She returned to the King's road a trifle tired, and sat down on one of the benches there. The passing of the people would amuse her; and now the pavement was thronged with a crowd of gayly-dressed folks, and the centre of the thoroughfare brisk with the constant going and coming of riders. She saw strange old women, painted, powdered and bewigged in hideous imitation of youth, pounding up and down the level street, and she wondered what wild hallucinations possessed the brains of these poor creatures. She saw troops of beautiful young girls, with flowing hair, clear eyes and bright complexions, riding by, a goodly company, under charge of a riding-mistress, and the world seemed to grow sweeter when they came into view. But while she was vaguely gazing and wondering and speculating her eyes were suddenly caught by two riders whose appearance sent a throb to her heart. Frank Lavender rode well, so did Mrs. Lorraine; and, though they were paying no particular attention to the crowd of passers-by, they doubtless knew that they could challenge criticism with an easy confidence. They were laughing and talking to each other as they went rapidly by: neither of them saw Sheila. The girl did not look after them. She rose and walked in the other direction, with a greater pain at her heart than had been there for many a day.
What was this crowd? Some dozen or so of people were standing round a small girl, who, accompanied by a man, was playing a violin, and playing it very well, too. But it was not the music that attracted Sheila to the child, but partly that there was a look about the timid, pretty face and the modest and honest eyes that reminded her of little Ailasa, and partly because, just at this moment, her heart seemed to be strangely sensitive and sympathetic. She took no thought of the people looking on. She went forward to the edge of the pavement, and found that the small girl and her companion were about to go away. Sheila stopped the man.
"Will you let your little girl come with me into this shop?"
It was a confectioner's shop.
"We were going home to dinner," said the man, while the small girl looked up with wondering eyes.
"Will you let her have dinner with me, and you will come back in half an hour?"
The man looked at the little girl: he seemed to be really fond of her, and saw that she was very willing to go. Sheila took her hand and led her into the confectioner's shop, putting her violin on one of the small marble tables while they sat down at another. She was probably not aware that two or three idlers had followed them, and were staring with might and main in at the door of the shop.
What could this child have thought of the beautiful and yet sad-eyed lady who was so kind to her, who got her all sorts of things with her own hands, and asked her all manner of questions in a low, gentle and sweet voice? There was not much in Sheila's appearance to provoke fear or awe. The little girl, shy at first, got to be a little more frank, and told her hostess when she rose in the morning, how she practiced, the number of hours they were out during the day, and many of the small incidents of her daily life. She had been photographed too, and her photograph was sold in one of the shops. She was very well content: she liked playing, the people were kind to her, and she did not often get tired.
"Then I shall see you often if I stay in Brighton?" said Sheila.
"We go out every day when it does not rain very hard."
Perhaps some wet day you will come and see me, and you will have some tea with me: would you like that?"
"Yes, very much," said the small musician, looking up frankly.
Just at this moment, the half hour having fully expired, the man appeared at the door.
"Don't hurry," said Sheila to the little girl: "sit still and drink out the lemonade; then I will give you some little parcels which you must put in your pocket."
She was about to rise to go to the counter when she suddenly met the eyes of her husband, who was calmly staring at her. He had come out, after their ride, with Mrs. Lorraine to have a stroll up and down the pavements, and had, in looking in at the various shops, caught sight of Sheila quietly having luncheon with this girl whom she had picked up in the streets.
"Did you ever see the like of that?" he said to Mrs. Lorraine. "In open day, with people staring in, and she has not even taken the trouble to put the violin out of sight!"
"The poor child means no harm," said his companion.
"Well, we must get her out of this somehow," he said; and so they entered the shop.
Sheila knew she was guilty the moment she met her husband's look, though she had never dreamed of it before. She had, indeed, acted quite thoughtlessly—perhaps chiefly moved by a desire to speak to some one and to befriend some one in her own loneliness.
"Hadn't you better let this little girl go?" said Lavender to Sheila somewhat coldly as soon as he had ordered an ice for his companion.
"When she has finished her lemonade she will go," said Sheila meekly. "But I have to buy some things for her first."
"You have got a whole lot of people round the door," he said.
"It is very kind of the people to wait for her," answered Sheila with the same composure. "We have been here half an hour. I suppose they will like her music very much."
The little violinist was now taken to the counter, and her pockets stuffed with packages of sugared fruits and other deadly delicacies: then she was permitted to go with half a crown in her hand. Mrs. Lorraine patted her shoulder in passing, and said she was a pretty little thing.
They went home to luncheon. Nothing was said about the incident of the forenoon, except that Lavender complained to Mrs. Kavanagh, in a humorous way, that his wife had a most extraordinary fondness for beggars, and that he never went home of an evening without expecting to find her dining with the nearest scavenger and his family. Lavender, indeed, was in an amiable frame of mind at this meal (during the progress of which Sheila sat by the window, of course, for she had already lunched in company with the tiny violinist), and was bent on making himself as agreeable as possible to his two companions. Their talk had drifted toward the wanderings of the two ladies on the Continent; from that to the Niebelungen frescoes in Munich; from that to the Niebelungen itself, and then, by easy transition, to the ballads of Uhland and Heine. Lavender was in one of his most impulsive and brilliant moods—gay and jocular, tender and sympathetic by turns, and so obviously sincere in all that his listeners were delighted with his speeches and assertions and stories, and believed them as implicitly as he did himself. Sheila, sitting at a distance, saw and heard, and could not help recalling many an evening in the far North when Lavender used to fascinate every one around him by the infection of his warm and poetic enthusiasm. How he talked, too—telling the stones of these quaint and pathetic ballads in his own rough—and—ready translations—while there was no self-consciousness in his face, but a thorough warmth of earnestness; and sometimes, too, she would notice a quiver of the under lip that she knew of old, when some pathetic point or phrase had to be indicated rather than described. He was drawing pictures for them as well as telling stories—of the three students entering the room in which the landlady's daughter lay dead—of Barbarossa in his cave—of the child who used to look up at Heine as he passed her in the street, awestricken by his pale and strange face—of the last of the band of companions who sat in the solitary room in which they had sat, and drank to their memory—of the king of Thule, and the deserter from Strasburg, and a thousand others.
"But is there any of them—is there anything in the world—more pitiable than that pilgrimage to Kevlaar?" he said. "You know it, of course. No? Oh, you must, surely. Don't you remember the mother who stood by the bedside of her sick son, and asked him whether he would not rise to see the great procession go by the window; and he tells her that he cannot, he is so ill: his heart is breaking for thinking of his dead Gretchen? You know the story, Sheila. The mother begs him to rise and come with her, and they will join the band of pilgrims going to Kevlaar, to be healed there of their wounds by the Mother of God. Then you find them at Kevlaar, and all the maimed and the lame people have come to the shrine; and whichever limb is diseased, they make a waxen image of that and lay it on the altar, and then they are healed. Well, the mother of this poor lad takes wax and forms a heart out of it, and says to her son, 'Take that to the Mother of God, and she will heal your pain.' Sighing, he takes the wax heart in his hand, and, sighing, he goes to the shrine; and there, with tears running down his face, he says, 'O beautiful Queen of Heaven, I am come to tell you my grief. I lived with my mother in Cologne: near us lived Gretchen, who is dead now. Blessed Mary, I bring you this wax heart: heal the wound in my heart.' And then—and then—"
Sheila saw his lip tremble. But he frowned, and said impatiently, "What a shame it is to destroy such a beautiful story! You can have no idea of it—of its simplicity and tenderness—"
"But pray let us hear the rest of it," said Mrs. Lorraine gently.
"Well, the last scene, you know, is a small chamber, and the mother and her sick son are asleep. The Blessed Mary glides into the chamber and bends over the young man, and puts her hand lightly on his heart. Then she smiles and disappears. The unhappy mother has seen all this in a dream, and now she awakes, for the dogs are barking loudly. The mother goes over to the bed of her son, and he is dead, and the morning light touches his pale face. And then the mother folds her hands, and says—"
He rose hastily with a gesture of fretfulness, and walked over to the window at which Sheila sat and looked out. She put her hand up to his: he took it.
"The next time I try to translate Heine," he said, making it appear that he had broken off through vexation, "something strange will happen."
"It is a beautiful story," said Mrs. Lorraine, who had herself been crying a little bit in a covert way: "I wonder I have not seen a translation of it. Come, mamma, Lady Leveret said we were not to be after four."
So they rose and left, and Sheila was alone with her husband, and still holding his hand. She looked up at him timidly, wondering, perhaps, in her simple way, as to whether she should not now pour out her heart to him, and tell him all her griefs and fears and yearnings. He had obviously been deeply moved by the story he had told so roughly: surely now was a good opportunity of appealing to him, and begging for sympathy and compassion.
"Frank," she said, and she rose and came close, and bent down her head to hide the color in her face.
"Well?" he answered a trifle coldly.
"You won't be vexed with me," she said in a low voice, and with her heart beginning to beat rapidly.
"Vexed with you about what?" he said abruptly.
Alas! all her hopes had fled. She shrank from the cold stare with which she knew he was regarding her. She felt it to be impossible that she should place before him those confidences with which she had approached him; and so, with a great effort, she merely said, "Are we to go to Lady Leveret's?"
"Of course we are," he said, "unless you would rather go and see some blind fiddler or beggar. It is really too bad of you, Sheila, to be so forgetful: what if Lady Leveret, for example, had come into that shop? It seems to me you are never satisfied with meeting the people you ought to meet, but that you must go and associate with all the wretched cripples and beggars you can find. You should remember you are a woman, and not a child—that people will talk about what you do if you go on in this mad way. Do you ever see Mrs. Kavanagh or her daughter do any of these things?"
