Part 3 out of 5
Thus the voices died away,--
"Might have been, but never may!"
Karin she left the kirk no more;
Never she passed the postern-door.
They found her dead at the vesper toll;--
May Heaven in mercy rest her soul!
THE ABBE DE L'EPEE.
It was well said, by one who has himself been a leader in one of the
great philanthropic enterprises of the day,[A] that, "if the truthful
history of any invention were written, we should find concerned in it
the thinker, who dreams, without reaching the means of putting his
imaginings in practice,--the mathematician, who estimates justly the
forces at command, in their relation to each other, but who forgets to
proportion them to the resistance to be encountered,--and so on, through
the thousand intermediates between the dream and the perfect idea, till
one comes who combines the result of the labor of all his predecessors,
and gives to the invention new life, and with it his name."
[Footnote A: M. Edouard Seguin.]
Such was the history of the movement for the education of deaf-mutes.
There had been a host of dreamy thinkers, who had invented, on paper,
processes for the instruction of these unfortunates, men like Cardan,
Bonet, Amman, Dalgarno, and Lana-Terzi, whose theories, in after years,
proved seeds of thought to more practical minds. There had been men
who had experimented on the subject till they were satisfied that
the deaf-mute could be taught, but who lacked the nerve, or the
philanthropy, to apply the results they had attained to the general
instruction of the deaf and dumb, or who carefully concealed their
processes, that they might leave them as heir-looms to their
families;--among the former may be reckoned Pedro de Ponce, Wallis, and
Pietro da Castro; among the latter, Pereira and Braidwood.
Yet there was wanting the man of earnest philanthropic spirit and
practical tact, who should glean from all these whatever of good there
was in their theories, and apply it efficiently in the education of
those who through all the generations since the flood had been dwellers
in the silent land, cut off from intercourse with their fellow-men, and
consigned alike by the philosopher's dictum and the theologian's decree
to the idiot's life and the idiot's destiny.
It was to such a work that the Abbe de l'Epee consecrated his life. But
he did more than this; he, too, was a discoverer, and to his mind was
revealed, in all its fulness and force, that great principle which lies
at the basis of the system of instruction which he initiated,--"that
there is no more necessary or natural connection between abstract ideas
and the articulate sounds which strike the ear, than there is between
the same ideas and the written characters which address themselves to
the eye." It was this principle, derided by the many, dimly perceived by
the few, which led to the development of _the sign-language_, the means
which God had appointed to unlock the darkened understanding of the
deaf-mute, but which man, in his self-sufficiency and blindness, had
It is interesting to trace the history of such a man,--to know something
of his childhood,--to learn under what influences he was reared, to what
temptations exposed,--to see the guiding hand of Providence shaping his
course, subjecting him to the discipline of trial, thwarting his most
cherished projects, crushing his fondest hopes, and all, that by these
manifold crosses he may be the better prepared for the place for which
God has destined him. We regret that so little is recorded of this truly
great and good man, but we will lay that little before our readers.
Charles Michel de l'Epee was born at Versailles, November 5th, 1712. His
father, who held the post of Architect to the King, in an age remarkable
above any other in French history for the prevalence of immorality,
which even the refinement and pretended sanctity of the court and
nobility could not disguise, was a man of deep piety and purity of
character. Amid the lust, selfishness, and hypocrisy of the age,
he constantly sought to impress upon the minds of his children the
importance of truthfulness, the moderation of desire, reverence for God,
and love for their fellow-men.
To the young Charles Michel compliance with the behests of such a parent
was no difficult task; naturally amiable and obedient, the instructions
of his father sunk deep into his heart. At an early age, he manifested
that love of goodness which made every form of vice utterly distasteful
to him; and in after years, when he heard of the struggles of those who,
with more violent passions or less careful parental training, sought to
lead the Christian life, his own pure and peaceful experience seemed
to him wanting in perfection, because he had so seldom been called to
contend with temptation.
As manhood approached, and he was required to fix upon a profession, his
heart instinctively turned toward a clerical life, not, as was the case
with so many of the young priests of that day, for its honors, its
power, or its emoluments, but because, in that profession, he might
the better fulfil the earnest desire of his heart to do good to his
fellow-men. He accordingly commenced the study of theology. Here all
went well for a time; but when he sought admission to deacon's orders,
he was met by unexpected opposition. To a pious mind, like that of young
De l'Epee, the consistent and Scriptural views of the Jansenists, not
less than their pure and virtuous lives, were highly attractive, and
through the influence of a clerical friend, a nephew of the celebrated
Bossuet, he had been led to examine and adopt them. The diocesan to whom
he applied for deacon's orders was a Jesuit, and, before he would admit
him, he required him to sign a formula of doctrine which was abhorrent
alike to his reason and his conscience. He refused at once, and, on his
refusal, his application was rejected; and though subsequently admitted
to the diaconate, he was insultingly told by his superior, that he need
not aspire to any higher order, for it should not be granted.
It was with a saddened heart that he found himself thus compelled to
forego long cherished hopes of usefulness. With that glowing imagination
which characterized him even in old age, he had looked forward to the
time when, as the curate of some retired parish, he might encourage the
devout, reprove and control the erring, and, by his example, counsel,
and prayers, so mould and influence the little community, that it should
seem another Eden. But an overruling Providence had reserved for him a
larger field of usefulness, a more extended mission of mercy, and it was
through the path of trial that he was to be led to it.
Regarding it as his duty to employ his time, he at length determined
to enter the legal profession. He passed with rapidity through the
preliminary course of study, and was admitted to the bar. The practice
of the law was not, at that time, in France, nor is it, indeed, now,
invested with the high character attaching to it in England. Its
codes and rules bore the impress of a barbarous age; and among its
practitioners, fraud, artifice, and chicanery were the rule, and honesty
the rare and generally unfortunate exception.
For such a profession the pure-minded De l'Epee found himself entirely
unfitted, and, abandoning it with loathing, his eyes and heart were
again directed toward the profession of his choice, and, this time,
apparently not in vain. His early friend, M. de Bossuet, had been
elevated to the see of Troyes, and, knowing his piety and zeal, offered
him a canonry in his cathedral, and admitted him to priest's orders.
The desire of his heart was now gratified, and he entered upon his new
duties with the utmost ardor. "In all the diocese of Troyes," says one
of his contemporaries, "there was not so faithful a priest."
But his hopes were soon to be blasted. Monseigneur de Bossuet died, and,
as the Jansenist controversy was at its height, his old enemies, the
Jesuits, exerted their influence with the Archbishop of Paris, and
procured an interdict, prohibiting him from ever again exercising the
functions of the priesthood.
A severer blow could scarcely have fallen upon him. He sought not for
honor, he asked not for fame or worldly renown; he had only desired to
be useful, to do good to his fellow-men; and now, just as his hopes were
budding into fruition, just as some results of his faithful labors were
beginning to appear, all were cut off by the keen breath of adversity.
It was while suffering from depression, at his unjust exclusion from
the duties of his calling, that his attention was first directed to the
unfortunate class to whom he was to be the future evangelist, or bringer
of good tidings. Bebian thus relates the incident which led him to
undertake the instruction of the deaf and dumb:--
"He happened one day to enter a house, where he found two young females
engaged in needlework, which seemed to occupy their whole attention. He
addressed them, but received no answer. Somewhat surprised at this, he
repeated his question; but still there was no reply; they did not even
lift their eyes from the work before them. In the midst of the Abbe's
wonder at this apparent rudeness, their mother entered the room, and
the mystery was at once explained. With tears she informed him that
her daughters were deaf and dumb; that they had received, by means
of pictures, a little instruction from Father Farnin, a benevolent
ecclesiastic of the order of "Christian Brothers," in the neighborhood;
but that he was now dead, and her poor children were left without any
one to aid their intellectual progress.--'Believing,' said the Abbe,
'that these two unfortunates would live and die in ignorance of
religion, if I made no effort to instruct them, my heart was filled with
compassion, and I promised, that, if they were committed to my charge, I
would do all for them that I was able.'"
It was in 1755 that the Abbe de l'Epee thus entered upon his great
mission. Six years before, Jacob Rodriguez de Pereira had come from
Spain, and exhibited some deaf and dumb pupils whom he had taught,
before the Academy of Sciences. They were able to speak indifferently
well, and had attained a moderate degree of scientific knowledge.
Pereira himself was a man of great learning, of the most agreeable and
fascinating manners, and possessed, in a high degree, that tact and
address in which the Spanish Jews have never been surpassed. He soon
made a very favorable impression upon the court, and led a pleasant life
in the society of the literary men of the age. During his residence in
France, he taught some five or six mutes of high rank to speak and to
make considerable attainments in science,--charging for this service
most princely fees, and at the same time binding his pupils to perfect
secrecy in regard to his methods, which it was his intention to
bequeathe to his family. This intention was thwarted, however, soon
after his death, by a fire which destroyed nearly all his papers, and to
this day his method has remained a secret, unknown even to his children.
It is certain, however, that he made no use of the sign-language, though
there is some evidence that he invented and practised a system of
syllabic dactylology. Of this, the only successful effort which, up to
that time, had been made in France, to teach deaf-mutes, it is obvious
that De l'Epee could have known nothing, save the fact that it
demonstrated the capacity of some of this class to receive instruction.
It is, indeed, certain, from his own statements, that, at the time of
commencing his labors, he had no knowledge of any works on the subject.
He had somewhere picked up the manual alphabet invented by Bonet in
1620; and in subsequent years he derived some advantages from the works
of Cardan, Bonet, Amman, Wallis, and Dalgarno.
It was well for the deaf and dumb that he entered upon his work thus
untrammelled by any preconceived theory; for he was thus prepared to
adopt, without prejudice, whatever might facilitate the great object
for which he labored. "I have not," he said, in a letter to Pereira, in
which he challenged an open comparison of their respective systems of
instruction, promising to adopt his, should it prove to be better than
his own,--"I have not the silly pride of desiring to be an inventor;
I only wish to do something for the benefit of the deaf-mutes of all
We have already adverted to the great principle which lay at the
foundation of his system of instruction. The corollary deduced from
this, that the idea was substantive, and had an existence separate
from and independent of all words, written or spoken, was a startling
proposition in those days, however harmless we may now regard it.
But, convinced of its truth, De l'Epee set to himself the problem of
discovering how this _idea_ could be presented to the mind of the mute
without words; and in their gestures and signs he found his problem
solved. Henceforth, the way, though long and tedious, was plain before
him. To extend, amplify, and systematize this language of signs was his
task. How well he accomplished his work, the records of Deaf and Dumb
Institutions, in Europe and America, testify. Others have entered into
his labors and greatly enlarged the range of sign-expression,--modified
and improved, perhaps, many of its forms; but, because Lord Rosse's
telescope exceeds in power and range the little three-foot tube of
Galileo Galilei, shall we therefore despise the Italian astronomer? To
say that his work, or that of the Abbe De l'Epee, was not perfect, is
only to say that they were mortals like ourselves.
