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Lavengro - The Scholar, The Gypsy, The Priest
by George Borrow
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'Well,' said I, 'I am sorry to find that you entertain so low an opinion of the spirit of English literary men; we will now return, if you please, to the subject of the middle classes; I think your strictures upon them in general are rather too sweeping—they are not altogether the foolish people which you have described. Look, for example, at that very powerful and numerous body the Dissenters, the descendants of those sturdy Patriots who hurled Charles the Simple from his throne.'

'There are some sturdy fellows amongst them, I do not deny,' said the man in black, 'especially amongst the preachers, clever withal—two or three of that class nearly drove Mr. Platitude mad, as perhaps you are aware, but they are not very numerous; and the old sturdy sort of preachers are fast dropping off, and, as we observe with pleasure, are generally succeeded by frothy coxcombs, whom it would not be very difficult to gain over. But what we most rely upon as an instrument to bring the Dissenters over to us is the mania for gentility, which amongst them has of late become as great, and more ridiculous than amongst the middle classes belonging to the Church of England. All the plain and simple fashions of their forefathers they are either about to abandon, or have already done so. Look at the most part of their chapels—no longer modest brick edifices, situated in quiet and retired streets, but lunatic- looking erections, in what the simpletons call the modern Gothic taste, of Portland stone, with a cross upon the top, and the site generally the most conspicuous that can be found. And look at the manner in which they educate their children—I mean those that are wealthy. They do not even wish them to be Dissenters—"the sweet dears shall enjoy the advantages of good society, of which their parents were debarred." So the girls are sent to tip-top boarding-schools, where amongst other trash they read Rokeby, and are taught to sing snatches from that high-flying ditty, the "Cavalier"—

'Would you match the base Skippon, and Massey, and Brown, With the barons of England, who fight for the crown?—

he! he! their own names. Whilst the lads are sent to those hotbeds of pride and folly—colleges, whence they return with a greater contempt for everything "low," and especially for their own pedigree, than they went with. I tell you, friend, the children of Dissenters, if not their parents, are going over to the Church, as you call it, and the Church is going over to Rome.'

'I do not see the justice of that latter assertion at all,' said I; 'some of the Dissenters' children may be coming over to the Church of England, and yet the Church of England be very far from going over to Rome.'

'In the high road for it, I assure you,' said the man in black; 'part of it is going to abandon, the rest to lose their prerogative, and when a Church no longer retains its prerogative, it speedily loses its own respect, and that of others.'

'Well,' said I, 'if the higher classes have all the vices and follies which you represent, on which point I can say nothing, as I have never mixed with them; and even supposing the middle classes are the foolish beings you would fain make them, and which I do not believe them as a body to be, you would still find some resistance amongst the lower classes: I have a considerable respect for their good sense and independence of character; but pray let me hear your opinion of them.'

'As for the lower classes,' said the man in black, 'I believe them to be the most brutal wretches in the world, the most addicted to foul feeding, foul language, and foul vices of every kind; wretches who have neither love for country, religion, nor anything save their own vile selves. You surely do not think that they would oppose a change of religion! why, there is not one of them but would hurrah for the Pope, or Mahomet, for the sake of a hearty gorge and a drunken bout, like those which they are treated with at election contests.'

'Has your church any followers amongst them?' said I.

'Wherever there happens to be a Romish family of considerable possessions,' said the man in black, 'our church is sure to have followers of the lower class, who have come over in the hope of getting something in the shape of dole or donation. As, however, the Romish is not yet the dominant religion, and the clergy of the English establishment have some patronage to bestow, the churches are not quite deserted by the lower classes; yet, were the Romish to become the established religion, they would, to a certainty, all go over to it; you can scarcely imagine what a self-interested set they are—for example, the landlord of that public-house in which I first met you, having lost a sum of money upon a cock-fight, and his affairs in consequence being in a bad condition, is on the eve of coming over to us, in the hope that two old Popish females of property, whom I confess, will advance a sum of money to set him up again in the world.'

'And what could have put such an idea into the poor fellow's head?' said I.

'Oh, he and I have had some conversation upon the state of his affairs,' said the man in black; 'I think he might make a rather useful convert in these parts, provided things take a certain turn, as they doubtless will. It is no bad thing to have a fighting fellow, who keeps a public-house, belonging to one's religion. He has been occasionally employed as a bully at elections by the Tory party, and he may serve us in the same capacity. The fellow comes of a good stock; I heard him say that his father headed the High Church mob who sacked and burnt Priestley's house at Birmingham, towards the end of the last century.'

'A disgraceful affair,' said I.

'What do you mean by a disgraceful affair?' said the man in black. 'I assure you that nothing has occurred for the last fifty years which has given the High Church party so much credit in the eyes of Rome as that,—we did not imagine that the fellows had so much energy. Had they followed up that affair by twenty others of a similar kind, they would by this time have had everything in their own power; but they did not, and, as a necessary consequence, they are reduced to almost nothing.'

'I suppose,' said I, 'that your Church would have acted very differently in its place.'

'It has always done so,' said the man in black, coolly sipping. 'Our Church has always armed the brute population against the genius and intellect of a country, provided that same intellect and genius were not willing to become its instruments and eulogists; and provided we once obtain a firm hold here again, we would not fail to do so. We would occasionally stuff the beastly rabble with horseflesh and bitter ale, and then halloo them on against all those who were obnoxious to us.'

'Horseflesh and bitter ale!' I replied.

'Yes,' said the man in black; 'horseflesh and bitter ale—the favourite delicacies of their Saxon ancestors, who were always ready to do our bidding after a liberal allowance of such cheer. There is a tradition in our Church, that before the Northumbrian rabble, at the instigation of Austin, attacked and massacred the presbyterian monks of Bangor, they had been allowed a good gorge of horseflesh and bitter ale. He! he! he!' continued the man in black, 'what a fine spectacle to see such a mob, headed by a fellow like our friend the landlord, sack the house of another Priestley!'

'Then you don't deny that we have had a Priestley,' said I, 'and admit the possibility of our having another? You were lately observing that all English literary men were sycophants?'

'Lickspittles,' said the man in black; 'yes, I admit that you have had a Priestley, but he was a Dissenter of the old class; you have had him, and perhaps may have another.'

'Perhaps we may,' said I. 'But with respect to the lower classes, have you mixed much with them?'

'I have mixed with all classes,' said the man in black, 'and with the lower not less than the upper and middle; they are much as I have described them; and of the three, the lower are the worst. I never knew one of them that possessed the slightest principle, no, not —-. It is true, there was one fellow whom I once met, who—; but it is a long story, and the affair happened abroad.—I ought to know something of the English people,' he continued, after a moment's pause; 'I have been many years amongst them, labouring in the cause of the Church.'

'Your See must have had great confidence in your powers when it selected you to labour for it in these parts,' said I.

'They chose me,' said the man in black, 'principally because, being of British extraction and education, I could speak the English language and bear a glass of something strong. It is the opinion of my See that it would hardly do to send a missionary into a country like this who is not well versed in English—a country where, they think, so far from understanding any language besides his own, scarcely one individual in ten speaks his own intelligibly; or an ascetic person where, as they say, high and low, male and female, are, at some period of their lives, fond of a renovating glass, as it is styled—in other words, of tippling.'

'Your See appears to entertain a very strange opinion of the English,' said I.

'Not altogether an unjust one,' said the man in black, lifting the glass to his mouth.

'Well,' said I, 'it is certainly very kind on its part to wish to bring back such a set of beings beneath its wing.'

'Why, as to the kindness of my See,' said the man in black, 'I have not much to say; my See has generally in what it does a tolerably good motive; these heretics possess in plenty what my See has a great hankering for, and can turn to a good account—money!'

'The Founder of the Christian religion cared nothing for money,' said I.

'What have we to do with what the Founder of the Christian religion cared for?' said the man in black. 'How could our temples be built and our priests supported without money? But you are unwise to reproach us with a desire of obtaining money; you forget that your own Church, if the Church of England be your own Church, as I suppose it is from the willingness which you displayed in the public-house to fight for it, is equally avaricious; look at your greedy Bishops and your corpulent Rectors—do they imitate Christ in His disregard for money? You might as well tell me that they imitate Christ in His meekness and humility.'

'Well,' said I, 'whatever their faults may be, you can't say that they go to Rome for money.'

The man in black made no direct answer, but appeared by the motion of his lips to be repeating something to himself.

'I see your glass is again empty,' said I; 'perhaps you will replenish it.'

The man in black arose from his seat, adjusted his habiliments, which were rather in disorder, and placed upon his head his hat, which he had laid aside; then, looking at me, who was still lying on the ground, he said—'I might, perhaps, take another glass, though I believe I have had quite as much as I can well bear; but I do not wish to hear you utter anything more this evening, after that last observation of yours—it is quite original; I will meditate upon it on my pillow this night, after having said an ave and a pater—go to Rome for money!' He then made Belle a low bow, slightly motioned to me with his hand as if bidding farewell, and then left the dingle with rather uneven steps.

'Go to Rome for money,' I heard him say as he ascended the winding path, 'he! he! he! Go to Rome for money, ho! ho! ho!'

