But now behold me and my now intimate and beloved friend, Crossthwaite, with nothing to do—a gentlemanlike occupation; but, unfortunately, in our class, involving starvation. What was to be done? We applied for work at several "honourable shops"; but at all we received the same answer. Their trade was decreasing—the public ran daily more and more to the cheap show-shops—and they themselves were forced, in order to compete with these latter, to put more and more of their work out at contract prices. Facilis descensus Averni! Having once been hustled out of the serried crowd of competing workmen, it was impossible to force our way in again. So, a week or ten days past, our little stocks of money were exhausted. I was down-hearted at once; but Crossthwaite bore up gaily enough.
"Katie and I can pick a crust together without snarling over it. And, thank God, I have no children, and never intend to have, if I can keep true to myself, till the good times come."
"Oh! Crossthwaite, are not children a blessing?"
"Would they be a blessing to me now? No, my lad.—Let those bring slaves into the world who will! I will never beget children to swell the numbers of those who are trampling each other down in the struggle for daily bread, to minister in ever deepening poverty and misery to the rich man's luxury—perhaps his lust."
"Then you believe in the Malthusian doctrines?"
"I believe them to be an infernal lie, Alton Locke; though good and wise people like Miss Martineau may sometimes be deluded into preaching them. I believe there's room on English soil for twice the number there is now; and when we get the Charter we'll prove it; we'll show that God meant living human heads and hands to be blessings and not curses, tools and not burdens. But in such times as these, let those who have wives be as though they had none—as St. Paul said, when he told his people under the Roman Emperor to be above begetting slaves and martyrs. A man of the people should keep himself as free from encumbrances as he can just now. He win find it all the more easy to dare and suffer for the people, when their turn comes—"
And he set his teeth, firmly, almost savagely.
"I think I can earn a few shillings, now and then, by writing for a paper I know of. If that won't do, I must take up agitating for a trade, and live by spouting, as many a Tory member as well as Radical ones do. A man may do worse, for he may do nothing. At all events, my only chance now is to help on the Charter; for the sooner it comes the better for me. And if I die—why, the little woman won't be long in coming after me, I know that well; and there's a tough business got well over for both of us!"
"Hech," said Sandy,
"To every man Death comes but once a life—
"as my countryman, Mr. Macaulay, says, in thae gran' Roman ballants o' his. But for ye, Alton, laddie, ye're owre young to start off in the People's Church Meelitant, sae just bide wi' me, and the barrel o' meal in the corner there winna waste, nae mair than it did wi' the widow o' Zareptha; a tale which coincides sae weel wi' the everlasting righteousness, that I'm at times no inclined to consider it a'thegither mythical."
But I, with thankfulness which vented itself through my eyes, finding my lips alone too narrow for it, refused to eat the bread of idleness.
"Aweel, then, ye'll just mind the shop, and dust the books whiles; I'm getting auld and stiff, and ha' need o' help i' the business."
"No," I said; "you say so out of kindness; but if you can afford no greater comforts than these, you cannot afford to keep me in addition to yourself."
"Hech, then! How do ye ken that the auld Scot eats a' he makes? I was na born the spending side o' Tweed, my man. But gin ye daur, why dinna ye pack up your duds, and yer poems wi' them, and gang till your cousin i' the university? he'll surely put you in the way o' publishing them. He's bound to it by blude; and there's na shame in asking him to help you towards reaping the fruits o' yer ain labours. A few punds on a bond for repayment when the addition was sauld, noo,—I'd do that for mysel; but I'm thinking ye'd better try to get a list o' subscribers. Dinna mind your independence; it's but spoiling the Egyptians, ye ken, and the bit ballants will be their money's worth, I'll warrant, and tell them a wheen facts they're no that weel acquentit wi'. Hech? Johnnie, my Chartist?"
"Why not go to my uncle?"
"Puir sugar-and-spice-selling bailie body! is there aught in his ledger about poetry, and the incommensurable value o' the products o' genius? Gang till the young scholar; he's a canny one, too, and he'll ken it to be worth his while to fash himsel a wee anent it."
So I packed up my little bundle, and lay awake all that night in a fever of expectation about the as yet unknown world of green fields and woods through which my road to Cambridge lay.
"THE YARD WHERE THE GENTLEMEN LIVE."
I may be forgiven, surely, if I run somewhat into detail about this my first visit to the country.
I had, as I have said before, literally never been further afield than Fulham or Battersea Rise. One Sunday evening, indeed, I had got as far as Wandsworth Common; but it was March, and, to my extreme disappointment, the heath was not in flower.
But, usually, my Sundays had been spent entirely in study; which to me was rest, so worn out were both my body and my mind with the incessant drudgery of my trade, and the slender fare to which I restricted myself. Since I had lodged with Mackaye certainly my food had been better. I had not required to stint my appetite for money wherewith to buy candles, ink, and pens. My wages, too, had increased with my years, and altogether I found myself gaining in strength, though I had no notion how much I possessed till I set forth on this walk to Cambridge.
It was a glorious morning at the end of May; and when. I escaped from the pall of smoke which hung over the city, I found the sky a sheet of cloudless blue. How I watched for the ending of the rows of houses, which lined the road for miles—the great roots of London, running far out into the country, up which poured past me an endless stream of food and merchandise and human beings—the sap of the huge metropolitan life-tree! How each turn of the road opened a fresh line of terraces or villas, till hope deferred made the heart sick, and the country seemed—like the place where the rainbow touches the ground, or the El Dorado of Raleigh's Guiana settler—always a little farther off! How between gaps in the houses, right and left, I caught tantalizing glimpses of green fields, shut from me by dull lines of high-spiked palings! How I peeped through gates and over fences at trim lawns and gardens, and longed to stay, and admire, and speculate on the name of the strange plants and gaudy flowers; and then hurried on, always expecting to find something still finer ahead—something really worth stopping to look at—till the houses thickened again into a street, and I found myself, to my disappointment, in the midst of a town! And then more villas and palings; and then a village;—when would they stop, those endless houses?
At last they did stop. Gradually the people whom I passed began to look more and more rural, and more toil-worn and ill-fed. The houses ended, cattle-yards and farm-buildings appeared; and right and left, far away, spread the low rolling sheet of green meadows and cornfields. Oh, the joy! The lawns with their high elms and firs, the green hedgerows, the delicate hue and scent of the fresh clover-fields, the steep clay banks where I stopped to pick nosegays of wild flowers, and became again a child,—and then recollected my mother, and a walk with her on the river bank towards the Red House—and hurried on again, but could not be unhappy, while my eyes ranged free, for the first time in my life, over the chequered squares of cultivation, over glittering brooks, and hills quivering in the green haze, while above hung the skylarks, pouring out their souls in melody. And then, as the sun grew hot, and the larks dropped one by one into the growing corn, the new delight of the blessed silence! I listened to the stillness; for noise had been my native element; I had become in London quite unconscious of the ceaseless roar of the human sea, casting up mire and dirt. And now, for the first time in my life, the crushing, confusing hubbub had flowed away, and left my brain calm and free. How I felt at that moment a capability of clear, bright meditation, which was as new to me, as I believe it would have been to most Londoners in my position. I cannot help fancying that our unnatural atmosphere of excitement, physical as well as moral, is to blame for very much of the working man's restlessness and fierceness. As it was, I felt that every step forward, every breath of fresh air, gave me new life. I had gone fifteen miles before I recollected that, for the first time for many months, I had not coughed since I rose.
So on I went, down the broad, bright road, which seemed to beckon me forward into the unknown expanses of human life.
The world was all before me, where to choose,
and I saw it both with my eyes and my imagination, in the temper of a boy broke loose from school. My heart kept holiday. I loved and blessed the birds which flitted past me, and the cows which lay dreaming on the sward. I recollect stopping with delight at a picturesque descent into the road, to watch a nursery-garden, full of roses of every shade, from brilliant yellow to darkest purple; and as I wondered at the innumerable variety of beauties which man's art had developed from a few poor and wild species, it seemed to me the most delightful life on earth, to follow in such a place the primaeval trade of gardener Adam; to study the secrets of the flower-world, the laws of soil and climate; to create new species, and gloat over the living fruit of one's own science and perseverance. And then I recollected the tailor's shop, and the Charter, and the starvation, and the oppression which I had left behind, and ashamed of my own selfishness, went hurrying on again.
At last I came to a wood—the first real wood that I had ever seen; not a mere party of stately park trees growing out of smooth turf, but a real wild copse; tangled branches and grey stems fallen across each other; deep, ragged underwood of shrubs, and great ferns like princes' feathers, and gay beds of flowers, blue and pink and yellow, with butterflies flitting about them, and trailers that climbed and dangled from bough to bough—a poor, commonplace bit of copse, I dare say, in the world's eyes, but to me a fairy wilderness of beautiful forms, mysterious gleams and shadows, teeming with manifold life. As I stood looking wistfully over the gate, alternately at the inviting vista of the green-embroidered path, and then at the grim notice over my head, "All trespassers prosecuted," a young man came up the ride, dressed in velveteen jacket and leather gaiters, sufficiently bedrabbled with mud. A fishing-rod and basket bespoke him some sort of destroyer, and I saw in a moment that he was "a gentleman." After all, there is such a thing as looking like a gentleman. There are men whose class no dirt or rags could hide, any more than they could Ulysses. I have seen such men in plenty among workmen, too; but, on the whole, the gentlemen—by whom I do not mean just now the rich—have the superiority in that point. But not, please God, for ever. Give us the same air, water, exercise, education, good society, and you will see whether this "haggardness," this "coarseness," &c., &c., for the list is too long to specify, be an accident, or a property, of the man of the people.
"May I go into your wood?" asked I at a venture, curiosity conquering pride.
"Well! what do you want there, my good fellow?"
"To see what a wood is like—I never was in one in my life."
