As to the conduct of the army towards Espartero, it was unquestionably most disgraceful; but it must be borne in mind that a large proportion of the officers were his personal enemies, especially those of the regiments of guards, which had been broken up after the war, when many of the officers passed into line regiments. Others were partisans of Leon, of Narvaez, or Christina; and another large section were won over by the profuse promotion given by the juntas, who, as soon as the pronunciamentos began, assumed the functions of government, and scattered epaulets in absurd profusion. Truly, as Captain Widdrington observes, one has heard of bloody wars and sickly seasons, and rapid advancement consequent thereon, but nothing ever equalled the promotion that was now given; and this system Espartero was also obliged to adopt, in order not to be deserted by the lukewarm among his adherents, or by those whom the prospect of a step of rank might have influenced to leave him. There can be little doubt, too, that bribery was largely employed by the Moderados. Witness the instance of Colonel Echalecu, which is no case of suspicion, but an official and publicly known fact. He was offered four millions of reals (forty thousand pounds sterling) to surrender the fort of Montjuich, and a French steamer was put at his disposal to convey him away. To the immortal honour of this gallant Basque soldier be it said, he was proof against the temptation; true to his colours, to his general, and to the established constitution of his country, he held out the fort to the very last, and only gave it up when every hope was lost, and the new order of things completely victorious. The Moderados had the good sense to continue so faithful an officer in his command; but, at the time of Amettler's revolt, he refused to bombard Barcelona, and of course resigned. His, however, was a solitary instance of virtue; far less brilliant baits were found irresistible by the mass of officers, who used their influence to bring over the soldiery, a credulous and ignorant class in Spain. The men, there is no question, were disposed to stand by the regent, and some even held out against their officers till compelled to give in; but at last all followed in the stream, led away partly by habits of obedience, partly by the hopes held out to them of more regular pay and better rations, and still more by the prospect of obtaining their discharge previous to the legal expiration of their term of service—the latter being the strongest argument that can be urged to Spanish soldiers.
The peasantry, with the exception, perhaps, of those around certain towns, had neither voice nor part in the change; the nobility, sunk in sloth and smothered by incapacity, looked on as idle spectators; and a vast many of the restless and excitable spirits who got up the revolution, were mere instruments in the hands of a faction, and knew not what they did. Hear Captain Widdrington—
"The parties who began the pronunciamentos had neither the intention nor the slightest idea, that the result of their proceedings would be the fall of the regency. This I can most positively assert to be fact."
The Spaniards, especially those of the south, had got a sort of Utopian notion into their very ill-furnished heads, that all parties were to "kiss and be friends." The projected amnesty which Espartero so unfortunately agreed to, was the cause of this idea getting ground. It took them upon their weak side, carried them entirely off their legs; and, acting under the influence of this frothy enthusiasm, they ran a-muck, as the saying is, and only awakened from their day-dream to curse the changes that their own folly had so largely contributed to bring about.
As to any body attempting to divine what will be the next move upon the Spanish chessboard, it is out of the question, and nobody who knows the character of the people will attempt to do it. Unquestionably there is no such country in the world for anomalies of all kinds. Cosas de Espana! as Captain Widdrington amusingly enough says, when he meets with some huge piece of inconsistency that astonishes even him, accustomed though he be to the most contradictory vagaries on the part of his Iberian friends. And it is exactly what intelligent Spaniards themselves say, when similar absurdities on the part of their countrymen are pointed out or reproached to them. "Que quiere vd hombre," cry they with a shrug, "son cosas de Espana." What can we say to you? They are Spanish doings.
At Almaden the Captain finds a magnificent road leading to the town, which had been commenced at great expense by a former governor. For some distance it is fit for an approach to the largest capital, but on a sudden it terminates—in a mule-track! Cosas de Espana. "I entered Corunna just before nightfall, and although a regular fortress, seaport, and chief place of the province—Cosas de Espana—not a sentinel was mounted on the works!" Guards desert their post—witness the attack on the palace, when seventeen men were present out of sixty-five; a governor is absent from his province at the very time when he is most wanted there; an official is sent for by one of his superiors, and returns for answer that he can certainly come if necessary, but hopes he shall be excused, as it would occasion him the trouble of dressing himself—this in the middle of the day. The creature was no doubt lying on a mattress, half naked, with a cigar in his mouth. These are instances of "Cosas de Espana," always odd and sometimes unintelligible, but usually to be explained by the system of laxity and inattention to the duties of their respective posts and stations that seems to extend to nearly all classes in Spain.
Captain Widdrington professes the strictest impartiality in the accounts and opinions he gives; and if we venture to point out an instance where we think he has deviated a little from the straight line he drew for himself at starting, it is only because his having done so in the particular we refer to, is rather creditable to him than otherwise, and is exactly the error that most warm-hearted men who passed any length of time in the very agreeable society of Spaniards, would be apt to fall into. But we cannot help thinking, that in some respects he takes too favourable a view of the Spanish character; that he is led away by his love for the nation. The following passages are rather remarkable—
"No people in existence," he says, "are so little anarchical in their habits, or live, unless under immediate excitement, in a more orderly and peaceable manner, or are so easily governed. The presiding genius of the country is tranquillity, and quiet, inoffensive demeanour, in every class of society, and in every part of the kingdom; nor is there any necessity, unless where domination, or unpopular and false principles are the object, for the application of force to coerce them at any time. What they want, by their universal consent, is a steady, progressive, and intelligent government, that will lead the way in the changes and improvements which every class, at least the far greater majority, are desirous of seeing carried out, but which their indolence and easy habits prevent originating with themselves alone."
"Aide toi, et Dieu t'aidera," says the French proverb. It is really a pity that a proper dry-nurse cannot be procured for these quiet and inoffensive people, who have been slaughtering each other, with small intermission, for the last ten years, to say nothing of previous instances of mansuetude. Unfortunately, however, they are as jealous of being helped as, according to Captain Widdrington's own admission, they are incompetent to help themselves. "Es una lastima," as they would say; but really at this rate there seems no chance of their ever getting their country into a prosperous, or even a decent, state. We fully agree with Captain Widdrington in liking the Spanish character as a whole, in appreciating its fine qualities, in rendering ample justice to that courtesy of feeling and manner so agreeable to those who have intercourse with Spaniards, and that may truly be called national, seeing that it is found as commonly under the coarse manta of the muleteer as beneath the velvet-lined capa of the high-born hidalgo; but we have some small experience of Spain, and a more considerable one of Spaniards, and we cannot for the life of us think them so tractable and easy to guide into the right path, or so exceedingly averse to bloodshed. "The truth is, that, excepting in cases of deadly feud, which sometimes happen, in no country in the world is life more secure."—(Vol. ii. p. 358.) We will not contradict the Captain, but it has always appeared to us that human life is rated at a much lower value in Spain than in any other civilized country we are acquainted with, and that the natural consequence of that low valuation is the cool indifference with which blood is there so frequently and abundantly poured out upon the most trifling and insufficient grounds.
At the end of a chapter on the church in Spain, we find a notice of Mr Borrow's proceedings for the propagation of the Scriptures in the Peninsula—proceedings which seem to have resulted in perfect failure. "As to the object of the undertaking, it was not only a most complete and entire failure, but of such a nature as entirely to defeat any future attempt of the same kind." The meaning of this is clear, although the sentence is of a curious turn. Further on, the Captain says—"It is impossible not to regret, that the very large sums annually sent out of the country, from the most pure and really religious and conscientious motives, on this and other undertakings, producing equally little result, were not devoted to the building or endowing of churches and chapels in our own manufacturing districts, where they are so very much needed."
How can Captain Widdrington make such an observation as this latter one? Surely he must be aware how much more interesting it is to provide for the spiritual wants of people at a distance than for those of people in our country. What missionary society, worthy of the name, would undertake a church-building crusade into Lancashire or Yorkshire? It is too near home, too commonplace. But let them discover some region at the antipodes, inhabited by copper-coloured gentry with feathers upon their heads and curtain rings through their noses, and there is a worthy field for the labours of the pious. In like manner, poor Spain, which really might be allowed to set its temporal house a little in order, before being expected to a depart from the faith that has been universal in it since the expulsion of the Saracen, was deemed sufficiently distant and dangerous to be interesting, and "the great London Caloro" girded up his loins and departed thither. Of the peril he encountered, the acquaintances he made, of how he galloped through the country on silver-grey burras—Anglice, female donkeys—and dropped tracts in public walks and concealed Testaments in ruins and other queer places, where robbers might go, might find them, and might be improved by their perusal, has he not written a most marvellous and amusing account for the benefit of generations present and to come? Notwithstanding, however, his missionary avocations and Munchausenish tendencies, we have a sneaking kindness for friend Borrow, having collected from his writings that he is a fellow of considerable pluck and energy, of adventurous spirit, with a sharp eye for a good horse, and who would, no doubt, have made an excellent dragoon, had it pleased God to call him to that way of life. But we must say, that his manner of spreading the Scriptures in Spain, puts us considerably in mind of those peripatetic advertisers, whose handbills, thrust nolens volens into the fist of the passer-by, are for the most part cast unread into the gutter. It would be curious to calculate the proportion borne by those Testaments that Mr Borrow succeeded in getting really circulated and read in Spain, to the very large number which he acknowledges to have been confiscated, burnt, stolen on the road, or otherwise lost. The expense of the mission must have been very considerable, and the same funds might have been employed in this country with tenfold advantage both to humanity and the Christian religion.