But it is not only, or mainly, as a philosopher, that we would present
the Abbe De l'Epee to our readers, he was far more than this; he was, in
the highest sense of the word, a philanthropist. While Pereira, in the
liberal compensation he received from French nobles for the instruction
of their mute children, laid the foundation of that fortune by means of
which his grandsons are now enabled to rank with the most eminent of
French financiers, De l'Epee devoted his time and his entire patrimony
to the education of indigent deaf-mutes. His school, which was soon
quite large, was conducted solely at his own expense, and, as his
fortune was but moderate, he was compelled to practise the most careful
economy; yet he would never receive gifts from the wealthy, nor admit to
his instructions their deaf and dumb children. "It is not to the rich,"
he would say, "that I have devoted myself; it is to the poor only. Had
it not been for _these_, I should never have attempted the education of
the deaf and dumb."
In 1780, he was waited upon by the ambassador of the Empress of Russia,
who congratulated him on his success, and tendered him, in her name,
valuable gifts. "Mr. Ambassador," was the reply of the noble old man, "I
never receive money; but have the goodness to say to her Majesty, that,
if my labors have seemed to her worthy of any consideration, I ask, as
an especial favor, that she will send to me from her dominions some
ignorant deaf and dumb child, that I may instruct him."
When Joseph II., of Austria, visited Paris, he sought out De l'Epee,
and offered him the revenues of one of his estates. To this liberal
proposition the Abbe replied: "Sire, I am now an old man. If your
Majesty desires to confer any gift, upon the deaf and dumb, it is not my
head, already bent towards the grave, that should receive it, but the
good work itself. It is worthy of a great prince to preserve whatever is
useful to mankind." The Emperor, acting upon his suggestion, soon after
sent one of his ecclesiastics to Paris, who, on receiving the necessary
instruction from De l'Epee, established at Vienna the first national
institution for the deaf and dumb.
A still more striking instance of the self-denial to which his love for
his little flock prompted him is related by Bebian. During the severe
winter of 1788, the Abbe, already in his seventy-seventh year, denied
himself a fire in his apartment, and refused to purchase fuel for this
purpose, lest he should exceed the moderate sum which necessarily
limited the annual expenditure of his establishment. All the
remonstrances of his friends were unavailing; his pupils at length cast
themselves at his feet, and with tears besought him to allow himself
this indulgence, for their sake, if not for his own. Their importunities
finally prevailed; but for a long time he manifested the greatest regret
that he had yielded, often saying, mournfully, "My poor children, I have
wronged you of a hundred crowns!"
That this deep and abiding affection was fully reciprocated by those
whom he had rescued from a life of helpless wretchedness was often
manifested. He always called them his children, and, indeed, his
relation to them had more of the character of the parent than of the
teacher. On one occasion, not long before his decease, in one of his
familiar conversations with them, he let fall a remark which implied
that his end might be approaching. Though he had often before spoken of
death, yet the idea that _he_ could thus be taken from them had never
entered their minds, and a sudden cry of anguish told how terrible to
them was the thought. Pressing around him, with sobs and wailing, they
laid hold of his garments, as if to detain him from the last long
journey. Himself affected to tears by these tokens of their love for
him, the good Abbe succeeded, at length, in calming their grief; he
spoke to them of death as being, to the good, only the gate which
divides us from heaven; reminded them that the separation, if they were
the friends of God, though painful, would be temporary; that he should
go before them, and await their coming, and that, once reunited, no
further separation would ever occur; while there the tongue would be
unloosed, the ear unsealed, and they would be enabled to enjoy the music
as well as the glories of heaven. Thus quieted, with chastened grief
came holy aspiration; and it is not unreasonable to hope that the world
of bliss, in after years, witnessed the meeting of many of these poor
children with their sainted teacher.
It is interesting to observe the humility of such a man. The praises
lavished on him seemed not in any way to elate him; and he invariably
refused any commendation for his labors: "He that planteth is nothing,
neither he that watereth, but God, who giveth the increase," was his
reply to one who congratulated him on the success which had attended his
With one incident more we must close this "record of a good man's life."
Some years after the opening of his school for deaf-mutes, a deaf and
dumb boy, who had been found wandering in the streets of Paris, was
brought to him. With that habitual piety which was characteristic of
him, De l'Epee received the boy as a gift from Heaven, and accordingly
named him Theodore. The new comer soon awakened an unusual interest
in the mind of the good Abbe. Though dressed in rags when found, his
manners and habits showed that he had been reared in refinement and
luxury. But, until he had received some education, he could give no
account of himself; and the Abbe, though satisfied that he had been the
victim of some foul wrong, held his peace, till the mental development
of his _protege_ should enable him to describe his early home. Years
passed, and, as each added to his intelligence, young Theodore was able
to call to mind more and more of the events of childhood. He remembered
that his ancestral home had been one of great magnificence, in a large
city, and that he had been taken thence, stripped of his rich apparel,
clothed in rags, and left in the streets of Paris. The Abbe determined,
at once, to attempt to restore his _protege_ to the rights of which he
had been so cruelly defrauded; but, being himself too infirm to attempt
the journey, he sent the youth, with his steward, and a fellow-pupil
named Didier, to make the tour of all the cities of France till they
should find the home of Theodore. Long and weary was their journey, and
it was not till after having visited almost all of the larger cities,
that they found that the young mute recognized in Toulouse the city of
his birth. Each of its principal streets was evidently familiar to him,
and at length, with a sudden cry, he pointed out a splendid mansion as
his former home. It was found to be the palace of the Count de Solar.
On subsequent inquiry, it appeared that the heir of the estate had been
deaf and dumb; that some years before he had been taken to Paris, and
was said to have died there. The dates corresponded exactly with the
appearance of young Theodore in Paris. As soon as possible, the Abbe
and the Duke de Penthievre commenced a lawsuit, which resulted in the
restoration of Theodore to his title and property. The defeated party
appealed to the Parliament, and, by continuing the case till after the
death of the Abbe and the Duke, succeeded in obtaining a reversal of the
decision, and the declaration that the claimant was an impostor. Stung
with disappointment at the blighting of his hopes, young Theodore
enlisted in the army, and was slain in his first battle.
The Abbe de l'Epee died at Paris on the 23d of December, 1789, in the
seventy-eighth year of his age. Had he been spared two years longer, he
would have seen his school, the object of his fond cares, adopted by the
government, and decreed a national support. But though this act, and the
accompanying vote, which declared that it was "done in honor of Charles
Michel de l'Epee, _a man who deserved well of his country_," were
creditable to the National Assembly, and the people whom it represented,
yet we cannot but remember the troublous times that followed,--times in
which no public service, no private goodness, neither the veneration
due to age, the delicacy of womanhood, nor the winsome helplessness
of infancy, was any protection against the insensate vengeance of a
maddened people; and remembering this, we cannot regret that he whose
life had been so peaceful was laid in a quiet grave ere the coming of
It is but justice, however, to the French people to say, that no name
in their history is heard with more veneration, or with more profound
demonstrations of love and gratitude, than that of the Abbe de l'Epee.
In 1843, the citizens of Versailles, his birth-place, erected a bronze
statue in his honor; and the highest dignitaries of the state, amid the
acclamations of assembled thousands, eulogized his memory. In 1855, the
centennial anniversary of the establishment of his school for deaf-mutes
was celebrated at Paris, and was attended by delegations from most of
the Deaf and Dumb Institutions of Europe.
But sixty-eight years have elapsed since the death of this noble
philanthropist, and, already, more than two hundred institutions for the
deaf and dumb have been established, on the system projected by him and
improved by his successors; and tens of thousands of mutes throughout
Christendom, in consequence of his generous and self-denying zeal, have
been trained for usefulness in this life, and many of them, we hope,
prepared for a blissful hereafter. To all these the name of the Abbe de
l'Epee has been one cherished in their heart of hearts; and, through
all the future, wherever the understanding of the deaf-mute shall be
enlightened by instruction, his memory shall be blessed.
WHO IS THE THIEF?
(_Extracted from the Correspondence of the London Police_.)
FROM CHIEF INSPECTOR THEAKSTONE, OF THE DETECTIVE POLICE, TO SERGEANT
BULMER, OF THE SAME FORCE.
London, 4th July, 18--.
This is to inform you that you are wanted to assist in looking up a case
of importance, which will require all the attention of an experienced
member of the force. The matter of the robbery on which you are now
engaged you will please to shift over to the young man who brings you
this letter. You will tell him all the circumstances of the case, just
as they stand; you will put him up to the progress you have made (if
any) towards detecting the person or persons by whom the money has been
stolen; and you will leave him to make the best he can of the matter now
in your hands. He is to have the whole responsibility of the case, and
the whole credit of his success, if he brings it to a proper issue.
So much for the orders that I am desired to communicate to you. A word
in your ear, next, about this new man who is to take your place. His
name is Matthew Sharpin; and between ourselves, Sergeant, I don't think
much of him. He has not served his time among the rank and file of the
force. You and I mounted up, step by step, to the places we now fill;
but this stranger, it seems, is to have the chance given him of dashing
into our office at one jump,--supposing he turns out strong enough to
take it. You will naturally ask me how he comes by this privilege. I can
only tell you, that he has some uncommonly strong interest to back him
in certain high quarters, which you and I had better not mention except
under our breaths. He has been a lawyer's clerk; and he looks, to my
mind, rather a mean, underhand sample of that sort of man. According to
his own account,--by the bye, I forgot to say that he is wonderfully
conceited in his opinion of himself, as well as mean and underhand to
look at,--according to his own account, he leaves his old trade and
joins ours of his own free will and preference. You will no more believe
that than I do. My notion is, that he has managed to ferret out some
private information, in connection with the affairs of one of his
master's clients, which makes him rather an awkward customer to keep in
the office for the future, and which, at the same time, gives him hold
enough over his employer to make it dangerous to drive him into a corner
by turning him away. I think the giving him this unheard-of chance among
us is, in plain words, pretty much like giving him hush-money to keep
him quiet. However that may be, Mr. Matthew Sharpin is to have the case
now in your hands; and if he succeeds with it, he pokes his ugly nose
into our office, as sure as fate. You have heard tell of some sad stuff
they have been writing lately in the newspapers, about improving the
efficiency of the Detective Police by mixing up a sharp lawyer's clerk
or two along with them. Well, the experiment is now going to be tried;
and Mr. Matthew Sharpin is the first lucky man who has been pitched on
for the purpose. We shall see how this precious move succeeds. I put
you up to it, Sergeant, so that you may not stand in your own light by
giving the new man any cause to complain of you at head-quarters, and
FROM MR. MATTHEW SHARPIN TO CHIEF INSPECTOR THEAKSTONE.
London, 5th July, 18--.
Having now been favored with the necessary instructions from Sergeant
Bulmer, I beg to remind you of certain directions which I have received,
relating to the report of my future proceedings, which I am to prepare
for examination at head-quarters.