"Humph! well—you may go in for that, and welcome. Never was in a wood in his life—poor devil!"
"Thank you!" quoth I. And I slowly clambered over the gate. He put his hand carelessly on the top rail, vaulted over it like a deer, and then turned to stare at me.
"Hullo! I say—I forgot—don't go far in, or ramble up and down, or you'll disturb the pheasants."
I thanked him again for what license he had given me—went in, and lay down by the path-side.
Here, I suppose, by the rules of modern art, a picturesque description of the said wood should follow; but I am the most incompetent person in the world to write it. And, indeed, the whole scene was so novel to me, that I had no time to analyse; I could only enjoy. I recollect lying on my face and fingering over the delicately cut leaves of the weeds, and wondering whether the people who lived in the country thought them as wonderful and beautiful as I did;—and then I recollected the thousands whom I had left behind, who, like me, had never seen the green face of God's earth; and the answer of the poor gamin in St. Giles's, who, when he was asked what the country was, answered, "The yard where the gentlemen live when they go out of town"—significant that, and pathetic;—then I wondered whether the time would ever come when society would be far enough advanced to open to even such as he a glimpse, if it were only once a year, of the fresh, clean face of God's earth;—and then I became aware of a soft mysterious hum, above and around me, and turned on my back to look whence it proceeded, and saw the leaves gold-green and transparent in the sunlight, quivering against the deep heights of the empyrean blue; and hanging in the sunbeams that pierced the foliage, a thousand insects, like specks of fire, that poised themselves motionless on thrilling wings, and darted away, and returned to hang motionless again;—and I wondered what they eat, and whether they thought about anything, and whether they enjoyed the sunlight;—and then that brought back to me the times when I used to lie dreaming in my crib on summer mornings, and watched the flies dancing reels between me and the ceilings;—and that again brought the thought of Susan and my mother; and I prayed for them—not sadly—I could not be sad there;—and prayed that we might all meet again some day and live happily together; perhaps in the country, where I could write poems in peace; and then, by degrees, my sentences and thoughts grew incoherent, and in happy, stupid animal comfort, I faded away into a heavy sleep, which lasted an hour or more, till I was awakened by the efforts of certain enterprising great black and red ants, who were trying to found a small Algeria in my left ear.
I rose and left the wood, and a gate or two on, stopped again to look at the same sportsman fishing in a clear silver brook. I could not help admiring with a sort of childish wonder the graceful and practised aim with which he directed his tiny bait, and called up mysterious dimples on the surface, which in a moment increased to splashings and stragglings of a great fish, compelled, as if by some invisible spell, to follow the point of the bending rod till he lay panting on the bank. I confess, in spite of all my class prejudices against "game-preserving aristocrats," I almost envied the man; at least I seemed to understand a little of the universally attractive charms which those same outwardly contemptible field sports possess; the fresh air, fresh fields and copses, fresh running brooks, the exercise, the simple freedom, the excitement just sufficient to keep alive expectation and banish thought.—After all, his trout produced much the same mood in him as my turnpike-road did in me. And perhaps the man did not go fishing or shooting every day. The laws prevented him from shooting, at least, all the year round; so sometimes there might be something in which he made himself of use. An honest, jolly face too he had—not without thought and strength in it. "Well, it is a strange world," said I to myself, "where those who can, need not; and those who cannot, must!"
Then he came close to the gate, and I left it just in time to see a little group arrive at it—a woman of his own rank, young, pretty, and simply dressed, with a little boy, decked out as a Highlander, on a shaggy Shetland pony, which his mother, as I guessed her to be, was leading. And then they all met, and the little fellow held up a basket of provisions to his father, who kissed him across the gate, and hung his creel of fish behind the saddle, and patted the mother's shoulder, as she looked up lovingly and laughingly in his face. Altogether, a joyous, genial bit of—Nature? Yes, Nature. Shall I grudge simple happiness to the few, because it is as yet, alas! impossible for the many.
And yet the whole scene contrasted so painfully with me—with my past, my future, my dreams, my wrongs, that I could not look at it; and with a swelling heart I moved on—all the faster because I saw they were looking at me and talking of me, and the fair wife threw after me a wistful, pitying glance, which I was afraid might develop itself into some offer of food or money—a thing which I scorned and dreaded, because it involved the trouble of a refusal.
Then, as I walked on once more, my heart smote me. If they had wished to be kind, why had I grudged them the opportunity of a good deed? At all events, I might have asked their advice. In a natural and harmonious state, when society really means brotherhood, a man could go up to any stranger, to give and receive, if not succour, yet still experience and wisdom: and was I not bound to tell them what I knew? was sure that they did not know? Was I not bound to preach the cause of my class wherever I went? Here were kindly people who, for aught I knew, would do right the moment they were told where it was wanted; if there was an accursed artificial gulf between their class and mine, had I any right to complain of it, as long as I helped to keep it up by my false pride and surly reserve? No! I would speak my mind henceforth—I would testify of what I saw and knew of the wrongs, if not of the rights of the artisan, before whomsoever I might come. Oh! valiant conclusion of half an hour's self-tormenting scruples! How I kept it, remains to be shown.
I really fear that I am getting somewhat trivial and prolix; but there was hardly an incident in my two days' tramp which did not give me some small fresh insight into the terra incognita of the country; and there may be those among my readers, to whom it is not uninteresting to look, for once, at even the smallest objects with a cockney workman's eyes.
Well, I trudged on—and the shadows lengthened, and I grew footsore and tired; but every step was new, and won me forward with fresh excitement for my curiosity.
At one village I met a crowd of little, noisy, happy boys and girls pouring out of a smart new Gothic school-house. I could not resist the temptation of snatching a glance through the open door. I saw on the walls maps, music, charts, and pictures. How I envied those little urchins! A solemn, sturdy elder, in a white cravat, evidently the parson of the parish, was patting children's heads, taking down names, and laying down the law to a shrewd, prim young schoolmaster.
Presently, as I went up the village, the clergyman strode past me, brandishing a thick stick and humming a chant, and joined a motherly-looking wife, who, basket on arm, was popping in and out of the cottages, looking alternately serious and funny, cross and kindly—I suppose, according to the sayings and doings of the folks within.
"Come," I thought, "this looks like work at least." And as I went out of the village, I accosted a labourer, who was trudging my way, fork on shoulder, and asked him if that was the parson and his wife?
I was surprised at the difficulty with which I got into conversation with the man; at his stupidity, feigned or real, I could not tell which; at the dogged, suspicious reserve with which he eyed me, and asked me whether I was "one of they parts"? and whether I was a Londoner, and what I wanted on the tramp, and so on, before he seemed to think it safe to answer a single question. He seemed, like almost every labourer I ever met, to have something on his mind; to live in a state of perpetual fear and concealment. When, however, he found I was both a cockney and a passer-by, he began to grow more communicative, and told me, "Ees—that were the parson, sure enough."
"And what sort of a man was he?"
"Oh! he was a main kind man to the poor; leastwise, in the matter of visiting 'em, and praying with 'em, and getting 'em to put into clubs, and such like; and his lady too. Not that there was any fault to find with the man about money—but 'twasn't to be expected of him."
"Why, was he not rich?"
"Oh, rich enough to the likes of us. But his own tithes here arn't more than a thirty pounds we hears tell; and if he hadn't summat of his own, he couldn't do not nothing by the poor; as it be, he pays for that ere school all to his own pocket, next part. All the rest o' the tithes goes to some great lord or other—they say he draws a matter of a thousand a year out of the parish, and not a foot ever he sot into it; and that's the way with a main lot o' parishes, up and down."
This was quite a new fact to me. "And what sort of folks were the parsons all round."
"Oh, some of all sorts, good and bad. About six and half a dozen. There's two or three nice young gentlemen come'd round here now, but they're all what's-'em-a-call it?—some sort o' papishes;—leastwise, they has prayers in the church every day, and doesn't preach the Gospel, no how, I hears by my wife, and she knows all about it, along of going to meeting. Then there's one over thereaway, as had to leave his living—he knows why. He got safe over seas. If he had been a poor man, he'd been in * * * * * gaol, safe enough, and soon enough. Then there's two or three as goes a-hunting—not as I sees no harm in that; if a man's got plenty of money, he ought to enjoy himself, in course: but still he can't be here and there too, to once. Then there's two or three as is bad in their healths, or thinks themselves so—or else has livings summer' else; and they lives summer' or others, and has curates. Main busy chaps is they curates, always, and wonderful hands to preach; but then, just as they gets a little knowing like at it, and folks gets to like 'em, and run to hear 'em, off they pops to summat better; and in course they're right to do so; and so we country-folks get nought but the young colts, afore they're broke, you see."
"And what sort of a preacher was his parson?"
"Oh, he preached very good Gospel, not that he went very often himself, acause he couldn't make out the meaning of it; he preached too high, like. But his wife said it was uncommon good Gospel; and surely when he come to visit a body, and talked plain English, like, not sermon-ways, he was a very pleasant man to heer, and his lady uncommon kind to nurse folk. They sot up with me and my wife, they two did, two whole nights, when we was in the fever, afore the officer could get us a nurse."
"Well," said I, "there are some good parsons left."
"Oh, yes; there's some very good ones—each one after his own way; and there'd be more on 'em, if they did but know how bad we labourers was off. Why bless ye, I mind when they was very different. A new parson is a mighty change for the better, mostwise, we finds. Why, when I was a boy, we never had no schooling. And now mine goes and learns singing and jobrafy, and ciphering, and sich like. Not that I sees no good in it. We was a sight better off in the old times, when there weren't no schooling. Schooling harn't made wages rise, nor preaching neither."
"But surely," I said, "all this religious knowledge ought to give you comfort, even if you are badly off."