There is a certain class of writers, some of whom ought to know better, who have lately taken up the cudgels upon the pseudo-philanthropic side of the question, and have expended a vast deal of uncalled-for indignation and maudlin sympathy upon the rich and poor of this country—the former of whom they would make out to be the most selfish and hard-hearted of created beings, and the latter the most amiable and ill-treated. According to these writers, it would appear as if no man, with less than seven children to provide for, and more than ten shillings a-week to do it with, could be possessed of any one of the Christian virtues. Charity and kindness of heart exist, they would have us to believe, in an inverse ratio to income, and the warmest men, in city parlance, are invariably those of the coldest feelings. The sickly cant of this style of writing in a country where charity, both public and private, is so extensive and practical; and its probable ill effects in rendering the poorer classes discontented, are too evident for it to be necessary to dwell upon them. It would be far better if the writers who go to such large expense of sympathetic ink, would change the direction of their virtuous indignation, and try if they have sufficient influence to put an end to this foreign tract and testament mongering, whether its scene be in Spain or at a greater distance.
Before concluding, Captain Widdrington alludes to a growing shyness towards English travellers in some of the large southern towns, owing to the indiscretions, exaggerations, and absurdities of certain tour-writers. It is a lamentable fact that, now-a-days, every booby who gets on board a steamer, and leaves England for a few weeks or months, thinks himself entitled to perpetrate a book about what he sees and hears. We would fain whisper to such persons, that mere locomotion never qualified any body to write a book, even of travels; that some powers of observation, and a certain correctness of judgment, and even some previous acquaintance with the history and character of the nation they visit, are also necessary; and if, after that, they still persisted in their designs, we would beg of them to remember that light words are apt to travel both far and fast; that some part of their lucubrations may possibly reach the countries they refer to—perhaps through the instrumentality of the trunkmakers; and that in any case they should avoid giving unfavourable details, even if true, of the private life and habits of people who have shown them kindness and hospitality—details, the data of which, if investigated, would be found, in most instances, to be absurd and ridiculously insufficient. Some travelling bagman, or half-fledged subaltern on his way to the Mediterranean, gets ashore at Cadiz or Gibraltar, takes a run through three or four of the principal Andalusian cities, perhaps has a letter of introduction, or else meets at a fonda with some good-natured Spaniard, who compassionates his "goose look" and evident helplessness, invites him to his house, and introduces him at a tertulia or two. The gosling picks up a few Spanish sentences, hears a few anecdotes from some lying valet-de-place, who has attached himself to the Senor Ingles, and leaves the country after a few weeks', perhaps days', residence, considerably bewildered by all the novelties he has seen, but without the slightest real addition to his previous knowledge of Spanish character and customs. Six months afterwards, the new work on Spain by Ensign Epaulet or Tedious Twaddle, Esquire, issues forth, borne on a mighty blast of puffery, from the laboratory of some fashionable publisher.
"Nothing can be more harmless," says Captain Widdrington, "than this mode of making a livelihood, provided their effusions are kept within the bounds of moderation and charity, as well as confined to such views as a rapid transit enables any one unacquainted with the language and the people to make during a few hours' sojourn in the place. This rule, however, has been broken in upon; and as it unluckily happens that the females are generally a favourite subject for the tirades of that class of writers, their random assertions on subjects they had no means of investigating, and most assuredly did not speak of from their own knowledge and experience, have made both the Gaditanas and Malaguanas, and their relations and countrymen, extremely irate."
And with good reason, too, say we. It is not the first time we have heard this sort of thing complained of. The practice is one that cannot be too severely reprehended and we shall look out for such offenders in future.
There are a number of anecdotes and pleasant bits scattered through Captain Widdrington's work, which is a happy blending of the amusing and instructive, neither predominating to the injury of the other; and we take leave both of the book and its accomplished author, with much respect and gratitude. Before doing so, however, and having said much in commendation, Captain Widdrington will perhaps permit us to offer him a slight and well-intended hint in the contrary sense. When next the truant-fit comes over him, and he favours us with the result of his researches and observations in Spain or any other country—and we hope it will not be long before he does thus favour us—may he be able to devote rather more time to the mere authorship part of the work, to the correction and chastening of his style. His sentences are often terribly piled up and intricate, and some are really illogical in their construction, to the extent of being difficult of comprehension. That kind of negligence in an author, considerably diminishes the reader's enjoyment even of the most interesting book. Captain Widdrington should bear in mind, that however sterling his matter may be, some attention to manner is also expected, and that the appearance, at least, of the most valuable gems is deteriorated by an inelegant setting. Nevertheless, in this book-making age, it may be considered highly creditable to an author when faults of form and not of substance are the greatest with which he can be reproached.
[Footnote 2: Spain and Spaniards in 1843. By Captain S. E. WIDDRINGTON, R.N., K.T.S., F.R.S., F.G.S. A Journey across the Desert from Ceylon to Marseilles, &c. &c. By Major and Mrs GRIFFITH. 2 vols. Facts in Mesmerism, with Reasons for a Dispassionate Enquiry into it. By the Rev. CHAUNCY HARE TOWNSHEND, A.M.]
THE SUPERFLUITIES OF LIFE.
A TALE ABRIDGED FROM TIECK.
In the month of February, at the close of an exceedingly severe winter, a singular tumult took place in the town of ——, the origin, progress, and final pacification of which, gave rise to the most strange and contradictory reports. Where every one will relate, and no one knows any thing of the matter, it is natural that the simplest circumstance should become invested with an air of the marvellous.
It was in one of the narrowest streets of the populous suburbs of the town that this mysterious event took place. According to some, a traitor or desperate rebel had been discovered and captured by the police; others said that an atheist, who had secretly conspired with others to tear up Christianity by the roots, had, after an obstinate resistance, surrendered himself to the authorities, and was now lying in prison, there to learn better principles. All agreed that the criminal had defended himself in the most desperate manner. One man, who was a profound politician and an execrable shoemaker, laboured to convince his neighbours that the prisoner was at the head of a hundred secret societies, which had their ramifications over France, Germany, Spain, Italy, and the far East; and that, in fact, a monstrous insurrection was on the very point of breaking out in the furthest parts of India, which, like the cholera, would spread over Europe, and set in flame all its combustible material.
Thus much was certain, that a tumult had arisen in a small house in the suburbs; that the police had been called in; that the populace had made an uproar; that some eminent personage was seen amongst the crowd; and that, after a little time, all became still again, without any body being the wiser. In the house itself certain devastations had undoubtedly been made, which some explained one way, some another, according to their humours: the carpenters and joiners were busy in repairing them.
In this house had lived a man of whom no one in the neighbourhood knew any thing. Whether he was a poet or a politician, a native or a foreigner, no one could divine. The wisest were at fault. This only was certain, that the unknown lived in a most quiet and retired manner; he was seen on none of the promenades, nor in any public place; he was young, was pronounced to be handsome, and his newly married bride, who shared his solitude with him, was described as being miraculously beautiful.
It was about Christmas time when this young couple were sitting together over the stove in their little apartment. "Of a truth," said the young man, "how all this is to end is a riddle. All our resources seem now exhausted."
"Alas! yes, Henry," answered the beautiful Clara, to whom this was addressed; "but whilst you, dearest, are still cheerful, I cannot feel myself unfortunate."
"Fortunate and unfortunate," replied Henry, "shall be with us but empty words. The day when you quitted your father's house, and for my sake abandoned all other considerations, decided our fortune for all our lifetime to come. To live and to love, this is our watchword; in what manner exactly we live shall be indifferent."
"Indeed we are deprived of almost every thing," said the young wife, "except each other. But I knew you were not rich, and you knew when I left my father's house I could bring nothing with me; so love and poverty came to us hand in hand. And now this little chamber, which we never quit, and the talking together, and the looking into the eyes we love—this is all our life."
"Right! right!" said Henry, and springing up from his seat, he embraced his charming companion with renewed fondness. "Here are we like Adam and Eve in their paradise; and I think," he added, looking round the apartment as he spoke, "no angel will come down from heaven for the express purpose of driving us out of it."
"If it were not," said Clara, a little dejected, "that the wood begins to fail—and this winter is certainly the severest I ever knew"——
"Certainly," said Henry; "some fuel must somewhere be found. It is inconceivable that we should be allowed to freeze from without, with all this warm love within us. Quite impossible! I cannot help laughing amidst it all, with a sense of ridiculous embarrassment, at the idea that so simple a thing as a little coin cannot be procured."
Clara smiled. "If only," said she, "we had some superfluous furniture, any brass pans or copper kettles."