The document in question is to be addressed to you. It is to be not only
a daily report, but an hourly report as well, when circumstances may
require it. All statements which I send to you, in this way, you are, as
I understand, expected to examine carefully before you seal them up and
send them in to the higher authorities. The object of my writing and of
your examining what I have written is, I am informed, to give me, as an
untried hand, the benefit of your advice, in case I want it (which I
venture to think I shall not) at any stage of my proceedings. As the
extraordinary circumstances of the case on which I am now engaged make
it impossible for me to absent myself from the place where the robbery
was committed, until I have made some progress towards discovering the
thief, I am necessarily precluded from consulting you personally. Hence
the necessity of my writing down the various details, which might,
perhaps, be better communicated by word of mouth. This, if I am not
mistaken, is the position in which we are now placed. I state my own
impressions on the subject, in writing, in order that we may clearly
understand each other at the outset,--and have the honor to remain your
FROM CHIEF INSPECTOR THEAKSTONE TO MR. MATTHEW SHARPIN.
London, 5th July, 18--.
You have begun by wasting time, ink, and paper. We both of us perfectly
well knew the position we stood in towards each other, when I sent you
with my letter to Sergeant Bulmer. There was not the least need to
repeat it in writing. Be so good as to employ your pen, in future, on
the business actually in hand. You have now three separate matters
on which to write me. First, you have to draw up a statement of your
instructions received from Sergeant Bulmer, in order to show us that
nothing has escaped your memory, and that you are thoroughly acquainted
with all the circumstances of the case which has been entrusted to you.
Secondly, you are to inform me what it is you propose to do. Thirdly,
you are to report every inch of your progress, (if you make any,) from
day to day, and, if need be, from hour to hour as well. This is your
duty. As to what _my_ duty may be, when I want you to remind me of it, I
will write and tell you _so_. In the mean time I remain yours,
FROM MR. MATTHEW SHARPIN TO CHIEF INSPECTOR THEAKSTONE.
London, 6th July, 18--.
You are rather an elderly person, and, as such, naturally inclined to be
a little jealous of men like me, who are in the prime of their lives
and their faculties. Under these circumstances, it is my duty to be
considerate towards you, and not to bear too hardly on your small
failings. I decline, therefore, altogether, to take offence at the tone
of your letter; I give you the full benefit of the natural generosity of
my nature; I sponge the very existence of your surly communication out
of my memory; in short, Chief Inspector Theakstone, I forgive you, and
proceed to business.
My first duty is to draw up a full statement of the instructions I have
received from Sergeant Bulmer. Here they are at your service, according
to my version of them.
At Number Thirteen, Rutherford Street, Soho, there is a stationer's
shop. It is kept by one Mr. Yatman. He is a married man, but has no
family. Besides Mr. and Mrs. Yatman, the other inmates of the house are
a lodger, a young single man named Jay, who occupies the front room on
the second floor,--a shopman, who sleeps in one of the attics,--and a
servant-of-all-work, whose bed is in the back-kitchen. Once a week a
charwoman comes to help this servant. These are all the persons who, on
ordinary occasions, have means of access to the interior of the house,
placed, as a matter of course, at their disposal.
Mr. Yatman has been in business for many years,--carrying on his affairs
prosperously enough to realize a handsome independence for a person in
his position. Unfortunately for himself, he endeavored to increase
the amount of his property by speculating. He ventured boldly in his
investments, luck went against him, and rather less than two years ago
he found himself a poor man again. All that was saved out of the wreck
of his property was the sum of two hundred pounds.
Although Mr. Yatman did his best to meet his altered circumstances, by
giving up many of the luxuries and comforts to which he and his wife had
been accustomed, he found it impossible to retrench so far as to allow
of putting by any money from the income produced by his shop. The
business has been declining of late years,--the cheap advertising
stationers having done it injury with the public. Consequently, up
to the last week, the only surplus property possessed by Mr. Yatman
consisted of the two hundred pounds which had been recovered from the
wreck of his fortune. This sum was placed as a deposit in a joint-stock
bank of the highest possible character.
Eight days ago, Mr. Yatman and his lodger, Mr. Jay, held a conversation
together on the subject of the commercial difficulties, which are
hampering trade in all directions at the present time. Mr. Jay (who
lives by supplying the newspapers with short paragraphs relating to
accidents, offences, and brief records of remarkable occurrences in
general,--who is, in short, what they call a penny-a-liner) told his
landlord that he had been in the city that day, and heard unfavorable
rumors on the subject of the joint-stock banks. The rumors to which he
alluded had already reached the ears of Mr. Yatman from other quarters;
and the confirmation of them by his lodger had such an effect on his
mind,--predisposed, as it was, to alarm, by the experience of his former
losses,--that he resolved to go at once to the bank and withdraw his
deposit. It was then getting on toward the end of the afternoon; and he
arrived just in time to receive his money before the bank closed.
He received the deposit in bank-notes of the following amounts:--one
fifty-pound note, three twenty-pound notes, six ten-pound notes, and six
five-pound notes. His object in drawing the money in this form was
to have it ready to lay out immediately in trifling loans, on good
security, among the small tradespeople of his district,--some of whom
are sorely pressed for the very means of existence at the present time.
Investments of this kind seemed to Mr. Yatman to be the most safe and
the most profitable on which he could now venture.
He brought the money back in an envelope placed in his breast pocket;
and asked his shopman, on getting home, to look for a small flat tin
cash-box, which had not been used for years, and which, as Mr. Yatman
remembered it, was exactly of the right size to hold the bank-notes. For
some time the cash-box was searched for in vain. Mr. Yatman called to
his wife to know if she had any idea where it was. The question was
overheard by the servant-of-all-work, who was taking up the tea-tray at
the time, and by Mr. Jay, who was coming down stairs on his way out
to the theatre. Ultimately the cash-box was found by the shopman. Mr.
Yatman placed the bank-notes in it, secured them by a padlock, and
put the box in his coat pocket. It stuck out of the coat pocket a very
little, but enough to be seen. Mr. Yatman remained at home, up stairs,
all that evening. No visitors called. At eleven o'clock he went to bed,
and put the cash-box under his pillow.
When, he and his wife woke the next morning, the box was gone. Payment
of the notes was immediately stopped at the Bank of England; but no news
of the money has been heard of since that time.
So far, the circumstances of the case are perfectly clear. They point
unmistakably to the conclusion that the robbery must have been committed
by some person living in the house. Suspicion falls, therefore, upon the
servant-of-all-work, upon the shopman, and upon Mr. Jay. The two first
knew that the cash-box was being inquired for by their master, but did
not know what it was he wanted to put into it. They would assume, of
course, that it was money. They both had opportunities (the servant,
when she took away the tea,--and the shopman, when he came, after
shutting up, to give the keys of the till to his master) of seeing the
cash-box in Mr. Yatman's pocket, and of inferring naturally, from its
position there, that he intended to take it into his bedroom with him at
Mr. Jay, on the other hand, had been told, during the afternoon's
conversation on the subject of joint-stock banks, that his landlord had
a deposit of two hundred pounds in one of them. He also knew that Mr.
Yatman left him with the intention of drawing that money out; and he
heard the inquiry for the cash-box, afterwards, when he was coming down
stairs. He must, therefore, have inferred that the money was in the
house, and that the cash-box was the receptacle intended to contain it.
That he could have had any idea, however, of the place in which Mr.
Yatman intended to keep it for the night is impossible, seeing that he
went out before the box was found, and did not return till his landlord
was in bed. Consequently, if he committed the robbery, he must have gone
into the bedroom purely on speculation.
Speaking of the bedroom reminds me of the necessity of noticing the
situation of it in the house, and the means that exist of gaining easy
access to it at any hour of the night. The room in question is the back
room on the first floor. In consequence of Mrs. Yatman's constitutional
nervousness on the subject of fire, which makes her apprehend being
burnt alive in her room, in case of accident, by the hampering of the
lock, if the key is turned in it, her husband has never been accustomed
to lock the bedroom door. Both he and his wife are, by their own
admission, heavy sleepers. Consequently, the risk to be run by any
evil-disposed persons wishing to plunder the bedroom was of the most
trifling kind. They could enter the room by merely turning the handle of
the door; and if they moved with ordinary caution, there was no fear
of their waking the sleepers inside. This fact is of importance. It
strengthens our conviction that the money must have been taken by one of
the inmates of the house, because it tends to show that the robbery, in
this case, might have been committed by persons not possessed of the
superior vigilance and cunning of the experienced thief.
Such are the circumstances, as they were related to Sergeant Bulmer,
when he was first called in to discover the guilty parties, and, if
possible, to recover the lost bank-notes. The strictest inquiry which he
could institute failed of producing the smallest fragment of evidence
against any of the persons on whom suspicion naturally fell. Their
language and behavior, on being informed of the robbery, was perfectly
consistent with the language and behavior of innocent people. Sergeant
Bulmer felt, from the first, that this was a case for private inquiry
and secret observation. He began by recommending Mr. and Mrs. Yatman to
affect a feeling of perfect confidence in the innocence of the persons
living under their roof; and he then opened the campaign by employing
himself in following the goings and comings, and in discovering the
friends, the habits, and the secrets of the maid-of-all-work.
Three days and nights of exertion on his own part, and on that of others
who were competent to assist his investigations, were enough to satisfy
him that there was no sound cause for suspicion against the girl.
He next practised the same precautions in relation to the shopman.
There was more difficulty and uncertainty in privately clearing up this
person's character without his knowledge, but the obstacles were at last
smoothed away with tolerable success; and though there is not the same
amount of certainty, in this case, which there was in the case of the
girl, there is still fair reason for believing that the shopman has had
nothing to do with the robbery of the cash-box.
As a necessary consequence of these proceedings, the range of suspicion
now becomes limited to the lodger, Mr. Jay. When I presented your letter
of introduction to Sergeant Buhner, he had already made some inquiries
on the subject of this young man. The result, so far, has not been at
all favorable. Mr. Jay's habits are irregular; he frequents public
houses, and seems to be familiarly acquainted with a great many
dissolute characters; he is in debt to most of the tradespeople whom
he employs; he has not paid his rent to Mr. Yatman for the last month;
yesterday evening he came home excited by liquor, and last week he was
seen talking to a prize-fighter. In short, though Mr. Jay does call
himself a journalist, in virtue of his penny-a-line contributions to the
newspapers, he is a young man of low tastes, vulgar manners, and bad
habits. Nothing has yet been discovered, in relation to him, which
redounds to his credit in the smallest degree.
I have now reported, down to the very last details, all the particulars
communicated to me by Sergeant Buhner. I believe you will not find an
omission anywhere; and I think you will admit, though you are prejudiced
against me, that a clearer statement of facts was never laid before you
than the statement I have now made. My next duty is to tell you what I
propose to do, now that the case is confided to my hands.
