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Lavengro - The Scholar, The Gypsy, The Priest
by George Borrow
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'It is very good,' said I.

'Did you ever taste better Madeira?'

'I never before tasted Madeira.'

'Then you ask for a wine without knowing what it is?'

'I ask for it, sir, that I may know what it is.'

'Well, there is logic in that, as Parr would say; you have heard of Parr?'

'Old Parr?'

'Yes, old Parr, but not that Parr; you mean the English, I the Greek Parr, as people call him.'

'I don't know him.'

'Perhaps not—rather too young for that, but were you of my age, you might have cause to know him, coming from where you do. He kept school there, I was his first scholar; he flogged Greek into me till I loved him—and he loved me: he came to see me last year, and sat in that chair; I honour Parr—he knows much, and is a sound man.'

'Does he know the truth?'

'Know the truth! he knows what's good, from an oyster to an ostrich—he's not only sound, but round.'

'Suppose we drink his health?'

'Thank you, boy: here's Parr's health, and Whiter's.'

'Who is Whiter?'

'Don't you know Whiter? I thought everybody knew Reverend Whiter the philologist, though I suppose you scarcely know what that means. A man fond of tongues and languages, quite out of your way—he understands some twenty; what do you say to that?'

'Is he a sound man?'

'Why, as to that, I scarcely know what to say: he has got queer notions in his head—wrote a book to prove that all words came originally from the earth—who knows? Words have roots, and roots live in the earth; but, upon the whole, I should not call him altogether a sound man, though he can talk Greek nearly as fast as Parr.'

'Is he a round man?'

'Ay, boy, rounder than Parr; I'll sing you a song, if you like, which will let you into his character:—

'Give me the haunch of a buck to eat, and to drink Madeira old, And a gentle wife to rest with, and in my arms to fold, An Arabic book to study, a Norfolk cob to ride, And a house to live in shaded with trees, and near to a river side; With such good things around me, and blessed with good health withal, Though I should live for a hundred years, for death I would not call.

Here's to Whiter's health—so you know nothing about the fight?'

'No, sir; the truth is, that of late I have been very much occupied with various matters, otherwise I should, perhaps, have been able to afford you some information—boxing is a noble art.'

'Can you box?'

'A little.'

'I tell you what, my boy; I honour you, and provided your education had been a little less limited, I should have been glad to see you here in company with Parr and Whiter; both can box. Boxing is, as you say, a noble art—a truly English art; may I never see the day when Englishmen shall feel ashamed of it, or blacklegs and blackguards bring it into disgrace. I am a magistrate, and, of course, cannot patronise the thing very openly, yet I sometimes see a prize fight: I saw the Game Chicken beat Gulley.'

'Did you ever see Big Ben?'

'No; why do you ask?' But here we heard a noise, like that of a gig driving up to the door, which was immediately succeeded by a violent knocking and ringing, and after a little time the servant who had admitted me made his appearance in the room. 'Sir,' said he, with a certain eagerness of manner, 'here are two gentlemen waiting to speak to you.'

'Gentlemen waiting to speak to me! who are they?'

'I don't know, sir,' said the servant; 'but they look like sporting gentlemen, and—and'—here he hesitated; 'from a word or two they dropped, I almost think that they come about the fight.'

'About the fight!' said the magistrate. 'No; that can hardly be; however, you had better show them in.'

Heavy steps were now heard ascending the stairs, and the servant ushered two men into the apartment. Again there was a barking, but louder than that which had been directed against myself, for here were two intruders; both of them were remarkable-looking men, but to the foremost of them the most particular notice may well be accorded: he was a man somewhat under thirty, and nearly six feet in height. He was dressed in a blue coat, white corduroy breeches, fastened below the knee with small golden buttons; on his legs he wore white lamb's-wool stockings, and on his feet shoes reaching to the ankles; round his neck was a handkerchief of the blue and bird's eye pattern; he wore neither whiskers nor moustaches, and appeared not to delight in hair, that of his head, which was of a light brown, being closely cropped; the forehead was rather high, but somewhat narrow; the face neither broad nor sharp, perhaps rather sharp than broad; the nose was almost delicate; the eyes were gray, with an expression in which there was sternness blended with something approaching to feline; his complexion was exceedingly pale, relieved, however, by certain pock-marks, which here and there studded his countenance; his form was athletic, but lean; his arms long. In the whole appearance of the man there was a blending of the bluff and the sharp. You might have supposed him a bruiser; his dress was that of one in all its minutiae; something was wanting, however, in his manner—the quietness of the professional man; he rather looked like one performing the part—well—very well—but still performing a part. His companion!—there, indeed, was the bruiser—no mistake about him: a tall massive man, with a broad countenance and a flattened nose; dressed like a bruiser, but not like a bruiser going into the ring; he wore white-topped boots, and a loose brown jockey coat.

As the first advanced towards the table, behind which the magistrate sat, he doffed a white castor from his head, and made rather a genteel bow; looking at me, who sat somewhat on one side, he gave a kind of nod of recognition.

'May I request to know who you are, gentlemen?' said the magistrate.

'Sir,' said the man in a deep, but not unpleasant voice, 'allow me to introduce to you my friend, Mr. —-, the celebrated pugilist'; and he motioned with his hand towards the massive man with the flattened nose.

'And your own name, sir?' said the magistrate.

'My name is no matter,' said the man; 'were I to mention it to you, it would awaken within you no feeling of interest. It is neither Kean nor Belcher, and I have as yet done nothing to distinguish myself like either of those individuals, or even like my friend here. However, a time may come—we are not yet buried; and whensoever my hour arrives, I hope I shall prove myself equal to my destiny, however high—

'Like bird that's bred amongst the Helicons.'

And here a smile half theatrical passed over his features.

'In what can I oblige you, sir?' said the magistrate.

'Well, sir; the soul of wit is brevity; we want a place for an approaching combat between my friend here and a brave from town. Passing by your broad acres this fine morning we saw a pightle, which we deemed would suit. Lend us that pightle, and receive our thanks; 'twould be a favour, though not much to grant: we neither ask for Stonehenge nor for Tempe.'

My friend looked somewhat perplexed; after a moment, however, he said, with a firm but gentlemanly air, 'Sir, I am sorry that I cannot comply with your request.'

'Not comply!' said the man, his brow becoming dark as midnight; and with a hoarse and savage tone, 'Not comply! why not?'

'It is impossible, sir; utterly impossible!'

'Why so?'

'I am not compelled to give my reasons to you, sir, nor to any man.'

'Let me beg of you to alter your decision,' said the man, in a tone of profound respect.

'Utterly impossible, sir; I am a magistrate.'

'Magistrate! then fare ye well, for a green-coated buffer and a Harmanbeck.'

'Sir!' said the magistrate, springing up with a face fiery with wrath.

But, with a surly nod to me, the man left the apartment; and in a moment more the heavy footsteps of himself and his companion were heard descending the staircase.

'Who is that man?' said my friend, turning towards me.

'A sporting gentleman, well known in the place from which I come.'

'He appeared to know you.'

'I have occasionally put on the gloves with him.'

'What is his name?'



CHAPTER XXV

Doubts—Wise king of Jerusalem—Let me see—A thousand years—Nothing new—The crowd—The hymn—Faith—Charles Wesley—There he stood—Farewell, brother—Death—Sun, moon, and stars—Wind on the heath.

There was one question which I was continually asking myself at this period, and which has more than once met the eyes of the reader who has followed me through the last chapter: 'What is truth?' I had involved myself imperceptibly in a dreary labyrinth of doubt, and, whichever way I turned, no reasonable prospect of extricating myself appeared. The means by which I had brought myself into this situation may be very briefly told; I had inquired into many matters, in order that I might become wise, and I had read and pondered over the words of the wise, so called, till I had made myself master of the sum of human wisdom; namely, that everything is enigmatical and that man is an enigma to himself; thence the cry of 'What is truth?' I had ceased to believe in the truth of that in which I had hitherto trusted, and yet could find nothing in which I could put any fixed or deliberate belief—I was, indeed, in a labyrinth! In what did I not doubt? With respect to crime and virtue I was in doubt; I doubted that the one was blamable and the other praiseworthy. Are not all things subjected to the law of necessity? Assuredly time and chance govern all things: Yet how can this be? alas!

Then there was myself; for what was I born? Are not all things born to be forgotten? That's incomprehensible: yet is it not so? Those butterflies fall and are forgotten. In what is man better than a butterfly? All then is born to be forgotten. Ah! that was a pang indeed; 'tis at such a moment that a man wishes to die. The wise king of Jerusalem, who sat in his shady arbours beside his sunny fish-pools, saying so many fine things, wished to die, when he saw that not only all was vanity, but that he himself was vanity. Will a time come when all will be forgotten that now is beneath the sun? If so, of what profit is life?

