The Project Gutenberg eBook of Chambers's Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Art, fifth series, no. 128, vol. III, June 12, 1886

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Title: Chambers's Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Art, fifth series, no. 128, vol. III, June 12, 1886

Author: Various

Release date: August 22, 2023 [eBook #71467]

Language: English

Original publication: Edinburgh: William and Robert Chambers, 1853

Credits: Susan Skinner, Eric Hutton and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive)






No. 128.—Vol. III.


SATURDAY, JUNE 12, 1886.


The question as to the habitability of other worlds than ours has always been a very fascinating one, and, indeed, it is not surprising that it is so; for since the days when the earth was debased from her proud position as centre of the universe, and was assigned her proper place among the planets, there seemed to be no particular reason why she alone should produce life, and why other planets, apparently as suitable for this purpose as she is, should wander uninhabited through space.

Up to the present time, it must be confessed, we have met with nothing but disappointment in this branch of inquiry; for not only have we not detected living creatures on any other member of the solar system, but, with the single exception we are considering, there is apparently no other body whose surface is under conditions which would lead us to suppose that it might support life, or at least life in any form with which we are acquainted. It is of course useless to argue about the possibility of life under entirely different conditions; for instance, there might be some form of life on the sun; we can only say that it would be so different from what we know as life, that the term would be hardly applicable; and whether it is likely to exist or not, is a question which our limited experience does not allow us to answer one way or the other.

The moon, again, may be the home of living creatures; but they must be so constituted as to exist without air of any sort, which is rather contrary to our notions of life.

We will not here go to the length of examining in detail the conditions which obtain on the surface of all the bodies within range of our telescopes; but we may state that in none of them, with the exception of the planet Mars, is there any resemblance to our earth, and therefore life as we know it could not exist on them. With Mars, the case is different, and at first sight, there appears to be a state of things which approximates closely to that which obtains here. The planet Mars appears to the naked eye a deep red colour, and when examined with the telescope, we see that a large part of his surface is red; but between the red, and intersecting it in all directions, are patches and strips of a dull greenish hue. It was very soon conjectured that this green part was the Martial sea, and that the red was the land: this has been confirmed by later observations, and now no doubt exists on the point. The principal problem that we are here confronted with is this: assuming that what appears green on Mars is a liquid of some sort, can we assume that it is water, and not some other liquid with which perhaps we are unacquainted? This question appears at first sight impossible; for, unless we can bring some of the Martial sea down to the earth and analyse it, how can we determine its chemical constitution? The telescope evidently will not help us here, and we must call to our aid that powerful ally of the telescope—the spectroscope.

The method of observation employed is a question which we cannot enter into here; it must suffice to state results, which all tend to prove that these seas are composed of water similar to ours. It must not be understood that we have been able to determine this directly; the only fact that we know for certain about it is, that in the Martial atmosphere there is a considerable quantity of water-vapour, which it is only fair to assume has been raised by evaporation from the seas, which are therefore also water.

Some time ago, it was observed that situated at each pole of Mars there is a white patch, which increases and decreases at regular intervals. This had been observed for many years before the explanation was suggested by Herschel, that it was due to the freezing of the sea, and was exactly analogous to our Arctic and Antarctic Oceans. If this was true, the patch of ice would of course decrease in the Martial summer, and increase again as the winter came on. This was soon shown to be the fact. Thus we see that as far as regards the sea, Mars is very similar to our earth, with the exception, that the proportion of land is much larger. On the earth, the land is only about one-third of the area of the sea; while{370} on Mars, the land and sea surfaces seem to be about equal in extent. The land is much cut up by the water, which exists not so much in the form of a few large oceans, but rather as a number of curious-shaped narrow inlets and channels, which intersect the continents in all directions. The bright red colour of the land is a curious fact, for which no adequate explanation has as yet been suggested. Herschel considered it was due to the peculiar nature of the soil; but it certainly seems curious that in this point Mars should differ from all the other planets. The appearance of the earth seen from a similar distance would probably be a dirty green, or perhaps brown. In fact, on the earth we have no soil or rock, which occurs in any quantity, of the red colour which we observe on Mars. There is therefore no vegetation, unless we adopt the curious theory, advanced by a French savant, that in Mars the foliage is red. Unluckily, we have no instrument that can at all help us here; the telescope and spectroscope are alike useless, and, for the present, we must content ourselves with vain conjectures.

The next point that ought to engage our attention is the atmosphere, without which no life is possible. The method we use to determine whether a planet has an atmosphere is a very simple one: we have only to observe it pass in front of a fixed star; then, if there is no air round it, the light from the star will be extinguished instantaneously, as it is in the case of the moon; whereas, if it has an atmosphere, the light will gradually die away; because, instead of being cut off suddenly by an opaque body, it will be slowly diminished by the increasing thickness of the air that it is viewed through, and will very likely have entirely disappeared before the actual body of the planet is interposed. By applying this observation to Mars, it has been determined that it has an atmosphere, the exact thickness of which, however, we are unable to measure. It seems fair to assume that the amount of air which surrounds it is about the same proportion to the total mass of the planet as in the case of the earth. Without entering into calculations, we may state that if this is true, the pressure of the air at the surface of Mars would be about equal to five inches of mercury, or about one-sixth of the normal atmospheric pressure on the earth.

Now, given an atmosphere and a large extent of sea, we should naturally expect that clouds would form a prominent feature on the Martial surface; and observation has proved this to be the case. On several occasions, some of the features of the planet have been observed to be obscured by a sort of white film, which it is only fair to assume was a cloud. These clouds appear more markedly at the edge of the disc, or at those points where it would be morning or evening, and we may therefore assume that, similar to the earth, Mars is liable to mists or clouds forming at dawn and in the evening. It has been suggested that these white films are due not to clouds in the air, but to a deposition of snow on the surface, which disappears when the sun rises. There seems to be no particular reason for adopting this theory; it does not explain the observed phenomena better, nor does it seem more likely to be true.

The air on Mars being very much less dense than on the earth, it is presumable that the winds would move with much greater velocity; and for this reason, it has been thought that trees could not grow to any considerable height. We must, however, bear in mind that though the velocity would be high, the actual force of the wind would probably not be very great, on account of its excessive tenuity.

In an inquiry as to the probability of the existence of life, one of the most important points to be taken into account is the amount of heat available. Now, Mars is at such a distance from the sun that on the whole it would receive about two-fifths as much solar heat as we do. This does not, however, give the amount of heat that is actually received on the surface of the planet, a considerable proportion being absorbed by the atmosphere; and since our atmosphere is so much denser and thicker than that of Mars, it follows that we lose a much larger percentage of the solar heat. To calculate the exact amount of heat absorbed by a given thickness of air is a very difficult, if not impossible, problem; but it seems likely that, taking everything into account, the inhabitant of Mars will receive more heat from the sun than we do. This would have the effect of making the evaporation very large, and if so, the Martial atmosphere would be mostly composed of water-vapour.

According to Professor Langley, the true colour of the sun is blue; and its yellowness is due to the dirt always present in the air. To the inhabitants of Mars, it would most probably appear nearly white, unless, indeed, they also have volcanoes to fill the air with lava-dust.

Let us now sum up the facts we have stated, and determine as far as we can what sort of man the inhabitant of Mars must be.

In the first place, the force of gravitation at the surface is only just over one-third of its equivalent on the earth; a pound would therefore weigh about six ounces in Mars. If, therefore, we assume that the men are of such a size that their weight and activity are the same as ours, they would be about fourteen feet high on the average. This would make their strength very great; for not only would it be actually superior to ours, but, as every weight is so much smaller, it would be apparently proportionally increased. We should, therefore, expect to find that the Martialites have executed large engineering works; perhaps also their telescopes are much superior to ours, and we have been objects of interest for their observers. With regard to telescopes, it may be interesting to examine what is the effect of the highest magnifying power we can use. At his nearest approach, the distance from us to Mars is about thirty-seven million miles; and assuming that the highest power that can be used with advantage is twelve{371} hundred, we approach with our telescopes to a distance of thirty thousand miles, so that houses, or towns, or indeed any artificial works, would be hopelessly invisible. With regard to the supply of heat and light, we have seen that the Martialite is not worse off than we are. To him the sun would appear as a white, or perhaps blue disc about two-thirds of the diameter that it appears to us. The Martial day differs but slightly from ours; his year, however, is much longer, being about six hundred and eighty-seven of our days, which is about six hundred and fifty Martial days. The inclination of his axis to the plane of the orbit is such that his seasons would be very similar to ours. It is difficult to reconcile the idea of an extensive vegetation with his peculiar red colour; it is just possible, however, that some of the green patches, generally supposed to be seas, may in reality be large forests.

The most valid objection to the habitability of Mars lies in the fact of the extremely low atmospheric pressure, which, as we have seen, would probably average about five inches of mercury. The lowest pressure that a man has ever lived in, even for a short time, is about seven inches, which was reached by Coxwell and Glaisher in their famous balloon ascent. The aëronauts, however, narrowly escaped perishing, not only on account of the low pressure, but also because of the extreme cold.

It seems impossible that a man constituted exactly as we are could live for any length of time breathing air only one-sixth of the density of ours. But it is rather going out of our way to assume that the Martialites would be exactly the same as we are in every way; the chances are a million to one against it; and on the other hand, a very slight modification of the lung arrangement would suffice to make life perfectly possible under such conditions.

The nights on Mars would be very dark, for he has no satellite like our moon. He has, it is true, two moons, but they are so small that their illuminating power is nil, being respectively only sixty and forty miles in diameter. The smallest of these presents the curious phenomenon that it revolves round Mars faster than the planet turns on his own axis, and therefore would appear to rise in the west and set in the east.

Our earth, as seen from Mars, when at his nearest, would appear about the same size as Jupiter does to us; that is to say, would subtend an angle of about forty seconds. At his furthest distance, this would be reduced to fourteen.