{picture:'Go to Rome for money,' I heard him say as he ascended the winding path, 'he! he! he! Go to Rome for money, ho! ho! ho!': page538.jpg}



CHAPTER XCV

Wooded retreat—Fresh shoes—Wood fire—Ash, when green—Queen of China—Cleverest people—Declensions—Armenian—Thunder—Deep olive—What do you mean?—Koul Adonai—The thick bushes—Wood pigeon—Old Gothe.

Nearly three days elapsed without anything of particular moment occurring. Belle drove the little cart containing her merchandise about the neighbourhood, returning to the dingle towards the evening. As for myself, I kept within my wooded retreat, working during the periods of her absence leisurely at my forge. Having observed that the quadruped which my companion drove was as much in need of shoes as my own had been some time previously, I had determined to provide it with a set, and during the aforesaid periods occupied myself in preparing them. As I was employed three mornings and afternoons about them, I am sure that the reader will agree that I worked leisurely, or rather, lazily. On the third day Belle arrived somewhat later than usual; I was lying on my back at the bottom of the dingle, employed in tossing up the shoes which I had produced, and catching them as they fell—some being always in the air mounting or descending, somewhat after the fashion of the waters of a fountain.

{picture:I was lying on my back at the bottom of the dingle, employed in tossing up the shoes, and catching them as they fell: page540.jpg}

'Why have you been absent so long?' said I to Belle; 'it must be long past four by the day.'

'I have been almost killed by the heat,' said Belle; 'I was never out in a more sultry day—the poor donkey, too, could scarcely move along.'

'He shall have fresh shoes,' said I, continuing my exercise; 'here they are quite ready; to-morrow I will tack them on.'

'And why are you playing with them in that manner?' said Belle.

'Partly in triumph at having made them, and partly to show that I can do something besides making them; it is not every one who, after having made a set of horse-shoes, can keep them going up and down in the air, without letting one fall—'

'One has now fallen on your chin,' said Belle.

'And another on my cheek,' said I, getting up; 'it is time to discontinue the game, for the last shoe drew blood.'

Belle went to her own little encampment; and as for myself, after having flung the donkey's shoes into my tent, I put some fresh wood on the fire, which was nearly out, and hung the kettle over it. I then issued forth from the dingle, and strolled round the wood that surrounded it; for a long time I was busied in meditation, looking at the ground, striking with my foot, half unconsciously, the tufts of grass and thistles that I met in my way. After some time, I lifted up my eyes to the sky, at first vacantly, and then with more attention, turning my head in all directions for a minute or two; after which I returned to the dingle. Isopel was seated near the fire, over which the kettle was now hung; she had changed her dress—no signs of the dust and fatigue of her late excursion remained; she had just added to the fire a small billet of wood, two or three of which I had left beside it; the fire cracked, and a sweet odour filled the dingle.

'I am fond of sitting by a wood fire,' said Belle, 'when abroad, whether it be hot or cold; I love to see the flames dart out of the wood; but what kind is this, and where did you get it?'

'It is ash,' said I, 'green ash. Somewhat less than a week ago, whilst I was wandering along the road by the side of a wood, I came to a place where some peasants were engaged in cutting up and clearing away a confused mass of fallen timber: a mighty aged oak had given way the night before, and in its fall had shivered some smaller trees; the upper part of the oak, and the fragments of the rest, lay across the road. I purchased, for a trifle, a bundle or two, and the wood on the fire is part of it—ash, green ash.'

'That makes good the old rhyme,' said Belle, 'which I have heard sung by the old women in the great house:—

'Ash, when green, Is fire for a queen.'

{picture:'Ash, when green, Is fire for a queen.': page543.jpg}

'And on fairer form of queen ash fire never shone,' said I, 'than on thine, O beauteous queen of the dingle.'

'I am half disposed to be angry with you, young man,' said Belle.

'And why not entirely?' said I.

Belle made no reply.

'Shall I tell you?' I demanded. 'You had no objection to the first part of the speech, but you did not like being called queen of the dingle. Well, if I had the power, I would make you queen of something better than the dingle—Queen of China. Come, let us have tea.'

'Something less would content me,' said Belle, sighing, as she rose to prepare our evening meal.

So we took tea together, Belle and I. 'How delicious tea is after a hot summer's day and a long walk,' said she.

'I daresay it is most refreshing then,' said I; 'but I have heard people say that they most enjoy it on a cold winter's night, when the kettle is hissing on the fire, and their children playing on the hearth.'

Belle sighed. 'Where does tea come from?' she presently demanded.

'From China,' said I; 'I just now mentioned it, and the mention of it put me in mind of tea.'

'What kind of country is China?'

'I know very little about it; all I know is, that it is a very large country far to the East, but scarcely large enough to contain its inhabitants, who are so numerous, that though China does not cover one- ninth part of the world, its inhabitants amount to one-third of the population of the world.'

'And do they talk as we do?'

'Oh no! I know nothing of their language; but I have heard that it is quite different from all others, and so difficult that none but the cleverest people amongst foreigners can master it, on which account, perhaps, only the French pretend to know anything about it.'

'Are the French so very clever, then?' said Belle.

'They say there are no people like them, at least in Europe. But talking of Chinese reminds me that I have not for some time past given you a lesson in Armenian. The word for tea in Armenian is—by the bye what is the Armenian word for tea?'

'That's your affair, not mine,' said Belle; 'it seems hard that the master should ask the scholar.'

'Well,' said I, 'whatever the word may be in Armenian, it is a noun; and as we have never yet declined an Armenian noun together, we may as well take this opportunity of declining one. Belle, there are ten declensions in Armenian!

'What's a declension?'

'The way of declining a noun.'

'Then, in the civilest way imaginable, I decline the noun. Is that a declension?'

'You should never play on words; to do so is low, vulgar, smelling of the pothouse, the workhouse. Belle, I insist on your declining an Armenian noun.'

'I have done so already,' said Belle.

'If you go on in this way,' said I, 'I shall decline taking any more tea with you. Will you decline an Armenian noun?'

'I don't like the language,' said Belle. 'If you must teach me languages, why not teach me French or Chinese?'

'I know nothing of Chinese; and as for French, none but a Frenchman is clever enough to speak it—to say nothing of teaching; no, we will stick to Armenian, unless, indeed, you would prefer Welsh!'

'Welsh, I have heard, is vulgar,' said Belle; 'so, if I must learn one of the two, I will prefer Armenian, which I never heard of till you mentioned it to me; though, of the two, I really think Welsh sounds best.'

'The Armenian noun,' said I, 'which I propose for your declension this night, is —-, which signifieth Master.'

'I neither like the word nor the sound,' said Belle.

'I can't help that,' said I; 'it is the word I choose: Master, with all its variations, being the first noun the sound of which I would have you learn from my lips. Come, let us begin—

'A master. Of a master, etc. Repeat—'

'I am not much used to say the word,' said Belle, 'but to oblige you I will decline it as you wish'; and thereupon Belle declined Master in Armenian.

'You have declined the noun very well,' said I; 'that is in the singular number; we will now go to the plural.'

'What is the plural?' said Belle.

'That which implies more than one, for example, Masters; you shall now go through masters in Armenian.'

'Never,' said Belle, 'never; it is bad to have one master, but more I would never bear, whether in Armenian or English.'

'You do not understand,' said I; 'I merely want you to decline Masters in Armenian.'

'I do decline them; I will have nothing to do with them, nor with master either; I was wrong to—What sound is that?'

'I did not hear it, but I daresay it is thunder; in Armenian—'

'Never mind what it is in Armenian; but why do you think it is thunder?'

'Ere I returned from my stroll, I looked up into the heavens, and by their appearance I judged that a storm was nigh at hand.'

'And why did you not tell me so?'

'You never asked me about the state of the atmosphere, and I am not in the habit of giving my opinion to people on any subject, unless questioned. But, setting that aside, can you blame me for not troubling you with forebodings about storm and tempest, which might have prevented the pleasure you promised yourself in drinking tea, or perhaps a lesson in Armenian, though you pretend to dislike the latter?'

'My dislike is not pretended,' said Belle; 'I hate the sound of it, but I love my tea, and it was kind of you not to wish to cast a cloud over my little pleasures; the thunder came quite time enough to interrupt it without being anticipated—there is another peal—I will clear away, and see that my tent is in a condition to resist the storm; and I think you had better bestir yourself.'

Isopel departed, and I remained seated on my stone, as nothing belonging to myself required any particular attention; in about a quarter of an hour she returned, and seated herself upon her stool.

'How dark the place is become since I left you,' said she; 'just as if night were just at hand.'

'Look up at the sky,' said I; 'and you will not wonder; it is all of a deep olive. The wind is beginning to rise; hark how it moans among the branches, and see how their tops are bending; it brings dust on its wings—I felt some fall on my face; and what is this, a drop of rain?'

'We shall have plenty anon,' said Belle; 'do you hear? it already begins to hiss upon the embers; that fire of ours will soon be extinguished.'

'It is not probable that we shall want it,' said I, 'but we had better seek shelter: let us go into my tent.'

'Go in,' said Belle, 'but you go in alone; as for me, I will seek my own.'

'You are right,' said I, 'to be afraid of me; I have taught you to decline master in Armenian.'

'You almost tempt me,' said Belle, 'to make you decline mistress in English.'

'To make matters short,' said I, 'I decline a mistress.'

'What do you mean?' said Belle, angrily.

'I have merely done what you wished me,' said I, 'and in your own style; there is no other way of declining anything in English, for in English there are no declensions.'