In truth it was a sore vexation of spirit to me when I saw, as the wise man saw of old, that whatever I could hope to perform must necessarily be of very temporary duration; and if so, why do it? I said to myself, whatever name I can acquire, will it endure for eternity? scarcely so. A thousand years? Let me see! what have I done already? I have learnt Welsh, and have translated the songs of Ab Gwilym, some ten thousand lines, into English rhyme; I have also learnt Danish, and have rendered the old book of ballads cast by the tempest upon the beach into corresponding English metre. Good! have I done enough already to secure myself a reputation of a thousand years? No, no! certainly not; I have not the slightest ground for hoping that my translations from the Welsh and Danish will be read at the end of a thousand years. Well, but I am only eighteen, and I have not stated all that I have done; I have learnt many other tongues, and have acquired some knowledge even of Hebrew and Arabic. Should I go on in this way till I am forty, I must then be very learned; and perhaps, among other things, may have translated the Talmud, and some of the great works of the Arabians. Pooh! all this is mere learning and translation, and such will never secure immortality. Translation is at best an echo, and it must be a wonderful echo to be heard after the lapse of a thousand years. No! all I have already done, and all I may yet do in the same way, I may reckon as nothing—mere pastime; something else must be done. I must either write some grand original work, or conquer an empire; the one just as easy as the other. But am I competent to do either? Yes, I think I am, under favourable circumstances. Yes, I think I may promise myself a reputation of a thousand years, if I do but give myself the necessary trouble. Well! but what's a thousand years after all, or twice a thousand years? Woe is me! I may just as well sit still.

'Would I had never been born!' I said to myself; and a thought would occasionally intrude: But was I ever born? Is not all that I see a lie—a deceitful phantom? Is there a world, and earth, and sky? Berkeley's doctrine—Spinoza's doctrine! Dear reader, I had at that time never read either Berkeley or Spinoza. I have still never read them; who are they, men of yesterday? 'All is a lie—all a deceitful phantom,' are old cries; they come naturally from the mouths of those who, casting aside that choicest shield against madness, simplicity, would fain be wise as God, and can only know that they are naked. This doubting in the 'universal all' is almost coeval with the human race: wisdom, so called, was early sought after. All is a lie—a deceitful phantom—was said when the world was yet young; its surface, save a scanty portion, yet untrodden by human foot, and when the great tortoise yet crawled about. All is a lie, was the doctrine of Buddh; and Buddh lived thirty centuries before the wise king of Jerusalem, who sat in his arbours, beside his sunny fish-pools, saying many fine things, and, amongst others, 'There is nothing new under the sun!'

* * * * *

One day, whilst I bent my way to the heath of which I have spoken on a former occasion, at the foot of the hills which formed it I came to a place where a wagon was standing, but without horses, the shafts resting on the ground; there was a crowd about it, which extended half-way up the side of the neighbouring hill. The wagon was occupied by some half a dozen men; some sitting, others standing—they were dressed in sober-coloured habiliments of black or brown, cut in a plain and rather uncouth fashion, and partially white with dust; their hair was short, and seemed to have been smoothed down by the application of the hand; all were bareheaded—sitting or standing, all were bareheaded. One of them, a tall man, was speaking as I arrived; ere, however, I could distinguish what he was saying, he left off, and then there was a cry for a hymn 'to the glory of God'—that was the word. It was a strange-sounding hymn, as well it might be, for everybody joined in it: there were voices of all kinds, of men, of women, and of children—of those who could sing and of those who could not—a thousand voices all joined, and all joined heartily; no voice of all the multitude was silent save mine. The crowd consisted entirely of the lower classes, labourers and mechanics, and their wives and children—dusty people, unwashed people, people of no account whatever, and yet they did not look a mob. And when that hymn was over—and here let me observe that, strange as it sounded, I have recalled that hymn to mind, and it has seemed to tingle in my ears on occasions when all that pomp and art could do to enhance religious solemnity was being done—in the Sistine Chapel, what time the papal band was in full play, and the choicest choristers of Italy poured forth their mellowest tones in presence of Batuschca and his cardinals—on the ice of the Neva, what time the long train of stately priests, with their noble beards and their flowing robes of crimson and gold, with their ebony and ivory staves, stalked along, chanting their Sclavonian litanies in advance of the mighty Emperor of the North and his Priberjensky guard of giants, towards the orifice through which the river, running below in its swiftness, is to receive the baptismal lymph:—when the hymn was over, another man in the wagon proceeded to address the people; he was a much younger man than the last speaker; somewhat square built and about the middle height; his face was rather broad, but expressive of much intelligence, and with a peculiar calm and serious look; the accent in which he spoke indicated that he was not of these parts, but from some distant district. The subject of his address was faith, and how it could remove mountains. It was a plain address, without any attempt at ornament, and delivered in a tone which was neither loud nor vehement. The speaker was evidently not a practised one—once or twice he hesitated as if for words to express his meaning, but still he held on, talking of faith, and how it could remove mountains: 'It is the only thing we want, brethren, in this world; if we have that, we are indeed rich, as it will enable us to do our duty under all circumstances, and to bear our lot, however hard it may be—and the lot of all mankind is hard—the lot of the poor is hard, brethren—and who knows more of the poor than I?—a poor man myself, and the son of a poor man: but are the rich better off? not so, brethren, for God is just. The rich have their trials too: I am not rich myself, but I have seen the rich with careworn countenances; I have also seen them in madhouses; from which you may learn, brethren, that the lot of all mankind is hard; that is, till we lay hold of faith, which makes us comfortable under all circumstances; whether we ride in gilded chariots or walk barefooted in quest of bread; whether we be ignorant, whether we be wise—for riches and poverty, ignorance and wisdom, brethren, each brings with it its peculiar temptations. Well, under all these troubles, the thing which I would recommend you to seek is one and the same—faith; faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, who made us and allotted to each his station. Each has something to do, brethren. Do it, therefore, but always in faith; without faith we shall find ourselves sometimes at fault; but with faith never—for faith can remove the difficulty. It will teach us to love life, brethren, when life is becoming bitter, and to prize the blessings around us; for as every man has his cares, brethren, so has each man his blessings. It will likewise teach us not to love life over much, seeing that we must one day part with it. It will teach us to face death with resignation, and will preserve us from sinking amidst the swelling of the river Jordan.'

And when he had concluded his address, he said, 'Let us sing a hymn, one composed by Master Charles Wesley—he was my countryman, brethren.

'Jesus, I cast my soul on Thee, Mighty and merciful to save; Thou shalt to death go down with me, And lay me gently in the grave. This body then shall rest in hope, This body which the worms destroy; For Thou shalt surely raise me up To glorious life and endless joy.'

Farewell, preacher with the plain coat and the calm serious look! I saw thee once again, and that was lately—only the other day. It was near a fishing hamlet, by the sea-side, that I saw the preacher again. He stood on the top of a steep monticle, used by pilots as a look-out for vessels approaching that coast, a dangerous one, abounding in rocks and quick- sands. There he stood on the monticle, preaching to weather-worn fishermen and mariners gathered below upon the sand. 'Who is he?' said I to an old fisherman who stood beside me with a book of hymns in his hand; but the old man put his hand to his lips, and that was the only answer I received. Not a sound was heard but the voice of the preacher and the roaring of the waves; but the voice was heard loud above the roaring of the sea, for the preacher now spoke with power, and his voice was not that of one who hesitates. There he stood—no longer a young man, for his black locks were become gray, even like my own; but there was the intelligent face, and the calm serious look which had struck me of yore. There stood the preacher, one of those men—and, thank God, their number is not few—who, animated by the spirit of Christ, amidst much poverty, and, alas! much contempt, persist in carrying the light of the Gospel amidst the dark parishes of what, but for their instrumentality, would scarcely be Christian England. I would have waited till he had concluded, in order that I might speak to him, and endeavour to bring back the ancient scene to his recollection, but suddenly a man came hurrying towards the monticle, mounted on a speedy horse, and holding by the bridle one yet more speedy, and he whispered to me, 'Why loiterest thou here?—knowest thou not all that is to be done before midnight?' and he flung me the bridle; and I mounted on the horse of great speed, and I followed the other, who had already galloped off. And as I departed, I waved my hand to him on the monticle, and I shouted, 'Farewell, brother! the seed came up at last, after a long period!' and then I gave the speedy horse his way, and leaning over the shoulder of the galloping horse, I said, 'Would that my life had been like his—even like that man's!'

I now wandered along the heath, till I came to a place where, beside a thick furze, sat a man, his eyes fixed intently on the red ball of the setting sun.

'That's not you, Jasper?'

'Indeed, brother!'

'I've not seen you for years.'

'How should you, brother?'

'What brings you here?'

'The fight, brother.'

'Where are the tents?'

'On the old spot, brother.'

'Any news since we parted?'

'Two deaths, brother.'

'Who are dead, Jasper?'

'Father and mother, brother.'

'Where did they die?'

'Where they were sent, brother.'

'And Mrs. Herne?'

'She's alive, brother.'

'Where is she now?'

'In Yorkshire, brother.'

'What is your opinion of death, Mr. Petulengro?' said I, as I sat down beside him.

'My opinion of death, brother, is much the same as that in the old song of Pharaoh, which I have heard my grandam sing—

Cana marel o manus chivios ande puv, Ta rovel pa leste o chavo ta romi.

When a man dies, he is cast into the earth, and his wife and child sorrow over him. If he has neither wife nor child, then his father and mother, I suppose; and if he is quite alone in the world, why, then, he is cast into the earth, and there is an end of the matter.'

{picture:'There's the wind on the heath, brother; if I could only feel that, I would gladly live for ever.': page171.jpg}

'And do you think that is the end of a man?'

'There's an end of him, brother, more's the pity.'

'Why do you say so?'

'Life is sweet, brother.'

'Do you think so?'

'Think so!—There's night and day, brother, both sweet things; sun, moon, and stars, brother, all sweet things; there's likewise a wind on the heath. Life is very sweet, brother; who would wish to die?'