We thus see that there is ample reason for assuming that this, the most interesting of all the planets, is the abode of creatures not essentially different from ourselves. Being considerably older than we are, the Martialites are probably much further advanced in the arts and sciences; and perhaps there may be some truth in the story of the Italian astronomer who says he has lately detected lights on the planet moving about in such a way as seems to indicate a deliberate intention to open communication with the earth. What the language of the lights is, we have not been informed; let us hope it is something more practical than the proposal of the Russian savant to communicate with the moon by cutting a huge figure of the forty-seventh proposition of Euclid on the plains of Siberia, which, he said, any fool would understand.



That evening, Rosina Fleming went as she was bid to the old African’s tent about half-past eleven, groping her way along the black moonless roads in fear and trembling, with infinite terror of the all-pervading and utterly ghastly West Indian ghosts or duppies. It was a fearful thing to go at that time of night to the hut of an obeah man; heaven knows what grinning, gibbering ghouls and phantoms one might chance to come across in such a place at such an hour. But it would have been more fearful still to stop away; for Delgado, who could so easily bring her Isaac Pourtalès for a lover by his powerful spells, could just as easily burn her to powder with his thunder and lightning, or send the awful duppies to torment her in her bed, as she lay awake trembling through the night-watches. So poor Rosina groped her way fearfully round to Delgado’s hut with wild misgivings, and lifted the latch with quivering fingers, when she heard its owner’s gruff, ‘Come in den, missy,’ echoing grimly from the inner recesses.

When she opened the door, however, she was somewhat relieved to find within a paraffin lamp burning brightly; and in place of ghouls or ghosts or duppies, Isaac Pourtalès himself, jauntily seated smoking a fresh tobacco-leaf cigarette of his own manufacture, in the corner of the hut where Louis Delgado was sitting cross-legged on the mud floor.

‘Ebenin’, missy,’ Delgado said, rising with African politeness to greet her; while the brown Barbadian, without moving from his seat, allowed his lady-love to stoop down of herself to kiss him affectionately. ‘I send for you dis ebenin’ becase we want to know suffin’ about dis pusson dat callin’ himself buckra, an’ stoppin’ now at Orange Grobe wit you. What you know about him, tell us dat, missy. You is Missy Dupuy own serbin’-le-ady: him gwine to tell you all him secret. What you know about dis pusson Noel?’

Thus adjured, Rosina Fleming, sitting down awkwardly on the side of the rude wooden settee, and with her big white eyes fixed abstractedly upon the grinning skull that decorated the bare mud wall just opposite her, pulled her turban straight upon her woolly locks with coquettish precision, and sticking one finger up to her mouth like a country child, began to pour forth all she could remember of the Orange Grove servants’ gossip about Harry Noel. Delgado listened impatiently to the long recital without ever for a moment trying to interrupt her; for long experience had taught him the lesson that little was to be got out of his fellow-countrywomen by deliberate cross-questioning, but a great deal by allowing them quietly to tell their own stories at full length in their own rambling, childish fashion.

At last, when Rosina, with eyes kept always timidly askance, half the time upon the frightful{372} skull, and half the time on Isaac Pourtalès, had fairly come to the end of her tether, the old African ventured, with tentative cunning, to put a leading question: ‘You ebber hear dem say at de table, missy, who him mudder and fader is, and where dem come from?’

‘Him fader is very great gentleman ober in Englan’,’ Rosina answered confidently—‘very grand gentleman, wit house an’ serbant, an’ coach an’ horses, an’ plenty cane-piece, an’ rum an’ sugar, an’ yam garden an’ plantain, becase I ’member Aunt Clemmy say so; an’ de missy him say so himself too, sah. An’ de missy say dat de pusson dat marry him will be real le-ady—same like de gubbernor le-ady; real le-ady, like dem hab in Englan’. De missy tellin’ me all about him dis bery ebenin’.’

Delgado smiled. ‘Den de missy in lub wit him himself, for certain,’ he answered with true African shrewdness and cynicism. ‘Ole-time folk has proverb, “When naygur woman say, ‘Dat fowl fat,’ him gwine to steal him same ebenin’ for him pickany dinner.” An’ when le-ady tell you what happen to gal dat marry gentleman, him want to hab de gentleman himself for him own husband.’

‘O no, sah; dat doan’t so,’ Rosina cried with sudden energy. ‘De missy doan’t lubbin’ de buckra gentleman at all. She tell me him look altogedder too much like naygur.’

Delgado and Pourtalès exchanged meaning looks with one another, but neither of them answered a word to Rosina.

‘An’ him mudder?’ Delgado inquired curiously after a moment’s pause, taking a lazy puff at a cigarette which Isaac handed him.

‘Him mudder!’ Rosina said. ‘Ah, dere now, I forgettin’ clean what Uncle ’Zekiel, him what is butler up to de house dar, an’ hear dem talk wit one anodder at dinner—I forgettin’ clean what it was him tell me about him mudder.’

Delgado did not urge her to rack her feeble little memory on this important question, but waited silently, with consummate prudence, till she should think of it herself and come out with it spontaneously.

‘Ha, dere now,’ Rosina cried at last, after a minute or two of vacant and steady staring at the orbless eyeholes of the skull opposite; ‘I is too chupid—too chupid altogedder. Mistah ’Zekiel, him tellin’ me de odder marnin’ dat Mistah Noel’s mudder is le-ady from Barbadoes.—Dat whar you come from youself, Isaac, me fren’. You must be ’memberin’ de family ober in Barbadoes.’

‘How dem call de family?’ Isaac asked cautiously. ‘You ebber hear, Rosie, how dem call de family? Tell me, dar is good girl, an’ I gwine to lub you better’n ebber.’

Rosina hesitated, and cudgelled her poor brains eagerly a few minutes longer; then another happy flash of recollection came across her suddenly like an inspiration, and she cried out in a joyous tone: ‘Yes, yes; I got him now, I got him now, Isaac! Him mudder family deir name is Budleigh, an’ dem lib at place dem call de Wilderness. Mistah ’Zekiel tell me all about dem. Him say dat dis le-ady, what him name Missy Budleigh, marry de buckra gentleman fader, what him name Sir-waltah Noel.’

It was an enormous and unprecedented fetch of memory for a pure-blooded black woman, and Rosina Fleming was justly proud of it. She stood there grinning and smiling from ear to ear, so that even the skull upon the wall opposite was simply nowhere in the competition.

Delgado turned breathlessly to Isaac Pourtalès. ‘You know dis fam’ly?’ he asked with eager anticipation. ‘You ebber hear ob dem? You larn at all whedder dem is buckra or only brown people?’

Louis Delgado laughed hoarsely. Brown man as he was himself, he chuckled and hugged himself with sardonic delight over the anticipated humiliation of a fellow brown man who thought himself a genuine buckra.

‘Know dem, sah!’ Isaac cried in a perfect ecstasy of malicious humour—‘know de Budleighs ob de Wilderness! I tink for true I know dem! Hé! Mistah Delgado, me fren’, I tellin’ you de trut, sah; me own mudder an’ Mrs Budleigh ob de Wilderness is first-cousin, first-cousin to one anudder.’

It was perfectly true. Strange as such a relationship sounds to English ears, in the West Indies cases of the sort are as common as earthquakes. In many a cultivated light-brown family, where the young ladies of the household, pretty and well educated, expect and hope to marry an English officer of good connections, the visitor knows that, in some small room or other of the back premises, there still lingers on feebly an old black hag, wrinkled and toothless, full of strange oaths and incomprehensible African jargons, who is nevertheless the grandmother of the proud and handsome girls, busy over Mendelssohn’s sonatas and the Saturday Review, in the front drawing-room. Into such a family it was that Sir Walter Noel, head of the great Lincolnshire house, had actually married. The Budleighs of the Wilderness had migrated to England before the abolition of slavery, when the future Lady Noel was still a baby; and getting easily into good society in London, had only been known as West Indian proprietors in those old days when to be a West Indian proprietor was still equivalent to wealth and prosperity, not, as now, to poverty and bankruptcy.

Strange to say, too, Lady Noel herself was not by any means so dark as her son Harry. The Lincolnshire Noels belonged themselves to the black-haired type so common in their county; and the union of the two strains had produced in Harry a complexion several degrees more swarthy than that of either of his handsome parents. In England, nobody would ever have noticed this little peculiarity; they merely said that Harry was the very image of the old Noel family portraits; but in Trinidad, where the abiding traces of negro blood are so familiarly known and so carefully looked for, it was almost impossible for him to pass a single day without his partially black descent being immediately suspected. He had ‘thrown back,’ as the colonists coarsely phrase it, to the dusky complexion of his quadroon ancestors.

Louis Delgado hugged himself and grinned at this glorious discovery. ‘Ha, ha!’ he cried, rocking himself rapidly to and fro in a perfect frenzy of gratified vindictiveness; ‘him doan’t buckra, den!—him doan’t buckra! He hold himself so proud, an’ look down on naygur; an’{373} after all, him doan’t buckra, him only brown man! De Lard be praise, I gwine to humble him! I gwine to let him know him doan’t buckra!’

‘You will tell him?’ Rosina Fleming asked curiously.

Delgado danced about the hut in a wild ecstasy, with his fingers snapping about in every direction, like the half-tamed African savage that he really was. ‘Tell him, Missy Rosie!’ he echoed contemptuously—‘tell him, you sayin’ to me! Yah, yah! you hab no sense, missy. I doan’t gwine to tell him, for certain; I gwine to tell dat cheatin’ scoundrel, Tom Dupuy, missy, so humble him in de end de wuss for all dat.’

Rosina gazed at him in puzzled bewilderment. ‘Tom Dupuy!’ she repeated slowly. ‘You gwine to tell Tom Dupuy, you say, Mistah Delgado! What de debbel de use, I wonder, sah, ob tell Tom Dupuy dat de buckra gentleman an’ Isaac is own cousin?’

Delgado executed another frantic pas de seul across the floor of the hut, to work off his mad excitement, and then answered gleefully: ‘Ha, ha, Missy Rosie, you is woman, you is creole naygur gal—you doan’t understan’ de depth an’ de wisdom ob African naygur. Look you here, me fren’, I explain you all about it. De missy up at house, him fall in lub wit dis brown man, Noel. Tom Dupuy, him want for go an’ marry de missy. Dat make Tom Dupuy hate de brown man. I tell him, Noel doan’t no buckra—him common brown man, own cousin to Isaac Pourtalès. Den Tom Dupuy laugh at Noel! Ha, ha! I turn de hand ob one proud buckra to bring down de pride ob de odder!’

