Etext by James Rusk, email@example.com. Italics are indicated by the underscore character (_). Acute accents are indicated by a single quote (‘) after the vowel, while grave accents have a single quote before the vowel. All other accents are ignored.
by Charles Reade
I dedicate all that is good in this work to my mother.–C. R.,
THIS story was written three years ago, and one or two topics in it are not treated exactly as they would be if written by the same hand to-day. But if the author had retouched those pages with his colors of 1853, he would (he thinks) have destroyed the only merit they have, viz., that of containing genuine contemporaneous verdicts upon a cant that was flourishing like a peony, and a truth that was struggling for bare life, in the year of truth 1850.
He prefers to deal fairly with the public, and, with this explanation and apology, to lay at its feet a faulty but genuine piece of work.
VISCOUNT IPSDEN, aged twenty-five, income eighteen thousand pounds per year, constitution equine, was unhappy! This might surprise some people; but there are certain blessings, the non-possession of which makes more people discontented than their possession renders happy.
Foremost among these are “Wealth and Rank.” Were I to add “Beauty” to the list, such men and women as go by fact, not by conjecture, would hardly contradict me.
The fortunate man is he who, born poor, or nobody, works gradually up to wealth and consideration, and, having got them, dies before he finds they were not worth so much trouble.
Lord Ipsden started with nothing to win; and naturally lived for amusement. Now nothing is so sure to cease to please as pleasure–to amuse, as amusement. Unfortunately for himself he could not at this period of his life warm to politics; so, having exhausted his London clique, he rolled through the cities of Europe in his carriage, and cruised its shores in his yacht. But he was not happy!
He was a man of taste, and sipped the arts and other knowledge, as he sauntered Europe round.
But he was not happy.
“What shall I do?” said _l’ennuye’._
“Distinguish yourself,” said one.
No immediate answer.
“Take a _prima donna_ over,” said another.
Well, the man took a _prima donna_ over, which scolded its maid from the Alps to Dover in the _lingua Toscana_ without the _bocca Romana,_ and sang in London without applause; because what goes down at La Scala does not generally go down at Il Teatro della Regina, Haymarket.
So then my lord strolled into Russia; there he drove a pair of horses, one of whom put his head down and did the work; the other pranced and capricoled alongside, all unconscious of the trace. He seemed happier than his working brother; but the biped whose career corresponded with this playful animal’s was not happy!
At length an event occurred that promised to play an adagio upon Lord Ipsden ‘s mind. He fell in love with Lady Barbara Sinclair; and he had no sooner done this than he felt, as we are all apt to do on similar occasions, how wise a thing he had done!
Besides a lovely person, Lady Barbara Sinclair had a character that he saw would make him; and, in fact, Lady Barbara Sinclair was, to an inexperienced eye, the exact opposite of Lord Ipsden.
Her mental impulse was as plethoric as his was languid.
She was as enthusiastic as he was cool.
She took a warm interest in everything. She believed that government is a science, and one that goes with _copia verborum._
She believed that, in England, government is administered, not by a set of men whose salaries range from eighty to five hundred pounds a year, and whose names are never heard, but by the First Lord of the Treasury, and other great men.
Hence she inferred, that it matters very much to all of us in whose hand is the rudder of that state vessel which goes down the wind of public opinion, without veering a point, let who will be at the helm.
She also cared very much who was the new bishop. Religion–if not religion, theology–would be affected thereby.
She was enthusiastic about poets; imagined their verse to be some sort of clew to their characters, and so on.
She had other theories, which will be indicated by and by; at present it is enough to say that her mind was young, healthy, somewhat original, full of fire and faith, and empty of experience.
Lord Ipsden loved her! it was easy to love her.
First, there was not, in the whole range of her mind and body, one grain of affectation of any sort.
She was always, in point of fact, under the influence of some male mind or other, generally some writer. What young woman is not, more or less, a mirror? But she never imitated or affected; she was always herself, by whomsoever colored.
Then she was beautiful and eloquent; much too high-bred to put a restraint upon her natural manner, she was often more _naive,_ and even brusk, than your would-be aristocrats dare to be; but what a charming abruptness hers was!
I do not excel in descriptions, and yet I want to give you some carnal idea of a certain peculiarity and charm this lady possessed; permit me to call a sister art to my aid.
There has lately stepped upon the French stage a charming personage, whose manner is quite free from the affectation that soils nearly all French actresses–Mademoiselle Madeleine Brohan! When you see this young lady play Mademoiselle La Segli’ere, you see high-bred sensibility personified, and you see something like Lady Barbara Sinclair.
She was a connection of Lord Ipsden’s, but they had not met for two years, when they encountered each other in Paris just before the commencement of this “Dramatic Story,” “Novel” by courtesy.
The month he spent in Paris, near her, was a bright month to Lord Ipsden. A bystander would not have gathered, from his manner, that he was warmly in love with this lady; but, for all that, his lordship was gradually uncoiling himself, and gracefully, quietly basking in the rays of Barbara Sinclair.
He was also just beginning to take an interest in subjects of the day–ministries, flat paintings, controversial novels, Cromwell’s spotless integrity, etc.–why not? They interested her.
Suddenly the lady and her family returned to England. Lord Ipsden, who was going to Rome, came to England instead.
She had not been five days in London, before she made her preparations to spend six months in Perthshire.
This brought matters to a climax.
Lord Ipsden proposed in form.
Lady Barbara was surprised; she had not viewed his graceful attentions in that light at all. However, she answered by letter his proposal which had been made by letter.
After a few of those courteous words a lady always bestows on a gentleman who has offered her the highest compliment any man has it in his power to offer any woman, she came to the point in the following characteristic manner:
“The man I marry must have two things, virtues and vices–you have neither. You do nothing, and never will do anything but sketch and hum tunes, and dance and dangle. Forget this folly the day after to-morrow, my dear Ipsden, and, if I may ask a favor of one to whom I refuse that which would not be a kindness, be still good friends with her who will always be
“Your affectionate _Cousin,_
Soon after this effusion she vanished into Perthshire, leaving her cousin stunned by a blow which she thought would be only a scratch to one of his character.
Lord Ipsden relapsed into greater listlessness than before he had cherished these crushed hopes. The world now became really dark and blank to him. He was too languid to go anywhere or do anything; a republican might have compared the settled expression of his handsome, hopeless face with that of most day-laborers of the same age, and moderated his envy of the rich and titled.
At last he became so pale as well as languid that Mr. Saunders interfered.
Saunders was a model valet and factotum; who had been with his master ever since he left Eton, and had made himself necessary to him in their journeys.
The said Saunders was really an invaluable servant, and, with a world of obsequiousness, contrived to have his own way on most occasions. He had, I believe, only one great weakness, that of imagining a beau-ideal of aristocracy and then outdoing it in the person of John Saunders.
Now this Saunders was human, and could not be eight years with this young gentleman and not take some little interest in him. He was flunky, and took a great interest in him, as stepping-stone to his own greatness. So when he saw him turning pale and thin, and reading one letter fifty times, he speculated and inquired what was the matter. He brought the intellect of Mr. Saunders to bear on the question at the following angle:
“Now, if I was a young lord with 20,000 pounds a year, and all the world at my feet, what would make me in this way? Why, the liver! Nothing else.
“And that is what is wrong with him, you may depend.”
This conclusion arrived at, Mr. Saunders coolly wrote his convictions to Dr. Aberford, and desired that gentleman’s immediate attention to the case. An hour or two later, he glided into his lord’s room, not without some secret trepidation, no trace of which appeared on his face. He pulled a long histrionic countenance. “My lord,” said he, in soft, melancholy tones, “your lordship’s melancholy state of health gives me great anxiety; and, with many apologies to your lordship, the doctor is sent for, my lord.”
“Why, Saunders, you are mad; there is nothing the matter with me.”
“I beg your lordship’s pardon, your lordship is very ill, and Dr. Aberford sent for.”
“You may go, Saunders.”
“Yes, my lord. I couldn’t help it; I’ve outstepped my duty, my lord, but I could not stand quiet and see your lordship dying by inches.” Here Mr. S. put a cambric handkerchief artistically to his eyes, and glided out, having disarmed censure.
Lord Ipsden fell into a reverie.