'I would wish to die—'

'You talk like a gorgio—which is the same as talking like a fool—were you a Rommany Chal you would talk wiser. Wish to die, indeed!—A Rommany Chal would wish to live for ever!'

'In sickness, Jasper?'

'There's the sun and stars, brother.'

'In blindness, Jasper?'

'There's the wind on the heath, brother; if I could only feel that, I would gladly live for ever. Dosta, we'll now go to the tents and put on the gloves; and I'll try to make you feel what a sweet thing it is to be alive, brother!'



CHAPTER XXVI

The flower of the grass—Days of pugilism—The rendezvous—Jews—Bruisers of England—Winter, spring—Well-earned bays—The fight—Huge black cloud—Frame of adamant—The storm—Dukkeripens—The barouche—The rain- gushes.

How for everything there is a time and a season, and then how does the glory of a thing pass from it, even like the flower of the grass. This is a truism, but it is one of those which are continually forcing themselves upon the mind. Many years have not passed over my head, yet, during those which I can recall to remembrance, how many things have I seen flourish, pass away, and become forgotten, except by myself, who, in spite of all my endeavours, never can forget anything. I have known the time when a pugilistic encounter between two noted champions was almost considered in the light of a national affair; when tens of thousands of individuals, high and low, meditated and brooded upon it, the first thing in the morning and the last at night, until the great event was decided. But the time is past, and many people will say, thank God that it is; all I have to say is, that the French still live on the other side of the water, and are still casting their eyes hitherward—and that in the days of pugilism it was no vain blast to say that one Englishman was a match for two of t'other race; at present it would be a vain boast to say so, for these are not the days of pugilism.

But those to which the course of my narrative has carried me were the days of pugilism; it was then at its height, and consequently near its decline, for corruption had crept into the ring; and how many things, states and sects among the rest, owe their decline to this cause! But what a bold and vigorous aspect pugilism wore at that time! and the great battle was just then coming off: the day had been decided upon, and the spot—a convenient distance from the old town; and to the old town were now flocking the bruisers of England, men of tremendous renown. Let no one sneer at the bruisers of England—what were the gladiators of Rome, or the bull-fighters of Spain, in its palmiest days, compared to England's bruisers? Pity that ever corruption should have crept in amongst them—but of that I wish not to talk; let us still hope that a spark of the old religion, of which they were the priests, still lingers in the breasts of Englishmen. There they come, the bruisers, from far London, or from wherever else they might chance to be at the time, to the great rendezvous in the old city; some came one way, some another: some of tip-top reputation came with peers in their chariots, for glory and fame are such fair things that even peers are proud to have those invested therewith by their sides; others came in their own gigs, driving their own bits of blood, and I heard one say: 'I have driven through at a heat the whole hundred and eleven miles, and only stopped to bait twice.' Oh, the blood-horses of old England! but they, too, have had their day—for everything beneath the sun there is a season and a time. But the greater number come just as they can contrive; on the tops of coaches, for example; and amongst these there are fellows with dark sallow faces and sharp shining eyes; and it is these that have planted rottenness in the core of pugilism, for they are Jews, and, true to their kind, have only base lucre in view.

It was fierce old Cobbett, I think, who first said that the Jews first introduced bad faith amongst pugilists. He did not always speak the truth, but at any rate he spoke it when he made that observation. Strange people the Jews—endowed with every gift but one, and that the highest, genius divine—genius which can alone make of men demigods, and elevate them above earth and what is earthy and grovelling; without which a clever nation—and, who more clever than the Jews?—may have Rambams in plenty, but never a Fielding nor a Shakespeare. A Rothschild and a Mendoza, yes—but never a Kean nor a Belcher.

So the bruisers of England are come to be present at the grand fight speedily coming off; there they are met in the precincts of the old town, near the field of the chapel, planted with tender saplings at the restoration of sporting Charles, which are now become venerable elms, as high as many a steeple; there they are met at a fitting rendezvous, where a retired coachman, with one leg, keeps an hotel and a bowling-green. I think I now see them upon the bowling-green, the men of renown, amidst hundreds of people with no renown at all, who gaze upon them with timid wonder. Fame, after all, is a glorious thing, though it lasts only for a day. There's Cribb, the champion of England, and perhaps the best man in England; there he is, with his huge massive figure, and face wonderfully like that of a lion. There is Belcher, the younger, not the mighty one, who is gone to his place, but the Teucer Belcher, the most scientific pugilist that ever entered a ring, only wanting strength to be, I won't say what. He appears to walk before me now, as he did that evening, with his white hat, white greatcoat, thin genteel figure, springy step, and keen, determined eye. Crosses him, what a contrast! grim, savage Shelton, who has a civil word for nobody, and a hard blow for anybody—hard! one blow, given with the proper play of his athletic arm, will unsense a giant. Yonder individual, who strolls about with his hands behind him, supporting his brown coat lappets, under-sized, and who looks anything but what he is, is the king of the light weights, so called—Randall! the terrible Randall, who has Irish blood in his veins; not the better for that, nor the worse; and not far from him is his last antagonist, Ned Turner, who, though beaten by him, still thinks himself as good a man, in which he is, perhaps, right, for it was a near thing; and 'a better shentleman,' in which he is quite right, for he is a Welshman. But how shall I name them all? they were there by dozens, and all tremendous in their way. There was Bulldog Hudson, and fearless Scroggins, who beat the conqueror of Sam the Jew. There was Black Richmond—no, he was not there, but I knew him well; he was the most dangerous of blacks, even with a broken thigh. There was Purcell, who could never conquer till all seemed over with him. There was—what! shall I name thee last? ay, why not? I believe that thou art the last of all that strong family still above the sod, where mayst thou long continue—true piece of English stuff, Tom of Bedford—sharp as Winter, kind as Spring.

Hail to thee, Tom of Bedford, or by whatever name it may please thee to be called, Spring or Winter. Hail to thee, six-foot Englishman of the brown eye, worthy to have carried a six-foot bow at Flodden, where England's yeomen triumphed over Scotland's king, his clans and chivalry. Hail to thee, last of England's bruisers, after all the many victories which thou hast achieved—true English victories, unbought by yellow gold; need I recount them? nay, nay! they are already well known to fame—sufficient to say that Bristol's Bull and Ireland's Champion were vanquished by thee, and one mightier still, gold itself, thou didst overcome; for gold itself strove in vain to deaden the power of thy arm; and thus thou didst proceed till men left off challenging thee, the unvanquishable, the incorruptible. 'Tis a treat to see thee, Tom of Bedford, in thy 'public' in Holborn way, whither thou hast retired with thy well-earned bays. 'Tis Friday night, and nine by Holborn clock. There sits the yeoman at the end of his long room, surrounded by his friends; glasses are filled, and a song is the cry, and a song is sung well suited to the place; it finds an echo in every heart—fists are clenched, arms are waved, and the portraits of the mighty fighting men of yore, Broughton, and Slack, and Ben, which adorn the walls, appear to smile grim approbation, whilst many a manly voice joins in the bold chorus:

Here's a health to old honest John Bull, When he's gone we shan't find such another, And with hearts and with glasses brim full, We will drink to old England, his mother.

But the fight! with respect to the fight, what shall I say? Little can be said about it—it was soon over; some said that the brave from town, who was reputed the best man of the two, and whose form was a perfect model of athletic beauty, allowed himself, for lucre vile, to be vanquished by the massive champion with the flattened nose. One thing is certain, that the former was suddenly seen to sink to the earth before a blow of by no means extraordinary power. Time, time! was called; but there he lay upon the ground apparently senseless, and from thence he did not lift his head till several seconds after the umpires had declared his adversary victor.

There were shouts; indeed there's never a lack of shouts to celebrate a victory, however acquired; but there was also much grinding of teeth, especially amongst the fighting men from town. 'Tom has sold us,' said they, 'sold us to the yokels; who would have thought it?' Then there was fresh grinding of teeth, and scowling brows were turned to the heaven; but what is this? is it possible, does the heaven scowl too? why, only a quarter of an hour ago . . . but what may not happen in a quarter of an hour? For many weeks the weather had been of the most glorious description, the eventful day, too, had dawned gloriously, and so it had continued till some two hours after noon; the fight was then over; and about that time I looked up—what a glorious sky of deep blue, and what a big fierce sun swimming high above in the midst of that blue; not a cloud—there had not been one for weeks—not a cloud to be seen, only in the far west, just on the horizon, something like the extremity of a black wing; that was only a quarter of an hour ago, and now the whole northern side of the heaven is occupied by a huge black cloud, and the sun is only occasionally seen amidst masses of driving vapour; what a change! but another fight is at hand, and the pugilists are clearing the outer ring;—how their huge whips come crashing upon the heads of the yokels; blood flows, more blood than in the fight; those blows are given with right good-will, those are not sham blows, whether of whip or fist; it is with fist that grim Shelton strikes down the big yokel; he is always dangerous, grim Shelton, but now particularly so, for he has lost ten pounds betted on the brave who sold himself to the yokels; but the outer ring is cleared: and now the second fight commences; it is between two champions of less renown than the others, but is perhaps not the worse on that account. A tall thin boy is fighting in the ring with a man somewhat under the middle size, with a frame of adamant; that's a gallant boy! he's a yokel, but he comes from Brummagem, and he does credit to his extraction; but his adversary has a frame of adamant: in what a strange light they fight, but who can wonder, on looking at that frightful cloud usurping now one-half of heaven, and at the sun struggling with sulphurous vapour; the face of the boy, which is turned towards me, looks horrible in that light, but he is a brave boy, he strikes his foe on the forehead, and the report of the blow is like the sound of a hammer against a rock; but there is a rush and a roar overhead, a wild commotion, the tempest is beginning to break loose; there's wind and dust, a crash, rain and hail; is it possible to fight amidst such a commotion? yes! the fight goes on; again the boy strikes the man full on the brow, but it is of no use striking that man, his frame is of adamant. 'Boy, thy strength is beginning to give way, and thou art becoming confused'; the man now goes to work, amidst rain and hail. 'Boy, thou wilt not hold out ten minutes longer against rain, hail, and the blows of such an antagonist.'