Isaac Pourtalès laughed too. ‘Ha, ha!’ he cried, ‘him is proud buckra, an’ him is me own cousin! I hate him!’

Rosina gazed at her mulatto lover in rueful silence. She liked the English stranger—he had given her a shilling one day to post a letter for him—but still, she daren’t go back upon Isaac and Louis Delgado. ‘Him is fren’ ob Mistah Hawtorn,’ she murmured apologetically at last after a minute’s severe reflection—‘great fren’ ob Mistah Hawtorn. Dem is old-time fren’ in Englan’ togedder; and when Mistah Tom Dupuy speak bad ’bout Mistah Hawtorn, Mistah Noel him flare up like angry naygur, an’ him gib him de lie, an’ him speak out well for him!’

Delgado checked himself, and looked closely at the hesitating negress with more deliberation. ‘Him is fren’ ob Mistah Hawtorn,’ he said in a meditative voice—‘him is fren’ ob Mistah Hawtorn! De fren’ ob de Lard’s fren’ shall come to no harm. I gwine to tell Tom Dupuy. I must humble de buckra. But in de great an’ terrible day, dem shall not hurt a hair of him head, if de Lard wills it.’ And then he added somewhat louder, in his own sonorous and mystic Arabic: ‘The effendi’s brother is dear to Allah even as the good effendi himself is.’

Isaac Pourtalès made a wry face aside to himself. Evidently he had settled in his own mind that whatever might be Delgado’s private opinion about the friends of the Lord’s friend, he himself was not going to be bound, when the moment for action actually arrived, by anybody else’s ideas of promises.

By-and-by, Rosina rose to go. ‘You is comin’ wit me, Isaac?’ she asked coquettishly, with her finger stuck once more in coy reserve at the corner of her mouth, and her head a little on one side, bewitching negress fashion.

Isaac hesitated; it does not do for a brown man to be too condescending and familiar with a nigger girl, even if she does happen to be his sweetheart. Besides, Delgado signed to him with his withered finger that he wanted him to stop a few minutes longer. ‘No, Missy Rosie,’ the mulatto answered, yawning quietly; ‘I doan’t gwine yet. You know de road to house, I tink. Ebenin’, le-ady.’

Rosina gave a sighing, sidelong look of disappointed affection, took her lover’s hand a little coldly in her own black fingers, and sidled out of the hut with much reluctance, half-frightened still at the horrid prospect of once more facing alone the irrepressible and ubiquitous ghouls.

As soon as she was fairly out of earshot, Louis Delgado approached at once close to the mulatto’s ear and murmured in a mysterious hollow undertone: ‘Next Wednesday.’

The mulatto started. ‘So soon as dat!’ he cried. ‘Den you has got de pistols?’

Delgado, with his wrinkled finger placed upon his lip, moved stealthily to a corner of his hut, and slowly opened a chest, occupied on the top by his mouldy obeah mummery of loose alligators’ teeth and well-cleaned little human knuckle-bones. Carefully removing this superstitious rubbish from the top of the box with an undisguised sneer—for Isaac as a brown man was ex officio superior to obeah—he took from beneath it a couple of dozen old navy pistols, of a disused pattern, bought cheap from a marine store-dealer of doubtful honesty down at the harbour. Isaac’s eyes gleamed brightly as soon as he saw the goodly array of real firearms. ‘Hé, hé!’ he cried joyously, fingering the triggers with a loving touch, ‘dat de ting to bring down de pride ob de proud buckra. Ha, ha! Next Wednesday, next Wednesday! We waited long, Mistah Delgado, for de Lard’s delibberance; but de time come now, de time come at last, sah, an’ we gwine to hab de island ob Trinidad all to ourselves.’

The old African bowed majestically. ‘Slay ebbery male among dem,’ he answered aloud in his deepest accents, with a not wholly unimpressive mouthing of his hollow vowels—‘slay ebbery male, an’ take de women captive, an’ de maidens, an’ de little ones; an’ divide among you de spoil ob all deir cattle, an’ all deir flocks, an’ all deir goods, an’ deir cities wherein dey dwell, an’ all deir vineyards, an’ deir goodly castles.’

Isaac Pourtalès’ eyes gleamed hideously as he listened in delight to that awful quotation.


After reading an article in Chamber’s Journal for August 1885, headed ‘The Bank Picket,’ it struck me (says a correspondent) that a reminiscence of the Bank Guard in Dublin may not prove uninteresting. I say reminiscence, for, though the Bank Guard is mounted there now pretty much, I believe, as in the days of which I write—some eight-and-thirty years ago—the incident which my memory recalls in connection with it is a reminiscence of an event, the{374} actors in which, except myself, have passed away or have left the service; and in either case, I have not seen or heard of any of them for many years; but if one or two still survive, and this should meet their eye, I have no doubt the remembrance recalled by it will raise a hearty laugh at what was to them certainly no joke, and to me personally was a lesson never again to disobey orders.

The guard over the Bank of Ireland in Dublin was then—as I believe it is now—under the command of the senior subaltern for guard in the garrison, with a proper complement of non-commissioned officers and men; and was relieved, like all the other garrison guards, every twenty-four hours. The men’s guardroom was a large apartment, flagged with stone, on the ground-floor of part of what was once the old Irish House of Parliament; and above it was the officer’s guardroom, which was reached by a flight of stairs, at the bottom of which a door communicated on the left with the men’s guardroom, and facing the stair-foot was a small heavy door leading into the street. In this door was a barred aperture about a foot square, closed by a sliding piece of wood, which could be drawn aside to permit the examination from within of any one outside; and inside the door, a sentry was posted during the night. Through the barred aperture, the ‘Grand rounds’—as the field-officer on duty for the day was called—whispered the countersign to the officer of the guard when he visited the bank at night, after which he was admitted, to enable him to inspect the guard. To the left of the door outside was also a large iron-studded gate, leading into a small courtyard, where the guard paraded during the daytime; but this, as well as the small door, was locked and secured by heavy bars at sunset, and the keys of both were kept by the officer of the guard.

Immediately after the mounting of the new guard, every morning a knock at the door of the officer’s room announced the arrival of the head-porter with a large book, in which the officer signed his name, rank, and regiment; and on the departure of the head-porter with the book, a half-sovereign was found on the table where the book had been. There were no meals provided for the officer, as for his more fortunate comrade mounting the Bank Picket in London; nor were the non-commissioned officers or men ‘tipped,’ as at the Bank of England; but they, as well as the officer, were left to shift for themselves in the way of food during the twenty-four hours, without even the assistance of a canteen vendor, so that the dinners and other meals had to be sent from the barracks—in the case of some regiments, a distance of two or three miles—there was no blanket or greatcoat either provided at the Bank of Ireland for the men; but the officer had some articles furnished for his use, for a consideration, which were exhumed towards night from a small closet in the officer’s guardroom. There was no library or anything of that kind for men or officer; and they were left entirely to their own devices how to fill up the tedium of the twenty-four hours’ duty.

The furniture of both guardrooms was scanty, that in the men’s room consisting of a few forms and a guard-bed of wood, raised a couple of feet from the ground; while the officer’s furniture was more luxurious, he having an old leather-covered couch, with four or five chairs to match, and a large table. There was, however, abundance of fuel; and candles of the mutton-fat order were liberally supplied at the rate of one to each room. Both apartments were large and lofty, the ceiling of the officer’s being vaulted; and its walls, in my time, were covered with drawings in pencil and coloured chalks, more or less well done; and many very amusing, being caricatures of well-known staff and other officers, or sketches of various funny incidents which had taken place at guard-mountings and field-days, in which the figure of old Toby White, the well-known town major, was always prominent, as well as an adjutant of one of the regiments, famed for the peculiar peak which adorned his shako, and his feats of horsemanship, which seemed meant to illustrate the many ways one could fall off a horse without getting hurt. Over the vast mantel-piece were drawings of the breastplates of every regiment that had mounted the guard, all artistically and faithfully done. Like the gorgets, these breastplates have ceased for many years to be part of the uniform of the British infantry; but for the benefit of those who don’t remember them, I may say that they served to clasp across the breast the broad white sword-belt worn in full uniform in the days of coatees and epaulets, and were very handsome, having, besides, the number of the regiment, the regimental badge, and the various battles authorised to be borne on the regimental colour, emblazoned on them.

Amongst the other drawings on the walls was, directly opposite the door leading from the stairs into the guardroom, the figure of a young lady clad in the full-dress uniform of a regiment dating many years anterior to the time of which I speak. She was represented as standing at the salute, with a drawn sword extended in her right hand, and the left at the shako peak shading the eyes. There was a legend—whence derived or how handed down, I am unable to say—that the young lady in the obsolete uniform was the wife of an officer of the guard who one night, many years ago, had become intoxicated on duty; and that she saved his commission by dressing herself in his uniform and turning out the guard to the field-officer when going his nightly rounds. This legend was, I have no doubt, as true as very many which are now implicitly believed; but be that as it may, it was an article of faith amongst the subalterns of the Dublin garrison, who always regarded the fair young figure in the quaint uniform with a certain amount of respect.

In those days, the guardrooms in Dublin were pretty generally ornamented with sketches, some of which were very well done. I may specify ‘The Kildare Hunt,’ round the wall of the upper castle guard; and a monument upon a wall facing the door in the lower castle guard, on which was the following inscription:

In Memory of
A Wigging received by a Subaltern of this Guard from ——.

May whose end be as his life has been—peaceful!


That the above stung the officer in question, who was a well-known martinet, but, unfortunately, had seen no war-service, we soon had reason to know; for an order was issued that in future all commandants of guards were to certify in their guard Reports that the walls of their guardrooms had not been defaced during their tour of duty.