'The rain is increasing,' said Belle.

'It is so,' said I; 'I shall go to my tent; you may come if you please; I do assure you I am not afraid of you.'

'Nor I of you,' said Belle; 'so I will come. Why should I be afraid? I can take my own part; that is—'

We went into the tent and sat down, and now the rain began to pour with vehemence. 'I hope we shall not be flooded in this hollow,' said I to Belle. 'There is no fear of that,' said Belle; 'the wandering people, amongst other names, call it the dry hollow. I believe there is a passage somewhere or other by which the wet is carried off. There must be a cloud right above us, it is so dark. Oh! what a flash!'

'And what a peal!' said I; 'that is what the Hebrews call Koul Adonai—the voice of the Lord. Are you afraid?'

'No,' said Belle, 'I rather like to hear it.'

'You are right,' said I, 'I am fond of the sound of thunder myself. There is nothing like it; Koul Adonai behadar: the voice of the Lord is a glorious voice, as the prayer-book version hath it.'

'There is something awful in it,' said Belle; 'and then the lightning—the whole dingle is now in a blaze.'

'"The voice of the Lord maketh the hinds to calve, and discovereth the thick bushes." As you say, there is something awful in thunder.'

'There are all kinds of noises above us,' said Belle; 'surely I heard the crashing of a tree?'

'"The voice of the Lord breaketh the cedar trees,"' said I, 'but what you hear is caused by a convulsion of the air; during a thunder-storm there are occasionally all kinds of aerial noises. Ab Gwilym, who, next to King David, has best described a thunderstorm, speaks of these aerial noises in the following manner:—

'Astonied now I stand at strains, As of ten thousand clanking chains; And once, methought that, overthrown, The welkin's oaks came whelming down; Upon my head up starts my hair: Why hunt abroad the hounds of air? What cursed hag is screeching high, Whilst crash goes all her crockery?'

You would hardly believe, Belle, that though I offered at least ten thousand lines nearly as good as those to the booksellers in London, the simpletons were so blind to their interest, as to refuse purchasing them!'

'I don't wonder at it,' said Belle, 'especially if such dreadful expressions frequently occur as that towards the end;—surely that was the crash of a tree?'

'Ah!' said I, 'there falls the cedar tree—I mean the sallow; one of the tall trees on the outside of the dingle has been snapped short.'

'What a pity,' said Belle, 'that the fine old oak, which you saw the peasants cutting up, gave way the other night, when scarcely a breath of air was stirring; how much better to have fallen in a storm like this, the fiercest I remember.'

'I don't think so,' said I; 'after braving a thousand tempests, it was meeter for it to fall of itself than to be vanquished at last. But to return to Ab Gwilym's poetry: he was above culling dainty words, and spoke boldly his mind on all subjects. Enraged with the thunder for parting him and Morfydd, he says, at the conclusion of his ode,

'My curse, O Thunder, cling to thee, For parting my dear pearl and me!'

'You and I shall part, that is, I shall go to my tent, if you persist in repeating from him. The man must have been a savage. A poor wood-pigeon has fallen dead.'

'Yes,' said I, 'there he lies, just outside the tent; often have I listened to his note when alone in this wilderness. So you do not like Ab Gwilym; what say you to old Gothe?—

'Mist shrouds the night, and rack; Hear, in the woods, what an awful crack! Wildly the owls are flitting, Hark to the pillars splitting Of palaces verdant ever, The branches quiver and sever, The mighty stems are creaking, The poor roots breaking and shrieking, In wild mixt ruin down dashing, O'er one another they're crashing; Whilst 'midst the rocks so hoary Whirlwinds hurry and worry. Hear'st not, sister—'

'Hark!' said Belle, 'hark!'

'Hear'st not, sister, a chorus Of voices—?'

'No,' said Belle, 'but I hear a voice.'



CHAPTER XCVI

A shout—A fireball—See to the horses—Passing away—Gap in the hedge—On three wheels—Why do you stop?—No craven heart—The cordial—Across the country—Small bags.

I listened attentively, but I could hear nothing but the loud clashing of branches, the pattering of rain, and the muttered growl of thunder. I was about to tell Belle that she must have been mistaken, when I heard a shout—indistinct, it is true, owing to the noises aforesaid—from some part of the field above the dingle. 'I will soon see what's the matter,' said I to Belle, starting up. 'I will go too;' said the girl. 'Stay where you are,' said I; 'if I need you, I will call'; and, without waiting for any answer, I hurried to the mouth of the dingle. I was about a few yards only from the top of the ascent, when I beheld a blaze of light, from whence I knew not; the next moment there was a loud crash, and I appeared involved in a cloud of sulphurous smoke. 'Lord have mercy upon us!' I heard a voice say, and methought I heard the plunging and struggling of horses. I had stopped short on hearing the crash, for I was half stunned; but I now hurried forward, and in a moment stood upon the plain. Here I was instantly aware of the cause of the crash and the smoke. One of those balls, generally called fireballs, had fallen from the clouds, and was burning on the plain at a short distance; and the voice which I had heard, and the plunging, were as easily accounted for. Near the left-hand corner of the grove which surrounded the dingle, and about ten yards from the fireball, I perceived a chaise, with a postilion on the box, who was making efforts, apparently useless, to control his horses, which were kicking and plunging in the highest degree of excitement. I instantly ran towards the chaise, in order to offer what help was in my power. 'Help me,' said the poor fellow, as I drew nigh; but before I could reach the horses, they had turned rapidly round, one of the fore-wheels flew from its axle-tree, the chaise was overset, and the postilion flung violently from his seat upon the field. The horses now became more furious than before, kicking desperately, and endeavouring to disengage themselves from the fallen chaise. As I was hesitating whether to run to the assistance of the postilion or endeavour to disengage the animals, I heard the voice of Belle exclaiming, 'See to the horses, I will look after the man.' She had, it seems, been alarmed by the crash which accompanied the firebolt, and had hurried up to learn the cause. I forthwith seized the horses by the heads, and used all the means I possessed to soothe and pacify them, employing every gentle modulation of which my voice was capable. Belle, in the meantime, had raised up the man, who was much stunned by his fall; but, presently recovering his recollection to a certain degree, he came limping to me, holding his hand to his right thigh. 'The first thing that must now be done,' said I, 'is to free these horses from the traces; can you undertake to do so?' ' I think I can,' said the man, looking at me somewhat stupidly. 'I will help,' said Belle, and without loss of time laid hold of one of the traces. The man, after a short pause, also set to work, and in a few minutes the horses were extricated. 'Now,' said I to the man, 'what is next to be done?' 'I don't know,' said he; 'indeed, I scarcely know anything; I have been so frightened by this horrible storm, and so shaken by my fall.' 'I think,' said I, 'that the storm is passing away, so cast your fears away too; and as for your fall, you must bear it as lightly as you can. I will tie the horses amongst those trees, and then we will all betake us to the hollow below.' 'And what's to become of my chaise?' said the postilion, looking ruefully on the fallen vehicle. 'Let us leave the chaise for the present,' said I; 'we can be of no use to it.' 'I don't like to leave my chaise lying on the ground in this weather,' said the man; 'I love my chaise, and him whom it belongs to.' 'You are quite right to be fond of yourself,' said I, 'on which account I advise you to seek shelter from the rain as soon as possible.' 'I was not talking of myself,' said the man, 'but my master, to whom the chaise belongs.' 'I thought you called the chaise yours,' said I. 'That's my way of speaking,' said the man; 'but the chaise is my master's, and a better master does not live. Don't you think we could manage to raise up the chaise?' 'And what is to become of the horses?' said I. 'I love my horses well enough,' said the man; 'but they will take less harm than the chaise. We two can never lift up that chaise.' 'But we three can,' said Belle; 'at least, I think so; and I know where to find two poles which will assist us.' 'You had better go to the tent,' said I, 'you will be wet through.' 'I care not for a little wetting,' said Belle; 'moreover, I have more gowns than one—see you after the horses.' Thereupon, I led the horses past the mouth of the dingle, to a place where a gap in the hedge afforded admission to the copse or plantation on the southern side. Forcing them through the gap, I led them to a spot amidst the trees which I deemed would afford them the most convenient place for standing; then, darting down into the dingle, I brought up a rope, and also the halter of my own nag, and with these fastened them each to a separate tree in the best manner I could. This done, I returned to the chaise and the postilion. In a minute or two Belle arrived with two poles which, it seems, had long been lying, overgrown with brushwood, in a ditch or hollow behind the plantation. With these both she and I set to work in endeavouring to raise the fallen chaise from the ground.

We experienced considerable difficulty in this undertaking; at length, with the assistance of the postilion, we saw our efforts crowned with success—the chaise was lifted up, and stood upright on three wheels.

{picture:At length, with the assistance of the postilion, we saw our efforts crowned with success—the chaise was lifted up, and stood upright on three wheels: page552.jpg}

'We may leave it here in safety,' said I, 'for it will hardly move away on three wheels, even supposing it could run by itself; I am afraid there is work here for a wheelwright, in which case I cannot assist you; if you were in need of a blacksmith it would be otherwise.' 'I don't think either the wheel or the axle is hurt,' said the postilion, who had been handling both; 'it is only the linch-pin having dropped out that caused the wheel to fly off; if I could but find the linch-pin!—though, perhaps, it fell out a mile away.' 'Very likely,' said I; 'but never mind the linch-pin, I can make you one, or something that will serve: but I can't stay here any longer, I am going to my place below with this young gentlewoman, and you had better follow us.' 'I am ready,' said the man; and after lifting up the wheel and propping it against the chaise, he went with us, slightly limping, and with his hand pressed to his thigh.