And now the storm was at its height; the black thunder-cloud had broken into many, which assumed the wildest shapes and the strangest colours, some of them unspeakably glorious; the rain poured in a deluge, and more than one waterspout was seen at no great distance: an immense rabble is hurrying in one direction; a multitude of men of all ranks, peers and yokels, prize-fighters and Jews, and the last came to plunder, and are now plundering amidst that wild confusion of hail and rain, men and horses, carts and carriages. But all hurry in one direction, through mud and mire; there's a town only three miles distant, which is soon reached, and soon filled, it will not contain one-third of that mighty rabble; but there's another town farther on—the good old city is farther on, only twelve miles; what's that! who will stay here? onward to the old town.

Hurry-skurry, a mixed multitude of men and horses, carts and carriages, all in the direction of the old town; and, in the midst of all that mad throng, at a moment when the rain-gushes were coming down with particular fury, and the artillery of the sky was pealing as I had never heard it peal before, I felt some one seize me by the arm—I turned round, and beheld Mr. Petulengro.

'I can't hear you, Mr. Petulengro,' said I; for the thunder drowned the words which he appeared to be uttering.

'Dearginni,' I heard Mr. Petulengro say, 'it thundreth. I was asking, brother, whether you believe in dukkeripens?'

'I do not, Mr. Petulengro; but this is strange weather to be asking me whether I believe in fortunes.'

'Grondinni,' said Mr. Petulengro, 'it haileth. I believe in dukkeripens, brother.'

'And who has more right,' said I; 'seeing that you live by them? But this tempest is truly horrible.'

'Dearginni, grondinni ta villaminni! It thundreth, it haileth, and also flameth,' said Mr. Petulengro. 'Look up there, brother!'

I looked up. Connected with this tempest there was one feature to which I have already alluded—the wonderful colours of the clouds. Some were of vivid green; others of the brightest orange; others as black as pitch. The gypsy's finger was pointed to a particular part of the sky.

'What do you see there, brother?'

'A strange kind of cloud.'

'What does it look like, brother?'

'Something like a stream of blood.'

'That cloud foreshoweth a bloody dukkeripen.'

'A bloody fortune!' said I. 'And whom may it betide?'

'Who knows!' said the gypsy.

Down the way, dashing and splashing, and scattering man, horse, and cart to the left and right, came an open barouche, drawn by four smoking steeds, with postilions in scarlet jackets and leather skull-caps. Two forms were conspicuous in it; that of the successful bruiser, and of his friend and backer, the sporting gentleman of my acquaintance.

'His!' said the gypsy, pointing to the latter, whose stern features wore a smile of triumph, as, probably recognising me in the crowd, he nodded in the direction of where I stood, as the barouche hurried by.

There went the barouche, dashing through the rain-gushes, and in it one whose boast it was that he was equal to 'either fortune.' Many have heard of that man—many may be desirous of knowing yet more of him. I have nothing to do with that man's after life—he fulfilled his dukkeripen. 'A bad, violent man!' Softly, friend; when thou wouldst speak harshly of the dead, remember that thou hast not yet fulfilled thy own dukkeripen!

{picture:'That cloud foreshoweth a bloody dukkeripen.': page179.jpg}



CHAPTER XXVII

My father—Premature decay—The easy-chair—A few questions—So you told me—A difficult language—They can it Haik—Misused opportunities—Saul—Want of candour—Don't weep—Heaven forgive me—Dated from Paris—I wish he were here—A father's reminiscences—Farewell to vanities.

My father, as I have already informed the reader, had been endowed by nature with great corporeal strength; indeed, I have been assured that, at the period of his prime, his figure had denoted the possession of almost Herculean powers. The strongest forms, however, do not always endure the longest, the very excess of the noble and generous juices which they contain being the cause of their premature decay. But, be that as it may, the health of my father, some few years after his retirement from the service to the quiet of domestic life, underwent a considerable change; his constitution appeared to be breaking up; and he was subject to severe attacks from various disorders, with which, till then, he had been utterly unacquainted. He was, however, wont to rally, more or less, after his illnesses, and might still occasionally be seen taking his walk, with his cane in his hand, and accompanied by his dog, who sympathised entirely with him, pining as he pined, improving as he improved, and never leaving the house save in his company; and in this manner matters went on for a considerable time, no very great apprehension with respect to my father's state being raised either in my mother's breast or my own. But, about six months after the period at which I have arrived in my last chapter, it came to pass that my father experienced a severer attack than on any previous occasion.

He had the best medical advice; but it was easy to see, from the looks of his doctors, that they entertained but slight hopes of his recovery. His sufferings were great, yet he invariably bore them with unshaken fortitude. There was one thing remarkable connected with his illness; notwithstanding its severity, it never confined him to his bed. He was wont to sit in his little parlour, in his easy-chair, dressed in a faded regimental coat, his dog at his feet, who would occasionally lift his head from the hearth-rug on which he lay, and look his master wistfully in the face. And thus my father spent the greater part of his time, sometimes in prayer, sometimes in meditation, and sometimes in reading the Scriptures. I frequently sat with him, though, as I entertained a great awe for my father, I used to feel rather ill at ease, when, as sometimes happened, I found myself alone with him.

'I wish to ask you a few questions,' said he to me one day, after my mother had left the room.

'I will answer anything you may please to ask me, my dear father.'

'What have you been about lately?'

'I have been occupied as usual, attending at the office at the appointed hours.'

'And what do you there?'

'Whatever I am ordered.'

'And nothing else?'

'Oh yes! sometimes I read a book.'

'Connected with your profession?'

'Not always; I have been lately reading Armenian—'

'What's that?'

'The language of a people whose country is a region on the other side of Asia Minor.'

'Well!'

'A region abounding with mountains.'

'Well!'

'Amongst which is Mount Ararat.'

'Well!'

'Upon which, as the Bible informs us, the ark rested.'

'Well!'

'It is the language of the people of those regions—'

'So you told me.'

'And I have been reading the Bible in their language.'

'Well!'

'Or rather, I should say, in the ancient language of these people; from which I am told the modem Armenian differs considerably.'

'Well!'

'As much as the Italian from the Latin.'

'Well!'

'So I have been reading the Bible in ancient Armenian.'

'You told me so before.'

'I found it a highly difficult language.'

'Yes.'

'Differing widely from the languages in general with which I am acquainted.'

'Yes.'

'Exhibiting, however, some features in common with them.'

'Yes.'

'And sometimes agreeing remarkably in words with a certain strange wild speech with which I became acquainted—'

'Irish?'

'No, father, not Irish—with which I became acquainted by the greatest chance in the world.'

'Yes.'

'But of which I need say nothing farther at present, and which I should not have mentioned but for that fact.'

'Well!'

'Which I consider remarkable.'

'Yes.'

'The Armenian is copious.'

'Is it?'

'With an alphabet of thirty-nine letters, but it is harsh and guttural.'

'Yes.'

'Like the language of most mountainous people—the Armenians call it Haik.'

'Do they?'

'And themselves, Haik, also; they are a remarkable people, and, though their original habitation is the Mountain of Ararat, they are to be found, like the Jews, all over the world.'

'Well!'

'Well, father, that's all I can tell you about the Haiks, or Armenians.'

'And what does it all amount to?'

'Very little, father; indeed, there is very little known about the Armenians; their early history, in particular, is involved in considerable mystery.'

'And, if you knew all that it was possible to know about them, to what would it amount? to what earthly purpose could you turn it? have you acquired any knowledge of your profession?'

'Very little, father.'

'Very little! Have you acquired all in your power?'

'I can't say that I have, father.'

'And yet it was your duty to have done so. But I see how it is, you have shamefully misused your opportunities; you are like one who, sent into the field to labour, passes his time in flinging stones at the birds of heaven.'

'I would scorn to fling a stone at a bird, father.'

'You know what I mean, and all too well, and this attempt to evade deserved reproof by feigned simplicity is quite in character with your general behaviour. I have ever observed about you a want of frankness, which has distressed me; you never speak of what you are about, your hopes, or your projects, but cover yourself with mystery. I never knew till the present moment that you were acquainted with Armenian.'

'Because you never asked me, father; there's nothing to conceal in the matter—I will tell you in a moment how I came to learn Armenian. A lady whom I met at one of Mrs. —-'s parties took a fancy to me, and has done me the honour to allow me to go and see her sometimes. She is the widow of a rich clergyman, and on her husband's death came to this place to live, bringing her husband's library with her: I soon found my way to it, and examined every book. Her husband must have been a learned man, for amongst much Greek and Hebrew I found several volumes in Armenian, or relating to the language.'