One snowy, bitterly cold day in the winter of 1847-48, I found myself the occupant of the Bank Guard in Dublin, and in the proud position of commandant. The semi-darkness of the afternoon was fast verging on night, and I nodded, half asleep, over the huge fire which blazed on the hearth, when the door opened, and admitted, with a cold swirl of frosty air, the handsome, jolly face of a brother sub. and particular friend of mine, named Harry P——. The old room looked instantly bright and cheerful, and he sat until well after dark, smoking and chatting pleasantly. At length he rose to go, and told me that he was going to dine with his brother at Richmond Barracks; and that after mess, he, his brother, and another officer of his brother’s regiment, were about to visit the theatre, where some popular performer was starring it. ‘And I tell you what it is, old fellow,’ he added, ‘we’ll all come here afterwards; and you have some oysters in, and give us a supper.’

It was in vain that I reminded him of the order that no one was to be admitted to the Bank Guard after tattoo except on duty. He laughed at my scruples; and at last, on his hinting that want of hospitality was at the bottom of my strict observance of standing orders, I was weak enough to give in; and the tempter descending the stairs, stopped to say, by way of encouragement: ‘You know we shan’t be with you before twelve o’clock; and by that time, the Grand rounds will have turned you out, and will be snug in bed in the upper castle.’ So saying, without giving me time to recall my inconsiderate promise, he was off, and I had nothing left me but to call my servant; and between us, we managed to arrange, if not an elegant, at least a comfortable little supper, which was brought in from a neighbouring hotel. Fresh lights were placed upon the now well-furnished table, more coals added to the already roaring fire, beside which simmered a kettle of boiling water, ready to mix with what in the Irish capital is known as ‘the materials;’ and towards the ‘sma’ hours ayont the twal,’ I sat waiting the arrival of my expected guests, as well as the field-officer of the day, who, to my great discomfort and uneasiness, had not up to this hour put in an appearance.

I hadn’t long to wait after midnight had struck for Harry P—— and his companions, who didn’t sympathise with me much concerning the non-arrival of the field-officer, Harry only remarking: ‘Oh, he’ll only just look at the guard, and be off to roost with as little delay as he can. The snow is falling fast, and no one with any brains will stay out in it longer than he can help.’

So, ‘laying this flattering unction to our souls,’ we proceeded, without further ceremony, to pay attention to the good things provided for the comfort of the body, and had already got through a fair lot of the bivalves, when suddenly the loud challenge of the sentry at the door below rang through the vaulted corridor: ‘Who comes there?’ The reply from outside was: ‘Rounds;’ then: ‘What rounds?’ Answer: ‘Grand rounds,’ followed by the sentry’s: ‘Stand, Grand rounds; Guard, turn out.’

This called me to take my part in the ceremony; and my visitors, still looking on the affair as a prime joke, proceeded to ensconce themselves in the closet containing the officer’s bedding, which, on account of the expected advent of company, had not as yet been disinterred. As he closed the door, I heard Harry P—— remark, by way of apology to the others: ‘You know, his Satanic Majesty may prompt him to come up-stairs, and so we had better not show till he goes.’

I now dashed down below, and after the accustomed interchange of question and answer at the barred window in the door, ordered his admission, and proceeded to the guard, which was turned out in the men’s guardroom, to duly ‘present arms’ to the Grand rounds. (I may here remark, that to the sentry’s shout of ‘Guard, turn out’ in the Bank Guard, the response was decidedly Irish, for the guard didn’t turn out at all, in the literal sense of the word, at night, but ‘fell in’ on the stone flags of their guardroom.)

The field-officer on this occasion was a Major F——, of a Highland regiment, a jolly, pleasant-looking little man, who evidently enjoyed to the full the good things of this life; and after acknowledging the salute and receiving the report of ‘All correct, sir,’ he desired me to dismiss the guard, and as we left the room, said: ‘I was looking at the bright light in your guardroom window as I came up, and envied you the roaring fire you must have inside, and I daresay a good glass of something hot also. If you don’t mind, I’ll come up and thaw a bit, for it’s snowing hard, and most bitterly cold outside.’

What could I say, but—heaven forgive me—express the pleasure it would give me to do the hospitable; and so, with troubled heart, I bounded up the stairs ostensibly to fetch a candle to light the major up, but really to clear the room of the prisoners, had they left the closet, or, at all events, to warn them of approaching danger if they had not. In either case, I was, however, foiled, as the Grand rounds, though a portly-looking little man, and not active to all appearance, still had the use of his legs, well tried, no doubt, on many a good Highland moor and mountain; and in spite of my knowledge of the staircase, he was in the guardroom close at my heels. It was, however, to all appearance entirely without any occupants save ourselves, and only the remains of the supper looked suspicious. This at once attracted the major; and to his remark that I appeared to have had a party here, I replied loudly, in order to give notice to the prisoners, that some of our fellows had dropped in during the afternoon and had some lunch; that I had had my dinner after they had left, and that my servant had not yet removed the débris; that I dared say there were some oysters still left, and would the major let me get him a few, &c.? which caused the little man’s eyes to twinkle as he toasted himself by the ample fire; and unbuckling his sword, he seated himself in a chair at the table, and fell to without more ceremony, remarking: ‘You are{376} very kind. What Sybarites you —th fellows are! I’ll just take an oyster or two, and qualify with a glass of hot toddy, to keep out the cold of this bitter night.’

After doing ample justice to the supper, he proceeded to undo a couple of the bottom buttons of his doublet, and, with a sigh of satisfaction, drew his chair closer to the fire, and lighting a cigar, settled himself comfortably for a chat. I, too, lighted a pipe, and with an affectation of enjoyment I was far from feeling, I sat opposite to him, and listened to what I have no doubt were very amusing anecdotes, but which fell unheeded upon ears strained to catch a sneeze or cough or other ill-timed sound from the closet. All, however, was quite still there; and after what seemed to me a century of anxious suspense, the Grand rounds finished his glass, and with profuse thanks for my hospitality, rebuckled himself into his sword-belt and took his departure.

It couldn’t have been much more than an hour since he came up-stairs, and yet to me it seemed ages until the outer door again closed on him and I heard his muffled footsteps retreating over the soft snow. But if the time appeared long to me, what must it not have been to the prisoners caged in the stuffy closet! I found them peeping inquiringly out from their prison; and when the ‘Coast clear’ was announced, such a peal of laughter resounded through the old walls as made them ring again; and there being no fear of further disturbance, we straightway drank health and safe home to the jolly old Grand rounds; and seating ourselves at the table with appetites sharpened by the perils we had passed, we did ample justice to the remainder of the supper, and proved that ‘all’s well that ends well’ in a most satisfactory manner. Far into the night, or rather well into the morning, was it before we parted; and as Harry shook my hand at the stair-foot, he said: ‘Good-night, good-night, or rather morning. We are all much obliged for the night’s amusement; but between you and me, old man, I don’t think that I, for one, will ever again join a supper party in the Bank Guard.’ To which I replied: ‘No; nor will you ever catch me again giving one.’

I have since often thought, did Major F—— suspect that the closet had tenants? If he did, he kept it to himself; and though we often met afterwards, he never made any allusion to that night. He may have meant to teach me a lesson, or he may not; but if he did, he did it most kindly, and it has never been forgotten; nor ever since have I disregarded the resolution, ‘Always stick to orders,’ which I formed that winter’s night upon the Bank Guard.



Around a roaring fire in a little, lone, beetle-browed inn which stood by the sea about six miles from Saint Quinians, known as the Lobster, were assembled one evening, about a week after the events recorded in the last chapter, some half-dozen men, whose apparel and appearance proclaimed them fisher-folk. They were sitting simply smoking and drinking, not speaking, for it may be noted that men whose lives are spent in one continual struggle with danger and death are generally silent. It was a wild, wet evening, although it was April, and the great waves were tumbling on the rocky shore with a booming which never ceased, and which was audible above the roar of the wind and the rattle of the rain against the rickety casements, so that the assembly was not a little astonished to hear the voice of the landlord talking with a stranger, and presently to see a tall man, clad from head to foot in waterproofs, enter. All eyes were instantly fixed on him in a suspicious sort of manner, and more than one man rose, for in these days, coast-folk enjoyed almost as little peace on land as at sea, as preventive men were continually poking about in search of smugglers, and the pressgang was hard at work collecting hands for His Majesty’s ships. But as the newcomer was alone, and saluted them with a ‘good-evening’ as he divested himself of his reeking overalls, their momentary alarm seemed to subside, and they made a space for him in the circle round the fire.

The visitor, who was no other than Jasper Rodley, ordered a stiff tumbler of grog and a new pipe, took his seat, and gazed intently at the leaping flames for some moments without speaking. ‘It’s a wretched evening for a walk,’ he said presently; a remark which elicited a gruff murmur of assent from the circle; ‘and the road from Saint Quinians is as hard to follow as the course between Deadland Shoal and the Painter Buoy,’ he continued. He was evidently a sailor, so that eyes were again fixed on him with something of the original suspicion.

There was another pause, during which pipes were puffed vigorously and more than one mug emptied.

Jasper Rodley broke the silence. ‘Doesn’t a Captain West live somewhere hereabouts?’ he asked.

‘Yes, sir,’ replied a man. ‘Can’t mistake the house—a long white un, standing in a bit o’ garden with a flagstaff in it, about two miles towards the town.’

‘Strange sort of man, isn’t he?’ asked Rodley.

‘Well, sir, he’s strange in some things; but nobody don’t know any harm of him,’ replied the man; ‘’cos it’s precious little folk see of him.’

‘Said to be very rich, isn’t he?’ asked Rodley.

This question brought the eyes of the party to bear again upon the speaker, the problem troubling the rude minds being: ‘If this chap wants to see the captain, and hails from Saint Quinians, why on earth does he go two miles farther than he need?’ Mental conclusion arrived at—stranger up to no good.

‘Well, no, mate,’ replied the man to Rodley’s question; ‘he ain’t what you’d call rich, not by no means, seein’ that he’s only a half-pay captain. But he’s been richer durin’ this last four year than he wur afore.’