As we were descending the narrow path, Belle leading the way, and myself the last of the party, the postilion suddenly stopped short, and looked about him. 'Why do you stop?' said I. 'I don't wish to offend you,' said the man, 'but this seems to be a strange place you are leading me into; I hope you and the young gentlewoman, as you call her, don't mean me any harm—you seemed in a great hurry to bring me here.' 'We wished to get you out of the rain,' said I, 'and ourselves too; that is, if we can, which I rather doubt, for the canvas of a tent is slight shelter in such a rain; but what harm should we wish to do you?' 'You may think I have money,' said the man, 'and I have some, but only thirty shillings, and for a sum like that it would be hardly worth while to—' 'Would it not?' said I; 'thirty shillings, after all, are thirty shillings, and for what I know, half a dozen throats may have been cut in this place for that sum at the rate of five shillings each; moreover, there are the horses, which would serve to establish this young gentlewoman and myself in housekeeping, provided we were thinking of such a thing.' 'Then I suppose I have fallen into pretty hands,' said the man, putting himself in a posture of defence; 'but I'll show no craven heart; and if you attempt to lay hands on me, I'll try to pay you in your own coin. I'm rather lamed in the leg, but I can still use my fists; so come on, both of you, man and woman, if woman this be, though she looks more like a grenadier.'

'Let me hear no more of this nonsense,' said Belle; 'if you are afraid, you can go back to your chaise—we only seek to do you a kindness.'

'Why, he was just now talking of cutting throats,' said the man. 'You brought it on yourself,' said Belle; 'you suspected us, and he wished to pass a joke upon you; he would not hurt a hair of your head, were your coach laden with gold, nor would I.' 'Well,' said the man, 'I was wrong—here's my hand to both of you,' shaking us by the hands; 'I'll go with you where you please, but I thought this a strange lonesome place, though I ought not much to mind strange lonesome places, having been in plenty of such when I was a servant in Italy, without coming to any harm—come, let us move on, for 'tis a shame to keep you two in the rain.'

So we descended the path which led into the depths of the dingle; at the bottom I conducted the postilion to my tent, which, though the rain dripped and trickled through it, afforded some shelter; there I bade him sit down on the log of wood, whilst I placed myself as usual on my stone. Belle in the meantime had repaired to her own place of abode. After a little time, I produced a bottle of the cordial of which I have previously had occasion to speak, and made my guest take a considerable draught. I then offered him some, bread and cheese, which he accepted with thanks. In about an hour the rain had much abated: 'What do you now propose to do?' said I. 'I scarcely know,' said the man; 'I suppose I must endeavour to put on the wheel with your help.' 'How far are you from your home?' I demanded. 'Upwards of thirty miles,' said the man; 'my master keeps an inn on the great north road, and from thence I started early this morning with a family, which I conveyed across the country to a hall at some distance from here. On my return I was beset by the thunderstorm, which frightened the horses, who dragged the chaise off the road to the field above, and overset it as you saw. I had proposed to pass the night at an inn about twelve miles from here on my way back, though how I am to get there to-night I scarcely know, even if we can put on the wheel, for, to tell you the truth, I am shaken by my fall, and the smoulder and smoke of that fireball have rather bewildered my head; I am, moreover, not much acquainted with the way.

'The best thing you can do,' said I, 'is to pass the night here; I will presently light a fire, and endeavour to make you comfortable—in the morning we will see to your wheel.' 'Well,' said the man, 'I shall be glad to pass the night here, provided I do not intrude, but I must see to the horses.' Thereupon I conducted the man to the place where the horses were tied. 'The trees drip very much upon them,' said the man, 'and it will not do for them to remain here all night; they will be better out on the field picking the grass; but first of all they must have a good feed of corn.' Thereupon he went to his chaise, from which he presently brought two small bags, partly filled with corn—into them he inserted the mouths of the horses, tying them over their heads. 'Here we will leave them for a time,' said the man; 'when I think they have had enough, I will come back, tie their fore-legs, and let them pick about.'



CHAPTER XCVII

Fire of charcoal—The new-comer—No wonder!—Not a blacksmith—A love affair—Gretna Green—A cool thousand—Family estates—Borough interest—Grand education—Let us hear—Already quarrelling—Honourable parents—Most heroically—Not common people—Fresh charcoal.

It might be about ten o'clock at night. Belle, the postilion, and myself, sat just within the tent, by a fire of charcoal which I had kindled in the chafing-pan. The man had removed the harness from his horses, and, after tethering their legs, had left them for the night in the field above to regale themselves on what grass they could find. The rain had long since entirely ceased, and the moon and stars shone bright in the firmament, up to which, putting aside the canvas, I occasionally looked from the depths of the dingle. Large drops of water, however, falling now and then upon the tent from the neighbouring trees, would have served, could we have forgotten it, to remind us of the recent storm, and also a certain chilliness in the atmosphere, unusual to the season, proceeding from the moisture with which the ground was saturated; yet these circumstances only served to make our party enjoy the charcoal fire the more. There we sat bending over it: Belle, with her long beautiful hair streaming over her magnificent shoulders; the postilion smoking his pipe, in his shirt-sleeves and waistcoat, having flung aside his greatcoat, which had sustained a thorough wetting; and I without my wagoner's slop, of which, it being in the same plight, I had also divested myself.

The new-comer was a well-made fellow of about thirty, with an open and agreeable countenance. I found him very well informed for a man in his station, and with some pretensions to humour. After we had discoursed for some time on indifferent subjects, the postilion, who had exhausted his pipe, took it from his mouth, and, knocking out the ashes upon the ground, exclaimed, 'I little thought, when I got up in the morning, that I should spend the night in such agreeable company, and after such a fright.'

'Well,' said I, 'I am glad that your opinion of us has improved; it is not long since you seemed to hold us in rather a suspicious light.'

'And no wonder,' said the man, 'seeing the place you were taking me to! I was not a little, but very much afraid of ye both; and so I continued for some time, though, not to show a craven heart, I pretended to be quite satisfied; but I see I was altogether mistaken about ye. I thought you vagrant gypsy folks and trampers; but now—'

'Vagrant gypsy folks and trampers,' said I; 'and what are we but people of that stamp?'

'Oh,' said the postilion, 'if you wish to be thought such, I am far too civil a person to contradict you, especially after your kindness to me, but—'

'But!' said I; 'what do you mean by but? I would have you to know that I am proud of being a travelling blacksmith; look at these donkey-shoes, I finished them this day.'

The postilion took the shoes and examined them. 'So you made these shoes?' he cried at last.

{picture:The postilion took the shoes and examined them. 'So you made these shoes?' he cried at last: page557.jpg}

'To be sure I did; do you doubt it?'

'Not in the least,' said the man.

'Ah! ah!' said I, 'I thought I should bring you back to your original opinion. I am, then, a vagrant gypsy body, a tramper, a wandering blacksmith.'

'Not a blacksmith, whatever else you may be,' said the postilion, laughing.

'Then how do you account for my making those shoes?'

'By your not being a blacksmith,' said the postilion; 'no blacksmith would have made shoes in that manner. Besides, what did you mean just now by saying you had finished these shoes to-day? A real blacksmith would have flung off three or four sets of donkey-shoes in one morning, but you, I will be sworn, have been hammering at these for days, and they do you credit—but why?—because you are no blacksmith; no, friend, your shoes may do for this young gentlewoman's animal, but I shouldn't like to have my horses shod by you, unless at a great pinch indeed.'

'Then,' said I, 'for what do you take me?'

'Why, for some runaway young gentleman,' said the postilion. 'No offence, I hope?'

'None at all; no one is offended at being taken or mistaken for a young gentleman, whether runaway or not; but from whence do you suppose I have run away?'

'Why, from college,' said the man: 'no offence?'

'None whatever; and what induced me to run away from college?'

'A love affair, I'll be sworn,' said the postilion. 'You had become acquainted with this young gentlewoman, so she and you—'

'Mind how you get on, friend,' said Belle, in a deep serious tone.

'Pray proceed,' said I; 'I daresay you mean no offence.'

'None in the world,' said the postilion; 'all I was going to say was, that you agreed to run away together, you from college, and she from boarding-school. Well, there's nothing to be ashamed of in a matter like that, such things are done every day by young folks in high life.'

'Are you offended?' said I to Belle.

Belle made no answer; but, placing her elbows on her knees, buried her face in her hands.

'So we ran away together?' said I.

'Ay, ay,' said the postilion, 'to Gretna Green, though I can't say that I drove ye, though I have driven many a pair.'

'And from Gretna Green we came here?'

'I'll be bound you did,' said the man, 'till you could arrange matters at home.'

'And the horse-shoes?' said I.

'The donkey-shoes you mean,' answered the postilion; 'why, I suppose you persuaded the blacksmith who married you to give you, before you left, a few lessons in his trade.'

'And we intend to stay here till we have arranged matters at home?'

