And now it is my office to relate how Mr. Flucker Johnstone comported himself on one occasion.
As the yacht worked alongside Granton Pier, before running out, the said Flucker calmly and scientifically drew his lordship's attention to three points:
The direction of the wind—the force of the wind—and his opinion, as a person experienced in the Firth, that it was going to be worse instead of better; in reply, he received an order to step forward to his place in the cutter—the immediate vicinity of the jib-boom. On this, Mr. Flucker instantly burst into tears.
His lordship, or, as Flucker called him ever since the yacht came down, "the skipper," deeming that the higher appellation, inquired, with some surprise, what was the matter with the boy.
One of the crew, who, by the by, squinted, suggested, "It was a slight illustration of the passion of fear."
Flucker confirmed the theory by gulping out: "We'll never see Newhaven again."
On this the skipper smiled, and ordered him ashore, somewhat peremptorily.
Straightway he began to howl, and, saying, "It was better to be drowned than be the laughing-stock of the place," went forward to his place; on his safe return to port, this young gentleman was very severe on open boats, which, he said "bred womanish notions in hearts naturally dauntless. Give me a lid to the pot," added he, "and I'll sail with Old Nick, let the wind blow high or low."
The Aberford was wrong when he called love a cutaneous disorder.
There are cutaneous disorders that take that name, but they are no more love than verse is poetry;
Than patriotism is love of country;
Than theology is religion;
Than science is philosophy;
Than paintings are pictures;
Than reciting on the boards is acting;
Than physic is medicine
Than bread is bread, or gold gold—in shops.
Love is a state of being; the beloved object is our center; and our thoughts, affections, schemes and selves move but round it.
We may diverge hither or thither, but the golden thread still holds us.
Is fair or dark beauty the fairest? The world cannot decide; but love shall decide in a moment.
A halo surrounds her we love, and makes beautiful to us her movements, her looks, her virtues, her faults, her nonsense, her affectation and herself; and that's love, doctor!
Lord Ipsden was capable of loving like this; but, to do Lady Barbara justice, she had done much to freeze the germ of noble passion; she had not killed, but she had benumbed it.
"Saunders," said Lord Ipsden, one morning after breakfast, "have you entered everything in your diary?"
"Yes, my lord."
"All these good people's misfortunes?"
"Yes, my lord."
"Do you think you have spelled their names right?"
"Where it was impossible, my lord, I substituted an English appellation, hidentical in meaning."
"Have you entered and described my first interview with Christie Johnstone, and somebody something?"
"Most minutely, my lord."
"How I turned Mr. Burke into poetry—how she listened with her eyes all glistening—how they made me talk—how she dropped a tear, he! he! he! at the death of the first baron—how shocked she was at the king striking him when he was dying, to make a knight-banneret of the poor old fellow?"
"Your lordship will find all the particulars exactly related," said Saunders, with dry pomp.
"How she found out that titles are but breath—how I answered—some nonsense?"
"Your lordship will find all the topics included."
"How she took me for a madman? And you for a prig?"
"The latter circumstance eluded my memory, my lord."
"But when I told her I must relieve only one poor person by day, she took my hand."
"Your lordship will find all the items realized in this book, my lord."
"What a beautiful book!"
"Alba are considerably ameliorated, my lord."
"Plural of album, my lord," explained the refined factotum, "more delicate, I conceive, than the vulgar reading."
Viscount Ipsden read from
"MR. SAUNDERS'S ALBUM.
"To illustrate the inelegance of the inferior classes, two juvenile venders of the piscatory tribe were this day ushered in, and instantaneously, without the accustomed preliminaries, plunged into a familiar conversation with Lord Viscount Ipsden.
"Their vulgarity, shocking and repulsive to myself, appeared to afford his lordship a satisfaction greater than he derives from the graceful amenities of fashionable association—"
"Saunders, I suspect you of something."
"Me, my lord!"
"Yes. Writing in an annual."
"I do, my lord," said he, with benignant hauteur. "It appears every month—The Polytechnic."
"I thought so! you are polysyllabic, Saunders; en route!"
"In this hallucination I find it difficult to participate; associated from infancy with the aristocracy, I shrink, like the sensitive plant, from contact with anything vulgar."
"I see! I begin to understand you, Saunders. Order the dog-cart, and Wordsworth's mare for leader; we'll give her a trial. You are an ass, Saunders."
"Yes, my lord; I will order Robert to tell James to come for your lordship's commands about your lordship's vehicles. (What could he intend by a recent observation of a discourteous character?)"
His lordship soliloquized.
"I never observed it before, but Saunders is an ass! La Johnstone is one of Nature's duchesses, and she has made me know some poor people that will be richer than the rich one day; and she has taught me that honey is to be got from bank-notes—by merely giving them away."
Among the objects of charity Lord Ipsden discovered was one Thomas Harvey, a maker and player of the violin. This man was a person of great intellect; he mastered every subject he attacked. By a careful examination of all the points that various fine-toned instruments had in common, he had arrived at a theory of sound; he made violins to correspond, and was remarkably successful in insuring that which had been too hastily ascribed to accident—a fine tone.
This man, who was in needy circumstances, demonstrated to his lordship that ten pounds would make his fortune; because with ten pounds he could set up a shop, instead of working out of the world's sight in a room.
Lord Ipsden gave him ten pounds!
A week after, he met Harvey, more ragged and dirty than before.
Harvey had been robbed by a friend whom he had assisted. Poor Harvey! Lord Ipsden gave him ten pounds more!
Next week, Saunders, entering Harvey's house, found him in bed at noon, because he had no clothes to wear.
Saunders suggested that it would be better to give his wife the next money, with strict orders to apply it usefully.
This was done!
The next day, Harvey, finding his clothes upon a chair, his tools redeemed from pawn, and a beefsteak ready for his dinner, accused his wife of having money, and meanly refusing him the benefit of it. She acknowledged she had a little, and appealed to the improved state of things as a proof that she knew better than he the use of money. He demanded the said money. She refused—he leathered her—she put him in prison.
This was the best place for him. The man was a drunkard, and all the riches of Egypt would never have made him better off.
And here, gentlemen of the lower classes, a word with you. How can you, with your small incomes, hope to be well off, if you are more extravagant than those who have large ones?
"Us extravagant?" you reply.
Yes! your income is ten shillings a week; out of that you spend three shillings in drink; ay! you, the sober ones. You can't afford it, my boys. Find me a man whose income is a thousand a year; well, if he imitates you, and spends three hundred upon sensuality, I bet you the odd seven hundred he does not make both ends meet; the proportion is too great. And two-thirds of the distress of the lower orders is owing to this—that they are more madly prodigal than the rich; in the worst, lowest and most dangerous item of all human prodigality!
Lord Ipsden went to see Mrs. Harvey; it cost him much to go; she lived in the Old Town, and he hated disagreeable smells; he also knew from Saunders that she had two black eyes, and he hated women with black eyes of that sort. But this good creature did go; did relieve Mrs. Harvey; and, bare-headed, suffered himself to be bedewed ten minutes by her tearful twaddle.
For once Virtue was rewarded. Returning over the North Bridge, he met somebody whom but for his charity he would not have met.
He came in one bright moment plump upon—Lady Barbara Sinclair. She flushed, he trembled, and in two minutes he had forgotten every human event that had passed since he was by her side.
She seemed pleased to see him, too; she ignored entirely his obnoxious proposal; he wisely took her cue, and so, on this secret understanding, they were friends. He made his arrangements, and dined with her family. It was a family party. In the evening Lady Barbara allowed it to transpire that she had made inquiries about him.
(He was highly flattered.) And she had discovered he was lying hid somewhere in the neighborhood.
"Studying the guitar?" inquired she.
"No," said he, "studying a new class of the community. Do you know any of what they call the 'lower classes'?"
"Monstrous agreeable people, are they not?"
"No, very stupid! I only know two old women—except the servants, who have no characters. They imitate us, I suspect, which does not say much for their taste."
"But some of my friends are young women; that makes all the difference."
"It does! and you ought to be ashamed. If you want a low order of mind, why desert our own circle?"
"My friends are only low in station; they have rather lofty minds, some of them."
"Well, amuse yourself with these lofty minds. Amusement is the end of being, you know, and the aim of all the men of this day."
"We imitate the ladies," said he, slyly.
"You do," answered she, very dryly; and so the dialogue went on, and Lord Ipsden found the pleasure of being with his cousin compensate him fully for the difference of their opinions; in fact, he found it simply amusing that so keen a wit as his cousins s could be entrapped into the humor of decrying the time one happens to live in, and admiring any epoch one knows next to nothing about, and entrapped by the notion of its originality, above all things; the idea being the stale commonplace of asses in every age, and the manner of conveying the idea being a mere imitation of the German writers, not the good ones, bien entendu, but the quill-drivers, the snobs of the Teutonic pen.
But he was to learn that follies are not always laughable, that eadem sentire is a bond, and that, when a clever and pretty woman chooses to be a fool, her lover, if he is wise, will be a greater—if he can.
The next time they met, Lord Ipsden found Lady Barbara occupied with a gentleman whose first sentence proclaimed him a pupil of Mr. Thomas Carlyle, and he had the mortification to find that she had neither an ear nor an eye for him.
Human opinion has so many shades that it is rare to find two people agree.
But two people may agree wonderfully, if they will but let a third think for them both.
Thus it was that these two ran so smoothly in couples.
Antiquity, they agreed, was the time when the world was old, its hair gray, its head wise. Every one that said, "Lord, Lord!" two hundred years ago was a Christian. There were no earnest men now; Williams, the missionary, who lived and died for the Gospel, was not earnest in religion; but Cromwell, who packed a jury, and so murdered his prisoner—Cromwell, in whose mouth was heaven, and in his heart temporal sovereignty—was the pattern of earnest religion, or, at all events, second in sincerity to Mahomet alone, in the absence of details respecting Satan, of whom we know only that his mouth is a Scripture concordance, and his hands the hands of Mr. Carlyle's saints.
Then they went back a century or two, and were eloquent about the great antique heart, and the beauty of an age whose samples were Abbot Sampson and Joan of Arc.
Lord Ipsden hated argument; but jealousy is a brass spur, it made even this man fluent for once.
He suggested "that five hundred years added to a world's life made it just five hundred years older, not younger—and if older, grayer—and if grayer, wiser.
"Of Abbot Sampson," said he, "whom I confess both a great and a good man, his author, who with all his talent belongs to the class muddle-head, tells us that when he had been two years in authority his red hair had turned gray, fighting against the spirit of his age; how the deuce, then, could he be a sample of the spirit of his age?