In the first place, it is clearly my business to take up the case at
the point where Sergeant Buhner has left it. On his authority, I am
justified in assuming that I have no need to trouble myself about the
maid-of-all-work and the shopman. Their characters are now to be
considered as cleared up. What remains to be privately investigated is
the question of the guilt or innocence of Mr. Jay. Before we give up
the notes for lost, we must make sure, if we can, that he knows nothing
This is the plan that I have adopted, with the full approval of Mr. and
Mrs. Yatman, for discovering whether Mr. Jay is or is not the person who
has stolen the cash-box:--
I propose, to-day, to present myself at the house in the character of a
young man who is looking for lodgings. The back room on the second floor
will be shown to me as the room to let; and I shall establish myself
there to-night, as a person from the country, who has come to London to
look for a situation in a respectable shop or office. By this means I
shall be living next to the room occupied by Mr. Jay. The partition
between us is mere lath and plaster. I shall make a small hole in it,
near the cornice, through which I can see what Mr. Jay does in his room,
and hear every word that is said when any friend happens to call on him.
Whenever he is at home, I shall be at my post of observation. Whenever
he goes out, I shall be after him. By employing these means of watching
him, I believe I may look forward to the discovery of his secret--if he
knows anything about the lost bank-notes--as to a dead certainty.
What you may think of my plan of observation I cannot undertake to
say. It appears to me to unite the invaluable merits of boldness
and simplicity. Fortified by this conviction, I close the present
communication with feelings of the most sanguine description in regard
to the future, and remain your obedient servant,
FROM THE SAME TO THE SAME.
As you have not honored me with any answer to my last communication, I
assume, that, in spite of your prejudices against me, it has produced
the favorable impression on your mind which I ventured to anticipate.
Gratified and encouraged beyond measure by the token of approval which
your eloquent silence conveys to me, I proceed to report the progress
that has been made in the course of the last twenty-four hours.
I am now comfortably established next door to Mr. Jay; and I am
delighted to say that I have two holes in the partition, instead of one.
My natural sense of humor has led me into the pardonable extravagance
of giving them both appropriate names. One I call my Peep-Hole, and the
other my Pipe-Hole. The name of the first explains itself; the name of
the second refers to a small tin pipe, or tube, inserted in the hole,
and twisted so that the mouth of it comes close to my ear, when I am
standing at my post of observation. Thus, while I am looking at Mr. Jay
through my Peep-Hole, I can hear every word that may be spoken in his
room through my Pipe-Hole.
Perfect candor--a virtue which I have possessed from my childhood
compels me to acknowledge, before I go any farther, that the ingenious
notion of adding a Pipe-Hole to my proposed Peep-Hole originated with
Mrs. Yatman. This lady--a most intelligent and accomplished person,
simple, and yet distinguished, in her manners--has entered into all my
little plans with an enthusiasm and intelligence which I cannot too
highly praise. Mr. Yatman is so cast down by his loss, that he is quite
incapable of affording me any assistance. Mrs. Yatman, who is evidently
most tenderly attached to him, feels her husband's sad condition of mind
even more acutely than she feels the loss of the money; and is mainly
stimulated to exertion by her desire to assist in raising him from the
miserable state of prostration into which he has now fallen. "The money,
Mr. Sharpin," she said to me yesterday evening, with tears in her eyes,
"the money may be regained by rigid economy and strict attention to
business. It is my husband's wretched state of mind that makes me so
anxious for the discovery of the thief. I may be wrong, but I felt
hopeful of success as soon as you entered the house; and I believe,
that, if the wretch who has robbed us is to be found, you are the man to
discover him." I accepted this gratifying compliment in the spirit in
which it was offered,--firmly believing that I shall be found, sooner or
later, to have thoroughly deserved it.
Let me now return to business,--that is to say, to my Peep-Hole and my
I have enjoyed some hours of calm observation of Mr. Jay. Though rarely
at home, as I understand from Mrs. Yatman, on ordinary occasions, he has
been in-doors the whole of this day. That is suspicious, to begin with.
I have to report, further, that he rose at a late hour this morning,
(always a bad sign in a young man,) and that he lost a great deal
of time, after he was up, in yawning and complaining to himself of
headache. Like other debauched characters, he eat little or nothing for
breakfast. His next proceeding was to smoke a pipe, a dirty clay pipe,
which a gentleman would have been ashamed to put between his lips. When
he had done smoking, he took out pen, ink, and paper, and sat down
to write, with a groan,--whether of remorse for having taken the
bank-notes, or of disgust at the task before him, I am unable to say.
After writing a few lines, (too far away from my Peep-Hole to give me
a chance of reading over his shoulder,) he bent back in his chair, and
amused himself by humming the tunes of popular songs. I recognized "My
Mary Anne," "Bobbin' Around," and "Old Dog Tray," among other melodies.
Whether these do or do not represent secret signals by which he
communicates with his accomplices remains to be seen. After he had
amused himself for some time by humming, he got up and began to walk
about the room, occasionally stopping to add a sentence to the paper on
his desk. Before long, he went to a locked cupboard and opened it. I
strained my eyes eagerly, in expectation of making a discovery. I saw
him take something carefully out of the cupboard,--he turned round,--it
was only a pint-bottle of brandy! Having drunk some of the liquor, this
extremely indolent reprobate lay dawn on his bed again, and in five
minutes was fast asleep.
After hearing him snoring for at least two hours, I was recalled to
my Peep-Hole by a knock at his door. He jumped up and opened it with
suspicious activity. A very small boy, with a very dirty face, walked
in, said, "Please, Sir, I've come for copy," sat down on a chair with
his legs a long way from the ground, and instantly fell asleep! Mr. Jay
swore an oath, tied a wet towel round his head, and, sitting down to his
paper, began to cover it with writing as fast as his fingers could move
the pen. Occasionally getting up to dip the towel in water and tie it
on again, he continued at this employment for nearly three hours,--then
folded up the leaves of writing, woke the boy, and gave them to him,
with this remarkable expression: "Now, then, young sleepy-head, quick,
march! If you see the Governor, tell him to have the money ready for
me when I call for it." The boy grinned, and disappeared. I was sorely
tempted to follow "sleepy-head," but, on reflection, considered it
safest still to keep my eye on the proceedings of Mr. Jay.
In half an hour's time, he put on his hat and walked out. Of course, I
put on my hat and walked out also. As I went down stairs, I passed Mrs.
Yatman going up. The lady has been kind enough to undertake, by previous
arrangement between us, to search Mr. Jay's room, while he is out of
the way, and while I am necessarily engaged in the pleasing duty of
following him wherever he goes. On the occasion to which I now refer,
he walked straight to the nearest tavern, and ordered a couple of
mutton-chops for his dinner. I placed myself in the next box to him, and
ordered a couple of mutton-chops for my dinner. Before I had been in the
room a minute, a young man of highly suspicious manners and appearance,
sitting at a table opposite, took his glass of porter in his hand and
joined Mr. Jay. I pretended to be reading the newspaper, and listened,
as in duty bound, with all my might.
"How are you, my boy?" says the young man. "Jack has been here,
inquiring after you."
"Did he leave any message?" asks Mr. Jay.
"Yes," says the other. "He told me, if I met with you, to say that he
wished very particularly to see you to-night; and that he would give you
a look-in, at Rutherford Street, at seven o'clock."
"All right," says Mr. Jay. "I'll get back in time to see him."
Upon this, the suspicious-looking young man finished his porter, and,
saying that he was rather in a hurry, took leave of his friend, (perhaps
I should not be wrong, if I said his accomplice?) and left the room.
At twenty-five minutes and a half past six,--in these serious cases it
is important to be particular about time,--Mr. Jay finished his chops
and paid his bill. At twenty-six minutes and three-quarters, I finished
my chops and paid mine. In ten minutes more I was inside the house in
Rutherford Street, and was received by Mrs. Yatman in the passage.
That charming woman's face exhibited an expression of melancholy and
disappointment which it quite grieved me to see.
"I am afraid, Ma'am," says I, "that you have not hit on any little
criminating discovery in the lodger's room?"
She shook her head and sighed. It was a soft, languid, fluttering
sigh,--and, upon my life, it quite upset me. For the moment, I forgot
business, and burned with envy of Mr. Yatman.
"Don't despair, Ma'am," I said, with an insinuating mildness which
seemed to touch her. "I have heard a mysterious conversation--I know of
a guilty appointment--and I expect great things from my Peep-Hole and my
Pipe-Hole to-night. Pray, don't be alarmed, but I think we are on the
brink of a discovery."
Here my enthusiastic devotion to business got the better of my tender
feelings. I looked,--winked,--nodded,--left her.
When I got back to my observatory, I found Mr. Jay digesting his
mutton-chops in an arm-chair, with his pipe in his mouth. On his table
were two tumblers, a jug of water, and the pint-bottle of brandy. It was
then close upon seven o'clock. As the hour struck, the person described
as "Jack" walked in.
He looked agitated,--I am happy to say he looked violently agitated. The
cheerful glow of anticipated success diffused itself (to use a strong
expression) all over me, from head to foot. With breathless interest I
looked through my Peep-Hole, and saw the visitor--the "Jack" of this
delightful case--sit down, facing me, at the opposite side of the table
to Mr. Jay. Making allowance for the difference in expression which
their countenances just now happened to exhibit, these two abandoned
villains were so much alike in other respects as to lead at once to the
conclusion that they were brothers. Jack was the cleaner man and the
better-dressed of the two. I admit that, at the outset. It is, perhaps,
one of my failings to push justice and impartiality to their utmost
limits. I am no Pharisee; and where Vice has its redeeming point. I say,
let Vice have its due,--yes, yes, by all manner of means, let Vice have
"What's the matter now, Jack?" says Mr. Jay.
"Can't you see it in my face?" says Jack. "My dear fellow, delays are
dangerous. Let us have done with suspense, and risk it, the day after
"So soon as that?" cries Mr. Jay, looking very much astonished. "Well,
I'm ready, if you are. But, I say, Jack, is Somebody Else ready, too?
Are you quite sure of that?"
He smiled, as he spoke,--a frightful smile,--and laid a very strong
emphasis on those two words, "Somebody Else." There is evidently a third
ruffian, a nameless desperado, concerned in the business.
"Meet us to-morrow," says Jack, "and judge for yourself. Be in the
Regent's Park at eleven in the morning, and look out for us at the
turning that leads to the Avenue Road."
"I'll be there," says Mr. Jay. "Have a drop of brandy and water. What
are you getting up for? You're not going already?"
"Yes, I am," says Jack. "The fact is, I'm so excited and agitated, that
I can't sit still anywhere for five minutes together. Ridiculous as it
may appear to you, I'm in a perpetual state of nervous flutter. I can't,
for the life of me, help fearing that we shall be found out. I fancy
that every man who looks twice at me in the street is a spy"----
At those words, I thought my legs would have given way under me. Nothing
but strength of mind kept me at my Peep-Hole,--nothing else, I give you
my word of honor.