"Ah! if only we were millionaires!" interrupted Henry gaily; "then we could get wood in abundance, and perhaps," he added, looking slyly over to the stove where some bread-soup was in preparation for their very temperate repast, "some better fare for dinner. But," he continued in a tone of humorous banter, which he frequently adopted, and pushing back his chair a few paces as he spoke, "while you superintend the household concerns, and give the necessary orders to the cook, I will withdraw into my study. Now, what would I not write if only pen, paper, and ink, were to be got at; and how studiously would I read if but a book could be procured."
"You must think, dearest," said Clara waggishly; "the stock of thoughts, it is to be hoped, is not quite so low as our wood."
"Dearest wife," he replied, "the cares of our establishment demand all your attention; let me proceed undisturbed with my studies. I will read," he continued, speaking as if to himself, "the journal I formerly kept in our palmy days of stationery. And it strikes me that it would be particularly profitable to study it backwards; to begin at the end, and so lay a proper foundation for a full comprehension of the beginning. All true wisdom goes in a circle, and is typified by a serpent biting at its own tail. We will begin this time at the tail."
Opening his journal at the last page, he began to read in the same subdued tone—"They tell a tale of a raving criminal, who, being condemned to death by starvation, ate himself gradually up. This is, in fact, the story of life, and of all of us. In some there remains nothing but the stomach and the mouth. With us there is left the soul, which is expressly said to be inconsumable. So far as externals are concerned, I have certainly flayed and devoured myself. That I should, up to this day, have retained a certain dress-coat—I, who never go out—was perfectly ridiculous. Mem.—Next birthday of my wife to appear before her in a waist-coat and shirt sleeves, as it would be highly indecorous to present myself to a person of her rank in a frock-coat somewhat overworn."
Here he came to the end both of the page and the book. Turning back, he commenced at the page immediately preceding—"One can live very well without napkins. And now I think of it, what are these miserable napkins but a niggardly expedient for saving the table-cloth? Nay, what is this table-cloth itself but a base economy for sparing the table! I pronounce them both to be mere superfluities; both shall be sold, that we may eat off the table in the manner of the patriarchs. We will live in the fashion of our magnanimous ancestors. It is in no cynical, Diogenes-humour that I banish them from the house, but from a resolution not to follow the example of this poor-spirited age, which encumbers itself with extravagant superfluities out of a sordid economy."
"Exactly so," said Clara laughing. "Meanwhile, on the proceeds of those and other superfluities, I invite you to a repast which, at all events, shall not savour of extravagance."
So saying, they sat down to their bread-soup. He who had seen them, whatever he might have thought of the dinner, would have envied those who partook of it, so cheerful were they, so joyful, so full of freaks and frolics, over their simple provender. When the bread-soup was dispatched, Clara slyly brought from the stove a covered plate, and set before her astonished husband—a reserve of potatoes! "Long live thou second Sir Walter Raleigh!" cried Henry. Whereupon they drank to each other out of the pure element, and hob-nobbed with such glee, that Clara looked anxiously the next moment at the glasses, to see that they had not cracked them in their enthusiasm.
The dinner concluded, they drew their chairs, by way of variety, up to the solitary window of their apartment, and amused themselves with looking at the fantastic filigree work with which the frost had decorated the inside of the glass.
"My aunt used to maintain," said Clara, "that the room was warmer with this ice on the window than when the glass was clear."
"Possibly!" replied Henry. "But on the strength of this faith I would not dispense with the fire."
"How wonderfully various," said Clara, "are these ice-flowers! Is it not strange, one seems to have seen them all in reality, yet cannot give a name to a single one of them? And look how one grows over the other, and how the noble leaves seem to expand, even as we speak of them."
"It is your sweet breath, my dear, that is calling up these ghosts and spirits of departed flowers," said Henry. "I imagine that some invisible genius is reading all thy gentle and loving fancies, and pictures them forth, as they arise, in these flower-phantoms; so that, by looking at this glass, I know, even while you are silent, that your thoughts are full of love—that they are dwelling upon me."
A fond kiss was the answer and the reward of this pretty speech.
Henry took up his journal, and beginning at the ante-penultimate page, read aloud:—"To-day—Sold to that old miser of a bookseller, my rare copy of Chaucer, the costly edition of Caxton. My friend, the dear, noble Andreas Vandelmeer, made me a present of it on my birthday, when we were at the university together. He had written to London for it himself: paid an enormous price for it; and then had it bound, after his own taste, in rich Gothic style. The old hunks of a bookseller will, no doubt, send it back to London, and will get for it tenfold what he has given me. I ought, at least, to have cut out the leaf where the circumstance of this gift is recorded; and here I have written some lamentable lines, signed with my present name and address. This is vexatious. Parting with this book almost persuades me that something like want is pressing on us; for, without doubt, it was the most precious thing I possessed, and the memorial of my dearest and my only friend. Oh, Andreas Vandelmeer! art thou still living? Where art thou? And dost thou still think of me?"
"I saw your pain," said Clara, as he concluded, "when you sold that book; but this friend of your youth—you have never described him to me."
"He was in person," replied Henry, "somewhat resembling myself—rather older and more staid. We knew each other as boys at school. I might say he almost persecuted me with his love, so passionately did he press it on me. He was ever complaining that my friendship was too cold. Rich as he was, and tenderly as he had been brought up, no indulgence had made him selfish. On leaving the university, he determined on going to India, that distant land of wonder having fascinated his ardent imagination. There was then quite a storm of entreaties and supplications that I should accompany him. He assured me that I should make my fortune there, as his own forefathers had in fact done. But my mother died about this time, and my friends, moreover, procured for me a position in the diplomatic body. He persuaded me, at least, to entrust to him the small fortune I had inherited from my mother, that he might employ it advantageously for me; a request which I have always suspected was made in order that he might have, some future time, a pretext and disguise for his generosity. We took leave of each other, and I repaired, in the suite of my ambassador, to the town where your father resided—and where"——
"The history becomes tolerably well known to us both. But this noble Andreas—did you never hear of him again?"
"I received two letters," answered Henry, "from that remote quarter of the world. After which I heard, but through no authentic source, that he died of the cholera. So far as fortune was concerned, I was left as you see, entirely dependent on myself. Still, I enjoyed the favour of my ambassador—was not unpopular at my court—could reckon on some powerful friends;—but all this has disappeared."
"All this, alas!" said Clara, "you have sacrificed for me. And I also am a fugitive from home."
"Then love must supply all. And so it has, and so it will. Has not our honeymoon, as they vulgarly call it, lasted nearly a year?"
"It shall last for ever!" said Clara. Then after a pause, which was filled up as lovers' pauses usually are, she added. "But the worst blow of all was the loss of your own book;—that dear poetry you had written. If we had but kept a copy of it, we might have passed many hours of these winter evenings in reading it. But then," she added, with a smile and a sigh at the same time, "we should have wanted a candle."
"We talk—we gossip," said Henry, "which is much better. I hear the sweet tones of your voice; you sing me a song, or you break suddenly out into that heavenly laugh of yours. What is there not in that musical, jubilee laugh? When I hear it, angel mine, I am not only delighted, I muse, I meditate, I am rapt. How much of character is there in a laugh! You know no man till you have heard him laugh—till you know when and how he will laugh. There are occasions—there are humours when a man with whom we have been long familiar, shall quite startle and repel us, by breaking out into a laugh which comes manifestly right from his heart, and which yet we had never heard before. Even in fair ladies with whom I have been much pleased, I have remarked the same thing. As in many a heart a sweet angel slumbers unseen till some happy moment awakens it, so there sleeps often in gracious and amiable characters, deep in the background, a quite vulgar spirit, which starts into life when something rudely comical penetrates into the less frequented chambers of the mind. Our instinct teaches us that in that being there lies something we must take heed of.
"As to that young and thoughtless publisher," continued Henry, "who became bankrupt and ran off with my glorious manuscript, he, no doubt, did us good service; for how easily might my intercourse with him, while the book was being printed, have led to our discovery? Your father has not yet, be assured, relinquished his pursuit of us—my passport would have been examined again with severer scrutiny—something, no doubt, would have led to the suspicion that the name I bear is assumed. We should have been separated. So, angel mine, we are happy as we are—most happy!"
It had now grown dark, and the fire was burned out; a candle to talk by would have been certainly superfluous: so they retired early to their sleeping apartment. Here they could continue their chat in the dark, quite heedless of the heavy fall of snow that was encumbering their windows.
Next morning, at approach of dawn, Clara hastened up to run to the stove, to awake the sparks in the ashes. Henry soon came to her assistance, and they laughed like children, as, with all their efforts, the flame would not come. At last, with much puffing and blowing, the shavings kindled, and slips of wood were most artistically laid on so as to heat the little stove without any waste of the precious store. "You see, Henry dear," said Clara, "there is hardly enough for to-morrow, and then"——
"A fresh supply must be had," said her husband, in a tone as if this matter of supply was the simplest thing in the world; whereas he well knew, that whatever stock of money remained to them, must be reserved for the still more essential article of food. After breakfast, he again took up his journal. "How I long to come to that page which records how you and I, dearest, ran away with one another."