“Is my mind or my body disordered? Dr. Aberford!–absurd!–Saunders is getting too pragmatical. The doctor shall prescribe for him instead of me; by Jove, that would serve him right.” And my lord faintly chuckled. “No! this is what I am ill of”–and he read the fatal note again. “I do nothing!–cruel, unjust,” sighed he. “I could have done, would have done, anything to please her. Do nothing! nobody does anything now–things don’t come in your way to be done as they used centuries ago, or we should do them just the same; it is their fault, not ours,” argued his lordship, somewhat confusedly; then, leaning his brow upon the sofa, he wished to die. For, at that dark moment life seemed to this fortunate man an aching void; a weary, stale, flat, unprofitable tale; a faded flower; a ball-room after daylight has crept in, and music, motion and beauty are fled away.
“Dr. Aberford, my lord.”
This announcement, made by Mr. Saunders, checked his lordship’s reverie.
“Insults everybody, does he not, Saunders?”
“Yes, my lord,” said Saunders, monotonously.
“Perhaps he will me; that might amuse me,” said the other.
A moment later the doctor bowled into the apartment, tugging at his gloves, as he ran.
The contrast between him and our poor rich friend is almost beyond human language.
Here lay on a sofa Ipsden, one of the most distinguished young gentlemen in Europe; a creature incapable, by nature, of a rugged tone or a coarse gesture; a being without the slightest apparent pretension, but refined beyond the wildest dream of dandies. To him, enter Aberford, perspiring and shouting. He was one of those globules of human quicksilver one sees now and then for two seconds; they are, in fact, two globules; their head is one, invariably bald, round, and glittering; the body is another in activity and shape, _totus teres atque rotundus;_ and in fifty years they live five centuries. _Horum Rex Aberford_–of these our doctor was the chief. He had hardly torn off one glove, and rolled as far as the third flower from the door on his lordship’s carpet, before he shouted:
“This is my patient, lolloping in pursuit of health. Your hand,” added he. For he was at the sofa long before his lordship could glide off it.
“Tongue. Pulse is good. Breathe in my face.”
“Breathe in your face, sir! how can I do that?” (with an air of mild doubt.)
“By first inhaling, and then exhaling in the direction required, or how can I make acquaintance with your bowels?”
“The abdomen, and the greater and lesser intestines. Well, never mind, I can get at them another way; give your heart a slap, so. That’s your liver. And that’s your diaphragm.”
His lordship having found the required spot (some people that I know could not) and slapped it, the Aberford made a circular spring and listened eagerly at his shoulder-blade; the result of this scientific pantomime seemed to be satisfactory, for he exclaimed, not to say bawled:
“Halo! here is a viscount as sound as a roach! Now, young gentleman,” added he, “your organs are superb, yet you are really out of sorts; it follows you have the maladies of idle minds, love, perhaps, among the rest; you blush, a diagnostic of that disorder; make your mind easy, cutaneous disorders, such as love, etc., shall never kill a patient of mine with a stomach like yours. So, now to cure you!” And away went the spherical doctor, with his hands behind him, not up and down the room, but slanting and tacking, like a knight on a chess-board. He had not made many steps before, turning his upper globule, without affecting his lower, he hurled back, in a cold business-like tone, the following interrogatory:
“What are your vices?”
“Saunders,” inquired the patient, “which are my vices?”
“M’lord, lordship hasn’t any vices,” replied Saunders, with dull, matter-of-fact solemnity.
“Lady Barbara makes the same complaint,” thought Lord Ipsden.
“It seems I have not any vices, Dr. Aberford,” said he, demurely.
“That is bad; nothing to get hold of. What interests you, then?”
“I don’t remember.”
“What amuses you?”
“What! no winning horse to gallop away your rents?”
“No opera girl to run her foot and ankle through your purse?”
“No, sir! and I think their ankles are not what they were.”
“Stuff! just the same, from their ankles up to their ears, and down again to their morals; it is your eyes that are sunk deeper into your head. Hum! no horses, no vices, no dancers, no yacht; you confound one’s notions of nobility, and I ought to know them, for I have to patch them all up a bit just before they go to the deuce.”
“But I have, Doctor Aberford.”
“A yacht! and a clipper she is, too.”
“Ah!–(Now I’ve got him.)”
“In the Bay of Biscay she lay half a point nearer the wind than Lord Heavyjib.”
“Oh! bother Lord Heavyjib, and his Bay of Biscay.”
“With all my heart, they have often bothered me.”
“Send her round to Granton Pier, in the Firth of Forth.”
“I will, sir.”
“And write down this prescription.” And away he walked again, thinking the prescription.
“Saunders,” appealed his master.
“Saunders be hanged.”
“Sir!” said Saunders, with dignity, “I thank you.”
“Don’t thank me, thank your own deserts,” replied the modern Chesterfield. “Oblige me by writing it yourself, my lord, it is all the bodily exercise you will have had to-day, no doubt.”
The young viscount bowed, seated himself at a desk, and wrote from dictation:
“DR. ABERFORD’S PRESCRIPTION.
“Make acquaintance with all the people of low estate who have time to be bothered with you; learn their ways, their minds, and, above all, their troubles.”
“Won’t all this bore me?” suggested the writer.
“You will see. Relieve one fellow-creature every day, and let Mr. Saunders book the circumstances.”
“I shall like this part,” said the patient, laying down his pen. “How clever of you to think of such things; may not I do two sometimes?”
“Certainly not; one pill per day. Write, Fish the herring! (that beats deer-stalking.) Run your nose into adventures at sea; live on tenpence, and earn it. Is it down?”
“Yes, it is down, but Saunders would have written it better.”
“If he hadn’t he ought to be hanged,” said the Aberford, inspecting the work. “I’m off, where’s my hat? oh, there; where’s my money? oh, here. Now look here, follow my prescription, and
You will soon have Mens sana in corpore sano; And not care whether the girls say yes or say no;
neglect it, and–my gloves; oh, in my pocket–you will be _blase’_ and _ennuye’,_ and (an English participle, that means something as bad); God bless you!”
And out he scuttled, glided after by Saunders, for whom he opened and shut the street door.
Never was a greater effect produced by a doctor’s visit; patient and physician were made for each other. Dr. Aberford was the specific for Lord Ipsden. He came to him like a shower to a fainting strawberry.
Saunders, on his return, found his lord pacing the apartment.
“Saunders,” said he, smartly, “send down to Gravesend and order the yacht to this place–what is it?”
“Granton Pier. Yes, my lord.”
“And, Saunders, take clothes, and books, and violins, and telescopes, and things–and me–to Euston Square, in an hour.”
“Impossible,’ my lord,” cried Saunders, in dismay. “And there is no train for hours.”
His master replied with a hundred-pound note, and a quiet, but wickedish look; and the prince of gentlemen’s gentleman had all the required items with him, in a special train, within the specified time, and away they flashed, northward.
IT is said that opposite characters make a union happiest; and perhaps Lord Ipsden, diffident of himself, felt the value to him of a creature so different as Lady Barbara Sinclair; but the lady, for her part, was not so diffident of herself, nor was she in search of her opposite. On the contrary, she was waiting patiently to find just such a man as she was, or fancied herself, a woman.
Accustomed to measure men by their characters alone, and to treat with sublime contempt the accidents of birth and fortune, she had been a little staggered by the assurance of this butterfly that had proposed to settle upon her hand–for life.
In a word, the beautiful writer of the fatal note was honestly romantic, according to the romance of 1848, and of good society; of course she was not affected by hair tumbling back or plastered down forward, and a rolling eye went no further with her than a squinting one.
Her romance was stern, not sickly. She was on the lookout for iron virtues; she had sworn to be wooed with great deeds, or never won; on this subject she had thought much, though not enough to ask herself whether great deeds are always to be got at, however disposed a lover may be.
No matter; she kept herself in reserve for some earnest man, who was not to come flattering and fooling to her, but look another way and do exploits.
She liked Lord Ipsden, her cousin once removed, but despised him for being agreeable, handsome, clever, and nobody.
She was also a little bitten with what she and others called the Middle Ages, in fact with that picture of them which Grub Street, imposing on the simplicity of youth, had got up for sale by arraying painted glass, gilt rags, and fancy, against fact.
With these vague and sketchy notices we are compelled to part, for the present, with Lady Barbara. But it serves her right; she has gone to establish her court in Perthshire, and left her rejected lover on our hands.
Journeys of a few hundred miles are no longer described.
You exchange a dead chair for a living chair, Saunders puts in your hand a new tale like this; you mourn the superstition of booksellers, which still inflicts uncut leaves upon humanity, though tailors do not send home coats with the sleeves stitched up, nor chambermaids put travelers into apple-pie beds as well as damp sheets. You rend and read, and are at Edinburgh, fatigued more or less, but not by the journey.