"Stuff and nonsense!" cries Mr. Jay, with all the effrontery of a
veteran in crime. "We have kept the secret up to this time, and we will
manage cleverly to the end. Have a drop of brandy and water, and you
will feel as certain about it as I do."
Jack steadily refused the brandy and water, and steadily persisted
in taking his leave. "I must try if I can't walk it off," he said.
"Remember to-morrow morning,--eleven o'clock,--Avenue-Road side of the
With those words he went out. His hardened relative laughed desperately,
and resumed the dirty clay pipe.
I sat down on the side of my bed, actually quivering with excitement. It
is clear to me that no attempt has yet been made to change the stolen
bank-notes; and I may add, that Sergeant Bulmer was of that opinion
also, when he left the case in my hands. What is the natural conclusion
to draw from the conversation which I have just set down? Evidently,
that the confederates meet to-morrow to take their respective shares in
the stolen money, and to decide on the safest means of getting the notes
changed the day after. Mr. Jay is, beyond a doubt, the leading criminal
in this business, and he will probably run the chief risk,--that of
changing the fifty-pound note. I shall, therefore, still make it my
business to follow him,--attending at the Regent's Park to-morrow, and
doing my best to hear what is said there. If another appointment is made
for the day after, I shall, of course, go to it. In the mean time, I
shall want the immediate assistance of two competent persons (supposing
the rascals separate after their meeting) to follow the two minor
criminals. It is only fair to add, that, if the rogues all retire
together, I shall probably keep my subordinates in reserve. Being
naturally ambitious, I desire, if possible, to have the whole credit of
discovering this robbery to myself.
I have to acknowledge, with thanks, the speedy arrival of my two
subordinates, men of very average abilities, I am afraid; but,
fortunately, I shall always be on the spot to direct them.
My first business this morning was, necessarily, to prevent possible
mistakes, by accounting to Mr. and Mrs. Yatman for the presence of the
two strangers on the scene. Mr. Yatman (between ourselves, a poor,
feeble man) only shook his head and groaned. Mrs. Yatman (that superior
woman) favored me with a charming look of intelligence. "Oh, Mr.
Sharpin!" she said, "I am so sorry to see those two men! Your sending
for their assistance looks as if you were beginning to be doubtful of
success." I privately winked at her, (she is very good in allowing me to
do so without taking offence,) and told her, in my facetious way, that
she labored under a slight mistake. "It is because I am sure of success,
Ma'am, that I send for them. I am determined to recover the money, not
for my own sake only, but for Mr. Yatman's sake, and for yours." I laid
a considerable amount of stress on those last three words. She said,
"Oh, Mr. Sharpin!" again,--and blushed of a heavenly red,--and looked
down at her work. I could go to the world's end with that woman, if Mr.
Yatman would only die.
I sent off the two subordinates to wait, until I wanted them, at the
Avenue-Road gate of the Regent's Park. Half an hour afterwards I was
following the same direction myself, at the heels of Mr. Jay.
The two confederates were punctual to the appointed time. I blush to
record it, but it is, nevertheless, necessary to state, that the third
rogue--the nameless desperado of my report, or, if you prefer it,
the mysterious "Somebody Else" of the conversation between the two
brothers--is----a woman! and, what is worse, a young woman! and, what
is more lamentable still, a nice-looking woman! I have long resisted a
growing conviction, that, wherever there is mischief in this world, an
individual of the fair sex is inevitably certain to be mixed up in it.
After the experience of this morning, I can struggle against that sad
conclusion no longer. I give up the sex,--excepting Mrs. Yatman, I give
up the sex.
The man named "Jack" offered the woman his arm. Mr. Jay placed himself
on the other side of her. The three then walked away slowly among the
trees. I followed them at a respectful distance. My two subordinates, at
a respectful distance also, followed me.
It was, I deeply regret to say, impossible to get near enough to them to
overhear their conversation, without running too great a risk of being
discovered. I could only infer from their gestures and actions that they
were all three talking together with extraordinary earnestness on some
subject which deeply interested them. After having been engaged in this
way a full quarter of an hour, they suddenly turned round to retrace
their steps. My presence of mind did not forsake me in this emergency.
I signed to the two subordinates to walk on carelessly and pass them,
while I myself slipped dexterously behind a tree. As they came by me, I
heard "Jack" address these words to Mr. Jay:--
"Let us say half-past ten to-morrow morning. And mind you come in a cab.
We had better not risk taking one in this neighborhood."
Mr. Jay made some brief reply, which I could not overhear. They walked
back to the place at which they had met, shaking hands there with an
audacious cordiality which it quite sickened me to see. Then they
separated. I followed Mr. Jay. My subordinates paid the same delicate
attention to the other two.
Instead of taking me back to Rutherford Street, Mr. Jay led me to the
Strand. He stopped at a dingy, disreputable-looking house, which,
according to the inscription over the door, was a newspaper office,
but which, in my judgment, had all the external appearance of a place
devoted to the reception of stolen goods. After remaining inside for a
few minutes, he came out, whistling, with his finger and thumb in his
waistcoat pocket. Some men would now have arrested him on the spot.
I remembered the necessity of catching the two confederates, and the
importance of not interfering with the appointment that had been made
for the next morning. Such coolness as this, under trying circumstances,
is rarely to be found, I should imagine, in a young beginner, whose
reputation as a detective policeman is still to make.
From the house of suspicious appearance Mr. Jay betook himself to a
cigar-divan, and read the magazines over a cheroot. I sat at a table
near him, and read the magazines, likewise, over a cheroot. From the
divan he strolled to the tavern, and had his chops. I strolled to the
tavern, and had my chops. When he had done, he went back to his lodging.
When I had done, I went back to mine. He was overcome with drowsiness
early in the evening, and went to bed. As soon as I heard him snoring, I
was overcome with drowsiness, and went to bed also.
Early in the morning, my two subordinates came to make their report.
They had seen the man named "Jack" leave the woman at the gate of an
apparently respectable villa-residence, not far from the Regent's Park.
Left to himself, he took a turning to the right, which led to a sort of
suburban street, principally inhabited by shopkeepers. He stopped at
the private door of one of the houses, and let himself in with his own
key,--looking about him as he opened the door, and staring suspiciously
at my men as they lounged along on the opposite side of the way. These
were all the particulars which the subordinates had to communicate. I
kept them in my room to attend on me, if needful, and mounted to my
Peep-Hole to have a look at Mr. Jay.
He was occupied in dressing himself, and was taking extraordinary pains
to destroy all traces of the natural slovenliness of his appearance.
This was precisely what I expected. A vagabond like Mr. Jay knows the
importance of giving himself a respectable look when he is going to
run the risk of changing a stolen bank-note. At five minutes past ten
o'clock he had given the last brush to his shabby hat and the last
scouring with bread-crumb to his dirty gloves. At ten minutes past ten
he was in the street, on his way to the nearest cab-stand, and I and my
subordinates were close on his heels.
He took a cab, and we took a cab. I had not overheard them appoint a
place of meeting, when following them in the Park on the previous day;
but I soon found that we were proceeding in the old direction of the
Avenue-Road gate. The cab in which Mr. Jay was riding turned into the
Park slowly. We stopped outside, to avoid exciting suspicion. I got out
to follow the cab on foot. Just as I did so, I saw it stop, and detected
the two confederates approaching it from among the trees. They got in,
and the cab was turned about directly. I ran back to my own cab, and
told the driver to let them pass him, and then to follow as before.
The man obeyed my directions, but so clumsily as to excite their
suspicions. We had been driving after them about three minutes,
(returning along the road by which we had advanced,) when I looked out
of the window to see how far they might be ahead of us. As I did this,
I saw two hats popped out of the windows of their cab, and two faces
looking back at me. I sank into my place in a cold sweat;--the
expression is coarse, but no other form of words can describe my
condition at that trying moment.
"We are found out!" I said, faintly, to my two subordinates. They stared
at me in astonishment. My feelings changed instantly from the depth of
despair to the height of indignation. "It is the cabman's fault. Get
out, one of you," I said, with dignity,--"get out, and punch his head."
Instead of following my directions, (I should wish this act of
disobedience to be reported at head-quarters,) they both looked out of
the window. Before I could pull them back, they both sat down again.
Before I could express my just indignation, they both grinned, and said
to me, "Please to look out, Sir!"
I did look out. Their cab had stopped. Where? At a church door!
What effect this discovery might have had upon the ordinary run of
men, I don't know. Being of a religious turn myself, it filled me with
horror. I have often read of the unprincipled cunning of criminal
persons; but I never before heard of three thieves attempting to double
on their pursuers by entering a church! The sacrilegious audacity of
that proceeding is, I should think, unparalleled in the annals of crime.
I checked my grinning subordinates by a frown. It was easy to see what
was passing in their superficial minds. If I had not been able to look
below the surface, I might, on observing two nicely dressed men and one
nicely dressed woman enter a church before eleven in the morning, on a
week day, have come to the same hasty conclusion at which my inferiors
had evidently arrived. As it was, appearances had no power to impose on
_me_. I got out, and, followed by one of my men, entered the church. The
other man I sent round to watch the vestry door. You may catch a weasel
asleep,--but not your humble servant, Matthew Sharpin!
We stole up the gallery-stairs, diverged to the organ-loft, and peeped
through the curtains in front. There they were, all three, sitting in a
pew below,--yes, incredible as it may appear, sitting in a pew below!
Before I could determine what to do, a clergyman made his appearance in
full canonicals, from the vestry door, followed by a clerk. My brain
whirled, and my eyesight grew dim. Dark remembrances of robberies
committed in vestries floated through my mind. I trembled for the
excellent man in full canonicals;--I even trembled for the clerk.
The clergyman placed himself inside the altar rails. The three
desperadoes approached him. He opened his book, and began to read.
What?--you will ask.
I answer, without the slightest hesitation; the first lines of the
My subordinate had the audacity to look at me, and then to stuff his
pocket-handkerchief into his mouth. I scorned to pay any attention to
him. After my own eyes had satisfied me that there was a parchment
license in the clergyman's hand, and that it was consequently useless to
come forward and forbid the marriage,--after I had seen this, and after
I had discovered that the man "Jack" was the bridegroom, and that the
man Jay acted the part of father and gave away the bride, I left the
church, followed by my man, and joined the other subordinate outside
the vestry door. Some people in my position would now have felt rather
crestfallen, and would have begun to think that they had made a very
foolish mistake. Not the faintest misgiving of any kind troubled me. I
did not feel in the slightest degree depreciated in my own estimation.
And even now, after a lapse of three hours, my mind remains, I am happy
to say, in the same calm and hopeful condition.
As soon as I and my subordinates were assembled together, outside the
church, I intimated my intention of still following the other cab, in
spite of what had occurred. My reason for deciding on this course will
appear presently. The two subordinates appeared to be astonished at
my resolution. One of them had the impertinence to say to me, "If you
please, Sir, who is it we are after? A man who has stolen money, or
a man who has stolen a wife?" The other low person encouraged him
by laughing. Both have deserved an official reprimand; and both, I
sincerely trust, will be sore to get it.