'Ay, ay,' said the postilion, 'till the old people are pacified, and they send you letters directed to the next post town, to be left till called for, beginning with "Dear children," and enclosing you each a cheque for one hundred pounds, when you will leave this place, and go home in a coach like gentlefolks, to visit your governors; I should like nothing better than to have the driving of you: and then there will be a grand meeting of the two families, and after a few reproaches, the old people will agree to do something handsome for the poor thoughtless things; so you will have a genteel house taken for you, and an annuity allowed you. You won't get much the first year, five hundred at the most, in order that the old folks may let you feel that they are not altogether satisfied with you, and that you are yet entirely in their power; but the second, if you don't get a cool thousand, may I catch cold, especially should young madam here present a son and heir for the old people to fondle, destined one day to become sole heir of the two illustrious houses; and then all the grand folks in the neighbourhood, who have—bless their prudent hearts!—kept rather aloof from you till then, for fear you should want anything from them—I say all the carriage people in the neighbourhood, when they see how swimmingly matters are going on, will come in shoals to visit you.'

'Really,' said I, 'you are getting on swimmingly.'

'Oh,' said the postilion, 'I was not a gentleman's servant nine years without learning the ways of gentry, and being able to know gentry when I see them.'

'And what do you say to all this?' I demanded of Belle.

'Stop a moment,' interposed the postilion, 'I have one more word to say:—and when you are surrounded by your comforts, keeping your nice little barouche and pair, your coachman and livery servant, and visited by all the carriage people in the neighbourhood—to say nothing of the time when you come to the family estates on the death of the old people—I shouldn't wonder if now and then you look back with longing and regret to the days when you lived in the damp dripping dingle, had no better equipage than a pony or donkey cart, and saw no better company than a tramper or gypsy, except once, when a poor postilion was glad to seat himself at your charcoal fire.'

'Pray,' said I, 'did you ever take lessons in elocution?'

'Not directly,' said the postilion; 'but my old master, who was in Parliament, did, and so did his son, who was intended to be an orator. A great professor used to come and give them lessons, and I used to stand and listen, by which means I picked up a considerable quantity of what is called rhetoric. In what I last said, I was aiming at what I have heard him frequently endeavouring to teach my governors as a thing indispensably necessary in all oratory, a graceful pere—pere—peregrination.'

'Peroration, perhaps?'

'Just so,' said the postilion; 'and now I'm sure I am not mistaken about you; you have taken lessons yourself, at first hand, in the college vacations, and a promising pupil you were, I make no doubt. Well, your friends will be all the happier to get you back. Has your governor much borough interest?'

'I ask you once more,' said I, addressing myself to Belle, 'what you think of the history which this good man has made for us?'

'What should I think of it,' said Belle, still keeping her face buried in her hands, 'but that it is mere nonsense?'

'Nonsense!' said the postilion.

'Yes,' said the girl, 'and you know it.'

'May my leg always ache, if I do,' said the postilion, patting his leg with his hand; 'will you persuade me that this young man has never been at college?'

'I have never been at college, but—'

'Ay, ay,' said the postilion, 'but—'

'I have been to the best schools in Britain, to say nothing of a celebrated one in Ireland.'

'Well, then, it comes to the same thing,' said the postilion, 'or perhaps you know more than if you had been at college—and your governor—'

'My governor, as you call him,' said I, 'is dead.'

'And his borough interest?'

'My father had no borough interest,' said I; 'had he possessed any, he would perhaps not have died, as he did, honourably poor.'

'No, no,' said the postilion, 'if he had had borough interest, he wouldn't have been poor, nor honourable, though perhaps a right honourable. However, with your grand education and genteel manners, you made all right at last by persuading this noble young gentlewoman to run away from boarding-school with you.'

'I was never at boarding-school,' said Belle, 'unless you call—'

'Ay, ay,' said the postilion, 'boarding-school is vulgar, I know: I beg your pardon, I ought to have called it academy, or by some other much finer name—you were in something much greater than a boarding-school.'

'There you are right,' said Belle, lifting up her head and looking the postilion full in the face by the light of the charcoal fire, 'for I was bred in the workhouse.'

'Wooh!' said the postilion.

'It is true that I am of good—'

'Ay, ay,' said the postilion, 'let us hear—'

'Of good blood,' continued Belle; 'my name is Berners, Isopel Berners, though my parents were unfortunate. Indeed, with respect to blood, I believe I am of better blood than the young man.'

'There you are mistaken,' said I; 'by my father's side I am of Cornish blood, and by my mother's of brave French Protestant extraction. Now, with respect to the blood of my father—and to be descended well on the father's side is the principal thing—it is the best blood in the world, for the Cornish blood, as the proverb says—'

'I don't care what the proverb says,' said Belle; 'I say my blood is the best—my name is Berners, Isopel Berners—it was my mother's name, and is better, I am sure, than any you bear, whatever that may be; and though you say that the descent on the fathers side is the principal thing—and I know why you say so,' she added with some excitement—'I say that descent on the mother's side is of most account, because the mother—'

'Just come from Gretna Green, and already quarrelling!' said the postilion.

'We do not come from Gretna Green,' said Belle.

'Ah, I had forgot,' said the postilion; 'none but great people go to Gretna Green. Well, then, from church, and already quarrelling about family, just like two great people.'

'We have never been to church,' said Belle; 'and to prevent any more guessing on your part, it will be as well for me to tell you, friend, that I am nothing to the young man, and he, of course, nothing to me. I am a poor travelling girl, born in a workhouse: journeying on my occasions with certain companions, I came to this hollow, where my company quarrelled with the young man, who had settled down here, as he had a right to do if he pleased; and not being able to drive him out, they went away after quarrelling with me, too, for not choosing to side with them; so I stayed here along with the young man, there being room for us both, and the place being as free to me as to him.'

'And in order that you may be no longer puzzled with respect to myself,' said I; 'I will give you a brief outline of my history. I am the son of honourable parents, who gave me a first-rate education, as far as literature and languages went, with which education I endeavoured, on the death of my father, to advance myself to wealth and reputation in the big city; but failing in the attempt, I conceived a disgust for the busy world, and determined to retire from it. After wandering about for some time, and meeting with various adventures, in one of which I contrived to obtain a pony, cart, and certain tools used by smiths and tinkers, I came to this place, where I amused myself with making horse-shoes, or rather pony-shoes, having acquired the art of wielding the hammer and tongs from a strange kind of smith—not him of Gretna Green—whom I knew in my childhood. And here I lived, doing harm to no one, quite lonely and solitary, till one fine morning the premises were visited by this young gentlewoman and her companions. She did herself anything but justice when she said that her companions quarrelled with her because she would not side with them against me; they quarrelled with her because she came most heroically to my assistance as I was on the point of being murdered; and she forgot to tell you that, after they had abandoned her, she stood by me in the—dark hour, comforting and cheering me, when unspeakable dread, to which I am occasionally subject, took possession of my mind. She says she is nothing to me, even as I am nothing to her. I am of course nothing to her, but she is mistaken in thinking she is nothing to me. I entertain the highest regard and admiration for her, being convinced that I might search the whole world in vain for a nature more heroic and devoted.'

'And for my part,' said Belle, with a sob, 'a more quiet agreeable partner in a place like this I would not wish to have; it is true he has strange ways, and frequently puts words into my mouth very difficult to utter, but—but—' and here she buried her face once more in her hands.

'Well,' said the postilion, 'I have been mistaken about you; that is, not altogether, but in part. You are not rich folks, it seems, but you are not common people, and that I could have sworn. What I call a shame is, that some people I have known are not in your place and you in theirs, you with their estates and borough interest, they in this dingle with these carts and animals; but there is no help for these things. Were I the great Mumbo Jumbo above, I would endeavour to manage matters better; but being a simple postilion, glad to earn three shillings a day, I can't be expected to do much.'

'Who is Mumbo Jumbo?' said I.

'Ah!' said the postilion, 'I see there may be a thing or two I know better than yourself. Mumbo Jumbo is a god of the black coast, to which people go for ivory and gold.'

'Were you ever there?' I demanded.

'No,' said the postilion, 'but I heard plenty of Mumbo Jumbo when I was a boy.'

'I wish you would tell us something about yourself. I believe that your own real history would prove quite as entertaining, if not more, than that which you imagined about us.'

'I am rather tired,' said the postilion, 'and my leg is rather troublesome. I should be glad to try to sleep upon one of your blankets. However, as you wish to hear something about me, I shall be happy to oblige you; but your fire is rather low, and this place is chilly.'

Thereupon I arose, and put fresh charcoal on the pan; then taking it outside the tent, with a kind of fan which I had fashioned, I fanned the coals into a red glow, and continued doing so until the greater part of the noxious gas, which the coals are in the habit of exhaling, was exhausted. I then brought it into the tent and reseated myself, scattering over the coals a small portion of sugar. 'No bad smell,' said the postilion; 'but upon the whole I think I like the smell of tobacco better; and with your permission I will once more light my pipe.'

Thereupon he relighted his pipe; and, after taking two or three whiffs, began in the following manner.



CHAPTER XCVIII

An exordium—Fine ships—High Barbary captains—Free-born Englishmen—Monstrous figure—Swashbuckler—The grand coaches—The footmen—A travelling expedition—Black Jack—Nelson's cannon—Pharaoh's butler—A diligence—Two passengers—Sharking priest—Virgilio—Lessons in Italian—Two opinions—Holy Mary—Priestly confederates—Methodist chapel—Veturini—Some of our party—Like a sepulchre—All for themselves.