Lord Ipsden was, therefore, soon installed by the Firth side, full of the Aberford.
The young nobleman not only venerated the doctor’s sagacity, but half admired his brusquerie and bustle; things of which he was himself never guilty.
As for the prescription, that was a Delphic Oracle. Worlds could not have tempted him to deviate from a letter in it.
He waited with impatience for the yacht; and, meantime, it struck him that the first part of the prescription could be attacked at once.
It was the afternoon of the day succeeding his arrival. The Fifeshire hills, seen across the Firth from his windows, were beginning to take their charming violet tinge, a light breeze ruffled the blue water into a sparkling smile, the shore was tranquil, and the sea full of noiseless life, with the craft of all sizes gliding and dancing and courtesying on their trackless roads.
The air was tepid, pure and sweet as heaven; this bright afternoon, Nature had grudged nothing that could give fresh life and hope to such dwellers in dust and smoke and vice as were there to look awhile on her clean face and drink her honeyed breath.
This young gentleman was not insensible to the beauty of the scene. He was a little lazy by nature, and made lazier by the misfortune of wealth, but he had sensibilities; he was an artist of great natural talent; had he only been without a penny, how he would have handled the brush! And then he was a mighty sailor; if he had sailed for biscuit a few years, how he would have handled a ship!
As he was, he had the eye of a hawk for Nature’s beauties, and the sea always came back to him like a friend after an absence.
This scene, then, curled round his heart a little, and he felt the good physician was wiser than the tribe that go by that name, and strive to build health on the sandy foundation of drugs.
“Saunders! do you know what Dr. Aberford means by the lower classes?”
“Perfectly, my lord.”
“Are there any about here?”
“I am sorry to say they are everywhere, my lord.”
“Get me some”–_(cigarette)._
Out went Saunders, with his usual graceful _empressement,_ but an internal shrug of his shoulders.
He was absent an hour and a half; he then returned with a double expression on his face–pride at his success in diving to the very bottom of society, and contempt of what he had fished up thence.
He approached his lord mysteriously, and said, _sotto voce,_ but impressively, “This is low enough, my lord.” Then glided back, and ushered in, with polite disdain, two lovelier women than he had ever opened a door to in the whole course of his perfumed existence.
On their heads they wore caps of Dutch or Flemish origin, with a broad lace border, stiffened and arched over the forehead, about three inches high, leaving the brow and cheeks unencumbered.
They had cotton jackets, bright red and yellow, mixed in patterns, confined at the waist by the apron-strings, but bobtailed below the waist; short woolen petticoats, with broad vertical stripes, red and white, most vivid in color; white worsted stockings, and neat, though high-quartered shoes. Under their jackets they wore a thick spotted cotton handkerchief, about one inch of which was visible round the lower part of the throat. Of their petticoats, the outer one was kilted, or gathered up toward the front, and the second, of the same color, hung in the usual way.
Of these young women, one had an olive complexion, with the red blood mantling under it, and black hair, and glorious black eyebrows.
The other was fair, with a massive but shapely throat, as white as milk; glossy brown hair, the loose threads of which glittered like gold, and a blue eye, which, being contrasted with dark eyebrows and lashes, took the luminous effect peculiar to that rare beauty.
Their short petticoats revealed a neat ankle, and a leg with a noble swell; for Nature, when she is in earnest, builds beauty on the ideas of ancient sculptors and poets, not of modern poetasters, who, with their airy-like sylphs and their smoke-like verses, fight for want of flesh in woman and want of fact in poetry as parallel beauties.
_They are,_ my lads.–_Continuez!_
These women had a grand corporeal trait; they had never known a corset! so they were straight as javelins; they could lift their hands above their heads!–actually! Their supple persons moved as Nature intended; every gesture was ease, grace and freedom.
What with their own radiance, and the snowy cleanliness and brightness of their costume, they came like meteors into the apartment.
Lord Ipsden, rising gently from his seat, with the same quiet politeness with which he would have received two princes of the blood, said, “How do you do?” and smiled a welcome.
“Fine! hoow’s yoursel?” answered the dark lass, whose name was Jean Carnie, and whose voice was not so sweet as her face.
“What’n lord are ye?” continued she; “are you a juke? I wad like fine to hae a crack wi’ a juke.”
Saunders, who knew himself the cause of this question, replied, _sotto voce,_ “His lordship is a viscount.”
“I didna ken’t,” was Jean’s remark. “But it has a bonny soond.”
“What mair would ye hae?” said the fair beauty, whose name was Christie Johnstone. Then, appealing to his lordship as the likeliest to know, she added, “Nobeelity is jist a soond itsel, I’m tauld.”
The viscount, finding himself expected to say something on a topic he had not attended much to, answered dryly: “We must ask the republicans, they are the people that give their minds to such subjects.”
“And yon man,” asked Jean Carnie, “is he a lord, too?”
“I am his lordship’s servant,” replied Saunders, gravely, not without a secret misgiving whether fate had been just.
“Na!” replied she, not to be imposed upon, “ye are statelier and prooder than this ane.”
“I will explain,” said his master. “Saunders knows his value; a servant like Saunders is rarer than an idle viscount.”
“My lord, my lord!” remonstrated Saunders, with a shocked and most disclamatory tone. “Rather!” was his inward reflection.
“Jean,” said Christie, “ye hae muckle to laern. Are ye for herrin’ the day, vile count?”
“No! are you for this sort of thing?”
At this, Saunders, with a world of _empressement,_ offered the Carnie some cake that was on the table.
She took a piece, instantly spat it out into her hand, and with more energy than delicacy flung it into the fire.
“Augh!” cried she, “just a sugar and saut butter thegither; buy nae mair at yon shoep, vile count.”
“Try this, out of Nature’s shop,” laughed their entertainer; and he offered them, himself, some peaches and things.
“Hech! a medi–cine!” said Christie.
“Nature, my lad,” said Miss Carnie, making her ivory teeth meet in their first nectarine, “I didna ken whaur ye stoep, but ye beat the other confectioners, that div ye.”
The fair lass, who had watched the viscount all this time as demurely as a cat cream, now approached him.
This young woman was the thinker; her voice was also rich, full, and melodious, and her manner very engaging; it was half advancing, half retiring, not easy to resist or to describe.
“Noo,” said she, with a very slight blush stealing across her face, “ye maun let me catecheeze ye, wull ye?”
The last two words were said in a way that would have induced a bear to reveal his winter residence.
He smiled assent. Saunders retired to the door, and, excluding every shade of curiosity from his face, took an attitude, half majesty, half obsequiousness.
Christie stood by Lord Ipsden, with one hand on her hip (the knuckles downward), but graceful as Antinous, and began.
“Hoo muckle is the queen greater than y’ are?”
His lordship was obliged to reflect.
“Let me see–as is the moon to a wax taper, so is her majesty the queen to you and me, and the rest.”
“An’ whaur does the Juke* come in?”
“On this particular occasion, the Duke** makes one of us, my pretty maid.”
“I see! Are na yeawfu’ prood o’ being a lorrd?”
“What an idea!”
“His lordship did not go to bed a spinning-jenny, and rise up a lord, like some of them,” put in Saunders.
“Saunders,” said the peer, doubtfully, “eloquence rather bores people.”
“Then I mustn’t speak again, my lord,” said Saunders, respectfully.
“Noo,” said the fair inquisitor, “ye shall tell me how ye came to be lorrds, your faemily?”
“Na! ye manna flee to Sandy for a thing, ye are no a bairn, are ye?”
Here was a dilemma, the Saunders prop knocked rudely away, and obliged to think for ourselves.
But Saunders would come to his distressed master’s assistance. He furtively conveyed to him a plump book–this was Saunders’s manual of faith; the author was Mr. Burke, not Edmund.
Lord Ipsden ran hastily over the page, closed the book, and said, “Here is the story.
“Five hundred years ago–“
“Listen, Jean,” said Christie; “we’re gaun to get a boeny story. ‘Five hundre’ years ago,'” added she, with interest and awe.
“Was a great battle,” resumed the narrator, in cheerful tones, as one larking with history, “between a king of England and his rebels. He was in the thick of the fight–“
“That’s the king, Jean, he was in the thick o’t.”
“My ancestor killed a fellow who was sneaking behind him, but the next moment a man-at-arms prepared a thrust at his majesty, who had his hands full with three assailants.”
