raising herself on tip-toe
to reach his ear, whispered:

“For Heaven’s sake, sir, since you are his friend, do talk to him; do
tell him to make his will, and hint something about a soul to be saved,
and all that sort of a thing: do, sir!”

Monsieur Ramin nodded and winked in a way that said “I will.” He proved,
however, his prudence by not speaking aloud, for a voice from within
sharply exclaimed,

“Marguerite, you are talking to some one. Marguerite, I will see neither
doctor nor lawyer; and if any meddling priest dare--”

“It is only an old friend, sir;” interrupted Marguerite, opening the
inner door.

Her master, on looking up, perceived the red face of Monsieur Ramin
peeping over the old woman’s shoulder, and irefully cried out,

“How dare you bring that fellow here? And you, sir, how dare you come?”

“My good old friend, there are feelings,” said Ramin, spreading his
fingers over the left pocket of his waistcoat,--“there are feelings,” he
repeated, “that cannot be subdued. One such feeling brought me here.
The fact is, I am a good-natured, easy fellow, and I never bear malice.
I never forget an old friend, but love to forget old differences when I
find one party in affliction.”

He drew a chair forward as he spoke, and composedly seated himself
opposite to his late master.

Monsieur Bonelle was a thin old man, with a pale sharp face, and keen
features. At first, he eyed his visitor from the depths of his vast
arm-chair; but, as if not satisfied with this distant view, he bent
forward, and laying both hands on his thin knees, he looked up into
Ramin’s face with a fixed and piercing gaze. He had not, however, the
power of disconcerting his guest.

“What did you come here for?” he at length asked.

“Merely to have the extreme satisfaction of seeing how you are, my good
old friend. Nothing more.”

“Well, look at me--and then go.”

Nothing could be so discouraging; but this was an Excellent Opportunity,
and when Monsieur Ramin _had_ an excellent opportunity in view, his
pertinacity was invincible. Being now resolved to stay, it was not in
Monsieur Bonelle’s power to banish him. At the same time, he had tact
enough to render his presence agreeable. He knew that his coarse and
boisterous wit had often delighted Monsieur Bonelle of old, and he now
exerted himself so successfully as to betray the old man two or three
times into hearty laughter.

“Ramin,” said he, at length, laying his thin hand on the arm of his
guest, and peering with his keen glance into the mercer’s purple face,
“you are a funny fellow, but I know you; you cannot make me believe you
have called just to see how I am, and to amuse me. Come, be candid for
once; what do you want?”

Ramin threw himself back in his chair, and laughed blandly, as much as
to say, “_Can_ you suspect me?”

“I have no shop now out of which you can wheedle me,” continued the old
man; “and surely you are not such a fool as to come to me for money.”

“Money?” repeated the draper, as if his host had mentioned something he
never dreamt of. “Oh no!”

Ramin saw it would not do to broach the subject he had really come
about, too abruptly, now that suspicion seemed so wide awake--_the_
opportunity had not arrived.

“There is something up, Ramin, I know; I see it in the twinkle of your
eye; but you can’t deceive me again.”

“Deceive _you_?” said the jolly schemer, shaking his head reverentially.
“Deceive a man of your penetration and depth? Impossible! The bare
supposition is flattery. My dear friend,” he continued, soothingly, “I
did not dream of such a thing. The fact is, Bonelle, though they call me
a jovial, careless, rattling dog, I have a conscience; and, somehow, I
have never felt quite easy about the way in which I became your
successor downstairs. It _was_ rather sharp practice, I admit.”

Bonelle seemed to relent.

“Now for it,” said the Opportunity-hunter to himself--“By-the-by,”
(speaking aloud,) “this house must be a great trouble to you in your
present weak state? Two of your lodgers have lately gone away without
paying--a great nuisance, especially to an invalid.”

“I tell you I’m as sound as a colt.”

“At all events, the whole concern must be a great bother to you. If I
were you, I would sell the house.”

“And if I were _you_,” returned the landlord, dryly, “I would buy it--”

“Precisely,” interrupted the tenant, eagerly.

“That is, if you could get it. Phoo! I knew you were after something.
Will you give eighty thousand francs for it?” abruptly asked Monsieur
Bonelle.

“Eighty thousand francs!” echoed Ramin. “Do you take me for Louis
Philippe or the Bank of France?”

“Then, we’ll say no more about it--are you not afraid of leaving your
shop so long?”

Ramin returned to the charge, heedless of the hint to depart. “The fact
is, my good old friend, ready money is not my strong point just now. But
if you wish very much to be relieved of the concern, what say you to a
life annuity? I could manage that.”