"Oh! religion's all very well for them as has time for it; and a very good thing—we ought all to mind our latter end. But I don't see how a man can hear sermons with an empty belly; and there's so much to fret a man, now, and he's so cruel tired coming home o' nights, he can't nowise go to pray a lot, as gentlefolks does."
"But are you so ill off?"
"Oh! he'd had a good harvesting enough; but then he owed all that for he's rent; and he's club money wasn't paid up, nor he's shop. And then, with he's wages"—(I forget the sum—under ten shillings)—"how could a man keep his mouth full, when he had five children! And then, folks is so unmarciful—I'll just tell you what they says to me, now, last time I was over at the board—"
And thereon he rambled off into a long jumble of medical-officers, and relieving-officers, and Farmer This, and Squire That, which indicated a mind as ill-educated as discontented. He cursed or rather grumbled at—for he had not spirit, it seemed, to curse anything—the New Poor Law; because it "ate up the poor, flesh and bone";—bemoaned the "Old Law," when "the Vestry was forced to give a man whatsomdever he axed for, and if they didn't, he'd go to the magistrates and make 'em, and so sure as a man got a fresh child, he went and got another loaf allowed him next vestry, like a Christian;"—and so turned through a gate, and set to work forking up some weeds on a fallow, leaving me many new thoughts to digest.
That night, I got to some town or other, and there found a night's lodging, good enough for a walking traveller.
When I started again next morning, I found myself so stiff and footsore, that I could hardly put one leg before the other, much less walk upright. I was really quite in despair, before the end of the first mile; for I had no money to pay for a lift on the coach, and I knew, besides, that they would not be passing that way for several hours to come. So, with aching back and knees, I made shift to limp along, bent almost double, and ended by sitting down for a couple of hours, and looking about me, in a country which would have seemed dreary enough, I suppose, to any one but a freshly-liberated captive, such as I was. At last I got up and limped on, stiffer than ever from my rest, when a gig drove past me towards Cambridge, drawn by a stout cob, and driven by a tall, fat, jolly-looking farmer, who stared at me as he passed, went on, looked back, slackened his pace, looked back again, and at last came to a dead stop, and hailed me in a broad nasal dialect—
"Whor be ganging, then, boh?"
"Thew'st na git there that gate. Be'est thee honest man?"
"I hope so," said I, somewhat indignantly.
"A tailor," I said.
"Tailor!—guide us! Tailor a-tramp? Barn't accoostomed to tramp, then?"
"I never was out of London before," said I, meekly—for I was too worn-out to be cross—lengthy and impertinent as this cross-examination seemed.
"Oi'll gie thee lift; dee yow joomp in. Gae on, powney! Tailor, then! Oh! ah! tailor, saith he."
I obeyed most thankfully, and sat crouched together, looking up out of the corner of my eyes at the huge tower of broad-cloth by my side, and comparing the two red shoulders of mutton which held the reins, with my own wasted, white, woman-like fingers.
I found the old gentleman most inquisitive. He drew out of me all my story—questioned me about the way "Lunnon folks" lived, and whether they got ony shooting or "pattening"—whereby I found he meant skating—and broke in, every now and then, with ejaculations of childish wonder, and clumsy sympathy, on my accounts of London labour and London misery.
"Oh, father, father!—I wonders they bears it. Us'n in the fens wouldn't stand that likes. They'd roit, and roit, and roit, and tak' oot the dook-gunes to un—they would, as they did five-and-twenty year agone. Never to goo ayond the housen!—never to go ayond the housen! Kill me in a three months, that would—bor', then!"
"Are you a farmer?" I asked, at last, thinking that my turn for questioning was come.
"I bean't varmer; I be yooman born. Never paid rent in moy life, nor never wool. I farms my own land, and my vathers avore me, this ever so mony hoondred year. I've got the swoord of 'em to home, and the helmet that they fut with into the wars, then when they chopped off the king's head—what was the name of um?"
"Charles the First?"
"Ees—that's the booy. We was Parliament side—true Britons all we was, down into the fens, and Oliver Cromwell, as dug Botsham lode, to the head of us. Yow coom down to Metholl, and I'll shaw ye a country. I'll shaw 'ee some'at like bullocks to call, and some'at like a field o' beans—I wool,—none o' this here darned ups and downs o' hills" (though the country through which we drove was flat enough, I should have thought, to please any one), "to shake a body's victuals out of his inwards—all so flat as a barn's floor, for vorty mile on end—there's the country to live in!—and vour sons—or was vour on 'em—every one on 'em fifteen stone in his shoes, to patten again' any man from Whit'sea Mere to Denver Sluice, for twenty pounds o' gold; and there's the money to lay down, and let the man as dare cover it, down with his money, and on wi' his pattens, thirteen-inch runners, down the wind, again' either a one o' the bairns!"
And he jingled in his pockets a heavy bag of gold, and winked, and chuckled, and then suddenly checking himself, repeated in a sad, dubious tone, two or three times, "Vour on 'em there was—vour on 'em there was;" and relieved his feelings by springing the pony into a canter till he came to a public-house, where he pulled up, called for a pot of hot ale, and insisted on treating me. I assured him that I never drank fermented liquors.
"Aw? Eh? How can yow do that then? Die o' cowd i' the fen, that gate, yow would. Love ye then! they as dinnot tak' spirits down thor, tak' their pennord o' elevation, then—women-folk especial."
"Oh! ho! ho!—yow goo into druggist's shop o' market-day, into Cambridge, and you'll see the little boxes, doozens and doozens, a' ready on the counter; and never a ven-man's wife goo by, but what calls in for her pennord o' elevation, to last her out the week. Oh! ho! ho! Well, it keeps women-folk quiet, it do; and it's mortal good agin ago pains."
"But what is it?"
"Opium, bor' alive, opium!"
"But doesn't it ruin their health? I should think it the very worst sort of drunkenness."
"Ow, well, yow moi soy that-mak'th 'em cruel thin then, it do; but what can bodies do i' th'ago? Bot it's a bad thing, it is. Harken yow to me. Didst ever know one called Porter, to yowr trade?"
I thought a little, and recollected a man of that name, who had worked with us a year or two before—a great friend of a certain scatter-brained Irish lad, brother of Crossthwaite's wife.
"Well, I did once, but I have lost sight of him twelve months, or more."
The old man faced sharp round on me, swinging the little gig almost over, and then twisted himself back again, and put on a true farmer-like look of dogged, stolid reserve. We rolled on a few minutes in silence.
"Dee yow consider, now, that a mon mought be lost, like, into Lunnon?"
"Why, yow told o' they sweaters—dee yow think a mon might get in wi' one o' they, and they that mought be looking for un not to vind un?"
"I do, indeed. There was a friend of that man Porter got turned away from our shop, because he wouldn't pay some tyrannical fine for being saucy, as they called it, to the shopman; and he went to a sweater's—and then to another; and his friends have been tracking him up and down this six months, and can hear no news of him."
"Aw! guide us! And what'n, think yow, be gone wi' un?"
"I am afraid he has got into one of those dens, and has pawned his clothes, as dozens of them do, for food, and so can't get out."
"Pawned his clothes for victuals! To think o' that, noo! But if he had work, can't he get victuals?"
"Oh!" I said, "there's many a man who, after working seventeen or eighteen hours a day, Sundays and all, without even time to take off his clothes, finds himself brought in in debt to his tyrant at the week's end. And if he gets no work, the villain won't let him leave the house; he has to stay there starving, on the chance of an hour's job. I tell you, I've known half a dozen men imprisoned in that way, in a little dungeon of a garret, where they had hardly room to stand upright, and only just space to sit and work between their beds, without breathing the fresh air, or seeing God's sun, for months together, with no victuals but a few slices of bread-and-butter, and a little slop of tea, twice a day, till they were starved to the very bone."
"Oh, my God! my God!" said the old man, in a voice which had a deeper tone of feeling than mere sympathy with others' sorrow was likely to have produced. There was evidently something behind all these inquiries of his. I longed to ask him if his name, too, was not Porter.
"Aw yow knawn Billy Porter? What was a like? Tell me, now—what was a like, in the Lord's name! what was a like unto?"
"Very tall and bony," I answered.
"Ah! sax feet, and more? and a yard across?—but a was starved, a was a' thin, though, maybe, when yow sawn un?—and beautiful fine hair, hadn't a, like a lass's?"
"The man I knew had red hair," quoth I.
"Ow, ay, an' that it wor, red as a rising sun, and the curls of un like gowlden guineas! And thou knew'st Billy Porter! To think o' that, noo."—
Another long silence.
"Could you find un, dee yow think, noo, into Lunnon? Suppose, now, there was a mon 'ud gie—may be five pund—ten pund—twenty pund, by * * *—twenty pund down, for to ha' him brocht home safe and soun'—Could yow do't, bor'? I zay, could yow do't?"
"I could do it as well without the money as with, if I could do it at all. But have you no guess as to where he is?"
He shook his head sadly.
"We—that's to zay, they as wants un—hav'n't heerd tell of un vor this three year—three year coom Whitsuntide as ever was—" And he wiped his eyes with his cuff.
"If you will tell me all about him, and where he was last heard of, I will do all I can to find him."
"Will ye, noo? will ye? The Lord bless ye for zaying that." And he grasped my hand in his great iron fist, and fairly burst out crying.
"Was he a relation of yours?" I asked, gently.
"My bairn—my bairn—my eldest bairn. Dinnot yow ax me no moor—dinnot then, bor'. Gie on, yow powney, and yow goo leuk vor un."
Another long silence.
"I've a been to Lunnon, looking vor un."
"I went up and down, up and down, day and night, day and night, to all pot-houses as I could zee; vor, says I, he was a'ways a main chap to drink, he was. Oh, deery me! and I never cot zight on un—and noo I be most spent, I be."—
And he pulled up at another public-house, and tried this time a glass of brandy. He stopped, I really think, at every inn between that place and Cambridge, and at each tried some fresh compound; but his head seemed, from habit, utterly fire-proof.