“Eh! that’s no fair,” said Christie, “as sure as deeth.”
“My ancestor dashed forward, and, as the king’s sword passed through one of them, he clove another to the waist with a blow.”
“Weel done! weel done!”
Lord Ipsden looked at the speaker, her eyes were glittering, and her cheek flushing.
“Good Heavens!” thought he; “she believes it!” So he began to take more pains with his legend.
“But for the spearsman,” continued he, “he had nothing but his body; he gave it, it was his duty, and received the death leveled at his sovereign.”
“Hech! puir mon.” And the glowing eyes began to glisten.
“The battle flowed another way, and God gave victory to the right; but the king came back to look for him, for it was no common service.”
Here Lord Ipsden began to turn his eye inward, and call up the scene. He lowered his voice.
“They found him lying on his back, looking death in the face.
“The nobles, by the king’s side, uncovered as soon as he was found, for they were brave men, too. There was a moment’s silence; eyes met eyes, and said, this is a stout soldier’s last battle.
“The king could not bid him live.”
“Na! lad, King Deeth has ower strong a grrip.”
“But he did what kings can do, he gave him two blows with his royal sword.”
“Oh, the robber, and him a deeing mon.”
“Two words from his royal mouth, and he and we were Barons of Ipsden and Hawthorn Glen from that day to this.”
“But the puir dying creature?”
“What poor dying creature?”
“Your forbear, lad.”
“I don’t know why you call him poor, madam; all the men of that day are dust; they are the gold dust who died with honor.
“He looked round, uneasily, for his son–for he had but one–and when that son knelt, unwounded, by him, he said, ‘Goodnight, Baron Ipsden;’ and so he died, fire in his eye, a smile on his lip, and honor on his name forever. I meant to tell you a lie, and I’ve told you the truth.”
“Laddie,” said Christie, half admiringly, half reproachfully, “ye gar the tear come in my een. Hech! look at yon lassie! how could you think t’eat plums through siccan a bonny story?”
“Hets,” answered Jean, who had, in fact, cleared the plate, “I aye listen best when my ain mooth’s stappit.”
“But see, now,” pondered Christie, “twa words fra a king–thir titles are just breeth.”
“Of course,” was the answer. “All titles are. What is popularity? ask Aristides and Lamartine–the breath of a mob–smells of its source–and is gone before the sun can set on it. Now the royal breath does smell of the Rose and Crown, and stays by us from age to age.”
The story had warmed our marble acquaintance. Saunders opened his eyes, and thought, “We shall wake up the House of Lords some evening–_we_ shall.”
His lordship then added, less warmly, looking at the girls:
“I think I should like to be a fisherman.”
So saying, my lord yawned slightly.
To this aspiration the young fishwives deigned no attention, doubting, perhaps, its sincerity; and Christie, with a shade of severity, inquired of him how he came to be a vile count.
“A baron’s no’ a vile count, I’m sure,” said she; “sae tell me how ye came to be a vile count.”
“Ah!” said he, “that is by no means a pretty story like the other; you will not like it, I am sure.
“Ay, will I–ay, will I; I’m aye seeking knoewledge.”
“Well, it is soon told. One of us sat twenty years on one seat, in the same house, so one day he got up a–viscount.”
“Ower muckle pay for ower little wark.”
“Now don’t say that; I wouldn’t do it to be Emperor of Russia.”
“Aweel, I hae gotten a heap out o’ ye; sae noow I’ll gang, since ye are no for herrin’; come away, Jean.”
At this their host remonstrated, and inquired why bores are at one’s service night and day, and bright people are always in a hurry; he was informed in reply, “Labor is the lot o’ man. Div ye no ken that muckle? And abune a’ o’ women.”*
* A local idea, I suspect.–C. R.
“Why, what can two such pretty creatures have to do except to be admired?”
This question coming within the dark beauty’s scope, she hastened to reply.
“To sell our herrin’–we hae three hundre’ left in the creel.”
“What is the price?”
At this question the poetry died out of Christie Johnstone’s face, she gave her companion a rapid look, indiscernible by male eye, and answered:
“Three a penny, sirr; they are no plenty the day,” added she, in smooth tones that carried conviction.
(Little liar; they were selling six a penny everywhere.)
“Saunders, buy them all, and be ever so long about it; count them, or some nonsense.”
“He’s daft! he’s daft! Oh, ye ken, Jean, an Ennglishman and a lorrd, twa daft things thegither, he could na’ miss the road. Coont them, lassie.”
“Come away, Sandy, till I count them till ye,” said Jean.
Saunders and Jean disappeared.
Business being out of sight, curiosity revived.
“An’ what brings ye here from London, if ye please?” recommenced the fair inquisitor.
“You have a good countenance; there is something in your face. I could find it in my heart to tell you, but I should bore you.”
“De’el a fear! Bore me, bore me! wheat’s thaat, I wonder?”
“What is your name, madam? Mine is Ipsden.”
“They ca’ me Christie Johnstone.”
“Well, Christie Johnstone, I am under the doctor’s hands.”
“Puir lad. What’s the trouble?” (solemnly and tenderly.)
“Ennui!” (rather piteously.)
“Yawn-we? I never heerd tell o’t.”
“Oh, you lucky girl,” burst out he; “but the doctor has undertaken to cure me; in one thing you could assist me, if I am not presuming too far on our short acquaintance. I am to relieve one poor distressed person every day, but I mustn’t do two. Is not that a bore?”
“Gie’s your hand, gie’s your hand. I’m vexed for ca’ing you daft. Hech! what a saft hand ye hae. Jean, I’m saying, come here, feel this.”
Jean, who had run in, took the viscount’s hand from Christie.
“It never wroucht any,” explained Jean. “And he has bonny hair,” said Christie, just touching his locks on the other side.
“He’s a bonny lad,” said Jean, inspecting him scientifically, and pointblank.
“Ay, is he,” said the other. “Aweel, there’s Jess Rutherford, a widdy, wi’ four bairns, ye meicht do waur than ware your siller on her.”
“Five pounds to begin?” inquired his lordship.
“Five pund! Are ye made o’ siller? Ten schell’n!”
Saunders was rung for, and produced a one-pound note.
“The herrin’ is five and saxpence; it’s four and saxpence I’m awin ye,” said the young fishwife, “and Jess will be a glad woman the neicht.”
The settlement was effected, and away went the two friends, saying:
“Good-boye, vile count.”
Their host fell into thought.
“When have I talked so much?” asked he of himself.
“Dr. Aberford, you are a wonderful man; I like your lower classes amazingly.”
“Me’fiez vous, Monsieur Ipsden!” should some mentor have said.
As the Devil puts into a beginner’s hands ace, queen, five trumps, to give him a taste for whist, so these lower classes have perhaps put forward one of their best cards to lead you into a false estimate of the strength of their hand.
Instead, however, of this, who should return, to disturb the equilibrium of truth, but this Christina Johnstone? She came thoughtfully in, and said:
“I’ve been taking a thoucht, and this is no what yon gude physeecian meaned; ye are no to fling your chaerity like a bane till a doeg; ye’ll gang yoursel to Jess Rutherford; Flucker Johnstone, that’s my brother, will convoy ye.”
“But how is your brother to know me?”
“How? Because I’ll gie him a sair sair hiding, if he lets ye gang by.”
Then she returned the one-pound note, a fresh settlement was effected, and she left him. At the door she said: “And I am muckle obleeged to ye for your story and your goodness.”
While uttering these words, she half kissed her hand to him, with a lofty and disengaged gesture, such as one might expect from a queen, if queens did not wear stays; and was gone.
When his lordship, a few minutes after, sauntered out for a stroll, the first object he beheld was an exact human square, a handsome boy, with a body swelled out apparently to the size of a man’s, with blue flannel, and blue cloth above it, leaning against a wall, with his hands in his pockets–a statuette of _insouciance._
This marine puff-ball was Flucker Johnstone, aged fourteen.
Stain his sister’s face with diluted walnut-juice, as they make the stage gypsy and Red Indian (two animals imagined by actors to be one), and you have Flucker’s face.
A slight moral distinction remains, not to be so easily got over,
She was the best girl in the place, and he a baddish boy.
He was, however, as sharp in his way as she was intelligent in hers.
This youthful mariner allowed his lordship to pass him, and take twenty steps, but watched him all the time, and compared him with a description furnished him by his sister.
