IV.—The Call of the Sword
On reaching my native country I found that my brother had died, and that I had inherited an income of L4,000 a year. I sought to forget the past. But a time came when I could resist the temptation no longer, and the first fact I read of was the burning of Moscow. As misfortune followed misfortune, an impulse came to me that it was useless to resist. My heart was among the glittering squadrons of France. I thought suddenly, was this madness? And the thought was followed by a resolve as sudden. I wrote some lines to my agent, saddled my horse, and rode away. At Verviers I offered my sword to the emperor as an old officer, and went forward in charge of a squadron to Brienne. This place was held by the Prussians, and Bluecher and his Prussians were near at hand. Once more I beheld the terrific spectacle of an attack by the army of Napoleon. But alas! the attack was vain; I heard the trumpet sound a retreat. And as I turned, I saw the body of an aged general officer among a heap of slain. With a shriek of horror, I recognized the friend of my heart, General d'Auvergne. Round his neck he wore a locket with a portrait of his wife—Marie de Meudon. I detached the locket, and bade the dead a last adieu.
Why should I dwell on a career of disaster? Retreat followed retreat, until the fate of Napoleon's empire depended on the capture of the bridge of Montereau. Regiment after regiment strove to cross, only to be shattered and mangled by the tremendous fire of the enemy. Four sappers at length laid a petard beneath the gate at the other side of the bridge. But the fuse went out.
"This to the man who lights the fuse!" cried Napoleon, holding up his great Cross of the Legion.
I snatched a burning match from a gunner beside me, and rushed across the bridge. Partly protected by the high projecting parapet, I lit the fuse, and then fell, shot in the chest. My senses reeled; for a time I knew nothing; then I felt a flask pressed to my lips. I looked up, and saw Minette. "Dear, dear girl, what a brave heart is thine!" said I, as she pressed her handkerchief to my wound.
Her fingers became entangled in the ribbon of the general's locket that I had tied round my neck, and by accident the locket opened. She became deathly pale as she saw its contents; then, springing to her feet, she gave me one glance—fleeting, but how full of sorrow!—and ran to the middle of the bridge. The petard had done its work. She beckoned to the column to come on; they answered with a cheer. Presently four grenadiers fell to the rear, carrying between them the body of Minette.
They gave her a military funeral; and I was told that a giant soldier, a corporal it was thought, kneeled down to kiss her before she was covered with the earth, then lay quietly down in the grass. When they sought to move him, he was stone dead.
When I had recovered from my wound, it was nothing to me that Napoleon, besides giving me his Grand Cross, had made me general of brigade. For Napoleon was no longer emperor, and I would not serve the king who succeeded him. But ere I left France I saw Marie de Meudon, it might be, I thought, for the last time. At the sight of her my old passion returned, and I dared to utter it. I know not how incoherently the tale was told; I can but remember the bursting feeling of my bosom, as she placed her hand in mine, and said, "It is yours."
* * * * *
Ambrosio, or the Monk
There was a time—of no great duration—when Lewis' "Monk" was the most popular book in England. At the end of the eighteenth century the vogue of the "Gothic" romance of ghosts and mysteries was at its height; and this work, written in ten weeks by a young man of nineteen, caught the public fancy tremendously, and Matthew Gregory Lewis was straightway accepted as an adept at making the flesh creep. Taste changes in horrors, as in other things, and "Ambrosio, or The Monk," would give nightmares to few modern readers. Its author, who was born in London on July 9, 1775, and published "The Monk" in 1795, wrote many supernatural tales and poems, and also several plays—one of which, "The Castle Spectre," caused the hair of Drury Lane audiences to stand on end for sixty successive nights, a long run in those days. Lewis, who was a wealthy man, sat for some years in Parliament; he had many distinguished friends among men of letters—Scott and Southey contributed largely to the first volume of his "Tales of Wonder." He died on May 13, 1818.