Sheila had let go his hand: her eyes were still turned toward the ground. She had fancied that a little of that emotion that had been awakened in him by the story of the German mother and her son might warm his heart toward herself, and render it possible for her to talk to him frankly about all that she had been dimly thinking, and more definitely suffering. She was mistaken: that was all.
"I will try to do better, and please you," she said; and then she went away.
A FRIEND IN NEED.
Was it a delusion that had grown up in the girl's mind, and now held full possession of it—that she was in a world with which she had no sympathy, that she should never be able to find a home there, that the influences of it were gradually and surely stealing from her her husband's love and confidence? Or was this longing to get away from the people and the circumstances that surrounded her but the unconscious promptings of an incipient jealousy? She did not question her own mind closely on these points. She only vaguely knew that she was miserable, and that she could not tell her husband of the weight that pressed on her heart.
Here, too, as they drove along to have tea with a certain Lady Leveret, who was one of Lavender's especial patrons, and to whom he had introduced Mrs. Kavanagh and her daughter, Sheila felt that she was a stranger, an interloper, a "third wheel to the cart." She scarcely spoke a word. She looked at the sea, but she had almost grown to regard that great plain of smooth water as a melancholy and monotonous thing—not the bright and boisterous sea of her youth, with its winding channels, its secret bays and rocks, its salt winds and rushing waves. She was disappointed with the perpetual wall of white cliff, where she had expected to see something of the black and rugged shore of the North. She had as yet made no acquaintance with the sea-life of the place: she did not know where the curers lived; whether they gave the fishermen credit and cheated them; whether the people about here made any use of the back of the dog-fish, or could, in hard seasons, cook any of the wild-fowl; what the ling and the cod and the skate fetched; where the wives and daughters sat and spun and carded their wool; whether they knew how to make a good dish of cockles boiled in milk. She smiled to herself when she thought of asking Mrs. Lorraine about any such things; but she still cherished some vague hope that before she left Brighton she would have some little chance of getting near to the sea and learning a little of the sea-life down in the South.
And as they drove along the King's road on this afternoon she suddenly called out, "Look, Frank!"
On the steps of the Old Ship Hotel stood a small man with a brown face, a brown beard and a beaver hat, who was calmly smoking a wooden pipe, and looking at an old woman selling oranges in front of him.
"It is Mr. Ingram," said Sheila.
"Which is Mr. Ingram?" asked Mrs. Lorraine with considerable interest, for she had often heard Lavender speak of his friend. "Not that little man?"
"Yes," said Lavender coldly: he could have wished that Ingram had had some little more regard for appearances in so public a place as the main thoroughfare of Brighton.
"Won't you stop and speak to him?" said Sheila with great surprise.
"We are late already," said her husband. "But if you would rather go back and speak to him than go on with us, you may."
Sheila said nothing more; and so they drove on to the end of the Parade, where Lady Leveret held possession of a big white house with pillars overlooking the broad street and the sea.
But next morning she said to him, "I suppose you will be riding with Mrs. Lorraine this morning?"
"I suppose so."
"I should like to go and see Mr. Ingram, if he is still there," she said.
"Ladies don't generally call at hotels and ask to see gentlemen; but of course you don't care for that."
"I shall not go if you do not wish me."
"Oh, nonsense! You may as well go. What is the use of professing to keep observances that you don't understand? And it will be some amusement for you, for I dare say both of you will immediately go and ask some old cab-driver to have luncheon with you, or buy a nosegay of flowers for his horse."
The permission was not very gracious, but Sheila accepted it, and very shortly after breakfast she changed her dress and went out. How pleasant it was to know that she was going to see her old friend to whom she could talk freely! The morning seemed to know of her gladness, and to share in it, for there was a brisk southerly breeze blowing fresh in from the sea, and the waves were leaping white in the sunlight. There was no more sluggishness in the air or the gray sky or the leaden plain of the sea. Sheila knew that the blood was mantling in her cheeks; that her heart was full of joy; that her whole frame so tingled with life and spirit that, had she been in Borva, she would have challenged her deer-hound to a race, and fled down the side of the hill with him to the small bay of white sand below the house. She did not pause for a minute when she reached the hotel. She went up the steps, opened the door and entered the square hall. There was an odor of tobacco in the place, and several gentlemen standing about rather confused her, for she had to glance at them in looking for a waiter. Another minute would probably have found her a trifle embarrassed, but that, just at this crisis, she saw Ingram himself come out of a room with a cigarette in his hand. He threw away the cigarette, and came forward to her with amazement in his eyes.
"Where is Mr. Lavender? Has he gone into the smoking-room for me?" he asked.
"He is not here," said Sheila. "I have come for you by myself."
For a moment, too, Ingram felt the eyes of the men on him, but directly he said with a fine air of carelessness, "Well, that is very good of you. Shall we go out for a stroll until your husband comes?"
So he opened the door and followed her outside into the fresh air and the roar of the waves.
"Well, Sheila," he said, "this is very good of you, really: where is Mr. Lavender?"
"He generally rides with Mrs. Lorraine in the morning."
"And what do you do?"
"I sit at the window."
"Don't you go boating?"
"No, I have not been in a boat. They do not care for it. And yesterday it was a letter to papa I was writing, and I could tell him nothing about the people here or the fishing."
"But you could not in any case, Sheila. I suppose you would like to know what they pay for their lines, and how they dye their wool, and so on; but you would find the fishermen here don't live in that way at all. They are all civilized, you know. They buy their clothing in the shops. They never eat any sort of sea-weed, or dye with it, either. However, I will tell you all about it by and by. At present I suppose you are returning to your hotel."
A quick look of pain and disappointment passed over her face as she turned to him for a moment with something of entreaty in her eyes.
"I came to see you," she said. "But perhaps you have an engagement. I do not wish to take up any of your time: if you please I will go back alone to—"
"Now, Sheila," he said with a smile, and with the old friendly look she knew so well, "you must not talk like that to me. I won't have it. You know I came down to Brighton because you asked me to come; and my time is altogether at your service."
"And you have no engagement just now?" said Sheila with her face brightening.
"And you will take me down to the shore to see the boats and the nets? Or could we go out and run along the coast for a few miles? It is a very good wind."
"Oh, I should be very glad," said Ingram slowly. "I should be delighted. But, you see, wouldn't your husband think it—wouldn't he, you know—wouldn't it seem just a little odd to him if you were to go away like that?"
"He is to go riding with Mrs. Lorraine," said Sheila quite simply. "He does not want me."
"Of course you told him you were coming to see—you were going to call at the Old Ship?"
"Yes. And I am sure he would not be surprised if I did not return for a long time."
"Are you quite sure, Sheila?"
"Yes, I am quite sure."
"Very well. Now I shall tell you what I am going to do with you. I shall first go and bribe some mercenary boatman to let us have one of those small sailing boats committed to our own exclusive charge. I shall constitute you skipper and pilot of the craft, and hold you responsible for my safety. I shall smoke a pipe to prepare me for whatever may befall."
"Oh no," said Sheila. "You must work very hard, and I will see if you remember all that I taught you in the Lewis. And if we can have some long lines, we might get some fish. Will they pay more than thirty shillings for their long lines in this country?"
"I don't know," said Ingram. "I believe most of the fishermen here live upon the shillings they get from passers-by after a little conversation about the weather and their hard lot in life; so that one doesn't talk to them more than one can help."
"But why do they need the money? Are there no fish?"
"I don't know that, either. I suppose there is some good fishing in the winter, and sometimes in the summer they get some big shoals of mackerel."
"It was a letter I had last week from the sister of one of the men of the Nighean-dubh, and she will tell me that they have been very lucky all through the last season, and it was near six thousand ling they got."
"But I suppose they are hopelessly in debt to some curer or other up about Habost?"
"Oh no, not at all. It is their own boat: it is not hired to them. And it is a very good boat whatever."
That unlucky "whatever" had slipped out inadvertently: the moment she had uttered it she blushed and looked timidly toward her companion, fearing that he had noticed it. He had not. How could she have made such a blunder? she asked herself. She had been most particular about the avoidance of this word, even in the Lewis. The girl did not know that from the moment she had left the steps of the Old Ship in company with that good friend of hers she had unconsciously fallen into much of her old pronunciation and her old habit of speech; while Ingram, much more familiar with the Sheila of Borvabost and Loch Roag than with the Sheila of Netting Hill and Kensington Gardens, did not perceive the difference, but was mightily pleased to hear her talk in any fashion whatsoever.
By fair means or foul, Ingram managed to secure a pretty little sailing vessel which lay at anchor out near the New Pier, and when the pecuniary negotiations were over Sheila was invited to walk down over the loose stones of the beach and take command of the craft. The boatman was still very doubtful. When he had pulled them out to the boat, however, and put them on board, he speedily perceived that this handsome young lady not only knew everything that had to be done in the way of getting the small vessel ready, but had a very smart and business-like way of doing it. It was very obvious that her companion did not know half as much about the matter as she did; but he was obedient and watchful, and presently they were ready to start. The man put off in his boat to shore again much relieved in mind, but not a little puzzled to understand where the young lady had picked up not merely her knowledge of boats, but the ready way in which she put her delicate hands to hard work, and the prompt and effectual fashion in which she accomplished it.
"Shall I belay away the jib or reef the upper hatchways?" Ingram called out to Sheila when they had fairly got under way.
She did not answer for a moment: she was still watching with a critical eye the manner in which the boat answered to her wishes; and then, when everything promised well and she was quite satisfied, she said, "If you will take my place for a moment and keep a good lookout, I will put on my gloves."
She surrendered the tiller and the mainsail sheets into his care, and, with another glance ahead, pulled out her gloves.
"You did not use to fear the salt water or the sun on your hands, Sheila," said her companion.