"O Heaven!" cried Clara, "how strange, how unexpected as that eventful moment! For some days my father had shown a certain ill-humour towards me, and had spoken in a quite unusual manner. He had before expressed his surprise at your frequent visits; now he did not name you, but talked at you, and spoke continually of young men who refused to know their own position. If I was silent on these occasions he was angry; and if I spoke it was still worse: he grew more and more bitter. One morning, just as I was going out in the carriage to pay some visits, my faithful maid ran down the steps after me, and, under pretence of adjusting my dress, whispered into my ear that all was discovered—that my desk had been broken open, and your letters found—and that, in a few hours, I was to be sent off a prisoner to an aunt in a distant part of the country. How sudden was my resolution! I had not ridden far before I alighted from the carriage, under pretence of buying something at a trinket-shop. I sent the coachman and servant away, bidding them return for me in at hour, and then"——
"And then," interrupted Henry, "how delighted was I, how almost terrified with joy, to see you suddenly enter my apartments! I had just returned from my ambassador, and had by good chance some blank passports with me; I filled one up with the first name that occurred; and then, without further preparation, we entered a hired carriage, crossed the borders, were married, and were happy."
This animated dialogue was interrupted by the entrance of an old woman, by name Christina, who had formerly been Clara's nurse. In their flight they had entered into her little cottage as a place where they could safely stop to rest themselves, and the faithful old dame had entreated them to take her with them. She now lived in a small room below, in the same house, and entirely supported herself by going out to work amongst the neighbors. She entered the room at present to mention that she should not sleep that night in her own apartment below; but that, nevertheless, she should return next morning early enough to make their usual daily purchases for them. Clara followed her out of the room to speak with her apart. Henry, in her absence, as if relieved from the necessity of supporting his spirits, or deprived of the power which sustained them, sunk his head upon the table, and burst into tears.
"Why cannot I," he muttered to himself, "work with my hands as this poor woman does? I have still health and strength. But no—I dare not—she would then, for the first time, feel the misery of our position; she would torture herself to work also; besides, we should be discovered and separated—and, come what may, while we can yet live, we are happy."
Clara returned in excellent spirits. They sat down to their frugal and cheerful meal, to which some additions had been made by the obstinate kindness of old Christina. "I could not have the heart to refuse her," said Clara. "Now, if only wood were not wanting, all would be well."
The next morning Clara slept longer than usual. She was surprised, on waking, to see that the day had dawned, and still more to find that her husband had left her side. Her astonishment was further increased when she heard, in the next room, a crashing and grating noise, as of one sawing through an obstinate piece of timber. She got up as speedily as possible, to ascertain the cause of these unusual events.
"Henry," she cried, as she entered the room, "what are you about there?"
"Sawing wood, my dear," he replied, as he looked up panting from his labours.
"But how in the world did you come by that saw, and this famous piece of wood?"
"I remembered," answered Henry, "having seen in the loft above us, soon after we came here, in one of my voyages of discovery, a saw and a hatchet, belonging, I suppose, to some previous tenant of our apartment, or perhaps to our old landlord. So much for these brave tools. As to this noble piece of wood, it was till this morning the banister to our staircase. Observe what solid, substantial men our ancestors were! What a broad, magnificent piece of oak! This will make a quite different sort of fire from your deal shavings and slips of fir."
"But," cried Clara, "the damage to the house!"
"No one comes to see us," said Henry. "We know these steps, and indeed seldom or never go down them. The old Christina is the only person who will miss it, and I will say to her very gravely—Look you, old lady, do you think that a noble oak of the forest is to be hewn down, and then planed and polished by carpenters and joiners, merely that you may come up and down these steps a little more easily? No, no, such a magnificent banister is a most palpable superfluity."
"Since it is done," said Clara, "I will at least take my share in this new species of woodcraft."
So they laid the beam, which filled the apartment, on two chairs, and first they sawed with united efforts at the middle to make it the more manageable. It was hard work, for the oak was tough, and the saw was old, and the workmen were more willing than skilful; but at length it came in two with a crash.
"Well," said Clara, as she looked up, and threw her ringlets aside, her face glowing with the unwonted exercise, "this work has one advantage at least; we want no fire this morning to warm us."
After sawing off several square blocks, Henry set to work with his hatchet to cleave them into pieces fit for the stove. It was fortunate that, during this operation, which made the walls of their little dwelling re-echo, their landlord was absent. Nor were the neighbours likely to be much surprised at the noise, as many handicraftsmen inhabited that locality.
On this eventful day breakfast had been forgotten; dinner and breakfast were consolidated into one meal. This being dispatched with their usual cheerfulness, they retired to their seat by the window. To-day there was no frost upon the glass; and the sky—all that could be seen of it—was clear as crystal. It was a curiously simple prospect which this window presented. Underneath them, over the ground-floor of the house, had been constructed—for what reason it would not be easy to say—a tiled roof, which projected in such a manner as completely to hide the narrow street from their view. In front stretched the long low roof of a building, which seemed to be used as a warehouse; and on both sides they were hemmed in by the blank projecting walls and the tall chimneys of larger houses—so that certain masses of brickwork, a long roof, and a fragment of the open sky, was all that the eye could possibly command. This complete isolation suited the lovers very well; for, besides that it effectually concealed them from the discovery of their pursuers, it permitted them to stand at the window, and talk and caress, without the restraint occasioned by envious spectators. When they first occupied the apartment, if they heard an unusual noise out of doors, they naturally ran to the window to look down into the street; and it was not till after many fruitless experiments that they learned to sit quiet on such occasions. It was quite an event if a cat was seen stealthily making its way over the long sloping roof in front of them. In the summer, when the sparrows built their nests in the tall chimneys on either side, and were perpetually flying to and fro, twittering, caressing, quarrelling—this was quite a society. When a chimney-sweeper once thrust out his black face from one of these chimneys, and shouted aloud to testify the accomplishment of his ascent, it was an event that brought a shriek of surprise from Clara.
Thus passed the days, and the pair were happy as kings, though they were living very like beggars. Very singular was their power of abstraction from the future, their entire satisfaction with the present. Clara, it is true, cast some anxious thoughts after the wood; but Henry brought in every morning the necessary supply: there was no symptoms of failure. She thought indeed, of late, that the grain of the wood seemed altered; but it burned as well as ever.
"Where," said Clara, one morning, "where is our faithful Christina? I have not seen her for many a day. You rise in the morning before I can get up—you take in the bread and the water-jug—I never see her. Why does she not come up? Is she ill?"
"No," said Henry, with a slight embarrassment of manner, which his wife did not fail to detect.
"Ah! you conceal something from me" she cried. "I will go down directly and see what is the matter with her."
"It is so long since you descended these steps, and there is no banister—you will fall."
"No, no, I know the steps—I could find them in the dark."
"Those steps," said Henry, with a mock solemnity of manner—"those steps will you never tread again!"
"Oh, there is something you conceal from me!" exclaimed Clara. "Say what you will, I will go down and see Christina."
She turned quickly round and opened the door, but Henry clasped her as quickly in his arms.
"My dear," cried he, "will you break your neck?"
The secret was at once disclosed. They stepped together to the landing-place. There were no longer any stairs to be seen. Clara clasped her little hands as she looked first down into the dark precipice below, and then at her husband, who maintained the most comical gravity in the world. She then ran back to the stove, snatched up one of the pieces of wood, and, looking at it closely, said—"Ah, now I see why the grain was so different! So, then, we have burned up the stairs?"
"So it seems," answered Henry, quite calmly. "I hardly know why I kept this secret from you—perhaps that you might not be distressed by any superfluous scruples. Now that you know it, I am sure you will find it quite reasonable."
"Oh, she is quite well! In the morning I let her down a cord, to which she fastens her little basket. This I draw up, and afterwards the water-jug. Our housekeeping proceeds in the most orderly fashion in the world. When the banister was at an end, it struck me that one half at least of the steps of our staircase might be dispensed with; it was but to step a little higher, as one is forced to do in many houses. With the help of Christina, who entered into this philosophical view of the matter, I broke off the first, third, fifth, and so forth. When one half of the steps was consumed, the other half was also condemned as superfluous—for what do we want with stairs, we who never go out?"
"But the landlord?"
"He will not return till Easter. Meanwhile the weather will be getting milder, and there are still some old doors and planks up above, which I shall pronounce altogether superfluous. Therefore warm thee, dearest Clara, without any care for the future."
Things, however, did not quite fall out as expected. On the afternoon of that very same day, a carriage was heard to drive up to the little house. They heard the rattling of the wheels, the stopping of the vehicle, the descent of the passengers. It was in vain to put their heads out of window, they could see nothing there. But they heard the sound of unpacking, then the greeting of neighbours—it was evident, beyond a doubt, that their dreaded landlord had returned home much sooner than he ought. The heavy tread of the gouty gentleman now resounded in the passage—the crisis was at hand. Henry stood at the half-open door, listening. Clara sat within, regarding him with a questioning look.
"I must go up," the landlord was now heard to say; "I must go up, and see after my lodgers. I hope they are as cheerful as ever, and the young wife as pretty."
There was a pause. The old man was groping about in the dark.