When the marriage ceremony was over, the three got into their cab; and,
once more, our vehicle (neatly hidden round the corner of the church,
so that they could not suspect it to be near them) started to follow
theirs. We traced them to the terminus of the South-Western Railway. The
newly married couple took tickets for Richmond,--paying their fare with
a half sovereign, and so depriving me of the pleasure of arresting them,
which I should certainly have done, if they had offered a bank-note.
They parted from Mr. Jay, saying, "Remember the address,--l4, Babylon
Terrace. You dine with us to-morrow week." Mr. Jay accepted the
invitation, and added, jocosely, that he was going home at once to get
off his clean clothes, and to be comfortable and dirty again for the
rest of the day. I have to report that I saw him home safely, and that
he is comfortable and dirty again (to use his own disgraceful language)
at the present moment.
Here the affair rests, having by this time reached what I may call its
first stage. I know very well what persons of hasty judgments will be
inclined to say of my proceedings thus far. They will assert that I have
been deceiving myself, all through, in the most absurd way; they will
declare that the suspicious conversations which I have reported referred
solely to the difficulties and dangers of successfully carrying out
a runaway match; and they will appeal to the scene in the church, as
offering undeniable proof of the correctness of their assertions. So let
it be. I dispute nothing, up to this point. But I ask a question, out of
the depths of my own sagacity as a man of the world, which the bitterest
of my enemies will not, I think, find it particularly easy to answer.
Granted the fact of the marriage, what proof does it afford me of
the innocence of the three persons concerned in that clandestine
transaction? It gives me none. On the contrary, it strengthens my
suspicions against Mr. Jay and his confederates, because it suggests a
distinct motive for their stealing the money. A gentleman who is going
to spend his honeymoon at Richmond wants money; and a gentleman who is
in debt to all his tradespeople wants money. Is this an unjustifiable
imputation of bad motives? In the name of outraged Morality, I deny it.
These men have combined together, and have stolen a woman. Why should
they not combine together and steal a cash-box? I take my stand on the
logic of rigid Virtue; and I defy all the sophistry of Vice to move me
an inch out of my position.
Speaking of virtue, I may add that I have put this view of the case
to Mr. and Mrs. Yatman. That accomplished and charming woman found it
difficult, at first, to follow the close chain of my reasoning. I am
free to confess that she shook her head, and shed tears, and joined
her husband in premature lamentation over the loss of the two hundred
pounds. But a little careful explanation on my part, and a little
attentive listening on hers, ultimately changed her opinion. She now
agrees with me, that there is nothing in this unexpected circumstance of
the clandestine marriage which absolutely tends to divert suspicion from
Mr. Jay, or Mr. "Jack," or the runaway lady,--"audacious hussey" was the
term my fair friend used in speaking of her, but let that pass. It is
more to the purpose to record, that Mrs. Yatman has not lost confidence
in me, and that Mr. Yatman promises to follow her example and do his
best to look hopefully for future results.
I have now, in the new turn that circumstances have taken, to await
advice from your office. I pause for fresh orders with all the composure
of a man who has got two strings to his bow. When I traced the three
confederates from the church door to the railway terminus, I had two
motives for doing so. First, I followed them as a matter of official
business, believing them still to have been guilty of the robbery.
Secondly, I followed them as a matter of private speculation, with a
view of discovering the place of refuge to which the runaway couple
intended to retreat, and of making my information a marketable commodity
to offer to the young lady's family and friends. Thus, whatever happens,
I may congratulate myself beforehand on not having wasted my time. If
the office approves of my conduct, I have my plan ready for further
proceedings. If the office blames me, I shall take myself off, with
my marketable information, to the genteel villa-residence in the
neighborhood of the Regent's Park. Any way, the affair puts money into
my pocket, and does credit to my penetration, as an uncommonly sharp
I have only one word more to add, and it is this:--If any individual
ventures to assert that Mr. Jay and his confederates are innocent of
all share in the stealing of the cash-box, I, in return, defy that
individual--though he may even be Chief Inspector Theakstone himself--to
tell me who has committed the robbery at Rutherford Street, Soho.
Strong in that conviction,
I have the honor to be
Your very obedient servant,
FROM CHIEF INSPECTOR THEAKSTONE TO SERGEANT BULMER.
Birmingham, July 9th.
That empty-headed puppy, Mr. Matthew Sharpin, has made a mess of the
case at Rutherford Street, exactly as I expected he would. Business
keeps me in this town; so I write to you to set the matter straight.
I enclose, with this, the pages of feeble scribble-scrabble which the
creature, Sharpin, calls a report. Look them over; and when you have
made your way through all the gabble, I think you will agree with me
that the conceited booby has looked for the thief in every direction but
the right one. The case is perfectly simple, now. Settle it at once;
forward your report to me at this place; and tell Mr. Sharpin that he is
suspended till further notice.
FROM SERGEANT BULMER TO CHIEF INSPECTOR THEAKSTONE.
London, July 10th.
Your letter and enclosure came safe to hand. Wise men, they say, may
always learn something, even from a fool. By the time I had got through
Sharpin's maundering report of his own folly, I saw my way clear enough
to the end of the Rutherford-Street case, just as you thought I should.
In half an hour's time I was at the house. The first person I saw there
was Mr. Sharpin himself.
"Have you come to help me?" says he.
"Not exactly," says I. "I've come to tell you that you are suspended till
"Very good," says he, not taken down, by so much as a single peg, in
his own estimation. "I thought you would be jealous of me. It's very
natural; and I don't blame you. Walk in, pray, and make yourself at
home. I'm off to do a little detective business on my own account, in
the neighborhood of the Regent's Park. Ta-ta, Sergeant, ta-ta!"
With those words he took himself out of my way,--which was exactly what
I wanted him to do. As soon as the maid-servant had shut the door, I
told her to inform her master that I wanted to say a word to him in
private. She showed me into the parlor behind the shop; and there was
Mr. Yatman, all alone, reading the newspaper.
"About this matter of the robbery, Sir," says I.
He cut me short, peevishly enough,--being naturally a poor, weak,
womanish sort of man. "Yes, yes, I know," says he. "You have come to
tell me that your wonderfully clever man, who has bored holes in my
second-floor partition, has made a mistake, and is off the scent of the
scoundrel who has stolen my money."
"Yes, Sir," says I. "That _is_ one of the things I came to tell you. But
I have got something else to say, besides that."
"Can you tell me who the thief is?" says he, more pettish than ever.
"Yes, Sir," says I, "I think I can."
He put down the newspaper, and began to look rather anxious and
"Not my shopman?" says he. "I hope, for the man's own sake, it's not my
"Guess again, Sir," says I.
"That idle slut, the maid?" says he.
"She is idle, Sir," says I, "and she is also a slut; my first inquiries
about her proved as much as that. But she's not the thief."
"Then, in the name of Heaven, who is?" says he.
"Will you please to prepare yourself for a very disagreeable surprise,
Sir?" says I. "And in case you lose your temper, will you excuse my
remarking, that I am the stronger man of the two, and that, if you allow
yourself to lay hands on me, I may unintentionally hurt you, in pure
He turned as pale as ashes, and pushed his chair two or three feet away
"You have asked me to tell you, Sir, who has taken your money," I went
on. "If you insist on my giving you an answer"--
"I do insist," he said, faintly. "Who has taken it?"
"Your wife has taken it," I said, very quietly, and very positively at
the same time.
He jumped out of the chair as if I had put a knife into him, and struck
his fist on the table, so heavily that the wood cracked again.
"Steady, Sir," says I. "Flying into a passion won't help you to the
"It's a lie!" says he, with another smack of his fist on the table,--"a
base, vile, infamous lie! How dare you"--
He stopped, and fell back into the chair again, looked about him in a
bewildered way, and ended by bursting out crying.
"When your better sense comes back to you, Sir," says I, "I am sure you
will be gentleman enough to make me an apology for the language you have
just used. In the mean time, please to listen, if you can, to a word of
explanation. Mr. Sharpin has sent in a report to our Inspector, of the
most irregular and ridiculous kind; setting down, not only all his own
foolish doings and sayings, but the doings and sayings of Mrs. Yatman as
well. In most cases, such a document would have been fit only for the
waste-paper basket; but, in this particular case, it so happens that Mr.
Sharpin's budget of nonsense leads to a certain conclusion which the
simpleton of a writer has been quite innocent of suspecting from the
beginning to the end. Of that conclusion I am so sure, that I will
forfeit my place, if it does not turn out that Mrs. Yatman has been
practising upon the folly and conceit of this young man, and that she
has tried to shield herself from discovery by purposely encouraging him
to suspect the wrong persons. I tell you that confidently; and I will
even go farther. I will undertake to give a decided opinion as to why
Mrs. Yatman took the money, and what she has done with it, or with a
part of it. Nobody can look at that lady, Sir, without being struck by
the great taste and beauty of her dress"----
As I said those last words, the poor man seemed to find his powers of
speech again. He cut me short directly, as haughtily as if he had been
a duke instead of a stationer. "Try some other means of justifying your
vile calumny against my wife," says he. "Her milliner's bill, for the
past year, is on my file of receipted accounts, at this moment."
"Excuse me, Sir," says I, "but that proves nothing. Milliners, I must
tell you, have a certain rascally custom which comes within the daily
experience of our office. A married lady who wishes it can keep two
accounts at her dress-maker's:--one is the account which her husband
sees and pays; the other is the private account, which contains all the
extravagant items, and which the wife pays secretly, by instalments,
whenever she can. According to our usual experience, these instalments
are mostly squeezed out of the housekeeping money. In your case, I
suspect no instalments have been paid; proceedings have been threatened;
Mrs. Yatman, knowing your altered circumstances, has felt herself
driven into a corner; and she has paid her private account out of your
"I won't believe it!" says he. "Every word you speak is an abominable
insult to me and to my wife."
"Are you man enough, Sir," says I, taking him up short, in order to save
time and words, "to get that receipted bill you spoke of just now, off
the file, and to come with me at once to the milliner's shop where Mrs.
He turned red in the face at that, got the bill directly, and put on his
hat. I took out of my pocket-book the list containing the numbers of the
lost notes, and we left the house together immediately.
Arrived at the milliner's, (one of the expensive West-End houses, as I
expected,) I asked for a private interview, on important business, with
the mistress of the concern. It was not the first time that she and I
had met over the same delicate investigation. The moment she set eyes on
me, she sent for her husband. I mentioned who Mr. Yatman was, and what
"This is strictly private?" says the husband. I nodded my head.
"And confidential?" says the wife. I nodded again.
"Do you see any objection, dear, to obliging the Sergeant with a sight
of the books?" says the husband.
"None in the world, love, if you approve of it," says the wife.
All this while poor Mr. Yatman sat looking the picture of astonishment
and distress, quite out of place at our polite conference. The books
were brought,--and one minute's look at the pages in which Mrs. Yatman's
name figured was enough, and more than enough, to prove the truth of
every word that I had spoken.