"I do not now," she said, "but Frank would be displeased to see my hands brown. He has himself such pretty hands."
What Ingram thought about Frank Lavender's delicate hands he was not going to say to his wife; and indeed he was called upon at this moment to let Sheila resume her post, which she did with an air of great satisfaction and content.
And so they ran lightly through the curling and dashing water on this brilliant day, caring little indeed for the great town that lay away to leeward, with its shining terraces surmounted by a faint cloud of smoke. Here all the roar of carriages and people was unheard: the only sound that accompanied their talk was the splashing of the waves at the prow and the hissing and gurgling of the water along the boat. The south wind blew fresh and sweet around them, filling the broad white sails and fluttering the small pennon up there in the blue. It seemed strange to Sheila that she should be so much alone with so great a town close by—that under the boom she could catch a glimpse of the noisy Parade without hearing any of its noise. And there, away to windward, there was no more trace of city life—only the great blue sea, with its waves flowing on toward them from out of the far horizon, and with here and there a pale ship just appearing on the line where the sky and ocean met.
"Well, Sheila, how do you like being on the sea again?" said Ingram, getting out his pipe.
"Oh, very well. But you must not smoke, Mr. Ingram: you must attend to the boat."
"Don't you feel at home in her yet?" he asked.
"I am not afraid of her," said Sheila, regarding the lines of the small craft with the eye of a shipbuilder, "but she is very narrow in the beam, and she carries too much sail for so small a thing I suppose they have not any squalls on this coast, where you have no hills and no narrows to go through."
"It doesn't remind you of Lewis, does it?" he said, filling his pipe all the same.
"A little—out there it does," she said, turning to the broad plain of the sea, "but it is not much that is in this country that is like the Lewis: sometimes I think I shall be a stranger when I go back to the Lewis, and the people will scarcely know me, and everything will be changed."
He looked at her for a second or two. Then he laid down his pipe, which had not been lit, and said to her gravely, "I want you to tell me, Sheila, why you have got into a habit lately of talking about many things, and especially about your home in the North, in that sad way. You did not do that when you came to London first; and yet it was then that you might have been struck and shocked by the difference. You had no home-sickness for a long time—But is it home-sickness, Sheila?"
How was she to tell him? For an instant she was on the point of giving him all her confidence; and then, somehow or other, it occurred to her that she would be wronging her husband in seeking such sympathy from a friend as she had been expecting, and expecting in vain, from him.
"Perhaps it is home-sickness," she said in a low voice, while she pretended to be busy tightening up the mainsail sheet. "I should like to see Borva again."
"But you don't want to live there all your life?" he said. "You know that would be unreasonable, Sheila, even if your husband could manage it; and I don't suppose he can. Surely your papa does not expect you to go and live in Lewis always?"
"Oh, no," she said eagerly. "You must not think my papa wishes anything like that. It will be much less than that he was thinking of when he used to speak to Mr. Lavender about it. And I do not wish to live in the Lewis always: I have no dislike to London—none at all—only that—that—" And here she paused.
"Come, Sheila," he said in the old paternal way to which she had been accustomed to yield up all her own wishes in the old days of their friendship, "I want you to be frank with me, and tell me what is the matter. I know there is something wrong: I have seen it for some time back. Now, you know I took the responsibility of your marriage on my shoulders, and I am responsible to you, and to your papa and to myself, for your comfort and happiness. Do you understand?"
She still hesitated, grateful in her in-most heart, but still doubtful as to what she should do.
"You look on me as an intermeddler," he said with a smile.
"No, no," she said: "you have always been our best friend."
"But I have intermeddled none the less. Don't you remember when I told you I was prepared to accept the consequences?"
It seemed so long a time since then!
"And once having begun to intermeddle, I can't stop, don't you see? Now, Sheila, you'll be a good little girl and do what I tell you. You'll take the boat a long way out: we'll put her head round, take down the sails, and let her tumble about and drift for a time, till you tell me all about your troubles, and then we'll see what can be done."
She obeyed in silence, with her face grown grave enough in anticipation of the coming disclosures. She knew that the first plunge into them would be keenly painful to her, but there was a feeling at her heart that, this penance over, a great relief would be at hand. She trusted this man as she would have trusted her own father. She knew that there was nothing on earth he would not attempt if he fancied it would help her. And she knew, too, that having experienced so much of his great unselfishness and kindness and thoughtfulness, she was ready to obey him implicitly in anything that he could assure her was right for her to do.
How far away seemed the white cliffs now, and the faint green downs above them! Brighton, lying farther to the west, had become dim and yellow, and over it a cloud of smoke lay thick and brown in the sunlight. A mere streak showed the line of the King's road and all its carriages and people; the beach beneath could just be made out by the white dots of the bathing-machines; the brown fishing-boats seemed to be close in shore; the two piers were fore-shortened into small dusky masses marking the beginning of the sea. And then from these distant and faintly-defined objects out here to the side of the small white-and-pink boat, that lay lightly in the lapping water, stretched that great and moving network of waves, with here and there a sharp gleam of white foam curling over amid the dark blue-green.
Ingram took his seat by Sheila's side, so that he should not have to look in her downcast face; and then, with some little preliminary nervousness and hesitation, the girl told her story. She told it to sympathetic ears, and yet Ingram, having partly guessed how matters stood, and anxious, perhaps, to know whether much of her trouble might not be merely the result of fancies which could be reasoned and explained away, was careful to avoid anything like corroboration. He let her talk in her own simple and artless way; and the girl spoke to him, after a little while, with an earnestness which showed how deeply she felt her position. At the very outset she told him that her love for her husband had never altered for a moment—that all the prayer and desire of her heart was that they two might be to each other as she had at one time hoped they would be, when he got to know her better. She went over all the story of her coming to London, of her first experiences there, of the conviction that grew upon her that her husband was somehow disappointed with her, and only anxious now that she should conform to the ways and habits of the people with whom he associated. She spoke of her efforts to obey his wishes, and how heartsick she was with her failures, and of the dissatisfaction which he showed. She spoke of the people to whom he devoted his life, of the way in which he passed his time, and of the impossibility of her showing him, so long as he thus remained apart from her, the love she had in her heart for him, and the longing for sympathy which that love involved. And then she came to the question of Mrs. Lorraine; and here it seemed to Ingram she was trying at once to put her husband's conduct in the most favorable light, and to blame herself for her unreasonableness. Mrs. Lorraine was a pleasant companion to him, she could talk cleverly and brightly, she was pretty, and she knew a large number of his friends. Sheila was anxious to show that it was the most natural thing in the world that her husband, finding her so out of communion with his ordinary surroundings, should make an especial friend of this graceful and fascinating woman. And if at times it hurt her to be left alone—But here the girl broke down somewhat, and Ingram pretended not to know that she was crying.
These were strange things to be told to a man, and they were difficult to answer. But out of these revelations—which rather took the form of a cry than of any distinct statement—he formed a notion of Sheila's position sufficiently exact; and the more he looked at it the more alarmed and pained he grew, for he knew more of her than her husband did. He knew the latent force of character that underlay all her submissive gentleness. He knew the keen sense of pride her Highland birth had given her; and he feared what might happen if this sensitive and proud heart of hers were driven into rebellion by some—possibly unintentional—wrong. And this high-spirited, fearless, honor-loving girl—who was gentle and obedient, not through any timidity or limpness of character, but because she considered it her duty to be gentle and obedient—was to be cast aside and have her tenderest feelings outraged and wounded for the sake of an unscrupulous, shallow-brained woman of fashion, who was not fit to be Sheila's waiting-maid. Ingram had never seen Mrs. Lorraine, but he had formed his own opinion of her. The opinion, based upon nothing, was wholly wrong, but it served to increase, if that were possible, his sympathy with Sheila, and his resolve to interfere on her behalf at whatever cost.
"Sheila," he said, gravely putting his hand on her shoulder as if she were still the little girl who used to run wild with him about the Borva rocks, "you are a good woman."
He added to himself that Lavender knew little of the value of the wife he had got, but he dared not say that to Sheila, who would suffer no imputation against her husband to be uttered in her presence, however true it might be, or however much she had cause to know it to be true.
"And, after all," he said in a lighter voice, "I think I can do something to mend all this. I will say for Frank Lavender that he is a thoroughly good fellow at heart, and that when you appeal to him, and put things fairly before him, and show him what he ought to do, there is not a more honorable and straightforward man in the world. He has been forgetful, Sheila. He has been led away by these people, you know, and has not been aware of what you were suffering. When I put the matter before him, you will see it will be all right; and I hope to persuade him to give up this constant idling and take to his work, and have something to live for. I wish you and I together could get him to go away from London altogether—get him to take to serious landscape painting on some wild coast—the Galway coast, for example."
"Why not the Lewis?" said Sheila, her heart turning to the North as naturally as the needle.
"Or the Lewis. And I should like you and him to live away from hotels and luxuries, and all such things; and he would work all day, and you would do the cooking in some small cottage you could rent, you know."
"You make me so happy in thinking of that," she said, with her eyes growing wet again.
"And why should he not do so? There is nothing romantic or idyllic about it, but a good, wholesome, plain sort of life, that is likely to make an honest painter of him, and bring both of you some well-earned money. And you might have a boat like this."
"We are drifting too far in," said Sheila, suddenly rising. "Shall we go back now?"
"By all means," he said; and so the small boat was put under canvas again, and was soon making way through the breezy water.
"Well, all this seems simple enough, doesn't it?" said Ingram.
"Yes," said the girl, with her face full of hope.
"And then, of course, when you are quite comfortable together, and making heaps of money, you can turn round and abuse me, and say I made all the mischief to begin with."
"Did we do so before when you were very kind to us?" she said in a low voice.