'And why did you not tell me of this before?'

'Because you never questioned me; but, I repeat, there is nothing to conceal in the matter. The lady took a fancy to me, and, being fond of the arts, drew my portrait; she said the expression of my countenance put her in mind of Alfieri's Saul.'

'And do you still visit her?'

'No, she soon grew tired of me, and told people that she found me very stupid; she gave me the Armenian books, however.'

'Saul,' said my father, musingly, 'Saul. I am afraid she was only too right there; he disobeyed the commands of his master, and brought down on his head the vengeance of Heaven—he became a maniac, prophesied, and flung weapons about him.'

'He was, indeed, an awful character—I hope I shan't turn out like him.'

'God forbid!' said my father, solemnly; 'but in many respects you are headstrong and disobedient like him. I placed you in a profession, and besought you to make yourself master of it by giving it your undivided attention. This, however, you did not do, you know nothing of it, but tell me that you are acquainted with Armenian; but what I dislike most is your want of candour—you are my son, but I know little of your real history, you may know fifty things for what I am aware: you may know how to shoe a horse for what I am aware.'

'Not only to shoe a horse, father, but to make horse-shoes.'

'Perhaps so,' said my father; 'and it only serves to prove what I was just saying, that I know little about you.'

'But you easily may, my dear father; I will tell you anything that you may wish to know—shall I inform you how I learnt to make horse-shoes?'

'No,' said my father; 'as you kept it a secret so long, it may as well continue so still. Had you been a frank, open-hearted boy, like one I could name, you would have told me all about it of your own accord. But I now wish to ask you a serious question—what do you propose to do?'

'To do, father?'

'Yes! the time for which you were articled to your profession will soon be expired, and I shall be no more.'

'Do not talk so, my dear father; I have no doubt that you will soon be better.'

'Do not flatter yourself; I feel that my days are numbered, I am soon going to my rest, and I have need of rest, for I am weary. There, there, don't weep! Tears will help me as little as they will you; you have not yet answered my question. Tell me what you intend to do?'

'I really do not know what I shall do.'

'The military pension which I enjoy will cease with my life. The property which I shall leave behind me will be barely sufficient for the maintenance of your mother respectably. I again ask you what you intend to do. Do you think you can support yourself by your Armenian or your other acquirements?'

'Alas! I think little at all about it; but I suppose I must push into the world, and make a good fight, as becomes the son of him who fought Big Ben; if I can't succeed, and am driven to the worst, it is but dying—'

'What do you mean by dying?'

'Leaving the world; my loss would scarcely be felt. I have never held life in much value, and every one has a right to dispose as he thinks best of that which is his own.'

'Ah! now I understand you; and well I know how and where you imbibed that horrible doctrine, and many similar ones which I have heard from your mouth; but I wish not to reproach you—I view in your conduct a punishment for my own sins, and I bow to the will of God. Few and evil have been my days upon the earth; little have I done to which I can look back with satisfaction. It is true I have served my king fifty years, and I have fought with—Heaven forgive me, what was I about to say!—but you mentioned the man's name, and our minds willingly recall our ancient follies. Few and evil have been my days upon earth, I may say with Jacob of old, though I do not mean to say that my case is so hard as his; he had many undutiful children, whilst I have only —-; but I will not reproach you. I have also like him a son to whom I can look with hope, who may yet preserve my name when I am gone, so let me be thankful; perhaps, after all, I have not lived in vain. Boy, when I am gone, look up to your brother, and may God bless you both! There, don't weep; but take the Bible, and read me something about the old man and his children.'

My brother had now been absent for the space of three years. At first his letters had been frequent, and from them it appeared that he was following his profession in London with industry; they then became rather rare, and my father did not always communicate their contents. His last letter, however, had filled him and our whole little family with joy; it was dated from Paris, and the writer was evidently in high spirits. After describing in eloquent terms the beauties and gaieties of the French capital, he informed us how he had plenty of money, having copied a celebrated picture of one of the Italian masters for a Hungarian nobleman, for which he had received a large sum. 'He wishes me to go with him to Italy,' added he, 'but I am fond of independence; and, if ever I visit old Rome, I will have no patrons near me to distract my attention.' But six months had now elapsed from the date of this letter, and we had heard no further intelligence of my brother. My father's complaint increased; the gout, his principal enemy, occasionally mounted high up in his system, and we had considerable difficulty in keeping it from the stomach, where it generally proves fatal. I now devoted almost the whole of my time to my father, on whom his faithful partner also lavished every attention and care. I read the Bible to him, which was his chief delight; and also occasionally such other books as I thought might prove entertaining to him. His spirits were generally rather depressed. The absence of my brother appeared to prey upon his mind. 'I wish he were here,' he would frequently exclaim; 'I can't imagine what can have become of him; I trust, however, he will arrive in time.' He still sometimes rallied, and I took advantage of those moments of comparative ease to question him upon the events of his early life. My attentions to him had not passed unnoticed, and he was kind, fatherly, and unreserved. I had never known my father so entertaining as at these moments, when his life was but too evidently drawing to a close. I had no idea that he knew and had seen so much; my respect for him increased, and I looked upon him almost with admiration. His anecdotes were in general highly curious; some of them related to people in the highest stations, and to men whose names were closely connected with some of the brightest glories of our native land. He had frequently conversed—almost on terms of familiarity—with good old George. He had known the conqueror of Tippoo Saib; and was the friend of Townshend, who, when Wolfe fell, led the British grenadiers against the shrinking regiments of Montcalm. 'Pity,' he added, 'that when old—old as I am now—he should have driven his own son mad by robbing him of his plighted bride; but so it was; he married his son's bride. I saw him lead her to the altar; if ever there was an angelic countenance, it was that girl's; she was almost too fair to be one of the daughters of women. Is there anything, boy, that you would wish to ask me? now is the time.'

'Yes, father; there is one about whom I would fain question you.'

'Who is it? shall I tell you about Elliot?'

'No, father, not about Elliot; but pray don't be angry; I should like to know something about Big Ben.'

'You are a strange lad,' said my father; 'and, though of late I have begun to entertain a more favourable opinion than heretofore, there is still much about you that I do not understand. Why do you bring up that name? Don't you know that it is one of my temptations: you wish to know something about him. Well! I will oblige you this once, and then farewell to such vanities—something about him. I will tell you—his—skin when he flung off his clothes—and he had a particular knack in doing so—his skin, when he bared his mighty chest and back for combat; and when he fought he stood, so . . . . if I remember right—his skin, I say, was brown and dusky as that of a toad. Oh me! I wish my elder son was here.'



CHAPTER XXVIII

My brother's arrival—The interview—Night—A dying father—Christ.

At last my brother arrived; he looked pale and unwell; I met him at the door. 'You have been long absent,' said I.

'Yes,' said he, 'perhaps too long; but how is my father?'

'Very poorly,' said I, 'he has had a fresh attack; but where have you been of late?'

'Far and wide,' said my brother; 'but I can't tell you anything now, I must go to my father. It was only by chance that I heard of his illness.'

'Stay a moment,' said I. 'Is the world such a fine place as you supposed it to be before you went away?'

'Not quite,' said my brother, 'not quite; indeed I wish—but ask me no questions now, I must hasten to my father.' There was another question on my tongue, but I forbore; for the eyes of the young man were full of tears. I pointed with my finger, and the young man hastened past me to the arms of his father.

I forbore to ask my brother whether he had been to old Rome.

What passed between my father and brother I do not know; the interview, no doubt, was tender enough, for they tenderly loved each other; but my brother's arrival did not produce the beneficial effect upon my father which I at first hoped it would; it did not even appear to have raised his spirits. He was composed enough, however: 'I ought to be grateful,' said he; 'I wished to see my son, and God has granted me my wish; what more have I to do now than to bless my little family and go?'

My father's end was evidently at hand.

And did I shed no tears? did I breathe no sighs? did I never wring my hands at this period? the reader will perhaps be asking. Whatever I did and thought is best known to God and myself; but it will be as well to observe, that it is possible to feel deeply, and yet make no outward sign.

And now for the closing scene.

At the dead hour of night, it might be about two, I was awakened from sleep by a cry which sounded from the room immediately below that in which I slept. I knew the cry, it was the cry of my mother; and I also knew its import, yet I made no effort to rise, for I was for the moment paralysed. Again the cry sounded, yet still I lay motionless—the stupidity of horror was upon me. A third time, and it was then that, by a violent effort, bursting the spell which appeared to bind me, I sprang from the bed and rushed downstairs. My mother was running wildly about the room; she had awoke, and found my father senseless in the bed by her side. I essayed to raise him, and after a few efforts supported him in the bed in a sitting posture. My brother now rushed in, and, snatching up a light that was burning, he held it to my father's face. 'The surgeon, the surgeon!' he cried; then, dropping the light, he ran out of the room followed by my mother; I remained alone, supporting the senseless form of my father; the light had been extinguished by the fall, and an almost total darkness reigned in the room. The form pressed heavily against my bosom—at last methought it moved. Yes, I was right, there was a heaving of the breast, and then a gasping. Were those words which I heard? Yes, they were words, low and indistinct at first, and then audible. The mind of the dying man was reverting to former scenes. I heard him mention names which I had often heard him mention before. It was an awful moment; I felt stupefied, but I still contrived to support my dying father. There was a pause, again my father spoke: I heard him speak of Minden, and of Meredith, the old Minden sergeant, and then he uttered another name, which at one period of his life was much in his lips, the name of . . . but this is a solemn moment! There was a deep gasp: I shook, and thought all was over; but I was mistaken—my father moved, and revived for a moment; he supported himself in bed without my assistance. I make no doubt that for a moment he was perfectly sensible, and it was then that, clasping his hands, he uttered another name clearly, distinctly—it was the name of Christ. With that name upon his lips, the brave old soldier sank back upon my bosom, and, with his hands still clasped, yielded up his soul.