"Joan of Arc was burned by acclamation of her age, and is admired by our age. Which fact identifies an age most with a heroine, to give her your heart, or to give her a blazing fagot and death?"
"Abbot Sampson and Joan of Arc," concluded he, "prove no more in favor of their age, and no less against it, than Lot does for or against Sodom. Lot was in Sodom, but not of it; and so were Sampson and Joan in, but not of, the villainous times they lived in.
"The very best text-book of true religion is the New Testament, and I gather from it, that the man who forgives his enemies while their ax descends on his head, however poor a creature he may be in other respects, is a better Christian than the man who has the God of Mercy forever on his lips, and whose hands are swift to shed blood.
"The earnest men of former ages are not extinct in this," added he. "Whenever a scaffold is erected outside a prison-door, if you are earnest in pursuit of truth, and can put up with disgusting objects, you shall see a relic of ancient manners hanged.
"There still exist, in parts of America, rivers on whose banks are earnest men who shall take your scalp, the wife's of your bosom, and the innocent child's of her bosom.
"In England we are as earnest as ever in pursuit of heaven, and of innocent worldly advantages. If, when the consideration of life and death interposes, we appear less earnest in pursuit of comparative trifles such as kingdoms or dogmas, it is because cooler in action we are more earnest in thought—because reason, experience, and conscience are things that check the unscrupulousness or beastly earnestness of man.
"Moreover, he who has the sense to see that questions have three sides is no longer so intellectually as well as morally degraded as to be able to cut every throat that utters an opinion contrary to his own.
"If the phrase 'earnest man' means man imitating the beasts that are deaf to reason, it is to be hoped that civilization and Christianity will really extinguish the whole race for the benefit of the earth."
Lord Ipsden succeeded in annoying the fair theorist, but not in convincing her.
The mediaeval enthusiasts looked on him as some rough animal that had burst into sacred grounds unconsciously, and gradually edged away from him.
LORD IPSDEN had soon the mortification of discovering that this Mr. —— was a constant visitor at the house; and, although his cousin gave him her ear in this man's absence, on the arrival of her fellow-enthusiast he had ever the mortification of finding himself de trop.
Once or twice he demolished this personage in argument, and was rewarded by finding himself more de trop.
But one day Lady Barbara, being in a cousinly humor, expressed a wish to sail in his lordship's yacht, and this hint soon led to a party being organized, and a sort of picnic on the island of Inch Coombe; his lordship's cutter being the mode of conveyance to and from that spot.
Now it happened on that very day Jean Carnie's marriage was celebrated on that very island by her relations and friends.
So that we shall introduce our readers to
THE RIVAL PICNICS.
We begin with Les gens comme il faut.
PICNIC NO. 1.
The servants were employed in putting away dishes into hampers.
There was a calm silence. "Hem!" observed Sir Henry Talbot.
"Eh?" replied the Honorable Tom Hitherington.
"Mamma," said Miss Vere, "have you brought any work?"
"No, my dear."
"At a picnic," said Mr. Hitherington, "isn't it the thing for somebody—aw—to do something?"
"Ipsden," said Lady Barbara, "there is an understanding between you and Mr. Hitherington. I condemn you to turn him into English."
"Yes, Lady Barbara; I'll tell you, he means—-do you mean anything, Tom?"
Hitherington. "Can't anybody guess what I mean?"
Lady Barbara. "Guess first yourself, you can't be suspected of being in the secret."
Hither. "What I mean is, that people sing a song, or run races, or preach a sermon, or do something funny at a picnic—aw—somebody gets up and does something."
Lady Bar. "Then perhaps Miss Vere, whose singing is famous, will have the complaisance to sing to us."
Miss Vere. "I should be happy, Lady Barbara, but I have not brought my music."
Lady Bar. "Oh, we are not critical; the simplest air, or even a fragment of melody; the sea and the sky will be a better accompaniment than Broadwood ever made."
Miss V. "I can't sing a note without book."
Sir H. Talbot. "Your music is in your soul—not at your fingers' ends."
Lord Ipsden, to Lady Bar. "It is in her book, and not in her soul."
Lady Bar., to Lord Ips. "Then it has chosen the better situation of the two."
Ips. "Miss Vere is to the fine art of music what the engrossers are to the black art of law; it all filters through them without leaving any sediment; and so the music of the day passes through Miss Vere's mind, but none remains—to stain its virgin snow."
He bows, she smiles.
Lady Bar., to herself. "Insolent. And the little dunce thinks he is complimenting her."
Ips. "Perhaps Talbot will come to our rescue—he is a fiddler."
Tal. "An amateur of the violin."
Ips. "It is all the same thing."
Lady Bar. "I wish it may prove so."
[Note: original has music notation here]
Miss V. "Beautiful."
Mrs. Vere. "Charming."
Ips. "You are aware that good music is a thing to be wedded to immortal verse, shall I recite a bit of poetry to match Talbot's strain?"
Miss V. "Oh, yes! how nice."
Ips. (rhetorically). "A. B. C. D. E. F. G. H. I. J. K. L. M. N. O. P. Q. R. S. T. U. V. W. X. Y. Z. Y. X. W. V. U. T. S. O. N. M. L. K. J. I. H. G. F. A. M. little p. little t."
Lady Bar. "Beautiful! Superb! Ipsden has been taking lessons on the thinking instrument."
Hither. "He has been perdu among vulgar people."
Tal. "And expects a pupil of Herz to play him tunes!"
Lady Bar. "What are tunes, Sir Henry?"
Tal. "Something I don't play, Lady Barbara."
Lady Bar. "I understand you; something we ought to like."
Ips. "I have a Stradivarius violin at home. It is yours, Talbot, if you can define a tune."
Tal. "A tune is—everybody knows what."
Lady Bar. "A tune is a tune, that is what you meant to say."
Tal. "Of course it is."
Lady Bar. "Be reasonable, Ipsden; no man can do two things at once; how can the pupil of Herz condemn a thing and know what it means contemporaneously?"
Ips. "Is the drinking-song in 'Der Freischutz' a tune?"
Lady Bar. "It is."
Ips. "And the melodies of Handel, are they tunes?"
Lady Bar. (pathetically). "They are! They are!"
Ips. "And the 'Russian Anthem,' and the 'Marseillaise,' and 'Ah, Perdona'?"
Tal. "And 'Yankee Doodle'?"
Lady Bar. "So that Sir Henry, who prided himself on his ignorance, has a wide field for its dominion."
Tal. "All good violin players do like me; they prelude, not play tunes."
Ips. "Then Heaven be thanked for our blind fiddlers. You like syllables of sound in unmeaning rotation, and you despise its words, its purposes, its narrative feats; carry out your principle, it will show you where you are. Buy a dirty palette for a picture, and dream the alphabet is a poem."
Lady Bar., to herself. "Is this my cousin Richard?"
Hither. "Mind, Ipsden, you are a man of property, and there are such things as commissions de lunatico."
Lady Bar. "His defense will be that his friends pronounced him insane."
Ips. "No; I shall subpoena Talbot's fiddle, cross-examination will get nothing out of that but, do, re, mi, fa."
Lady Bar. "Yes, it will; fa, mi, re, do."
Tal. "Violin, if you please."
Lady Bar. "Ask Fiddle's pardon, directly."
Sound of fiddles is heard in the distance.
Tal. "How lucky for you, there are fiddles and tunes, and the natives you are said to favor, why not join them?"
Ips. (shaking his head solemnly). "I dread to encounter another prelude."
Hither. "Come, I know you would like it; it is a wedding-party—two sea monsters have been united. The sailors and fishermen are all blue cloth and wash-leather gloves."
Miss V. "He! he!"
Tal. "The fishwives unite the colors of the rainbow—"
Lady Bar. "(And we all know how hideous they are)—to vulgar, blooming cheeks, staring white teeth, and sky-blue eyes."
Mrs. V. "How satirical you are, especially you, Lady Barbara."
Here Lord Ipsden, after a word to Lady Barbara, the answer to which did not appear to be favorable, rose, gave a little yawn, looked steadily at his companions without seeing them, and departed without seeming aware that he was leaving anybody behind him.
Hither. "Let us go somewhere where we can quiz the natives without being too near them."
Lady Bar. "I am tired of this unbroken solitude, I must go and think to the sea," added she, in a mock soliloquy; and out she glided with the same unconscious air as his lordship had worn.
The others moved off slowly together.
"Mamma," said Miss Vere, "I can't understand half Barbara Sinclair says."
"It is not necessary, my love," replied mamma; "she is rather eccentric, and I fear she is spoiling Lord Ipsden."
"Poor Lord Ipsden," murmured the lovely Vere, "he used to be so nice, and do like everybody else. Mamma, I shall bring some work the next time."
"Do, my love."
PICNIC NO. 2.
In a house, two hundred yards from this scene, a merry dance, succeeding a merry song, had ended, and they were in the midst of an interesting story; Christie Johnstone was the narrator. She had found the tale in one of the viscount's books—it had made a great impression on her.
The rest were listening intently. In a room which had lately been all noise, not a sound was now to be heard but the narrator's voice.
"Aweel, lasses, here are the three wee kists set, the lads are to chuse—the ane that chuses reicht is to get Porsha, an' the lave to get the bag, and dee baitchelars—Flucker Johnstone, you that's sae clever—are ye for gowd, or siller, or leed?"
1st Fishwife. "Gowd for me!"
2d ditto. "The white siller's my taste."
Flucker. "Na! there's aye some deevelish trick in thir lassie's stories. I shall ha to, till the ither lads hae chused; the mair part will put themsels oot, ane will hit it off reicht maybe, then I shall gie him a hidin' an' carry off the lass. You-hoo!"
Jean Carnie. "That's you, Flucker."
Christie Johnstone. "And div ye really think we are gawn to let you see a' the world chuse? Na, lad, ye are putten oot o' the room, like witnesses."
Flucker. "Then I'd toss a penny; for gien ye trust to luck, she whiles favors ye, but gien ye commence to reason and argefy—ye're done!"
Christie. "The suitors had na your wit, my manny, or maybe they had na a penny to toss, sae ane chused the gowd, ane the siller; but they got an awfu' affront. The gold kist had just a skull intil't, and the siller a deed cuddy's head!"
Chorus of Females. "He! he! he!"
Ditto of Males. "Haw! haw! haw! haw! Ho!"
Christie. "An' Porsha puttit the pair of gowks to the door. Then came Bassanio, the lad fra Veeneece, that Porsha loed in secret. Veeneece, lasses, is a wonderful city; the streets o' 't are water, and the carriages are boats—that's in Chambers'."