"Oh, but that was different. To interfere on behalf of two young folks who are in love with each other is dangerous, but to interfere between two people who are married—that is a certain quarrel. I wonder what you will say when you are scolding me, Sheila, and bidding me get out of the house? I have never heard you scold. Is it Gaelic or English you prefer?"
"I prefer whichever can say the nicest things to my very good friends, and tell them how grateful I am for their kindness to me."
"Ah, well, we'll see."
When they got back to shore it was half-past one.
"You will come and have some luncheon with us?" said Sheila when they had gone up the steps and into the King's road.
"Will that lady be there?"
"Mrs. Lorraine? Yes."
"Then I'll come some other time."
"But why not now?" said Sheila. "It is not necessary that you will see us only to speak about those things we have been talking over?"
"Oh no, not at all. If you and Mr. Lavender were by yourselves, I should come at once."
"And are you afraid of Mrs. Lorraine?" said Sheila with a smile. "She is a very nice lady, indeed: you have no cause to dislike her."
"But I don't want to meet her, Sheila, that is all," he said; and she knew well, by the precision of his manner, that there was no use trying to persuade him further.
He walked along to the hotel with her, meeting a considerable stream of fashionably-dressed folks on the way; and neither he nor she seemed to remember that his costume—a blue pilot-jacket, not a little worn and soiled with the salt water, and a beaver hat that had seen a good deal of rough weather in the Highlands—was a good deal more comfortable than elegant. He said to her, as he left her at the hotel, "Would you mind telling Lavender I shall drop in at half-past three, and that I expect to see him in the coffee-room? I sha'n't keep him five minutes."
She looked at him for a moment, and he saw that she knew what this appointment meant, for her eyes were full of gladness and gratitude. He went away pleased at heart that she put so much trust in him. And in this case he should be able to reward that confidence, for Lavender was really a good sort of fellow, and would at once be sorry for the wrong he had unintentionally done, and be only too anxious to set it right. He ought to leave Brighton at once, and London too. He ought to go away into the country or by the seaside, and begin working hard, to earn money and self-respect at the same time; and then, in this friendly solitude, he would get to know something about Sheila's character, and begin to perceive how much more valuable were these genuine qualities of heart and mind than any social graces such as might lighten up a dull drawing-room. Had Lavender yet learnt to know the worth of an honest woman's perfect love and unquestioning devotion? Let these things be put before him, and he would go and do the right thing, as he had many a time done before, in obedience to the lecturing of his friend.
Ingram called at half-past three, and went into the coffee-room. There was no one in the long, large room, and he sat down at one of the small tables by the windows, from which a bit of lawn, the King's road and the sea beyond were visible. He had scarcely taken his seat when Lavender came in.
"Hallo, Ingram! how are you?" he said in his freest and friendliest way. "Won't you come up stairs? Have you had lunch? Why did you go to the Ship?"
"I always go to the Ship," he said. "No, thank you, I won't go up stairs."
"You are a most unsociable sort of brute?" said Lavender frankly. "Will you take a glass of sherry?"
"No, thank you."
"Will you have a game of billiards?"
"No, thank you. You don't mean to say you would play billiards on such a day as this?"
"It is a fine day, isn't it?" said Lavender, turning carelessly to look at the sunlit road and the blue sea. "By the way, Sheila tells me you and she were out sailing this morning. It must have been very pleasant, especially for her, for she is mad about such things. What a curious girl she is, to be sure! Don't you think so?"
"I don't know what you mean by curious," said Ingram coldly.
"Well, you know, strange—odd—unlike other people in her ways and her fancies. Did I tell you about my aunt taking her to see some friends of hers at Norwood? No? Well, Sheila had got out of the house somehow (I suppose their talking did not interest her), and when they went in search of her they found her in the cemetery crying like a child."
"Why," said Lavender with a smile, "merely because so many people had died. She had never seen anything like that before: you know the small church-yards up in Lewis, with their inscriptions in Norwegian and Danish and German. I suppose the first sight of all the white stones at Norwood was too much for her."
"Well, I don't see much of a joke in that," said Ingram.
"Who said there was any joke in it?" cried Lavender impatiently. "I never knew such a cantankerous fellow as you are. You are always fancying I am finding fault with Sheila; and I never do anything of the kind. She is a very good girl indeed. I have every reason to be satisfied with the way our marriage has turned out."
The words were not important, but there was something in the tone in which they were spoken that suddenly checked Frank Lavender's careless flow of speech. He looked at Ingram for a moment with some surprise, and then he said, "What do you mean?"
"Well, I will tell you what I mean," said Ingram slowly. "It is an awkward thing for a man to interfere between husband and wife, I am aware—he gets something else than thanks for his pains ordinarily—but sometimes it has to be done, thanks or kicks. Now, you know, Lavender, I had a good deal to do with helping forward your marriage in the North; and I don't remind you of that to claim anything in the way of consideration, but to explain why I think I am called on to speak to you now."
Lavender was at once a little frightened and a little irritated. He half guessed what might be coming from the slow and precise manner in which Ingram talked. That form of speech had vexed him many a time before, for he would rather have had any amount of wild contention and bandying about of reproaches than the calm, unimpassioned and sententious setting forth of his shortcomings to which this sallow little man was perhaps too much addicted.
"I suppose Sheila has been complaining to you, then?" said Lavender hotly.
"You may suppose what absurdities you like," said Ingram quietly; "but it would be a good deal better if you would listen to me patiently, and deal in a common-sense fashion with what I have got to say. It is nothing very desperate. Nothing has happened that is not of easy remedy, while the remedy would leave you and her in a much better position, both as regards your own estimation of yourselves and the opinion of your friends."
"You are a little roundabout, Ingram," said Lavender, "and ornate. But I suppose all lectures begin so. Go on."
Ingram laughed: "If I am too formal, it is because I don't want to make mischief by any exaggeration. Look here! A long time before you were married I warned you that Sheila had very keen and sensitive notions about the duties that people ought to perform, about the dignity of labor, about the proper occupations of a man, and so forth. These notions you may regard as romantic and absurd, if you like, but you might as well try to change the color of her eyes as attempt to alter any of her beliefs in that direction."
"And she thinks that I am idle and indolent because I don't care what a washerwoman pays for her candles?" said Lavender with impetuous contempt. "Well, be it so. She is welcome to her opinion. But if she is grieved at heart because I can't make hobnailed boots, it seems to me that she might as well come and complain to myself, instead of going and detailing her wrongs to a third person, and calling for his sympathy in the character of an injured wife."
For an instant the dark eyes of the man opposite him blazed with a quick fire, for a sneer at Sheila was worse than an insult to himself; but he kept quite calm, and said, "That, unfortunately, is not what is troubling her."
Lavender rose abruptly, took a turn up and down the empty room, and said, "If there is anything the matter, I prefer to hear it from herself. It is not respectful to me that she should call in a third person to humor her whims and fancies."
"Whims and fancies!" said Ingram, with that dark light returning to his eyes. "Do you know what you are talking about? Do you know that, while you are living on the charity of a woman you despise, and dawdling about the skirts of a woman who laughs at you, you are breaking the heart of a girl who has not her equal in England? Whims and fancies! Good God, I wonder how she ever could have—"
He stopped, but the mischief was done. These were not prudent words to come from a man who wished to step in as a mediator between husband and wife; but Ingram's blaze of wrath, kindled by what he considered the insufferable insolence of Lavender in thus speaking of Sheila, had swept all notions of prudence before it. Lavender, indeed, was much cooler than he was, and said, with an affectation of carelessness, "I am sorry you should vex yourself so much about Sheila. One would think you had had the ambition yourself, at some time or other, to play the part of husband to her; and doubtless then you would have made sure that all her idle fancies were gratified. As it is, I was about to relieve you from the trouble of further explanation by saying that I am quite competent to manage my own affairs, and that if Sheila has any complaint to make she must make it to me."
Ingram rose, and was silent for a moment.
"Lavender," he said, "it does not matter much whether you and I quarrel—I was prepared for that, in any case—but I ask you to give Sheila a chance of telling you what I had intended to tell you."
"Indeed, I shall do nothing of the sort. I never invite confidences. When she wishes to tell me anything she knows I am ready to listen. But I am quite satisfied with the position of affairs as they are at present."
"God help you, then!" said his friend, and went away, scarcely daring to confess to himself how dark the future looked.
[TO BE CONTINUED.]
ENGLISH COURT FESTIVITIES
Americans have an impression that the English think it a considerable distinction to be presented at court. But the ceremony of presentation has entirely ceased to have any social significance in England. Any young gentleman who imagines that the door of English society will be thrown open to him on the publication of his appearance at a drawing-room had better save the expense of a dress and carriage and stay at home. If a lady be ambitious of a social success, the money which a robe will cost might be expended to equal advantage anywhere else in London. However, a lady's dress may be worn again, and men may hire a court-suit for the day at a very small cost. Your tailor, if you get a good deal of him, will patch you up something tolerable for very little; so that sartorial expenses are comparatively light. One can get for the afternoon a two-horse brougham, with a coachman and footman, for a sum less than ten dollars. Still, going to court costs something, and its only possible advantage is that the spectacle is a fine and an interesting one. One has therefore to consider whether the sight is worth the fee.
A presentation at court is of quite as little advantage to an Englishman as to a foreigner coming to England. Almost anybody can be presented, and of those who are precluded from presentation, a great many occupy higher positions than many of those who have the privilege of going to court. Any graduate of a university, any clergyman, any officer in the army, is entitled to go. A merchant, an attorney, even a barrister, cannot; and yet in England a barrister, or, for that matter, a successful merchant, is apt to be a person of more consequence than a curate or a poor soldier. The court has scarcely any social significance in England. I once asked a young barrister if presentation would help him in the least in making his way in society. He said, "Not a bit."