At last, we neared Cambridge, and began to pass groups of gay horsemen, and then those strange caps and gowns—ugly and unmeaning remnant of obsolete fashion.
The old man insisted on driving me up to the gate of * * * College, and there dropped me, after I had given him my address, entreating me to "vind the bairn, and coom to zee him down to Metholl. But dinnot goo ax for Farmer Porter—they's all Porters there away. Yow ax for Wooden-house Bob—that's me; and if I barn't to home, ax for Mucky Billy—that's my brawther—we're all gotten our names down to ven; and if he barn't to home, yow ax for Frog-hall—that's where my sister do live; and they'll all veed ye, and lodge ye, and welcome come. We be all like one, doon in the ven; and do ye, do ye, vind my bairn!" And he trundled on, down the narrow street.
I was soon directed, by various smart-looking servants, to my cousin's rooms; and after a few mistakes, and wandering up and down noble courts and cloisters, swarming with gay young men, whose jaunty air and dress seemed strangely out of keeping with the stem antique solemnity of the Gothic buildings around, I espied my cousin's name over a door; and, uncertain how he might receive me, I gave a gentle, half-apologetic knock, which, was answered by a loud "Come in!" and I entered on a scene, even more incongruous than anything I had seen outside.
"If we can only keep away from Jesus as far as the corner, I don't care."
"If we don't run into that first Trinity before the willows, I shall care with a vengeance."
"If we don't it's a pity," said my cousin. "Wadham ran up by the side of that first Trinity yesterday, and he said that they were as well gruelled as so many posters, before they got to the stile."
This unintelligible, and to my inexperienced ears, irreverent conversation, proceeded from half a dozen powerful young men, in low-crowned sailors' hats and flannel trousers, some in striped jerseys, some in shooting-jackets, some smoking cigars, some beating up eggs in sherry; while my cousin, dressed like "a fancy waterman," sat on the back of a sofa, puffing away at a huge meerschaum.
"Alton! why, what wind on earth has blown you here?"
By the tone, the words seemed rather an inquiry as to what wind would be kind enough to blow me back again. But he recovered his self-possession in a moment.
"Delighted to see you! Where's your portmanteau? Oh—left it at the Bull! Ah! I see. Very well, we'll send the gyp for it in a minute, and order some luncheon. We're just going down to the boat-race. Sorry I can't stop, but we shall all be fined—not a moment to lose. I'll send you in luncheon as I go through the butteries; then, perhaps, you'd like to come down and see the race. Ask the gyp to tell you the way. Now, then, follow your noble captain, gentlemen—to glory and a supper." And he bustled out with his crew.
While I was staring about the room, at the jumble of Greek books, boxing-gloves, and luscious prints of pretty women, a shrewd-faced, smart man entered, much better dressed than myself.
"What would you like, sir? Ox-tail soup, sir, or gravy-soup, sir? Stilton cheese, sir, or Cheshire, sir? Old Stilton, sir, just now."
Fearing lest many words might betray my rank—and, strange to say, though I should not have been afraid of confessing myself an artisan before the "gentlemen" who had just left the room, I was ashamed to have my low estate discovered, and talked over with his compeers, by the flunkey who waited on them—I answered, "Anything—I really don't care," in as aristocratic and off-hand a tone as I could assume.
"Porter or ale, sir?"
"Water," without a "thank you," I am ashamed to say for I was not at that time quite sure whether it was well-bred to be civil to servants.
The man vanished, and reappeared with a savoury luncheon, silver forks, snowy napkins, smart plates—I felt really quite a gentleman.
He gave me full directions as to my "way to the boats, sir;" and I started out much refreshed; passed through back streets, dingy, dirty, and profligate-looking enough; out upon wide meadows, fringed with enormous elms; across a ferry; through a pleasant village, with its old grey church and spire; by the side of a sluggish river, alive with wherries. I had walked down some mile or so, and just as I heard a cannon, as I thought, fire at some distance, and wondered at its meaning, I came to a sudden bend of the river, with a church-tower hanging over the stream on the opposite bank, a knot of tall poplars, weeping willows, rich lawns, sloping down to the water's side, gay with bonnets and shawls; while, along the edge of the stream, light, gaudily-painted boats apparently waited for the race,—altogether the most brilliant and graceful group of scenery which I had beheld in my little travels. I stopped to gaze; and among the ladies on the lawn opposite, caught sight of a figure—my heart leapt into my mouth! Was it she at last? It was too far to distinguish features; the dress was altogether different—but was it not she? I saw her move across the lawn, and take the arm of a tall, venerable-looking man; and his dress was the same as that of the Dean, at the Dulwich Gallery—was it? was it not? To have found her, and a river between us! It was ludicrously miserable—miserably ludicrous. Oh, that accursed river, which debarred me from certainty, from bliss! I would have plunged across—but there were three objections—first, that I could not swim; next, what could I do when I had crossed? and thirdly, it might not be she after all.
And yet I was certain—instinctively certain—that it was she, the idol of my imagination for years. If I could not see her features under that little white bonnet, I could imagine them there; they flashed up in my memory as fresh as ever. Did she remember my features, as I did hers? Would she know me again? Had she ever even thought of me, from that day to this? Fool! But there I stood, fascinated, gazing across the river, heedless of the racing-boats, and the crowd, and the roar that was rushing up to me at the rate of ten miles an hour, and in a moment more, had caught me, and swept me away with it, whether I would or not, along the towing-path, by the side of the foremost boats.
And yet, after a few moments, I ceased to wonder either at the Cambridge passion for boat-racing, or at the excitement of the spectators. "Honi soit qui mal y pense." It was a noble sport—a sight such as could only be seen in England—some hundred of young men, who might, if they had chosen, been lounging effeminately about the streets, subjecting themselves voluntarily to that intense exertion, for the mere pleasure of toil. The true English stuff came out there; I felt that, in spite of all my prejudices—the stuff which has held Gibraltar and conquered at Waterloo—which has created a Birmingham and a Manchester, and colonized every quarter of the globe—that grim, earnest, stubborn energy, which, since the days of the old Romans, the English possess alone of all the nations of the earth. I was as proud of the gallant young fellows as if they had been my brothers—of their courage and endurance (for one could see that it was no child's-play, from the pale faces, and panting lips), their strength and activity, so fierce and yet so cultivated, smooth, harmonious, as oar kept time with oar, and every back rose and fell in concert—and felt my soul stirred up to a sort of sweet madness, not merely by the shouts and cheers of the mob around me, but by the loud fierce pulse of the rowlocks, the swift whispering rush of the long snake-like eight oars, the swirl and gurgle of the water in their wake, the grim, breathless silence of the straining rowers. My blood boiled over, and fierce tears swelled into my eyes; for I, too, was a man, and an Englishman; and when I caught sight of my cousin, pulling stroke to the second boat in the long line, with set teeth and flashing eyes, the great muscles on his bare arms springing up into knots at every rapid stroke, I ran and shouted among the maddest and the foremost.
But I soon tired, and, footsore as I was, began to find my strength fail me. I tried to drop behind, but found it impossible in the press. At last, quite out of breath, I stopped; and instantly received a heavy blow from behind, which threw me on my face; and a fierce voice shouted in my ear, "Confound you, sir! don't you know better than to do that?" I looked up, and saw a man twice as big as myself sprawling over me, headlong down the bank, toward the river, whither I followed him, but alas! not on my feet, but rolling head over heels. On the very brink he stuck his heels into the turf, and stopped dead, amid a shout of, "Well saved, Lynedale!" I did not stop; but rolled into some two-feet water, amid the laughter and shouts of the men.
I scrambled out, and limped on, shaking with wet and pain, till I was stopped by a crowd which filled the towing-path. An eight-oar lay under the bank, and the men on shore were cheering and praising those in the boat for having "bumped," which word I already understood to mean, winning a race.
Among them, close to me, was the tall man who had upset me; and a very handsome, high-bred looking man he was. I tried to slip by, but he recognized me instantly, and spoke.
"I hope I didn't hurt you much, Really, when I spoke so sharply, I did not see that you were not a gownsman!"
The speech, as I suppose now, was meant courteously enough. It indicated that though he might allow himself liberties with men of his own class, he was too well bred to do so with me. But in my anger I saw nothing but the words, "not a gownsman." Why should he see that I was not a gownsman? Because I was shabbier?—(and my clothes, over and above the ducking they had had, were shabby); or more plebeian in appearance (whatsoever that may mean)? or wanted something else, which the rest had about them, and I had not? Why should he know that I was not a gownsman? I did not wish, of course, to be a gentleman, and an aristocrat; but I was nettled, nevertheless, at not being mistaken for one; and answered, sharply enough—
"No matter whether I am hurt or not. It serves me right for getting among you cursed aristocrats."
"Box the cad's ears, Lord Lynedale," said a dirty fellow with a long pole—a cad himself, I should have thought.
"Let him go home and ask his mammy to hang him out to dry," said another.
The lord (for so I understood he was) looked at me with an air of surprise and amusement, which may have been good-natured enough in him, but did not increase the good-nature in me.
"Tut, tut, my good fellow. I really am very sorry for having upset you. Here's half-a-crown to cover damages."
"Better give it me than a muff like that," quoth he of the long pole; while I answered, surlily enough, that I wanted neither him nor his money, and burst through the crowd toward Cambridge. I was so shabby and plebeian, then, that people actually dare offer me money! Intolerable!
The reader may say that I was in a very unwholesome and unreasonable frame of mind.
So I was. And so would he have been in my place.
THE LOST IDOL FOUND.
On my return, I found my cousin already at home, in high spirits at having, as he informed me, "bumped the first Trinity." I excused myself for my dripping state, simply by saying that I had slipped into the river. To tell him the whole of the story, while the fancied insult still rankled fresh in me, was really too disagreeable both to my memory and my pride.