He then followed, and brought him to, as he called it.
“I daur say it’s you I’m to convoy to yon auld faggitt!” said this baddish boy.
On they went, Flucker rolling and pitching and yawing to keep up with the lordly galley, for a fisherman’s natural waddle is two miles an hour.
At the very entrance of Newhaven, the new pilot suddenly sung out, “Starboard!”
Starboard it was, and they ascended a filthy “close,” or alley they mounted a staircase which was out of doors, and, without knocking, Flucker introduced himself into Jess Rutherford’s house.
“Here a gentleman to speak till ye, wife.”
THE widow was weather-beaten and rough. She sat mending an old net.
“The gentleman’s welcome,” said she; but there was no gratification in her tone, and but little surprise.
His lordship then explained that, understanding there were worthy people in distress, he was in hopes he might be permitted to assist them, and that she must blame a neighbor of hers if he had broken in upon her too abruptly with this object. He then, with a blush, hinted at ten shillings, which he begged she would consider as merely an installment, until he could learn the precise nature of her embarrassments, and the best way of placing means at her disposal.
The widow heard all this with a lackluster mind.
For many years her life had been unsuccessful labor; if anything had ever come to her, it had always been a misfortune; her incidents had been thorns–her events, daggers.
She could not realize a human angel coming to her relief, and she did not realize it, and she worked away at her net.
At this, Flucker, to whom his lordship’s speech appeared monstrously weak and pointless, drew nigh, and gave the widow, in her ear, his version, namely, his sister’s embellished. It was briefly this: That the gentleman was a daft lord from England, who had come with the bank in his breeks, to remove poverty from Scotland, beginning with her. “Sae speak loud aneuch, and ye’ll no want siller,” was his polite corollary.
His lordship rose, laid a card on a chair, begged her to make use of him, et cetera; he then, recalling the oracular prescription, said, “Do me the favor to apply to me for any little sum you have a use for, and, in return, I will beg of you (if it does not bore you too much) to make me acquainted with any little troubles you may have encountered in the course of your life.”
His lordship, receiving no answer, was about to go, after bowing to her, and smiling gracefully upon her.
His hand was on the latch, when Jess Rutherford burst into a passion of tears.
He turned with surprise.
“My _troubles,_ laddie,” cried she, trembling all over. “The sun wad set, and rise, and set again, ere I could tell ye a’ the trouble I hae come through.
“Oh, ye need na vex yourself for an auld wife’s tears; tears are a blessin’, lad, I shall assure ye. Mony’s the time I hae prayed for them, and could na hae them Sit ye doon! sit ye doon! I’ll no let ye gang fra my door till I hae thankit ye–but gie me time, gie me time. I canna greet a’ the days of the week.”
Flucker, _aetat._ 14, opened his eyes, unable to connect ten shillings and tears.
Lord Ipsden sat down, and felt very sorry for her.
And she cried at her ease.
If one touch of nature make the whole world kin, methinks that sweet and wonderful thing, sympathy, is not less powerful. What frozen barriers, what ice of centuries, it can melt in a moment!
His bare mention of her troubles had surprised the widowed woman’s heart, and now she looked up and examined his countenance; it was soon done.
A woman, young or old, high or low, can discern and appreciate sensibility in a man’s face, at a single glance.
What she saw there was enough. She was sure of sympathy. She recalled her resolve, and the tale of her sorrows burst from her like a flood.
Then the old fishwife told the young aristocrat how she had borne twelve children, and buried six as bairns; how her man was always unlucky; how a mast fell on him, and disabled him a whole season; how they could but just keep the pot boiling by the deep-sea fishing, and he was not allowed to dredge for oysters, because his father was not a Newhaven man. How, when the herring fishing came, to make all right, he never had another man’s luck; how his boat’s crew would draw empty nets, and a boat alongside him would be gunwale down in the water with the fish. How, at last, one morning, the 20th day of November, his boat came in to Newhaven Pier without him, and when he was inquired for, his crew said, “He had stayed at home, like a lazy loon, and not sailed with them the night before.” How she was anxious, and had all the public houses searched. “For he took a drop now and then, nae wonder, and him aye in the weather.” Poor thing! when he was alive she used to call him a drunken scoundrel to his face. How, when the tide went down, a mad wife, whose husband had been drowned twenty years ago, pointed out something under the pier that the rest took for sea-weed floating–how it was the hair of her man’s head, washed about by the water, and he was there, drowned without a cry or a struggle, by his enormous boots, that kept him in an upright position, though he was dead; there he stood–dead–drowned by slipping from the slippery pier, close to his comrades’ hands, in a dark and gusty night; how her daughter married, and was well to do, and assisted her; how she fell into a rapid decline, and died, a picture of health to inexperienced eyes. How she, the mother, saw and knew, and watched the treacherous advance of disease and death; how others said gayly, “Her daughter was better,” and she was obliged to say, “Yes.” How she had worked, eighteen hours a day, at making nets; how, when she let out her nets to the other men at the herring fishing, they always cheated her, because her man was gone. How she had many times had to choose between begging her meal and going to bed without it, but, thank Heaven! she had always chosen the latter.
She told him of hunger, cold, and anguish. As she spoke they became real things to him; up to that moment they had been things in a story-book. And as she spoke she rocked herself from side to side.
Indeed, she was a woman “acquainted with grief.” She might have said, “Here I and sorrow sit. This is my throne, bid kings come and bow to it!”
Her hearer felt this, and therefore this woman, poor, old, and ugly, became sacred in his eye; it was with a strange sort of respect that he tried to console her. He spoke to her in tones gentle and sweet as the south wind on a summer evening.
“Madam,” said he, “let me be so happy as to bring you some comfort. The sorrows of the heart I cannot heal; they are for a mightier hand; but a part of your distress appears to have been positive need; that we can at least dispose of, and I entreat you to believe that from this hour want shall never enter that door again. Never! upon my honor!”
The Scotch are icebergs, with volcanoes underneath; thaw the Scotch ice, which is very cold, and you shall get to the Scotch fire, warmer than any sun of Italy or Spain.
His lordship had risen to go. The old wife had seemed absorbed in her own grief; she now dried her tears.
“Bide ye, sirr,” said she, “till I thank ye.”
So she began to thank him, rather coldly and stiffly.
“He says ye are a lord,” said she; “I dinna ken, an’ I dinna care; but ye’re a gentleman, I daur say, and a kind heart ye hae.”
Then she began to warm.
“And ye’ll never be a grain the poorer for the siller ye hae gien me; for he that giveth to the poor lendeth to the Lord.”
Then she began to glow.
“But it’s no your siller; dinna think it–na, lad, na! Oh, fine! I ken there’s mony a supper for the bairns and me in yon bits metal; but I canna feel your siller as I feel your winsome smile–the drop in your young een–an’ the sweet words ye gied me, in the sweet music o’ your Soothern tongue, Gude bless ye!” (Where was her ice by this time?) “Gude bless ye! and I bless ye!”
And she did bless him; and what a blessing it was; not a melodious generality, like a stage parent’s, or papa’s in a damsel’s novel. It was like the son of Barak on Zophim.
She blessed him, as one who had the power and the right to bless or curse.
She stood on the high ground of her low estate, and her afflictions–and demanded of their Creator to bless the fellow-creature that had come to her aid and consolation.
This woman had suffered to the limits of endurance; yesterday she had said, “Surely the Almighty does na _see_ me a’ these years!”
So now she blessed him, and her heart’s blood seemed to gush into words.
She blessed him by land and water.
She knew most mortal griefs; for she had felt them.
She warned them away from him one by one.
She knew the joys of life; for she had felt their want.
She summoned them one by one to his side.
“And a fair wind to your ship,” cried she, “and the storms aye ten miles to leeward o’ her.”
Many happy days, “an’ weel spent,” she wished him.
“His love should love him dearly, or a better take her place.”
“Health to his side by day; sleep to his pillow by night.”
A thousand good wishes came, like a torrent of fire, from her lips, with a power that eclipsed his dreams of human eloquence; and then, changing in a moment from the thunder of a Pythoness to the tender music of some poetess mother, she ended:
“An’ oh, my boenny, boenny lad, may ye be wi’ the rich upon the airth a’ your days–AND WI’ THE PUIR IN THE WARLD TO COME!”
His lordship’s tongue refused him the thin phrases of society.
“Farewell for the present,” said he, and he went quietly away.
He paced thoughtfully home.