The Church of the Capuchins in Madrid had never witnessed a more numerous assembly than that which gathered to hear the sermon of Ambrosio, the abbot. All Madrid rang with his praises. Brought mysteriously to the abbey door while yet an infant, he had remained for all the thirty years of his life within its precincts. All his days had been spent in seclusion, study, and mortification of the flesh; his knowledge was profound, his eloquence most persuasive; his only fault was an excess of severity in judging the human feelings from which he himself was exempted.
Among the crowd that pressed into the church were two women—one elderly, the other young—who had seats offered them by two richly habited cavaliers. The younger cavalier, Don Lorenzo, discovered such exquisite beauty and sweetness in the maiden to whom he had given his seat—her name was Antonia—that when she left the church he was desperately in love with her.
He had promised to see his sister Agnes, a nun in the Convent of St. Clare; so he remained in the church, whither the nuns were presently to come to confess to the Abbot Ambrosio. As he waited he observed a man wrapped up in a cloak hurriedly place a letter beneath a statue of St. Francis, and then retire.
The nuns entered, and removed their veils out of respect to the saint to whom the building was dedicated. One of the nuns dropped her rosary beside the statue, and, as she stooped to pick it up, she dexterously removed the letter and placed it in her bosom. As she did so, the light flashed full in her face.
"Agnes, by Heaven!" cried Lorenzo.
He hastened after the cloaked stranger, and overtook him with drawn sword. Suddenly the cloaked man turned and exclaimed, "Is it possible? Lorenzo, have you forgotten Raymond de las Cisternas?"
"You here, marquis?" said the astonished Lorenzo. "You engaged in a clandestine correspondence with my sister?"
"Her affections have ever been mine, and not the Church's. She entered the convent tricked into a belief that I had been false to her; but I have proved to her that it is otherwise. She had agreed to fly with me, and my uncle, the cardinal, is securing for her a dispensation from her vows."
Raymond told at length the story of his love, and at the end Lorenzo said, "Raymond, there is no one on whom I would bestow Agnes more willingly than on yourself. Pursue your design, and I will accompany you."
Meanwhile, Agnes tremblingly advanced toward the abbot, and in her nervousness let fall the precious letter. She turned to pick it up. The abbot claimed and read it; it was the proposal of Agnes's escape with her lover that very night.
"This letter must to the prioress!" said he sternly.
"Hold father, hold!" cried Agnes, flinging herself at his feet. "Be merciful! Do not doom me to destruction!"
"Hence, unworthy wretch! Where is the prioress?"
The prioress, when she came, gazed upon Agnes with fury. "Away with her to the convent!" she exclaimed.
"Oh, Raymond, save me, save me!" shrieked the distracted Agnes. Then, casting upon the abbot a frantic look, "Hear me," she continued, "man of a hard heart! Insolent in your yet unshaken virtue, your day of trial will arrive. Think then upon your cruelty; and despair of pardon!"
II.—The Abbot's Infatuation
Leaving the church, Ambrosio bent his steps towards a grotto in the abbey garden, formed in imitation of a hermitage. On reaching the grotto, he found it already occupied. Extended upon one of the seats, lay a man in a melancholy posture, lost in meditation. Ambrosio recognised him; it was Rosario, his favourite novice, a youth of whose origin none knew anything, save that his bearing, and such of his features as accident had discovered—for he seemed fearful of being recognised, and was continually muffled up in his cowl—proved him to be of noble birth.
"You must not indulge this disposition to melancholy, Rosario," said Ambrosio tenderly.
The youth flung himself at Ambrosio's feet.
"Oh, pity me!" he cried. "How willingly would I unveil to you my heart! But I fear———"
"How shall I reassure you? Reveal to me what afflicts you, and I swear that your secret shall be safe in my keeping."
"Father," said Rosario, in faltering accents, "I am a woman!"
The abbot stood still for a moment in astonishment, then turned hastily to go. But the suppliant clasped his knees.
"Do not fly me!" she cried. "You are my beloved; but far is it from Matilda's wish to draw you from the paths of virtue. All I ask is to see you, to converse with you, to adore you!"
Confusion and resentment mingled in Ambrosio's mind with secret pleasure that a young and lovely woman had thus for his sake abandoned the world. But he recognised the need for austerity.