In England the position of everybody is so well fixed that people cannot well change it by wishing it to be changed. Thus, for a poor East London curate to go to court would simply make him ridiculous. The parsons in the West End do present themselves, but there is no part of the British empire where clergymen are of such slight consequence as in the West End of London. The clergymen, as they file in along with the gayly-accoutred young guards-men, have a meek and gentle air which makes one feel that they had better have stayed away. They do not look half defiant enough. No person who is not already in such a position as to need no pushing could becomingly make his appearance at court. I remember in Shropshire to have heard a family who went down to London to be presented made the target for the ridicule of the whole neighborhood.
On a visit to London some years ago the writer was presented in the diplomatic circle, went to several of the drawing-rooms and levees at Buckingham and St. James's Palaces, and was invited to the court balls and concerts. Invitations to the court festivities are given only to those persons presented in the diplomatic circle. It must be understood that there is at every court in Europe a select and elegant and exclusive entrance, by which the diplomatists come in. Along with them enter also the ministers of state and the household officers of the Crown. The general circle, as it is called, includes everybody else. Another entrance and staircase are provided for it, and in that way all of British society, from a duke to a half-pay captain, gains admittance to the sovereign. When one is in the inside of Buckingham or St. James's Palace the same distinction exists. The room in which the members of the royal family receive the public is occupied during the entire ceremony by the diplomatic circle. Other persons, after bowing to the queen, pass into an antechamber.
Though I say it is of but small social advantage to an Englishman to be presented, yet undoubtedly the greatest people in the empire attend court, and are to be seen at the ceremonials and festivities at Buckingham and St. James's Palaces. At present the queen holds drawing-rooms and levees at Buckingham Palace, and the prince of Wales at St. James's Palace. The latter are attended only by gentlemen, and, though not so grand as the queen's, are pleasanter. Trousers are allowed, instead of the knee-breeches and stockings which must be worn at all court ceremonials where there are ladies. At two o'clock—for the prince is very punctual—the doors of the reception-room are thrown open, and the diplomatists begin to file in. First come the ambassadors. It must be remembered that there is a wide difference between an ambassador and an envoy or minister plenipotentiary. The original difference was that the ambassador was supposed, by a sort of transubstantiation, to represent the person of his sovereign. He had a right at any time to demand an audience with the king. An envoy must see the foreign secretary. This, of course, has ceased to have any practical significance in countries which have constitutions; and no doubt a minister can at any time demand an interview of the sovereign. It is still true, however, that an ambassador is accredited to the king, while an envoy is accredited to the foreign secretary. Practically, the difference is that an ambassador represents a bigger country, has better pay, lives in a finer house, and gives more parties and grander dinners. An ambassador has precedence of everybody in the country in which he resides, except the royal family.
There are five countries which send ambassadors to England—Russia, France, Germany, Austria and Turkey. These ambassadors enter the reception-room at the prince's levee in the order of seniority of residence. The Turkish ambassador, Musurus, who had been twenty years in London, came first on the occasions I speak of, the others following, I forget in what order. They were all persons of distinguished appearance. One, in particular, was singularly wise and dignified-looking, with an aspect which was either bland or severe, one could scarcely say which. Another resembled strikingly the typical diplomatist of romance, having a manner suave and infinitely deferential, but oh! so under-handed and insidious and diabolical! The duc de Broglie was the French ambassador in London at the time of my visit, and of all the corps his person and countenance possessed much the most distinction. His was a distinction of spirit and intellect: the distinction of the other continental "swells" was usually one of stomach and whiskers.
Behind each ambassador march the secretaries of the embassy. After the ambassadors come the ministers. The whole diplomatic corps moves from an anteroom into an apartment in which the prince of Wales awaits them. The prince and several of his brothers, his cousins, the duke of Cambridge and the prince of Teck, stand up in a row like an old-fashioned spelling class. Next to the prince, on his right, stands Viscount Sidney, the lord chamberlain, who calls off each detachment as it approaches—"Austrian ambassador," "the Spanish minister," "the United States minister," etc. The prince shakes hands with the head of the embassy or mission, and bows to the secretaries. When the diplomatists, cabinet ministers and household officers have all made their bow, it is the turn of British society. The diplomatic circle, and such as have the entree to it, remain in the room: the Englishmen pass out. The lord chamberlain in a loud voice calls off the name of each person as he appears, so that each comer is, as it were, labeled and ticketed. The observer learns quite as much as if the lord chamberlain was the verger and was showing off his collection.
One may often guess the rank or importance of the courtier by the manner of his reception. If he shakes hands with the prince, you may know he is somebody—if he shakes hands with all five or six of the princes, you may know he is a very great person. But if he gives the princes a wide berth, bows hastily and glances furtively at them, and runs by skittishly, then you may know that he is some half-pay colonel or insignificant civil servant. Something, too, may be inferred from the length of time the lord chamberlain takes to decipher the name of the comer on the slip of paper which is handed him. If he scans it long and hard, and holds it a good way from him and says "Major Te—e—e—bosh—bow," then in a loud voice, "Major Tebow," you will be safe in thinking that Major Tebow is not one of the greatest of warriors or largest of landed proprietors.
The ceremony lasts an hour and a half or two hours, and during the whole of it the talk and hand-shaking among the diplomatists go on very pleasantly. There is a great deal of esprit de corps among them, and perfect equality. Attaches, secretaries and ministers walk about through the room and exchange greetings. The ambassadors are rather statelier: these do not mix themselves with the crowd of diplomatists, but stand up apart, all five in a row, leaning against the wall, chatting easily, looking quite like another row of princes, a sort of after-glow of the royalties.
At all other court entertainments ladies are present. Of course there are a great many very pretty ones, and their brilliant toilets increase the magnificence of the spectacle. The queen's levees are very much longer than those of the prince of Wales. Then, at all ceremonials where there are ladies, men are compelled to wear, as I have said, silk stockings and knee-breeches, slippers and shoe-buckles. One can support this costume in tolerable comfort in a warm room, but in getting from the carriage to the door it is often like walking knee-deep in a tub of cold water. A cold hall or a draught from an open door will give very unpleasant sensations. In many of the large rooms of the palaces huge fireplaces, with great logs of wood, roar behind tall brass fenders. Once in front of one of these, the courtier who isn't a Scotchman feels as if he would never care to go away. Fortunately, most of these ceremonials are in summer, but the first of them come in February, and London is often cool well up into June.
The ceremony of a presentation to the queen is quite the same as that at a prince of Wales's levee. The spelling-class of royal ladies stand up in a rigid row. On the queen's right is the lord chamberlain, who reads off the names. Next to the queen, on her left, is Alexandra, then the queen's daughters and the Princess Mary of Cambridge. Next to them stand the princes, and the whole is a phalanx which stretches entirely across the room. Behind this line, drawn up in battle array, stand three or four ranks of court ladies.
The act of presentation is very easy and simple. Formerly—indeed, until within a few years—it must have been a very perilous and important feat. The courtier (the term is used inaccurately, but there is no noun to describe a person who goes to court for a single time) was compelled to walk up a long room, and to back, bowing, out of the queen's presence. For ladies who had trails to manage the ordeal must have been a trying one. Now it has been made quite easy. There is but one point in which a presentation to the queen differs from that already described at the prince of Wales's levee. You may turn your back to the prince, but after bowing to the queen you step off into the crowd, still facing her. There (if you have had the good luck to be presented in the diplomatic circle) you may stand and watch a most interesting pageant. To the young royalties, perhaps, it is not very amusing, though they evidently have their little joke afterward over anything unusual that occurs. It is natural enough that they should, of course, and the fatigue which they sustain entitles them to all the amusement they can get out of what must be to them a very monotonous and familiar spectacle. There is plenty in it to occupy and interest the man who sees it for the first or second time. You do not have to ask "Who is this?" and "Who is that?" The lord chamberlain announces each person as he or she appears. You hear the most heroic and romantic names in English history as some insignificant boy or wizened old woman appears to represent them. They are not all, by any means, insignificant boys and wizened old women. Many of the ladies are handsome enough to be well worth looking at, whether their names be Percy or Stanhope or Brown or Smith. The young slips of girls who come to be presented for the first time, frightened and pale or flushed, one admires and feels a sense of instinctive loyalty to.
The name of each is called out loudly by the lord chamberlain: "The duchess of Fincastle," "The countess of Dorchester," "Lady Arabella Darling on her marriage," etc. The ladies bow very low, and those to whom the queen gives her hand to kiss nearly or quite touch their knee to the carpet. No act of homage to the queen ever seems exaggerated, her behavior being so modest and the sympathy with her so wide and sincere; but ladies very nearly kneel in shaking hands with any member of the royal family, not only at court, but elsewhere. It is not so strange-looking, the kneeling to a royal lady, but to see a stately mother or some soft maiden rendering such an act of homage to a chit of a boy or a gross young gentleman impresses one unpleasantly. The curtsy of a lady to a prince or princess is something between kneeling and that queer genuflection one meets in the English agricultural districts: the props of the boys and girls seem momentarily to be knocked away, and they suddenly catch themselves in descending. It astonished me, I remember, at a court party, to see one patrician young woman—"divinely tall" I should describe her if her decided chin and the evidently Roman turn of her nose and of her character had not put divinity out of the question—shake hands with a not very imposing young prince, and bend her regal knees into this curious and sudden little cramp. I saw her, this adventurous maid, some days afterward in a hansom cab (shade of her grandmother, think of it!), directing with her imperious parasol the cabby to this and that shop. It struck me she should have been a Roman damsel, and have driven a chariot with three steeds abreast.