Then came the question, "What had brought me to Cambridge?" I told him all, and he seemed honestly to sympathize with my misfortunes.
"Never mind; we'll make it all right somehow. Those poems of yours—you must let me have them and look over them; and I dare say I shall persuade the governor to do something with them. After all, it's no loss for you; you couldn't have got on tailoring—much too sharp a fellow for that;—you ought to be at college, if one could only get you there. These sizarships, now, were meant for—just such cases as yours—clever fellows who could not afford to educate themselves; if we could only help you to one of them, now—
"You forget that in that case," said I, with something like a sigh, "I should have to become a member of the Church of England."
"Why, no; not exactly. Though, of course, if you want to get all out of the university which you ought to get, you must do so at last."
"And pretend to believe what I do not; for the sake of deserting my own class, and pandering to the very aristocrats, whom—"
"Hullo!" and he jumped with a hoarse laugh. "Stop that till I see whether the door is sported. Why, you silly fellow, what harm have the aristocrats, as you call them, ever done you? Are they not doing you good at this moment? Are you not, by virtue of their aristocratic institutions, nearer having your poems published, your genius recognized, etc. etc., than ever you were before?"
"Aristocrats? Then you call yourself one?"
"No, Alton, my boy; not yet," said he quietly and knowingly. "Not yet: but I have chosen the right road, and shall end at the road's end; and I advise you—for really, as my cousin, I wish you all success, even for the mere credit of the family, to choose the same road likewise."
"Come up to Cambridge, by hook or by crook, and then take orders."
I laughed scornfully.
"My good cousin, it is the only method yet discovered for turning a snob (as I am, or was) into a gentleman; except putting him into a heavy cavalry regiment. My brother, who has no brains, preferred the latter method. I, who flatter myself that I have some, have taken the former." The thought was new and astonishing to me, and I looked at him in silence while he ran on—
"If you are once a parson, all is safe. Be you who you may before, from that moment you are a gentleman. No one will offer an insult. You are good enough for any man's society. You can dine at any nobleman's table. You can be friend, confidant, father confessor, if you like, to the highest women in the land; and if you have person, manners, and common sense, marry one of them into the bargain, Alton, my boy."
"And it is for that that you will sell your soul—to become a hanger-on of the upper classes, in sloth and luxury?"
"Sloth and luxury? Stuff and nonsense! I tell you that after I have taken orders, I shall have years and years of hard work before me; continual drudgery of serving tables, managing charities, visiting, preaching, from morning till night, and after that often from night to morning again. Enough to wear out any but a tough constitution, as I trust mine is. Work, Alton, and hard work, is the only way now-a-days to rise in the Church, as in other professions. My father can buy me a living some day: but he can't buy me success, notoriety, social position, power—" and he stopped suddenly, as if he had been on the point of saying something more which should not have been said.
"And this," I said, "is your idea of a vocation for the sacred ministry? It is for this, that you, brought up a dissenter, have gone over to the Church of England?"
"And how do you know"—and his whole tone of voice changed instantly into what was meant, I suppose, for a gentle seriousness and reverent suavity—"that I am not a sincere member of the Church of England? How do you know that I may not have loftier plans and ideas, though I may not choose to parade them to everyone, and give that which is holy to the dogs?"
"I am the dog, then?" I asked, half amused, for I was too curious about his state of mind to be angry.
"Not at all, my dear fellow. But those great men to whom we (or at least I) owe our conversion to the true Church, always tell us (and you will feel yourself how right they are) not to parade religious feelings; to look upon them as sacred things, to be treated with that due reserve which springs from real reverence. You know, as well as I, whether that is the fashion of the body in which we were, alas! brought up. You know, as well as I, whether the religious conversation of that body has heightened your respect for sacred things."
"I do, too well." And I thought of Mr. Wigginton and my mother's tea parties.
"I dare say the vulgarity of that school has, ere now, shaken your faith in all that was holy?"
I was very near confessing that it had: but a feeling came over me, I knew not why, that my cousin would have been glad to get me into his power, and would therefore have welcomed a confession of infidelity. So I held my tongue.
"I can confess," he said, in the most confidential tone, "that it had for a time that effect on me. I have confessed it, ere now, and shall again and again, I trust. But I shudder to think of what I might have been believing or disbelieving now, if I had not in a happy hour fallen in with Mr. Newman's sermons, and learnt from them, and from his disciples, what the Church of England really was; not Protestant, no; but Catholic in the deepest and highest sense."
"So you are one of these new Tractarians? You do not seem to have adopted yet the ascetic mode of life, which I hear they praise up so highly,"
"My dear Alton, if you have read, as you have, your Bible, you will recollect a text which tells you not to appear to men to fast. What I do or do not do in the way of self-denial, unless I were actually profligate, which I give you my sacred honour I am not, must be a matter between Heaven and myself."
There was no denying that truth; but the longer my cousin talked the less I trusted in him—I had almost said, the less I believed him. Ever since the tone of his voice had changed so suddenly, I liked him less than when he was honestly blurting out his coarse and selfish ambition. I do not think he was a hypocrite. I think he believed what he said, as strongly as he could believe anything. He proved afterwards that he did so, as far as man can judge man, by severe and diligent parish work: but I cannot help doubting at times, if that man ever knew what believing meant. God forgive him! In that, he is no worse than hundreds more who have never felt the burning and shining flame of intense conviction, of some truth rooted in the inmost recesses of the soul, by which a man must live, for which he would not fear to die.
And therefore I listened to him dully and carelessly; I did not care to bring objections, which arose thick and fast, to everything he said. He tried to assure me—and did so with a great deal of cleverness—that this Tractarian movement was not really an aristocratic, but a democratic one; that the Catholic Church had been in all ages the Church of the poor; that the clergy were commissioned by Heaven to vindicate the rights of the people, and to stand between them and the tyranny of Mammon. I did not care to answer him that the "Catholic Church" had always been a Church of slaves, and not of free men; that the clergy had in every age been the enemies of light, of liberty; the oppressors of their flocks; and that to exalt a sacerdotal caste over other aristocracies, whether of birth or wealth, was merely to change our tyrants. When he told me that a clergyman of the Established Church, if he took up the cause of the working classes, might be the boldest and surest of all allies, just because, being established, and certain of his income, he cared not one sixpence what he said to any man alive, I did not care to answer him, as I might—And more shame upon the clergy that, having the safe vantage-ground which you describe, they dare not use it like men in a good cause, and speak their minds, if forsooth no one can stop them from so doing. In fact, I was distrustful, which I had a right to be, and envious also; but if I had a right to be that, I was certainly not wise, nor is any man, in exercising the said dangerous right as I did, and envying my cousin and every man in Cambridge.
But that evening, understanding that a boating supper, or some jubilation over my cousin's victory, was to take place in his rooms, I asked leave to absent myself—and I do not think my cousin felt much regret at giving me leave—and wandered up and down the King's Parade, watching the tall gables of King's College Chapel, and the classic front of the Senate House, and the stately tower of St. Mary's, as they stood, stern and silent, bathed in the still glory of the moonlight, and contrasting bitterly the lot of those who were educated under their shadow to the lot which had befallen me. [Footnote: It must be remembered that these impressions of, and comments on the universities, are not my own. They are simply what clever working men thought about them from 1845 to 1850; a period at which I had the fullest opportunities for knowing the thoughts of working men.]
"Noble buildings!" I said to myself, "and noble institutions! given freely to the people, by those who loved the people, and the Saviour who died for them. They gave us what they had, those mediaeval founders: whatsoever narrowness of mind or superstition defiled their gift was not their fault, but the fault of their whole age. The best they knew they imparted freely, and God will reward them for it. To monopolize those institutions for the rich, as is done now, is to violate both the spirit and the letter of the foundations; to restrict their studies to the limits of middle-aged Romanism, their conditions of admission to those fixed at the Reformation, is but a shade less wrongful. The letter is kept—the spirit is thrown away. You refuse to admit any who are not members of the Church of England, say, rather, any who will not sign the dogmas of the Church of England, whether they believe a word of them or not. Useless formalism! which lets through the reckless, the profligate, the ignorant, the hypocritical: and only excludes the honest and the conscientious, and the mass of the intellectual working men. And whose fault is it that THEY are not members of the Church of England? Whose fault is it, I ask? Your predecessors neglected the lower orders, till they have ceased to reverence either you or your doctrines, you confess that, among yourselves, freely enough. You throw the blame of the present wide-spread dislike to the Church of England on her sins during 'the godless eighteenth century.' Be it so. Why are those sins to be visited on us? Why are we to be shut out from the universities, which were founded for us, because you have let us grow up, by millions, heathens and infidels, as you call us? Take away your subterfuge! It is not merely because we are bad churchmen that you exclude us, else you would be crowding your colleges, now, with the talented poor of the agricultural districts, who, as you say, remain faithful to the church of their fathers. But are there six labourers' sons educating in the universities at this moment! No! the real reason for our exclusion, churchmen or not, is, because we are poor—because we cannot pay your exorbitant fees, often, as in the case of bachelors of arts, exacted for tuition which is never given, and residence which is not permitted—because we could not support the extravagance which you not only permit, but encourage—because by your own unblushing confession, it insures the university 'the support of the aristocracy.'"
"But, on religious points, at least, you must abide by the statutes of the university."