Flucker. "Wha are ye making a fool o'?"
Christie. "What's wrang?"
Flucker. "Yon's just as big a lee as ever I heerd."
The words were scarcely out of his mouth ere he had reason to regret them; a severe box on the ear was administered by his indignant sister. Nobody pitied him.
Christie. "I'll laern yet' affront me before a' the company."
Jean Carnie. "Suppose it's a lee, there's nae silver to pay for it, Flucker."
Christie. "Jean, I never telt a lee in a' my days."
Jean. "There's ane to begin wi' then. Go ahead, Custy."
Christie. "She bade the music play for him, for music brightens thoucht; ony way, he chose the leed kist. Open'st and wasn't there Porsha's pictur, and a posy, that said:
'If you be well pleased with this, And hold your fortune for your bliss; Turn you where your leddy iss, And greet her wi' a loving—'" (Pause).
"Kess," roared the company.
Chorus, led by Flucker. "Hurraih!"
Christie (pathetically). "Flucker, behave!"
Sandy Liston (drunk). "Hur-raih!" He then solemnly reflected. "Na! but it's na hurraih, decency requires amen first an' hurraih afterward; here's kissin plenty, but I hear nae word o' the minister. Ye'll obsairve, young woman, that kissin's the prologue to sin, and I'm a decent mon, an' a gray-headed mon, an' your licht stories are no for me; sae if the minister's no expeckit I shall retire—an' tak my quiet gill my lane."
Jean Carnie. "And div ye really think a decent cummer like Custy wad let the lad and lass misbehave thirsels? Na! lad, the minister's at the door, but" (sinking her voice to a confidential whisper) "I daurna let him in, for fear he'd see ye hae putten the enemy in your mooth sae aerly. (That's Custy's word.)"
"Jemmy Drysel," replied Sandy, addressing vacancy, for Jemmy was mysteriously at work in the kitchen, "ye hae gotten a thoughtfu' wife." (Then, with a strong revulsion of feeling.) "Dinna let the blackguard* in here," cried he, "to spoil the young folk's sporrt."
* At present this is a spondee in England—a trochee in Scotland The pronunciation of this important word ought to be fixed, representing, as it does, so large a portion of the community in both countries.
Christie. "Aweel, lassies, comes a letter to Bassanio; he reads it, and turns as pale as deeth."
A Fishwife. "Gude help us."
Christie. "Poorsha behooved to ken his grief, wha had a better reicht? 'Here's a letter, leddy,' says he, 'the paper's the boedy of my freend, like, and every word in it a gaping wound.'"
A Fisherman. "Maircy on us."
Christie. "Lad, it was fra puir Antonio, ye mind o' him, Lasses. Hech! the ill luck o' yon man, no a ship come hame; ane foundered at sea, coming fra Tri-po-lis; the pirates scuttled another, an' ane ran ashore on the Goodwins, near Bright-helm-stane, that's in England itsel', I daur say. Sae he could na pay the three thoosand ducats, an' Shylock had grippit him, an' sought the pund o' flesh aff the breest o' him, puir body."
Sandy Liston. "He would na be the waur o' a wee bit hiding, yon thundering urang-utang; let the man alane, ye cursed old cannibal."
Christie. "Poorsha keepit her man but ae hoor till they were united, an' then sent him wi' a puckle o' her ain siller to Veeneece, and Antonio—think o' that, lassies—pairted on their wedding-day."
Lizzy Johnstone, a Fishwife, aged 12. "Hech! hech! it's lamentable."
Jean Carnie. "I'm saying, mairriage is quick wark, in some pairts—here there's an awfu' trouble to get a man."
A young Fishwife. "Ay, is there."
Omnes. "Haw! haw! haw!" (The fish-wife hides.)
Christie. "Fill your taupsels, lads and lasses, and awa to Veneece."
Sandy Liston (sturdily). "I'll no gang to sea this day."
Christie. "Noo, we are in the hall o' judgment. Here are set the judges, awfu' to behold; there, on his throne, presides the Juke."
Flucker. "She's awa to her Ennglish."
Lizzy Johnstone. "Did we come to Veeneece to speak Scoetch, ye useless fule?"
Christie. "Here, pale and hopeless, but resigned, stands the broken mairchant, Antonio; there, wi scales and knives, and revenge in his murderin' eye, stands the crewel Jew Shylock."
"Aweel," muttered Sandy, considerately, "I'll no mak a disturbance on a wedding day."
Christie. "They wait for Bell—I dinna mind his mind—a laerned lawyer, ony way; he's sick, but sends ane mair laerned still, and, when this ane comes, he looks not older nor wiser than mysel."
Flucker. "No possible!"
Christie. "Ye needna be sae sarcy, Flucker, for when he comes to his wark he soon lets 'em ken—runs his een like lightening ower the boend. 'This bond's forfeit. Is Antonio not able to dischairge the money?' 'Ay!' cries Bassanio, 'here's the sum thrice told.' Says the young judge in a bit whisper to Shylock, 'Shylock, there's thrice thy money offered thee. Be mairceful,' says he, out loud. 'Wha'll mak me?' says the Jew body. 'Mak ye!' says he; 'maircy is no a thing ye strain through a sieve, mon; it droppeth like the gentle dew fra' heaven upon the place beneath; it blesses him that gives and him that taks; it becomes the king better than his throne, and airthly power is maist like God's power when maircy seasons justice.'"
Robert Haw, Fisherman. "Dinna speak like that to me, onybody, or I shall gie ye my boat, and fling my nets intil it, as ye sail awa wi' her."
Jean Carnie. "Sae he let the puir deevil go. Oh! ye ken wha could stand up against siccan a shower o' Ennglish as thaat."
Christie. "He just said, 'My deeds upon my heed. I claim the law,' says he; 'there is no power in the tongue o' man to alter me. I stay here on my boend.'"
Sandy Liston. "I hae sat quiet!—quiet I hae sat against my will, no to disturb Jamie Drysel's weddin'; but ye carry the game ower far, Shylock, my lad. I'll just give yon bluidy-minded urang-utang a hidin', and bring Tony off, the gude, puir-spirited creature. And him, an' me, an' Bassanee, an' Porshee, we'll all hae a gill thegither."
He rose, and was instantly seized by two of the company, from whom he burst furiously, after a struggle, and the next moment was heard to fall clean from the top to the bottom of the stairs. Flucker and Jean ran out; the rest appealed against the interruption.
Christie. "Hech! he's killed. Sandy Liston's brake his neck."
"What aboot it, lassy?" said a young fisherman; "it's Antonio I'm feared for; save him, lassy, if poessible; but I doot ye'll no get him clear o' yon deevelich heathen.
"Auld Sandy's cheap sairved," added he, with all the indifference a human tone could convey.
"Oh, Cursty," said Lizzie Johnstone, with a peevish accent, "dinna break the bonny yarn for naething."
Flucker (returning). "He's a' reicht."
Christie. "Is he no dead?"
Flucker. "Him deed? he's sober—that's a' the change I see."
Christie. "Can he speak? I'm asking ye."
Flucker. "Yes, he can speak."
Christie. "What does he say, puir body?"
Flucker. "He sat up, an' sought a gill fra' the wife—puir body!"
Christie. "Hech! hech! he was my pupil in the airt o' sobriety!—aweel, the young judge rises to deliver the sentence of the coort. Silence!" thundered Christie. A lad and a lass that were slightly flirting were discountenanced.
Christie. "'A pund o' that same mairchant's flesh is thine! the coort awards it, and the law does give it.'"
A young Fishwife. "There, I thoucht sae; he's gaun to cut him, he's gaun to cut him; I'll no can bide." (Exibat.)
Christie. "There's a fulish goloshen. 'Have by a doctor to stop the blood.'—'I see nae doctor in the boend,' says the Jew body."
Flucker. "Bait your hook wi' a boend, and ye shall catch yon carle's saul, Satin, my lad."
Christie (with dismal pathos). "Oh, Flucker, dinna speak evil o' deegneties—that's maybe fishing for yoursel' the noo!—-'An' ye shall cut the flesh frae off his breest.'—'A sentence,' says Shylock, 'come, prepare.'"
Christie made a dash en Shylock, and the company trembled.
Christie. "'Bide a wee,' says the judge, 'this boend gies ye na a drap o' bluid; the words expressly are, a pund o' flesh!'"
(A Dramatic Pause.)
Jean Carnie (drawing her breath). "That's into your mutton, Shylock"
Christie (with dismal pathos). "Oh, Jean! yon's an awfu' voolgar exprassion to come fra' a woman's mooth."
"Could ye no hae said, 'intil his bacon'?" said Lizzie Johnstone, confirming the remonstrance.
Christie. "'Then tak your boend, an' your pund o' flesh, but in cutting o' 't, if thou dost shed one drop of Christian bluid, thou diest!'"
Jean Carnie. "Hech!"
Christie. "'Thy goods are by the laws Veneece con-fis-cate, confiscate!'"
Then, like an artful narrator, she began to wind up the story more rapidly.
"Sae Shylock got to be no sae saucy. 'Pay the boend thrice,' says he, 'and let the puir deevil go.'—'Here it's,' says Bassanio.—Na! the young judge wadna let him.—'He has refused it in open coort; no a bawbee for Shylock but just the forfeiture; an' he daur na tak it.'—'I'm awa',' says he. 'The deivil tak ye a'.'—Na! he wasna to win clear sae; ance they'd gotten the Jew on the hep, they worried him, like good Christians, that's a fact. The judge fand a law that fitted him, for conspiring against the life of a citizen; an' he behooved to give up hoose an' lands, and be a Christian; yon was a soor drap—he tarned no weel, puir auld villain, an' scairtit; an' the lawyers sent ane o' their weary parchments till his hoose, and the puir auld heathen signed awa' his siller, an' Abraham, an' Isaac, an' Jacob, on the heed o' 't. I pity him, an auld, auld man; and his dochter had rin off wi' a Christian lad—they ca' her Jessica, and didn't she steal his very diamond ring that his ain lass gied him when he was young, an' maybe no sae hard-hairted?"
Jean Carnie. "Oh, the jaud! suppose he was a Jew, it was na her business to clean him oot."
A young Fishwife. "Aweel, it was only a Jew body, that's my comfort."
Christie. "Ye speak as a Jew was na a man; has not a Jew eyes, if ye please?"
Lizzy Johnstone. "Ay, has he!—and the awfuest lang neb atween 'em."
Christie. "Has not a Jew affections, paassions, organs?"
Jean. "Na! Christie; thir lads comes fr' Italy!"
Christie. "If you prick him, does he not bleed? if you tickle him, does na he lauch?"