‘Lives all alone with his daughter, doesn’t he?’ continued Rodley.

Mental conclusion previously arrived at by the party is confirmed.

‘Yes,’ replied the man who acted as spokesman; ‘lives with Miss Bertha, the cap’en do. She’s a proper quean, she is. Purtiest slip of a lass in these parts by a long way. But the cap’en{377} he keeps her uncommon close; can’t a-bear her to be out of his sight; and when she goes into town a-marketin’ on Wednesdays, we says it’s about all the life she sees.’

Another silence ensued, during which the half-dozen pairs of eyes were taking stock of Rodley sideways, and endeavouring to solve the problem of his intentions from his dress and appearance.

At length Rodley said: ‘Wasn’t there a lugger wrecked off here about four years ago called the Fancy Lass?’

‘Nobody heard of it,’ replied the spokesman. ‘There was a lugger of that name left Saint Quinians about four years agone; but she warn’t never heard of no more; and bein’ a smuggler, that ain’t surprisin’.’

‘I thought some bodies were washed ashore by the Locket Rock about that time,’ observed Rodley.

‘There’s a sight o’ poor chaps washed ashore hereabouts every gale,’ replied the man. ‘’Tain’t possible allus to say who they be or where they come from. Saint Quinians’ churchyard is full on ’em.’

Not another word was spoken for at least twenty minutes. At the expiration of that time, Rodley rose, went to the door, looked out, remarked that the rain had stopped, put on his overalls, paid his reckoning, wished the company ‘good-night,’ and went out into the darkness.

‘Didn’t get much information out of these chaps!’ he muttered as he pulled his hat down over his face against the driving wind and retraced his steps towards the captain’s house. What with battling against the wind and stumbling about the uneven road in the dark, it was an hour before the solitary light in the captain’s house met Rodley’s gaze. He crossed the small garden and knocked.

Bertha opened the door, and asked timidly: ‘Who is it?’

‘I—Jasper Rodley,’ was the reply.

She uttered a cry of alarm, and would have shut the door, but that Rodley had placed his foot in the opening. The captain hearing his daughter’s cry, came hobbling along the passage hastily. When he beheld Rodley, a cloud came over his face, and he said: ‘Hillo, mate, what is it at this time o’ night?’

‘I want a bed for to-night, and a few words with you, captain,’ said Rodley, who by this time was fairly inside the house, and coolly taking his hat and coat off.

‘But I’ve no room here. There’s an inn farther down, where they’ll put you up better than we can.’

‘I’m a sailor, captain,’ replied Rodley, ‘and I don’t mind where I shake down: that’s of no consequence, but the talk is.’

The captain, who seemed to treat his evidently unwelcome visitor with a kind of deference, shrugged his shoulders, and led the way into the sitting-room, where the remains of a substantial meal graced the table. Jasper Rodley made himself very comfortable in an armchair; the captain, who was the wreck of a fine man, and who, being lame from a recent accident, used a stick, remained standing, as if uncertain how to proceed next; whilst poor Bertha stood, trembling with fright, by the door.

‘Captain,’ said the visitor, ‘isn’t ten o’clock the usual time for young ladies to go to bed?’

At this hint, the old man made a signal to his daughter, who retired.

‘Now then,’ continued Rodley, ‘let’s to business.’

‘I’m not aware that I have any business with you,’ said the captain.

‘Well, you’ll soon have some with me. Look here. We’re men of the world, and we must understand each other. I’ve only met you twice before: each time you were coming from the same place, and each time you were astonished, in fact, alarmed, at seeing me.’

‘Well, sir, and what of that?’ asked the old sailor. ‘Here am I, an old East India Company’s skipper, living in a lonely place, where I don’t see half-a-dozen people in the course of a month. You came upon me suddenly, just when it was getting dark, and I was naturally startled.’

‘O no; that’s not it,’ continued Rodley. ‘But we’ll leave that for a bit. First of all, I’m head over heels in love with your daughter.’

‘I’m sorry for it.’

‘And I intend to marry her,’ continued his visitor.

‘That depends firstly whether she will have you, which I very much doubt,’ said the captain; ‘and secondly upon whether I let her go, which I also doubt.’

‘So you think,’ sneered Rodley. ‘Now, then, to the other matter. Four years ago, you were a poor man.’

‘So I am now,’ retorted the captain.

‘O no; you’re very well off; your private bank is safe enough.’

The captain fidgeted uneasily in his chair at this.

‘You see, I know more than you think,’ said Rodley; and bending over and speaking in a lower tone of voice, he added: ‘Is it not a little curious that you should have come into your fortune about the same time that the Fancy Lass was wrecked about a hundred yards from your house?’

The poor old captain’s amazement and perplexity culminated here in a start which sent his pipe flying from his hand. ‘Why, how do you know? Who told you?’ gasped the old man. ‘Not a soul escaped from her.’

Jasper Rodley looked searchingly at him for a moment, and said: ‘Perhaps not. That’s got nothing to do with what we are talking about.’

‘And the boat went to pieces,’ added the captain.

‘You’re almost as well up in the subject as I am,’ said Rodley. ‘But she was wrecked on Sherringham Shoal, and went to pieces on the Locket Rock.’

‘Well?’ asked the captain.

‘And her cargo—valuable cargo it was,’ continued Rodley, actually smiling with enjoyment at the misery he was causing—‘her cargo was recovered.’

The old man rose and hobbled about the room in a state of pitiable agony. ‘How do you know?’ he asked desperately.

‘The last time I met you,’ replied Rodley, ‘you were so startled that you dropped something—this.’ He put his hand into his pocket and drew out a sovereign.


‘What do you infer from that?’

‘Why, what’s the use of asking me what I infer? What’s the most natural inference I should draw?’

The captain resumed his seat, and was silent for some minutes. In the meanwhile, Rodley filled another pipe and mixed himself a glass of grog.

At length the old man said: ‘I understand the case to be this. You want to marry my daughter. If I refuse, you’ll’——

‘I will expose you as having taken property which does not belong to you,’ replied Rodley.

‘You must prove it,’ cried the captain. ‘Why shouldn’t I keep my money where I think fit? This is a lonely house, in a dangerous neighbourhood; the folk all about are desperate men—wreckers, smugglers, old privateersmen, escaped pressed-men—men who, if they thought I kept money and valuables on the premises, would not hesitate to rob me; and what could we, a lame old man and a young girl, do to protect ourselves?’

‘I can prove it,’ continued Rodley quietly. ‘But I’m not such a fool as to tell you how I can prove it. Look here; we need not waste words over it. You are in my power; you cannot escape. The price I put upon keeping silence upon a matter which would bring you into the felon’s dock, is the hand of your daughter Bertha. I give you a week to decide, for the matter presses, and I do not intend to remain longer than I can help at Saint Quinians.’

‘Then you would take my Bertha far away from me!’ exclaimed the old man in horror.

‘Not necessarily; my business is on the sea. When I am away, she would remain with you. It would comfort you, and relieve me of the expense of keeping up an establishment, and would thus be an agreeable arrangement for both parties. Is that a bargain?’

The old man bowed his head.

‘Mind,’ said Rodley, smiling, as he rose to go to bed, ‘I shall keep strict watch on the—on the bank!’


Having seen this boat of ancient Britain on those Welsh rivers where it has been wont to float since the commencement of the historic period—having seen a Welsh fisherman ferry his wife over the Towy in a coracle, we will endeavour to describe this antique relic and to relate a few leading facts of its history. Before the subjugation of the British, this boat of theirs was probably found in all parts of England; it is now confined to Wales, the last stronghold of the British after the arrival of the Saxons—or English, as they are now called. It is found, in fact, only in a few parts of Wales; and in the course of this short narrative we shall not ramble far in other regions, though it may be interesting to mention that boats exactly similar in structure to the coracle of Wales are frequently used in many parts of India for the purpose of crossing the rivers of that great country; and this forms one of those obscure links which Mr Borrow loved to dilate upon in his Wild Wales, a book of wonderful attraction both to the learned and to travellers and tourists. Joining all the links together into a connected chain, and taking language into account, the evidence is strong that the Welsh, or ancient British, were originally emigrants from India.

The antiquity of this queer little ark—for it is more ark than boat in shape—is undoubted. Herodotus describes the common boats of the Euphrates as having been in all respects similar in pattern and construction to the coracles of Wales. The materials for making these simple, home-built vessels were naturally such as the particular country might afford. In India they were made of wicker, covered with skins; and on the Euphrates they were of willow, covered with hides. In the salmon-fishing season, almost any day except Sunday from April till the end of August, coracles may still be observed on the rivers Towy and Teivy, having remained there unaltered from the time when the attention of Cæsar was attracted by them during his campaign in Britain. A fisherman still slings his boat over his back, and carries it home in that position; and on reaching his dwelling, he sets it erect against the house-wall, and leaves it there till he again goes fishing, when he carries it back to the water. An old Welsh adage runs, ‘A man’s load is his coracle;’ and in former times, when this old-fashioned boat was covered with raw hides, the load must have been a heavy one. The hides, however, have now been discarded for a light covering made of waterproof canvas. The shape of the coracle remains unaltered. It is the broadest of boats in proportion to its length, hence it moves through the water under the alternate stroke of the paddle with a motion like the waddling of a duck.

The time arrived, as it usually does to men of genius, when Cæsar turned the idea of the coracle to good account. Ptolemy had destroyed his bridges, and the only boats that could have saved him were such as he could build quickly of any common materials which might come to hand. He remembered the coracle, which he had seen in Britain built of hazel, or willow, or any kind of rods that were capable of being woven so as to form a framework for the covering of skins. Cæsar immediately proceeded to construct his boats; and by means of a number of coracles of large size, but rapidly constructed, his army successfully crossed the river, which had stopped and endangered its march.

A Welsh coracle for one passenger upsets so easily that a stroke from a salmon’s tail is said to be more than the cranky little boat can bear without being overturned. One person forms a full freight for a coracle of the usual size, besides the one who uses the paddle; and that person being the oarsman’s wife, he places her cautiously in the stern, and declines a second passenger.

