Part 12 out of 13
'Most certainly I do,' said the man in black. 'The writings of
that man have made them greater fools than they were before. All
their conversation now is about gallant knights, princesses, and
cavaliers, with which his pages are stuffed--all of whom were
Papists, or very High Church, which is nearly the same thing; and
they are beginning to think that the religion of such nice sweet-
scented gentry must be something very superfine. Why, I know at
Birmingham the daughter of an ironmonger, who screeches to the
piano the Lady of the Lake's hymn to the Virgin Mary, always weeps
when Mary Queen of Scots is mentioned, and fasts on the anniversary
of the death of that very wise martyr, Charles the First. Why, I
would engage to convert such an idiot to popery in a week, were it
worth my trouble. O Cavaliere Gualtiero, avete fatto molto in
favore della Santa Sede!'
'If he has,' said I, 'he has done it unwittingly; I never heard
before that he was a favourer of the popish delusion.'
'Only in theory,' said the man in black. 'Trust any of the clan
Mac-Sycophant for interfering openly and boldly in favour of any
cause on which the sun does not shine benignantly. Popery is at
present, as you say, suing for grace in these regions in forma
pauperis; but let royalty once take it up, let old gouty George
once patronise it, and I would consent to drink puddle-water if,
the very next time the canny Scot was admitted to the royal
symposium, he did not say, "By my faith, yere Majesty, I have
always thought, at the bottom of my heart, that popery, as ill-
scrapit tongues ca' it, was a very grand religion; I shall be proud
to follow your Majesty's example in adopting it."'
'I doubt not,' said I, 'that both gouty George and his devoted
servant will be mouldering in their tombs long before Royalty in
England thinks about adopting popery.'
'We can wait,' said the man in black; 'in these days of rampant
gentility, there will be no want of kings nor of Scots about them.'
'But not Walters,' said I.
'Our work has been already tolerably well done by one,' said the
man in black; 'but if we wanted literature, we should never lack in
these regions hosts of literary men of some kind or other to
eulogise us, provided our religion were in the fashion, and our
popish nobles chose--and they always do our bidding--to admit the
canaille to their tables--their kitchen tables. As for literature
in general,' said he, 'the Santa Sede is not particularly partial
to it, it may be employed both ways. In Italy, in particular, it
has discovered that literary men are not always disposed to be
'For example, Dante,' said I.
'Yes,' said the man in black, 'a dangerous personage; that poem of
his cuts both ways; and then there was Pulci, that Morgante of his
cuts both ways, or rather one way, and that sheer against us; and
then there was Aretino, who dealt so hard with the poveri frati;
all writers, at least Italian ones, are not lickspittles. And then
in Spain,--'tis true, Lope de Vega and Calderon were most
inordinate lickspittles; the Principe Constante of the last is a
curiosity in its way; and then the Mary Stuart of Lope; I think I
shall recommend the perusal of that work to the Birmingham
ironmonger's daughter--she has been lately thinking of adding "a
slight knowledge of the magneeficent language of the Peninsula" to
the rest of her accomplishments, he! he! he! But then there was
Cervantes, starving, but straight; he deals us some hard knocks in
that second part of his Quixote. Then there were some of the
writers of the picaresque novels. No, all literary men are not
lickspittles, whether in Italy or Spain, or, indeed, upon the
Continent; it is only in England that all--'
'Come,' said I, 'Mind what you are about to say of English literary
'Why should I mind?' said the man in black, 'there are no literary
men here. I have heard of literary men living in garrets, but not
in dingles, whatever philologists may do; I may, therefore, speak
out freely. It is only in England that literary men are invariably
lickspittles; on which account, perhaps, they are so despised, even
by those who benefit by their dirty services. Look at your
fashionable novel-writers, he! he!--and, above all, at your
newspaper editors, ho! ho!'
'You will, of course, except the editors of the--from your censure
of the last class?' said I.
'Them!' said the man in black; 'why, they might serve as models in
the dirty trade to all the rest who practise it. See how they
bepraise their patrons, the grand Whig nobility, who hope, by
raising the cry of liberalism and by putting themselves at the head
of the populace, to come into power shortly. I don't wish to be
hard, at present, upon those Whigs,' he continued, 'for they are
playing our game; but a time will come when, not wanting them, we
will kick them to a considerable distance: and then, when
toleration is no longer the cry, and the Whigs are no longer backed
by the populace, see whether the editors of the--will stand by
them; they will prove themselves as expert lickspittles of
despotism as of liberalism. Don't think they will always bespatter
the Tories and Austria.'
'Well,' said I, 'I am sorry to find that you entertain so low an
opinion of the spirit of English literary men; we will now return,
if you please, to the subject of the middle classes; I think your
strictures upon them in general are rather too sweeping--they are
not altogether the foolish people which you have described. Look,
for example, at that very powerful and numerous body the
Dissenters, the descendants of those sturdy Patriots who hurled
Charles the Simple from his throne.'
'There are some sturdy fellows amongst them, I do not deny,' said
the man in black, 'especially amongst the preachers, clever withal-
-two or three of that class nearly drove Mr. Platitude mad, as
perhaps you are aware, but they are not very numerous; and the old
sturdy sort of preachers are fast dropping off, and, as we observe
with pleasure, are generally succeeded by frothy coxcombs, whom it
would not be very difficult to gain over. But what we most rely
upon as an instrument to bring the Dissenters over to us is the
mania for gentility, which amongst them has of late become as
great, and more ridiculous than amongst the middle classes
belonging to the Church of England. All the plain and simple
fashions of their forefathers they are either about to abandon, or
have already done so. Look at the most part of their chapels--no
longer modest brick edifices, situated in quiet and retired
streets, but lunatic-looking erections, in what the simpletons call
the modern Gothic taste, of Portland stone, with a cross upon the
top, and the site generally the most conspicuous that can be found.
And look at the manner in which they educate their children--I mean
those that are wealthy. They do not even wish them to be
Dissenters--"the sweet dears shall enjoy the advantages of good
society, of which their parents were debarred." So the girls are
sent to tip-top boarding-schools, where amongst other trash they
read Rokeby, and are taught to sing snatches from that high-flying
ditty, the "Cavalier" -
'Would you match the base Skippon, and Massey, and Brown,
With the barons of England, who fight for the crown? -
he! he! their own names. Whilst the lads are sent to those hotbeds
of pride and folly--colleges, whence they return with a greater
contempt for everything "low," and especially for their own
pedigree, than they went with. I tell you, friend, the children of
Dissenters, if not their parents, are going over to the Church, as
you call it, and the Church is going over to Rome.'
'I do not see the justice of that latter assertion at all,' said I;
'some of the Dissenters' children may be coming over to the Church
of England, and yet the Church of England be very far from going
over to Rome.'
'In the high road for it, I assure you,' said the man in black;
'part of it is going to abandon, the rest to lose their
prerogative, and when a Church no longer retains its prerogative,
it speedily loses its own respect, and that of others.'
'Well,' said I, 'if the higher classes have all the vices and
follies which you represent, on which point I can say nothing, as I
have never mixed with them; and even supposing the middle classes
are the foolish beings you would fain make them, and which I do not
believe them as a body to be, you would still find some resistance
amongst the lower classes: I have a considerable respect for their
good sense and independence of character; but pray let me hear your
opinion of them.'
'As for the lower classes,' said the man in black, 'I believe them
to be the most brutal wretches in the world, the most addicted to
foul feeding, foul language, and foul vices of every kind; wretches
who have neither love for country, religion, nor anything save
their own vile selves. You surely do not think that they would
oppose a change of religion! why, there is not one of them but
would hurrah for the Pope, or Mahomet, for the sake of a hearty
gorge and a drunken bout, like those which they are treated with at
'Has your church any followers amongst them?' said I.
'Wherever there happens to be a Romish family of considerable
possessions,' said the man in black, 'our church is sure to have
followers of the lower class, who have come over in the hope of
getting something in the shape of dole or donation. As, however,
the Romish is not yet the dominant religion, and the clergy of the
English establishment have some patronage to bestow, the churches
are not quite deserted by the lower classes; yet, were the Romish
to become the established religion, they would, to a certainty, all
go over to it; you can scarcely imagine what a self-interested set
they are--for example, the landlord of that public-house in which I
first met you, having lost a sum of money upon a cock-fight, and
his affairs in consequence being in a bad condition, is on the eve
of coming over to us, in the hope that two old Popish females of
property, whom I confess, will advance a sum of money to set him up
again in the world.'
'And what could have put such an idea into the poor fellow's head?'
'Oh, he and I have had some conversation upon the state of his
affairs,' said the man in black; 'I think he might make a rather
useful convert in these parts, provided things take a certain turn,
as they doubtless will. It is no bad thing to have a fighting
fellow, who keeps a public-house, belonging to one's religion. He
has been occasionally employed as a bully at elections by the Tory
party, and he may serve us in the same capacity. The fellow comes
of a good stock; I heard him say that his father headed the High
Church mob who sacked and burnt Priestley's house at Birmingham,
towards the end of the last century.'
'A disgraceful affair,' said I.
'What do you mean by a disgraceful affair?' said the man in black.
'I assure you that nothing has occurred for the last fifty years
which has given the High Church party so much credit in the eyes of
Rome as that,--we did not imagine that the fellows had so much
energy. Had they followed up that affair by twenty others of a
similar kind, they would by this time have had everything in their
own power; but they did not, and, as a necessary consequence, they
are reduced to almost nothing.'
'I suppose,' said I, 'that your Church would have acted very
differently in its place.'
'It has always done so,' said the man in black, coolly sipping.
'Our Church has always armed the brute population against the
genius and intellect of a country, provided that same intellect and
genius were not willing to become its instruments and eulogists;
and provided we once obtain a firm hold here again, we would not
fail to do so. We would occasionally stuff the beastly rabble with
horseflesh and bitter ale, and then halloo them on against all
those who were obnoxious to us.'
'Horseflesh and bitter ale!' I replied.
'Yes,' said the man in black; 'horseflesh and bitter ale--the
favourite delicacies of their Saxon ancestors, who were always
ready to do our bidding after a liberal allowance of such cheer.
There is a tradition in our Church, that before the Northumbrian
rabble, at the instigation of Austin, attacked and massacred the
presbyterian monks of Bangor, they had been allowed a good gorge of
horseflesh and bitter ale. He! he! he!' continued the man in
black, 'what a fine spectacle to see such a mob, headed by a fellow
like our friend the landlord, sack the house of another Priestley!'
'Then you don't deny that we have had a Priestley,' said I, 'and
admit the possibility of our having another? You were lately
observing that all English literary men were sycophants?'