A young Fishwife (pertly). "I never kittlet a Jew, for my pairt—sae I'll no can tell ye."
Christie. "If you poison him, does he not die? and if you wrang him" (with fury) "shall he not revenge?"
Lizzie Johnstone. "Oh! but ye're a fearsome lass."
Christie. "Wha'll give me a sang for my bonny yarn?"
Lord Ipsden, who had been an unobserved auditor of the latter part of the tale, here inquired whether she had brought her book.
"Here's my music-book," said Jean, roughly tapping her head.
"And here's mines," said Christie, birdly, touching her bosom.
"Richard," said she, thoughtfully, "I wish ye may no hae been getting in voolgar company. Div ye think we hae minds like rinning water?"
Flucker (avec malice). "And tongues like the mill-clack abune it? Because if ye think sae, captain—ye're no far wrang!"
Christie. "Na! we hae na muckle gowd maybe; but our minds are gowden vessels."
Jean. "Aha! lad."
Christie. "They are not saxpenny sieves, to let music an' meter through, and leave us none the wiser or better. Dinna gang in low voolgar company, or you a lost laddy."
Ipsden. "Vulgar, again! everybody has a different sense for that word, I think. What is vulgar?"
Christie. "Voolgar folk sit on an chair, ane, twa, whiles three hours, eatin' an' abune drinkin', as still as hoegs, or gruntin' puir every-day clashes, goessip, rubbich; when ye are aside them, ye might as weel be aside a cuddy; they canna gie ye a sang, they canna gie ye a story, they canna think ye a thoucht, to save their useless lives; that's voolgar folk."
She sings. "A caaller herrin'!"
Jean. "A caaller herrin'!"
"Come buy my bonny caaller herrin', Six a penny caaller from the sea," etc.
The music chimed in, and the moment the song was done, without pause, or anything to separate or chill the succession of the arts, the fiddles diverged with a gallant plunge into "The Dusty Miller." The dancers found their feet by an instinct as rapid, and a rattling reel shook the floor like thunder. Jean Carnie assumed the privilege of a bride, and seized his lordship; Christie, who had a mind to dance with him too, took Flucker captive, and these four were one reel! There were seven others.
The principle of reel dancing is articulation; the foot strikes the ground for every accented note (and, by the by, it is their weakness of accent which makes all English reel and hornpipe players such failures).
And in the best steps of all, which it has in common with the hornpipe, such as the quick "heel and toe," "the sailor's fling," and the "double shuffle," the foot strikes the ground for every single note of the instrument.
All good dancing is beautiful.
But this articulate dancing, compared with the loose, lawless diffluence of motion that goes by that name, gives me (I must confess it) as much more pleasure as articulate singing is superior to tunes played on the voice by a young lady:
Or the clean playing of my mother to the piano-forte splashing of my daughter; though the latter does attack the instrument as a washerwoman her soapsuds, and the former works like a lady.
Or skating to sliding:
Or English verse to dactyls in English:
Or painting to daubing:
Or preserved strawberries to strawberry jam.
What says Goldsmith of the two styles? "They swam, sprawled, frisked, and languished; but Olivia's foot was as pat to the music as its echo."—Vicar of Wakefield.
Newhaven dancing aims also at fun; laughter mingles with agility; grotesque yet graceful gestures are flung in, and little inspiring cries flung out.
His lordship soon entered into the spirit of it. Deep in the mystery of the hornpipe, he danced one or two steps Jean and Christie had never seen, but their eyes were instantly on his feet, and they caught in a minute and executed these same steps.
To see Christie Johnstone do the double-shuffle with her arms so saucily akimbo, and her quick elastic foot at an angle of forty-five, was a treat.
The dance became inspiriting, inspiring, intoxicating; and, when the fiddles at last left off, the feet went on another seven bars by the enthusiastic impulse.
And so, alternately spinning yarns, singing songs, dancing, and making fun, and mingling something of heart and brain in all, these benighted creatures made themselves happy instead of peevish, and with a day of stout, vigorous, healthy pleasure, refreshed, indemnified, and warmed themselves for many a day of toil.
Such were the two picnics of Inch Coombe, and these rival cliques, agreeing in nothing else, would have agreed in this: each, if allowed (but we won't allow either) to judge the other, would have pronounced the same verdict:
"Ils ne savent pas vivre ces gens-l'a."
Two of our personages left Inch Coombe less happy than when they came to it.
Lord Ipsden encountered Lady Barbara with Mr.——, who had joined her upon the island.
He found them discoursing, as usual, about the shams of the present day, and the sincerity of Cromwell and Mahomet, and he found himself de trop.
They made him, for the first time, regret the loss of those earnest times when, "to avoid the inconvenience of both addressing the same lady," you could cut a rival's throat at once, and be smiled on by the fair and society.
That a book-maker should blaspheme high civilization, by which alone he exists, and one of whose diseases and flying pains he is, neither surprised nor moved him; but that any human being's actions should be affected by such tempestuous twaddle was ridiculous.
And that the witty Lady Barbara should be caught by this chaff was intolerable; he began to feel bitter.
He had the blessings of the poor, the good opinion of the world; every living creature was prepossessed in his favor but one, and that one despised him; it was a diabolical prejudice; it was the spiteful caprice of his fate.
His heart, for a moment, was in danger of deteriorating. He was miserable; the Devil suggested to him, "make others miserable too;" and he listened to the advice.
There was a fine breeze, but instead of sailing on a wind, as he might have done, he made a series of tacks, and all were ill.
The earnest man first; and Flucker announced the skipper's insanity to the whole town of Newhaven, for, of course, these tacks were all marine solecisms.
The other discontented Picnician was Christie Johnstone. Gatty never came; and this, coupled with five or six days' previous neglect, could no longer pass unnoticed.
Her gayety failed her before the afternoon was ended; and the last two hours were spent by her alone, watching the water on all sides for him.
At last, long after the departure of his lordship's yacht, the Newhaven boat sailed from Inch Coombe with the wedding party. There was now a strong breeze, and the water every now and then came on board. So the men set the foresail with two reefs, and drew the mainsail over the women; and there, as they huddled together in the dark, Jean Carnie discovered that our gay story-teller's eyes were wet with tears.
Jean said nothing; she embraced her; and made them flow faster.
But, when they came alongside the pier, Jean, who was the first to get her head from under the sail, whipped it back again and said to Christie:
"Here he is, Christie; dinna speak till him."
And sure enough there was, in the twilight, with a pale face and an uneasy look—Mr. Charles Gatty!
He peered timidly into the boat, and, when he saw Christie, an "Ah!" that seemed to mean twenty different things at once, burst from his bosom. He held out his arm to assist her.
She cast on him one glance of mute reproach, and, placing her foot on the boat's gunwale, sprang like an antelope upon the pier, without accepting his assistance.
Before going further, we must go back for this boy, and conduct him from where we left him up to the present point.
The moment he found himself alone with Jean Carnie, in his own house, he began to tell her what trouble he was in; how his mother had convinced him of his imprudence in falling in love with Christie Johnstone; and how she insisted on a connection being broken off which had given him his first glimpse of heaven upon earth, and was contrary to common sense.
Jean heard him out, and then, with the air of a lunatic-asylum keeper to a rhodomontading patient, told him "he was one fool, and his mother was another." First she took him up on the score of prudence.
"You," said she, "are a beggarly painter, without a rap; Christie has houses, boats, nets, and money; you are in debt; she lays by money every week. It is not prudent on her part to take up with you—the better your bargain, my lad."
Under the head of common sense, which she maintained was all on the same side of the question, she calmly inquired:
"How could an old woman of sixty be competent to judge how far human happiness depends on love, when she has no experience of that passion, and the reminiscences of her youth have become dim and dark? You might as well set a judge in court, that has forgotten the law—common sense," said she, "the old wife is sixty, and you are twenty—what can she do for you the forty years you may reckon to outlive her? Who is to keep you through those weary years but the wife of your own choice, not your mother's? You English does na read the Bible, or ye'd ken that a lad is to 'leave his father and mother, and cleave until his wife,'" added she; then with great contempt she repeated, "common sense, indeed! ye're fou wi' your common sense; ye hae the name o' 't pat eneuch—but there's na muckle o' that mairchandise in your harns."
Gatty was astonished. What! was there really common sense on the side of bliss? and when Jean told him to join her party at Inch Coombe, or never look her in the face again, scales seemed to fall from his eyes; and, with a heart that turned in a moment from lead to a feather, he vowed he would be at Inch Coombe.
He then begged Jean on no account to tell Christie the struggle he had been subjected to, since his scruples were now entirely conquered.
Jean acquiesced at once, and said: "Indeed, she would be very sorry to give the lass that muckle pain."
She hinted, moreover, that her neebor's spirit was so high, she was quite capable of breaking with him at once upon such an intimation; and she, Jean, was "nae mischief-maker."
In the energy of his gratitude, he kissed this dark-browed beauty, professing to see in her a sister.
And she made no resistance to this way of showing gratitude, but muttered between her teeth, "He's just a bairn!"
And so she went about her business.
On her retreat, his mother returned to him, and, with a sad air, hoped nothing that that rude girl had said had weakened his filial duty.
"No, mother," said he.
She then, without explaining how she came acquainted with Jean's arguments, proceeded to demolish them one by one.
"If your mother is old and experienced," said she, "benefit by her age and experience. She has not forgotten love, nor the ills it leads to, when not fortified by prudence. Scripture says a man shall cleave to his wife when he has left his parents; but in making that, the most important step of life, where do you read that he is to break the fifth commandment? But I do you wrong, Charles, you never could have listened to that vulgar girl when she told you your mother was not your best friend."
"N—no, mother, of course not."
"Then you will not go to that place to break my heart, and undo all you have done this week."
"I should like to go, mother."
"You will break my heart if you do."
"Christie will feel herself slighted, and she has not deserved this treatment from me."
"The other will explain to her, and if she is as good a girl as you say—"
"She is an angel!"
"How can a fishwife be an angel? Well, then, she will not set a son to disobey his mother."
"I don't think she would! but is all the goodness to be on her side?"
"No, Charles, you do your part; deny yourself, be an obedient child, and your mother's blessing and the blessing of Heaven will rest upon you."
In short, he was not to go to Inch Coombe.
He stayed at home, his mother set him to work; he made a poor hand of it, he was so wretched. She at last took compassion on him, and in the evening, when it was now too late for a sail to Inch Coombe, she herself recommended a walk to him.
The poor boy's feet took him toward Newhaven, not that he meant to go to his love, but he could not forbear from looking at the place which held her.