"How is this?" he muttered to himself. "Don't know my own house! Not here—not there! Ulric! Ulric! help here!"
Ulric, his servant and factotum, came to his assistance.
"Help me up these stairs," said the landlord. "I am blinded—bewitched! I cannot find the steps, and yet they were broad enough!"
"Herr Emmerich," said the old and somewhat surly domestic, "you are a little giddy from travelling."
"An hypothesis," whispered Henry, turning to his wife, "which unhappily will not hold."
"Zounds!" cried Ulric, who had run his head against the wall, "I have lost my wits too!"
"I am groping right and left," said the landlord, "and all round, and up above. I think the devil has taken the stairs!"
"Another hypothesis," whispered Henry, "and a very bold one."
Meanwhile the more sensible domestic had at once run for a light. This he now returned with, and, holding it up in his sturdy fist, he illuminated the quite empty space.
"Ten thousand devils!" exclaimed the landlord, as he gazed around and above him with astonishment. "This is the strangest business! Herr Brand! Herr Brand! Is any one up there?"
It was of no use to deny himself. Henry stepped out, bent over the landing, and saw, by the uncertain flicker of the light, the portly form of his landlord.
"Ah, my worthy friend, Herr Emmerich!" he called out in the blandest manner imaginable, "you are most welcome. It speaks well for the gout that you have returned so much earlier than your appointed time. I am delighted to see you looking so well."
"Your obedient servant," answered the other; "but that is not the question. What has become of my stairs?"
"Stairs! were there any stairs here?" said Henry. "Indeed, my friend, I go out so seldom, or rather not at all, that I take no notice of any thing out of my own chamber. I study, I work—I concern myself about little else."
"Herr Brand," said the landlord, half choking with rage, "we must speak about this in another tone! You are the only lodger. You shall give an account before a court of justice"—
"Be not overwroth," replied Henry. "If you really contemplate legal proceedings, I think I can be of use to you; for, now I think of it, I perfectly remember that there were stairs here, and have a vivid recollection of having, in your absence, used them."
"Used them!" cried the old man, stamping with his feet; "and how used them? You have destroyed them—you have destroyed the house."
"Nay, do not exaggerate, Herr Emmerich. I cannot ask you to walk up-stairs, or you might see that these rooms we inhabit are in a perfect state of preservation. As to this ladder, which was but an asses' bridge for tedious visitors and bad men, I removed it with great difficulty, as being superfluous."
"But these steps," cried Emmerich, "with their noble banister, these two-and-twenty broad, strong oaken steps, were an integral part of my house. Old as I am, I never heard of a lodger who dealt as he pleased with the stairs of a house."
"Be patient," said Henry, "and you shall hear the real connexion of events. The post failed in bringing our necessary remittances; the winter was unusually severe; all ordinary means of procuring fuel were wanting; I had recourse to this sort of forced loan. At the same time I did not think, respected sir, that you would return before the warm summer weather."
"Nonsense!" said the landlord. "Summer weather! Do you think that these my stairs will sprout out again, like asparagus, when the summer comes?"
"Really," said Henry, "I am not sufficiently acquainted with the growth and habits of the stair-plant to determine."
"Ulric!" cried the wrathful landlord, "run for the police. You shall find this no jesting matter."
The police arrived. The inspector was scandalized at the outrage which had been committed, and summoned the delinquent to surrender.
"Never!" said Henry. "An Englishman says well that his house is his castle; and mine is a castle with the drawbridge up."
"There is an easy remedy for that," said the officer, who thereupon called for a ladder, and gave command to his men to mount, to bind the criminal with cords, and bring him down to his condign punishment.
The house was now filled with the people of the neighbourhood. Men, women, and children had been attracted to the spot, and a crowd of curious spectators, assembled in the street, made their comments upon the business. Clara had seated herself near the window, not a little embarrassed; but as she saw that her husband still retained his accustomed cheerfulness, she also kept her self-possession—not, however, without much wondering how it would all end. Henry came in for a moment to hearten her, and also to fetch something from the room.
"We are shut up, my dear," said he, "like our famous Goetz in his Taxthausen. This obstinate trumpeter has summoned me to surrender at mercy, and I will now answer him in the manner of our great model."
"Your fate is my fate," she said, and added to herself in a low voice: "I think, if my father saw us now, he would forgive all."
Henry again stepped out upon the landing, and seeing they were verily bringing in a ladder, called to them in a solemn tone—"Gentlemen, bethink you what you do. I have been prepared, weeks ago, for every thing—for the very worst that can happen. I will not be taken prisoner, but intend to defend myself to the last drop of my blood. Here do I bring two blunderbusses loaded with ball, and this old cannon, a fearful piece of ordnance, full to the throat with every destructive ingredient. I have in this chamber powder and ball, cartridges, lead, all things necessary to sustain the war; whilst my brave wife, who has been accustomed to fire-arms, will load the pieces as I fire them. Advance, therefore, if you wish blood to flow."
Henry had laid two sticks and an old boot upon the floor.
The leader of the police, who could distinguish nothing in the dark, beckoned to his men to stand back.
"Better," said he to Herr Emmerich, "that we starve out this formidable rebel."
"Starve, indeed!" said Henry: "we are provided for months to come with all sorts of dried fruits—plums, pears, apples, biscuits. The winter is nearly passed, but should fuel fail us, there is still in the roof above much superfluous timber."
"Oh, hear the heathen!" cried Emmerich in agony. "First he breaks to pieces the bottom of my house, and then he threatens to unroof it."
"It is beyond all example," said the officer.
Many of the spectators, however, were secretly pleased at the distress of the avaricious landlord. Some suggested the calling in of the military, with their guns.
"For Heaven's sake, no!" cried Emmerich; "the house will then be utterly destroyed."
"You are quite right," said Henry. "And have you forgotten what for many years every newspaper has been repeating to us, that the first cannon-shot, let it fall where it may, will set all Europe in blaze?"
"He is a demagogue, a carbonaro," said the officer. "Who knows what confederates he may have even in this crowd which surrounds us?"
The alarm of the officer seemed, for a moment, to be justified, for a shout was now heard from some of the populace who were collected in the street. Emmerich and the officer turned round to enquire into the meaning of this new demonstration. Henry took the opportunity to whisper a word to his young wife.
"Be of good cheer," he said; "we gain time. We shall be able to capitulate. Perhaps even a Sickingen may come to our rescue."
The shout of the mob had been occasioned by the appearance of a brilliant equipage, which made its way slowly through the thronged and narrow street. The footmen were clad in splendid livery, and a coachman, covered with lace, drove four prancing steeds. The mob might be excused for shouting "The king! The king!" The carriage stopped before the door of the house which was now become the great point of attraction, and a nobleman descended, elegantly attired and decorated with orders and crosses.
"Does a certain Herr Brand live here?" enquired the illustrious stranger; "and what means all this uproar?"
Hereupon fifty different voices made answer with as many different accounts. The landlord, stepping forward, pointed to the dilapidated condition of the house, and explained the real state of affairs. The stranger continued to advance into the hall, and called with a loud voice, "Does Herr Brand live here?"
"Yes," replied Henry from above; "but who is this that asks?"
"The ladder here!" cried the stranger.
"No one ascends to this place!" said Henry.
"Not if he brings back the Chaucer, the edition of Caxton?"
"O Heaven! the good angel may ascend!" and immediately ran back to Clara to communicate the joyful news. "Our Sickingen is verily come!" he exclaimed. Tears of joy were starting to his eyes.
A few words from the stranger, addressed to the landlord and the officer, produced a sudden calm. The ladder was raised, and Henry, in a moment, was in the arms of his old friend Andreas Vandelmeer! All was now joy and congratulation in the little apartment, as Henry introduced to his friend his dear and beautiful wife. The first greetings passed, Vandelmeer informed them that the small fortune which Henry had entrusted to his care had increased and multiplied itself, and that he might now consider himself a rich man. Vandelmeer, on his return from India, had landed at the port of London. There it had occurred to him to procure some antiquarian present for his friend, like that which he had formerly given him. Entering the bookseller's where his previous purchase had been made, he saw a Chaucer, which attracted his attention from its similarity to the one he had procured for his friend. It was, in fact, the same. It had found its way back to its original owner. On opening it, he found some melancholy lines written on the fly-leaf, and signed with his present name and address. He immediately repurchased the book, and hastened to the discovery, and, as it proved, the rescue of his friend.
To complete the happiness of all parties, he was able to inform them that the father of Clara had laid aside his anger, and was desirous of discovering his daughter only that he might receive and forgive her. What need to say more? Even the landlord was content, and had reason to congratulate himself on the devastation committed on his staircase.
THE OVERLAND PASSAGE.