'Lickspittles,' said the man in black; 'yes, I admit that you have
had a Priestley, but he was a Dissenter of the old class; you have
had him, and perhaps may have another.'
'Perhaps we may,' said I. 'But with respect to the lower classes,
have you mixed much with them?'
'I have mixed with all classes,' said the man in black, 'and with
the lower not less than the upper and middle; they are much as I
have described them; and of the three, the lower are the worst. I
never knew one of them that possessed the slightest principle, no,
not -. It is true, there was one fellow whom I once met, who--;
but it is a long story, and the affair happened abroad.--I ought to
know something of the English people,' he continued, after a
moment's pause; 'I have been many years amongst them, labouring in
the cause of the Church.'
'Your See must have had great confidence in your powers when it
selected you to labour for it in these parts,' said I.
'They chose me,' said the man in black, 'principally because, being
of British extraction and education, I could speak the English
language and bear a glass of something strong. It is the opinion
of my See that it would hardly do to send a missionary into a
country like this who is not well versed in English--a country
where, they think, so far from understanding any language besides
his own, scarcely one individual in ten speaks his own
intelligibly; or an ascetic person where, as they say, high and
low, male and female, are, at some period of their lives, fond of a
renovating glass, as it is styled--in other words, of tippling.'
'Your See appears to entertain a very strange opinion of the
English,' said I.
'Not altogether an unjust one,' said the man in black, lifting the
glass to his mouth.
'Well,' said I, 'it is certainly very kind on its part to wish to
bring back such a set of beings beneath its wing.'
'Why, as to the kindness of my See,' said the man in black, 'I have
not much to say; my See has generally in what it does a tolerably
good motive; these heretics possess in plenty what my See has a
great hankering for, and can turn to a good account--money!'
'The Founder of the Christian religion cared nothing for money,'
'What have we to do with what the Founder of the Christian religion
cared for?' said the man in black. 'How could our temples be built
and our priests supported without money? But you are unwise to
reproach us with a desire of obtaining money; you forget that your
own Church, if the Church of England be your own Church, as I
suppose it is from the willingness which you displayed in the
public-house to fight for it, is equally avaricious; look at your
greedy Bishops and your corpulent Rectors--do they imitate Christ
in His disregard for money? You might as well tell me that they
imitate Christ in His meekness and humility.'
'Well,' said I, 'whatever their faults may be, you can't say that
they go to Rome for money.'
The man in black made no direct answer, but appeared by the motion
of his lips to be repeating something to himself.
'I see your glass is again empty,' said I; 'perhaps you will
The man in black arose from his seat, adjusted his habiliments,
which were rather in disorder, and placed upon his head his hat,
which he had laid aside; then, looking at me, who was still lying
on the ground, he said--'I might, perhaps, take another glass,
though I believe I have had quite as much as I can well bear; but I
do not wish to hear you utter anything more this evening, after
that last observation of yours--it is quite original; I will
meditate upon it on my pillow this night, after having said an ave
and a pater--go to Rome for money!' He then made Belle a low bow,
slightly motioned to me with his hand as if bidding farewell, and
then left the dingle with rather uneven steps.
'Go to Rome for money,' I heard him say as he ascended the winding
path, 'he! he! he! Go to Rome for money, ho! ho! ho!'
Wooded retreat--Fresh shoes--Wood fire--Ash, when green--Queen of
olive--What do you mean?--Koul Adonai--The thick bushes--Wood
Nearly three days elapsed without anything of particular moment
occurring. Belle drove the little cart containing her merchandise
about the neighbourhood, returning to the dingle towards the
evening. As for myself, I kept within my wooded retreat, working
during the periods of her absence leisurely at my forge. Having
observed that the quadruped which my companion drove was as much in
need of shoes as my own had been some time previously, I had
determined to provide it with a set, and during the aforesaid
periods occupied myself in preparing them. As I was employed three
mornings and afternoons about them, I am sure that the reader will
agree that I worked leisurely, or rather, lazily. On the third day
Belle arrived somewhat later than usual; I was lying on my back at
the bottom of the dingle, employed in tossing up the shoes which I
had produced, and catching them as they fell--some being always in
the air mounting or descending, somewhat after the fashion of the
waters of a fountain.
'Why have you been absent so long?' said I to Belle; 'it must be
long past four by the day.'
'I have been almost killed by the heat,' said Belle; 'I was never
out in a more sultry day--the poor donkey, too, could scarcely move
'He shall have fresh shoes,' said I, continuing my exercise; 'here
they are quite ready; to-morrow I will tack them on.'
'And why are you playing with them in that manner?' said Belle.
'Partly in triumph at having made them, and partly to show that I
can do something besides making them; it is not every one who,
after having made a set of horse-shoes, can keep them going up and
down in the air, without letting one fall--'
'One has now fallen on your chin,' said Belle.
'And another on my cheek,' said I, getting up; 'it is time to
discontinue the game, for the last shoe drew blood.'
Belle went to her own little encampment; and as for myself, after
having flung the donkey's shoes into my tent, I put some fresh wood
on the fire, which was nearly out, and hung the kettle over it. I
then issued forth from the dingle, and strolled round the wood that
surrounded it; for a long time I was busied in meditation, looking
at the ground, striking with my foot, half unconsciously, the tufts
of grass and thistles that I met in my way. After some time, I
lifted up my eyes to the sky, at first vacantly, and then with more
attention, turning my head in all directions for a minute or two;
after which I returned to the dingle. Isopel was seated near the
fire, over which the kettle was now hung; she had changed her
dress--no signs of the dust and fatigue of her late excursion
remained; she had just added to the fire a small billet of wood,
two or three of which I had left beside it; the fire cracked, and a
sweet odour filled the dingle.
'I am fond of sitting by a wood fire,' said Belle, 'when abroad,
whether it be hot or cold; I love to see the flames dart out of the
wood; but what kind is this, and where did you get it?'
'It is ash,' said I, 'green ash. Somewhat less than a week ago,
whilst I was wandering along the road by the side of a wood, I came
to a place where some peasants were engaged in cutting up and
clearing away a confused mass of fallen timber: a mighty aged oak
had given way the night before, and in its fall had shivered some
smaller trees; the upper part of the oak, and the fragments of the
rest, lay across the road. I purchased, for a trifle, a bundle or
two, and the wood on the fire is part of it--ash, green ash.'
'That makes good the old rhyme,' said Belle, 'which I have heard
sung by the old women in the great house:-
'Ash, when green,
Is fire for a queen.'
'And on fairer form of queen ash fire never shone,' said I, 'than
on thine, O beauteous queen of the dingle.'
'I am half disposed to be angry with you, young man,' said Belle.
'And why not entirely?' said I.
Belle made no reply.
'Shall I tell you?' I demanded. 'You had no objection to the first
part of the speech, but you did not like being called queen of the
dingle. Well, if I had the power, I would make you queen of
something better than the dingle--Queen of China. Come, let us
'Something less would content me,' said Belle, sighing, as she rose
to prepare our evening meal.
So we took tea together, Belle and I. 'How delicious tea is after
a hot summer's day and a long walk,' said she.
'I daresay it is most refreshing then,' said I; 'but I have heard
people say that they most enjoy it on a cold winter's night, when
the kettle is hissing on the fire, and their children playing on
Belle sighed. 'Where does tea come from?' she presently demanded.
'From China,' said I; 'I just now mentioned it, and the mention of
it put me in mind of tea.'
'What kind of country is China?'
'I know very little about it; all I know is, that it is a very
large country far to the East, but scarcely large enough to contain
its inhabitants, who are so numerous, that though China does not
cover one-ninth part of the world, its inhabitants amount to one-
third of the population of the world.'
'And do they talk as we do?'
'Oh no! I know nothing of their language; but I have heard that it
is quite different from all others, and so difficult that none but
the cleverest people amongst foreigners can master it, on which
account, perhaps, only the French pretend to know anything about
'Are the French so very clever, then?' said Belle.
'They say there are no people like them, at least in Europe. But
talking of Chinese reminds me that I have not for some time past
given you a lesson in Armenian. The word for tea in Armenian is--
by the bye what is the Armenian word for tea?'
'That's your affair, not mine,' said Belle; 'it seems hard that the
master should ask the scholar.'
'Well,' said I, 'whatever the word may be in Armenian, it is a
noun; and as we have never yet declined an Armenian noun together,
we may as well take this opportunity of declining one. Belle,
there are ten declensions in Armenian!
'What's a declension?'
'The way of declining a noun.'
'Then, in the civilest way imaginable, I decline the noun. Is that
'You should never play on words; to do so is low, vulgar, smelling
of the pothouse, the workhouse. Belle, I insist on your declining
an Armenian noun.'
'I have done so already,' said Belle.
'If you go on in this way,' said I, 'I shall decline taking any
more tea with you. Will you decline an Armenian noun?'
'I don't like the language,' said Belle. 'If you must teach me
languages, why not teach me French or Chinese?'
'I know nothing of Chinese; and as for French, none but a Frenchman
is clever enough to speak it--to say nothing of teaching; no, we
will stick to Armenian, unless, indeed, you would prefer Welsh!'
'Welsh, I have heard, is vulgar,' said Belle; 'so, if I must learn
one of the two, I will prefer Armenian, which I never heard of till
you mentioned it to me; though, of the two, I really think Welsh
'The Armenian noun,' said I, 'which I propose for your declension
this night, is -, which signifieth Master.'
'I neither like the word nor the sound,' said Belle.
'I can't help that,' said I; 'it is the word I choose: Master,
with all its variations, being the first noun the sound of which I
would have you learn from my lips. Come, let us begin -
'A master. Of a master, etc. Repeat--'
'I am not much used to say the word,' said Belle, 'but to oblige
you I will decline it as you wish'; and thereupon Belle declined
Master in Armenian.
'You have declined the noun very well,' said I; 'that is in the
singular number; we will now go to the plural.'
'What is the plural?' said Belle.
'That which implies more than one, for example, Masters; you shall
now go through masters in Armenian.'
'Never,' said Belle, 'never; it is bad to have one master, but more
I would never bear, whether in Armenian or English.'
'You do not understand,' said I; 'I merely want you to decline
Masters in Armenian.'
'I do decline them; I will have nothing to do with them, nor with
master either; I was wrong to--What sound is that?'
'I did not hear it, but I daresay it is thunder; in Armenian--'
'Never mind what it is in Armenian; but why do you think it is
'Ere I returned from my stroll, I looked up into the heavens, and
by their appearance I judged that a storm was nigh at hand.'
'And why did you not tell me so?'