Monsieur Bonelle gave a short, dry, churchyard cough, and looked as if
his life were not worth an hour’s purchase. “You think yourself
immensely clever, I dare say,” he said. “They have persuaded you that I
am dying. Stuff! I shall bury you yet.”

The mercer glanced at the thin fragile frame, and exclaimed to himself,
“Deluded old gentleman!” “My dear Bonelle,” he continued, aloud, “I know
well the strength of your admirable constitution; but allow me to
observe that you neglect yourself too much. Now, suppose a good sensible
doctor--”

“Will you pay him?” interrogated Bonelle sharply.

“Most willingly,” replied Ramin, with an eagerness that made the old man
smile. “As to the annuity, since the subject annoys you, we will talk of
it some other time.”

“After you have heard the doctor’s report,” sneered Bonelle.

The mercer gave him a stealthy glance, which the old man’s keen look
immediately detected. Neither could repress a smile; these good souls
understood one another perfectly, and Ramin saw that this was not the
Excellent Opportunity he desired, and departed.

The next day Ramin sent a neighboring medical man, and heard it was his
opinion that if Bonelle held on for three months longer, it would be a
miracle. Delightful news!

Several days elapsed, and although very anxious, Ramin assumed a
careless air, and did not call upon his landlord, or take any notice of
him. At the end of the week old Marguerite entered the shop to make a
trifling purchase.

“And how are we getting on up-stairs?” negligently asked Monsieur Ramin.

“Worse and worse, my good Sir,” she sighed. “We have rheumatic pains,
which make us often use expressions the reverse of Christian-like, and
yet nothing can induce us to see either the lawyer or the priest; the
gout is getting nearer to our stomach every day, and still we go on
talking about the strength of our constitution. Oh, Sir, if you have any
influence with us, do, pray do, tell us how wicked it is to die without
making one’s will or confessing one’s sins.”

“I shall go up this very evening,” ambiguously replied Monsieur Ramin.

He kept his promise, and found Monsieur Bonelle in bed, groaning with
pain, and in the worst of tempers.

“What poisoning doctor did you send?” he asked, with an ireful glance;
“I want no doctor, I am not ill; I will not follow his prescription; he
forbade me to eat; I _will_ eat.”

“He is a very clever man,” said the visitor. “He told me that never in
the whole course of his experience has he met with what he called so
much ‘resisting power’ as exists in your frame. He asked me if you were
not of a long-lived race.”

“That is as people may judge,” replied Monsieur Bonelle. “All I can say
is, that my grandfather died at ninety, and my father at eighty-six.”

“The doctor owned that you had a wonderfully strong constitution.”

“Who said I hadn’t?” exclaimed the invalid feebly.

“You may rely on it, you would preserve your health better if you had
not the trouble of these vexatious lodgers. Have you thought about the
life annuity?” said Ramin as carelessly as he could, considering how
near the matter was to his hopes and wishes.

“Why, I have scruples,” returned Bonelle, coughing. “I do not wish to
take you in. My longevity would be the ruin of you.”

“To meet that difficulty,” quickly replied the mercer, “we can reduce
the interest.”

“But I must have high interest,” placidly returned Monsieur Bonelle.

Ramin, on hearing this, burst into a loud fit of laughter, called
Monsieur Bonelle a sly old fox, gave him a poke in the ribs, which made
the old man cough for five minutes, and then proposed that they should
talk it over some other day. The mercer left Monsieur Bonelle in the act
of protesting that he felt as strong as a man of forty.

Monsieur Ramin felt in no hurry to conclude the proposed agreement. “The
later one begins to pay, the better,” he said, as he descended the
stairs.

Days passed on, and the negotiation made no way. It struck the observant
tradesman that all was not right. Old Marguerite several times refused
to admit him, declaring her master was asleep; there was something
mysterious and forbidding in her manner that seemed to Monsieur Ramin
very ominous. At length a sudden thought occurred to him; the
housekeeper--wishing to become her master’s heir--had heard his scheme
and opposed it. On the very day that he arrived at this conclusion, he
met a lawyer, with whom he had formerly had some transactions, coming
down the staircase. The sight sent a chill through the mercer’s
commercial heart, and a presentiment--one of those presentiments that
seldom deceive--told him it was too late. He had, however, the fortitude
to abstain from visiting Monsieur Bonelle until evening came; when he
went up, resolved to see him in spite of all Marguerite might urge. The
door was half-open, and the old housekeeper stood talking on the landing
to a middle-aged man in a dark cassock.