CHAPTER XXIX

The greeting—Queer figure—Cheer up—The cheerful fire—It will do—The sally forth—Trepidation—Let him come in.

'One-and-ninepence, sir, or the things which you have brought with you will be taken away from you!'

Such were the first words which greeted my ears, one damp misty morning in March, as I dismounted from the top of a coach in the yard of a London inn.

I turned round, for I felt that the words were addressed to myself. Plenty of people were in the yard—porters, passengers, coachmen, hostlers, and others, who appeared to be intent on anything but myself, with the exception of one individual, whose business appeared to lie with me, and who now confronted me at the distance of about two yards.

I looked hard at the man—and a queer kind of individual he was to look at—a rakish figure, about thirty, and of the middle size, dressed in a coat smartly cut, but threadbare, very tight pantaloons of blue stuff, tied at the ankles, dirty white stockings and thin shoes, like those of a dancing-master; his features were not ugly, but rather haggard, and he appeared to owe his complexion less to nature than carmine; in fact, in every respect, a very queer figure.

'One-and-ninepence, sir, or your things will be taken away from you!' he said, in a kind of lisping tone, coming yet nearer to me.

I still remained staring fixedly at him, but never a word answered. Our eyes met; whereupon he suddenly lost the easy impudent air which he before wore. He glanced, for a moment, at my fist, which I had by this time clenched, and his features became yet more haggard; he faltered; a fresh 'one-and-ninepence,' which he was about to utter, died on his lips; he shrank back, disappeared behind a coach, and I saw no more of him.

'One-and-ninepence, or my things will be taken away from me!' said I to myself, musingly, as I followed the porter to whom I had delivered my scanty baggage; 'am I to expect many of these greetings in the big world? Well, never mind! I think I know the counter-sign!' And I clenched my fist yet harder than before.

So I followed the porter, through the streets of London, to a lodging which had been prepared for me by an acquaintance. The morning, as I have before said, was gloomy, and the streets through which I passed were dank and filthy; the people, also, looked dank and filthy; and so, probably, did I, for the night had been rainy, and I had come upwards of a hundred miles on the top of a coach; my heart had sunk within me, by the time we reached a dark narrow street, in which was the lodging.

'Cheer up, young man,' said the porter, 'we shall have a fine afternoon!'

And presently I found myself in the lodging which had been prepared for me. It consisted of a small room, up two pair of stairs, in which I was to sit, and another still smaller above it, in which I was to sleep. I remember that I sat down, and looked disconsolate about me—everything seemed so cold and dingy. Yet how little is required to make a situation—however cheerless at first sight—cheerful and comfortable. The people of the house, who looked kindly upon me, lighted a fire in the dingy grate; and, then, what a change!—the dingy room seemed dingy no more! Oh the luxury of a cheerful fire after a chill night's journey! I drew near to the blazing grate, rubbed my hands, and felt glad.

And, when I had warmed myself, I turned to the table, on which, by this time, the people of the house had placed my breakfast; and I ate and I drank; and, as I ate and drank, I mused within myself, and my eyes were frequently directed to a small green box, which constituted part of my luggage, and which, with the rest of my things, stood in one corner of the room, till at last, leaving my breakfast unfinished, I rose, and, going to the box, unlocked it, and took out two or three bundles of papers tied with red tape, and, placing them on the table, I resumed my seat and my breakfast, my eyes intently fixed upon the bundles of papers all the time.

And when I had drained the last cup of tea out of a dingy teapot, and ate the last slice of the dingy loaf, I untied one of the bundles, and proceeded to look over the papers, which were closely written over in a singular hand, and I read for some time, till at last I said to myself, 'It will do.' And then I looked at the other bundle for some time without untying it; and at last I said, 'It will do also.' And then I turned to the fire, and, putting my feet against the sides of the grate, I leaned back on my chair, and, with my eyes upon the fire, fell into deep thought.

And there I continued in thought before the fire, until my eyes closed, and I fell asleep; which was not to be wondered at, after the fatigue and cold which I had lately undergone on the coach-top; and, in my sleep, I imagined myself still there, amidst darkness and rain, hurrying now over wild heaths, and now along roads overhung with thick and umbrageous trees, and sometimes methought I heard the horn of the guard, and sometimes the voice of the coachman, now chiding, now encouraging his horses, as they toiled through the deep and miry ways. At length a tremendous crack of a whip saluted the tympanum of my ear, and I started up broad awake, nearly oversetting the chair on which I reclined—and lo! I was in the dingy room before the fire, which was by this time half extinguished. In my dream I had confounded the noise of the street with those of my night journey; the crack which had aroused me I soon found proceeded from the whip of a carter, who, with many oaths, was flogging his team below the window.

Looking at a clock which stood upon the mantelpiece, I perceived that it was past eleven; whereupon I said to myself, 'I am wasting my time foolishly and unprofitably, forgetting that I am now in the big world, without anything to depend upon save my own exertions'; and then I adjusted my dress, and, locking up the bundle of papers which I had not read, I tied up the other, and, taking it under my arm, I went downstairs; and, after asking a question or two of the people of the house, I sallied forth into the street with a determined look, though at heart I felt somewhat timorous at the idea of venturing out alone into the mazes of the mighty city, of which I had heard much, but of which, of my own knowledge, I knew nothing.

{picture:I sprang up the steps, and gave a loud rap: page192.jpg}

I had, however, no great cause for anxiety in the present instance; I easily found my way to the place which I was in quest of—one of the many new squares on the northern side of the metropolis, and which was scarcely ten minutes' walk from the street in which I had taken up my abode. Arriving before the door of a tolerably large house which bore a certain number, I stood still for a moment in a kind of trepidation, looking anxiously at the door; I then slowly passed on till I came to the end of the square, where I stood still, and pondered for a while. Suddenly, however, like one who has formed a resolution, I clenched my right hand, flinging my hat somewhat on one side, and, turning back with haste to the door before which I had stopped, I sprang up the steps, and gave a loud rap, ringing at the same time the bell of the area. After the lapse of a minute the door was opened by a maid-servant of no very cleanly or prepossessing appearance, of whom I demanded, in a tone of some hauteur, whether the master of the house was at home. Glancing for a moment at the white paper bundle beneath my arm, the handmaid made no reply in words, but, with a kind of toss of her head, flung the door open, standing on one side as if to let me enter. I did enter; and the hand-maid, having opened another door on the right hand, went in, and said something which I could not hear: after a considerable pause, however, I heard the voice of a man say, 'Let him come in'; whereupon the handmaid, coming out, motioned me to enter, and, on my obeying, instantly closed the door behind me.



CHAPTER XXX

The sinister glance—Excellent correspondent—Quite original—My system—A losing trade—Merit—Starting a Review—What have you got?—Stop!—Dairyman's Daughter—Oxford principles—More conversation—How is this?

There were two individuals in the room in which I now found myself; it was a small study, surrounded with bookcases, the window looking out upon the square. Of these individuals he who appeared to be the principal stood with his back to the fireplace. He was a tall stout man, about sixty, dressed in a loose morning gown. The expression of his countenance would have been bluff but for a certain sinister glance, and his complexion might have been called rubicund but for a considerable tinge of bilious yellow. He eyed me askance as I entered. The other, a pale, shrivelled-looking person, sat at a table apparently engaged with an account-book; he took no manner of notice of me, never once lifting his eyes from the page before him.

'Well, sir, what is your pleasure?' said the big man, in a rough tone, as I stood there, looking at him wistfully—as well I might—for upon that man, at the time of which I am speaking, my principal, I may say my only, hopes rested.

'Sir,' said I, 'my name is so-and-so, and I am the bearer of a letter to you from Mr. so-and-so, an old friend and correspondent of yours.'

The countenance of the big man instantly lost the suspicious and lowering expression which it had hitherto exhibited; he strode forward, and, seizing me by the hand, gave me a violent squeeze.

'My dear sir,' said he, 'I am rejoiced to see you in London. I have been long anxious for the pleasure—we are old friends, though we have never before met. Taggart,' said he to the man who sat at the desk, 'this is our excellent correspondent, the friend and pupil of our other excellent correspondent.'

The pale, shrivelled-looking man slowly and deliberately raised his head from the account-book, and surveyed me for a moment or two; not the slightest emotion was observable in his countenance. It appeared to me, however, that I could detect a droll twinkle in his eye: his curiosity, if he had any, was soon gratified; he made me a kind of bow, pulled out a snuff-box, took a pinch of snuff, and again bent his head over the page.

'And now, my dear sir,' said the big man, 'pray sit down, and tell me the cause of your visit. I hope you intend to remain here a day or two.'

'More than that,' said I, 'I am come to take up my abode in London.'