He was about to return, when a spacious blue jacket hailed him. Somewhere inside this jacket was Master Flucker, who had returned in the yacht, leaving his sister on the island.
Gatty instantly poured out a flood of questions.
The baddish boy reciprocated fluency. He informed him "that his sister had been the star of a goodly company, and that, her own lad having stayed away, she had condescended to make a conquest of the skipper himself.
"He had come in quite at the tag-end of one of her stories, but it had been sufficient to do his business—he had danced with her, had even whistled while she sung. (Hech, it was bonny!)
"And when the cutter sailed, he, Flucker, had seen her perched on a rock, like a mermaid, watching their progress, which had been slow, because the skipper, infatuated with so sudden a passion, had made a series of ungrammatical tacks."
"For his part he was glad," said the gracious Flucker; "the lass was a prideful hussy, that had given some twenty lads a sore heart and him many a sore back; and he hoped his skipper, with whom he naturally identified himself rather than with his sister, would avenge the male sex upon her."
In short, he went upon this tack till he drove poor Gatty nearly mad.
Here was a new feeling superadded; at first he felt injured, but on reflection what cause of complaint had he?
He had neglected her; he might have been her partner—he had left her to find one where she could.
Fool, to suppose that so beautiful a creature would ever be neglected—except by him!
It was more than he could bear.
He determined to see her, to ask her forgiveness, to tell her everything, to beg her to decide, and, for his part, he would abide by her decision.
Christie Johnstone, as we have already related, declined his arm, sprang like a deer upon the pier, and walked toward her home, a quarter of a mile distant.
Gatty followed her, disconsolately, hardly knowing what to do.
At last, observing that she drew near enough to the wall to allow room for another on the causeway, he had just nous enough to creep alongside and pull her sleeve somewhat timidly.
"Christie, I want to speak to you:"
"What can ye hae to say till me?"
"Christie, I am very unhappy; and I want to tell you why, but I have hardly the strength or the courage."
"Ye shall come ben my hoose if ye are unhappy, and we'll hear your story; come away."
He had never been admitted into her house before.
They found it clean as a snowdrift.
They found a bright fire, and Flucker frying innumerable steaks.
The baddish boy had obtained them in his sister's name and at her expense, at the flesher's, and claimed credit for his affection.
Potatoes he had boiled in their jackets, and so skillfully, that those jackets hung by a thread.
Christie laid an unbleached table-cloth, that somehow looked sweeter than a white one, as brown bread is sweeter than white.
But lo! Gatty could not eat; so then Christie would not, because he refused her cheer.
The baddish boy chuckled, and addressed himself to the nice brown steaks with their rich gravy.
On such occasions a solo on the knife and fork seemed better than a trio to the gracious Flucker.
Christie moved about the room, doing little household matters; Gatty's eye followed her.
Her beauty lost nothing in this small apartment; she was here, like a brilliant in some quaint, rough setting, which all earth's jewelers should despise, and all its poets admire, and it should show off the stone and not itself.
Her beauty filled the room, and almost made the spectators ill.
Gatty asked himself whether he could really have been such a fool as to think of giving up so peerless a creature.
Suddenly an idea occurred to him, a bright one, and not inconsistent with a true artist's character—he would decline to act in so doubtful a case. He would float passively down the tide of events—he would neither desert her, nor disobey his mother; he would take everything as it came, and to begin, as he was there, he would for the present say nothing but what he felt, and what he felt was that he loved her.
He told her so accordingly.
She replied, concealing her satisfaction, "that, if he liked her, he would not have refused to eat when she asked him."
But our hero's appetite had returned with his change of purpose, and he instantly volunteered to give the required proof of affection.
Accordingly two pound of steaks fell before him. Poor boy, he had hardly eaten a genuine meal for a week past.
Christie sat opposite him, and every time he looked off his plate he saw her rich blue eyes dwelling on him.
Everything contributed to warm his heart, he yielded to the spell, he became contented, happy, gay.
Flucker ginger-cordialed him, his sister bewitched him.
She related the day's events in a merry mood.
Mr. Gatty burst forth into singing.
He sung two light and somber trifles, such as in the present day are deemed generally encouraging to spirits, and particularly in accordance with the sentiment of supper—they were about Death and Ivy Green.
The dog's voice was not very powerful, but sweet and round as honey dropping from the comb.
His two hearers were entranced, for the creature sang with an inspiration good singers dare not indulge.
He concluded by informing Christie that the ivy was symbolical of her, and the oak prefigured Charles Gatty, Esq.
He might have inverted the simile with more truth.
In short, he never said a word to Christie about parting with her, but several about being buried in the same grave with her, sixty years hence, for which the spot he selected was Westminster Abbey.
And away he went, leaving golden opinions behind him.
The next day Christie was so affected with his conduct, coming as it did after an apparent coolness, that she conquered her bashfulness and called on the "vile count," and with some blushes and hesitation inquired, "Whether a painter lad was a fit subject of charity."
"Why not?" said his lordship.
She told him Gatty's case, and he instantly promised to see that artist's pictures, particularly an "awfu' bonny ane;" the hero of which she described as an English minister blessing the bairns with one hand, and giving orders to kill the puir Scoetch with the other.
"C'est e'gal," said Christie in Scotch, "it's awfu' bonny."
Gatty reached home late; his mother had retired to rest.
But the next morning she drew from him what had happened, and then ensued another of those dialogues which I am ashamed again to give the reader.
Suffice it to say, that she once more prevailed, though with far greater difficulty; time was to be given him to unsew a connection which he could not cut asunder, and he, with tearful eyes and a heavy heart, agreed to take some step the very first opportunity.
This concession was hardly out of his mouth, ere his mother made him kneel down and bestowed her blessing upon him.
He received it coldly and dully, and expressed a languid hope it might prove a charm to save him from despair; and sad, bitter, and dejected, forced himself to sit down and work on the picture that was to meet his unrelenting creditor's demand.
He was working on his picture, and his mother, with her needle, at the table, when a knock was heard, and gay as a lark, and fresh as the dew on the shamrock, Christie Johnstone stood in person in the apartment.
She was evidently the bearer of good tidings; but, before she could express them, Mrs. Gatty beckoned her son aside, and announcing, "she should be within hearing," bade him take the occasion that so happily presented itself, and make the first step.
At another time, Christie, who had learned from Jean the arrival of Mrs. Gatty, would have been struck with the old lady's silence; but she came to tell the depressed painter that the charitable viscount was about to visit him and his picture; and she was so full of the good fortune likely to ensue, that she was neglectful of minor considerations.
It so happened, however, that certain interruptions prevented her from ever delivering herself of the news in question.
First, Gatty himself came to her, and, casting uneasy glances at the door by which his mother had just gone out, said:
"I want to paint your likeness."
This was for a souvenir, poor fellow!
"Hech! I wad like fine to be painted."
"It must be exactly the same size as yourself, and so like you, that, should we be parted, I may seem not to be quite alone in the world."
Here he was obliged to turn his head away.
"But we'll no pairt," replied Christie, cheerfully. "Suppose ye're puir, I'm rich, and it's a' one; dinna be so cast down for auchty pund."
At this, a slipshod servant entered, and said: "There's a fisher lad, inquiring for Christie Johnstone."
"It will be Flucker," said Christie; "show him ben. What's wrang the noo I wonder!"
The baddish boy entered, took up a position and remained apparently passive, hands in pockets.
Christie. "Aweel, what est?"
Christie. "What's your will, my manny?"
Flucker. "Custy, I was at Inch Keith the day."
Christie. "And hae ye really come to Edinbro' to tell me thaat?"
Flucker (dryly). "Oh! ye ken the lasses are a hantle wiser than we are—will ye hear me? South Inch Keith, I played a bowl i' the water, just for divairsion—and I catched twarree fish!"
Christie. "Floonders, I bet."
Flucker. "Does floonders swim high? I'll let you see his gills, and if ye are a reicht fishwife ye'll smell bluid."
Here he opened his jacket, and showed a bright little fish.
In a moment all Christie's nonchalance gave way to a fiery animation. She darted to Flucker's side.
"Ye hae na been sae daft as tell?" asked she.
Flucker shook his head contemptuously.
"Ony birds at the island, Flucker?"
"Sea-maws, plenty, and a bird I dinna ken; he moonted sae high, then doon like thunder intil the sea, and gart the water flee as high as Haman, and porpoises as big as my boat."
"Porr-poises, fulish laddy—ye hae seen the herrin whale at his wark, and the solant guse ye hae seen her at wark; and beneath the sea, Flucker, every coedflsh and doegfish, and fish that has teeth, is after them; and half Scotland wad be at Inch Keith Island if they kenned what ye hae tell't me—dinna speak to me."
During this, Gatty, who did not comprehend this sudden excitement, or thought it childish, had tried in vain to win her attention.
At last he said, a little peevishly, "Will you not attend to me, and tell me at least when you will sit to me?"
"Set!" cried she. "When there's nae wark to be done stanning."
And with this she was gone.
At the foot of the stairs, she said to her brother:
"Puir lad! I'll sune draw auchty punds fra' the sea for him, with my feyther's nets."
As she disappeared, Mrs. Gatty appeared. "And this is the woman whose mind was not in her dirty business," cried she. "Does not that open your eyes, Charles?"
"Ah! Charles," added she, tenderly, "there's no friend like a mother."
And off she carried the prize—his vanity had been mortified.
And so that happened to Christie Johnstone which has befallen many a woman—the greatness of her love made that love appear small to her lover.
"Ah! mother," cried he, "I must live for you and my art; I am not so dear to her as I thought."
And so, with a sad heart, he turned away from her; while she, with a light heart, darted away to think and act for him.
IT was some two hours after this that a gentleman, plainly dressed, but whose clothes seemed a part of himself (whereas mine I have observed hang upon me; and the Rev. Josiah Splitall's stick to him)—glided into the painter's room, with an inquiry whether he had not a picture or two disposable.
"I have one finished picture, sir," said the poor boy; "but the price is high!"
He brought it, in a faint-hearted way; for he had shown it to five picture-dealers, and all five agreed it was hard.
He had painted a lime-tree, distant fifty yards, and so painted it that it looked something like a lime-tree fifty yards off.
"That was mesquin," said his judges; "the poetry of painting required abstract trees, at metaphysical distance, not the various trees of nature, as they appear under positive accidents."
On this Mr. Gatty had deluged them with words.