There, in one book, was the husband's account, which Mr. Yatman had
settled. And there, in the other, was the private account, crossed off
also; the date of settlement being the very day after the loss of the
cash-box. This said private account amounted to the sum of a hundred and
seventy-five pounds, odd shillings; and it extended over a period of
three years. Not a single instalment had been paid on it. Under the last
line was an entry to this effect: "Written to for the third time, June
23d." I pointed to it, and asked the milliner if that meant "last June."
Yes, it did mean last June; and she now deeply regretted to say that it
had been accompanied by a threat of legal proceedings.
"I thought you gave good customers more than three years' credit?" says
The milliner looks at Mr. Yatman, and whispers to me,--"Not when a lady's
husband gets into difficulties."
She pointed to the account as she spoke. The entries after the time when
Mr. Yatman's circumstances became involved were just as extravagant, for
a person in his wife's situation, as the entries for the year before
that period. If the lady had economized in other things, she had
certainly not economized in the matter of dress.
There was nothing left now but to examine the cash-book, for form's
sake. The money had been paid in notes, the amounts and numbers of which
exactly tallied with the figures set down in my list.
After that, I thought it best to get Mr. Yatman out of the house
immediately. He was in such a pitiable condition, that I called a cab
and accompanied him home in it. At first, he cried and raved like a
child; but I soon quieted him,--and I must add, to his credit, that he
made me a most handsome apology for his language, as the cab drew up at
his house-door. In return, I tried to give him some advice about how to
set matters right, for the future, with his wife. He paid very little
attention to me, and went up stairs muttering to himself about a
separation. Whether Mrs. Yatman will come cleverly out of the scrape
or not seems doubtful. I should say, myself, that she will go into
screeching hysterics, and so frighten the poor man into forgiving her.
But this is no business of ours. So far as we are concerned, the case
is now at an end; and the present report may come to a conclusion along
I remain, accordingly, yours to command,
P.S.--I have to add, that, on leaving Rutherford Street, I met Mr.
Matthew Sharpin coming back to pack up his things.
"Only think!" says he, rubbing his hands in great spirits, "I've been
to the genteel villa-residence; and the moment I mentioned my business,
they kicked me out directly. There were two witnesses of the assault;
and it's worth a hundred pounds to me, if it's worth a farthing."
"I wish you joy of your luck," says I.
"Thank you," says he. "When may I pay you the same compliment on finding
"Whenever you like," says I, "for the thief is found."
"Just what I expected," says he. "I've done all the work; and now you
cut in, and claim all the credit.--Mr. Jay, of course?"
"No," says I.
"Who is it, then?" says he.
"Ask Mrs. Yatman," says I. "She'll tell you."
"All right! I'd much rather hear it from her than from you," says
he,--and goes into the house in a mighty hurry.
What do you think of that, Inspector Theakstone? Would you like to stand
in Mr. Sharpin's shoes? I shouldn't, I can promise you!
FROM CHIEF INSPECTOR THEAKSTONE TO MR. MATTHEW SHARPIN.
Sergeant Bulmer has already told you to consider yourself suspended
until further notice. I have now authority to add, that your services as
a member of the Detective Police are positively declined You will please
to take this letter as notifying officially your dismissal from the
I may inform you, privately, that your rejection is not intended to cast
any reflections on your character. It merely implies that you are not
quite sharp enough for our purpose. If we are to have a new recruit
among us, we should infinitely prefer Mrs. Yatman.
Your obedient servant,
* * * * *
Note on the preceding correspondence--The editor is, unfortunately, not
in a position to add any explanations of importance to the last of the
published letters of Chief Inspector Theakstone. It has been discovered
that Mr. Matthew Sharpin left the house in Rutherford Street a quarter
of an hour after his interview outside of it with Sergeant Bulmer,--his
manner expressing the liveliest emotions of terror and astonishment, and
his left cheek displaying a bright patch of red, which looked as if it
might have been the result of what is popularly termed a smart box on
the ear. He was also heard, by the shopman at Rutherford Street, to use
a very shocking expression in reference to Mrs. Yatman; and was seen to
clinch his fist vindictively, as he ran round the corner of the street.
Nothing more has been heard of him; and it is conjectured that he has
left London with the intention of offering his valuable services to the
On the interesting domestic subject of Mr. and Mrs. Yatman still less
is known. It has, however, been positively ascertained that the medical
attendant of the family was sent for in a great hurry on the day when
Mr. Yatman returned from the milliner's shop. The neighboring chemist
received, soon afterwards, a prescription of a soothing nature to
make up for Mrs. Yatman. The day after, Mr. Yatman purchased some
smelling-salts at the shop, and afterwards appeared at the circulating
library to ask for a novel that would amuse an invalid lady. It has been
inferred from these circumstances that he has not thought it desirable
to carry out his threat of separating himself from his wife,--at least
in the present (presumed) condition of that lady's sensitive nervous
* * * * *
TELLING THE BEES.[A]
[Footnote A: A remarkable custom, brought from the Old Country formerly
prevailed in the rural districts of New England. On the death of a
member of the family, the bees were at once informed of the event, and
their hives dressed in mourning. This ceremonial was supposed to be
necessary to prevent the swarms from leaving their hives and seeking a
Here is the place; right over the hill
Runs the path I took;
You can see the gap in the old wall still,
And the stepping-stones in the shallow brook.
There is the house, with the gate red-barred,
And the poplars tall;
And the barn's brown length, and the cattle-yard,
And the white horns tossing above the wall.
There are the bee-hives ranged in the sun;
And down by the brink
Of the brook are her poor flowers, weed-o'errun,
Pansy and daffodil, rose and pink.
A year has gone, as the tortoise goes,
Heavy and slow;
And the same rose blows, and the same sun glows,
And the same brook sings of a year ago.
There's the same sweet clover-smell in the breeze;
And the June sun warm
Tangles his wings of fire in the trees,
Setting, as then, over Fernside farm.
I mind me how with a lover's care
From my Sunday coat
I brushed off the burrs, and smoothed my hair,
And cooled at the brook-side my brow and throat
Since we parted, a month had passed,--
To love, a year;
Down through the beeches, I looked at last
On the little red gate and the well-sweep near.
I can see it all now,--the slantwise rain.
Of light through the leaves,
The sundown's blaze on her window-pane,
The bloom of her roses under the eaves.
Just the same as a month before,--
The house and the trees,
The barn's brown gable, the vine by the door,--
Nothing changed but the hives of bees.
Before them, under the garden wall,
Forward and back,
Went, drearily singing, the chore-girl small,
Draping each hive with a shred of black.
Trembling, I listened: the summer sun
Had the chill of snow;
For I knew she was telling the bees of one
Gone on the journey we all must go!
Then I said to myself, "My Mary weeps
For the dead to-day:
Haply her blind old grandsire sleeps
The fret and the pain of his age away."
But her dog whined low; on the doorway sill,
With his cane to his chin,
The old man sat; and the chore-girl still
Sung to the bees stealing out and in.
And the song she was singing ever since
In my ear sounds on:--
"Stay at home, pretty bees, fly not hence!
Mistress Mary is dead and gone!"
To Baron von Hammer Purgstall, who died in Vienna during the last year,
we owe our best knowledge of the Persians. He has translated into
German, besides the "Divan" of Hafiz, specimens of two hundred poets,
who wrote during a period of five and a half centuries, from A.D. 1000
to 1550. The seven masters of the Persian Parnassus, Firdousi, Enweri,
Nisami, Dschelaleddin, Saadi, Hafiz, and Dschami, have ceased to be
empty names; and others, like Ferideddin Attar, and Omar Chiam, promise
to rise in Western estimation. That for which mainly books exist is
communicated in these rich extracts. Many qualities go to make a good
telescope,--as the largeness of the field, facility of sweeping the
meridian, achromatic purity of lenses, and so forth,--but the one
eminent value is the space-penetrating power; and there are many virtues
in books, but the essential value is the adding of knowledge to our
stock, by the record of new facts, and, better, by the record of
intuitions, which distribute facts, and are the formulas which supersede
Oriental life and society, especially in the Southern nations, stand in
violent contrast with the multitudinous detail, the secular stability,
and the vast average of comfort of the Western nations. Life in the East
is fierce, short, hazardous, and in extremes. Its elements are few
and simple, not exhibiting the long range and undulation of European
existence, but rapidly reaching the best and the worst. The rich feed on
fruits and game,--the poor, on a watermelon's peel. All or nothing is
the genius of Oriental life. Favor of the Sultan, or his displeasure, is
a question of Fate. A war is undertaken for an epigram or a distich, as
in Europe for a duchy. The prolific sun, and the sudden and rank plenty
which his heat engenders, make subsistence easy. On the other side, the
desert, the simoom, the mirage, the lion, and the plague endanger it,
and life hangs on the contingency of a skin of water more or less.
The very geography of old Persia showed these contrasts. "My father's
empire," said Cyrus to Xenophon, "is so large, that people perish with
cold, at one extremity, whilst they are suffocated with heat, at the
other." The temperament of the people agrees with this life in extremes.
Religion and poetry are all their civilization. The religion teaches
an inexorable Destiny. It distinguishes only two days in each man's
history: his birthday, called _the Day of the Lot_, and the Day of
Judgment. Courage and absolute submission to what is appointed him are
The favor of the climate, making subsistence easy, and encouraging
an outdoor life, allows to the Eastern nations a highly intellectual
organization,--leaving out of view, at present, the genius of the
Hindoos, (more Oriental in every sense,) whom no people have surpassed
in the grandeur of their ethical statement. The Persians and the Arabs,
with great leisure and few books, are exquisitely sensible to the
pleasures of poetry. Layard has given some details of the effect which
the _improvvisatori_ produced on the children of the desert. "When the
bard improvised an amatory ditty, the young chief's excitement was
almost beyond control. The other Bedouins were scarcely less moved by
these rude measures, which have the same kind of effect on the wild
tribes of the Persian mountains. Such verses, chanted by their
self-taught poets, or by the girls of their encampment, will drive
warriors to the combat, fearless of death, or prove an ample reward,
on their return from the dangers of the _ghazon_, or the fight. The
excitement they produce exceeds that of the grape. He who would
understand the influence of the Homeric ballads in the heroic ages
should witness the effect which similar compositions have upon the wild
nomads of the East." Elsewhere he adds, "Poetry and flowers are the wine
and spirits of the Arab; a couplet is equal to a bottle, and a rose to a
dram, without the evil effect of either."
The Persian poetry rests on a mythology whose few legends are connected
with the Jewish history, and the anterior traditions of the Pentateuch.
The principal figure in the allusions of Eastern poetry is Solomon.