The levees and the drawing-rooms may be called the court ceremonials. There are besides the court festivities, the balls and concerts at Buckingham Palace. There are four or five of these given in a season—two balls and two concerts. The balls are the larger and less select, but much the more amusing. The ball-room of the palace is a large rectangular apartment. At one end is the orchestra—at the other a raised dais on which the royalties sit. On each side, running the length of the hall, are three tiers of benches, which are for ladies and such gentlemen as can get a seat. The tiers on the left of the dais are for diplomatists. English society has the tiers upon the other side. By ten the ball-room is usually filled with people waiting for the appearance of the royalties. The band strikes up, and the line of princes and princesses advances down the long hall leading to the ball-room. The queen and Prince Albert used formerly to preside at these balls. The queen does not come now: the prince and princess of Wales take her place.
First enters a line of gentlemen bearing long sticks. Behind them come the princesses, bowing on each hand. The princess of Wales advances first, with a naive, faltering, hesitating step, a strange and quite delicious blending of timidity and child-like confidence in her manner. Then come, walking by twos, some daughters of the queen. Then approaches the princess of Teck (Mary of Cambridge), a large and very jolly-looking person, with vast good-nature and a profuse smile, which she seems to throw all over everybody. A German duchess or two follow her. The curtsies of these German princesses are indeed quite wonderful. After entering the hall one of them will espy (such, I suppose, is the fiction) some persons to whom she wishes to bow, and she then proceeds to execute a performance of some minutes' duration. Before curtsying, she stops and seems to "shy," and looks at the ladies as a frightened horse examines intently the object which alarms him: she then sinks slowly backward almost to the ground, and recovers herself with the same slowness. It would seem that such a genuflection must be, of necessity, ridiculous. But it is not so in the least: it is quite successful, and rather pleasing. After the ladies come the prince of Wales and his suite. The royalties then all go upon the stage, and after music the ball begins.
There are two sets of dancers. The princes and princesses open the ball with the diplomatists and some of the highest nobility on the space just in front of the dais. The rest of the hall is occupied by the other dancers, who later in the evening find their way into the diplomatic set. The dancing in the quadrilles and Lancers is of a rather stately and ceremonious sort. In waltz or galop the English always dance the same step, the deux temps, and the aim of the dancing couple is to go as much like a spinning-top as possible. They make occasional efforts to introduce puzzling novelties like the trois temps, the Boston dip, etc., but, I am glad to say, without any success. The result is, that once having learned to dance in England, you are safe.
The great hall during the waltz is a brilliant spectacle. There are many beautiful women, the toilets are dazzling, and all the men are "flaming in purple and gold." There is every variety of magnificent dress. Officers of a Russian body-guard are gold from head to foot. Hungarians wear purple and fur-trimmed robes of dark crimson of the utmost splendor. The young men of the Guards' clubs in gold and scarlet coats, and in spurred boots which reach above their knees, clank through the halls. Scotch lords sit about, and exhibit legs of which they are justly proud. Here, with swinging gait, wanders the queen's piper, a sort of poet-laureate of the bagpipes, arrayed in plaid and carrying upon his arm the soft, enchanting instrument to the music of which, no doubt, the queen herself dances. The music of the orchestra is perfect, and he must be a dull man who does not feel the festivity, the buoyancy and the elation of the scene.
Besides the ball-room, many handsome apartments are thrown open, through which people promenade; and if you will but push aside the curtains there are balconies where one can look down, by moonlight, on the lakes and fountains of the gardens, "the watery ways of palaces." I do not think the balconies are much occupied: they are a trifle too romantic for British mammas. But there is plenty of flirting in the halls and alcoves. One room I remember very pleasantly, the refreshment-room, which was kept open during the evening till supper-time. There one could get sandwiches, cold coffee, champagne, sherry, etc., without having to hurry or be greedy in the least. I can't say so much for the supper, though by waiting a little one could always get something. The princes went first, then the diplomatists, and then everybody else. The jostling was such that when young ladies asked for a plate of soup you wished they had wanted ham and chicken. A young American, I think, would very much dislike to go up to a table and eat a solitary supper with ladies looking on, and young and pretty ones, too. But I have seen a young guardsman, with an enormous helmet and boots as big as himself, stand up at the table and "solitary and alone" work his jaws with such effect as to shake and set trembling the whole of his paraphernalia. Behind him pressed other hungry courtiers, whom his gigantic helmet shut out from even the possibility of supper, and who revenged themselves by sarcastic congratulations aside upon the length and heartiness of his meal.
"Concert" is an expression which to a hungry man has a strong suggestion of tea and maccaroons. But a court concert gives you such a supper as only a night's dancing is ordinarily supposed to entitle you to. The concerts are given in the ball-room of the palace, and are much more select than the balls. The royalties occupy very slight gilt chairs placed just before the orchestra. There they sit with grace and an appearance of comfort through the whole of it, while happier and humbler mortals may walk about and whisper, or seek the refreshment-room, or look at the pictures. They have very good music, the best singers are provided, and some pretty familiar songs, like "Home, sweet home," are sung.
Before the royalties lead the way to supper they step forward to the bar which divides the orchestra from the audience and say a few civil things to each of the prominent artists, who in their turn bow and look very much delighted. I wonder that singers who are almost queens when they come to American cities, who have here any amount of praise and attention entirely free from patronage, and who even in European capitals may have excellent society, should be willing to put themselves in such a position. While the social status of musical artists has not been raised relatively in the last quarter of a century, and while that of the theatrical profession has been indeed, in London at least, relatively lowered, reason is gradually curing the old societies of Europe of many of their savage and silly notions. The cord stretched between the guests and the performers used to be a feature of musical entertainments at private houses. Grisi went once to sing at a concert given by the duke of Wellington at his country-seat. The old man asked her when she would dine. "Oh, when you do," she said. He saw her mistake and did not correct it; so it happened that she dined at the same table with the guests, and the incident, it is said, excited considerable horror among people of the old sort. Think how barbarous, how savage, how utterly uncivilized, is such an instinct! Women, of course, persecute each other, but it seems inconceivable that a man and a gentleman could have entertained such a sentiment.
Of course, a supper at a concert is just the same as at a ball, only there are fewer people and more leisure. The prince of Wales, and to a less degree the other royalties, move among the throng and make a point of speaking to any one to whom they wish to be civil. "The Prince," as he is commonly called, takes advantage of the suppers at balls and parties to make himself agreeable. The rule is, let me remind the reader, to wait until the prince addresses you before speaking, and to wait also for him, when in conversation, to turn away: it would be considered very rude to terminate the interview yourself. A subject in talking with the prince is always expected to call him "Sir." The queen is addressed as "Ma'am." It is not understood in this country that to call a man "sir" is a confession of your inferiority to him. But it is so in England, and the fact illustrates the strong hold these absurd and uncomfortable egotisms have upon the British mind. No gentleman in England says "sir" to another, unless it be a very young person to an old one.  A subordinate in an office might "sir" a superior, but he would not "sir" a man of the same rank as his superior with whom he had no connection. "Sir" is the term applied by any Englishman of whatever rank to a member of the royal family. Our committees, when princes visit America, usually address them in notes as "Your Royal Highness." But "Your Royal Highness" is not a vocative: it can be used only in the third person. However, the princes are then in America, and perhaps we are under no obligation to know everything of their ways at home. Should the reader ever meet a prince in that prince's country, I should advise him to do just as other people do there. He will probably question, and not unreasonably, if he should accept the implied inferiority; but the best of all principles for extempore action is to do what seems the usual thing, unless we have previously decided from mature consideration to do the unusual thing. It is not the prince's fault that he is a prince: he means to be civil to you, and you can do no good by making him and yourself uncomfortable. Indeed, a truculent person does not succeed in asserting his equality. The prince has been so long in that kind of life that he probably has thought through the mistake under which the republican stranger is laboring, and considers him a goose. Moreover, an American may reflect that he will probably have very little in life to do with princes, and that his interview with a prince has been an "experience." It would be about as foolish to assert one's dignity with the Mammoth Cave or the Matterhorn.
Besides these balls and concerts there are yet the queen's and prince of Wales's breakfasts or garden-parties, which come off about 3 P.M. These are the most exclusive and unattainable of all the court entertainments. There are two or three of these in a season, and out of all London society only a couple of hundred are invited. There are certain persons who are always invited, and others who are eligible and are invited occasionally. A large part of the diplomatic corps are always present. Each ambassador or minister, with one or two secretaries of legation, is invariably among the guests; but a queen's breakfast is the highest point which a secretary of legation can touch. No secretary ever dines with the queen: the minister himself only goes once a year, and he "not without shedding of blood."
The dress worn by gentlemen at these breakfasts is a curious one, and anything but pretty: it consists of a dress-coat and light trousers. The dress which our diplomatic representatives are now compelled to wear at the other court ceremonies and festivities needs a word of mention. Our people in America are somewhat conceited, somewhat prone to be confident, upon questions of which they know very little. Congress, at a distance of many thousand miles from courts, thought itself competent to decide what sort of court dress an American diplomatist should wear. An able though crotchety man brought forward a measure, and, once proposed, it was certain to go through, because to oppose its passage would have been to be aristocratic and un-American. Mr. Sumner's bill required Americans to go in the "ordinary dress of an American citizen." There was no attempt to indicate what that should be. Up to that time our diplomatists had worn the uniform used by the non-military diplomatists of other countries. This consists of a blue coat with more or less gold upon it, white breeches, silk stockings, sword and chapeau.