“It is all over! The old witch has got the priests at him,” thought
Ramin, inwardly groaning at his own folly in allowing himself to be
forestalled.

“You cannot see Monsieur to-night,” sharply said Marguerite, as he
attempted to pass her.

“Alas! is my excellent friend so very ill?” asked Ramin, in a mournful
tone.

“Sir,” eagerly said the clergyman, catching him by the button of his
coat, “if you are indeed the friend of that unhappy man, do seek to
bring him into a more suitable frame of mind. I have seen many dying
men, but never so much obstinacy, never such infatuated belief in the
duration of life.”

“Then you think he really _is_ dying?” asked Ramin; and, in spite of the
melancholy accent he endeavored to assume, there was something so
peculiar in his tone, that the priest looked at him very fixedly as he
slowly replied,

“Yes, Sir, I think he is.”

“Ah!” was all Monsieur Ramin said; and as the clergyman had now relaxed
his hold of the button, Ramin passed in spite of the remonstrances of
Marguerite, who rushed after the priest. He found Monsieur Bonelle still
in bed in a towering rage.

“Oh! Ramin, my friend,” he groaned, “never take a housekeeper, and never
let her know you have any property. They are harpies, Ramin,--harpies!
such a day as I have had; first, the lawyer, who comes to write down ‘my
last testamentary dispositions,’ as he calls them; then the priest, who
gently hints that I am a dying man. Oh, what a day!”

“And _did_ you make your will, my excellent friend?” softly asked
Monsieur Ramin, with a keen look.

“Make my will?” indignantly exclaimed the old man; “make my will? what
do you mean, Sir? do you mean to say I am dying?”

“Heaven forbid!” piously ejaculated Ramin.

“Then why do you ask me if I have been making my will?” angrily resumed
the old man. He then began to be extremely abusive.

When money was in the way, Monsieur Ramin, though otherwise of a violent
temper, had the meekness of a lamb. He bore the treatment of his host
with the meekest patience, and having first locked the door so as to
make sure that Marguerite would not interrupt them, he watched Monsieur
Bonelle attentively, and satisfied himself that the Excellent
Opportunity he had been ardently longing for had arrived. “He is going
fast,” he thought; “and unless I settle the agreement to-night, and get
it drawn up and signed to-morrow, it will be too late.”

“My dear friend,” he at length said aloud, on perceiving that the old
gentleman had fairly exhausted himself and was lying panting on his
back, “you are indeed a lamentable instance of the lengths to which the
greedy lust of lucre will carry our poor human nature. It is really
distressing to see Marguerite, a faithful, attached servant, suddenly
converted into a tormenting harpy by the prospect of a legacy! Lawyers
and priests flock around you like birds of prey, drawn hither by the
scent of gold! Oh, the miseries of having delicate health combined with
a sound constitution and large property!”

“Ramin,” groaned the old man, looking inquiringly into his visitor’s
face, “you are again going to talk to me about that annuity--I know you
are!”

“My excellent friend, it is merely to deliver you from a painful
position.”

“I am sure, Ramin, you think in your soul I am dying,” whimpered
Monsieur Bonelle.

“Absurd, my dear Sir. Dying? I will prove to you that you have never
been in better health. In the first place you feel no pain.”

“Excepting from rheumatism,” groaned Monsieur Bonelle.

“Rheumatism! who ever died of rheumatism? and if that be all--”

“No, it is not all,” interrupted the old man with great irritability;
“what would you say to the gout getting higher and higher up every
day?”

“The gout is rather disagreeable, but if there is nothing else--”

“Yes, there is something else,” sharply said Monsieur Bonelle. “There is
an asthma that will scarcely let me breathe, and a racking pain in my
head that does not allow me a moment’s ease. But if you think I am
dying, Ramin, you are quite mistaken.”

“No doubt, my dear friend, no doubt; but in the meanwhile, suppose we
talk of this annuity. Shall we say one thousand francs a year.”

“What?” asked Bonelle, looking at him very fixedly.

“My dear friend, I mistook; I meant two thousand francs per annum,”
hurriedly rejoined Ramin.

Monsieur Bonelle closed his eyes, and appeared to fall into a gentle
slumber. The mercer coughed; the sick man never moved.

“Monsieur Bonelle.”

No reply.

“My excellent friend.”

Utter silence.

“Are you asleep?”

A long pause.

“Well, then, what do you say to three thousand?”

Monsieur Bonelle opened his eyes.

“Ramin,” said he, sententiously, “you are a fool; the house brings me in
four thousand as it is.”

This was quite false, and the mercer knew it; but he had his own reasons
for wishing to seem to believe it true.