Our intercourse with India has become so important within these few years, and the rapid transit by the isthmus of Suez has become so favourite a passage, that the public naturally feel an extreme curiosity relative to every circumstance of the route. The whole is a splendid novelty, sufficiently strange to retain some portion of the old wonder which belongs to all things Arabian; sufficiently wild to supply us with the scenes and adventures of barbarism; and yet sufficiently brought within the sphere of European interests, to combine with the romance of the wilderness, at once Oriental pomp and the powers and utilities of civilized and Christian society. The contrast is of the most exciting kind:—we have the Bedouin, with his lance and desert home, hovering round the European carriage, but now guarding what his fathers would have plundered; the caravan with all its camels, turbaned merchants, and dashing cavalry, moving along the river's bank, on whose waters the steam-boat is rushing; the many-coloured and many-named tribes of the South, meeting the men of every European nation in the streets where the haughty Osmanli was once master. The buildings offer scarcely a less singular contrast:—the lofty, prison-like, close casemented fronts of the huge Mahometan dwellings, frowning in grim repose upon the spruce shops and glittering hotels of the French and Italian trader and tavern-keeper; and though last, most memorable of all—the old Pasha, the only man in existence who has given a new being to a people; the true regenerator of his country, or rather the creator of a nation out of one of the most abject, exhausted, and helpless races of mankind. Egypt, the slave of the stranger for a thousand years, trampled on by Saracen, Turk, Mameluke, and Frenchman; but by the enterprise and intelligence of this extraordinary individual, suddenly raised to an independent rank, and actually possessing a most influential interest in the eyes of Europe and Asia.
The route of the travellers begins with Ceylon. Ceylon is a fine picturesque island, very fertile, strikingly placed for commerce, and containing a tolerably intelligent population. Yet we do not seem to have made much of its advantages hitherto; Singapore and even Hong-Kong are likely to throw it into eclipse; and the chief benefit of its possession is in keeping away foreign powers from too near an inspection of our settlements in India. But its shores have the richness of vegetation which belongs to the tropics, and the variety of aspect which is so often found in the Asiatic islands. The Major and his wife embarked on board the steamer "The India," in May 1844. The view from the Point de Galle is striking. The town is shaded by trees, which give it the look of richness and freshness that contributes such a charm to the Oriental landscape. On the left of the bay is a headland clothed with tropic vegetation. In front are two islands, giving variety to the bay. Behind is the esplanade, shut in by hills covered with cocoa-nut trees. At the foot of those hills is the native town and bridge, also shaded by trees. Crowds of canoes, of various shapes and colours, moored along the shore, complete the scene.
The passengers were discontented with the India. They never saw any thing like the dirt of the ship. The coal-dust penetrated into every thing. It was in vain to sigh for a clean face and hands, for they were unattainable. This must be true; yet it passes our comprehension. We cannot understand why coal-dust should make its appearance at all for the affliction of the passengers. It certainly blackens no one in our European steamers. Its business is in the engine-room, and we never heard of its making its entree into either the saloon or the cabin. The India is complained of as being very ill adapted for the service, as unwieldy, and inadequate to face the south-west monsoon. Yet the vessel was handsomely decorated: the saloon was profusely ornamented with gilding, cornices, and mirrors; the tables were richly veneered, and the furniture was of morocco leather. All this exhibits no want of liberality on the part of the proprietors; but a much heavier charge is laid on the carelessness which allowed this handsome vessel to be infested with disgusting vermin. "The swarms of cock-roaches," says Mrs Darby Griffiths, "almost drove me out of my senses. The other day sixty were killed in our cabin, and we might have killed as many more. They are very large, about two inches and a half long, and run about my pillows and sheets in the most disgusting manner. Rats are also very numerous." Now, all this we can as little comprehend as the coal-dust. If such things were, they must have arisen from the most extraordinary negligence; and we hope the proprietors, enlightened by Mrs Darby Griffith's book, will have the vessel cleansed out before her next voyage.
The monsoon was now direct against them, and the probability was, that instead of getting to Aden in its teeth, their coal-dust would fail, and they would be driven back to Bombay for more. But the commander of one of the Oriental Company's ships, who was fortunately a passenger, advised the captain to go south, for the purpose of meeting winds which would afterwards blow him to the north-west. The advice was as fortunately taken. They steamed till within two degrees of the line, and then met with a south wind. This, however, though it drove them on their course, made them roll terribly. The India was not prepared for this rough treatment. There was not a swing-table in the ship. The consequence was, that bottles of wine were rolling in every direction; geese, turkeys, and curry were precipitated into the laps of the unfortunate people on the lee-side; while those on the weather-side were thrown forward with their faces on their plates. This was treatment which probably John Bull would not like; but being a philosopher, and besides a native of an island, he would endure it as one of the necessities of nature. But there were four French passengers on board who took it in a different way, and probably conceiving that a vessel at sea was something in the nature of a stage-coach, and the Indian ocean a high-road, they felt themselves peculiarly ill-used by this tossing; and at every instance of having a bottle of wine emptied into their drapery, they regarded it as a national insult, and complained bitterly to the captain. The French are a belligerent people, and we are surprised that this series of aggressions by the billows has not been taken up by Mons. Thiers and his friends, as an additional evidence of the malice of England to the grande nation. Sea-sickness, starvation, and the loss of their claret, were acts worthy, indeed, of perfide Albion. The captain himself was one of the victims to the "movement." The fair tourist thus draws his portrait—whether the captain will admire either the sketch or the limner, is another question. He is described as "an immensely fat, punchy man, resembling a huge ball, with great fat red cheeks which almost conceal his eyes, and a small turned-up nose." He was, of course, always seated at the head of the table, and, she supposed, considered it beneath his dignity to have his chair tied; but this world is all made up of compromises and compensations—if the captain preserved his dignity, he lost his balance. A surge came, "his fixity of tenure was gone in a moment, and this solid dignitary was shot forth, chair and all, and rolled against the bulkhead. Every body was in roars of laughter."
But though all this was toil and trouble for the miserable lords and ladies of the creation, it was delight for the masters and mistresses of the mighty element around them. The inhabitants of the ocean were in full sport; whales were seen rushing through the brine, porpoises were sporting with their sleek skins in the highest enjoyment through the billows, and shoals of dolphins filled the waves with their splendid pea-green and azure. It was an ocean fete, a bal-pare of the finny tribe, a gala-day of nature; while miserable men and women were shrinking, and shivering, and sinking in heart, in the midst of the animation, enjoyment, and magnificence of the world of waters. On the third night of their sailing, the wind became higher, and the swell from the south stronger than ever. They pitched about in the most dreadful manner, and during the night two sails were carried away, and the fore-topmast. They were now in peril; but they had the steam in reserve, and steered for their port. On the 9th of June they were in smooth water, running up between the coasts of Arabia and Africa. The weather now suddenly changed; the sun became intensely hot, and though forty miles from the shore, they were visited by numerous butterflies, dragon-flies, and moths. In two days after, they sailed through an orange-coloured sea, filled with a shoal of animalculae fifteen miles long. On the next day they came in sight of the harbour of Aden. This whole track was the voyage from which the Arabian story-tellers have fabricated such wonders. One of the voyages of the celebrated Sinbad the sailor, the most picturesque of all voyagers, was over this very ocean. The orange-coloured waters, the strong effluvium of the waves intoxicating the brain, the wild headlands of Africa—each the dwelling of a necromancer—the Maldives, filled with mermaids and sea-monsters, the volcanic blaze that guarded the entrance to the Red Sea, the fiery mountains of Aden, the Hadramant, or region of Death, the Babelmandeb, or Gate of Tears, the Isle of Perim, and the Cape of Burials, wild, black, and terrific—fill the Arab imagination with wonders that throw all modern invention to an immeasurable distance.
The town of Aden is not seen from the sea; it lies behind the mountains, which are first visible. To look at the coast from this spot, nothing but a sandy desert presents itself. The peninsula is joined to the mainland, Arabia Felix, by a narrow sandy isthmus, nearly level with the ocean. It is only 14,000 feet wide. There are three rocky islands in the bay, one of which, commanding the isthmus, is fortified. The passengers of the India were disturbed during the whole day by the yells of the Arabs who were bringing the coals on board. They look more like demons than human beings. "The coal-dust, of which we had lost sight for some time, now began once more to turn every thing into its own colour. The coolies employed in this service come from the coast of Zanzibar. They keep up a continual yell during their work, and perform a kind of dance all the time." They must be very well paid, and this is the true secret of making men work. The African is no more lazy than other men, when he can get value for his labour. This is the true secret for abolishing the slave trade. Those men come hundreds or thousand of miles to cover themselves with coal-dust, in an atmosphere where the thermometer sometimes rises to 120 deg. in the shade, and work "day and night until they have finished their task," roaring and dancing all the time, besides—and all this for the stimulant of wages. It is to be presumed that their performance is "piece-work," the only work which brings out the true effort of the labourer. Their zeal was said to be so great, that every hundred tons of coal embarked cost the life of a man. But the Africans have learned to drink grog; an accomplishment which we should have thought they would not be long in acquiring, and since that period, they live longer. This, we must acknowledge, is a new merit in grog; it is the first time that we have heard of it as a promoter of longevity.