'You never asked me about the state of the atmosphere, and I am not
in the habit of giving my opinion to people on any subject, unless
questioned. But, setting that aside, can you blame me for not
troubling you with forebodings about storm and tempest, which might
have prevented the pleasure you promised yourself in drinking tea,
or perhaps a lesson in Armenian, though you pretend to dislike the
'My dislike is not pretended,' said Belle; 'I hate the sound of it,
but I love my tea, and it was kind of you not to wish to cast a
cloud over my little pleasures; the thunder came quite time enough
to interrupt it without being anticipated--there is another peal--I
will clear away, and see that my tent is in a condition to resist
the storm; and I think you had better bestir yourself.'
Isopel departed, and I remained seated on my stone, as nothing
belonging to myself required any particular attention; in about a
quarter of an hour she returned, and seated herself upon her stool.
'How dark the place is become since I left you,' said she; 'just as
if night were just at hand.'
'Look up at the sky,' said I; 'and you will not wonder; it is all
of a deep olive. The wind is beginning to rise; hark how it moans
among the branches, and see how their tops are bending; it brings
dust on its wings--I felt some fall on my face; and what is this, a
drop of rain?'
'We shall have plenty anon,' said Belle; 'do you hear? it already
begins to hiss upon the embers; that fire of ours will soon be
'It is not probable that we shall want it,' said I, 'but we had
better seek shelter: let us go into my tent.'
'Go in,' said Belle, 'but you go in alone; as for me, I will seek
'You are right,' said I, 'to be afraid of me; I have taught you to
decline master in Armenian.'
'You almost tempt me,' said Belle, 'to make you decline mistress in
'To make matters short,' said I, 'I decline a mistress.'
'What do you mean?' said Belle, angrily.
'I have merely done what you wished me,' said I, 'and in your own
style; there is no other way of declining anything in English, for
in English there are no declensions.'
'The rain is increasing,' said Belle.
'It is so,' said I; 'I shall go to my tent; you may come if you
please; I do assure you I am not afraid of you.'
'Nor I of you,' said Belle; 'so I will come. Why should I be
afraid? I can take my own part; that is--'
We went into the tent and sat down, and now the rain began to pour
with vehemence. 'I hope we shall not be flooded in this hollow,'
said I to Belle. 'There is no fear of that,' said Belle; 'the
wandering people, amongst other names, call it the dry hollow. I
believe there is a passage somewhere or other by which the wet is
carried off. There must be a cloud right above us, it is so dark.
Oh! what a flash!'
'And what a peal!' said I; 'that is what the Hebrews call Koul
Adonai--the voice of the Lord. Are you afraid?'
'No,' said Belle, 'I rather like to hear it.'
'You are right,' said I, 'I am fond of the sound of thunder myself.
There is nothing like it; Koul Adonai behadar: the voice of the
Lord is a glorious voice, as the prayer-book version hath it.'
'There is something awful in it,' said Belle; 'and then the
lightning--the whole dingle is now in a blaze.'
'"The voice of the Lord maketh the hinds to calve, and discovereth
the thick bushes." As you say, there is something awful in
'There are all kinds of noises above us,' said Belle; 'surely I
heard the crashing of a tree?'
'"The voice of the Lord breaketh the cedar trees,"' said I, 'but
what you hear is caused by a convulsion of the air; during a
thunder-storm there are occasionally all kinds of aerial noises.
Ab Gwilym, who, next to King David, has best described a
thunderstorm, speaks of these aerial noises in the following
'Astonied now I stand at strains,
As of ten thousand clanking chains;
And once, methought that, overthrown,
The welkin's oaks came whelming down;
Upon my head up starts my hair:
Why hunt abroad the hounds of air?
What cursed hag is screeching high,
Whilst crash goes all her crockery?'
You would hardly believe, Belle, that though I offered at least ten
thousand lines nearly as good as those to the booksellers in
London, the simpletons were so blind to their interest, as to
refuse purchasing them!'
'I don't wonder at it,' said Belle, 'especially if such dreadful
expressions frequently occur as that towards the end;--surely that
was the crash of a tree?'
'Ah!' said I, 'there falls the cedar tree--I mean the sallow; one
of the tall trees on the outside of the dingle has been snapped
'What a pity,' said Belle, 'that the fine old oak, which you saw
the peasants cutting up, gave way the other night, when scarcely a
breath of air was stirring; how much better to have fallen in a
storm like this, the fiercest I remember.'
'I don't think so,' said I; 'after braving a thousand tempests, it
was meeter for it to fall of itself than to be vanquished at last.
But to return to Ab Gwilym's poetry: he was above culling dainty
words, and spoke boldly his mind on all subjects. Enraged with the
thunder for parting him and Morfydd, he says, at the conclusion of
'My curse, O Thunder, cling to thee,
For parting my dear pearl and me!'
'You and I shall part, that is, I shall go to my tent, if you
persist in repeating from him. The man must have been a savage. A
poor wood-pigeon has fallen dead.'
'Yes,' said I, 'there he lies, just outside the tent; often have I
listened to his note when alone in this wilderness. So you do not
like Ab Gwilym; what say you to old Gothe? -
'Mist shrouds the night, and rack;
Hear, in the woods, what an awful crack!
Wildly the owls are flitting,
Hark to the pillars splitting
Of palaces verdant ever,
The branches quiver and sever,
The mighty stems are creaking,
The poor roots breaking and shrieking,
In wild mixt ruin down dashing,
O'er one another they're crashing;
Whilst 'midst the rocks so hoary
Whirlwinds hurry and worry.
Hear'st not, sister--'
'Hark!' said Belle, 'hark!'
'Hear'st not, sister, a chorus
'No,' said Belle, 'but I hear a voice.'
A shout--A fireball--See to the horses--Passing away--Gap in the
hedge--On three wheels--Why do you stop?--No craven heart--The
cordial--Across the country--Small bags.
I listened attentively, but I could hear nothing but the loud
clashing of branches, the pattering of rain, and the muttered growl
of thunder. I was about to tell Belle that she must have been
mistaken, when I heard a shout--indistinct, it is true, owing to
the noises aforesaid--from some part of the field above the dingle.
'I will soon see what's the matter,' said I to Belle, starting up.
'I will go too;' said the girl. 'Stay where you are,' said I; 'if
I need you, I will call'; and, without waiting for any answer, I
hurried to the mouth of the dingle. I was about a few yards only
from the top of the ascent, when I beheld a blaze of light, from
whence I knew not; the next moment there was a loud crash, and I
appeared involved in a cloud of sulphurous smoke. 'Lord have mercy
upon us!' I heard a voice say, and methought I heard the plunging
and struggling of horses. I had stopped short on hearing the
crash, for I was half stunned; but I now hurried forward, and in a
moment stood upon the plain. Here I was instantly aware of the
cause of the crash and the smoke. One of those balls, generally
called fireballs, had fallen from the clouds, and was burning on
the plain at a short distance; and the voice which I had heard, and
the plunging, were as easily accounted for. Near the left-hand
corner of the grove which surrounded the dingle, and about ten
yards from the fireball, I perceived a chaise, with a postilion on
the box, who was making efforts, apparently useless, to control his
horses, which were kicking and plunging in the highest degree of
excitement. I instantly ran towards the chaise, in order to offer
what help was in my power. 'Help me,' said the poor fellow, as I
drew nigh; but before I could reach the horses, they had turned
rapidly round, one of the fore-wheels flew from its axle-tree, the
chaise was overset, and the postilion flung violently from his seat
upon the field. The horses now became more furious than before,
kicking desperately, and endeavouring to disengage themselves from
the fallen chaise. As I was hesitating whether to run to the
assistance of the postilion or endeavour to disengage the animals,
I heard the voice of Belle exclaiming, 'See to the horses, I will
look after the man.' She had, it seems, been alarmed by the crash
which accompanied the firebolt, and had hurried up to learn the
cause. I forthwith seized the horses by the heads, and used all
the means I possessed to soothe and pacify them, employing every
gentle modulation of which my voice was capable. Belle, in the
meantime, had raised up the man, who was much stunned by his fall;
but, presently recovering his recollection to a certain degree, he
came limping to me, holding his hand to his right thigh. 'The
first thing that must now be done,' said I, 'is to free these
horses from the traces; can you undertake to do so?' ' I think I
can,' said the man, looking at me somewhat stupidly. 'I will
help,' said Belle, and without loss of time laid hold of one of the
traces. The man, after a short pause, also set to work, and in a
few minutes the horses were extricated. 'Now,' said I to the man,
'what is next to be done?' 'I don't know,' said he; 'indeed, I
scarcely know anything; I have been so frightened by this horrible
storm, and so shaken by my fall.' 'I think,' said I, 'that the
storm is passing away, so cast your fears away too; and as for your
fall, you must bear it as lightly as you can. I will tie the
horses amongst those trees, and then we will all betake us to the
hollow below.' 'And what's to become of my chaise?' said the
postilion, looking ruefully on the fallen vehicle. 'Let us leave
the chaise for the present,' said I; 'we can be of no use to it.'
'I don't like to leave my chaise lying on the ground in this
weather,' said the man; 'I love my chaise, and him whom it belongs
to.' 'You are quite right to be fond of yourself,' said I, 'on
which account I advise you to seek shelter from the rain as soon as
possible.' 'I was not talking of myself,' said the man, 'but my
master, to whom the chaise belongs.' 'I thought you called the
chaise yours,' said I. 'That's my way of speaking,' said the man;
'but the chaise is my master's, and a better master does not live.
Don't you think we could manage to raise up the chaise?' 'And what
is to become of the horses?' said I. 'I love my horses well
enough,' said the man; 'but they will take less harm than the
chaise. We two can never lift up that chaise.' 'But we three
can,' said Belle; 'at least, I think so; and I know where to find
two poles which will assist us.' 'You had better go to the tent,'
said I, 'you will be wet through.' 'I care not for a little
wetting,' said Belle; 'moreover, I have more gowns than one--see
you after the horses.' Thereupon, I led the horses past the mouth
of the dingle, to a place where a gap in the hedge afforded
admission to the copse or plantation on the southern side. Forcing
them through the gap, I led them to a spot amidst the trees which I
deemed would afford them the most convenient place for standing;
then, darting down into the dingle, I brought up a rope, and also
the halter of my own nag, and with these fastened them each to a
separate tree in the best manner I could. This done, I returned to
the chaise and the postilion. In a minute or two Belle arrived
with two poles which, it seems, had long been lying, overgrown with
brushwood, in a ditch or hollow behind the plantation. With these
both she and I set to work in endeavouring to raise the fallen
chaise from the ground.
We experienced considerable difficulty in this undertaking; at
length, with the assistance of the postilion, we saw our efforts
crowned with success--the chaise was lifted up, and stood upright
on three wheels.