“Good Heavens!” said he, with an air of great innocence, “who could have
thought it, and the lodgers constantly running away. Four thousand?
Well, then, you shall have four thousand.”

Monsieur Bonelle shut his eyes once more, and murmured “The mere
rental--nonsense!” He then folded his hands on his breast, and appeared
to compose himself to sleep.

“Oh, what a sharp man of business he is!” Ramin said, admiringly; but
for once omnipotent flattery failed in its effect; “So acute!” continued
he, with a stealthy glance at the old man, who remained perfectly
unmoved. “I see you will insist upon making it the other five hundred
francs.”

Monsieur Ramin said this as if five thousand five hundred francs had
already been mentioned, and was the very summit of Monsieur Bonelle’s
ambition. But the ruse failed in its effect; the sick man never so much
as stirred.

“But, my dear friend,” urged Monsieur Ramin in a tone of feeling
remonstrance, “there is such a thing as being too sharp, too acute. How
can you expect that I shall give you more when your constitution is so
good, and you are to be such a long liver?”

“Yes, but I may be carried off one of those days,” quietly observed the
old man, evidently wishing to turn the chance of his own death to
account.

“Indeed, and I hope so,” muttered the mercer, who was getting very
ill-tempered.

“You see,” soothingly continued Bonelle, “you are so good a man of
business, Ramin, that you will double the actual value of the house in
no time. I am a quiet, easy person, indifferent to money; otherwise this
house would now bring me in eight thousand at the very least.”

“Eight thousand!” indignantly exclaimed the mercer. “Monsieur Bonelle,
you have no conscience. Come now, my dear friend, do be reasonable. Six
thousand francs a-year (I don’t mind saying six) is really a very
handsome income for a man of your quiet habits. Come, be reasonable.”
But Monsieur Bonelle turned a deaf ear to reason, and closed his eyes
once more. What between opening and shutting them for the next quarter
of an hour, he at length induced Monsieur Ramin to offer him seven
thousand francs.

“Very well, Ramin, agreed,” he quietly said; “you have made an
unconscionable bargain.” To this succeeded a violent fit of coughing.

As Ramin unlocked the door to leave, he found old Marguerite, who had
been listening all the time, ready to assail him with a torrent of
whispered abuse for duping her “poor dear innocent old master into such
a bargain.” The mercer bore it all very patiently; he could make
allowances for her excited feelings, and only rubbed his hands and bade
her a jovial good evening.

The agreement was signed on the following day, to the indignation of old
Marguerite, and the mutual satisfaction of the parties concerned.

Every one admired the luck and shrewdness of Ramin, for the old man
every day was reported worse; and it was clear to all that the first
quarter of the annuity would never be paid. Marguerite, in her wrath,
told the story as a grievance to every one; people listened, shook their
heads, and pronounced Monsieur Ramin to be a deuced clever fellow.

A month elapsed. As Ramin was coming down one morning from the attics,
where he had been giving notice to a poor widow who had failed in paying
her rent, he heard a light step on the stairs. Presently a sprightly
gentleman, in buoyant health and spirits, wearing the form of Monsieur
Bonelle, appeared. Ramin stood aghast.

“Well, Ramin,” gaily said the old man, “how are you getting on? Have you
been tormenting the poor widow up stairs? Why, man, we must live and let
live!”

“Monsieur Bonelle,” said the mercer, in a hollow tone, “may I ask where
are your rheumatics?”

“Gone, my dear friend,--gone.”

“And the gout that was creeping higher and higher every day,” exclaimed
Monsieur Ramin, in a voice of anguish.

“It went lower and lower, till it disappeared altogether,” composedly
replied Bonelle.

“And your asthma----”

“The asthma remains, but asthmatic people are proverbially long-lived.
It is, I have been told, the only complaint that Methuselah was troubled
with.” With this, Bonelle opened his door, shut it, and disappeared.

Ramin was transfixed on the stairs; petrified with intense
disappointment, and a powerful sense of having been duped. When
discovered, he stared vacantly, and raved about an Excellent Opportunity
of taking his revenge.

The wonderful cure was the talk of the neighborhood, whenever Monsieur
Bonelle appeared in the streets, jauntily flourishing his cane. In the
first frenzy of his despair, Ramin refused to pay; he accused every one
of having been in a plot to deceive him; he turned off Catherine and
expelled his porter; he publicly accused the lawyer and priest of
conspiracy; brought an action against the doctor, and lost it. He had
another brought against him for violently assaulting Marguerite, in
which he was cast in heavy damages. Monsieur Bonelle did not trouble
himself with useless remonstrances, but, when his annuity was refused,
employed such good legal arguments as the exasperated mercer could not
possibly resist.