The Arabs on the coast form two classes, perfectly distinct, at least in their conduct to the English. The class of warriors, being robbers by profession, are extremely anxious to rob us, and still more indignant at our preventing their robbery of others. Their piracies have suffered grievously from the vigilance of our gun-boats, and they have once or twice actually attempted to storm our fortifications. The consequence is, that they have been soundly beaten, the majority have left their carcasses behind them, and the survivors have been taught a "moral lesson," which has kept them at a respectful distance. But the Arab cultivators are decent and industrious men, and form the servants of the town. Whether we shall ever make a great southern colony of the country adjoining the peninsula, must be a question of the future. But it is said that a very fine and healthy country extends to the north, and that the mountains visible from Aden enclose valleys of singular productiveness and beauty.
Taste in personal decoration differs a good deal in the south from that of the north. The Arab, with a face as black as ink, thinks an enormous shock of red hair the perfection of taste; he accordingly dyes his hair with lime, and thus makes himself, unconsciously, the regular demon of the stage.
The entrance to the new British settlement is through masses of the boldest and wildest rocks. After passing a defile between two mountains, we come to the only access on this side, the "lofty mountains forming an impregnable fortification." This entrance is cut through the solid rock. A strong guard of sepoys is posted there. The passage is so high and narrow, that "one might almost compare it to the eye in a darning needle." This is a female comparison, but an expressive one. Issuing from the pass, the whole valley of Aden lay like a map beneath, bounded on three sides by precipitous mountains, rising up straight and barren like a mighty wall, while on the fourth was the sea; but even there the view was bounded by the island rock of Sera, thus completing the fortification of this Eastern Gibraltar.
Here the travellers were welcomed by a hospitable garrison surgeon and his wife, found a dinner, an apartment, great civility, and a romantic view of the Arab landscape by moonlight. They heard the drums and pipes of one of the regiments, and were "startled by the loud report of a cannon, which shook the frail tenement, and resounded with a lengthened echo through the hills. It was the eight o'clock gun, which stood only a stone's throw from the house, and on the same rock." The lady, as a soldier's wife, ought to have been less alarmed; but she was in a land where every thing was strange. "We were literally sleeping out in the open air; as there were no doors, windows, or venetians to close, and every breath of wind agitated the frail walls of bamboo and matting, I was awoke in the night by the musquitto curtains blowing up; the wind had risen, and came every now and then with sudden gusts; but its breath was so soft, warm, and dry, that I, who had never ventured to bear a night-blast in Ceylon, felt that it was harmless."
Aden, in earlier times, formed one of the thirteen states of Yemen; and prodigious tales are told of its opulence, its mosques and minarets, its baths of jasper, and its crescents and colonnades. But Arabia is proverbially a land of fable, and the glories of Aden exhibit Arabian imagination in its highest stage. Possibly, while it continued a port for the Indian trade, it may have shared the wealth which India has always lavished on commerce. But a spot without a tree, without a mine, and without a manufacture, could never have possessed solid wealth under the languid industry and wild rapine of an Arab population. When we recollect, too, how long the Turks were masters of this corner of Arabia, we may well be sceptical of the opulence of periods when the sword was the law. No memorials of its prosperity remain; no ruined temples or broken columns attest the magnificence or the taste of an earlier generation. Its only hope of opulence must be dated from its first possession by the British. But the barrenness of the soil forbids substantial wealth; and though the native merchants, relying on the honour of British laws and the security of British arms, are flocking into it by hundreds, and will soon flock into it by thousands, it must be at best but a warehouse and a fortress, though both will, in all probability, be of the most magnificent description. The population is of the miscellaneous order which is to be found in all the Eastern ports. The Parsees, the handsome and industrious race who are to be seen every where in India; the Jews, keen and indefatigable, who are to be seen in every part of the world; and the Arabs, whose glance and gesture seem to despise both, are already crowding this half camp, half capital. From eighty to a hundred camels, every morning, supply the markets of Aden. They bring in baskets of fine fruit, grapes, melons, dates, and peaches. The greater number bring also poultry, grass, and straw. Troops of donkeys carry water in skins to every part of the town; and there is no want of the necessaries of life, though of course they are dear. Aden is excessively hot, but regarded as healthy. The air is pure, dry, and elastic. The engineers are building works on the different commanding positions; and Aden, within a few years, will probably be the strongest fortification, as it is already one of the finest ports, east of the Mediterranean. But we look to nobler prospects; the inland country is perhaps one of the finest regions in the world. Almost within view of Aden lies a country as picturesque as Switzerland, and as fertile as the valleys of the tropics. It is singularly salubrious; and, in point of extent, may be regarded as unlimited. We see no possible reason why Aden should not, in the course of a few years, be made the capital of a great Arabian colony. Conquest must not be the means, but purchase might not be difficult; and civilization and Christianity might be spread together through immense territories, formed in the bounty of nature, and only waiting to be filled with a free and vigorous population. It is only the centre and north of Arabia that is desert. The coast, and especially the southern extremity, are fertile. Without the ambition of empire, or the desire of encroachment, British enterprize might here find a superb field, and the Arabian peninsula might, for the first time in history, be added to the civilized world.
The travellers now ran up the Red Sea. The navigation has greatly improved within these few years, in consequence of the intercourse between England and India. Surveys have been made, and charts have been formed, which almost divest the passage of peril. But the navigation is still intricate, in consequence of the coral rocks and numerous shoals, which, however, may be escaped by due vigilance, and the experienced mariner has nothing to fear. The aspect of the coast, of both Africa and Arabia, is wild and repulsive; but some compensation for the monotony of the shores is to be found in the sea itself. When calm, the transparency of the water exhibits the bottom to the depth of thirty fathoms. "And what a new world is discovered through this vale of waters! what treasures for the naturalist!" The sands are overspread with forests of coral plants of every colour, shells of remarkable beauty; and, in the midst of this sub-aqueous landscape, fish of brilliant hues sporting in all directions. At length they reached the gulf of Suez, with the blue peaks of Sinai in the distance, and continued running up the gulf, which was one hundred and sixty miles long, until Suez came in sight. Here all is dreary: deserts and sand-banks form the whole landscape. Arab boats came alongside, and conveyed the passengers from the steamer. The town looked dismal; its walls and fortifications were in decay; the landing-place was crowded by sickly-looking creatures, the evident victims of malaria, and the chief ornament of the place was a large white-washed tomb. This condition of things was not much improved when the party found themselves in the hotel of Messrs Hill and Co. Musquittoes, and every species of frightful insect, made war against sleep; and when their reign had passed away, and the travellers rose, crowds of flies continued the persecution. The travellers made a bad bargain in paying their passage-money at once from Suez to Alexandria; and it is described as the wiser mode to pay only to Cairo, and then take the choice of the several conveyances which are sure to be found there. The Arab drivers and carriers seem to have fully acquired those arts of extortion, which flourish in such abundance wherever English money is to be found. They cheat, and lie, and cajole, with extraordinary assiduity; and the majority of the passengers on this occasion seem to have been detained unnecessarily on the road, and treated badly at the station houses. The first part of the desert is rather rocky than sandy, and the road seems to have been formed chiefly by the carriage wheels. It is covered with great pieces of stone and rock, which sorely tried the patience of the travellers. Hundreds of carcasses of camels lie in the way; the flesh is soon eaten by the wolves and rats, while the bones bleach in the sun. Little troops of Arabs were met from time to time, sometimes on camels and sometimes on horses. They were armed to the teeth, as black as negroes, and looked ferocious enough to make any party of pacific travellers tremble for their goods and chattels. But they were the patrols of Mohammed Ali, and guardians of the goods which in other days they would have delighted to plunder. There are eight stations on this road through the desert, all built by that man of wonders, the Pasha. Of these, four are only stables; but four are houses for the reception of travellers. They are generally from twelve to sixteen miles apart. The station No. 6, though by no means possessing the comforts of an English hotel, must be a miracle to the old travellers of the desert. It consists of two chambers, a kitchen, and servants' room, with a large public saloon occupying the whole of one end, and completing a little centre court. Three sides of the saloon were furnished with divans. There was a long table in the centre, with several chairs, and a glass window at each end of the room. But this was unluckily the season of flies, and they were the torment of the travellers; table, wall, ceiling, and floors swarmed with them. They flew into the face, the eyes, and the mouth. Thousands of musquittoes were also buzzing round and biting every thing. The breakfast was no sooner laid on the table than it was blackened with flies. The beds were hiving, and intolerable. No. 4, the halfway-house, was rather better. It is the largest of them all, and has a long row of bedrooms, and two public saloons. It has a large courtyard, in which were turkeys, geese, sheep, and goats, for the use of travellers. The Arab coachman here tried a trick of the road. He sent up a message that he had observed the lady looked very much tired, and that he therefore advised them to get to the end of their journey as quickly as possible; that they had better start in two hours, as the moon was very bright, and that he would take them into Cairo by breakfast-time in the morning. But it was suspected that this haste was in order that the passengers waiting at Cairo to go by the India steamer should be conveyed across the desert by himself, so they declined his offer, and enjoyed their night's rest. On rising in the