"Matilda," he said, "you must leave the abbey to-morrow."
"Cruel, cruel!" she exclaimed, wringing her hands in agony. "Farewell, my friend! And yet, methinks, I would fain bear with me some token of your regard."
"What shall I give you?"
"Anything—one of those flowers will be sufficient."
Ambrosio approached a bush, and stooped to pick one of the flowers. He uttered a piercing cry, and Matilda rushed towards him.
"A serpent," he said in a faint voice, "concealed among the roses."
With loud shrieks the distressed Matilda summoned assistance. Ambrosio was carried to the abbey, his wound was examined, and the surgeon pronounced that there was no hope. He had been stung by a centipedoro, and would not live three days.
Mournfully the monks left the bedside, and Ambrosio was entrusted to the care of the despairing Matilda. Next morning the surgeon was astonished to find that the inflammation had subsided, and when he probed the wound no traces of the venom were perceptible.
"A miracle! A miracle!" cried the monks. Joyfully they proclaimed that St. Francis had saved the life of their sainted abbot.
But Ambrosio was still weak and languid, and again the monks left him in Matilda's care. As he listened to an old ballad sung by her sweet voice, he found renewed pleasure in her society, and was conscious of the influence upon him of her beauty. For three days she nursed him, while he watched her with increasing fondness. But on the next day she came not. A lay-brother entered instead.
"Hasten, reverend father," said he. "Young Rosario lies at the point of death, and he earnestly requests to see you."
In deep agitation he followed the lay-brother to Matilda's apartment. Her face glowed at the sight of him. "Leave me, my brethren," she said to the monks; much have I to tell this holy man in private."
"Father, I am poisoned," she said, when they had gone, "but the poison once circulated in your veins."
"I loosened the bandage from your arm; I drew out the poison with my lips. I feel death at my heart."
"And you have sacrificed yourself for me! Is there, indeed, no hope?"
"There is but one means of life in my power—a dangerous and dreadful means; life would be purchased at too dear a rate—unless it were permitted me to live for you."
"Then live for me," cried the infatuated monk, clasping her in his arms. "Live for me!"
"Then," she cried joyfully, "no dangers shall appall me. Swear that you will never inquire by what means I shall preserve myself, and procure for me the key of the burying-ground common to us and the sisterhood of St. Clare."
When Ambrosio had obtained the key, Matilda left him. She returned radiant with joy.
"I have succeeded!" she cried. "I shall live, Ambrosio—shall live for you!"
Raymond and Lorenzo had gone to the rendezvous appointed in the letter, and had waited to be joined by Agnes and to enable her to escape from the convent.
But Agnes had not come, and the two friends withdrew in deep mortification. Presently arrived a message from Raymond's uncle, the cardinal, enclosing the Pope's bull ordering that Agnes should be released from her vows, and restored to her relatives. Lorenzo at once conveyed the bull to the prioress.
"It is out of my power to obey this order," said she, in a voice of anger which she strove in vain to disguise. "Agnes is dead!"
Lorenzo hastened with the fatal news to Raymond, whose terrible affliction led to a dangerous illness.
One morning, as Ambrosio was leaving the chapel after listening to many penitents—he was the favourite confessor in Madrid—Antonia stepped timidly up to him and begged him to visit her mother, who was stretched on a bed of sickness. Charmed with her beauty and innocence, he consented.
The monk retired to his cell, whither he was pursued by Antonia's image. "What would be too dear a price," he meditated, "for this lovely girl's affections?"
Not once but often did Ambrosio visit Antonia and her mother; and each time he saw the innocent girl his love increased. Matilda, who had first opened his heart to love, saw the change, and penetrated his secret.
"Since your love can no longer be mine," she said to him sadly, "I request the next best gift—your confidence and friendship. You love Antonia, but you love her despairingly. I come to point out the road to success."