Strange argument, truly, to be urged literally by English Protestants in possession of Roman Catholic bequests! If that be true in the letter, as well as in the spirit, you should have given place long ago to the Dominicans and the Franciscans. In the spirit it is true, and the Reformers acted on it when they rightly converted the universities to the uses of the new faith. They carried out the spirit of the founders' statutes by making the universities as good as they could be, and letting them share in the new light of the Elizabethan age. But was the sum of knowledge, human and divine, perfected at the Reformation? Who gave the Reformers, or you, who call yourselves their representatives, a right to say to the mind of man, and to the teaching of God's Spirit, "Hitherto, and no farther"? Society and mankind, the children of the Supreme, will not stop growing for your dogmas—much less for your vested interests; and the righteous law of mingled development and renovation, applied in the sixteenth century, must be reapplied in the nineteenth; while the spirits of the founders, now purged from the superstitions and ignorances of their age, shall smile from heaven, and say, "So would we have had it, if we had lived in the great nineteenth century, into which it has been your privilege to be born."
But such thoughts soon passed away. The image which I had seen that afternoon upon the river banks had awakened imperiously the frantic longings of past years; and now it reascended its ancient throne, and tyrannously drove forth every other object, to keep me alone with its own tantalizing and torturing beauty. I did not think about her—No; I only stupidly and steadfastly stared at her with my whole soul and imagination, through that long sleepless night; and, in spite of the fatigue of my journey, and the stiffness proceeding from my fall and wetting, I lay tossing till the early sun poured into my bedroom window. Then I arose, dressed myself, and went out to wander up and down the streets, gazing at one splendid building after another, till I found the gates of King's College open. I entered eagerly, through a porch which, to my untutored taste, seemed gorgeous enough to form the entrance to a fairy palace, and stood in the quadrangle, riveted to the spot by the magnificence of the huge chapel on the right.
If I had admired it the night before, I felt inclined to worship it this morning, as I saw the lofty buttresses and spires, fretted with all their gorgeous carving, and "storied windows richly dight," sleeping in the glare of the newly-risen sun, and throwing their long shadows due westward down the sloping lawn, and across the river which dimpled and gleamed below, till it was lost among the towering masses of crisp elms and rose-garlanded chestnuts in the rich gardens beyond.
Was I delighted? Yes—and yet no. There is a painful feeling in seeing anything magnificent which one cannot understand. And perhaps it was a morbid sensitiveness, but the feeling was strong upon me that I was an interloper there—out of harmony with the scene and the system which had created it; that I might be an object of unpleasant curiosity, perhaps of scorn (for I had not forgotten the nobleman at the boat-race), amid those monuments of learned luxury. Perhaps, on the other hand, it was only from the instinct which makes us seek for solitude under the pressure of intense emotions, when we have neither language to express them to ourselves, nor loved one in whose silent eyes we may read kindred feelings—a sympathy which wants no words. Whatever the cause was, when a party of men, in their caps and gowns, approached me down the dark avenue which led into the country, I was glad to shrink for concealment behind the weeping-willow at the foot of the bridge, and slink off unobserved to breakfast with my cousin.
We had just finished breakfast, my cousin was lighting his meerschaum, when a tall figure passed the window, and the taller of the noblemen, whom I had seen at the boat-race, entered the room with a packet of papers in his hand.
"Here, Locule mi! my pocket-book—or rather, to stretch a bad pun till it bursts, my pocket-dictionary—I require the aid of your benevolently-squandered talents for the correction of these proofs. I am, as usual, both idle and busy this morning; so draw pen, and set to work for me."
"I am exceedingly sorry, my lord," answered George, in his most obsequious tone, "but I must work this morning with all my might. Last night, recollect, was given to triumph, Bacchus, and idleness."
"Then find some one who will do them for me, my Ulysses polumechane, polutrope, panurge."
"I shall be most happy (with a half-frown and a wince) to play Panurge to your lordship's Pantagruel, on board the new yacht."
"Oh, I am perfect in that character, I suppose? And is she after all, like Pantagruel's ship, to be loaded with hemp? Well, we must try two or three milder cargoes first. But come, find me some starving genius—some graeculus esuriens—"
"Who will ascend to the heaven of your lordship's eloquence for the bidding?"
"Five shillings a sheet—there will be about two of them, I think, in the pamphlet."
"May I take the liberty of recommending my cousin here?"
"Your cousin?" And he turned to me, who had been examining with a sad and envious eye the contents of the bookshelves. Our eyes met, and first a faint blush, and then a smile of recognition, passed over his magnificent countenance.
"I think I had—I am ashamed that I cannot say the pleasure, of meeting him at the boat race yesterday."
My cousin looked inquiringly and vexed at us both. The nobleman smiled.
"Oh, the fault was mine, not his."
"I cannot think," I answered, "that you have any reasons to remember with shame your own kindness and courtesy. As for me," I went on bitterly, "I suppose a poor journeyman tailor, who ventures to look on at the sports of gentlemen, only deserves to be run over."
"Sir," he said, looking at me with a severe and searching glance, "your bitterness is pardonable—but not your sneer. You do not yourself think what you say, and you ought to know that I think it still less than yourself. If you intend your irony to be useful, you should keep it till you can use it courageously against the true offenders."
I looked up at him fiercely enough, but the placid smile which had returned to his face disarmed me.
"Your class," he went on, "blind yourselves and our class as much by wholesale denunciations of us, as we, alas! who should know better, do by wholesale denunciations of you. As you grow older, you will learn that there are exceptions to every rule."
"And yet the exception proves the rule."
"Most painfully true, sir. But that argument is two-edged. For instance, am I to consider it the exception or the rule, when I am told that you, a journeyman tailor, are able to correct these proofs for me?"
"Nearer the rule, I think, than you yet fancy."
"You speak out boldly and well; but how can you judge what I may please to fancy? At all events, I will make trial of you. There are the proofs. Bring them to me by four o'clock this afternoon, and if they are well done, I will pay you more than I should do to the average hack-writer, for you will deserve more."
I took the proofs; he turned to go, and by a side-look at George beckoned him out of the room. I heard a whispering in the passage; and I do not deny that my heart beat high with new hopes, as I caught unwillingly the words—
"Such a forehead!—such an eye!—such a contour of feature as that!—Locule mi—that boy ought not to be mending trousers."
My cousin returned, half laughing, half angry.
"Alton, you fool, why did you let out that you were a snip?"
"I am not ashamed of my trade."
"I am, then. However, you've done with it now; and if you can't come the gentleman, you may as well come the rising genius. The self-educated dodge pays well just now; and after all, you've hooked his lordship—thank me for that. But you'll never hold him, you impudent dog, if you pull so hard on him"—He went on, putting his hands into his coat-tail pockets, and sticking himself in front of the fire, like the Delphic Pythoness upon the sacred tripod, in hopes, I suppose, of some oracular afflatus—"You will never hold him, I say, if you pull so hard on him. You ought to 'My lord' him for months yet, at least. You know, my good fellow, you must take every possible care to pick up what good breeding you can, if I take the trouble to put you in the way of good society, and tell you where my private birds'-nests are, like the green schoolboy some poet or other talks of."
"He is no lord of mine," I answered, "in any sense of the word, and therefore I shall not call him so."
"Upon my honour! here is a young gentleman who intends to rise in the world, and then commences by trying to walk through the first post he meets! Noodle! can't you do like me, and get out of the carts' way when they come by? If you intend to go ahead, you must just dodge in and out like a dog at a fair. 'She stoops to conquer' is my motto, and a precious good one too."
"I have no wish to conquer Lord Lynedale, and so I shall not stoop to him."
"I have, then; and to very good purpose, too. I am his whetstone, for polishing up that classical wit of his on, till he carries it into Parliament to astonish the country squires. He fancies himself a second Goethe, I hav'n't forgot his hitting at me, before a large supper party, with a certain epigram of that old turkeycock's about the whale having his unmentionable parasite—and the great man likewise. Whale, indeed! I bide my time, Alton, my boy—I bide my time; and then let your grand aristocrat look out! If he does not find the supposed whale-unmentionable a good stout holding harpoon, with a tough line to it, and a long one, it's a pity, Alton my boy!"
And he burst into a coarse laugh, tossed himself down on the sofa, and re-lighted his meerschaum.
"He seemed to me," I answered, "to have a peculiar courtesy and liberality of mind towards those below him in rank."
"Oh! he had, had he? Now, I'll just put you up to a dodge. He intends to come the Mirabeau—fancies his mantle has fallen on him—prays before the fellow's bust, I believe, if one knew the truth, for a double portion of his spirit; and therefore it is a part of his game to ingratiate himself with all pot-boy-dom, while at heart he is as proud, exclusive an aristocrat, as ever wore nobleman's hat. At all events, you may get something out of him, if you play your cards well—or, rather, help me to play mine; for I consider him as my property, and you only as my aide-de-camp."
"I shall play no one's cards," I answered, sulkily. "I am doing work fairly, and shall be fairly paid for it, and keep my own independence."
"Independence—hey-day! Have you forgotten that, after all, you are my—guest, to call it by the mildest term?"
"Do you upbraid me with that?" I said, starting up. "Do you expect me to live on your charity, on condition of doing your dirty work? You do not know me, sir. I leave your roof this instant!"
"You do not!" answered he, laughing loudly, as he sprang over the sofa, and set his back against the door. "Come, come, you Will-o'-the-Wisp, as full of flights, and fancies, and vagaries, as a sick old maid! can't you see which side your bread is buttered? Sit down, I say! Don't you know that I'm as good-natured a fellow as ever lived, although I do parade a little Gil Bias morality now and then, just for fun's sake? Do you think I should be so open with it, if I meant anything very diabolic? There—sit down, and don't go into King Cambyses' vein, or Queen Hecuba's tears either, which you seem inclined to do."
"I know you have been very generous to me," I said, penitently; "but a kindness becomes none when you are upbraided with it."
"So say the copybooks—I deny it. At all events, I'll say no more; and you shall sit down there, and write as still as a mouse till two, while I tackle this never-to-be-enough-by-unhappy-third-years'-men-execrated Griffin's Optics."