He had drunk a fact with every sentence; and an idea with every fact.
For the knowledge we have never realized is not knowledge to us–only knowledge’s shadow.
With the banished duke, he now began to feel, “we are not alone unhappy.” This universal world contains other guess sorrows than yours, viscount–_scilicet_ than unvarying health, unbroken leisure, and incalculable income.
Then this woman’s eloquence! bless me! he had seen folk murmur politely in the Upper House, and drone or hammer away at the Speaker down below, with more heat than warmth.
He had seen nine hundred wild beasts fed with peppered tongue, in a menagerie called _L’Assemble’ Nationale._
His ears had rung often enough, for that matter. This time his heart beat.
He had been in the principal courts of Europe; knew what a handful of gentlefolks call “the World”; had experienced the honeyed words of courtiers, the misty nothings of diplomatists, and the innocent prattle of mighty kings.
But hitherto he seemed to have undergone gibberish and jargon:
Gibberish and jargon–Political!
Gibberish and jargon–Social!
Gibberish and jargon–Theological!
Gibberish and jargon–Positive!
People had been prating–Jess had spoken.
But, it is to be observed, he was under the double effect of eloquence and novelty; and, so situated, we overrate things, you know.
That night he made a provision for this poor woman, in case he should die before next week.
“Who knows?” said he, “she is such an unlucky woman.” Then he went to bed, and whether from the widow’s blessing, or the air of the place, he slept like a plowboy.
Leaving Richard, Lord Ipsden, to work out the Aberford problem–to relieve poor people, one or two of whom, like the Rutherford, were grateful, the rest acted it to the life–to receive now and then a visit from Christina Johnstone, who borrowed every mortal book in his house, who sold him fish, invariably cheated him by the indelible force of habit, and then remorsefully undid the bargain, with a peevish entreaty that “he would not be so green, for there was no doing business with him”–to be fastened upon by Flucker, who, with admirable smoothness and cunning, wormed himself into a cabin-boy on board the yacht, and man-at-arms ashore.
To cruise in search of adventures, and meet nothing but disappointments; to acquire a browner tint, a lighter step, and a jacket, our story moves for a while toward humbler personages.
JESS RUTHERFORD, widow of Alexander Johnstone–for Newhaven wives, like great artists, change their conditions without changing their names–was known in the town only as a dour wife, a sour old carline. Whose fault?
Do wooden faces and iron tongues tempt sorrow to put out its snails’ horns?
She hardly spoke to any one, or any one to her, but four days after the visit we have described people began to bend looks of sympathy on her, to step out of their way to give her a kindly good-morrow; after a bit, fish and meal used to be placed on her table by one neighbor or another, when she was out, and so on. She was at first behindhand in responding to all this, but by degrees she thawed to those who were thawing to her. Next, Saunders called on her, and showed her a settlement, made for her benefit, on certain lands in Lanarkshire. She was at ease for life.
The Almighty had seen her all these years.
But how came her neighbors to melt?
Because a nobleman had visited her.
Not exactly, dear novel-reader.
This was it.
That same night, by a bright fire lighting up snowy walls, burnished copper, gleaming candlesticks, and a dinner-table floor, sat the mistress of the house, Christie Johnstone, and her brother, Flucker.
She with a book, he with his reflections opposite her.
“Lassie, hae ye ony siller past ye?”
“Ay, lad; an’ I mean to keep it!” The baddish boy had registered a vow to the contrary, and proceeded to bleed his flint (for to do Christie justice the process was not very dissimilar). Flucker had a versatile genius for making money; he had made it in forty different ways, by land and sea, tenpence at a time.
“I hae gotten the life o’ Jess Rutherford till ye,” said he.
“I’m seeking half a crown for ‘t,” said he.
Now, he knew he should never get half a crown, but he also knew that if he asked a shilling, he should be beaten down to fourpence.
So half a crown was his first bode.
The enemy, with anger at her heart, called up a humorous smile, and saying, “An’ ye’ll get saxpence,” went about some household matter; in reality, to let her proposal rankle in Flucker.
Flucker lighted his pipe slowly, as one who would not do a sister the injustice to notice so trivial a proposition.
He waited fresh overtures.
They did not come.
Christie resumed her book.
Then the baddish boy fixed his eye on the fire, and said softly and thoughtfully to the fire, “Hech, what a heap o’ troubles yon woman has come through.”
This stroke of art was not lost. Christie looked up from her book; pretended he had spoken to her, gave a fictitious yawn, and renewed the negotiation with the air of one disposed to kill time.
She was dying for the story.
Commerce was twice broken off and renewed by each power in turn.
At last the bargain was struck at fourteen-pence.
Then Flucker came out, the honest merchant.
He had listened intently, with mercantile views.
He had the widow’s sorrows all off pat.
He was not a bit affected himself, but by pure memory he remembered where she had been most agitated or overcome.
He gave it Christie, word for word, and even threw in what dramatists call “the business,” thus:
“Here ye suld greet–“
“Here ye’ll play your hand like a geraffe.”
“Geraffe? That’s a beast, I’m thinking.”
“Na; it’s the thing on the hill that makes signals.”
“Telegraph, ye fulish goloshen!”
“Oo ay, telegraph! Geraffe ‘s sunest said for a’.”
Thus Jess Rutherford’s life came into Christie Johnstone’s hands.
She told it to a knot of natives next day; it lost nothing, for she was a woman of feeling, and by intuition an artist of the tongue. She was the best _raconteur_ in a place where there are a hundred, male and female, who attempt that art.
The next day she told it again, and then inferior narrators got hold of it, and it soon circulated through the town.
And this was the cause of the sudden sympathy with Jess Rutherford.
As our prigs would say:
“Art had adopted her cause and adorned her tale.”
THE fishing village of Newhaven is an unique place; it is a colony that retains distinct features; the people seldom intermarry with their Scotch neighbors.
Some say the colony is Dutch, some Danish, some Flemish. The character and cleanliness of their female costume points rather to the latter.
Fish, like horse-flesh, corrupts the mind and manners.
After a certain age, the Newhaven fishwife is always a blackguard, and ugly; but among the younger specimens, who have not traded too much, or come into much contact with larger towns, a charming modesty, or else slyness (such as no man can distinguish from it, so it answers every purpose), is to be found, combined with rare grace and beauty.
It is a race of women that the northern sun peachifies instead of rosewoodizing.
On Sundays the majority sacrifice appearance to fashion; these turn out rainbows of silk, satin and lace. In the week they were all grace, and no stays; now they seem all stays and no grace. They never look so ill as when they change their “costume” for “dress.”
The men are smart fishermen, distinguished from the other fishermen of the Firth chiefly by their “dredging song.”
This old song is money to them; thus:
Dredging is practically very stiff rowing for ten hours.
Now both the Newhaven men and their rivals are agreed that this song lifts them through more work than untuned fishermen can manage.
I have heard the song, and seen the work done to it; and incline to think it helps the oar, not only by keeping the time true, and the spirit alive, but also by its favorable action on the lungs. It is sung in a peculiar way; the sound is, as it were, expelled from the chest in a sort of musical ejaculations; and the like, we know, was done by the ancient gymnasts; and is done by the French bakers, in lifting their enormous dough, and by our paviors.
The song, in itself, does not contain above seventy stock verses, but these perennial lines are a nucleus, round which the men improvise the topics of the day, giving, I know not for what reason, the preference to such as verge upon indelicacy.
The men and women are musical and narrative; three out of four can sing a song or tell a story, and they omit few opportunities.
Males and females suck whisky like milk, and are quarrelsome in proportion. The men fight (round-handed), the women fleicht or scold, in the form of a teapot–the handle fixed and the spout sawing the air.
A singular custom prevails here.
The maidens have only one sweetheart apiece!!!
So the whole town is in pairs.
The courting is all done on Saturday night, by the lady’s fire. It is hard to keep out of a groove in which all the town is running; and the Johnstone had possessed, as mere property–a lad!
She was so wealthy that few of them could pretend to aspire to her, so she selected for her chattel a young man called Willy Liston; a youth of an unhappy turn–he contributed nothing to hilarity, his face was a kill-joy–nobody liked him; for this female reason Christie distinguished him.
He found a divine supper every Saturday night in her house; he ate, and sighed! Christie fed him, and laughed at him.
As she neither fed nor laughed at any other man, some twenty were bitterly jealous of Willy Liston, and this gave the blighted youth a cheerful moment or two.
But the bright alliance received a check some months before our tale.