'Glad to hear it; and what have you been about of late? got anything which will suit me? Sir, I admire your style of writing, and your manner of thinking; and I am much obliged to my good friend and correspondent for sending me some of your productions. I inserted them all, and wished there had been more of them—quite original, sir, quite: took with the public, especially the essay about the non-existence of anything. I don't exactly agree with you though; I have my own peculiar ideas about matter—as you know, of course, from the book I have published. Nevertheless, a very pretty piece of speculative philosophy—no such thing as matter—impossible that there should be—ex nihilo—what is the Greek? I have forgot—very pretty indeed; very original.'

'I am afraid, sir, it was very wrong to write such trash, and yet more to allow it to be published.'

'Trash! not at all; a very pretty piece of speculative philosophy; of course you were wrong in saying there is no world. The world must exist, to have the shape of a pear; and that the world is shaped like a pear, and not like an apple, as the fools of Oxford say, I have satisfactorily proved in my book. Now, if there were no world, what would become of my system? But what do you propose to do in London?'

'Here is the letter, sir,' said I, 'of our good friend, which I have not yet given to you; I believe it will explain to you the circumstances under which I come.'

He took the letter, and perused it with attention. 'Hem!' said he, with a somewhat altered manner, 'my friend tells me that you are come up to London with the view of turning your literary talents to account, and desires me to assist you in my capacity of publisher in bringing forth two or three works which you have prepared. My good friend is perhaps not aware that for some time past I have given up publishing—was obliged to do so—had many severe losses—do nothing at present in that line, save sending out the Magazine once a month; and, between ourselves, am thinking of disposing of that—wish to retire—high time at my age—so you see—'

'I am very sorry, sir, to hear that you cannot assist me' (and I remember that I felt very nervous); 'I had hoped—'

'A losing trade, I assure you, sir; literature is a drug. Taggart, what o'clock is?'

'Well, sir!' said I, rising, 'as you cannot assist me, I will now take my leave; I thank you sincerely for your kind reception, and will trouble you no longer.'

'Oh, don't go. I wish to have some further conversation with you; and perhaps I may hit upon some plan to benefit you. I honour merit, and always make a point to encourage it when I can; but—Taggart, go to the bank, and tell them to dishonour the bill twelve months after date for thirty pounds which becomes due to-morrow. I am dissatisfied with that fellow who wrote the fairy tales, and intend to give him all the trouble in my power. Make haste.'

Taggart did not appear to be in any particular haste. First of all, he took a pinch of snuff, then, rising from his chair, slowly and deliberately drew his wig, for he wore a wig of a brown colour, rather more over his forehead than it had previously been, buttoned his coat, and, taking his hat, and an umbrella which stood in a corner, made me a low bow, and quitted the room.

'Well, sir, where were we? Oh, I remember, we were talking about merit. Sir, I always wish to encourage merit, especially when it comes so highly recommended as in the present instance. Sir, my good friend and correspondent speaks of you in the highest terms. Sir, I honour my good friend, and have the highest respect for his opinion in all matters connected with literature—rather eccentric though. Sir, my good friend has done my periodical more good and more harm than all the rest of my correspondents. Sir, I shall never forget the sensation caused by the appearance of his article about a certain personage whom he proved—and I think satisfactorily—to have been a legionary soldier—rather startling, was it not? The S—- of the world a common soldier, in a marching regiment—original, but startling; sir, I honour my good friend.'

'So you have renounced publishing, sir,' said I, 'with the exception of the Magazine?'

'Why, yes; except now and then, under the rose; the old coachman, you know, likes to hear the whip. Indeed, at the present moment, I am thinking of starting a Review on an entirely new and original principle; and it just struck me that you might be of high utility in the undertaking—what do you think of the matter?'

'I should be happy, sir, to render you any assistance, but I am afraid the employment you propose requires other qualifications than I possess; however, I can make the essay. My chief intention in coming to London was to lay before the world what I had prepared; and I had hoped by your assistance—'

'Ah! I see, ambition! Ambition is a very pretty thing; but, sir, we must walk before we run, according to the old saying—what is that you have got under your arm?'

'One of the works to which I was alluding; the one, indeed, which I am most anxious to lay before the world, as I hope to derive from it both profit and reputation.'

'Indeed! what do you call it?'

'Ancient songs of Denmark, heroic and romantic, translated by myself; with notes philological, critical, and historical.'

'Then, sir, I assure you that your time and labour have been entirely flung away; nobody would read your ballads, if you were to give them to the world to-morrow.'

'I am sure, sir, that you would say otherwise if you would permit me to read one to you'; and, without waiting for the answer of the big man, nor indeed so much as looking at him, to see whether he was inclined or not to hear me, I undid my manuscript, and, with a voice trembling with eagerness, I read to the following effect:—

Buckshank bold and Elfinstone, And more than I can mention here, They caused to be built so stout a ship, And unto Iceland they would steer.

They launched the ship upon the main, Which bellowed like a wrathful bear; Down to the bottom the vessel sank, A laidly Trold has dragged it there.

Down to the bottom sank young Roland, And round about he groped awhile; Until he found the path which led Unto the bower of Ellenlyle.

'Stop!' said the publisher; 'very pretty indeed, and very original; beats Scott hollow, and Percy too: but, sir, the day for these things is gone by; nobody at present cares for Percy, nor for Scott either, save as a novelist; sorry to discourage merit, sir, but what can I do! What else have you got?'

'The songs of Ab Gwilym, the Welsh bard, also translated by myself, with notes critical, philological, and historical.'

'Pass on—what else?'

'Nothing else,' said I, folding up my manuscript with a sigh, 'unless it be a romance in the German style; on which, I confess, I set very little value.'

'Wild?'

'Yes, sir, very wild.'

'Like the Miller of the Black Valley?'

'Yes, sir, very much like the Miller of the Black Valley.'

'Well, that's better,' said the publisher; 'and yet, I don't know, I question whether any one at present cares for the miller himself. No, sir, the time for those things is also gone by; German, at present, is a drug; and, between ourselves, nobody has contributed to make it so more than my good friend and correspondent;—but, sir, I see you are a young gentleman of infinite merit, and I always wish to encourage merit. Don't you think you could write a series of evangelical tales?'

'Evangelical tales, sir?'

'Yes, sir, evangelical novels.'

'Something in the style of Herder?'

'Herder is a drug, sir; nobody cares for Herder—thanks to my good friend. Sir, I have in yon drawer a hundred pages about Herder, which I dare not insert in my periodical; it would sink it, sir. No, sir, something in the style of the Dairyman's Daughter.'

'I never heard of the work till the present moment.'

'Then, sir, procure it by all means. Sir, I could afford as much as ten pounds for a well-written tale in the style of the Dairyman's Daughter; that is the kind of literature, sir, that sells at the present day! It is not the Miller of the Black Valley—no, sir, nor Herder either, that will suit the present taste; the evangelical body is becoming very strong, sir; the canting scoundrels—'

'But, sir, surely you would not pander to a scoundrelly taste?'

'Then, sir, I must give up business altogether. Sir, I have a great respect for the goddess Reason—an infinite respect, sir; indeed, in my time, I have made a great many sacrifices for her; but, sir, I cannot altogether ruin myself for the goddess Reason. Sir, I am a friend to Liberty, as is well known; but I must also be a friend to my own family. It is with the view of providing for a son of mine that I am about to start the Review of which I was speaking. He has taken into his head to marry, sir, and I must do something for him, for he can do but little for himself. Well, sir, I am a friend to Liberty, as I said before, and likewise a friend to Reason; but I tell you frankly that the Review which I intend to get up under the rose, and present him with when it is established, will be conducted on Oxford principles.'

'Orthodox principles, I suppose you mean, sir?'

'I do, sir; I am no linguist, but I believe the words are synonymous.'

Much more conversation passed between us, and it was agreed that I should become a contributor to the Oxford Review. I stipulated, however, that, as I knew little of politics, and cared less, no other articles should be required from me than such as were connected with belles-lettres and philology; to this the big man readily assented. 'Nothing will be required from you,' said he, 'but what you mention; and now and then, perhaps, a paper on metaphysics. You understand German, and perhaps it would be desirable that you should review Kant; and in a review of Kant, sir, you could introduce to advantage your peculiar notions about ex nihilo.' He then reverted to the subject of the Dairyman's Daughter, which I promised to take into consideration. As I was going away, he invited me to dine with him on the ensuing Sunday.

'That's a strange man!' said I to myself, after I had left the house; 'he is evidently very clever; but I cannot say that I like him much, with his Oxford Reviews and Dairyman's Daughters. But what can I do? I am almost without a friend in the world. I wish I could find some one who would publish my ballads, or my songs of Ab Gwilym. In spite of what the big man says, I am convinced that, once published, they would bring me much fame and profit. But how is this?—what a beautiful sun!—the porter was right in saying that the day would clear up—I will now go to my dingy lodging, lock up my manuscripts, and then take a stroll about the big city.'



CHAPTER XXXI

The walk—London's Cheape—Street of the Lombards—Strange bridge—Main arch—The roaring gulf—The boat—Cly-faking—A comfort—The book—The blessed woman—No trap.

So I set out on my walk to see the wonders of the big city, and, as chance would have it, I directed my course to the east. The day, as I have already said, had become very fine, so that I saw the great city to advantage, and the wonders thereof: and much I admired all I saw; and, amongst other things, the huge cathedral, standing so proudly on the most commanding ground in the big city; and I looked up to the mighty dome, surmounted by a golden cross, and I said within myself, 'That dome must needs be the finest in the world'; and I gazed upon it till my eyes reeled, and my brain became dizzy, and I thought that the dome would fall and crush me; and I shrank within myself, and struck yet deeper into the heart of the big city.