"When it is art, truth, or sense to fuse a cow, a horse, and a critic into one undistinguishable quadruped, with six legs, then it will be art to melt an ash, an elm, and a lime, things that differ more than quadrupeds, into what you call abstract trees, that any man who has seen a tree, as well as looked at one, would call drunken stinging-nettles. You, who never look at nature, how can you judge the arts, which are all but copies of nature? At two hundred yards' distance, full-grown trees are more distinguishable than the animal tribe. Paint me an abstract human being, neither man nor a woman," said he, "and then I will agree to paint a tree that shall be no tree; and, if no man will buy it, perhaps the father of lies will take it off my hands, and hang it in the only place it would not disgrace."
In short, he never left off till he had crushed the non-buyers with eloquence and satire; but he could not crush them into buyers—they beat him at the passive retort.
Poor Gatty, when the momentary excitement of argument had subsided, drank the bitter cup all must drink awhile, whose bark is alive and strong enough to stem the current down which the dead, weak things of the world are drifting, many of them into safe harbors.
And now he brought out his picture with a heavy heart.
"Now," said he to himself, "this gentleman will talk me dead, and leave me no richer in coin, and poorer in time and patience."
The picture was placed in a light, the visitor sat down before it.
A long pause ensued.
"Has he fainted?" thought Gatty, ironically; "he doesn't gabble."
"If you do not mind painting before me," said the visitor, "I should be glad if you would continue while I look into this picture."
The visitor held his tongue.
At first the silence made the artist uneasy, but by degrees it began to give him pleasure; whoever this was, it was not one of the flies that had hitherto stung him, nor the jackdaws that had chattered him dead.
Glorious silence! he began to paint under its influence like one inspired.
Half an hour passed thus.
"What is the price of this work of art?"
"I take it," said his visitor, quietly.
What, no more difficulty than that? He felt almost disappointed at gaining his object so easily.
"I am obliged to you, sir; much obliged to you," he added, for he reflected what eighty pounds were to him just then.
"It is my descendants who are obliged to you," replied the gentleman; "the picture is immortal!"
These words were an epoch in the painter's life.
The grave, silent inspection that had preceded them, the cool, deliberate, masterly tone in which they were said, made them oracular to him.
Words of such import took him by surprise.
He had thirsted for average praise in vain.
A hand had taken him, and placed him at the top of the tree.
He retired abruptly, or he would have burst into tears.
He ran to his mother.
"Mother," said he, "I am a painter; I always thought so at bottom, but I suppose it is the height of my ideas makes me discontented with my work."
"What has happened?'
"There is a critic in my room. I had no idea there was a critic in the creation, and there is one in my room.
"Has he bought your picture, my poor boy?" said Mrs. Gatty, distrustfully.
To her surprise he replied:
"Yes! he has got it; only eighty pounds for an immortal picture."
Mrs. Gatty was overjoyed, Gatty was a little sad; but, reviving, he professed himself glad; the picture was going to a judge.
"It is not much money," said he, "but the man has spoken words that are ten thousand pounds to me."
He returned to the room; his visitor, hat in hand, was about to go; a few words were spoken about the art of painting, this led to a conversation, and then to a short discussion.
The newcomer soon showed Mr. Charles Gatty his ignorance of facts.
This man had sat quietly before a multitude of great pictures, new and old, in England.
He cooled down Charles Gatty, Esq., monopolist of nature and truth.
He quoted to him thirty painters in Germany, who paint every stroke of a landscape in the open air, and forty in various nations who had done it in times past.
"You, sir," he went on, "appear to hang on the skirts of a certain clique, who handle the brush well, but draw ill, and look at nature through the spectacles of certain ignorant painters who spoiled canvas four hundred years ago.
"Go no further in that direction.
"Those boys, like all quacks, have one great truth which they disfigure with more than one falsehood.
"Hold fast their truth, which is a truth the world has always possessed, though its practice has been confined to the honest and laborious few.
"Eschew their want of mind and taste.
"Shrink with horror from that profane culte de laideur, that 'love of the lopsided,' they have recovered from the foul receptacles of decayed art."
He reminded him further, that "Art is not imitation, but illusion; that a plumber and glazier of our day and a medieval painter are more alike than any two representatives of general styles that can be found; and for the same reason, namely, that with each of these art is in its infancy; these two sets of bunglers have not learned how to produce the illusions of art."
To all this he added a few words of compliment on the mind, as well as mechanical dexterity, of the purchased picture, bade him good morning, and glided away like a passing sunbeam.
"A mother's blessing is a great thing to have, and to deserve," said Mrs. Gatty, who had rejoined her son.
"It is, indeed," said Charles. He could not help being struck by the coincidence.
He had made a sacrifice to his mother, and in a few hours one of his troubles had melted away.
In the midst of these reflections arrived Mr. Saunders with a note.
The note contained a check for one hundred and fifty pounds, with these lines, in which the writer excused himself for the amendment: "I am a painter myself," said he, "and it is impossible that eighty pounds can remunerate the time expended on this picture, to say nothing of the skill."
We have treated this poor boy's picture hitherto with just contempt, but now that it is gone into a famous collection, mind, we always admired it; we always said so, we take our oath we did; if we have hitherto deferred framing it, that was merely because it was not sold.
MR. GATTY'S PICTURE, AT PRESENT IN THE COLLECTION OF LORD IPSDEN!
There was, hundreds of years ago, a certain Bishop of Durham, who used to fight in person against the Scotch, and defeat them. When he was not with his flock, the northern wolves sometimes scattered it; but when the holy father was there with his prayers and his battle-ax, England won the day!
This nettled the Scottish king, so he penetrated one day, with a large band, as far as Durham itself, and for a short time blocked the prelate up in his stronghold. This was the period of Mr. Gatty's picture.
Whose title was:
"Half Church of God, half Tower against the Scot."
In the background was the cathedral, on the towers of which paced to and fro men in armor, with the western sun glittering thereon. In the center, a horse and cart, led by a boy, were carrying a sheaf of arrows, tied with a straw band. In part of the foreground was the prelate, in a half suit of armor, but bareheaded; he was turning away from the boy to whom his sinking hand had indicated his way into the holy castle, and his benignant glance rested on a child, whom its mother was holding up for his benediction. In the foreground the afternoon beams sprinkled gold on a long grassy slope, corresponding to the elevation on which the cathedral stood, separated by the river Wear from the group; and these calm beauties of Nature, with the mother and child, were the peaceful side of this twofold story.
Such are the dry details. But the soul of its charm no pen can fling on paper. For the stately cathedral stood and lived; the little leaves slumbered yet lived; and the story floated and lived, in the potable gold of summer afternoon.
To look at this painted poem was to feel a thrill of pleasure in bare existence; it went through the eyes, where paintings stop, and warmed the depths and recesses of the heart with its sunshine and its glorious air.
"WHAT is in the wind this dark night? Six Newhaven boats and twenty boys and hobbledehoys, hired by the Johnstones at half a crown each for a night's job."
"What is it for?"
"I think it is a smuggling lay," suggested Flucker, "but we shall know all in good time."
"Smuggling!" Their countenances fell; they had hoped for something more nearly approaching the illegal.
"Maybe she has fand the herrin'," said a ten-year-old.
"Haw! haw! haw!" went the others. "She find the herrin', when there's five hundred fishermen after them baith sides the Firrth."
The youngster was discomfited.
In fact the expedition bore no signs of fishing.
The six boats sailed at sundown, led by Flucker. He brought to on the south side of Inch Keith, and nothing happened for about an hour.
Then such boys as were awake saw two great eyes of light coming up from Granton; rattle went the chain cable, and Lord Ipsden's cutter swung at anchor in four fathom water.
A thousand questions to Flucker.
A single puff of tobacco-smoke was his answer.
And now crept up a single eye of light from Leith; she came among the boats; the boys recognized a crazy old cutter from Leith harbor, with Christie Johnstone on board.
"What is that brown heap on her deck?"
"A mountain of nets—fifty stout herring-nets."
Tunc manifesta fides.
A yell burst from all the boys.
"He's gaun to tak us to Dunbar."
"Half a crown! ye're no blate."
Christie ordered the boats alongside her cutter, and five nets were dropped into each boat, six into Flucker's.
The depth of the water was given them, and they were instructed to shoot their nets so as to keep a fathom and a half above the rocky bottom.
A herring net is simply a wall of meshes twelve feet deep, fifty feet long; it sinks to a vertical position by the weight of net twine, and is kept from sinking to the bottom of the sea by bladders or corks. These nets are tied to one another, and paid out at the stern of the boat. Boat and nets drift with the tide; if, therefore, the nets touched the rocks they would be torn to pieces, and the fisherman ruined.
And this saves the herring—that fish lies hours and hours at the very bottom of the sea like a stone, and the poor fisherman shall drive with his nets a yard or two over a square mile of fish, and not catch a herring tail; on the other hand, if they rise to play for five minutes, in that five minutes they shall fill seven hundred boats.
At nine o'clock all the boats had shot their nets, and Christie went alongside his lordship's cutter; he asked her many questions about herring fishery, to which she gave clear answers, derived from her father, who had always been what the fishermen call a lucky fisherman; that is, he had opened his eyes and judged for himself.
Lord Ipsden then gave her blue lights to distribute among the boats, that the first which caught herring might signal all hands.
This was done, and all was expectation. Eleven o'clock came—no signal from any boat.
Christie became anxious. At last she went round to the boats; found the boys all asleep except the baddish boy; waked them up, and made them all haul in their first net. The nets came in as black as ink, no sign of a herring.
There was but one opinion; there was no herring at Inch Keith; they had not been there this seven years.
At last, Flucker, to whom she came in turn, told her he was going into two fathom water, where he would let out the bladders and drop the nets on their cursed backs.
A strong remonstrance was made by Christie, but the baddish boy insisted that he had an equal right in all her nets, and, setting his sail, he ran into shoal water.
Christie began to be sorrowful; instead of making money, she was going to throw it away, and the ne'er-do-weel Flucker would tear six nets from the ropes.
Flucker hauled down his sail, and unstepped his mast in two fathom water; but he was not such a fool as to risk his six nets; he devoted one to his experiment, and did it well; he let out his bladder line a fathom, so that one half his net would literally be higgledy-piggledy with the rocks, unless the fish were there en masse.
No long time was required.
In five minutes he began to haul in the net; first, the boys hauled in the rope, and then the net began to approach the surface. Flucker looked anxiously down, the other lads incredulously; suddenly they all gave a yell of triumph—an appearance of silver and lightning mixed had glanced up from the bottom; in came the first two yards of the net—there were three herrings in it. These three proved Flucker's point as well as three million.
They hauled in the net. Before they had a quarter of it in, the net came up to the surface, and the sea was alive with molten silver. The upper half of the net was empty, but the lower half was one solid mass of fish.