An attempt or two had been made before by the State Department to interfere with the trappings of its servants abroad. Marcy issued a circular requesting American diplomatists to go to court without uniform. This afforded James Buchanan an opportunity of making one of the best speeches attributed to him. The circular of Mr. Marcy threw consternation into the breasts of certain ancient functionaries of the European courts, for shortly after its appearance the lord high fiddlestick in waiting called upon Mr. Buchanan, who was then the United States minister in London, and said that a certain very distinguished person had heard of the recent wish which the American government had expressed with regard to the costume of its agents, and that while she would be happy to see Mr. Buchanan in any dress in which he might choose to present himself, she yet hoped he would so far consult her wishes as to consent to carry a sword. "Tell that very distinguished personage," said Mr. Buchanan, "that not only will I wear a sword, as she requests, but, should occasion require it, will hold myself ready to draw it in her defence." This strikes me as in just that tone of respectful exaggeration and playful acquiescence which a gentleman in this country may very becomingly take toward the whole question. Neither Mr. Buchanan nor any one else, I believe, heeded the request of the Department, and Mr. Marcy himself, it is said, subsequently repudiated it.
But what was only a request of the State Department in Mr. Marcy's time is now a law. I had good opportunities to observe how very uncomfortable our poor diplomatists were made by this piece of legislation. Its object was, of course, to give them a very unpretending and subdued appearance. The result is, that with the exception of Bengalese nabobs, the son of the mikado of Japan, and the khan of Khiva, the American legations are the most noticeable people at any court ceremony or festivity in Europe. When everybody else is flaming in purple and gold the ordinary diplomatic uniform is exceedingly simple and modest; but the Yankee diplomats are the most scrutinized and conspicuous persons to be seen. One of the secretaries said to me: "I am afraid to wander off by myself among these ladies: they inspect me as the maids of honor in the palace of Brobdingnag did Gulliver. I feel toward Columbia as a cruel mother who won't dress me like these other little boys." It would require more than ordinary courage to attempt to dance in this rig. I should think that our representatives would huddle together in the most unconspicuous portion of a room, and never leave it. Said the secretary above quoted: "I always feel here that I am of some use to my chief: I am one more pair of legs with which to divide the gaze of British society."
The dress in which our diplomats attend court at present is a plain dress-coat and vest, with knee-breeches, black silk stockings, slippers, etc. It is difficult to see in what sense this is the "ordinary dress of an American citizen." The dress is not so ugly as it would seem to be; indeed, with the help of a white vest and liberal watch-chain, it might be made quite becoming were it not so excessively conspicuous. An English cabinet minister at a party given in his own house usually wears it, and all persons invited to the Empress Eugenie's private parties came got up in that manner. But in London it was not till recently that American diplomatists were allowed to go to court even thus attired. Everywhere else in Europe the legations were admitted in evening dress, the concession of knee-breeches not having been required. But at Buckingham Palace there are two or three very old men who were courtiers when Queen Victoria was a baby, and who still control the court etiquette. These aged functionaries, who can very well remember Waterloo, and whose fathers remembered the American Revolution, put down their foot, and would admit no Americans without the proper garments. The consequence was, that our legation was compelled to stay at home. This state of things continued until Reverdy Johnson came out, who arranged what was called "the Breeches Protocol." Owing to the unreasonable state of the public mind during his term of office, this was the only measure which that good and able man succeeded in accomplishing. The compromise which Mr. Johnson's good-humor and the friendly impulse of the British public toward us at that time wrung from these ancient chamberlains and gold-sticks (for you may say what you will, public opinion is irresistible), was to allow the minister and the two secretaries of legation to appear in the breeches above described. Americans who are presented at court, and who get invitations to the festivities, are all required to wear a court dress. Of what good compelling the poor diplomatists to make scarecrows of themselves may be I do not know. Mr. Sumner's proposition was just one of those absurdities to which men are liable who have considerable conscience and no sense of humor. Senators and Congressmen fell in with it because they feared to be un-American, and because it is not their wont to be very dignified or (in matters of this sort) very scrupulous.
[Footnote 1: The rule, more correctly stated, is, that "sir" is never used except to indicate a difference of age or position so great as to forbid familiarity or to be incompatible with social equality. It may be employed by the elder in addressing the younger, and by the superior in addressing the inferior, as well as vice versa. Hence the saying, in English society, that only princes and servants are spoken to as "sir."]
RAMBLES AMONG THE FRUITS AND FLOWERS OF THE TROPICS.
An Arab vessel from Bombay, touching at Singapore on her way to Bangkok, afforded us an opportunity we had been longing for to visit the most splendid of Oriental cities.
Dining at the house of the Malayan rajah, we chanced to meet the narcodah (supercargo), who was also the owner, of the Futtel Barrie. He was a handsome, courtly, and intelligent Arab, glad always to mingle with Europeans; and in response to our inquiry whether he had room for passengers, he proffered us a free ticket to and from Bangkok, with the use of his own cabin. We must be on board the next day at noon, he said, and it was already verging toward sunset; so we had small time for preparation. But with the migratory habits of Oriental tourists it was easy to throw together a few indispensables; and we were set down on the Barrie's quarterdeck, portmanteaus, sketch-books, specimen-baskets and all, before the anchor was weighed.
The monsoon was favorable, and seven days' sail brought us to the river's mouth, and a pull thence of thirty miles in the narcodah's boat to the "city of kings."
Siam is verily the queen of the tropics in regard to the abundance, variety and unequaled lusciousness of her fruits. Here are found those of China, greatly enriched in tint and flavor by being transplanted to this warmer climate; and those of Western Asia, in this fruitful soil far more productive than in the sterile regions of Persia and Arabia; while numberless varieties from the Malayan and Indian archipelagoes, united with the host of those indigenous to the country, complete a list of some two hundred or more species of edible fruits. In this clime of perennial freshness trees bear nearly the year round, and so productive is the soil that the annual produce is almost incredible. The tax on orchards alone yields to the Crown a revenue of some five millions of dollars per annum, as I was informed by the late "second king" of Siam. It is not unusual to find on a single branch the bud and blossom, together with fruit in several different stages. Thus, at the merest trifle of expense a table may be supplied during the entire year with forty or fifty specimens of fresh, ripe fruit. Among these are many varieties of oranges and pineapples, pumeloes, shaddocks, pawpaws, guavas, bananas, plantains, durians, jack-fruit, melons, grapes, mangoes, cocoa-nuts, pomegranates, soursaps, linchies, custard-apples, breadfruit, cassew-nuts, plums, tamarinds, mangosteens, rambustans, and scores of others for which we have no names in our language. Tropical fruits are generally juicy, sweet with a slight admixture of acid, luscious, and peculiarly agreeable in a warm climate; and when partaken of with temperance and due regard to quality they are highly promotive of health. For this reason Booddhists regard the destruction of a fruit tree as quite an act of sacrilege, and their sacred books pronounce a heavy malediction on those who wantonly commit so great a crime. One who has tasted the fruits of the tropics only at a distance from the soil that produces them can form no conception of the real flavor of plums and grapes that never felt the frosty atmosphere of our northern clime; of oranges plucked ripe from the fragrant stem and eaten fresh while the morning dew still glitters on their golden-tinted cheeks; of the rare, rosy pomegranate juice, luscious as nectar.
After eating the fruits of all climes, I place the mangosteen at the head of the list as absolutely perfect in flavor and fragrance. The fruit is spherical in form, about the size of a small orange, of a rich crimson-purple hue without, and filled with a succulent, half-transparent pulp that melts in the mouth. There are three species of the mangosteen tree, but of only one, the Garania mangostina, is the fruit edible. The others are valuable for timber, and the bark for the manufacture of a dye that resists the attacks of every sort of insect.
Next to the mangosteen I should name the custard-apple (Anona squamosa), a rich and delicate fruit of the form and dimensions of a medium-sized quince, but made up of lesser cones, each with its apex directed toward the centre, and each containing a smooth black seed. The pulp is pure white, about the consistency of a baked custard, and in flavor very like strawberries and cream.
The delicious soursap is very similar to the custard-apple, but of larger size and slightly acid in taste. The bearded, rosy rambustan (Nephelium lappaceum) looks like a mammoth strawberry, but when the outer hairy covering has been removed a semi-transparent pulp is revealed, in taste so similar to our best Malaga grapes that a blind man would be unable to distinguish them.
Pineapples are good and abundant all over South-eastern Asia, but are in their perfection at Singapore and Malacca, weighing frequently four pounds or more. Passing, one warm afternoon, along the Singapore bazaar, I noticed a Chinese fruit-dealer who had among other delicacies outspread before him the largest and finest pineapples I had ever seen. As I inquired the price, the Celestial, after a long harangue on the extraordinary excellence of his wares, and the trouble he had taken to obtain them, expressed a hope that he should not be considered extortionate in selling them so very high, the price demanded for a whole four-pound pineapple, peeled, sliced, and ready for eating, being the equivalent of half a cent! The ordinary, medium-sized fruit could be purchased, he knew, at one-fifth of that sum, and his conscience, no doubt, was chiding him for extortion.
One of the most singular-looking fruits is the jack-fruit (Artocarpus integrifolia), growing in all its immensity of thirty or forty pounds weight directly out of the largest branches or on the stem of the huge tree. Externally, it has a rough, pale-green coat: internally, it has a luscious, golden-hued pulp, in which are embedded a dozen or more smooth, oval seeds about the size of large chestnuts, which they strikingly resemble in flavor.
The mango (Mangifera Indica) is a drupe of the plum kind, four or five inches long, and three at least in diameter. Greenish-colored outside, and not very inviting, you are most agreeably surprised at the rare, rich flavor of the bright yellow pulp that adheres like the clinging peach to a large flat seed.
The gamboge tree (Stalagmitis Cambogioides) grows luxuriantly in Siam, and also in Ceylon. It has small narrow, pointed leaves, a yellow flower, and an oblong, golden-colored fruit. Even the stem has a yellow bark, like the gamboge it produces. The drug is obtained by wounding the bark of the tree, and also from the leaves and young shoots. The natives say that they have sold it to white foreigners for hundreds of years past; and we know it was introduced into Europe early in the seventeenth century.