When there are two persons to be ferried over, one of them is usually taken across first, and the other is left on the bank, and brought over afterwards. During the voyage, certain precautions must be observed, which are well understood by all persons accustomed to this kind of navigation. But we remember on one occasion, when an English lady, a tourist, was in the act of crossing the river below Cardigan, some of her friends having already crossed, while others watched behind—for her precautions before setting out had been elaborate. She had no sooner reached{379} the middle of the stream than she rose suddenly to her feet, and the next moment was capsized and sprawling in the water. It is a ‘rule of the road’ never to stand up in a coracle.

This ancient boat possesses mythological as well as historical interest, since it was first used symbolically in some of the curious mystical rites of the Druids. Among the traditions of Bardism was that of the bursting of the ‘lake of waters,’ when all mankind were drowned except a single pair, who escaped to Wales in a naked vessel—that is, a ship without sails. According to the Triads, this ark of Wales contained a male and female of all living creatures including the parents of the Cymry, or Welsh people. This human couple were in due time deified, the Noah of the Cymry sharing this honour with his wife. His symbol was an ox; hers, a cow. A Bardish and very singular rite of sacrifice to one of these deities took place, curiously enough, at the very spot where the largest number of coracles is now stationed, a boat of this kind being used in the ceremony. At the mouth of the Teivy, in Cardigan Bay, where the coracles are now used in trawling and setting nets for the salmon-fishing, three miles below Cardigan, at the little fishing village of St Dogmels, the sacrifice was celebrated. At the appointed time, the Druids, clad in their emblematic white robes, and the Bards in robes of sky-blue, assembled at the spot, when the victim was placed in the coracle and the frail boat was turned adrift.

The coracle figured also on the important occasion of the probation of a Bard, when it was used by the neophyte, or probationer, in his passage to and from the island of Sarn Badrig, off the coast of Carnarvonshire. In rough weather this would be an impossible feat. Probably the Gwyddnaw (priest of the ship) selected a suitable day for this occasion. Having brought the novice to the shore, the usual confession was pronounced by him in these words: ‘Though I love the sea-beach, I dread the open sea; a billow may come undulating over a stone!’ The priest then spoke as follows, to reassure the novice: ‘To the brave, to the magnanimous, to the amiable, to the generous, who boldly embarks, the landing-place of the Bards will prove the harbour of life.’

We will only add to this brief account of the coracle, or river-boat of ancient Britain, that the name is derived from corwg, a ship.



Having previously considered the question of the duties of a hostess, I now come to speak of those of a guest; and the subject being less exhaustive than the former one, can be treated with considerably more conciseness.

Firstly, then, when invited to stay at a friend’s house, use your judgment with regard to the advisability of accepting the invitation. If it is proffered spontaneously and without any apparent object in view, avail yourself of it, if inclination prompts you; but if you have reason to think that you are only asked because the hostess thinks it ‘necessary,’ or deems it likely that you will ‘expect it,’ hasten to write an apology at once. Never, however, do this, nor the reverse of it, nor anything else, for the matter of that, on impulse—take time to consider: it won’t occupy you long, and the result will repay you. On no account reply to invitations on postcards: such missives, although highly estimable and convenient in their proper place, should only be made use of for the conveyal of unimportant messages. A lady who favours you with an invitation to her house, may at least be considered worthy of such trifles as a sheet of note-paper and a penny stamp.

When you have made up your mind to avail yourself of an invitation, be sure to do so at the time specified by your hostess. Never select your own time, except when especially requested; should you be guilty of such a breach of etiquette, you would, in all probability, seriously incommode your entertainer. It is the custom in many families—especially those who live in the country—to invite a succession of visitors, one after another; and if an invited guest declines going at the time for which he is asked, he ought to remain absent altogether; for, to say, ‘I cannot go to you next week, but shall be happy to do so the week following,’ may considerably embarrass the head of the house to which he has been bidden.

Supposing, then, that you have accepted an invitation to a friend’s abode, be very careful not to miss the train, or other mode of conveyance by which you have appointed to travel, lest your host’s carriage—and perhaps some member of his family also—be kept, through your carelessness, waiting to receive you at your destination. Do not, on arriving at the house, make an unseemly fuss—as some persons do—about the disposal of your luggage; leave the carrying in and arranging of it entirely to the servants; and should anything go wrong, rectify it afterwards. Ascertain as early as possible the hours for meals, and be ready to the moment for such. Also, if it be customary in the household to have family prayer, be prepared always to attend it with punctuality, as nothing is more disturbing than to have droppers-in entering the room when the service is half concluded. Do not come down in the mornings before the shutters are opened or the rooms made up; servants feel much aggrieved by this practice, nor is it fair towards them. If you are, from habit, an early riser, remain in your chamber, where you can read or write without being in anybody’s way; or, if the weather be fine, go out for a walk, quietly, without any slamming of doors or obtrusive noise or bustle. Always remember, when entering the house after walking, to clean your boots well upon the door-scraper and mat. Do not on any account neglect this most important admonition; even though there may not be any perceptible mud upon the soles of your footgear, a certain amount of dust will be sure to cling, and will by no means improve your host’s carpets—or the tempers of his servants.

Do not eat immoderately at table, or in a{380} manner to occasion remark. If you are afflicted with an abnormal appetite, satisfy its first cravings in the privacy of your apartment with biscuits, sandwiches, or something else of your own providing. It is dreadful to eat and drink as though one had not for days enjoyed a meal. On the other hand, do not, from a feeling of false delicacy, abstain from eating enough. A healthy, hearty appetite is to be commended; nor is anything more distressing to a hospitable hostess than to see her viands unappreciated, while her guests leave table apparently unsatisfied with what has been provided. It is needless to add that temperance in drinking is all-important.

Be especially careful to avoid little gaucheries, of which even some well-bred persons are occasionally guilty. Those who are accustomed to live alone are particularly apt to fall into odd ways, because they have not, as a rule, anybody to please or consult except themselves. I have seen a man of title and position, who, through living an isolated life, had many strange oddities: ignoring the use of the butter-knife and using his own—touching the lips of the cruet-bottle with his finger—turning over the contents of the biscuit-box—helping himself to sugar without the aid of the spoon or tongs. Persons with whom he sat in company called him ‘vulgar,’ whereas he was in reality outré and odd. A learned man, caring nothing for conventionalities, and living wholly alone, he fell into strange habits, and they clung to him, which is abundant proof that we ought, each and all of us, to guard against such.

Carefully steer clear of topics of discourse that you think might by any possibility be distasteful to anybody present; and if your host and hostess, or other members of the household, should chance to disagree in your presence upon any point, whether of great or little importance, do not take any part in the discussion, or side with either combatant. Maintain complete silence—or, if you can adroitly change the subject, or turn the conversation into another channel, so much the better; but this sort of thing requires so large an amount of tact and address, that if not done nicely, it had better be left alone.

Endeavour at all times to be obliging in the household. Offer your services upon all necessary occasions, but do not force them or appear officious; it is bad taste, and is certain to worry your hostess. If an entertainment is to take place in the house, keep out of the way as much as possible during the preparations for it, unless you can be of some substantial use; and while the festivity is in progress, do all you can to oblige the entertainer and contribute to the enjoyment of the guests. If you can sing, dance, or recite, do all (if asked) without making a fuss about it. At the same time do not fall into the opposite extreme of giving the company too substantial proof of your prowess in the vocal or histrionic art. Some persons are a perfect nuisance in this respect; once they sit down to the piano, they cannot be induced to leave it, and keep on singing song after song, to the exclusion of others and the weariness of the assembled guests. Assist your hostess in effecting introductions, and, if necessary, in ascertaining that each person has visited the supper-room and that nobody has been overlooked. In short—feeling yourself for the time a member of the household—perform all such duties as would, were you in reality so, fall to your share.

Never give unnecessary trouble to servants. Avoid, as far as possible, slopping water over your washstand, drenching the floor when you take your bath, emptying the entire contents of the water-jug into the basin every time you wash your hands throughout the day; throwing your soiled linen carelessly about the room; leaving your wearing apparel scattered promiscuously over the bed and the backs of the chairs; calling for hot water when cold would serve you quite as well, or better; soiling three or four pairs of boots and shoes in the day; leaving damp umbrellas upon the hall-table instead of in the stand; and going in and out of the house an unlimited number of times for idle pastime, when once or twice would serve your purpose quite as well.

Be careful never to outstay your welcome. You can form a very good idea, from the nature and wording of your invitation, how long you are meant to remain, even though the time may not have been exactly specified; but if there is any doubt about the matter, do not take advantage of it by staying too long, or extend your visit to any unusual length unless decidedly pressed to do so. It is far better to go away leaving a wish for your return, than that there should be the very smallest feeling of an opposite nature in the minds of your entertainers.

Be particularly cautious during your visit never to allow yourself to appear in the way. Should your host or hostess be called upon to receive a long absent or favoured friend, or one who is a rare visitor, retire quietly for a while, as there may be things to talk about that your presence would forbid, or at all events hamper; but be sure that you withdraw gracefully and without fuss, having a fair pretext on your lips, if asked your reason for doing so, as—although a well-bred hostess will never under any circumstances allow it to appear that any member of her household is de trop—a ladylike or gentlemanlike guest will never permit the possibility of her feeling that such is in reality the case.

When Sunday comes round, attend worship with your entertainers, who will probably be pleased by your doing so, rather than that you should go wandering off to some distant church alone; and endeavour throughout the day to adapt your ways and doings to those of your host and hostess. If you do not like or approve their mode of passing the Sabbath-day, you can take your leave before the next comes round; but it is the worst possible taste for a visitor to isolate himself in his own apartment, because the household of which he is pro tem. a member sees no harm in certain things which stricter persons may; while, on the other hand, it is equally objectionable to appear to ignore the Sabbath, where those about you have been educated in a more rigid school.

Finally, be kind and courteous to all, but never servile, nor yet haughty, for the one is quite as bad as the other, and both are hateful in the extreme. If, when you are departing, your host,{381} or hostess, invites you to come again, you may feel justly satisfied that you have succeeded in making that most enviable thing—a good impression.