The boys could not find a mesh, they had nothing to handle but fish.
At this moment the easternmost boat showed a blue light.
"The fish are rising," said Flucker, "we'll na risk nae mair nets."
Soon after this a sort of song was heard from the boat that had showed a light. Flucker, who had got his net in, ran down to her, and found, as he suspected, that the boys had not power to draw the weight of fish over the gunwale.
They were singing, as sailors do, that they might all pull together; he gave them two of his crew, and ran down to his own skipper.
The said skipper gave him four men.
Another blue light!
Christie and her crew came a little nearer the boats, and shot twelve nets.
The yachtsmen entered the sport with zeal, so did his lordship.
The boats were all full in a few minutes, and nets still out.
Then Flucker began to fear some of these nets would sink with the weight of fish; for the herring die after a while in a net, and a dead herring sinks.
What was to be done?
They got two boats alongside the cutter, and unloaded them into her as well as they could; but before they could half do this the other boats hailed them.
They came to one of them; the boys were struggling with a thing which no stranger would have dreamed was a net.
Imagine a white sheet, fifty feet long, varnished with red-hot silver. There were twenty barrels in this single net. By dint of fresh hands they got half of her in, and then the meshes began to break; the men leaned over the gunwale, and put their arms round blocks and masses of fish, and so flung them on board; and the codfish and dogfish snapped them almost out of the men's hands like tigers.
At last they came to a net which was a double wall of herring; it had been some time in the water, and many of the fish were dead; they tried their best, but it was impracticable; they laid hold of the solid herring, and when they lifted up a hundred-weight clear of the water, away it all tore, and sank back again.
They were obliged to cut away this net, with twenty pounds sterling in her. They cut away the twine from the head-ropes, and net and fish went to the bottom.
All hands were now about the cutter; Christie's nets were all strong and new; they had been some time in the water; in hauling them up her side, quantities of fish fell out of the net into the water, but there were enough left.
She averaged twelve barrels a net.
Such of the yawls as were not quite full crept between the cutter and the nets, and caught all they wanted.
The projector of this fortunate speculation suddenly announced that she was very sleepy.
Flucker rolled her up in a sail, and she slept the sleep of infancy on board her cutter.
When she awoke it was seven o'clock in the morning, and her cutter was creeping with a smart breeze about two miles an hour, a mile from Newhaven pier.
The yacht had returned to Granton, and the yawls, very low in the water, were creeping along like snails, with both sails set.
The news was in Edinburgh long before they landed. They had been discerned under Inch Keith at the dawn.
And the manner of their creeping along, when there was such a breeze, told the tale at once to the keen, experienced eyes that are sure to be scanning the sea.
Donkey-carts came rattling down from the capital.
Merchants came pelting down to Newhaven pier.
The whole story began to be put together by bits, and comprehended. Old Johnstone's cleverness was recalled to mind.
The few fishermen left at Newhaven were ready to kill themselves.
Their wives were ready to do the same good office for La Johnstone.
Four Irish merchants agreed to work together, and to make a show of competition, the better to keep the price down within bounds.
It was hardly fair, four men against one innocent unguarded female.
But this is a wicked world.
Christie landed, and proceeded to her own house; on the way she was met by Jean Carnie, who debarrassed her of certain wrappers, and a handkerchief she had tied round her head, and informed her she was the pride of Newhaven.
She next met these four little merchants, one after another.
And since we ought to dwell as little as possible upon scenes in which unguarded innocence is exposed to artful conspiracies, we will put a page or two into the brute form of dramatic dialogue, and so sail through it quicker.
1st Merchant. "Where are ye going, Meggie?"
Christie Johnstone. "If onybody asks ye, say ye dinna ken."
1st Mer. "Will ye sell your fish?"
Christie. "Suner than gie them."
1st Mer. "You will be asking fifteen shillin' the cran."
Christie. "And ten to that."
1st Mer. "Good-morning."
2d Mer. "Would he not go over fifteen shillings? Oh, the thief o' the world!—I'll give sixteen."
3d Mer. "But I'll give eighteen."
2d Mer. "More fool you! Take him up, my girl."
Christie. "Twenty-five is my price the day."
3d Mer. "You will keep them till Sunday week and sell their bones."
[Exeunt the three Merchants. Enter 4th Merchant.
4th Mer. "Are your fish sold? I'll give sixteen shillings."
Christie. "I'm seeking twenty-five, an' I'm offered eighteen."
4th Mer. "Take it." [Exit.
Christie. "They hae putten their heads thegither."
Here Flucker came up to her, and told her there was a Leith merchant looking for her. "And, Custy," said he, "there's plenty wind getting up, your fish will be sair hashed; put them off your hands, I rede ye."
Christie. "Ay, lad! Flucker, hide, an' when I play my hand sae, ye'll run in an cry, 'Cirsty, the Irishman will gie ye twenty-two schellin the cran.'"
Flucker. "Ye ken mair than's in the catecheesm, for as releegious as ye are."
The Leith merchant was Mr. Miller, and this is the way he worked.
Miller (in a mellifluous voice). "Are ye no fatigued, my deear?"
Christie (affecting fatigue). "Indeed, sir, and I am."
Miller. "Shall I have the pleasure to deal wi' ye?"
Christie. "If it's your pleasure, sir. I'm seekin' twenty-five schellin."
Miller (pretending not to hear). "As you are a beginner, I must offer fair; twenty schellin you shall have, and that's three shillings above Dunbar."
Christie. "Wad ye even carted herrin with my fish caller fra' the sea? and Dunbar—oh, fine! ye ken there's nae herrin at Dunbar the morn; this is the Dunbar schule that slipped westward. I'm the matirket, ye'll hae to buy o' me or gang to your bed" (here she signaled to Flucker). "I'll no be oot o' mine lang."
Enter Flucker hastily, crying: "Cirsty, the Irishman will gie ye twenty-two schellin."
"I'll no tak it," said Christie.
"They are keen to hae them," said Flucker; and hastily retired, as if to treat further with the small merchants.
On this, Mr. Miller, pretending to make for Leith, said, carelessly, "Twenty-three shillings, or they are not for me."
"Tak the cutter's freight at a hundre' cran, an' I'm no caring," said Christie.
"They are mine!" said Mr. Miller, very sharply. "How much shall I give you the day?"
"Auchty pund, sir, if you please—the lave when you like; I ken ye, Mr. Miller."
While counting her the notes, the purchaser said slyly to her:
"There's more than a hundred cran in the cutter, my woman."
"A little, sir," replied the vender; "but, ere I could count them till ye by baskets, they would lose seven or eight cran in book,* your gain, my loss."
"You are a vara intelligent young person," said Mr. Miller, gravely.
"Ye had measured them wi' your walking-stick, sir; there's just ae scale ye didna wipe off, though ye are a carefu' mon, Mr. Miller; sae I laid the bait for ye an' fine ye took it."
Miller took out his snuff-box, and tapping it said:
"Will ye go into partnership with me, my dear?"
"Ay, sir!" was the reply. "When I'm aulder an' ye're younger."
At this moment the four merchants, believing it useless to disguise their co-operation, returned to see what could be done.
"We shall give you a guinea a barrel."
"Why, ye offered her twenty-two shillings before."
"That we never did, Mr. Miller."
"Haw! haw!" went Flucker.
Christie looked down and blushed.
Eyes met eyes, and without a word spoken all was comprehended and silently approved. There was no nonsense uttered about morality in connection with dealing.
Mr. Miller took an enormous pinch of snuff, and drew for the benefit of all present the following inference:
MR. MILLER'S APOTHEGM.
"Friends and neighbors! when a man's heed is gray with age and thoucht (pause) he's just fit to go to schule to a young lass o' twenty."
There was a certain middle-aged fishwife, called Beeny Liston, a tenant of Christie Johnstone's; she had not paid her rent for some time, and she had not been pressed for it; whether this, or the whisky she was in the habit of taking, rankled in her mind, certain it is she had always an ill word for her landlady.
She now met her, envied her success, and called out in a coarse tone:
"Oh, ye're a gallant quean; ye'll be waur than ever the noo."
"What's wrang, if ye please?" said the Johnstone, sharply.
Reader, did you ever see two fallow bucks commence a duel?
They strut round, eight yards apart, tails up, look carefully another way to make the other think it all means nothing, and, being both equally sly, their horns come together as if by concert.
Even so commenced this duel of tongues between these two heroines.
Beeny Liston, looking at everybody but Christie, addressed the natives who were congregating thus:
"Did ever ye hear o' a decent lass taking the herrin' oot o' the men's mooths?—is yon a woman's pairt, I'm asking ye?"
On this, Christie, looking carefully at all the others except Beeny, inquired with an air of simple curiosity:
"Can onybody tell me wha Liston Carnie's drunken wife is speakin' till? no to ony decent lass, though. Na! ye ken she wad na hae th' impudence!"
"Oh, ye ken fine I'm speakin' till yoursel'."
Here the horns clashed together.
"To me, woman?" (with admirably acted surprise.) "Oo, ay! it will be for the twa years' rent you're awin me. Giest!"
Beeny Liston. "Ye're just the impudentest girrl i' the toon, an' ye hae proved it the day" (her arms akimbo).
Christie (arms akimbo). "Me, impudent? how daur ye speak against my charackter, that's kenned for decency o' baith sides the Firrth."
Beeny (contemptuously). "Oh, ye're sly enough to beguile the men, but we ken ye."
Christie. "I'm no sly, and" (drawing near and hissing the words) "I'm no like the woman Jean an' I saw in Rose Street, dead drunk on the causeway, while her mon was working for her at sea. If ye're no ben your hoose in ae minute, I'll say that will gar Liston Carnie fling ye ower the pier-head, ye fool-moothed drunken leear—Scairt!"*
*A local word; a corruption from the French Sortez.
If my reader has seen and heard Mademoiselle Rachel utter her famous Sortez, in "Virginie," he knows exactly with what a gesture and tone the Johnstone uttered this word.
Beeny (in a voice of whining surprise). "Hech! what a spite Flucker Johnstone's dochter has taen against us."
Beeny (in a coaxing voice, and moving a step). "Aweel! what's a' your paession, my boenny woman?"
Beeny retired before the thunder and lightning of indignant virtue.
Then all the fishboys struck up a dismal chant of victory.
"Yoo-hoo—Custy's won the day—Beeny's scairtit," going up on the last syllable.
Christie moved slowly away toward her own house, but before she could reach the door she began to whimper—little fool.
Thereat chorus of young Athenians chanted:
"Yu-hoo! come back, Beeny, ye'll maybe win yet. Custy's away greetin" (going up on the last syllable).