"To those who dare, nothing is impossible. Listen! My guardian was a man of uncommon knowledge, and from him I had training in the arts of magic. One terrible power he gave me—the power of raising a demon. I shuddered at the thought of employing it, until it became my only means of saving my life—a life that you prized. For your sake I performed the mystic rites in the sepulchre of St. Clare. For your sake I will perform them again."
"No, no, Matilda!" cried the monk, "I will not ally myself with God's enemy."
"Look!" Matilda held before him a mirror of polished steel, its borders marked with various strange characters. A mist spread over the surface; it cleared, and Ambrosio gazed upon the countenance of Antonia in all its beauty.
"I yield!" he cried passionately. "Matilda, I follow you!"
They passed into the churchyard; they reached the entry to the vaults; Ambrosio tremblingly followed Matilda down the staircase. They went through narrow passages strewn with skulls and bones, and reached a spacious cavern. Matilda drew a circle around herself, and another around him; bending low, she muttered a few indistinct sentences, and a thin, blue, sulphurous flame arose from the ground.
Suddenly she uttered a piercing shriek, and plunged a poniard into her left arm; the blood poured down, a dark cloud arose, and a clap of thunder was heard. Then a full strain of melodious music sounded and the demon stood before them.
He was a youth of perfect face and form. Crimson wings extended from his shoulders; many-coloured fires played about his locks; but there was a wildness in his eyes, a mysterious melancholy in his features, that betrayed the fallen angel.
Matilda conversed with him in unintelligible language; he bowed submissively, and gave to her a silver branch, imitating myrtle, that he bore in his right hand. The music was heard again, and ceased; the cloud spread itself afresh; the demon vanished.
"With this branch," said Matilda, "every door will open before you. You may gain access to Antonia; a touch of the branch will send her into a deep sleep, and you may carry her away whither you will."
Ashamed and fearful, yet borne away by his love, the monk set forth. The bolts of Antonia's house flew back, and the doors opened before the silver myrtle.
But as he passed stealthily through the house a woman confronted him. It was Antonia's mother, roused by a fearful dream.
"Monster of hypocrisy!" she cried in fury. "I had already suspected you, but I kept silence. Now I will unmask you, villain!"
"Forgive me, lady!" begged the terrified monk. "I swear by all that is holy———"
"No! All Madrid shall shudder at your perfidy."
He turned to fly. She seized him and screamed for help. He grasped her by the throat with all his strength, strangled her, and flung her to the ground, where she lay motionless. After a minute of horror-struck shuddering, the murderer fled. He entered the abbey unobserved, and having shut himself into his cell, he abandoned his soul to the tortures of unavailing remorse.
IV.—A Living Death
"Do not despair," counselled Matilda, when the monk revealed his failure. "Your crime is unsuspected. Antonia may still be yours. The prioress of St. Clare has a mysterious liquor, the effect of which is to give those who drink it the appearance of death for three days. Procure some of this liquor, visit Antonia, and cause her to drink it; have her body conveyed to a sepulchre in the vaults of St. Clare."
Ambrosio hastened to secure a phial of the mysterious potion. He went to comfort Antonia in her distress, and contrived to pour a few drops from the phial into a draught that she was taking. In a few hours he heard that she was dead, and her body was conveyed to the vaults.
Meanwhile, Lorenzo had learned, not indeed that his sister was alive, but that she had been the victim of terrible cruelty. A nun, who had been Agnes's friend, hinted at atrocious vengeance taken by the prioress for Agnes's attempt to escape. She suggested that Lorenzo should bring the officers of the Inquisition with him and arrest the prioress during a public procession of the nuns in honour of St Clare.
Accordingly, as the prioress passed along the street among her nuns with a devout and sanctified air, the officers advanced and arrested her.
"Ah!" she cried frantically, "I am betrayed!"
"Betrayed!" replied the nun who had revealed the secret to Lorenzo. "I charge the prioress with murder!"
She told how Agnes had been secretly poisoned by the prioress. The mob, mad with indignation, rushed to the convent determined to destroy it. Lorenzo and the officers hastened to endeavour to do what they could to save the convent and the terrified nuns who had taken refuge there.