Ay, what was to be done with him? He had just completed his fifteenth year, was famous at cricket and football, rode his bicycle up and down the steepest gradients, was a fearless swimmer, and indeed the athletic paragon of his schoolmates. But he began to tire of his lessons, and to utter dark confidences to his sisters that ‘Latin would be no use to a fellow when he grew up;’ that ‘he felt like a loafer as he went along the lanes to the grammar-school;’ that ‘Sam Jackson and Harry Wilde were going to business at Easter; and that if papa did not find him something to do, he should perhaps run away to sea.’

This last confidence, which was given on a windy night, when the rain plashed most dismally against the windows of the children’s room, quite alarmed Tom’s sisters, who were romantic and tender-hearted girls of seventeen and eighteen. They began to cry, and to beg the indignant lad not to do anything so dreadful. But the more they petitioned, the more stubborn Tom grew. Tears and entreaties only hardened him into firmer determination to doff his mortar-board cap for ever. How could he stay at school, when his chums, Sam Jackson and Harry Wilde, had gone to business! What did girls know of a fellow’s vexation at being left with a lot of young boys, not one of whom could hold a bat or keep a goal! To sea he would go, unless papa got him some sort of a berth by Easter.

The poor girls were crying very bitterly, and the rain throbbed in sympathy against the panes, and Tom stamped up and down the floor, when his mamma came in. She was much surprised at the scene; for the children were always on the best of terms. She was still more surprised, and a little dismayed, when she learned the cause of the scene. Being a prudent and self-restraining woman, however, she did not say much; and with a few general remarks, ‘that of course all boys must go to business in due time,’ she terminated the painful discussion.

After supper, when her husband and self were alone, she startled the good easy man by relating what had taken place. Tom’s father was the principal doctor of the neighbourhood, which was so salubrious and so poor that he must have left it long before, had he not possessed a little independency, which kept the household afloat. He was of an indolent turn, getting gray and fat, like his old cob. Want of work, magnificent health, and a managing wife, who took all the worries of life off his shoulders, made him oblivious of the young world growing round his hearth. He could not imagine that his boy and girls were weaving anticipatory tissues of their lives, that these young birds were getting fledged for flights far away from the home-nest. So, the announcement of Tom’s rebellion against school, and his thoughts of evasion, came on the doctor as the greatest event he had known for years.

‘Now you mention it, Maria,’ said he, when he began to quieten down a bit—‘now you mention it, Tom is really growing a big fellow. He’ll be six feet high, if he’s an inch, by his twentieth year. And what a square stiff back he’s got! He takes after my mother’s family; they were all strapping fellows. Yes, Tom’s too big for school. He’s like a salmon among minnows, among the grammar-school boys. Dear, dear, how lads do grow!’

‘Yes, yes,’ broke in Tom’s mother, a little tartly—she had a temper of her own, as all managing women have—‘Tom is big, and will be bigger; that goes without the saying. But what is to be done for the poor boy? What career do you propose for him?’

‘Upon my life, I haven’t the ghost of an idea, Maria. Now you have brought this matter on the carpet, it recalls a good deal I have heard of late. When I was at Bimpson’s the other day, attending his wife of her seventh boy, Bimpson said to me, over a glass of wine: “Doctor, he is a fine child, I admit; but how he’ll get bread and cheese, if he lives, I can’t guess at all.” And the poor fellow broke out into quite a jeremiad over the redundancy of boys just now. He has three lads waiting for careers, and the deuce an opening can he find! Then there is Clumpit the wheelwright—you know Clumpit, Maria? Well, I’ve been attending him for hypochondria. He can find nothing suitable for his eldest son; and it preys on his mind, because the mother won’t let him go away from home to try his luck in some of the big towns. And old Burrows met me the other day, and quite pitifully asked me if I could advise him what to do with his grandson. I was really sorry for the poor old man. Of course, I could not help him.’

Tom’s mother looked more anxious as the doctor went on ramblingly; and at last she said: ‘All this leads to nothing. Tom must have a career arranged for him by us, or he will take the matter in his own hands. I can read his mind; I know him better than you, my dear. What must we do with him?’

‘I tell you, again, Maria, I have not a ghost of an idea. Yet, I do know one thing—he shall not be a medical man!’

Here the doctor relighted his cigar and smoked in frowning thoughtfulness, until Tom’s mother said decisively: ‘Well, if you do not know what is to be done with the dear child, we must ask the opinion of our friends. I, for my part, cannot allow this subject to drop. It must be taken up and carried out to the needful end. I know too well your easy-going way. To-morrow, you will forget all about poor Tom. I say, and with emphasis, we must find a career for our boy. As you have no ideas, I shall write to such of our friends as have experience of the world; and ask them either to advise us, by coming over here to a sort of family council, or else to tell us by letter. Your connections and mine have among them a great deal of experience: they know what prospects there are for the rising generation better than we can know, in this out-of-the-way place. So, I tell you, my dear, my mind’s made up; and to-morrow I will write the letters.’

‘You are a genius, Maria, as I’ve often told you. I believe you would get us out of any{382} hobble, however formidable. I haven’t the ghost of an idea; and you have the ideas themselves, heaps of them. Write, my dear, to all our relations that are likely to be of help to us; and we shall soon find a billet for Tom. God bless him! he is a good and clever boy, and deserves a splendid career. Don’t forget my brother John; as a London lawyer, he will be a host of advice in himself. And be sure to ask your cousin Richard, the parson; he has always been fond of Tom; and besides, he’s the shrewdest fellow I know, notwithstanding his cloth. He ought to have been a barrister. But, as that cannot be, he ought to be a bishop. How he would rule a diocese, Maria!’

In the course of a few weeks, the family council assembled, for the doctor was really much beloved by all his connections; and his wife had so couched her request for advice that it was quite irresistible. On a keen March day, uncles, cousins, and friends met; and after dining at the doctor’s hospitable table, they began to consider what career would be most likely to assure Tom of a happy and prosperous future. The reverend cousin presided, at the general request; and he opened the subject as follows:

‘When I got the letter which has brought me here to-day, I felt its appeal so strongly, that I made immediate arrangements to be present. Tom has always been an exemplary boy in conduct, though I must say his progress in the classics is deplorably slow. When I was his age, I read Homer for the pleasure it gave me; and I had Horace by heart. Now, a scholar Tom never will be; of that I have satisfied myself before dinner in a private talk with him. Well, the ground is so far cleared. Tom cannot be a scholar, ergo, he cannot be a clergyman; for of all things inappropriate, in my opinion, the extreme is an ignorant divine. In my profession, one ought to be steeped in Greek, permeated with Latin, and saturated with Hebrew. But even if Tom were a born student and of a serious order of mind, I could not advise his parents to devote him to the Church.’

Something like a blank fell on Tom’s mother at the emphatic closure of the reverend cousin’s speech. She had hoped that Tom might have gone to Oxford, as other grammar-school boys had done, and thence to some pretty rectory as a rural parson. While she sat in silent depression, the rest of the company talked in little knots, until the reverend president stopped them by saying: ‘Now, Uncle John, I call upon you. No one is better able to say if the law promises fame and fortune for the rising generation, as it has done for the past generations since Cicero’s time. Shall we make Tom an attorney or a barrister?’

‘I am flattered by the manner you esteem my humble abilities,’ answered Uncle John. ‘It is a strange coincidence of thought. I have also come down from town expressly to deprecate the putting of our young hopeful to my profession. I believed I could lay my reasons before my brother and his good wife better by a few spoken words, than by any extent of correspondence; so I took an early train. Tom must not be a lawyer. Why, I proceed as briefly as I can to explain. First, the profession is more crowded than the market-place. Second, the crowd is daily increasing, because almost every family of the middle classes that has thriven during the past twenty or thirty years is sending a boy into a solicitor’s office. The business is supposed to be very lucrative, and it is esteemed highly respectable, which allures the parvenu mind. As to the fiction of the law being a lucrative pursuit, I cannot understand how it originated, still less how it is maintained. A few solicitors, with quite exceptional luck and good connections, may attain to opulence. But the rank and file of the profession merely earn a decent livelihood. If you want to know what fortune does for lawyers in England, read the reports of wills and bequests in the newspapers. While these are telling us of manufacturing, banking, and trading millionaires dying in all parts of the country, they rarely record the demise of a lawyer worth twenty thousand pounds. No, no; the law is not a money-making trade. But it will be still less so, and that is why I warn Tom’s parents against it.

‘Let me elaborate a little. Since I was put on the rolls, Law Reform, as it is pleasantly called by certain politicians, has been hacking away at our fees continually, until now, certain branches of the profession are no longer remunerative at all. County courts, for instance, have deprived me of hundreds a year. The Judicature Act has damaged my practice still more seriously. However, I am not here to dwell upon my own misfortunes, but to prevent my nephew Tom from having worse, by following in my footsteps. Past law reforms are trifles to what are coming! In a few years, the most respectable and valuable department of my profession will be simply worthless. I refer to conveyancing. Even now, it is sadly shorn of its former profitableness. Soon it will be non est. Registration of titles is bound to come; with it goes the old system of mortgage deeds and all the costly methods of land transfer. As in America and the colonies, the transfer of real estate will be merely the business of government officials, and the vendor and purchaser; lawyers will be eliminated from such transactions altogether. Then, as regards commercial cases—Chambers of Commerce will go on with their simple methods of arbitration and conciliation, until at last the courts will hear no more of traders’ contentions than if such did not exist.

‘Last and worst of all, there is growing a steady abhorrence of legal conflicts in all ranks and classes. When I was apprenticed, even the poorest fellow would rush into law against a neighbour or relative with the greatest confidence; ay, and be ruined with a sort of grim satisfaction. In those days, everybody delighted in law. Now, if I am not vastly wide of the mark, men will submit to the rankest frauds and personal assaults as meekly as the most abject Asiatics. Yes, really, the English race, once litigious to a degree, is positively afraid of entering upon the most trumpery suit in the inferior courts. Finally, the lowest of our business, that of the criminal courts, is dwindling into insignificance. Judges are holiday-making in maiden assizes all over the country; police stipendiaries are becoming sinecurists; and as soon as the teetotalers have made another million{383} or two of converts, the income of legal men from criminals will be nil. What with popular education, milder manners, law reforms, land reforms, and the rest, no man would think of putting a youngster into the fast decaying legal profession.’