Ten years have elapsed, and MM. Ramin and Bonelle still live on. For a
house which would have been dear at fifty thousand francs, the draper
has already handed over seventy thousand.

The once red-faced, jovial Ramin, is now a pale, haggard man, of sour
temper and aspect. To add to his anguish, he sees the old man thrive on
that money which it breaks his heart to give. Old Marguerite takes a
malicious pleasure in giving him an exact account of their good cheer,
and in asking him if he does not think Monsieur looks better and better
every day. Of one part of this torment Ramin might get rid, by giving
his old master notice to quit, and no longer having him in his house.
But this he cannot do; he has a secret fear that Bonelle would take some
Excellent Opportunity of dying without his knowledge, and giving some
other person an Excellent Opportunity of personating him, and receiving
the money in his stead.

The last accounts of the victim of Excellent Opportunities represent him
as being gradually worn down with disappointment. There seems every
probability of his being the first to leave the world; for Bonelle is
heartier than ever.

                               THE END.

                *       *       *       *       *

              =Popular Work! Twelfth Thousand Now Ready!=

                      LEWIE, OR THE BENDED TWIG.

                           BY COUSIN CICELY,

              Author of “Silver Lake Stories,” etc., etc.

              =One Volume 12mo.,            Price $1.00.=

  ALDEN, BEARDSLEY & CO., AUBURN, N. Y.,       }
  WANZER, BEARDSLEY & CO., ROCHESTER, N. Y.,   } _Publishers_.

    “Mother! thy gentle hand hath mighty power,
    For thou alone may’st train, and guide, and mould
    Plants that shall blossom, with an odor sweet,
    Or, like the cursed fig-tree, wither, and become
    Vile cumberers of the ground.”

Brief Extracts from Notices of the Press.

* * * A tale which deserves to rank with “The Wide, Wide World.” It is
written with graphic power, and full of interest.--_Hartford Repub._

* * * Her writings are equal to the best. She is a second Fanny
Fern.--_Palmyra Democrat._

* * * It is recommended by its excellent moral tone and its wholesome
practical inculcations.--_N. Y. Tribune._

* * * Full of grace and charm, its style and vivacity make it a most
amusing work. For the intellectual and thinking, it has a deeper lesson,
and while it thrills the heart, bids parents beware of that weakness
which prepares in infancy the misery of man. “Lewie” is one of the most
popular books now before the public, and needs no puffing, as it is
selling by thousands.--_N. Y. Day Book._

* * * The moral of the book is inestimable. The writer cannot fail to be
good, as she so faithfully portrays the evils which owe their origin to
the criminal neglect of proper parental discipline.--_Hunt’s Merchants’
Magazine._

* * * The plot is full of dramatic interest, yet entirely free from
extravagance; the incidents grow out of the main plot easily and
naturally, while the sentiment is healthy and unaffected. Commend us to
more writers like Cousin Cicely--books which we can see in the hands of
our young people without uneasiness. Books which interest by picturing
life as it is, instead of giving us galvanized society.--_National
Democrat._

* * * A touching and impressive story, unaffected in style and effective
in plot.--_N. Y. Evangelist._

* * * The story of the Governess, contained in this volume, is one of
rare interest.--_Highland Eagle._

* * * The story is a charming one--the most affecting we ever
read.--_Jersey Shore Republican._

* * * “Cousin Cicely” is just the person to portray family scenes.

* * * This story will be profitable reading.--_Daily Capital City Fact,
Columbus, Ohio._

* * * The contents of the work are of the first order, and
unexceptionable.--_Hartford Daily Times._

       *       *       *       *       *

FOOTNOTES:

 [1] Report of Mr. Bowie on the cause of Cholera in Bermondsey.

 [2] Report of Dr. Gavin.

 [3] Evidence of Mr. J. T. Cooper, Practical Chemist.

 [4] Evidence before the Board of Health.

       *       *       *       *       *

Typographical errors corrected by the etext transcriber:

gave him little encouagement=> gave him little encouagement {pg 11}

where an elegaut _déjeuner_=> where an elegant _déjeuner_ {pg 20}

wo had sprung=> woe had sprung {pg 27}

againt the barons=> against the barons {pg 35}

Ths spirit of a policeman=> The spirit of a policeman {pg 62}

three feet together anwhere=> three feet together anywhere {pg 207}

Nepho now lurked=> Nephelo now lurked {pg 321}

cried Nepho=> cried Nephelo {pg 322}

you are are not such a fool=> you are not such a fool {pg 334}





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