'I am a poor postilion, as you see; yet, as I have seen a thing or two and heard a thing or two of what is going on in the world, perhaps what I have to tell you connected with myself may not prove altogether uninteresting. Now, my friends, this manner of opening a story is what the man who taught rhetoric would call a hex—hex—'

'Exordium,' said I.

'Just so,' said the postilion; 'I treated you to a per—per—peroration some time ago, so that I have contrived to put the cart before the horse, as the Irish orators frequently do in the honourable House, in whose speeches, especially those who have taken lessons in rhetoric, the per—per—what's the word?—frequently goes before the exordium.

'I was born in the neighbouring county; my father was land-steward to a squire of about a thousand a year. My father had two sons, of whom I am the youngest by some years. My elder brother was of a spirited roving disposition, and for fear that he should turn out what is generally termed ungain, my father determined to send him to sea: so once upon a time, when my brother was about fifteen, he took him to the great seaport of the county, where he apprenticed him to a captain of one of the ships which trade to the high Barbary coast. Fine ships they were, I have heard say, more than thirty in number, and all belonging to a wonderful great gentleman, who had once been a parish boy, but had contrived to make an immense fortune by trading to that coast for gold-dust, ivory, and other strange articles; and for doing so, I mean for making a fortune, had been made a knight baronet. So my brother went to the high Barbary shore, on board the fine vessel, and in about a year returned and came to visit us; he repeated the voyage several times, always coming to see his parents on his return. Strange stories he used to tell us of what he had been witness to on the high Barbary coast, both off shore and on. He said that the fine vessel in which he sailed was nothing better than a painted hell; that the captain was a veritable fiend, whose grand delight was in tormenting his men, especially when they were sick, as they frequently were, there being always fever on the high Barbary coast; and that though the captain was occasionally sick himself, his being so made no difference, or rather it did make a difference, though for the worse, he being when sick always more inveterate and malignant than at other times. He said that once, when he himself was sick, his captain had pitched his face all over, which exploit was much applauded by the other high Barbary captains—all of whom, from what my brother said, appeared to be of much the same disposition as my brother's captain, taking wonderful delight in tormenting the crews, and doing all manner of terrible things. My brother frequently said that nothing whatever prevented him from running away from his ship, and never returning, but the hope he entertained of one day being captain himself, and able to torment people in his turn, which he solemnly vowed he would do, as a kind of compensation for what he himself had undergone. And if things were going on in a strange way off the high Barbary shore amongst those who came there to trade, they were going on in a way yet stranger with the people who lived upon it.

'Oh the strange ways of the black men who lived on that shore, of which my brother used to tell us at home—selling their sons, daughters, and servants for slaves, and the prisoners taken in battle, to the Spanish captains, to be carried to Havannah, and when there, sold at a profit, the idea of which, my brother said, went to the hearts of our own captains, who used to say what a hard thing it was that free-born Englishmen could not have a hand in the traffic, seeing that it was forbidden by the laws of their country; talking fondly of the good old times when their forefathers used to carry slaves to Jamaica and Barbadoes, realising immense profit, besides the pleasure of hearing their shrieks on the voyage; and then the superstitions of the blacks, which my brother used to talk of; their sharks' teeth, their wisps of fowls' feathers, their half-baked pots full of burnt bones, of which they used to make what they called fetish, and bow down to, and ask favours of, and then, perhaps, abuse and strike, provided the senseless rubbish did not give them what they asked for; and then, above all, Mumbo Jumbo, the grand fetish master, who lived somewhere in the woods, and who used to come out every now and then with his fetish companions; a monstrous figure, all wound round with leaves and branches, so as to be quite indistinguishable, and, seating himself on the high seat in the villages, receive homage from the people, and also gifts and offerings, the most valuable of which were pretty damsels, and then betake himself back again, with his followers, into the woods. Oh the tales that my brother used to tell us of the high Barbary shore! Poor fellow! what became of him I can't say; the last time he came back from a voyage, he told us that his captain, as soon as he had brought his vessel to port and settled with his owner, drowned himself off the quay, in a fit of the horrors, which it seems high Barbary captains, after a certain number of years, are much subject to. After staying about a month with us, he went to sea again, with another captain; and, bad as the old one had been, it appears the new one was worse, for, unable to bear his treatment, my brother left his ship off the high Barbary shore, and ran away up the country. Some of his comrades, whom we afterwards saw, said that there were various reports about him on the shore; one that he had taken on with Mumbo Jumbo, and was serving him in his house in the woods, in the capacity of swashbuckler, or life-guardsman; another, that he was gone in quest of a mighty city in the heart of the negro country; another, that in swimming a stream he had been devoured by an alligator. Now, these two last reports were bad enough; the idea of their flesh and blood being bit asunder by a ravenous fish was sad enough to my poor parents; and not very comfortable was the thought of his sweltering over the hot sands in quest of the negro city; but the idea of their son, their eldest child, serving Mumbo Jumbo as swashbuckler was worst of all, and caused my poor parents to shed many a scalding tear.

'I stayed at home with my parents until I was about eighteen, assisting my father in various ways. I then went to live at the Squire's, partly as groom, partly as footman. After living in the country some time, I attended the family in a trip of six weeks which they made to London. Whilst there, happening to have some words with an old ill-tempered coachman, who had been for a great many years in the family, my master advised me to leave, offering to recommend me to a family of his acquaintance who were in need of a footman. I was glad to accept his offer, and in a few days went to my new place. My new master was one of the great gentry, a baronet in Parliament, and possessed of an estate of about twenty thousand a year; his family consisted of his lady, a son, a fine young man just coming of age, and two very sweet amiable daughters. I liked this place much better than my first, there was so much more pleasant noise and bustle—so much more grand company, and so many more opportunities of improving myself. Oh, how I liked to see the grand coaches drive up to the door, with the grand company; and though, amidst that company, there were some who did not look very grand, there were others, and not a few, who did. Some of the ladies quite captivated me; there was the Marchioness of—in particular. This young lady puts me much in mind of her; it is true, the Marchioness, as I saw her then, was about fifteen years older than this young gentlewoman is now, and not so tall by some inches, but she had the very same hair, and much the same neck and shoulders—no offence, I hope? And then some of the young gentlemen, with their cool, haughty, care-for-nothing looks, struck me as being very fine fellows. There was one in particular, whom I frequently used to stare at, not altogether unlike some one I have seen hereabouts—he had a slight cast in his eye, and . . . but I won't enter into every particular. And then the footmen! Oh, how those footmen helped to improve me with their conversation. Many of them could converse much more glibly than their masters, and appeared to have much better taste. At any rate, they seldom approved of what their masters did. I remember being once with one in the gallery of the play-house, when something of Shakspeare's was being performed: some one in the first tier of boxes was applauding very loudly. "That's my fool of a governor," said he; "he is weak enough to like Shakspeare—I don't;—he's so confoundedly low, but he won't last long—going down. Shakspeare culminated"—I think that was the word—"culminated some time ago."

'And then the professor of elocution, of whom my governors used to take lessons, and of which lessons I had my share, by listening behind the door; but for that professor of elocution I should not be able to round my periods—an expression of his—in the manner I do.

'After I had been three years at this place my mistress died. Her death, however, made no great alteration in my way of living, the family spending their winters in London, and their summers at their old seat in S—- as before. At last, the young ladies, who had not yet got husbands, which was strange enough, seeing, as I told you before, they were very amiable, proposed to our governor a travelling expedition abroad. The old baronet consented, though young master was much against it, saying they would all be much better at home. As the girls persisted, however, he at last withdrew his opposition, and even promised to follow them as soon as his parliamentary duties would permit; for he was just got into Parliament, and, like most other young members, thought that nothing could be done in the House without him. So the old gentleman and the two young ladies set off, taking me with them, and a couple of ladies' maids to wait upon them. First of all, we went to Paris, where we continued three months, the old baronet and the ladies going to see the various sights of the city and the neighbourhood, and I attending them. They soon got tired of sight-seeing, and of Paris too; and so did I. However, they still continued there, in order, I believe, that the young ladies might lay in a store of French finery. I should have passed my idle time at Paris, of which I had plenty after the sight-seeing was over, very unpleasantly, but for Black Jack. Eh! did you never hear of Black Jack? Ah! if you had ever been an English servant in Paris, you would have known Black Jack; not an English gentleman's servant who has been at Paris for this last ten years but knows Black Jack and his ordinary. A strange fellow he was—of what country no one could exactly say—for as for judging from speech, that was impossible, Jack speaking all languages equally ill. Some said he came direct from Satan's kitchen, and that when he gives up keeping ordinary, he will return there again, though the generally-received opinion at Paris was, that he was at one time butler to King Pharaoh; and that, after lying asleep for four thousand years in a place called the Kattycombs, he was awaked by the sound of Nelson's cannon at the battle of the Nile, and going to the shore, took on with the admiral, and became, in course of time, ship steward; and that after Nelson's death he was captured by the French, on board one of whose vessels he served in a somewhat similar capacity till the peace, when he came to Paris, and set up an ordinary for servants, sticking the name of Katcomb over the door, in allusion to the place where he had his long sleep. But, whatever his origin was, Jack kept his own counsel, and appeared to care nothing for what people said about him, or called him. Yes, I forgot, there was one name he would not be called, and that was "Portuguese." I once saw Black Jack knock down a coachman, six foot high, who called him black-faced Portuguese. "Any name but dat, you shab," said Black Jack, who was a little round fellow, of about five feet two; "I would not stand to be called Portuguese by Nelson himself." Jack was rather fond of talking about Nelson, and hearing people talk about him, so that it is not improbable that he may have sailed with him; and with respect to his having been King Pharaoh's butler, all I have to say is, I am not disposed to give the downright lie to the report. Jack was always ready to do a kind turn to a poor servant out of place, and has often been known to assist such as were in prison, which charitable disposition he perhaps acquired from having lost a good place himself, having seen the inside of a prison, and known the want of a meal's victuals, all which trials King Pharaoh's butler underwent, so he may have been that butler; at any rate, I have known positive conclusions come to on no better premisses, if indeed as good. As for the story of his coming direct from Satan's kitchen, I place no confidence in it at all, as Black Jack had nothing of Satan about him but blackness, on which account he was called Black Jack. Nor am I disposed to give credit to a report that his hatred of the Portuguese arose from some ill treatment which he had once experienced when on shore, at Lisbon, from certain gentlewomen of the place, but rather conclude that it arose from an opinion he entertained that the Portuguese never paid their debts, one of the ambassadors of that nation, whose house he had served, having left Paris several thousand francs in his debt. This is all that I have to say about Black Jack, without whose funny jokes and good ordinary I should have passed my time in Paris in a very disconsolate manner.