'O Cheapside! Cheapside!' said I, as I advanced up that mighty thoroughfare, 'truly thou art a wonderful place for hurry, noise, and riches! Men talk of the bazaars of the East—I have never seen them—but I daresay that, compared with thee, they are poor places, silent places, abounding with empty boxes, O thou pride of London's east!—mighty mart of old renown!—for thou art not a place of yesterday:—long before the Roses red and white battled in fair England, thou didst exist—a place of throng and bustle—place of gold and silver, perfumes and fine linen. Centuries ago thou couldst extort the praises even of the fiercest foes of England. Fierce bards of Wales, sworn foes of England, sang thy praises centuries ago; and even the fiercest of them all, Red Julius himself, wild Glendower's bard, had a word of praise for London's 'Cheape,' for so the bards of Wales styled thee in their flowing odes. Then, if those who were not English, and hated England, and all connected therewith, had yet much to say in thy praise, when thou wast far inferior to what thou art now, why should true-born Englishmen, or those who call themselves so, turn up their noses at thee, and scoff thee at the present day, as I believe they do? But, let others do as they will, I, at least, who am not only an Englishman, but an East Englishman, will not turn up my nose at thee, but will praise and extol thee, calling thee mart of the world—a place of wonder and astonishment!—and, were it right and fitting to wish that anything should endure for ever, I would say prosperity to Cheapside, throughout all ages—may it be the world's resort for merchandise, world without end.

And when I had passed through the Cheape I entered another street, which led up a kind of ascent, and which proved to be the street of the Lombards, called so from the name of its first founders; and I walked rapidly up the street of the Lombards, neither looking to the right nor left, for it had no interest for me, though I had a kind of consciousness that mighty things were being transacted behind its walls: but it wanted the throng, bustle, and outward magnificence of the Cheape, and it had never been spoken of by 'ruddy bards'! And, when I had got to the end of the street of the Lombards, I stood still for some time, deliberating within myself whether I should turn to the right or the left, or go straight forward, and at last I turned to the right, down a street of rapid descent, and presently found myself upon a bridge which traversed the river which runs by the big city.

A strange kind of bridge it was; huge and massive, and seemingly of great antiquity. It had an arched back, like that of a hog, a high balustrade, and at either side, at intervals, were stone bowers bulking over the river, but open on the other side, and furnished with a semicircular bench. Though the bridge was wide—very wide—it was all too narrow for the concourse upon it. Thousands of human beings were pouring over the bridge. But what chiefly struck my attention was a double row of carts and wagons, the generality drawn by horses as large as elephants, each row striving hard in a different direction, and not unfrequently brought to a stand-still. Oh the cracking of whips, the shouts and oaths of the carters, and the grating of wheels upon the enormous stones that formed the pavement! In fact, there was a wild burly-burly upon the bridge, which nearly deafened me. But, if upon the bridge there was a confusion, below it there was a confusion ten times confounded. The tide, which was fast ebbing, obstructed by the immense piers of the old bridge, poured beneath the arches with a fall of several feet, forming in the river below as many whirlpools as there were arches. Truly tremendous was the roar of the descending waters, and the bellow of the tremendous gulfs, which swallowed them for a time, and then cast them forth, foaming and frothing from their horrid wombs. Slowly advancing along the bridge, I came to the highest point, and there I stood still, close beside one of the stone bowers, in which, beside a fruit-stall, sat an old woman, with a pan of charcoal at her feet, and a book in her hand, in which she appeared to be reading intently. There I stood, just above the principal arch, looking through the balustrade at the scene that presented itself—and such a scene! Towards the left bank of the river, a forest of masts, thick and close, as far as the eye could reach; spacious wharfs, surmounted with gigantic edifices; and, far away, Caesar's Castle, with its White Tower. To the right, another forest of masts, and a maze of buildings, from which, here and there, shot up to the sky chimneys taller than Cleopatra's Needle, vomiting forth huge wreaths of that black smoke which forms the canopy—occasionally a gorgeous one—of the more than Babel city. Stretching before me, the troubled breast of the mighty river, and, immediately below, the main whirlpool of the Thames—the Maelstrom of the bulwarks of the middle arch—a grisly pool, which, with its superabundance of horror, fascinated me. Who knows but I should have leapt into its depths?—I have heard of such things—but for a rather startling occurrence which broke the spell. As I stood upon the bridge, gazing into the jaws of the pool, a small boat shot suddenly through the arch beneath my feet. There were three persons in it; an oarsman in the middle, whilst a man and woman sat at the stern. I shall never forget the thrill of horror which went through me at this sudden apparition. What!—a boat—a small boat—passing beneath that arch into yonder roaring gulf! Yes, yes, down through that awful water-way, with more than the swiftness of an arrow, shot the boat, or skiff, right into the jaws of the pool. A monstrous breaker curls over the prow—there is no hope; the boat is swamped, and all drowned in that strangling vortex. No! the boat, which appeared to have the buoyancy of a feather, skipped over the threatening horror, and, the next moment, was out of danger, the boatman—a true boatman of Cockaigne that—elevating one of his sculls in sign of triumph, the man hallooing, and the woman, a true Englishwoman that—of a certain class—waving her shawl. Whether any one observed them save myself, or whether the feat was a common one, I know not; but nobody appeared to take any notice of them. As for myself, I was so excited that I strove to clamber up the balustrade of the bridge, in order to obtain a better view of the daring adventurers. Before I could accomplish my design, however, I felt myself seized by the body, and, turning my head, perceived the old fruit-woman, who was clinging to me.

{picture:Beside a fruit-stall sat an old woman, with a pan of charcoal at her feet, and a book in her hand: page203.jpg}

'Nay, dear! don't—don't!' said she. 'Don't fling yourself over—perhaps you may have better luck next time!'

'I was not going to fling myself over,' said I, dropping from the balustrade; 'how came you to think of such a thing?'

'Why, seeing you clamber up so fiercely, I thought you might have had ill luck, and that you wished to make away with yourself.'

'Ill luck,' said I, going into the stone bower, and sitting down. 'What do you mean? ill luck in what?'

'Why, no great harm, dear! cly-faking perhaps.'

'Are you coming over me with dialects,' said I, 'speaking unto me in fashions I wot nothing of?'

'Nay, dear! don't look so strange with those eyes of your'n, nor talk so strangely; I don't understand you.'

'Nor I you; what do you mean by cly-faking?'

'Lor, dear! no harm; only taking a handkerchief now and then.'

'Do you take me for a thief?

'Nay, dear! don't make use of bad language; we never calls them thieves here, but prigs and fakers: to tell you the truth, dear, seeing you spring at that railing put me in mind of my own dear son, who is now at Bot'ny: when he had bad luck, he always used to talk of flinging himself over the bridge; and, sure enough, when the traps were after him, he did fling himself into the river, but that was off the bank; nevertheless, the traps pulled him out, and he is now suffering his sentence; so you see you may speak out, if you have done anything in the harmless line, for I am my son's own mother, I assure you.'

'So you think there's no harm in stealing?'

'No harm in the world, dear! Do you think my own child would have been transported for it, if there had been any harm in it? and, what's more, would the blessed woman in the book here have written her life as she has done, and given it to the world, if there had been any harm in faking? She, too, was what they call a thief and a cut-purse; ay, and was transported for it, like my dear son; and do you think she would have told the world so, if there had been any harm in the thing? Oh, it is a comfort to me that the blessed woman was transported, and came back—for come back she did, and rich too—for it is an assurance to me that my dear son, who was transported too, will come back like her.'

'What was her name?'

'Her name, blessed Mary Flanders.'

'Will you let me look at the book?'

'Yes, dear, that I will, if you promise me not to run away with it.'

I took the book from her hand; a short thick volume, at least a century old, bound with greasy black leather. I turned the yellow and dog's-eared pages, reading here and there a sentence. Yes, and no mistake! His pen, his style, his spirit might be observed in every line of the uncouth-looking old volume—the air, the style, the spirit of the writer of the book which first taught me to read. I covered my face with my hand, and thought of my childhood. . . .

'This is a singular book,' said I at last; 'but it does not appear to have been written to prove that thieving is no harm, but rather to show the terrible consequences of crime: it contains a deep moral.'

'A deep what, dear?'

'A—but no matter, I will give you a crown for this volume.'

'No, dear, I will not sell the volume for a crown.'

'I am poor,' said I; 'but I will give you two silver crowns for your volume.'

'No, dear, I will not sell my volume for two silver crowns; no, nor for the golden one in the king's tower down there; without my book I should mope and pine, and perhaps fling myself into the river; but I am glad you like it, which shows that I was right about you, after all; you are one of our party, and you have a flash about that eye of yours which puts me just in mind of my dear son. No, dear, I won't sell you my book; but, if you like, you may have a peep into it whenever you come this way. I shall be glad to see you; you are one of the right sort, for, if you had been a common one, you would have run away with the thing; but you scorn such behaviour, and, as you are so flash of your money, though you say you are poor, you may give me a tanner to buy a little baccy with; I love baccy, dear, more by token that it comes from the plantations to which the blessed woman was sent.'

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