"I'm no greetin, ye rude bairns," said Christie, bursting into tears, and retiring as soon as she had effected that proof of her philosophy.
It was about four hours later; Christie had snatched some repose. The wind, as Flucker prognosticated, had grown into a very heavy gale, and the Firth was brown and boiling.
Suddenly a clamor was heard on the shore, and soon after a fishwife made her appearance, with rather a singular burden.
Her husband, ladies; rien que cela.
She had him by the scruff of the neck; he was dos-'a-dos, with his booted legs kicking in the air, and his fists making warlike but idle demonstrations and his mouth uttering ineffectual bad language.
This worthy had been called a coward by Sandy Liston, and being about to fight with him, and get thrashed, his wife had whipped him up and carried him away; she now flung him down, at some risk of his equilibrium.
"Ye are not fit to feicht wi' Sandy Liston," said she; "if ye are for feichtin, here's for ye."
As a comment to this proposal, she tucked up the sleeves of her short gown. He tried to run by her; she caught him by the bosom, and gave him a violent push, that sent him several paces backward; he looked half fierce, half astounded; ere he could quite recover himself, his little servant forced a pipe into his hand, and he smoked contented and peaceable.
Before tobacco the evil passions fall, they tell me.
The cause of this quarrel soon explained itself; up came Sandy Liston, cursing and swearing.
"What! ye hae gotten till your wife's; that's the place for ye; to say there's a brig in distress, and ye'll let her go on the rocks under your noses. But what are ye afraid o'? there's na danger?"
"Nae danger!" said one of the reproached, "are ye fou?"
"Ye are fou wi' fear yoursel'; of a' the beasts that crawl the airth, a cooward is the ugliest, I think."
"The wifes will no let us," said one, sulkily.
"It's the woman in your hairts that keeps ye," roared Sandy hoarsely; "curse ye, ye are sure to dee ane day, and ye are sure to be——!" (a past participle) "soon or late, what signifies when? Oh! curse the hour ever I was born amang sic a cooardly crew." (Gun at sea.)
"She speaks till ye, hersel'; she cries for maircy; to think that, of a' that hear ye cry, Alexander Liston is the only mon mon enough to answer." (Gun.)
"You are mistaken, Mr. Alexander Liston," said a clear, smart voice, whose owner had mingled unobserved with the throng; "there are always men to answer such occasions; now, my lads, your boats have plenty of beam, and, well handled, should live in any sea; who volunteers with Alexander Liston and me?"
The speaker was Lord Ipsden.
The fishwives of Newhaven, more accustomed to measure men than poor little Lady Barbara Sinclair, saw in this man what in point of fact he was—a cool, daring devil, than whom none more likely to lead men into mortal danger, or pull them through it, for that matter.
They recognized their natural enemy, and collected together against him, like hens at the sight of a hawk.
"And would you really entice our men till their death?"
"My life's worth as much as theirs, I suppose.
"Nae! your life! it's na worth a button; when you dee, your next kin will dance, and wha'll greet? but our men hae wife and bairns to look till." (Gun at sea.)
"Ah! I didn't look at it in that light," said Lord Ipsden. He then demanded paper and ink; Christie Johnstone, who had come out of her house, supplied it from her treasures, and this cool hand actually began to convey a hundred and fifty thousand pounds away, upon a sheet of paper blowing in the wind; when he had named his residuary legatee, and disposed of certain large bequests, he came to the point—
"Christie Johnstone, what can these people live on? two hundred a year? living is cheap here—confound the wind!"
"Twahundred? Fifty! Vile count."
"Don't call me vile count. I am Ipsden, and my name's Richard. Now, then, be smart with your names."
Three men stepped forward, gave their names, had their widows provided for, and went for their sou'westers, etc.
"Stay," said Lord Ipsden, writing. "To Christina Johnstone, out of respect for her character, one thousand pounds."
"Richard! dinna gang," cried Christie, "oh, dinna gang, dinna gang, dinna gang; it's no your business."
"Will you lend me your papa's Flushing jacket and sou'wester, my dear? If I was sure to be drowned, I'd go!"
Christie ran in for them.
In the mean time, discomposed by the wind, and by feelings whose existence neither he, nor I, nor any one suspected, Saunders, after a sore struggle between the frail man and the perfect domestic, blurted out:
"My lord, I beg your lordship's pardon, but it blows tempestuous."
"That is why the brig wants us," was the reply.
"My lord, I beg your lordship's pardon," whimpered Saunders. "But, oh! my lord, don't go; it's all very well for fishermen to be drowned; it is their business, but not yours, my lord."
"Saunders, help me on with this coat."
Christie had brought it.
"Yes, my lord," said Saunders, briskly, his second nature reviving.
His lordship, while putting on the coat and hat, undertook to cool Mr. Saunders's aristocratic prejudices.
"Should Alexander Liston and I be drowned," said he, coolly, "when our bones come ashore, you will not know which are the fisherman's and which the viscount's." So saying, he joined the enterprise.
"I shall pray for ye, lad," said Christie Johnstone, and she retired for that purpose.
Saunders, with a heavy heart, to the nearest tavern, to prepare an account of what he called "Heroism in High Life," large letters, and the usual signs of great astonishment!!!!! for the Polytechnic Magazine.
The commander of the distressed vessel had been penny-wise. He had declined a pilot off the Isle of May, trusting to fall in with one close to the port of Leith; but a heavy gale and fog had come on; he knew himself in the vicinity of dangerous rocks; and, to make matters worse, his ship, old and sore battered by a long and stormy voyage, was leaky; and unless a pilot came alongside, his fate would be, either to founder, or run upon the rocks, where he must expect to go to pieces in a quarter of an hour.
The Newhaven boat lay in comparatively smooth water, on the lee side of the pier.
Our adventurers got into her, stepped the mast, set a small sail, and ran out! Sandy Liston held the sheet, passed once round the belaying-pin, and whenever a larger wave than usual came at them, he slacked the sheet, and the boat, losing her way, rose gently, like a cork, upon seas that had seemed about to swallow her.
But seen from the shore it was enough to make the most experienced wince; so completely was this wooden shell lost to sight, as she descended from a wave, that each time her reappearance seemed a return from the dead.
The weather was misty—the boat was soon lost sight of; the story remains ashore.
IT was an hour later; the natives of the New Town had left the pier, and were about their own doors, when three Buckhaven fishermen came slowly up from the pier; these men had arrived in one of their large fishing-boats, which defy all weather.
The men came slowly up; their petticoat trousers were drenched, and their neck-handkerchiefs and hair were wet with spray.
At the foot of the New Town they stood still and whispered to each other.
There was something about these men that drew the eye of Newhaven upon them.
In the first place a Buckhaven man rarely communicates with natives of Newhaven, except at the pier, where he brings in his cod and ling from the deep sea, flings them out like stones, and sells them to the fishwives; then up sail and away for Fifeshire.
But these men evidently came ashore to speak to some one in the town.
They whispered together; something appeared to be proposed and demurred to; but at last two went slowly back toward the pier, and the eldest remained, with a fisherman's long mackintosh coat in his hand which the others had given him as they left him.
With this in his hand, the Buckhaven fisherman stood in an irresolute posture; he looked down, and seemed to ask himself what course he should take.
"What's wrang?" said Jean Carnie, who, with her neighbors, had observed the men; "I wish yon man may na hae ill news."
"What ill news wad he hae?" replied another.
"Are ony freends of Liston Carnie here?" said the fisherman.
"The wife's awa' to Granton, Beeny Liston they ca' her—there's his house," added Jean, pointing up the row.
"Ay," said the fisherman, "I ken he lived there."
"Lived there!" cried Christie Johnstone. "Oh, what's this?"
"Freends," said the man, gravely, "his boat is driving keel uppermost in Kircauldy Bay. We passed her near enough to read the name upon her."
"But the men will have won to shore, please God?"
The fisherman shook his head.
"She'll hae coupit a mile wast Inch Keith, an' the tide rinning aff the island an' a heavy sea gaun. This is a' Newhaven we'll see of them" (holding up the coat) "till they rise to the top in three weeks' time."
The man then took the coat, which was now seen to be drenched with water, and hung it up on a line not very far from its unfortunate owner's house. Then, in the same grave and subdued tone in which he had spoken all along, he said, "We are sorry to bring siccan a tale into your toon," and slowly moved off to rejoin his comrades, who had waited for him at no great distance. They then passed through the Old Town, and in five minutes the calamity was known to the whole place.
After the first stupor, the people in the New Town collected into knots, and lamented their hazardous calling, and feared for the lives of those that had just put to sea in this fatal gale for the rescue of strangers, and the older ones failed not to match this present sorrow with others within their recollection.
In the middle of this, Flucker Johnstone came hastily in from the Old Town and told them he had seen the wife, Beeny Liston, coming through from Granton.
The sympathy of all was instantly turned in this direction.
"She would hear the news."
"It would fall on her like a thunderclap."
"What would become of her?"
Every eye was strained toward the Old Town, and soon the poor woman was seen about to emerge from it; but she was walking in her usual way, and they felt she could not carry her person so if she knew.
At the last house she was seen to stop and speak to a fisherman and his wife that stood at their own door.
"They are telling her," was then the cry.
Beeny Liston then proceeded on her way.
Every eye was strained.
No! they had not told her.
She came gayly on, the unconscious object of every eye and every heart.
The hands of this people were hard, and their tongues rude, but they shrunk from telling this poor woman of her bereavement—they thought it kinder she should know it under her own roof, from her friends or neighbors, than from comparative strangers.
She drew near her own door.
And now a knot collected round Christie Johnstone, and urged her to undertake the sad task.
"You that speak sa learned, Christie, ye should tell her; we daur na."
"How can I tell her?" said Christie, turning pale. "How will I tell her? I'se try."
She took one trembling step to meet the woman.
Beeny's eye fell upon her.
"Ay! here's the Queen o' Newhaven," cried she, in a loud and rather coarse voice. "The men will hae ta leave the place now y' are turned fisherman, I daur say."
"Oh, dinna fieicht on me! dinna fieicht on me!" cried Christie, trembling.
"Maircy on us," said the other, "auld Flucker Johnstone's dochter turned humble. What next?"
"I'm vexed for speaking back till ye the morn," faltered Christie.
"Hett," said the woman carelessly, "let yon flea stick i' the wa'. I fancy I began on ye. Aweel, Cirsty," said she, falling into a friendlier tone; "it's the place we live in spoils us—Newhaven's an impudent toon, as sure as deeth.
"I passed through the Auld Toon the noo—a place I never speak in; an' if they did na glower at me as I had been a strange beast.