'After we had been at Paris between two and three months, we left it in the direction of Italy, which country the family had a great desire to see. After travelling a great many days in a thing which, though called a diligence, did not exhibit much diligence, we came to a great big town, seated around a nasty salt-water bason, connected by a narrow passage with the sea. Here we were to embark; and so we did as soon as possible, glad enough to get away—at least I was, and so I make no doubt were the rest, for such a place for bad smells I never was in. It seems all the drains and sewers of the place run into that same salt bason, voiding into it all their impurities, which, not being able to escape into the sea in any considerable quantity, owing to the narrowness of the entrance, there accumulate, filling the whole atmosphere with these same outrageous scents, on which account the town is a famous lodging-house of the plague. The ship in which we embarked was bound for a place in Italy called Naples, where we were to stay some time. The voyage was rather a lazy one, the ship not being moved by steam; for at the time of which I am speaking, some five years ago, steam-ships were not so plentiful as now. There were only two passengers in the grand cabin, where my governor and his daughters were, an Italian lady and a priest. Of the lady I have not much to say; she appeared to be a quiet respectable person enough, and after our arrival at Naples I neither saw nor heard anything more of her; but of the priest I shall have a good deal to say in the sequel (that, by the bye, is a word I learnt from the professor of rhetoric), and it would have been well for our family had they never met him.

'On the third day of the voyage the priest came to me, who was rather unwell with sea-sickness, which he, of course, felt nothing of—that kind of people being never affected like others. He was a finish-looking man of about forty-five, but had something strange in his eyes, which I have since thought denoted that all was not right in a certain place called the heart. After a few words of condolence, in a broken kind of English, he asked me various questions about our family; and I, won by his seeming kindness, told him all I knew about them—of which communicativeness I afterwards very much repented. As soon as he had got out of me all he desired, he left me; and I observed that during the rest of the voyage he was wonderfully attentive to our governor, and yet more to the young ladies. Both, however, kept him rather at a distance; the young ladies were reserved, and once or twice I heard our governor cursing him between his teeth for a sharking priest. The priest, however, was not disconcerted, and continued his attentions, which in a little time produced an effect, so that, by the time we landed at Naples, our great folks had conceived a kind of liking for the man, and when they took their leave invited him to visit them, which he promised to do. We hired a grand house or palace at Naples; it belonged to a poor kind of prince, who was glad enough to let it to our governor, and also his servants and carriages; and glad enough were the poor servants, for they got from us what they never got from the prince—plenty of meat and money; and glad enough, I make no doubt, were the horses for the provender we gave them; and I daresay the coaches were not sorry to be cleaned and furbished up. Well, we went out and came in; going to see the sights, and returning. Amongst other things we saw was the burning mountain, and the tomb of a certain sorcerer called Virgilio, who made witch rhymes, by which he could raise the dead. Plenty of people came to see us, both English and Italians, and amongst the rest the priest. He did not come amongst the first, but allowed us to settle and become a little quiet before he showed himself; and after a day or two he paid us another visit, then another, till at last his visits were daily.

'I did not like that Jack Priest; so I kept my eye upon all his motions. Lord! how that Jack Priest did curry favour with our governor and the two young ladies; and he curried, and curried, till he had got himself into favour with the governor, and more especially with the two young ladies, of whom their father was doatingly fond. At last the ladies took lessons in Italian of the priest, a language in which he was said to be a grand proficient, and of which they had hitherto known but very little; and from that time his influence over them, and consequently over the old governor, increased, till the tables were turned, and he no longer curried favour with them, but they with him—yes, as true as my leg aches, the young ladies curried, and the old governor curried favour with that same priest; when he was with them, they seemed almost to hang on his lips, that is, the young ladies; and as for the old governor, he never contradicted him, and when the fellow was absent, which, by the bye, was not often, it was, "Father so-and-so said this," and "Father so- and-so said that"; "Father so-and-so thinks we should do so-and-so, or that we should not do so-and-so." I at first thought that he must have given them something, some philtre or the like, but one of the English maid-servants, who had a kind of respect for me, and who saw much more behind the scenes than I did, informed me that he was continually instilling strange notions into their heads, striving, by every possible method, to make them despise the religion of their own land, and take up that of the foreign country in which they were. And sure enough, in a little time, the girls had altogether left off going to an English chapel, and were continually visiting places of Italian worship. The old governor, it is true, still went to his church, but he appeared to be hesitating between two opinions; and once, when he was at dinner, he said to two or three English friends that, since he had become better acquainted with it, he had conceived a much more favourable opinion of the Catholic religion than he had previously entertained. In a word, the priest ruled the house, and everything was done according to his will and pleasure; by degrees he persuaded the young ladies to drop their English acquaintances, whose place he supplied with Italians, chiefly females. My poor old governor would not have had a person to speak to—for he never could learn the language—but for two or three Englishmen who used to come occasionally and take a bottle with him in a summer-house, whose company he could not be persuaded to resign, notwithstanding the entreaties of his daughters, instigated by the priest, whose grand endeavour seemed to be to render the minds of all three foolish, for his own ends. And if he was busy above stairs with the governor, there was another busy below with us poor English servants, a kind of subordinate priest, a low Italian; as he could speak no language but his own, he was continually jabbering to us in that, and by hearing him the maids and myself contrived to pick up a good deal of the language, so that we understood most that was said, and could speak it very fairly; and the themes of his jabber were the beauty and virtues of one whom he called Holy Mary, and the power and grandeur of one whom he called the Holy Father; and he told us that we should shortly have an opportunity of seeing the Holy Father, who could do anything he liked with Holy Mary: in the meantime we had plenty of opportunities of seeing Holy Mary, for in every church, chapel, and convent to which we were taken, there was an image of Holy Mary, who, if the images were dressed at all in her fashion, must have been very fond of short petticoats and tinsel, and who, if those said figures at all resembled her in face, could scarcely have been half as handsome as either of my two fellow-servants, not to speak of the young ladies.

'Now it happened that one of the female servants was much taken with what she saw and heard, and gave herself up entirely to the will of the subordinate, who had quite as much dominion over her as his superior had over the ladies; the other maid, however, the one who had a kind of respect for me, was not so easily besotted; she used to laugh at what she saw, and at what the fellow told her, and from her I learnt that amongst other things intended by these priestly confederates was robbery; she said that the poor old governor had already been persuaded by his daughters to put more than a thousand pounds into the superior priest's hands for purposes of charity and religion, as was said, and that the subordinate one had already inveigled her fellow-servant out of every penny which she had saved from her wages, and had endeavoured likewise to obtain what money she herself had, but in vain. With respect to myself, the fellow shortly after made an attempt towards obtaining a hundred crowns, of which, by some means, he knew me to be in possession, telling me what a meritorious thing it was to give one's superfluities for the purposes of religion. "That is true," said I, "and if, after my return to my native country, I find I have anything which I don't want myself, I will employ it in helping to build a Methodist chapel."

'By the time that the three months were expired for which we had hired the palace of the needy Prince, the old governor began to talk of returning to England, at least of leaving Italy. I believe he had become frightened at the calls which were continually being made upon him for money; for after all, you know, if there is a sensitive part of a man's wearing apparel, it is his breeches pocket; but the young ladies could not think of leaving dear Italy and the dear priest; and then they had seen nothing of the country, they had only seen Naples; before leaving dear Italia they must see more of the country and the cities; above all, they must see a place which they called the Eternal City, or some similar nonsensical name; and they persisted so that the poor governor permitted them, as usual, to have their way; and it was decided what route they should take—that is, the priest was kind enough to decide for them, and was also kind enough to promise to go with them part of the route, as far as a place where there was a wonderful figure of Holy Mary, which the priest said it was highly necessary for them to see before visiting the Eternal City: so we left Naples in hired carriages, driven by fellows they call veturini, cheating, drunken dogs, I remember they were. Besides our own family there was the priest and his subordinate, and a couple of hired lackeys. We were several days upon the journey, travelling through a very wild country, which the ladies pretended to be delighted with, and which the governor cursed on account of the badness of the roads; and when we came to any particularly wild spot we used to stop, in order to enjoy the scenery, as the ladies said; and then we would spread a horse- cloth on the ground, and eat bread and cheese, and drink wine of the country. And some of the holes and corners in which we bivouacked, as the ladies called it, were something like this place where we are now, so that when I came down here it put me in mind of them. At last we arrived at the place where was the holy image.