Christie was _heluo librorum!_ and like others who have that taste, and can only gratify it in the interval of manual exercise, she read very intensely in her hours of study. A book absorbed her. She was like a leech on these occasions, _non missura cutem._ Even Jean Carnie, her co-adjutor or “neebor,” as they call it, found it best to keep out of her way till the book was sucked.
One Saturday night Willy Liston’s evil star ordained that a gentleman of French origin and Spanish dress, called Gil Blas, should be the Johnstone’s companion.
Willy Liston arrived.
Christie, who had bolted the door, told him from the window, civilly enough, but decidedly, “She would excuse his company that night.”
“Vara weel,” said Willy, and departed.
Next Saturday–no Willy came.
Ditto the next. Willy was waiting the _amende._
Christie forgot to make it.
One day she was passing the boats, Willy beckoned her mysteriously; he led her to his boat, which was called “The Christie Johnstone”; by the boat’s side was a paint pot and brush.
They had not supped together for five Saturdays.
Ergo, Mr. Liston had painted out the first four letters of “Christie,” he now proceeded to paint out the fifth, giving her to understand, that, if she allowed the whole name to go, a letter every blank Saturday, her image would be gradually, but effectually, obliterated from the heart Listonian.
My reader has done what Liston did not, anticipate her answer. She recommended him, while his hand was in, to paint out the entire name, and, with white paint and a smaller brush, to substitute some other female appellation. So saying, she tripped off.
Mr. Liston on this was guilty of the following inconsistency; he pressed the paint carefully out of the brush into the pot. Having thus economized his material, he hurled the pot which contained his economy at “the Johnstone,” he then adjourned to the “Peacock,” and “away at once with love and reason.”
Thenceforth, when men asked who was Christie Johnstone’s lad, the answer used to be, “She’s seeking ane.” _Quelle horreur!!_
Newhaven doesn’t know everything, but my intelligent reader suspects, and, if confirming his suspicions can reconcile him to our facts, it will soon be done.
But he must come with us to Edinburgh; it’s only three miles.
A LITTLE band of painters came into Edinburgh from a professional walk. Three were of Edinburgh–Groove, aged fifty; Jones and Hyacinth, young; the latter long-haired.
With them was a young Englishman, the leader of the expedition, Charles Gatty.
His step was elastic, and his manner wonderfully animated, without loudness.
“A bright day,” said he. “The sun forgot where he was, and shone; everything was in favor of art.”
“Oh, dear, no,” replied old Groove, “not where I was”
“Why, what was the matter?”
“The flies kept buzzing and biting, and sticking in the work. That’s the worst of out o’ doors!”
“The flies! is that all? Swear the spiders in special constables next time,” cried Gatty. “We shall win the day;” and light shone into his hazel eye.
“The world will not always put up with the humbugs of the brush, who, to imitate Nature, turn their back on her. Paint an out o’ door scene indoors! I swear by the sun it’s a lie! the one stupid, impudent lie that glitters among the lies of vulgar art, like Satan among Belial, Mammon and all those beggars.
“Now look here; the barren outlines of a scene must be looked at, to be done; hence the sketching system slop-sellers of the Academy! but the million delicacies of light, shade, and color can be trusted to memory, can they?
“It’s a lie big enough to shake the earth out of her course; if any part of the work could be trusted to memory or imagination, it happens to be the bare outlines, and they can’t. The million subtleties of light and color; learn them by heart, and say them off on canvas! the highest angel in the sky must have his eye upon them, and look devilish sharp, too, or he shan’t paint them. I give him Charles Gatty’s word for that.”
“That’s very eloquent, I call it,” said Jones.
“Yes,” said poor old Groove, “the lad will never make a painter.”
“Yes, I shall, Groove; at least I hope so, but it must be a long time first.”
“I never knew a painter who could talk and paint both,” explained Mr. Groove.
“Very well,” said Gatty. “Then I’ll say but one word more, and it is this. The artifice of painting is old enough to die; it is time the art was born. Whenever it does come into the world, you will see no more dead corpses of trees, grass and water, robbed of their life, the sunlight, and flung upon canvas in a studio, by the light of a cigar, and a lie–and–“
“How much do you expect for your picture?” interrupted Jones.
“What has that to do with it? With these little swords” (waving his brush), “we’ll fight for nature-light, truth light, and sunlight against a world in arms–no, worse, in swaddling clothes.”
“With these little swerrds,” replied poor old Groove, “we shall cut our own throats if we go against people’s prejudices.”
The young artist laughed the old daubster a merry defiance, and then separated from the party, for his lodgings were down the street.
He had not left them long, before a most musical voice was heard, crying:
“A caallerr owoo!”
And two young fishwives hove in sight. The boys recognized one of them as Gatty’s sweetheart.
“Is he in love with her?” inquired Jones.
Hyacinth the long-haired undertook to reply.
“He loves her better than anything in the world except Art. Love and Art are two beautiful things,” whined Hyacinth.
“She, too, is beautiful. I have done her,” added he, with a simper.
“In oil?” asked Groove.
“In oil? no, in verse, here;” and he took out a paper.
“Then hadn’t we better cut? you might propose reading them,” said poor old Groove.
“Have you any oysters?” inquired Jones of the Carnie and the Johnstone, who were now alongside.
“Plenty,” answered Jean. “Hae ye ony siller?”
The artists looked at one another, and didn’t all speak at once.
“I, madam,” said old Groove, insinuatingly, to Christie, “am a friend of Mr. Gatty’s; perhaps, on that account, you would _lend_ me an oyster or two.”
“Na,” said Jean, sternly.
“Hyacinth,” said Jones, sarcastically, “give them your verses, perhaps that will soften them.”
Hyacinth gave his verses, descriptive of herself, to Christie. This youngster was one of those who mind other people’s business.
_Alienis studiis delectatus contempsit suum._
His destiny was to be a bad painter, so he wanted to be an execrable poet.
All this morning he had been doggreling, when he ought to have been daubing; and now he will have to sup off a colored print, if he sups at all.
Christie read, blushed, and put the verses in her bosom.
“Come awa, Custy,” said Jean.
“Hets,” said Christie, “gie the puir lads twarree oysters, what the waur will we be?”
So they opened the oysters for them; and Hyacinth the long-haired looked down on the others with sarcastico-benignant superiority. He had conducted a sister art to the aid of his brother brushes.
“The poet’s empire, all our hearts allow; But doggrel’s power was never known till now.”
AT the commencement of the last chapter, Charles Gatty, artist, was going to usher in a new state of things, true art, etc. Wales was to be painted in Wales, not Poland Street.
He and five or six more youngsters were to be in the foremost files of truth, and take the world by storm.
This was at two o’clock; it is now five; whereupon the posture of affairs, the prospects of art, the face of the world, the nature of things, are quite the reverse.
In the artist’s room, on the floor, was a small child, whose movements, and they were many, were viewed with huge dissatisfaction by Charles Gatty, Esq. This personage, pencil in hand, sat slouching and morose, looking gloomily at his intractable model.
Things were going on very badly; he had been waiting two hours for an infantine pose as common as dirt, and the little viper would die first.
Out of doors everything was nothing, for the sun was obscured, and to all appearance extinguished forever.
“Ah! Mr. Groove,” cried he, to that worthy, who peeped in at that moment; you are right, it is better to plow away upon canvas blindfold, as our grandfathers–no, grandmothers–used, than to kill ourselves toiling after such coy ladies as Nature and Truth.”
“Aweel, I dinna ken, sirr,” replied Groove, in smooth tones. “I didna like to express my warm approbation of you before the lads, for fear of making them jealous.”
“They be– No!”
“I ken what ye wad say, sirr, an it wad hae been a vara just an’ sprightly observation. Aweel, between oursels, I look upon ye as a young gentleman of amazing talent and moedesty. Man, ye dinna do yoursel justice; ye should be in th’ Academy, at the hede o’ ‘t.”
“Mr. Groove, I am a poor fainting pilgrim on the road, where stronger spirits have marched erect before me.”
“A faintin’ pelgrim! Deil a frights o’ ye, ye’re a brisk and bonny lad. Ah, sirr, in my juvenile days, we didna fash wi nature, and truth, an the like.”
“The like! What is like nature and truth, except themselves?”