The plantain (Musa paradisaica) is one of the best gifts of Providence to the teeming multitudes of tropical lands, living, as many of them do, without stated homes, and gathering food and drink as they find them on the roadside and in the jungle. Under a friendly palm the simple peasants find needed shelter from the sun by day and the dews by night, while a bunch of plantains or bananas plucked fresh from the tree will furnish an abundant meal, and the water of a green cocoa-nut all the drink they desire. The plantain tree grows to about twenty feet in height, its round, soft stem being composed of the elongated foot-stalks of the leaves, and its cone of a nodding flower-spike or cluster of purple blossoms that are very graceful and beautiful. Like the palms, this tree has no branches, but its smooth, glossy leaves are from six to eight feet in length and two or more in breadth. At the root of a leaf a double row of fruit comes out half around the stalk; the stem then elongates a few inches, and another leaf is deflected, revealing another double row; and so on, till there come to be some thirty rows containing about two hundred plantains, weighing in all sixty or seventy pounds. This mammoth bunch is the sole product of the tree for the time: after the fruit is plucked the stalk is cut down, and another shoots up from the same root; and it is thus constantly renewed for many successive years. The incalculable blessing of such a tree in regions where the intolerable heat renders all labor oppressive may be conceived from the estimate of Humboldt, who reckons the surface of ground needed to the production of four thousand pounds of ripe plantains to suffice for the raising of only thirty-three pounds of wheat or ninety-nine pounds of potatoes. What would induce the indolent East Indian to make the exchange of crops?
The cassew-nut (Anacardium occidentale) is remarkable as the only known fruit of which the seed grows on the outside. A full-grown tree is twenty feet high, with graceful form and widespread branches. The leaves are oval, and the beautiful crimson flowers grow in clusters. The fruit is pear-shaped, of a purplish color outside and bright yellow within; and the seed, which is in the form of a crescent, looks just as if it had been stuck on the bur end, instead of growing there. When roasted the kernels are not unlike a very fine chestnut.
The guava (Psidium pomiferum), of which the noted Indian jelly is made, is about the size and shape of our sugar pears—pale, yellowish-green externally, and revealing, when opened, a soft, rose-colored pulp studded with tiny seeds. Both taste and odor are very peculiar, and are seldom liked by foreigners till after long use.
The tamarind tree (Tamarindus Indicus), a huge growth, with trunk a hundred feet tall and fifteen or more in circumference, has branches extending widely, and a dense foliage of bright green composite leaves, very nearly resembling those of the sensitive plant. The flowers, growing in clusters, are exquisite, of a rich golden tint veined with red; while the fruit hangs pendent, like bean-pods strung all over the branches of the mammoth tree. The diminutive leaves, blossoms and fruit are so singularly opposed to the stately growth as to appear almost ludicrous, yet the tout ensemble is "a thing of beauty" never to be forgotten.
It remained for us, on our return to Singapore, to see the spice plantations, with the beautiful clove and nutmeg trees, about which every new-comer goes into ecstasies. Mr. Princeps' estate, one of the largest and finest on the island, occupies two hundred and fifty acres, including three picturesque hills—Mount Sophia, Mount Emily and Mount Caroline, each surmounted by a pretty bungalow—and from these avenues radiate, intersecting every portion of the plantation. Here were planted some five thousand nutmeg trees, and perhaps a thousand of the clove, besides coffee trees, palms, etc. The nutmeg is an evergreen of great beauty, conical in shape, and from twenty to twenty-five feet in height, the branches thickly decorated with polished, deep-green foliage rising from the ground to the summit. Almost hidden among these emerald leaves grows the pear-shaped fruit. As it ripens the yellow external tegument opens, revealing the dark-red mace, that is closely enwrapped about a thin black shell. This, in turn, encloses a fragrant kernel, the nutmeg of commerce. Both leaf and blossom are marked by the same aromatic perfume that distinguishes the fruit.
The clove tree, though somewhat smaller than the nutmeg, is quite similar in appearance, and, if possible, even more graceful and beautiful. The leaves are shaped like a lance, the blossoms pure white and deliciously fragrant, and they cluster thickly on every branch and twig almost to the summit of the tree. The cloves—"spice nails," as they are often called—are not a fruit, but undeveloped buds, the stem being the calyx, and the head the folded petals. Their dark color, as we see them, is due to the smoking process through which they pass in curing. The clove is a native of the Moluccas, and has been transplanted to many parts of the East Indies; but nowhere, not even in its picturesque Faderland, does it thrive better than in Singapore, Pulo Penang and other islands of the Malayan Archipelago.
One singular-looking fruit that I saw in China I must not forget to mention—the flat peach, called by the Chinese ping taou, or "peach cake." It has the appearance of having been flattened by pressure at the head and stalk, being something less than three-fourths of an inch through the centre from eye to stem, and consisting wholly of the stone and skin; while the sides, which swell around the centre, are only an eighth of an inch in thickness. Its transverse diameter is about two and a half inches.
The camphor tree (Laurus camphora) grows abundantly in China and Japan, producing a very large proportion of the gum that supplies the markets of Europe and our own country, as well as the trunks and chests so universally esteemed as protectives against the ravages of moths and the still more destructive white ant of the tropics. This tree grows to the height of twenty feet, with a circumference of about eighteen, and has luxuriant branches from seven to nine feet in girth. In obtaining the gum, freshly-gathered branches are cut in small pieces, and steeped in water for several days, after which they are boiled, the liquid being constantly stirred until the gum, in the form of a white jelly, begins to appear, when the whole is poured into a glazed vessel, and becomes concreted in cooling. It is afterward purified by means of sublimation, the gum attaching itself to a conical cover placed over the boiling liquid while at its greatest heat. There is another species of camphor tree (Dryobalanops camphora) growing in Borneo; and a single tree is found on the island of Sumatra, a very giant in dimensions, even amid the huge growth of those dense forests. The gum yielded by this species is found occupying portions of about a foot or a foot and a half in the heart of the tree. The Malays and Bugis make a deep incision in the trunk about fifteen inches from the ground with a b'ling or Malayan axe, in order to ascertain whether the gum is there; and when it is found the tree is felled and the impregnated portion carefully extracted. The same tree, while young, yields a liquid oily matter that has nearly the same properties as the camphor, and is supposed to be the first stage of its formation. Some eight China catties (eleven pounds) of this oil may be obtained from a medium-sized tree, which, after having been cut off for the purpose of abstracting the oil, will, if left standing for a few years, produce abundantly an inferior article of camphor.
In British India we saw whole fields of the opium poppy, stately, beautiful plants four or five feet high, the stem of a sea-green color, round, erect and smooth, and the gay blooms of ripe crimson hue. The plant is an annual, the seed being sown in autumn and the crop gathered in August. After the flowers have fallen circular incisions are made close around the capsules of the plant, and from these wounds exudes a white, milky juice, that is afterward concreted by the heat of the sun into dark-brown masses. These constitute the opium of commerce in its crude state; but to prepare it for smoking the Chinese take it through quite a complicated process, boiling, purifying and condensing till it assumes the appearance of a thick gelatinous paste of a purplish-black color.
The habit of opium-smoking is unquestionably the direst curse under which vast, populous China groans. One who has never visited an opium shop can have no conception of the fatal fascination that holds its victims fast bound—mind, heart, soul and conscience, all absolutely dead to every impulse but the insatiable, ever-increasing thirst for the damning poison. I entered one of these dens but once, but I can never forget the terrible sights and sounds of that "place of torment." The apartment was spacious, and might have been pleasant but for its foul odors and still fouler scenes of unutterable woe—the footprints of sin trodden deep in the furrows of those haggard faces and emaciated forms. On all four sides of the room were couches placed thickly against the walls, and others were scattered over the apartment wherever there was room for them. On each of these lay extended the wreck of what was once a man. Some few were old—all were hollow-eyed, with sunken cheeks and cadaverous countenances; many were clothed in rags, having probably smoked away their last dollar; while others were offering to pawn their only decent garment for an additional dose of the deadly drug. A decrepit old man raised himself as we entered, drew a long sigh, and then with a half-uttered imprecation on his own folly proceeded to refill his pipe. This he did by scraping off, with a five-inch steel needle, some opium from the lid of a tiny shell box, rolling the paste into a pill, and then, after heating it in the blaze of a lamp, depositing it within the small aperture of his pipe. Several short whiffs followed; then the smoker would remove the pipe from his mouth and lie back motionless; then replace the pipe, and with fast-glazing eyes blow the smoke slowly through his pallid nostrils. As the narcotic effects of the opium began to work he fell back on the couch in a state of silly stupefaction that was alike pitiable and disgusting. Another smoker, a mere youth, lay with face buried in his hands, and as he lifted his head there was a look of despair such as I have seldom seen. Though so young, he was a complete wreck, with hollow eyes, sunken chest and a nervous twitching in every muscle. I spoke to him, and learned that six months before he had lost his whole patrimony by gambling, and came hither to quaff forgetfulness from these Lethean cups; hoping, he said, to find death as well as oblivion. By far the larger proportion of the smokers were so entirely under the influence of the stupefying poison as to preclude any attempt at conversation, and we passed out from this moral pest-house sick at heart as we thought of these infatuated victims of self-indulgence and their starving families at home. This baneful habit, once formed, is seldom given up, and from three to five years' indulgence will utterly wreck the firmest constitution, the frame becoming daily more emaciated, the eyes more sunken and the countenance more cadaverous, till the brain ceases to perform its functions, and death places its seal on the wasted life.