'We went to the house or chapel in which the holy image was kept—a frightful, ugly black figure of Holy Mary, dressed in her usual way; and after we had stared at the figure, and some of our party had bowed down to it, we were shown a great many things which were called holy relics, which consisted of thumb-nails, and fore-nails, and toe-nails, and hair, and teeth, and a feather or two, and a mighty thigh-bone, but whether of a man or a camel I can't say; all of which things, I was told, if properly touched and handled, had mighty power to cure all kinds of disorders. And as we went from the holy house we saw a man in a state of great excitement: he was foaming at the mouth, and cursing the holy image and all its household, because, after he had worshipped it and made offerings to it, and besought it to assist him in a game of chance which he was about to play, it had left him in the lurch, allowing him to lose all his money. And when I thought of all the rubbish I had seen, and the purposes which it was applied to, in conjunction with the rage of the losing gamester at the deaf and dumb image, I could not help comparing the whole with what my poor brother used to tell me of the superstitious practices of the blacks on the high Barbary shore, and their occasional rage and fury at the things they worshipped; and I said to myself, If all this here doesn't smell of fetish, may I smell fetid.

'At this place the priest left us, returning to Naples with his subordinate, on some particular business I suppose. It was, however, agreed that he should visit us at the Holy City. We did not go direct to the Holy City, but bent our course to two or three other cities which the family were desirous of seeing; but as nothing occurred to us in these places of any particular interest, I shall take the liberty of passing them by in silence. At length we arrived at the Eternal City: an immense city it was, looking as if it had stood for a long time, and would stand for a long time still; compared with it, London would look like a mere assemblage of bee-skeps; however, give me the bee-skeps with their merry hum and bustle, and life and honey, rather than that huge town, which looked like a sepulchre, where there was no life, no busy hum, no bees, but a scanty sallow population, intermixed with black priests, white priests, gray priests; and though I don't say there was no honey in the place, for I believe there was, I am ready to take my Bible oath that it was not made there, and that the priests kept it all for themselves.



CHAPTER XCIX

A cloister—Half English—New acquaintance—Mixed liquors—Turning Papist—Purposes of charity—Foreign religion—Melancholy—Elbowing and pushing—Outlandish sight—The figure—I don't care for you—Merry-andrews—One good—Religion of my country—Fellow of spirit—A dispute—The next morning—Female doll—Proper dignity—Fetish country.

'The day after our arrival,' continued the postilion, 'I was sent, under the guidance of a lackey of the place, with a letter, which the priest, when he left, had given us for a friend of his in the Eternal City. We went to a large house, and on ringing were admitted by a porter into a cloister, where I saw some ill-looking, shabby young fellows walking about, who spoke English to one another. To one of these the porter delivered the letter, and the young fellow, going away, presently returned and told me to follow him; he led me into a large room where, behind a table on which were various papers and a thing which they call, in that country, a crucifix, sat a man in a kind of priestly dress. The lad having opened the door for me, shut it behind me, and went away. The man behind the table was so engaged in reading the letter which I had brought, that at first he took no notice of me; he had red hair, a kind of half-English countenance, and was seemingly about five-and-thirty. After a little time he laid the letter down, appeared to consider a moment, and then opened his mouth with a strange laugh, not a loud laugh, for I heard nothing but a kind of hissing deep down the throat; all of a sudden, however, perceiving me, he gave a slight start, but, instantly recovering himself, he inquired in English concerning the health of the family, and where we lived: on my delivering him a card, he bade me inform my master and the ladies that in the course of the day he would do himself the honour of waiting upon them. He then arose and opened the door for me to depart. The man was perfectly civil and courteous, but I did not like that strange laugh of his after having read the letter. He was as good as his word, and that same day paid us a visit. It was now arranged that we should pass the winter in Rome—to my great annoyance, for I wished to return to my native land, being heartily tired of everything connected with Italy. I was not, however, without hope that our young master would shortly arrive, when I trusted that matters, as far as the family were concerned, would be put on a better footing. In a few days our new acquaintance, who, it seems, was a mongrel Englishman, had procured a house for our accommodation; it was large enough, but not near so pleasant as that we had at Naples, which was light and airy, with a large garden. This was a dark gloomy structure in a narrow street, with a frowning church beside it; it was not far from the place where our new friend lived, and its being so was probably the reason why he selected it. It was furnished partly with articles which we bought, and partly with those which we hired. We lived something in the same way as at Naples; but though I did not much like Naples, I yet liked it better than this place, which was so gloomy. Our new acquaintance made himself as agreeable as he could, conducting the ladies to churches and convents, and frequently passing the afternoon drinking with the governor, who was fond of a glass of brandy and water and a cigar, as the new acquaintance also was—no, I remember, he was fond of gin and water, and did not smoke. I don't think he had so much influence over the young ladies as the other priest, which was, perhaps, owing to his not being so good-looking; but I am sure he had more influence with the governor, owing, doubtless, to his bearing him company in drinking mixed liquors, which the other priest did not do.

'He was a strange fellow, that same new acquaintance of ours, and unlike all the priests I saw in that country, and I saw plenty of various nations; they were always upon their guard, and had their features and voice modulated; but this man was subject to fits of absence, during which he would frequently mutter to himself, then, though he was perfectly civil to everybody, as far as words went, I observed that he entertained a thorough contempt for most people, especially for those whom he was making dupes. I have observed him whilst drinking with our governor, when the old man's head was turned, look at him with an air which seemed to say, "What a thundering old fool you are"; and at our young ladies, when their backs were turned, with a glance which said distinctly enough, "You precious pair of ninnyhammers"; and then his laugh—he had two kinds of laughs—one which you could hear, and another which you could only see. I have seen him laugh at our governor and the young ladies, when their heads were turned away, but I heard no sound. My mother had a sandy cat, which sometimes used to open its mouth wide with a mew which nobody could hear, and the silent laugh of that red-haired priest used to put me wonderfully in mind of the silent mew of my mother's sandy-red cat. And then the other laugh, which you could hear; what a strange laugh that was, never loud, yes, I have heard it tolerably loud. He once passed near me, after having taken leave of a silly English fellow—a limping parson of the name of Platitude, who, they said, was thinking of turning Papist, and was much in his company; I was standing behind the pillar of a piazza, and as he passed he was laughing heartily. O he was a strange fellow, that same red-haired acquaintance of ours!

'After we had been at Rome about six weeks our old friend the priest of Naples arrived, but without his subordinate, for whose services he now perhaps thought that he had no occasion. I believe he found matters in our family wearing almost as favourable an aspect as he could desire: with what he had previously taught them and shown them at Naples and elsewhere, and with what the red-haired confederate had taught them and shown them at Rome, the poor young ladies had become quite handmaids of superstition, so that they, especially the youngest, were prepared to bow down to anything, and kiss anything, however vile and ugly, provided a priest commanded them; and as for the old governor, what with the influence which his daughters exerted, and what with the ascendency which the red-haired man had obtained over him, he dared not say his purse, far less his soul, was his own. Only think of an Englishman not being master of his own purse! My acquaintance, the lady's maid, assured me that, to her certain knowledge, he had disbursed to the red-haired man, for purposes of charity, as it was said, at least one thousand pounds during the five weeks we had been at Rome. She also told me that things would shortly be brought to a conclusion—and so indeed they were, though in a different manner from what she and I and some other people imagined; that there was to be a grand festival, and a mass, at which we were to be present, after which the family were to be presented to the Holy Father, for so those two priestly sharks had managed it; and then . . . she said she was certain that the two ladies, and perhaps the old governor, would forsake the religion of their native land, taking up with that of these foreign regions, for so my fellow-servant expressed it, and that perhaps attempts might be made to induce us poor English servants to take up with the foreign religion, that is herself and me, for as for our fellow-servant, the other maid, she wanted no inducing, being disposed body and soul to go over to it. Whereupon I swore with an oath that nothing should induce me to take up with the foreign religion; and the poor maid, my fellow-servant, bursting into tears, said that for her part she would die sooner than have anything to do with it; thereupon we shook hands and agreed to stand by and countenance one another: and moreover, provided our governors were fools enough to go over to the religion of these here foreigners, we would not wait to be asked to do the like, but leave them at once, and make the best of our way home, even if we were forced to beg on the road.

'At last the day of the grand festival came, and we were all to go to the big church to hear the mass. Now it happened that for some time past I had been much afflicted with melancholy, especially when I got up of a morning, produced by the strange manner in which I saw things going on in our family; and to dispel it in some degree, I had been in the habit of taking a dram before breakfast. On the morning in question, feeling particularly low spirited when I thought of the foolish step our governor would probably take before evening, I took two drams before breakfast; and after breakfast, feeling my melancholy still continuing, I took another, which produced a slight effect upon my head, though I am convinced nobody observed it.

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