'We may leave it here in safety,' said I, 'for it will hardly move
away on three wheels, even supposing it could run by itself; I am
afraid there is work here for a wheelwright, in which case I cannot
assist you; if you were in need of a blacksmith it would be
otherwise.' 'I don't think either the wheel or the axle is hurt,'
said the postilion, who had been handling both; 'it is only the
linch-pin having dropped out that caused the wheel to fly off; if I
could but find the linch-pin!--though, perhaps, it fell out a mile
away.' 'Very likely,' said I; 'but never mind the linch-pin, I can
make you one, or something that will serve: but I can't stay here
any longer, I am going to my place below with this young
gentlewoman, and you had better follow us.' 'I am ready,' said the
man; and after lifting up the wheel and propping it against the
chaise, he went with us, slightly limping, and with his hand
pressed to his thigh.
As we were descending the narrow path, Belle leading the way, and
myself the last of the party, the postilion suddenly stopped short,
and looked about him. 'Why do you stop?' said I. 'I don't wish to
offend you,' said the man, 'but this seems to be a strange place
you are leading me into; I hope you and the young gentlewoman, as
you call her, don't mean me any harm--you seemed in a great hurry
to bring me here.' 'We wished to get you out of the rain,' said I,
'and ourselves too; that is, if we can, which I rather doubt, for
the canvas of a tent is slight shelter in such a rain; but what
harm should we wish to do you?' 'You may think I have money,' said
the man, 'and I have some, but only thirty shillings, and for a sum
like that it would be hardly worth while to--' 'Would it not?'
said I; 'thirty shillings, after all, are thirty shillings, and for
what I know, half a dozen throats may have been cut in this place
for that sum at the rate of five shillings each; moreover, there
are the horses, which would serve to establish this young
gentlewoman and myself in housekeeping, provided we were thinking
of such a thing.' 'Then I suppose I have fallen into pretty
hands,' said the man, putting himself in a posture of defence; 'but
I'll show no craven heart; and if you attempt to lay hands on me,
I'll try to pay you in your own coin. I'm rather lamed in the leg,
but I can still use my fists; so come on, both of you, man and
woman, if woman this be, though she looks more like a grenadier.'
'Let me hear no more of this nonsense,' said Belle; 'if you are
afraid, you can go back to your chaise--we only seek to do you a
'Why, he was just now talking of cutting throats,' said the man.
'You brought it on yourself,' said Belle; 'you suspected us, and he
wished to pass a joke upon you; he would not hurt a hair of your
head, were your coach laden with gold, nor would I.' 'Well,' said
the man, 'I was wrong--here's my hand to both of you,' shaking us
by the hands; 'I'll go with you where you please, but I thought
this a strange lonesome place, though I ought not much to mind
strange lonesome places, having been in plenty of such when I was a
servant in Italy, without coming to any harm--come, let us move on,
for 'tis a shame to keep you two in the rain.'
So we descended the path which led into the depths of the dingle;
at the bottom I conducted the postilion to my tent, which, though
the rain dripped and trickled through it, afforded some shelter;
there I bade him sit down on the log of wood, whilst I placed
myself as usual on my stone. Belle in the meantime had repaired to
her own place of abode. After a little time, I produced a bottle
of the cordial of which I have previously had occasion to speak,
and made my guest take a considerable draught. I then offered him
some, bread and cheese, which he accepted with thanks. In about an
hour the rain had much abated: 'What do you now propose to do?'
said I. 'I scarcely know,' said the man; 'I suppose I must
endeavour to put on the wheel with your help.' 'How far are you
from your home?' I demanded. 'Upwards of thirty miles,' said the
man; 'my master keeps an inn on the great north road, and from
thence I started early this morning with a family, which I conveyed
across the country to a hall at some distance from here. On my
return I was beset by the thunderstorm, which frightened the
horses, who dragged the chaise off the road to the field above, and
overset it as you saw. I had proposed to pass the night at an inn
about twelve miles from here on my way back, though how I am to get
there to-night I scarcely know, even if we can put on the wheel,
for, to tell you the truth, I am shaken by my fall, and the
smoulder and smoke of that fireball have rather bewildered my head;
I am, moreover, not much acquainted with the way.
'The best thing you can do,' said I, 'is to pass the night here; I
will presently light a fire, and endeavour to make you comfortable-
-in the morning we will see to your wheel.' 'Well,' said the man,
'I shall be glad to pass the night here, provided I do not intrude,
but I must see to the horses.' Thereupon I conducted the man to
the place where the horses were tied. 'The trees drip very much
upon them,' said the man, 'and it will not do for them to remain
here all night; they will be better out on the field picking the
grass; but first of all they must have a good feed of corn.'
Thereupon he went to his chaise, from which he presently brought
two small bags, partly filled with corn--into them he inserted the
mouths of the horses, tying them over their heads. 'Here we will
leave them for a time,' said the man; 'when I think they have had
enough, I will come back, tie their fore-legs, and let them pick
Fire of charcoal--The new-comer--No wonder!--Not a blacksmith--A
love affair--Gretna Green--A cool thousand--Family estates--Borough
interest--Grand education--Let us hear--Already quarrelling--
Honourable parents--Most heroically--Not common people--Fresh
It might be about ten o'clock at night. Belle, the postilion, and
myself, sat just within the tent, by a fire of charcoal which I had
kindled in the chafing-pan. The man had removed the harness from
his horses, and, after tethering their legs, had left them for the
night in the field above to regale themselves on what grass they
could find. The rain had long since entirely ceased, and the moon
and stars shone bright in the firmament, up to which, putting aside
the canvas, I occasionally looked from the depths of the dingle.
Large drops of water, however, falling now and then upon the tent
from the neighbouring trees, would have served, could we have
forgotten it, to remind us of the recent storm, and also a certain
chilliness in the atmosphere, unusual to the season, proceeding
from the moisture with which the ground was saturated; yet these
circumstances only served to make our party enjoy the charcoal fire
the more. There we sat bending over it: Belle, with her long
beautiful hair streaming over her magnificent shoulders; the
postilion smoking his pipe, in his shirt-sleeves and waistcoat,
having flung aside his greatcoat, which had sustained a thorough
wetting; and I without my wagoner's slop, of which, it being in the
same plight, I had also divested myself.
The new-comer was a well-made fellow of about thirty, with an open
and agreeable countenance. I found him very well informed for a
man in his station, and with some pretensions to humour. After we
had discoursed for some time on indifferent subjects, the
postilion, who had exhausted his pipe, took it from his mouth, and,
knocking out the ashes upon the ground, exclaimed, 'I little
thought, when I got up in the morning, that I should spend the
night in such agreeable company, and after such a fright.'
'Well,' said I, 'I am glad that your opinion of us has improved; it
is not long since you seemed to hold us in rather a suspicious
'And no wonder,' said the man, 'seeing the place you were taking me
to! I was not a little, but very much afraid of ye both; and so I
continued for some time, though, not to show a craven heart, I
pretended to be quite satisfied; but I see I was altogether
mistaken about ye. I thought you vagrant gypsy folks and trampers;
'Vagrant gypsy folks and trampers,' said I; 'and what are we but
people of that stamp?'
'Oh,' said the postilion, 'if you wish to be thought such, I am far
too civil a person to contradict you, especially after your
kindness to me, but--'
'But!' said I; 'what do you mean by but? I would have you to know
that I am proud of being a travelling blacksmith; look at these
donkey-shoes, I finished them this day.'
The postilion took the shoes and examined them. 'So you made these
shoes?' he cried at last.
'To be sure I did; do you doubt it?'
'Not in the least,' said the man.
'Ah! ah!' said I, 'I thought I should bring you back to your
original opinion. I am, then, a vagrant gypsy body, a tramper, a
'Not a blacksmith, whatever else you may be,' said the postilion,
'Then how do you account for my making those shoes?'
'By your not being a blacksmith,' said the postilion; 'no
blacksmith would have made shoes in that manner. Besides, what did
you mean just now by saying you had finished these shoes to-day? A
real blacksmith would have flung off three or four sets of donkey-
shoes in one morning, but you, I will be sworn, have been hammering
at these for days, and they do you credit--but why?--because you
are no blacksmith; no, friend, your shoes may do for this young
gentlewoman's animal, but I shouldn't like to have my horses shod
by you, unless at a great pinch indeed.'
'Then,' said I, 'for what do you take me?'
'Why, for some runaway young gentleman,' said the postilion. 'No
offence, I hope?'
'None at all; no one is offended at being taken or mistaken for a
young gentleman, whether runaway or not; but from whence do you
suppose I have run away?'
'Why, from college,' said the man: 'no offence?'
'None whatever; and what induced me to run away from college?'
'A love affair, I'll be sworn,' said the postilion. 'You had
become acquainted with this young gentlewoman, so she and you--'
'Mind how you get on, friend,' said Belle, in a deep serious tone.
'Pray proceed,' said I; 'I daresay you mean no offence.'
'None in the world,' said the postilion; 'all I was going to say
was, that you agreed to run away together, you from college, and
she from boarding-school. Well, there's nothing to be ashamed of
in a matter like that, such things are done every day by young
folks in high life.'
'Are you offended?' said I to Belle.
Belle made no answer; but, placing her elbows on her knees, buried
her face in her hands.
'So we ran away together?' said I.
'Ay, ay,' said the postilion, 'to Gretna Green, though I can't say
that I drove ye, though I have driven many a pair.'
'And from Gretna Green we came here?'
'I'll be bound you did,' said the man, 'till you could arrange
matters at home.'
'And the horse-shoes?' said I.
'The donkey-shoes you mean,' answered the postilion; 'why, I
suppose you persuaded the blacksmith who married you to give you,
before you left, a few lessons in his trade.'
'And we intend to stay here till we have arranged matters at home?'
'Ay, ay,' said the postilion, 'till the old people are pacified,
and they send you letters directed to the next post town, to be
left till called for, beginning with "Dear children," and enclosing
you each a cheque for one hundred pounds, when you will leave this
place, and go home in a coach like gentlefolks, to visit your
governors; I should like nothing better than to have the driving of
you: and then there will be a grand meeting of the two families,
and after a few reproaches, the old people will agree to do
something handsome for the poor thoughtless things; so you will
have a genteel house taken for you, and an annuity allowed you.
You won't get much the first year, five hundred at the most, in
order that the old folks may let you feel that they are not
altogether satisfied with you, and that you are yet entirely in
their power; but the second, if you don't get a cool thousand, may
I catch cold, especially should young madam here present a son and
heir for the old people to fondle, destined one day to become sole
heir of the two illustrious houses; and then all the grand folks in
the neighbourhood, who have--bless their prudent hearts!--kept
rather aloof from you till then, for fear you should want anything
from them--I say all the carriage people in the neighbourhood, when
they see how swimmingly matters are going on, will come in shoals
to visit you.'