morning, they felt that they had reason to congratulate themselves on their refusal of the night's journey; for they found even the morning air bitter, and the atmosphere a wet fog. The aspect of the country had now changed. Chains of hills disappeared, and all was level sand. On the way they saw the mirage, sometimes assuming the appearance of a distant harbour, at others, of an inland lake reflecting the surrounding objects on its surface; and they met one of the picturesque displays of Arabia, a wealthy Bey going on a pilgrimage to Mecca. He had a train of twenty or thirty camels. Those carrying himself and his harem had superb trappings. The women were seated in large open boxes, hanging on each side as paniers. There were red silk embroidered curtains hung round, like those on a bedstead, and an awning over all. The bey was smoking his splendid pipe, and behind came a crowd of slaves with provisions. The road on approaching Cairo grew rougher than ever; it was often over ridges of rock just appearing above the sand. The Pasha's "commissioners of paving" seem to have slumbered on their posts as much as if they had been metropolitan. At last a "silvery stream" was seen winding in the horizon—the "glorious Nile!" The country now grew picturesque; a forest of domes and minarets arose in the distance; and the Pyramids became visible. The road then ran through a sort of suburb, where the Bedouins take up their quarters on their visits to buy grain, they being not suffered within the walls. It then passed between walled gardens filled with flowers, shrubs, orange and olive trees; most of the walls were also surmounted with a row of pillars, interlaced with vines—a species of ornament new to us, but which, we should conceive, must add much to the beauty, external and internal, of a garden. Cairo was entered at last; and its lofty houses, and the general architecture of this noblest specimen of a Mahometan capital, delighted the eyes which had so long seen nothing but the sea, the rocky shore, and the desert. Cairo is, like all the rest of the world, growing European, and even English. It has its hotels; and the traveller, except that he hears more Arabic, and inhales more tobacco smoke, will soon begin to imagine himself in Regent street. The "Eastern Hotel" is a good house, where Englishmen get beefsteaks, port wine, and brown stout; read the London papers; have waiters who at least do their best to entertain them in their own tongue; and want nothing but operas and omnibuses. But the dress still makes a distinction, and it is wholly in favour of the Mussulman. All modern European dresses are mean; the Oriental is the only man whose dress adds dignity to the human form. When Sultan Mahmoud stripped off the turban, and turned the noble dress of his people into the caricature of the European costume, he struck a heavier blow at his sovereignty than ever was inflicted by the Russian sabre or the Greek dagger. He smote the spirit of his nation. The Egyptian officials wear the fez, or red nightcap—the fitting emblem of an empire gone to sleep. But the general population of Egypt wear the ancient turban, the finest ornament of the head ever invented by man; that of the Egyptian Mahometan is white muslin; that of the Shereefs, or line of Mahomet, is green; that of the Jews and Copts is black. The remaining portions of the costume are such as, perhaps, we shall soon see only upon the stage. The embroidered caftan, the flowing gown, the full trouser of scarlet or violet-coloured cloth, the yellow morocco boot, the jewelled dagger, and velvet-sheathed cimeter—all the perfection of magnificence and taste in costume. The ample beard gives completeness to the majesty of the countenance, and finishes the true character of the "lord of the creation."
The citadel of Cairo has a melancholy and memorable name, from the horrid massacre of the Mamelukes in 1811, when four hundred and seventy of those showy soldiers were murdered, and but one escaped by leaping his horse from the battlements. The horse was killed; the man is now a bey in the Pasha's service. The citadel stands on a hill, and contains the Pasha's palace, a harem, a council-hall, police-offices, and a large square, where the massacre was perpetrated. The view from the windows of the palace is superb. Cairo is seen immediately beneath, skirted by gardens on the right. Beyond those the mosques of the caliphs, and as far as the eye can reach, the Arabian desert. In front is the Nile, a silver stream, covered with sails of every description, till it is lost in the groves of the Delta. The ports of Boulac and old Cairo, with numerous villages, stud its banks, and from its bosom rise verdant islands. To the left, the Nile is still visible, and beyond are seen the Pyramids, which, though twelve miles off, appear quite close, from the transparency of the air. In the citadel is also a mosque, now building by the order of the Pasha. It is constructed of Oriental alabaster, is of great size, already exhibits fine taste, and promises to be one of the most beautiful structures in Egypt. But the Pasha has not yet attained the European improvement of lamps in the streets. After nightfall, the only light is from the shops, which, when they close, leave the street in utter darkness. However, most of the pedestrians carry lamps with them. How does it happen that no gas company has taken pity upon this Egyptian darkness, and saved the Cairans from the chance of having their throats cut, or at least their bones broken; for during the summer a considerable portion of the poorer population sleep in the streets? Still the Pasha is a man of taste, fond of living in gardens, and sensible enough to have the garden of his favourite palace at Shoobra laid out by a Scotch gardener. He used to reside a great deal there, but now chiefly lives, when at Cairo, in the house of his daughter, a widow, where his apartments are in the European style. Nothing surprises a European traveller more than the people themselves; and no problem can seem more mysterious than the means by which they are enabled to supply so much expensive costume. The Egyptian gentleman seems to want for nothing, wherever they find the money to pay for it. Fine houses, fine furniture, fine horses, and fine clothes, seem to be constantly at the command of a crowd who have nothing to do, who produce nothing, and yet seem to have every thing. The Egyptian or Turkish lady is an absolute bale of costly clothing—the more breadths of silk they carry about them the better. Before leaving her home, she puts over her house costume a large loose robe called a tob, made of silk or satin, and always of some gay colour, pink, yellow, red, or violet. She next puts on her face veil, a long strip of the finest white muslin, often exquisitely embroidered. It is fastened just between the eyes, conceals all the other features, and reaches to the feet. She next envelopes herself in large cloak of rich black silk, tied round the head by a piece of narrow riband. Her costume is completed by trousers of silk gauze, and yellow morocco boots, which reach a considerable way up the legs. How any human being can bear such a heap of clothing, especially under the fiery sun and hot winds of Egypt, is to us inconceivable. It must melt all vigour out of the body, and all life out of the soul; but it is the fashion, and fashion works its wonders in Egypt as well as elsewhere. The veil across the mouth, in a climate where every breath of fresh air is precious, must be but a slower kind of strangulation. But the preparative for a public appearance is not yet complete. Women of condition never walk. They ride upon a donkey handsomely caparisoned, sitting astride upon a high and broad saddle, covered with a rich Turkey carpet. They ride with stirrups, but they never hold the reins; their hands are busy in keeping down their cloaks. A servant leads the donkey by the bridle. Their figures, when thus in motion, are the most preposterous things imaginable. Huge as they are, the wind, which has no respect for persons, gets under their cloaks, and blows them up to three times their natural size. Those are the ladies of Egypt; the lower orders imitate this absurdity and extravagance as far as they can, and with their face veils, the most frightful things possible, shuffle through the streets like strings of spectres. Poverty and labour may by possibility keep the lower ranks in health; but how the higher among the females can retain health, between their want of exercise, their full feeding, their hot baths, and this perpetual hot bath of clothing, defies all rational conjecture. The Egyptians of all ranks are terribly afraid of what they call the evil eye, and stifle themselves and children in all kinds of rags to avoid being bewitched. The peasants are a fine-looking, strong-bodied race of men; but many of them are met blind of an eye. This is attributed to the reluctance to be soldiers for the glory of the Pasha. But Mohammed Ali was not to be thus tricked, and he raised a regiment of one-eyed men. In other instances they are said to have knocked out the fore-teeth to avoid biting a cartridge, or to have cut off a joint of the first finger to prevent their drawing a trigger. Even thus they are not able to escape the cunning Pasha. But this shows the natural horror of the conscription; and we are not surprised that men should adopt any expedient to escape so great a curse and scandal to society. It is extraordinary that in this 19th century, even of the Christian world, such an abomination should be suffered to exist in Europe. It is equally extraordinary that it exists in every country but England, and she can have no prouder distinction. The habeas-corpus and her free enlistment, are two privileges without which no real liberty can ever exist, and which, in any country, it would be well worth a revolution, or ten revolutions, to obtain. Hers is the only army into which no man can be forced, and in which every man is a volunteer. And yet she has never wanted soldiers, and her soldiers have never fought the worse. It is true, that when she has a militia they are drawn by ballot from the population; but no militiaman is ever sent out of the country; and as to those who are drawn, if they feel disinclined to serve in this force, which acts merely as a national guard, ten shillings will find a substitute at any time. It is also true that England has impressment for the navy; but the man who makes the sea his livelihood, adopts his profession voluntarily, and with the knowledge that at some time or other he may be called upon to serve in the royal navy. And even impressment is never adopted but on those extreme emergencies which can seldom happen, and which may never happen again in the life of man. But on the Continent, every man except the clergy, and those in the employment of the state, is liable to be dragged to the field, let his prospects or his propensities be what they may. In every instance of war, parents look to their children with terror as they grow up to the military age. The army is a national curse, and parental feelings are a perpetual source of affliction. If the great body of the people in Europe, instead of clamouring for imaginary rights, and talking nonsense about constitutions, which they have neither the skill to construct, nor would find worth the possession if they had them, would concentrate their claims in a demand for the habeas-corpus, and the abolition of the conscription, they would relieve themselves from the two heaviest burdens of despotism, and obtain for themselves the two highest advantages of genuine liberty.