* * * * *
At four that afternoon, I knocked, proofs in hand, at the door of Lord Lynedale's rooms in the King's Parade. The door was opened by a little elderly groom, grey-coated, grey-gaitered, grey-haired, grey-visaged. He had the look of a respectable old family retainer, and his exquisitely neat groom's dress gave him a sort of interest in my eyes. Class costumes, relics though they are of feudalism, carry a charm with them. They are symbolic, definitive; they bestow a personality on the wearer, which satisfies the mind, by enabling it instantly to classify him, to connect him with a thousand stories and associations; and to my young mind, the wiry, shrewd, honest, grim old serving-man seemed the incarnation of all the wonders of Newmarket, and the hunting-kennel, and the steeple-chase, of which I had read, with alternate admiration and contempt, in the newspapers. He ushered me in with a good breeding which surprised me;—without insolence to me, or servility to his master; both of which I had been taught to expect.
Lord Lynedale bade me very courteously sit down while he examined the proofs. I looked round the low-wainscoted apartment, with its narrow mullioned windows, in extreme curiosity. What a real nobleman's abode could be like, was naturally worth examining, to one who had, all his life, heard of the aristocracy as of some mythic Titans—whether fiends or gods, being yet a doubtful point—altogether enshrined on "cloudy Olympus," invisible to mortal ken. The shelves were gay with morocco, Russia leather, and gilding—not much used, as I thought, till my eye caught one of the gorgeously-bound volumes lying on the table in a loose cover of polished leather—a refinement of which poor I should never have dreamt. The walls were covered with prints, which soon turned my eyes from everything else, to range delighted over Landseers, Turners, Roberts's Eastern sketches, the ancient Italian masters; and I recognized, with a sort of friendly affection, an old print of my favourite St. Sebastian, in the Dulwich Gallery. It brought back to my mind a thousand dreams, and a thousand sorrows. Would those dreams be ever realized? Might this new acquaintance possibly open some pathway towards their fulfilment?—some vista towards the attainment of a station where they would, at least, be less chimerical? And at that thought, my heart beat loud with hope. The room was choked up with chairs and tables, of all sorts of strange shapes and problematical uses. The floor was strewed with skins of bear, deer, and seal. In a corner lay hunting-whips, and fishing-rods, foils, boxing-gloves, and gun-cases; while over the chimney-piece, an array of rich Turkish pipes, all amber and enamel, contrasted curiously with quaint old swords and daggers—bronze classic casts, upon Gothic oak brackets, and fantastic scraps of continental carving. On the centre table, too, reigned the same rich profusion, or if you will, confusion—MSS., "Notes in Egypt," "Goethe's Walverwandschaften," Murray's Hand-books, and "Plato's Republic." What was there not there? And I chuckled inwardly, to see how Bell's Life in London and the Ecclesiologist had, between them, got down "McCulloch on Taxation," and were sitting, arm-in-arm, triumphantly astride of him. Everything in the room, even to the fragrant flowers in a German glass, spoke of a travelled and cultivated luxury—manifold tastes and powers of self-enjoyment and self-improvement, which, Heaven forgive me if I envied, as I looked upon them. If I, now, had had one-twentieth part of those books, prints, that experience of life, not to mention that physical strength and beauty, which stood towering there before the fire—so simple; so utterly unconscious of the innate nobleness and grace which shone out from every motion of those stately limbs and features—all the delicacy which blood can give, combined, as one does sometimes see, with the broad strength of the proletarian—so different from poor me!—and so different, too, as I recollected with perhaps a savage pleasure, from the miserable, stunted specimens of over-bred imbecility whom I had often passed in London! A strange question that of birth! and one in which the philosopher, in spite of himself, must come to democratic conclusions. For, after all, the physical and intellectual superiority of the high-born is only preserved, as it was in the old Norman times, by the continual practical abnegation of the very caste-lie on which they pride themselves—by continual renovation of their race, by intermarriage with the ranks below them. The blood of Odin flowed in the veins of Norman William; true—and so did the tanner's of Falaise!
At last he looked up and spoke courteously—
"I'm afraid I have kept you long; but now, here is for your corrections, which are capital. I have really to thank you for a lesson in writing English." And he put a sovereign into my hand.
"I am very sorry," said I, "but I have no change."
"Never mind that. Your work is well worth the money."
"But," I said, "you agreed with me for five shillings a sheet, and—I do not wish to be rude, but I cannot accept your kindness. We working men make a rule of abiding by our wages, and taking nothing which looks like—"
"Well, well—and a very good rule it is. I suppose, then, I must find out some way for you to earn more. Good afternoon." And he motioned me out of the room, followed me down stairs, and turned off towards the College Gardens.
I wandered up and down, feeding my greedy eyes, till I found myself again upon the bridge where I had stood that morning, gazing with admiration and astonishment at a scene which I have often expected to see painted or described, and which, nevertheless, in spite of its unique magnificence, seems strangely overlooked by those who cater for the public taste, with pen and pencil. The vista of bridges, one after another spanning the stream; the long line of great monastic palaces, all unlike, and yet all in harmony, sloping down to the stream, with their trim lawns and ivied walls, their towers and buttresses; and opposite them, the range of rich gardens and noble timber-trees, dimly seen through which, at the end of the gorgeous river avenue, towered the lofty buildings of St. John's. The whole scene, under the glow of a rich May afternoon, seemed to me a fragment out of the "Arabian Nights" or Spencer's "Fairy Queen." I leaned upon the parapet, and gazed, and gazed, so absorbed in wonder and enjoyment, that I was quite unconscious, for some time, that Lord Lynedale was standing by my side, engaged in the same employment. He was not alone. Hanging on his arm was a lady, whose face, it seemed to me, I ought to know. It certainly was one not to be easily forgotten. She was beautiful, but with the face and figure rather of a Juno than a Venus—dark, imperious, restless—the lips almost too firmly set, the brow almost too massive and projecting—a queen, rather to be feared than loved—but a queen still, as truly royal as the man into whose face she was looking up with eager admiration and delight, as he pointed out to her eloquently the several beauties of the landscape. Her dress was as plain as that of any Quaker; but the grace of its arrangement, of every line and fold, was enough, without the help of the heavy gold bracelet on her wrist, to proclaim her a fine lady; by which term, I wish to express the result of that perfect education in taste and manner, down to every gesture, which Heaven forbid that I, professing to be a poet, should undervalue. It is beautiful; and therefore I welcome it, in the name of the Author of all beauty. I value it so highly, that I would fain see it extend, not merely from Belgravia to the tradesman's villa, but thence, as I believe it one day will, to the labourer's hovel, and the needlewoman's garret.
Half in bashfulness, half in the pride which shrinks from anything like intrusion, I was moving away; but the nobleman, recognising me with a smile and a nod, made some observation on the beauty of the scene before us. Before I could answer, however, I saw that his companion's eyes were fixed intently on my face.
"Is this," she said to Lord Lynedale, "the young person of whom you were speaking to me just now? I fancy that I recollect him, though, I dare say, he has forgotten me."
If I had forgotten the face, that voice, so peculiarly rich, deep, and marked in its pronunciation of every syllable, recalled her instantly to my mind. It was the dark lady of the Dulwich Gallery!
"I met you, I think," I said, "at the picture gallery at Dulwich, and you were kind enough, and—and some persons who were with you, to talk to me about a picture there."
"Yes; Guido's St. Sebastian. You seemed fond of reading then. I am glad to see you at college."
I explained that I was not at college. That led to fresh gentle questions on her part, till I had given her all the leading points of my history. There was nothing in it of which I ought to have been ashamed.
She seemed to become more and more interested in my story, and her companion also.
"And have you tried to write? I recollect my uncle advising you to try a poem on St. Sebastian. It was spoken, perhaps, in jest; but it will not, I hope, have been labour lost, if you have taken it in earnest."
"Yes—I have written on that and on other subjects, during the last few years."
"Then, you must let us see them, if you have them with you. I think my uncle, Arthur, might like to look over them; and if they were fit for publication, he might be able to do something towards it."
"At all events," said Lord Lynedale, "a self-educated author is always interesting. Bring any of your poems, that you have with you, to the Eagle this afternoon, and leave them there for Dean Winnstay; and to-morrow morning, if you have nothing better to do, call there between ten and eleven o'clock."
He wrote me down the dean's address, and nodding a civil good morning, turned away with his queenly companion, while I stood gazing after him, wondering whether all noblemen and high-born ladies were like them in person and in spirit—a question which, in spite of many noble exceptions, some of them well known and appreciated by the working men, I am afraid must be answered in the negative.
I took my MSS. to the Eagle, and wandered out once more, instinctively, among those same magnificent trees at the back of the colleges, to enjoy the pleasing torment of expectation. "My uncle!" was he the same old man whom I had seen at the gallery; and if so, was Lillian with him? Delicious hope! And yet, what if she was with him—what to me? But yet I sat silent, dreaming, all the evening, and hurried early to bed—not to sleep, but to lie and dream on and on, and rise almost before light, eat no breakfast, and pace up and down, waiting impatiently for the hour at which I was to find out whether my dream, was true.
And it was true! The first object I saw, when I entered the room, was Lillian, looking more beautiful than ever. The child of sixteen had blossomed into the woman of twenty. The ivory and vermilion of the complexion had toned down together into still richer hues. The dark hazel eyes shone with a more liquid lustre. The figure had become more rounded, without losing a line of that fairy lightness, with which her light morning-dress, with its delicate French semi-tones of colour, gay and yet not gaudy, seemed to harmonize. The little plump jewelled hands—the transparent chestnut hair, banded round the beautiful oval masque—the tiny feet, which, as Suckling has it,
Underneath her petticoat Like little mice peeped in and out—
I could have fallen down, fool that I was! and worshipped—what? I could not tell then, for I cannot tell even now.