'Really,' said I, 'you are getting on swimmingly.'
'Oh,' said the postilion, 'I was not a gentleman's servant nine
years without learning the ways of gentry, and being able to know
gentry when I see them.'
'And what do you say to all this?' I demanded of Belle.
'Stop a moment,' interposed the postilion, 'I have one more word to
say:- and when you are surrounded by your comforts, keeping your
nice little barouche and pair, your coachman and livery servant,
and visited by all the carriage people in the neighbourhood--to say
nothing of the time when you come to the family estates on the
death of the old people--I shouldn't wonder if now and then you
look back with longing and regret to the days when you lived in the
damp dripping dingle, had no better equipage than a pony or donkey
cart, and saw no better company than a tramper or gypsy, except
once, when a poor postilion was glad to seat himself at your
'Pray,' said I, 'did you ever take lessons in elocution?'
'Not directly,' said the postilion; 'but my old master, who was in
Parliament, did, and so did his son, who was intended to be an
orator. A great professor used to come and give them lessons, and
I used to stand and listen, by which means I picked up a
considerable quantity of what is called rhetoric. In what I last
said, I was aiming at what I have heard him frequently endeavouring
to teach my governors as a thing indispensably necessary in all
oratory, a graceful pere--pere--peregrination.'
'Just so,' said the postilion; 'and now I'm sure I am not mistaken
about you; you have taken lessons yourself, at first hand, in the
college vacations, and a promising pupil you were, I make no doubt.
Well, your friends will be all the happier to get you back. Has
your governor much borough interest?'
'I ask you once more,' said I, addressing myself to Belle, 'what
you think of the history which this good man has made for us?'
'What should I think of it,' said Belle, still keeping her face
buried in her hands, 'but that it is mere nonsense?'
'Nonsense!' said the postilion.
'Yes,' said the girl, 'and you know it.'
'May my leg always ache, if I do,' said the postilion, patting his
leg with his hand; 'will you persuade me that this young man has
never been at college?'
'I have never been at college, but--'
'Ay, ay,' said the postilion, 'but--'
'I have been to the best schools in Britain, to say nothing of a
celebrated one in Ireland.'
'Well, then, it comes to the same thing,' said the postilion, 'or
perhaps you know more than if you had been at college--and your
'My governor, as you call him,' said I, 'is dead.'
'And his borough interest?'
'My father had no borough interest,' said I; 'had he possessed any,
he would perhaps not have died, as he did, honourably poor.'
'No, no,' said the postilion, 'if he had had borough interest, he
wouldn't have been poor, nor honourable, though perhaps a right
honourable. However, with your grand education and genteel
manners, you made all right at last by persuading this noble young
gentlewoman to run away from boarding-school with you.'
'I was never at boarding-school,' said Belle, 'unless you call--'
'Ay, ay,' said the postilion, 'boarding-school is vulgar, I know:
I beg your pardon, I ought to have called it academy, or by some
other much finer name--you were in something much greater than a
'There you are right,' said Belle, lifting up her head and looking
the postilion full in the face by the light of the charcoal fire,
'for I was bred in the workhouse.'
'Wooh!' said the postilion.
'It is true that I am of good--'
'Ay, ay,' said the postilion, 'let us hear--'
'Of good blood,' continued Belle; 'my name is Berners, Isopel
Berners, though my parents were unfortunate. Indeed, with respect
to blood, I believe I am of better blood than the young man.'
'There you are mistaken,' said I; 'by my father's side I am of
Cornish blood, and by my mother's of brave French Protestant
extraction. Now, with respect to the blood of my father--and to be
descended well on the father's side is the principal thing--it is
the best blood in the world, for the Cornish blood, as the proverb
'I don't care what the proverb says,' said Belle; 'I say my blood
is the best--my name is Berners, Isopel Berners--it was my mother's
name, and is better, I am sure, than any you bear, whatever that
may be; and though you say that the descent on the fathers side is
the principal thing--and I know why you say so,' she added with
some excitement--'I say that descent on the mother's side is of
most account, because the mother--'
'Just come from Gretna Green, and already quarrelling!' said the
'We do not come from Gretna Green,' said Belle.
'Ah, I had forgot,' said the postilion; 'none but great people go
to Gretna Green. Well, then, from church, and already quarrelling
about family, just like two great people.'
'We have never been to church,' said Belle; 'and to prevent any
more guessing on your part, it will be as well for me to tell you,
friend, that I am nothing to the young man, and he, of course,
nothing to me. I am a poor travelling girl, born in a workhouse:
journeying on my occasions with certain companions, I came to this
hollow, where my company quarrelled with the young man, who had
settled down here, as he had a right to do if he pleased; and not
being able to drive him out, they went away after quarrelling with
me, too, for not choosing to side with them; so I stayed here along
with the young man, there being room for us both, and the place
being as free to me as to him.'
'And in order that you may be no longer puzzled with respect to
myself,' said I; 'I will give you a brief outline of my history. I
am the son of honourable parents, who gave me a first-rate
education, as far as literature and languages went, with which
education I endeavoured, on the death of my father, to advance
myself to wealth and reputation in the big city; but failing in the
attempt, I conceived a disgust for the busy world, and determined
to retire from it. After wandering about for some time, and
meeting with various adventures, in one of which I contrived to
obtain a pony, cart, and certain tools used by smiths and tinkers,
I came to this place, where I amused myself with making horse-
shoes, or rather pony-shoes, having acquired the art of wielding
the hammer and tongs from a strange kind of smith--not him of
Gretna Green--whom I knew in my childhood. And here I lived, doing
harm to no one, quite lonely and solitary, till one fine morning
the premises were visited by this young gentlewoman and her
companions. She did herself anything but justice when she said
that her companions quarrelled with her because she would not side
with them against me; they quarrelled with her because she came
most heroically to my assistance as I was on the point of being
murdered; and she forgot to tell you that, after they had abandoned
her, she stood by me in the--dark hour, comforting and cheering me,
when unspeakable dread, to which I am occasionally subject, took
possession of my mind. She says she is nothing to me, even as I am
nothing to her. I am of course nothing to her, but she is mistaken
in thinking she is nothing to me. I entertain the highest regard
and admiration for her, being convinced that I might search the
whole world in vain for a nature more heroic and devoted.'
'And for my part,' said Belle, with a sob, 'a more quiet agreeable
partner in a place like this I would not wish to have; it is true
he has strange ways, and frequently puts words into my mouth very
difficult to utter, but--but--' and here she buried her face once
more in her hands.
'Well,' said the postilion, 'I have been mistaken about you; that
is, not altogether, but in part. You are not rich folks, it seems,
but you are not common people, and that I could have sworn. What I
call a shame is, that some people I have known are not in your
place and you in theirs, you with their estates and borough
interest, they in this dingle with these carts and animals; but
there is no help for these things. Were I the great Mumbo Jumbo
above, I would endeavour to manage matters better; but being a
simple postilion, glad to earn three shillings a day, I can't be
expected to do much.'
'Who is Mumbo Jumbo?' said I.
'Ah!' said the postilion, 'I see there may be a thing or two I know
better than yourself. Mumbo Jumbo is a god of the black coast, to
which people go for ivory and gold.'
'Were you ever there?' I demanded.
'No,' said the postilion, 'but I heard plenty of Mumbo Jumbo when I
was a boy.'
'I wish you would tell us something about yourself. I believe that
your own real history would prove quite as entertaining, if not
more, than that which you imagined about us.'
'I am rather tired,' said the postilion, 'and my leg is rather
troublesome. I should be glad to try to sleep upon one of your
blankets. However, as you wish to hear something about me, I shall
be happy to oblige you; but your fire is rather low, and this place
Thereupon I arose, and put fresh charcoal on the pan; then taking
it outside the tent, with a kind of fan which I had fashioned, I
fanned the coals into a red glow, and continued doing so until the
greater part of the noxious gas, which the coals are in the habit
of exhaling, was exhausted. I then brought it into the tent and
reseated myself, scattering over the coals a small portion of
sugar. 'No bad smell,' said the postilion; 'but upon the whole I
think I like the smell of tobacco better; and with your permission
I will once more light my pipe.'
Thereupon he relighted his pipe; and, after taking two or three
whiffs, began in the following manner.
An exordium--Fine ships--High Barbary captains--Free-born
Englishmen--Monstrous figure--Swashbuckler--The grand coaches--The
footmen--A travelling expedition--Black Jack--Nelson's cannon--
Pharaoh's butler--A diligence--Two passengers--Sharking priest--
Virgilio--Lessons in Italian--Two opinions--Holy Mary--Priestly
confederates--Methodist chapel--Veturini--Some of our party--Like a
sepulchre--All for themselves.
'I am a poor postilion, as you see; yet, as I have seen a thing or
two and heard a thing or two of what is going on in the world,
perhaps what I have to tell you connected with myself may not prove
altogether uninteresting. Now, my friends, this manner of opening
a story is what the man who taught rhetoric would call a hex--hex--
'Exordium,' said I.
'Just so,' said the postilion; 'I treated you to a per--per--
peroration some time ago, so that I have contrived to put the cart
before the horse, as the Irish orators frequently do in the
honourable House, in whose speeches, especially those who have
taken lessons in rhetoric, the per--per--what's the word?--
frequently goes before the exordium.
'I was born in the neighbouring county; my father was land-steward
to a squire of about a thousand a year. My father had two sons, of
whom I am the youngest by some years. My elder brother was of a
spirited roving disposition, and for fear that he should turn out
what is generally termed ungain, my father determined to send him
to sea: so once upon a time, when my brother was about fifteen, he
took him to the great seaport of the county, where he apprenticed
him to a captain of one of the ships which trade to the high
Barbary coast. Fine ships they were, I have heard say, more than
thirty in number, and all belonging to a wonderful great gentleman,
who had once been a parish boy, but had contrived to make an
immense fortune by trading to that coast for gold-dust, ivory, and
other strange articles; and for doing so, I mean for making a
fortune, had been made a knight baronet. So my brother went to the
high Barbary shore, on board the fine vessel, and in about a year
returned and came to visit us; he repeated the voyage several
times, always coming to see his parents on his return. Strange
stories he used to tell us of what he had been witness to on the
high Barbary coast, both off shore and on. He said that the fine
vessel in which he sailed was nothing better than a painted hell;
that the captain was a veritable fiend, whose grand delight was in
tormenting his men, especially when they were sick, as they
frequently were, there being always fever on the high Barbary
coast; and that though the captain was occasionally sick himself,
his being so made no difference, or rather it did make a
difference, though for the worse, he being when sick always more
inveterate and malignant than at other times. He said that once,
when he himself was sick, his captain had pitched his face all
over, which exploit was much applauded by the other high Barbary
captains--all of whom, from what my brother said, appeared to be of
much the same disposition as my brother's captain, taking wonderful
delight in tormenting the crews, and doing all manner of terrible
things. My brother frequently said that nothing whatever prevented
him from running away from his ship, and never returning, but the
hope he entertained of one day being captain himself, and able to
torment people in his turn, which he solemnly vowed he would do, as
a kind of compensation for what he himself had undergone. And if
things were going on in a strange way off the high Barbary shore
amongst those who came there to trade, they were going on in a way
yet stranger with the people who lived upon it.