“Vara true, sirr; vara true, and sae I doot I will never attain the height o’ profeeciency ye hae reached. An’ at this vara moment, sir,” continued Groove, with delicious solemnity and mystery, “ye see before ye, sir, a man wha is in maist dismal want–o’ ten shellen!” (A pause.) “If your superior talent has put ye in possession of that sum, ye would obleege me infinitely by a temporary accommodation, Mr. Gaattie.”
“Why did you not come to the point at once?” cried Gatty, bruskly, “instead of humbling me with undeserved praise. There.” Groove held out his hand, but made a wry face when, instead of money, Gatty put a sketch into his hand.
“There,” said Gatty, “that is a lie!”
“How can it be a lee?” said the other, with sour inadvertence. “How can it be a lee, when I hae na spoken ?”
“You don’t understand me. That sketch is a libel on a poor cow and an unfortunate oak-tree. I did them at the Academy. They had never done me any wrong, poor things; they suffered unjustly. You take them to a shop, swear they are a tree and a cow, and some fool, that never really looked into a cow or a tree, will give you ten shillings for them.”
“Are ye sure, lad?”
“I am sure. Mr. Groove, sir, if you can not sell a lie for ten shillings you are not fit to live in this world; where is the lie that will not sell for ten shillings?”
“I shall think the better o’ lees all my days; sir, your words are inspeeriting.” And away went Groove with the sketch.
Gatty reflected and stopped him.
“On second thoughts, Groove, you must not ask ten shillings; you must ask twenty pounds for that rubbish.”
“Twenty pund! What for will I seek twenty pund?”
“Simply because people that would not give you ten shillings for it will offer you eleven pounds for it if you ask twenty pounds.”
“The fules,” roared Groove. “Twenty pund! hem!” He looked closer into it. “For a’,” said he, “I begin to obsairve it is a work of great merit. I’ll seek twenty pund, an’ I’ll no tak less than fifteen schell’n, at present.”
The visit of this routine painter did not cheer our artist.
The small child got a coal and pounded the floor with it like a machine incapable of fatigue. So the wished-for pose seemed more remote than ever.
The day waxed darker instead of lighter; Mr. Gatty’s reflections took also a still more somber hue.
“Even Nature spites us,” thought he, “because we love her.”
“Then cant, tradition, numbers, slang and money are against us; the least of these is singly a match for truth; we shall die of despair or paint cobwebs in Bedlam; and I am faint, weary of a hopeless struggle; and one man’s brush is truer than mine, another’s is bolder–my hand and eye are not in tune. Ah! no! I shall never, never, never be a painter.”
These last words broke audibly from him as his head went down almost to his knees.
A hand was placed on his shoulder as a flake of snow falls on the water. It was Christie Johnstone, radiant, who had glided in unobserved.
“What’s wrang wi’ ye, my lad?”
“The sun is gone to the Devil, for one thing.”
“Hech! hech! ye’ll no be long ahint him; div ye no think shame.”
“And I want that little brute just to do so, and he’d die first.”
“Oh, ye villain, to ca’ a bairn a brute; there’s but ae brute here, an’ it’s no you, Jamie, nor me–is it, my lamb?”
She then stepped to the window.
“It’s clear to windward; in ten minutes ye’ll hae plenty sun. Tak your tools noo.” And at the word she knelt on the floor, whipped out a paper of sugar-plums and said to him she had christened “Jamie.” “Heb! Here’s sweeties till ye.” Out went Jamie’s arms, as if he had been a machine and she had pulled the right string.
“Ah, that will do,” said Gatty, and sketched away.
Unfortunately, Jamie was quickly arrested on the way to immortality by his mother, who came in, saying:
“I maun hae my bairn–he canna be aye wasting his time here.”
This sally awakened the satire that ever lies ready in piscatory bosoms.
“Wasting his time! ye’re no blate. Oh, ye’ll be for taking him to the college to laern pheesick–and teach maenners.”
“Ye need na begin on me,” said the woman. “I’m no match for Newhaven.”
So saying she cut short the dispute by carrying off the gristle of contention.
“Another enemy to art,” said Gatty, hurling away his pencil.
The young fishwife inquired if there were any more griefs. What she had heard had not accounted, to her reason, for her companion’s depression.
“Are ye sick, laddy?” said she.
“No, Christie, not sick, but quite, quite down in the mouth.”
She scanned him thirty seconds.
What had ye till your dinner?”
“A choep, likely?”
“I think it was.”
“Or maybe it was a steak?”
“I dare say it was a steak.”
“Taste my girdle cake, that I’ve brought for ye.”
She gave him a piece; he ate it rapidly, and looked gratefully at her.
“Noo, div ye no think shame to look me in the face? Ye hae na dined ava.” And she wore an injured look.
“Sit ye there; it’s ower late for dinner, but ye’ll get a cup tea. Doon i’ the mooth, nae wonder, when naething gangs doon your–“
In a minute she placed a tea-tray, and ran into the kitchen with a teapot.
The next moment a yell was heard, and she returned laughing, with another teapot.
“The wife had maskit tea till hersel’,” said this lawless forager.
Tea and cake on the table–beauty seated by his side–all in less than a minute.
He offered her a piece of cake.
“Na! I am no for any.”
“Nor I then,” said he.
“Hets! eat, I tell ye.”
He replied by putting a bit to her heavenly mouth.
“Ye’re awfu’ opinionated,” said she, with a countenance that said nothing should induce her, and eating it almost contemporaneously.
“Put plenty sugar,” added she, referring to the Chinese infusion; “mind, I hae a sweet tooth.”
“You have a sweet set,” said he, approaching another morsel.
They showed themselves by way of smile, and confirmed the accusation.
“Aha! lad,” answered she; “they’ve been the death o’ mony a herrin’!”
“Now, what does that mean in English, Christie?”
“My grinders–(a full stop.)
“Which you approve–(a full stop.)
“Have been fatal–(a full stop.)
“To many fishes!”
Christie prided herself on her English, which she had culled from books.
Then he made her drink from the cup, and was ostentatious in putting his lips to the same part of the brim.
Then she left the table, and inspected all things.
She came to his drawers, opened one, and was horror-struck.
There were coats and trousers, with their limbs interchangeably intertwined, waistcoats, shirts, and cigars, hurled into chaos.
She instantly took the drawer bodily out, brought it, leaned it against the tea-table, pointed silently into it, with an air of majestic reproach, and awaited the result.
“I can find whatever I want,” said the unblushing bachelor, “except money.”
“Siller does na bide wi’ slovens! hae ye often siccan a gale o’ wind in your drawer?”
“Every day! Speak English!”
“Aweel! How _do_ you _do?_ that’s Ennglish! I daur say.”
“Jolly!” cried he, with his mouth full. Christie was now folding up and neatly arranging his clothes.
“Will you ever, ever be a painter?”
“I am a painter! I could paint the Devil pea-green!”
“Dinna speak o’ yon lad, Chairles, it’s no canny.”
“No! I am going to paint an angel; the prettiest, cleverest girl in Scotland, ‘The Snowdrop of the North.'”
And he dashed into his bedroom to find a canvas.
“Hech!” reflected Christie. “Thir Ennglish hae flattering tongues, as sure as Dethe; ‘The Snawdrap o’ the Norrth!'”
GATTY’S back was hardly turned when a visitor arrived, and inquired, “Is Mr. Gatty at home?”
“What’s your will wi’ him?” was the Scottish reply.
“Will you give him this?”
” What est?”
“Are you fond of asking questions?” inquired the man.
“Ay! and fules canna answer them,” retorted Christie.
The little document which the man, in retiring, left with Christie Johnstone purported to come from one Victoria, who seemed, at first sight, disposed to show Charles Gatty civilities. “Victoria–to Charles Gatty, greeting! (salutem).” Christie was much struck with this instance of royal affability; she read no further, but began to think, “Victoree! that’s the queen hersel. A letter fra the queen to a painter lad! Picters will rise i’ the mairket–it will be an order to paint the bairns. I hae brought him luck; I am real pleased.” And on Gatty’s return, canvas in hand, she whipped the document behind her, and said archly, “I hae something for ye, a tecket fra a leddy, ye’ll no want siller fra this day.”
“Ay! indeed, fra a great leddy; it’s vara gude o’ me to gie ye it; heh! tak it.”
He did take it, looked stupefied, looked again, sunk into a chair, and glared at it.
“Laddy!” said Christie.
“This is a new step on the downward path,” said the poor painter.
“Is it no an orrder to paint the young prence?” said Christie, faintly.
“No!” almost shrieked the victim. “It’s a writ! I owe a lot of money.