The dean smiled recognition, bade me sit down, and disposed my papers, meditatively, on his knee. I obeyed him, trembling, choking—my eyes devouring my idol—forgetting why I had come—seeing nothing but her—listening for nothing but the opening of these lips. I believe the dean was some sentences deep in his oration, before I became conscious thereof.
"—And I think I may tell you, at once, that I have been very much surprised and gratified with them. They evince, on the whole, a far greater acquaintance with the English classic-models, and with the laws of rhyme and melody, than could have been expected from a young man of your class—macte virtute puer. Have you read any Latin?"
"A little." And I went on staring at Lillian, who looked up, furtively, from her work, every now and then, to steal a glance at me, and set my poor heart thumping still more fiercely against my side.
"Very good; you will have the less trouble, then, in the preparation for college. You will find out for yourself, of course, the immense disadvantages of self-education. The fact is, my dear lord" (turning to Lord Lynedale), "it is only useful as an indication of a capability of being educated by others. One never opens a book written by working men, without shuddering at a hundred faults of style. However, there are some very tolerable attempts among these—especially the imitations of Milton's 'Comus.'"
Poor I had by no means intended them as imitations; but such, no doubt, they were.
"I am sorry to see that Shelley has had so much influence on your writing. He is a guide as irregular in taste, as unorthodox in doctrine; though there are some pretty things in him now and then. And you have caught his melody tolerably here, now—"
"Oh, that is such a sweet thing!" said Lillian. "Do you know, I read it over and over last night, and took it up-stairs with me. How very fond of beautiful things you must be, Mr. Locke, to be able to describe so passionately the longing after them."
That voice once more! It intoxicated me, so that I hardly knew what I stammered out—something about working men having very few opportunities of indulging the taste for—I forget what. I believe I was on the point of running off into some absurd compliment, but I caught the dark lady's warning eye on me.
"Ah, yes! I forgot. I dare say it must be a very stupid life. So little opportunity, as he says. What a pity he is a tailor, papa! Such an unimaginative employment! How delightful it would be to send him to college and make him a clergyman!"
Fool that I was! I fancied—what did I not fancy?—never seeing how that very "he" bespoke the indifference—the gulf between us. I was not a man—an equal; but a thing—a subject, who was to be talked over, and examined, and made into something like themselves, of their supreme and undeserved benevolence.
"Gently, gently, fair lady! We must not be as headlong as some people would kindly wish to be. If this young man really has a proper desire to rise into a higher station, and I find him a fit object to be assisted in that praiseworthy ambition, why, I think he ought to go to some training college; St. Mark's, I should say, on the whole, might, by its strong Church principles, give the best antidote to any little remaining taint of sansculottism. You understand me, my lord? And, then, if he distinguished himself there, it would be time to think of getting him a sizarship."
"Poor Pegasus in harness!" half smiled, half sighed, the dark lady.
"Just the sort of youth," whispered Lord Lynedale, loud enough for me to hear, "to take out with us to the Mediterranean as secretary—s'il y avait la de la morale, of course—"
Yes—and of course, too, the tailor's boy was not expected to understand French. But the most absurd thing was, how everybody, except perhaps the dark lady, seemed to take for granted that I felt myself exceedingly honoured, and must consider it, as a matter of course, the greatest possible stretch of kindness thus to talk me over, and settle everything for me, as if I was not a living soul, but a plant in a pot. Perhaps they were not unsupported by experience. I suppose too many of us would have thought it so; there are flunkeys in all ranks, and to spare. Perhaps the true absurdity was the way in which I sat, demented, inarticulate, staring at Lillian, and only caring for any word which seemed to augur a chance of seeing her again; instead of saying, as I felt, that I had no wish whatever to rise above my station; no intention whatever of being sent to training schools or colleges, or anywhere else at the expense of other people. And therefore it was that I submitted blindly, when the dean, who looked as kind, and was really, I believe, as kind as ever was human being, turned to me with a solemn authoritative voice—
"Well, my young friend, I must say that I am, on the whole, very much pleased with your performance. It corroborates, my dear lord, the assertion, for which I have been so often ridiculed, that there are many real men, capable of higher things, scattered up and down among the masses. Attend to me, sir!" (a hint which I suspect I very much wanted). "Now, recollect; if it should be hereafter in our power to assist your prospects in life, you must give up, once and for all, the bitter tone against the higher classes, which I am sorry to see in your MSS. As you know more of the world, you will find that the poor are not by any means as ill used as they are taught, in these days, to believe. The rich have their sorrows too—no one knows it better than I"—(and he played pensively with his gold pencil-case)—"and good and evil are pretty equally distributed among all ranks, by a just and merciful God. I advise you most earnestly, as you value your future success in life, to give up reading those unprincipled authors, whose aim is to excite the evil passions of the multitude; and to shut your ears betimes to the extravagant calumnies of demagogues, who make tools of enthusiastic and imaginative minds for their own selfish aggrandisement. Avoid politics; the workman has no more to do with them than the clergyman. We are told, on divine authority, to fear God and the king, and meddle not with those who are given to change. Rather put before yourself the example of such a man as the excellent Dr. Brown, one of the richest and most respected men of the university, with whom I hope to have the pleasure of dining this evening—and yet that man actually, for several years of his life, worked at a carpenter's bench!"
I too had something to say about all that. I too knew something about demagogues and working men: but the sight of Lillian made me a coward; and I only sat silent as the thought flashed across me, half ludicrous, half painful, by its contrast, of another who once worked at a carpenter's bench, and fulfilled his mission—not by an old age of wealth, respectability, and port wine; but on the Cross of Calvary. After all, the worthy old gentleman gave me no time to answer.
"Next—I think of showing these MSS. to my publisher, to get his opinion as to whether they are worth printing just now. Not that I wish you to build much on the chance. It is not necessary that you should be a poet. I should prefer mathematics for you, as a methodic discipline of the intellect. Most active minds write poetry, at a certain age—I wrote a good deal, I recollect, myself. But that is no reason for publishing. This haste to rush into print is one of the bad signs of the times—a symptom of the unhealthy activity which was first called out by the French revolution. In the Elizabethan age, every decently-educated gentleman was able, as a matter of course, to indite a sonnet to his mistress's eye-brow, or an epigram on his enemy; and yet he never dreamt of printing them. One of the few rational things I have met with, Eleanor, in the works of your very objectionable pet Mr. Carlyle—though indeed his style is too intolerable to have allowed me to read much—is the remark that 'speech is silver'—'silvern' he calls it, pedantically—'while silence is golden.'"
At this point of the sermon, Lillian fled from the room, to my extreme disgust. But still the old man prosed—
"I think, therefore, that you had better stay with your cousin for the next week. I hear from Lord Lynedale that he is a very studious, moral, rising young man; and I only hope that you will follow his good example. At the end of the week I shall return home, and then I shall be glad to see more of you at my house at D * * * *, about * * * * miles from this place. Good morning."
I went, in rapture at the last announcement—and yet my conscience smote me. I had not stood up for the working men. I had heard them calumniated, and held my tongue—but I was to see Lillian. I had let the dean fancy I was willing to become a pensioner on his bounty—that I was a member of the Church of England, and willing to go to a Church Training School—but I was to see Lillian. I had lowered myself in my own eyes—but I had seen Lillian. Perhaps I exaggerated my own offences: however that may be, love soon, silenced conscience, and I almost danced into my cousin's rooms on my return.
* * * * *
That week passed rapidly and happily. I was half amused with the change in my cousin's demeanour. I had evidently risen immensely in his eyes; and I could not help applying, in my heart, to him, Mr. Carlyle's dictum about the valet species—how they never honour the unaccredited hero, having no eye to find him out till properly accredited, and countersigned, and accoutred with full uniform and diploma by that great god, Public Opinion. I saw through the motive of his new-fledged respect for me—and yet encouraged it; for it flattered my vanity. The world must forgive me. It was something for the poor tailor to find himself somewhat appreciated at last, even outwardly. And besides, this sad respect took a form which was very tempting to me now—though the week before it was just the one which I should have repelled with scorn. George became very anxious to lend me money, to order me clothes at his own tailor's, and set me up in various little toilette refinements, that I might make a respectable appearance at the dean's. I knew that he consulted rather the honour of the family, than my good; but I did not know that his aim was also to get me into his power; and I refused more and more weakly at each fresh offer, and at last consented, in an evil hour, to sell my own independence, for the sake of indulging my love-dream, and appearing to be what I was not.
I saw little of the University men; less than I might have done; less, perhaps, than I ought to have done. My cousin did not try to keep me from them; they, whenever I met them, did not shrink from me, and were civil enough: but I shrank from them. My cousin attributed my reserve to modesty, and praised me for it in his coarse fashion: but he was mistaken. Pride, rather, and something very like envy, kept me silent. Always afraid (at that period of my career) of young men of my own age, I was doubly afraid of these men; not because they were cleverer than I, for they were not, but because I fancied I had no fair chance with them; they had opportunities which I had not, read and talked of books of which I knew nothing; and when they did touch on matters which I fancied I understood, it was from a point of view so different from mine, that I had to choose, as I thought, between standing up alone to be baited by the whole party, or shielding myself behind a proud and somewhat contemptuous silence. I looked on them as ignorant aristocrats; while they looked on me, I verily believe now, as a very good sort of fellow, who ought to talk well, but would not; and went their way carelessly. The truth is, I did envy those men. I did not envy them their learning; for the majority of men who came into my cousin's room had no learning to envy, being rather brilliant and agreeable men than severe students; but I envied them their opportunities of learning; and envied them just as much their opportunities of play—their boating, their cricket, their foot-ball, their riding, and their gay confident carriage, which proceeds from physical health and strength, and which I mistook for the swagger of insolence; while Parker's Piece, with its games, was a sight which made me grind my teeth, when I thought of the very different chance of physical exercise which falls to the lot of a London artisan.