'Oh the strange ways of the black men who lived on that shore, of
which my brother used to tell us at home--selling their sons,
daughters, and servants for slaves, and the prisoners taken in
battle, to the Spanish captains, to be carried to Havannah, and
when there, sold at a profit, the idea of which, my brother said,
went to the hearts of our own captains, who used to say what a hard
thing it was that free-born Englishmen could not have a hand in the
traffic, seeing that it was forbidden by the laws of their country;
talking fondly of the good old times when their forefathers used to
carry slaves to Jamaica and Barbadoes, realising immense profit,
besides the pleasure of hearing their shrieks on the voyage; and
then the superstitions of the blacks, which my brother used to talk
of; their sharks' teeth, their wisps of fowls' feathers, their
half-baked pots full of burnt bones, of which they used to make
what they called fetish, and bow down to, and ask favours of, and
then, perhaps, abuse and strike, provided the senseless rubbish did
not give them what they asked for; and then, above all, Mumbo
Jumbo, the grand fetish master, who lived somewhere in the woods,
and who used to come out every now and then with his fetish
companions; a monstrous figure, all wound round with leaves and
branches, so as to be quite indistinguishable, and, seating himself
on the high seat in the villages, receive homage from the people,
and also gifts and offerings, the most valuable of which were
pretty damsels, and then betake himself back again, with his
followers, into the woods. Oh the tales that my brother used to
tell us of the high Barbary shore! Poor fellow! what became of him
I can't say; the last time he came back from a voyage, he told us
that his captain, as soon as he had brought his vessel to port and
settled with his owner, drowned himself off the quay, in a fit of
the horrors, which it seems high Barbary captains, after a certain
number of years, are much subject to. After staying about a month
with us, he went to sea again, with another captain; and, bad as
the old one had been, it appears the new one was worse, for, unable
to bear his treatment, my brother left his ship off the high
Barbary shore, and ran away up the country. Some of his comrades,
whom we afterwards saw, said that there were various reports about
him on the shore; one that he had taken on with Mumbo Jumbo, and
was serving him in his house in the woods, in the capacity of
swashbuckler, or life-guardsman; another, that he was gone in quest
of a mighty city in the heart of the negro country; another, that
in swimming a stream he had been devoured by an alligator. Now,
these two last reports were bad enough; the idea of their flesh and
blood being bit asunder by a ravenous fish was sad enough to my
poor parents; and not very comfortable was the thought of his
sweltering over the hot sands in quest of the negro city; but the
idea of their son, their eldest child, serving Mumbo Jumbo as
swashbuckler was worst of all, and caused my poor parents to shed
many a scalding tear.
'I stayed at home with my parents until I was about eighteen,
assisting my father in various ways. I then went to live at the
Squire's, partly as groom, partly as footman. After living in the
country some time, I attended the family in a trip of six weeks
which they made to London. Whilst there, happening to have some
words with an old ill-tempered coachman, who had been for a great
many years in the family, my master advised me to leave, offering
to recommend me to a family of his acquaintance who were in need of
a footman. I was glad to accept his offer, and in a few days went
to my new place. My new master was one of the great gentry, a
baronet in Parliament, and possessed of an estate of about twenty
thousand a year; his family consisted of his lady, a son, a fine
young man just coming of age, and two very sweet amiable daughters.
I liked this place much better than my first, there was so much
more pleasant noise and bustle--so much more grand company, and so
many more opportunities of improving myself. Oh, how I liked to
see the grand coaches drive up to the door, with the grand company;
and though, amidst that company, there were some who did not look
very grand, there were others, and not a few, who did. Some of the
ladies quite captivated me; there was the Marchioness of--in
particular. This young lady puts me much in mind of her; it is
true, the Marchioness, as I saw her then, was about fifteen years
older than this young gentlewoman is now, and not so tall by some
inches, but she had the very same hair, and much the same neck and
shoulders--no offence, I hope? And then some of the young
gentlemen, with their cool, haughty, care-for-nothing looks, struck
me as being very fine fellows. There was one in particular, whom I
frequently used to stare at, not altogether unlike some one I have
seen hereabouts--he had a slight cast in his eye, and . . . but I
won't enter into every particular. And then the footmen! Oh, how
those footmen helped to improve me with their conversation. Many
of them could converse much more glibly than their masters, and
appeared to have much better taste. At any rate, they seldom
approved of what their masters did. I remember being once with one
in the gallery of the play-house, when something of Shakspeare's
was being performed: some one in the first tier of boxes was
applauding very loudly. "That's my fool of a governor," said he;
"he is weak enough to like Shakspeare--I don't;--he's so
confoundedly low, but he won't last long--going down. Shakspeare
culminated"--I think that was the word--"culminated some time ago."
'And then the professor of elocution, of whom my governors used to
take lessons, and of which lessons I had my share, by listening
behind the door; but for that professor of elocution I should not
be able to round my periods--an expression of his--in the manner I
'After I had been three years at this place my mistress died. Her
death, however, made no great alteration in my way of living, the
family spending their winters in London, and their summers at their
old seat in S- as before. At last, the young ladies, who had not
yet got husbands, which was strange enough, seeing, as I told you
before, they were very amiable, proposed to our governor a
travelling expedition abroad. The old baronet consented, though
young master was much against it, saying they would all be much
better at home. As the girls persisted, however, he at last
withdrew his opposition, and even promised to follow them as soon
as his parliamentary duties would permit; for he was just got into
Parliament, and, like most other young members, thought that
nothing could be done in the House without him. So the old
gentleman and the two young ladies set off, taking me with them,
and a couple of ladies' maids to wait upon them. First of all, we
went to Paris, where we continued three months, the old baronet and
the ladies going to see the various sights of the city and the
neighbourhood, and I attending them. They soon got tired of sight-
seeing, and of Paris too; and so did I. However, they still
continued there, in order, I believe, that the young ladies might
lay in a store of French finery. I should have passed my idle time
at Paris, of which I had plenty after the sight-seeing was over,
very unpleasantly, but for Black Jack. Eh! did you never hear of
Black Jack? Ah! if you had ever been an English servant in Paris,
you would have known Black Jack; not an English gentleman's servant
who has been at Paris for this last ten years but knows Black Jack
and his ordinary. A strange fellow he was--of what country no one
could exactly say--for as for judging from speech, that was
impossible, Jack speaking all languages equally ill. Some said he
came direct from Satan's kitchen, and that when he gives up keeping
ordinary, he will return there again, though the generally-received
opinion at Paris was, that he was at one time butler to King
Pharaoh; and that, after lying asleep for four thousand years in a
place called the Kattycombs, he was awaked by the sound of Nelson's
cannon at the battle of the Nile, and going to the shore, took on
with the admiral, and became, in course of time, ship steward; and
that after Nelson's death he was captured by the French, on board
one of whose vessels he served in a somewhat similar capacity till
the peace, when he came to Paris, and set up an ordinary for
servants, sticking the name of Katcomb over the door, in allusion
to the place where he had his long sleep. But, whatever his origin
was, Jack kept his own counsel, and appeared to care nothing for
what people said about him, or called him. Yes, I forgot, there
was one name he would not be called, and that was "Portuguese." I
once saw Black Jack knock down a coachman, six foot high, who
called him black-faced Portuguese. "Any name but dat, you shab,"
said Black Jack, who was a little round fellow, of about five feet
two; "I would not stand to be called Portuguese by Nelson himself."
Jack was rather fond of talking about Nelson, and hearing people
talk about him, so that it is not improbable that he may have
sailed with him; and with respect to his having been King Pharaoh's
butler, all I have to say is, I am not disposed to give the
downright lie to the report. Jack was always ready to do a kind
turn to a poor servant out of place, and has often been known to
assist such as were in prison, which charitable disposition he
perhaps acquired from having lost a good place himself, having seen
the inside of a prison, and known the want of a meal's victuals,
all which trials King Pharaoh's butler underwent, so he may have
been that butler; at any rate, I have known positive conclusions
come to on no better premisses, if indeed as good. As for the
story of his coming direct from Satan's kitchen, I place no
confidence in it at all, as Black Jack had nothing of Satan about
him but blackness, on which account he was called Black Jack. Nor
am I disposed to give credit to a report that his hatred of the
Portuguese arose from some ill treatment which he had once
experienced when on shore, at Lisbon, from certain gentlewomen of
the place, but rather conclude that it arose from an opinion he
entertained that the Portuguese never paid their debts, one of the
ambassadors of that nation, whose house he had served, having left
Paris several thousand francs in his debt. This is all that I have
to say about Black Jack, without whose funny jokes and good
ordinary I should have passed my time in Paris in a very
'After we had been at Paris between two and three months, we left
it in the direction of Italy, which country the family had a great
desire to see. After travelling a great many days in a thing
which, though called a diligence, did not exhibit much diligence,
we came to a great big town, seated around a nasty salt-water
bason, connected by a narrow passage with the sea. Here we were to
embark; and so we did as soon as possible, glad enough to get away-
-at least I was, and so I make no doubt were the rest, for such a
place for bad smells I never was in. It seems all the drains and
sewers of the place run into that same salt bason, voiding into it
all their impurities, which, not being able to escape into the sea
in any considerable quantity, owing to the narrowness of the
entrance, there accumulate, filling the whole atmosphere with these
same outrageous scents, on which account the town is a famous
lodging-house of the plague. The ship in which we embarked was
bound for a place in Italy called Naples, where we were to stay
some time. The voyage was rather a lazy one, the ship not being
moved by steam; for at the time of which I am speaking, some five
years ago, steam-ships were not so plentiful as now. There were
only two passengers in the grand cabin, where my governor and his
daughters were, an Italian lady and a priest. Of the lady I have
not much to say; she appeared to be a quiet respectable person
enough, and after our arrival at Naples I neither saw nor heard
anything more of her; but of the priest I shall have a good deal to
say in the sequel (that, by the bye, is a word I learnt from the
professor of rhetoric), and it would have been well for our family
had they never met him.