Solomon had three talismans: first, the signet ring, by which he
commanded the spirits, on the stone of which was engraven the name of
God; second, the glass, in which he saw the secrets of his enemies, and
the causes of all things, figured; the third, the east wind, which was
his horse. His counsellor was Simorg, king of birds, the all-wise fowl,
who had lived ever since the beginning of the world, and now lives alone
on the highest summit of Mount Kaf. No fowler has taken him, and none
now living has seen him. By him Solomon was taught the language of
birds, so that he heard secrets whenever he went into his gardens. When
Solomon travelled, his throne was placed on a carpet of green silk, of
a length and breadth sufficient for all his army to stand upon,--men
placing themselves on his right hand, and the spirits on his left. When
all were in order, the east wind, at his command, took up the carpet,
and transported it, with all that were upon it, whither he pleased,--the
army of birds at the same time flying overhead, and forming a canopy to
shade them from the sun. It is related, that, when the Queen of Sheba
came to visit Solomon, he had built, against her arrival, a palace, of
which the floor or pavement was of glass, laid over running water, in
which fish were swimming. The Queen of Sheba was deceived thereby, and
raised her robes, thinking she was to pass through the water. On the
occasion of Solomon's marriage, all the beasts, laden with presents,
appeared before his throne. Behind them all came the ant with a blade of
grass: Solomon did not despise the gift of the ant. Asaph, the vizier,
at a certain time, lost the seal of Solomon, which one of the Dews, or
evil spirits, found, and, governing in the name of Solomon, deceived the
Firdousi, the Persian Homer, has written in the _Shah Nameh_ the annals
of the fabulous and heroic kings of the country: of Karun, (the Persian
Croesus.) the immeasurably rich gold-maker, who, with all his treasures,
lies buried not far from the Pyramids, in the sea which bears his name;
of Jamschid, the binder of demons, whose reign lasted seven hundred
years; of Kai Kaus, whose palace was built by demons on Alberz, in which
gold and silver and precious stones were used so lavishly, and such was
the brilliancy produced by their combined effect, that night and day
appeared the same; of Afrasiyab, strong as an elephant, whose shadow
extended for miles, whose heart was bounteous as the ocean, and his
hands like the clouds when rain falls to gladden the earth. The
crocodile in the rolling stream had no safety from Afrasiyab. Yet when
he came to fight against the generals of Kaus, he was but an insect in
the grasp of Rustem, who seized him by the girdle, and dragged him
from his horse. Rustem felt such anger at the arrogance of the King of
Mazinderan, that every hair on his body started up like a spear. The
gripe of his hand cracked the sinews of an enemy.
These legends,--with Chiser, the fountain of life, Tuba, the tree of
life,--the romances of the loves of Leila and Medschun, of Chosru and
Schirin, and those of the nightingale for the rose,--pearl-diving, and
the virtues of gems,--the cohol, a cosmetic by which pearls and eyebrows
are indelibly stained black,--the bladder in which musk is brought,--the
down of the lip, the mole on the cheek, the eyelash,--lilies, roses,
tulips, and jasmines,--make the staple imagery of Persian odes.
The Persians have epics and tales, but, for the most part, they affect
short poems and epigrams. Gnomic verses, rules of life, conveyed in a
lively image, especially in an image addressed to the eye, and contained
in a single stanza, were always current in the East; and if the poem
is long, it is only a string of unconnected verses. They use an
inconsecutiveness quite alarming to Western logic, and the connection
between the stanzas of their longer odes is much like that between the
refrain of our old English ballads,
"The sun shines fair on Carlisle wall,"
"The rain it raineth every day,"
and the main story.
Take, as specimens of these gnomic verses, the following:--
"The secret that should not be blown
Not one of thy nation must know;
You may padlock the gate of a town,
But never the mouth of a foe."
Or this of Omar Chiam:--
"On earth's wide thoroughfares below
Two only men contented go:
Who knows what's right and what's forbid,
And he from whom is knowledge hid."
Or this of Enweri:--
"On prince or bride no diamond stone
Half so gracious ever shone,
As the light of enterprise
Beaming from a young man's eyes."
Or this of Ibn Jemin:--
"Two things thou shalt not long for, if thou
love a life serene:
A woman for thy wife, though she were a
And, the second, borrowed money, though
the smiling lender say
That he will not demand the debt until the
Or this poem on Friendship:--
"He who has a thousand friends has not a
friend to spare,
And he who has one enemy shall meet him
Here is a poem on a Melon, by Adsched of Meru:--
"Color, taste, and smell, smaragdus, sugar,
Amber for the tongue, for the eye a picture
If you cut the fruit in slices, every slice a
If you leave it whole, the full harvest-moon
Hafiz is the prince of Persian poets, and in his extraordinary gifts
adds to some of the attributes of Pindar, Anacreon, Horace, and Burns
the insight of a mystic, that sometimes affords a deeper glance at
Nature than belongs to either of these bards. He accosts all topics with
an easy audacity. "He only," he says, "is fit for company, who knows how
to prize earthly happiness at the value of a night-cap. Our father Adam
sold Paradise for two kernels of wheat; then blame me not, if I hold it
dear at one grapestone." He says to the Shah, "Thou who rulest after
words and thoughts which no ear has heard and no mind has thought,
abide firm until thy young destiny tears off his blue coat from the old
graybeard of the sky." He says,--
"I batter the wheel of heaven
When it rolls not rightly by;
I am not one of the snivellers
Who fall thereon and die."
The rapidity of his turns is always surprising us:--
"See how the roses burn!
Bring wine to quench the fire!
Alas! the flames come up with us,--
We perish with desire."
After the manner of his nation, he abounds in pregnant sentences which
might be engraved on a sword-blade and almost on a ring.
"In honor dies he to whom the great seems ever wonderful."
"Here is the sum, that, when one door opens, another shuts."
"On every side is an ambush laid by the robber-troops of circumstance;
hence it is that the horseman of life urges on his courser at headlong
"The earth is a host who murders his guests."
"Good is what goes on the road of Nature. On the straight way the
traveller never misses."
"Alas! till now I had not known
My guide and Fortune's guide are one."
"The understanding's copper coin
Counts not with the gold of love."
"'Tis writ on Paradise's gate,
'Wo to the dupe that yields to Fate!'"
"The world is a bride superbly dressed;--
Who weds her for dowry must pay his soul."
"Loose the knots of the heart; never think on
No Euclid has yet disentangled that snarl."
"There resides in the grieving
A poison to kill;
Beware to go near them
'Tis pestilent still."
Harems and wine-shops only give him a new ground of observation, whence
to draw sometimes a deeper moral than regulated sober life affords,--and
this is foreseen:--
"I will be drunk and down with wine;
Treasures we find in a ruined house."
Riot, he thinks, can snatch from the deeply hidden lot the veil that
"To be wise the dull brain so earnestly throbs,
Bring bands of wine for the stupid head."
"The Builder of heaven
Hath sundered the earth,
So that no footway
Leads out of it forth.
"On turnpikes of wonder
Wine leads the mind forth,
Straight, sidewise, and upward,
West, southward, and north.
"Stands the vault adamantine
Until the Doomsday;
The wine-cup shall ferry
Thee o'er it away."
That hardihood and self-equality of every sound nature, which result
from the feeling that the spirit in him is entire and as good as the
world, which entitle the poet to speak with authority, and make him an
object of interest, and his every phrase and syllable significant, are
in Hafiz, and abundantly fortify and ennoble his tone.
His was the fluent mind in which every thought and feeling came readily
to the lips. "Loose the knots of the heart," he says. We absorb elements
enough, but have not leaves and lungs for healthy perspiration and
growth. An air of sterility, of incompetence to their proper aims,
belongs to many who have both experience and wisdom. But a large
utterance, a river, that makes its own shores, quick perception and
corresponding expression, a constitution to which every morrow is a new
day, which is equal to the needs of life, at once tender and bold, with
great arteries,--this generosity of ebb and flow satisfies, and we
should be willing to die when our time comes, having had our swing and
gratification. The difference is not so much in the quality of men's
thoughts as in the power of uttering them. What is pent and smouldered
in the dumb actor is not pent in the poet, but passes over into new
form, at once relief and creation.
The other merit of Hafiz is his intellectual liberty, which is a
certificate of profound thought. We accept the religions and politics
into which we fall; and it is only a few delicate spirits who are
sufficient to see that the whole web of convention is the imbecility
of those whom it entangles,--that the mind suffers no religion and no
empire but its own. It indicates this respect to absolute truth by the
use it makes of the symbols that are most stable and reverend, and
therefore is always provoking the accusation of irreligion.
Hypocrisy is the perpetual butt of his arrows.
"Let us draw the cowl through the brook of
He tells his mistress, that not the dervis, or the monk, but the lover,
has in his heart the spirit which makes the ascetic and the saint; and
certainly not their cowls and mummeries, but her glances, can impart to
him the fire and virtue needful for such self-denial. Wrong shall not be
wrong to Hafiz, for the name's sake. A law or statute is to him what a
fence is to a nimble schoolboy,--a temptation for a jump. "We would do
nothing but good; else would shame come to us on the day when the soul
must hie hence;--and should they then deny us Paradise, the Houris
themselves would forsake that, and come out to us."
His complete intellectual emancipation he communicates to the reader.
There is no example of such facility of allusion, such use of all
materials. Nothing is too high, nothing too low, for his occasion. He
fears nothing, he stops for nothing. Love is a leveller, and Allah
becomes a groom, and heaven a closet, in his daring hymns to his
mistress or to his cup-bearer. This boundless charter is the right of
genius. "No evil fate," said Beethoven, "can befall my music, and he to
whom it is become intelligible must become free from all the paltriness
which the others drag about with them."
We do not wish to strew sugar on bottled spiders, or try to make
mystical divinity out of the Song of Solomon, much less out of the
erotic and bacchanalian songs of Hafiz. Hafiz himself is determined to
defy all such hypocritical interpretation, and tears off his turban and
throws it at the head of the meddling dervis, and throws his glass after
the turban. But the love or the wine of Hafiz is not to be confounded
with vulgar debauch. It is the spirit in which the song is written that
imports, and not the topics. Hafiz praises wine, roses, maidens, boys,
birds, mornings, and music, to give vent to his immense hilarity and
sympathy with every form of beauty and joy; and lays the emphasis on
these to mark his scorn of sanctimony and base prudence. These are the
natural topics and language of his wit and perception. But it is the
play of wit and the joy of song that he loves; and if you mistake him
for a low rioter, he turns short on you with verses which express the
poverty of sensual joys, and to ejaculate with equal fire the most
unpalatable affirmations of heroic sentiment and contempt for the world.
Sometimes it is a glance from the height of thought, as thus:--"Bring
wine; for, in the audience-hall of the soul's independence, what is
sentinel or Sultan? what is the wise man or the intoxicated?"--and
sometimes his feast, feasters, and world are only one pebble more in the
eternal vortex and revolution of Fate:--
"I am: what I am
My dust will be again."
A saint might lend an ear to the riotous fun of Falstaff; for it is
not created to excite the animal appetites, but to vent the joy of a