Uncle John spoke with such evident and crushing sincerity that Tom’s father and mother uttered a simultaneous groan as he finished; and for a few minutes something like consternation kept all silent.

But the reverend president did not forget his duty, and afterwards resumed in these terms: ‘My dear friends, I am sure we are all greatly indebted to Uncle John for his luminous remarks upon the actual and coming condition of the profession, of which he is so distinguished a member. Of course, our dear Tom cannot be a lawyer. Let us therefore proceed with our deliberations into another professional avenue; after the Law, Medicine comes, according to established usage. Tell us, therefore, my dear doctor, why you do not think of devoting Tom to your own pursuit. Of that, you must have far clearer and more accurate knowledge than any other person here present. Knowing how hopeless the Church and the Law are, do you not think it best to train Tom to succeed to your own practice?’

‘I certainly am greatly surprised at what I have just heard of the degenerate state of two noble professions,’ said Tom’s father; ‘indeed, I may express myself as stunned by the revelations. Yet, I do not think that the future of the Church and the Law is so discouraging as that of Medicine. If I saw the ghost of a prospect for my boy as a doctor, I would not have put you to the trouble you have so kindly taken to come here and advise me. It is my solemn conviction that in a few years general practitioners in medicine—and that means ninety-nine out of every hundred doctors in this country—will not gain salt. A few men of supreme ability in medicine will have that department of the profession to themselves; a few more will have the surgical. For the good old family doctor, there will be no place in the new house that John Bull is going to build.—You smile, dear friends, at my simile; but the prospect is not amusing to me. Uncle John tells us that his profession is crowded, and that “the cry is still they come.” Yes, but they are men that come to the Law; whereas, women are swarming into our profession. Think of that, good folks! Realise what it means for the men-doctors of the next generation. All our practice among children and women will go to the doctoresses, as a matter of course. Women are naturally fitted for attending upon their own sex, and are, if truly feminine, born medicos. Now that they have proved themselves equal to all the tests of the continental dissecting-rooms and to brazen out the lectures, and now that they are taking such brilliant degrees, I, for one, throw up the game, and say, place aux dames!

‘Just think! there are nearly a million more women than men in these happy islands, and they are all bound to live. And accentuate the thought by my assurance that there is no one so ambitious and remorseless in professional competition as a clever woman! While our male medical students are dissipating, idling, fooling, as they have always done since Hippocrates’ days, their lady rivals are preparing to puzzle a John Hunter, a Claude Bernard, a Bichat, or any savant living or dead. I prophesy that, before the end of this century, women will sit in most of the high places of the medical profession. They have keener wits than men; they are more moral, more industrious, and more sympathetic. But I leave this part of the subject for another and more discouraging still—people are beginning to be their own doctors! When I was a young man, few persons were bold enough to quack themselves. Now; there are millions swallowing homeopathic pills and tinctures, and diagnosing their own ailments themselves! Add to them the other millions who feed themselves on patent medicines, and, I tell you, the field of operation is alarmingly diminishing for doctors of either sex. Nor have I yet unfolded more than a fraction of my sorrowful tale. Other multitudes, who, by all that is fair in social life, instead of following the good old plan of sending for the doctor when they have eaten, drunk, and worked, or pleasured too freely, now bolt away to some hydropathic palace, and positively turn a fit of sickness into a spell of luxury! Talk about the Sybarites of old! Go rather and look at our own, “packed,” shampooed, handled, dandled, and fondled in the vast number of our hydropathic “Halls of Idleness” and sensuous convalescing sanatoria! Do not stay to deplore these lapses from the stern old British methods of phlebotomy, leeching, purging, and partaking of all that was nauseous, but receive my most startling confidence—the public don’t believe in us as of old!

‘You, my reverend cousin, have dissuaded us from educating Tom for your own profession; but that profession is still better than mine, for your benefice will benefit you to the end of life, while my fees are growing so steadily less that they will soon touch zero. You, Uncle John, draw a fearful picture of a non-litigious England; and I felt for you as you drew it. Yet my clients are still more pig-headed. Yours won’t go to law; mine won’t go to the doctor. Yes, I have at last reached the nethermost depth—the public will not sicken as it used to do. When I was walking the hospitals, zymotics were as regular as the tides; and all the year round, fevers and agues went their profitable course. Everybody had a bad cold at least once in the winter. Gout and rheumatism were solid annuities to most of us. Broken limbs were fairly common in most families. In short, as the proverb ran, “the doctor was never out of the house.” Alas, all that has gone! People take such ridiculous care of themselves; “sanitation” is the chatter of every nincompoop; and the fuss about clean cowsheds, pure water, pure air, and the rest, is cutting off the doctor’s income at the roots.—Have I said enough, dear friends, to prove to you that Tom cannot be a doctor?’

Tom’s father fell into his chair overcome with his own rhetoric; Tom’s mother furtively wiped two tributary tears from her eyes; the reverend cousin looked at the ceiling inquiringly; Uncle John frowned sardonically.

Uncle Lucas, the farmer, who had listened in{384} puzzled bewilderment to the recitals of his relatives, now got leisurely on to his feet, and broke in thus: ‘Well, well, it’s all over with gentlefolks, too, it seems to me. I thought that everybody was thriving but the poor farmers, and now I learn that our betters are no better off than ourselves! When our father made me a farmer against my inclination, I thought he was unfair. He had made you elder lads into gentlemen, and I felt slighted at being left among clodpolls in the village. But I begin to think I shall have the best of it after all. I am in no trouble to find careers for my two lads and three lassies. Since the labourers have begun to skulk over their work and to ask twice as much wages, I have taken the lads to help me. Well, we’ve pulled through a troublesome and disheartening time; and what’s more, we’ve learned a lot. I tell you, we’ve found out how to make farming pay—by doing it ourselves, the lads in the fields, and the girls in the house and dairy. We’ve had to take hold of the rough end of the stick, truly. The girls had to give up many of the fal-lals that young ladies learn at boarding-school; and the boys had to wear corduroy and hobnailed shoes. But they are none the worse for the case-hardening they’ve got. Finer lads don’t live in the shire; and as to the girls, they’re as blithe as the birds; and that, I reckon, is as good a test of contentment as you can get.—Now, brother doctor, let me advise you what to do with your son Tom. The Church, the Law, and Medicine all shut their doors in his face. Open the gate of a field and turn him in to pick up what pasture he can find; and my word for it, he’ll not die of hunger. Look at his big limbs and his love of action! Why, he is built for a husbandman. Even if you could put him to some gentlemanly way of making a living in town, he would not be so happy and so healthy as in the country. When he comes to spend a few days with us, the lad is in his element, and works with his cousins right handily. Put him in a field, brother, put him in a field.’

Uncle Lucas quite astonished his more cultured relatives by his long speech; still more, by the almost pathetic earnestness of his appeal.

The reverend cousin, who had smiled compassionately at the rude beginning of the harangue, grew attentive as it went on; and at the end, clapped his hands approvingly. ‘Bravo, Uncle Lucas!’ he cried; ‘thou art the one wise man amongst us.—A farmer let Tom be, doctor. Churches may fall, legal systems vanish, the healing art be substituted by universal hygiene, but the tillage of the land must ever demand tillers. During the period of change that has set in so strongly, let us see what remains least affected by the mutations of time and circumstance. While man lives on the earth he must eat; and the purveyor of food, therefore, has a first lien upon all the productions of society. It flashed into my mind, as Uncle Lucas was speaking, that perhaps the greatest result of all the metamorphoses going on will be the sublimation of husbandry. From the beginning, it has been regarded as an inferior career, and has to a certain degree been shunned. The age of Feudalism has gone; the age of Gentility is going; the real age of Utility is coming. When it is established, the husbandman will be duly honoured and duly rewarded, as the pre-eminent citizen, as the venerated conduit through whose limbs and brain that daily bread flows for which we are bidden to pray.’

A pause followed, during which Tom’s father began to smile hopefully, and his mother regained serenity.

‘We educated men,’ said the reverend cousin, concluding the business, ‘have not done our duty by your class, Uncle Lucas. We have kept our intellectual children from your business, to the great retardation of agricultural science. Now that the professions are no longer profitable, we shall send some of our best youth to your pursuits. We will begin with Tom. In the fields, he will find a career open to every talent that providence has endowed him with.’

Uncle Lucas prevailed, and Tom ‘was turned into a field.’ What the result will be in these times of agricultural depression, is a thing of the future.



In the far village by the shining sea,
Where the white sails, snow-gleaming in the light,
Creep up the tidal river to the quay,
And land the glistening captures of the night;
At the shading to a close
Of the brightness of the day,
Have you forgotten, Lady Rose,
Our meeting on the lonely way?


Beyond the dreamy townlet, where the trees
With linkèd branches, golden shadows spread;
Where sweet wind-flowers bend before the breeze,
And many an arum lifts her hooded head;
Where the early primrose blows,
Long we lingered, loth to part:
Have you forgotten, Lady Rose,
Our earnest converse, heart to heart?


The mossy stonework of the ancient span
That bridged the clear brown waters of the stream,
Where round the stepping-stones the eddies ran,
And slipped away with many a sunny gleam.
Still beside the river grows
Starry-eyed forget-me-not:
Have you forgotten, Lady Rose,
The drooping, faintly coloured knot?


In the home-garden, where the ivy crept
Around the ruined coping of the wall,
When in mine own, your trembling hand I kept,
And in the silence heard the night-bird’s call.
Drear and cold the evening’s close,
Sorrow of an adverse fate:
Have you forgotten, Lady Rose,
That parting by the wicket gate?
C. A. Dawson.

Printed and Published by W. & R. Chambers, 47 Paternoster Row, London, and 339 High Street, Edinburgh.

All Rights Reserved.