'On the third day of the voyage the priest came to me, who was
rather unwell with sea-sickness, which he, of course, felt nothing
of--that kind of people being never affected like others. He was a
finish-looking man of about forty-five, but had something strange
in his eyes, which I have since thought denoted that all was not
right in a certain place called the heart. After a few words of
condolence, in a broken kind of English, he asked me various
questions about our family; and I, won by his seeming kindness,
told him all I knew about them--of which communicativeness I
afterwards very much repented. As soon as he had got out of me all
he desired, he left me; and I observed that during the rest of the
voyage he was wonderfully attentive to our governor, and yet more
to the young ladies. Both, however, kept him rather at a distance;
the young ladies were reserved, and once or twice I heard our
governor cursing him between his teeth for a sharking priest. The
priest, however, was not disconcerted, and continued his
attentions, which in a little time produced an effect, so that, by
the time we landed at Naples, our great folks had conceived a kind
of liking for the man, and when they took their leave invited him
to visit them, which he promised to do. We hired a grand house or
palace at Naples; it belonged to a poor kind of prince, who was
glad enough to let it to our governor, and also his servants and
carriages; and glad enough were the poor servants, for they got
from us what they never got from the prince--plenty of meat and
money; and glad enough, I make no doubt, were the horses for the
provender we gave them; and I daresay the coaches were not sorry to
be cleaned and furbished up. Well, we went out and came in; going
to see the sights, and returning. Amongst other things we saw was
the burning mountain, and the tomb of a certain sorcerer called
Virgilio, who made witch rhymes, by which he could raise the dead.
Plenty of people came to see us, both English and Italians, and
amongst the rest the priest. He did not come amongst the first,
but allowed us to settle and become a little quiet before he showed
himself; and after a day or two he paid us another visit, then
another, till at last his visits were daily.
'I did not like that Jack Priest; so I kept my eye upon all his
motions. Lord! how that Jack Priest did curry favour with our
governor and the two young ladies; and he curried, and curried,
till he had got himself into favour with the governor, and more
especially with the two young ladies, of whom their father was
doatingly fond. At last the ladies took lessons in Italian of the
priest, a language in which he was said to be a grand proficient,
and of which they had hitherto known but very little; and from that
time his influence over them, and consequently over the old
governor, increased, till the tables were turned, and he no longer
curried favour with them, but they with him--yes, as true as my leg
aches, the young ladies curried, and the old governor curried
favour with that same priest; when he was with them, they seemed
almost to hang on his lips, that is, the young ladies; and as for
the old governor, he never contradicted him, and when the fellow
was absent, which, by the bye, was not often, it was, "Father so-
and-so said this," and "Father so-and-so said that"; "Father so-
and-so thinks we should do so-and-so, or that we should not do so-
and-so." I at first thought that he must have given them
something, some philtre or the like, but one of the English maid-
servants, who had a kind of respect for me, and who saw much more
behind the scenes than I did, informed me that he was continually
instilling strange notions into their heads, striving, by every
possible method, to make them despise the religion of their own
land, and take up that of the foreign country in which they were.
And sure enough, in a little time, the girls had altogether left
off going to an English chapel, and were continually visiting
places of Italian worship. The old governor, it is true, still
went to his church, but he appeared to be hesitating between two
opinions; and once, when he was at dinner, he said to two or three
English friends that, since he had become better acquainted with
it, he had conceived a much more favourable opinion of the Catholic
religion than he had previously entertained. In a word, the priest
ruled the house, and everything was done according to his will and
pleasure; by degrees he persuaded the young ladies to drop their
English acquaintances, whose place he supplied with Italians,
chiefly females. My poor old governor would not have had a person
to speak to--for he never could learn the language--but for two or
three Englishmen who used to come occasionally and take a bottle
with him in a summer-house, whose company he could not be persuaded
to resign, notwithstanding the entreaties of his daughters,
instigated by the priest, whose grand endeavour seemed to be to
render the minds of all three foolish, for his own ends. And if he
was busy above stairs with the governor, there was another busy
below with us poor English servants, a kind of subordinate priest,
a low Italian; as he could speak no language but his own, he was
continually jabbering to us in that, and by hearing him the maids
and myself contrived to pick up a good deal of the language, so
that we understood most that was said, and could speak it very
fairly; and the themes of his jabber were the beauty and virtues of
one whom he called Holy Mary, and the power and grandeur of one
whom he called the Holy Father; and he told us that we should
shortly have an opportunity of seeing the Holy Father, who could do
anything he liked with Holy Mary: in the meantime we had plenty of
opportunities of seeing Holy Mary, for in every church, chapel, and
convent to which we were taken, there was an image of Holy Mary,
who, if the images were dressed at all in her fashion, must have
been very fond of short petticoats and tinsel, and who, if those
said figures at all resembled her in face, could scarcely have been
half as handsome as either of my two fellow-servants, not to speak
of the young ladies.
'Now it happened that one of the female servants was much taken
with what she saw and heard, and gave herself up entirely to the
will of the subordinate, who had quite as much dominion over her as
his superior had over the ladies; the other maid, however, the one
who had a kind of respect for me, was not so easily besotted; she
used to laugh at what she saw, and at what the fellow told her, and
from her I learnt that amongst other things intended by these
priestly confederates was robbery; she said that the poor old
governor had already been persuaded by his daughters to put more
than a thousand pounds into the superior priest's hands for
purposes of charity and religion, as was said, and that the
subordinate one had already inveigled her fellow-servant out of
every penny which she had saved from her wages, and had endeavoured
likewise to obtain what money she herself had, but in vain. With
respect to myself, the fellow shortly after made an attempt towards
obtaining a hundred crowns, of which, by some means, he knew me to
be in possession, telling me what a meritorious thing it was to
give one's superfluities for the purposes of religion. "That is
true," said I, "and if, after my return to my native country, I
find I have anything which I don't want myself, I will employ it in
helping to build a Methodist chapel."
'By the time that the three months were expired for which we had
hired the palace of the needy Prince, the old governor began to
talk of returning to England, at least of leaving Italy. I believe
he had become frightened at the calls which were continually being
made upon him for money; for after all, you know, if there is a
sensitive part of a man's wearing apparel, it is his breeches
pocket; but the young ladies could not think of leaving dear Italy
and the dear priest; and then they had seen nothing of the country,
they had only seen Naples; before leaving dear Italia they must see
more of the country and the cities; above all, they must see a
place which they called the Eternal City, or some similar
nonsensical name; and they persisted so that the poor governor
permitted them, as usual, to have their way; and it was decided
what route they should take--that is, the priest was kind enough to
decide for them, and was also kind enough to promise to go with
them part of the route, as far as a place where there was a
wonderful figure of Holy Mary, which the priest said it was highly
necessary for them to see before visiting the Eternal City: so we
left Naples in hired carriages, driven by fellows they call
veturini, cheating, drunken dogs, I remember they were. Besides
our own family there was the priest and his subordinate, and a
couple of hired lackeys. We were several days upon the journey,
travelling through a very wild country, which the ladies pretended
to be delighted with, and which the governor cursed on account of
the badness of the roads; and when we came to any particularly wild
spot we used to stop, in order to enjoy the scenery, as the ladies
said; and then we would spread a horse-cloth on the ground, and eat
bread and cheese, and drink wine of the country. And some of the
holes and corners in which we bivouacked, as the ladies called it,
were something like this place where we are now, so that when I
came down here it put me in mind of them. At last we arrived at
the place where was the holy image.
'We went to the house or chapel in which the holy image was kept--a
frightful, ugly black figure of Holy Mary, dressed in her usual
way; and after we had stared at the figure, and some of our party
had bowed down to it, we were shown a great many things which were
called holy relics, which consisted of thumb-nails, and fore-nails,
and toe-nails, and hair, and teeth, and a feather or two, and a
mighty thigh-bone, but whether of a man or a camel I can't say; all
of which things, I was told, if properly touched and handled, had
mighty power to cure all kinds of disorders. And as we went from
the holy house we saw a man in a state of great excitement: he was
foaming at the mouth, and cursing the holy image and all its
household, because, after he had worshipped it and made offerings
to it, and besought it to assist him in a game of chance which he
was about to play, it had left him in the lurch, allowing him to
lose all his money. And when I thought of all the rubbish I had
seen, and the purposes which it was applied to, in conjunction with
the rage of the losing gamester at the deaf and dumb image, I could
not help comparing the whole with what my poor brother used to tell
me of the superstitious practices of the blacks on the high Barbary
shore, and their occasional rage and fury at the things they
worshipped; and I said to myself, If all this here doesn't smell of
fetish, may I smell fetid.
'At this place the priest left us, returning to Naples with his
subordinate, on some particular business I suppose. It was,
however, agreed that he should visit us at the Holy City. We did
not go direct to the Holy City, but bent our course to two or three
other cities which the family were desirous of seeing; but as
nothing occurred to us in these places of any particular interest,
I shall take the liberty of passing them by in silence. At length
we arrived at the Eternal City: an immense city it was, looking as
if it had stood for a long time, and would stand for a long time
still; compared with it, London would look like a mere assemblage
of bee-skeps; however, give me the bee-skeps with their merry hum
and bustle, and life and honey, rather than that huge town, which
looked like a sepulchre, where there was no life, no busy hum, no
bees, but a scanty sallow population, intermixed with black
priests, white priests, gray priests; and though I don't say there
was no honey in the place, for I believe there was, I am ready to
take my Bible oath that it was not made there, and that the priests
kept it all for themselves.
A cloister--Half English--New acquaintance--Mixed liquors--Turning
Papist--Purposes of charity--Foreign religion--Melancholy--Elbowing
and pushing--Outlandish sight--The figure--I don't care for you--
Merry-andrews--One good--Religion of my country--Fellow of spirit--
A dispute--The next morning--Female doll--Proper dignity--Fetish
'The day after our arrival,' continued the postilion, 'I was sent,
under the guidance of a lackey of the place, with a letter, which
the priest, when he left, had given us for a friend of his in the
Eternal City. We went to a large house, and on ringing were
admitted by a porter into a cloister, where I saw some ill-looking,
shabby young fellows walking about, who spoke English to one
another. To one of these the porter delivered the letter, and the
young fellow, going away, presently returned and told me to follow
him; he led me into a large room where, behind a table on which
were various papers and a thing which they call, in that country, a
crucifix, sat a man in a kind of priestly dress. The lad having
opened the door for me, shut it behind me, and went away. The man
behind the table was so engaged in reading the letter which I had
brought, that at first he took no notice of me; he had red hair, a
kind of half-English countenance, and was seemingly about five-and-
thirty. After a little time he laid the letter down, appeared to
consider a moment, and then opened his mouth with a strange laugh,
not a loud laugh, for I heard nothing but a kind of hissing deep
down the throat; all of a sudden, however, perceiving me, he gave a
slight start, but, instantly recovering himself, he inquired in
English concerning the health of the family, and where we lived:
on my delivering him a card, he bade me inform my master and the
ladies that in the course of the day he would do himself the honour
of waiting upon them. He then arose and opened the door for me to
depart. The man was perfectly civil and courteous, but I did not
like that strange laugh of his after having read the letter. He
was as good as his word, and that same day paid us a visit. It was
now arranged that we should pass the winter in Rome--to my great
annoyance, for I wished to return to my native land, being heartily
tired of everything connected with Italy. I was not, however,
without hope that our young master would shortly arrive, when I
trusted that matters, as far as the family were concerned, would be
put on a better footing. In a few days our new acquaintance, who,
it seems, was a mongrel Englishman, had procured a house for our
accommodation; it was large enough, but not near so pleasant as
that we had at Naples, which was light and airy, with a large
garden. This was a dark gloomy structure in a narrow street, with
a frowning church beside it; it was not far from the place where
our new friend lived, and its being so was probably the reason why
he selected it. It was furnished partly with articles which we
bought, and partly with those which we hired. We lived something
in the same way as at Naples; but though I did not much like
Naples, I yet liked it better than this place, which was so gloomy.
Our new acquaintance made himself as agreeable as he could,
conducting the ladies to churches and convents, and frequently
passing the afternoon drinking with the governor, who was fond of a
glass of brandy and water and a cigar, as the new acquaintance also
was--no, I remember, he was fond of gin and water, and did not
smoke. I don't think he had so much influence over the young
ladies as the other priest, which was, perhaps, owing to his not
being so good-looking; but I am sure he had more influence with the
governor, owing, doubtless, to his bearing him company in drinking
mixed liquors, which the other priest did not do.
'He was a strange fellow, that same new acquaintance of ours, and
unlike all the priests I saw in that country, and I saw plenty of
various nations; they were always upon their guard, and had their
features and voice modulated; but this man was subject to fits of
absence, during which he would frequently mutter to himself, then,
though he was perfectly civil to everybody, as far as words went, I
observed that he entertained a thorough contempt for most people,
especially for those whom he was making dupes. I have observed him
whilst drinking with our governor, when the old man's head was
turned, look at him with an air which seemed to say, "What a
thundering old fool you are"; and at our young ladies, when their
backs were turned, with a glance which said distinctly enough, "You
precious pair of ninnyhammers"; and then his laugh--he had two
kinds of laughs--one which you could hear, and another which you
could only see. I have seen him laugh at our governor and the
young ladies, when their heads were turned away, but I heard no
sound. My mother had a sandy cat, which sometimes used to open its
mouth wide with a mew which nobody could hear, and the silent laugh
of that red-haired priest used to put me wonderfully in mind of the
silent mew of my mother's sandy-red cat. And then the other laugh,
which you could hear; what a strange laugh that was, never loud,
yes, I have heard it tolerably loud. He once passed near me, after
having taken leave of a silly English fellow--a limping parson of
the name of Platitude, who, they said, was thinking of turning
Papist, and was much in his company; I was standing behind the
pillar of a piazza, and as he passed he was laughing heartily. O
he was a strange fellow, that same red-haired acquaintance of ours!
'After we had been at Rome about six weeks our old friend the
priest of Naples arrived, but without his subordinate, for whose
services he now perhaps thought that he had no occasion. I believe
he found matters in our family wearing almost as favourable an
aspect as he could desire: with what he had previously taught them
and shown them at Naples and elsewhere, and with what the red-
haired confederate had taught them and shown them at Rome, the poor
young ladies had become quite handmaids of superstition, so that
they, especially the youngest, were prepared to bow down to
anything, and kiss anything, however vile and ugly, provided a
priest commanded them; and as for the old governor, what with the
influence which his daughters exerted, and what with the ascendency
which the red-haired man had obtained over him, he dared not say
his purse, far less his soul, was his own. Only think of an
Englishman not being master of his own purse! My acquaintance, the
lady's maid, assured me that, to her certain knowledge, he had
disbursed to the red-haired man, for purposes of charity, as it was
said, at least one thousand pounds during the five weeks we had
been at Rome. She also told me that things would shortly be
brought to a conclusion--and so indeed they were, though in a
different manner from what she and I and some other people
imagined; that there was to be a grand festival, and a mass, at
which we were to be present, after which the family were to be
presented to the Holy Father, for so those two priestly sharks had
managed it; and then . . . she said she was certain that the two
ladies, and perhaps the old governor, would forsake the religion of
their native land, taking up with that of these foreign regions,
for so my fellow-servant expressed it, and that perhaps attempts
might be made to induce us poor English servants to take up with
the foreign religion, that is herself and me, for as for our
fellow-servant, the other maid, she wanted no inducing, being
disposed body and soul to go over to it. Whereupon I swore with an
oath that nothing should induce me to take up with the foreign
religion; and the poor maid, my fellow-servant, bursting into
tears, said that for her part she would die sooner than have
anything to do with it; thereupon we shook hands and agreed to
stand by and countenance one another: and moreover, provided our
governors were fools enough to go over to the religion of these
here foreigners, we would not wait to be asked to do the like, but
leave them at once, and make the best of our way home, even if we
were forced to beg on the road.
'At last the day of the grand festival came, and we were all to go
to the big church to hear the mass. Now it happened that for some
time past I had been much afflicted with melancholy, especially
when I got up of a morning, produced by the strange manner in which
I saw things going on in our family; and to dispel it in some
degree, I had been in the habit of taking a dram before breakfast.
On the morning in question, feeling particularly low spirited when
I thought of the foolish step our governor would probably take
before evening, I took two drams before breakfast; and after
breakfast, feeling my melancholy still continuing, I took another,
which produced a slight effect upon my head, though I am convinced
nobody observed it.
'Away we drove to the big church; it was a dark misty day, I
remember, and very cold, so that if anybody had noticed my being
slightly in liquor, I could have excused myself by saying that I
had merely taken a glass to fortify my constitution against the
weather; and of one thing I am certain, which is, that such an
excuse would have stood me in stead with our governor, who looked,
I thought, as if he had taken one too; but I may be mistaken, and
why should I notice him, seeing that he took no notice of me? so
away we drove to the big church, to which all the population of the
place appeared to be moving.
'On arriving there we dismounted, and the two priests, who were
with us, led the family in, whilst I followed at a little distance,
but quickly lost them amidst the throng of people. I made my way,
however, though in what direction I knew not, except it was one in
which everybody seemed striving, and by dint of elbowing and
pushing I at last got to a place which looked like the aisle of a
cathedral, where the people stood in two rows, a space between
being kept open by certain strangely-dressed men who moved up and
down with rods in their hands; all were looking to the upper end of
this place or aisle; and at the upper end, separated from the
people by palings like those of an altar, sat in magnificent-
looking stalls, on the right and the left, various wonderful-
looking individuals in scarlet dresses. At the farther end was
what appeared to be an altar, on the left hand was a pulpit, and on
the right a stall higher than any of the rest, where was a figure
whom I could scarcely see.
'I can't pretend to describe what I saw exactly, for my head, which
was at first rather flurried, had become more so from the efforts
which I had made to get through the crowd; also from certain
singing, which proceeded from I know not where; and, above all,
from the bursts of an organ, which were occasionally so loud that I
thought the roof, which was painted with wondrous colours, would
come toppling down on those below. So there stood I--a poor
English servant--in that outlandish place, in the midst of that
foreign crowd, looking at that outlandish sight, hearing those
outlandish sounds, and occasionally glancing at our party, which,
by this time, I distinguished at the opposite side to where I
stood, but much nearer the place where the red figures sat. Yes,
there stood our poor governor and the sweet young ladies, and I
thought they never looked so handsome before; and close by them
were the sharking priests, and not far from them was that idiotical
parson Platitude, winking and grinning, and occasionally lifting up
his hands as if in ecstasy at what he saw and heard, so that he
drew upon himself the notice of the congregation.
'And now an individual mounted the pulpit, and began to preach in a
language which I did not understand, but which I believe to be
Latin, addressing himself seemingly to the figure in the stall; and
when he had ceased, there was more singing, more organ-playing, and
then two men in robes brought forth two things which they held up;
and then the people bowed their heads, and our poor governor bowed
his head, and the sweet young ladies bowed their heads, and the
sharking priests, whilst the idiotical parson Platitude tried to
fling himself down; and then there were various evolutions
withinside the pale, and the scarlet figures got up and sat down;
and this kind of thing continued for some time. At length the
figure which I had seen in the principal stall came forth and
advanced towards the people; an awful figure he was, a huge old man
with a sugar-loaf hat, with a sulphur-coloured dress, and holding a
crook in his hand like that of a shepherd; and as he advanced the
people fell on their knees, our poor old governor amongst them; the
sweet young ladies, the sharking priests, the idiotical parson
Platitude, all fell on their knees, and somebody or other tried to
pull me on my knees; but by this time I had become outrageous; all
that my poor brother used to tell me of the superstitions of the
high Barbary shore rushed into my mind, and I thought they were
acting them over here; above all, the idea that the sweet young
ladies, to say nothing of my poor old governor, were, after the
conclusion of all this mummery, going to deliver themselves up body
and soul into the power of that horrid-looking old man, maddened
me, and, rushing forward into the open space, I confronted the
horrible-looking old figure with the sugar-loaf hat, the sulphur-
coloured garments, and shepherd's crook, and shaking my fist at his
nose, I bellowed out in English -
'"I don't care for you, old Mumbo Jumbo, though you have fetish!"
'I can scarcely tell you what occurred for some time. I have a dim
recollection that hands were laid upon me, and that I struck out
violently left and right. On coming to myself, I was seated on a
stone bench in a large room, something like a guard-room, in the
custody of certain fellows dressed like Merry-andrews; they were
bluff, good-looking, wholesome fellows, very different from the
sallow Italians: they were looking at me attentively, and
occasionally talking to each other in a language which sounded very
like the cracking of walnuts in the mouth, very different from
cooing Italian. At last one of them asked me in Italian what had
ailed me, to which I replied, in an incoherent manner, something
about Mumbo Jumbo; whereupon the fellow, one of the bluffest of the
lot, a jovial rosy-faced rascal, lifted up his right hand, placing
it in such a manner that the lips were between the fore-finger and
thumb, then lifting up his right foot and drawing back his head, he
sucked in his breath with a hissing sound, as if to imitate one
drinking a hearty draught, and then slapped me on the shoulder,
saying something which sounded like goot wine, goot companion,