Antonia's heart throbbed, her eyes opened; she raised herself and cast a wild look around her. Her clothing was a shroud; she lay in a coffin among other coffins in a damp and hideous vault. Confronting her with a lantern in his hand, and eyeing her greedily, stood Ambrosio.
"Where am I?" she said abruptly. "How came I here? Let me go!"
"Why these terrors, Antonia?" replied the abbot. "What fear you from me—from one who adores you? You are imagined dead; society is for ever lost to you. You are absolutely in my power!"
She screamed, and strove to escape; he clutched at her and struggled to detain her. Suddenly Matilda entered in haste.
"The mob has set fire to the convent," she said to Ambrosio, "and the abbey is in danger. Don Lorenzo and the officers are searching the vaults. You cannot escape; you must remain here. They may not, perhaps, enter this vault."
Antonia heard that rescue was at hand.
"Help! help!" she screamed, and ran out of the vault. The abbot pursued her in desperation; he caught her; he could not stifle her cries. Frantic in his desire to escape, he grasped Matilda's dagger, plunged it twice in the bosom of Antonia, and fled back to the vault. It was too late he had been seen, the glare of torches filled the vault, and Ambrosio and Matilda were seized and bound by the officers of the Inquisition.
Meanwhile, Lorenzo, running to and fro, had flashed his lantern upon a creature so wretched, so emaciated, that he doubted to think her woman. He stopped petrified with horror.
"Two days, and yet no food!" she moaned. "No hope, no comfort!" Suddenly she looked up and addressed him.
"Do you bring me food, or do you bring me death?"
"I come," he replied, "to relieve your sorrows."
"God, is it possible? Oh, yes! Yes, it is!"—she fainted. Lorenzo carried her in his arms to the nuns above.
Loud shrieks summoned him below again. Hastening after the officers, he saw a woman bleeding on the ground. He went to her; it was his beloved Antonia. She was dying; with a few sweet words of farewell, her spirit passed away.
Broken-hearted, he returned. He had lost Antonia, but he was to learn that Agnes was restored to him. The woman he had rescued was indeed his sister, saved from a living death and brought back to life and love.
Ambrosio was tortured into confession, and condemned to be burned at the stake. Matilda, terrified at the sight of her fellow-criminal's torments, confessed without torture, and was sentenced to be burned at his side.
They were to perish at midnight, and as the monk, in panic-stricken despair, awaited the awful hour, suddenly Matilda stood before him, beautifully attired, with a look of wild pleasure in her eyes.
"Matilda!" he cried, "how have you gained entrance?"
"Ambrosio," she replied, "I am free. For life and liberty I have sold my soul to Lucifer. Dare you do the same?"
The monk shuddered.
"I cannot renounce my God," he said.
"Fool! What hope have you of God's mercy?" She handed him a book. "If you repent of your folly, read the first four lines in the seventh page backwards." She vanished.
A fearful struggle raged in the monk's spirit. What hope had he in any case of escaping eternal torment? And yet—was not the Almighty's mercy infinite? Then the thought of the stake and the flames entered his mind and appalled him.
At last the fatal hour came. The steps of his gaolers were heard in the passage. In uttermost terror he opened the book and ran over the lines, and straightway the fiend appeared—not seraph-like as when he appeared formerly, but dark, hideous, and gigantic, with hissing snakes coiling around his brows.
He placed a parchment before Ambrosio.
"Bear me hence!" cried the monk.
"Will you be mine, body and soul?" said the demon. "Resolve while there is time!"
"Sign, then!" Lucifer thrust a pen into the flesh of Ambrosio's arm, and the monk signed. A moment later he was carried through the roof of the dungeon into mid-air.
The demon bore him with arrow-like speed to the brink of a precipice in the Sierra Morena.
"Carry me to Matilda!" gasped the monk.
"Wretch!" answered Lucifer. "For what did you stipulate but rescue from the Inquisition? Learn that when you signed, the steps in the corridor were the steps of those who were bringing you a pardon. But now you are mine beyond reprieve, to all eternity, and alive you quit not these mountains."
Darting his talons into the monk's shaven crown, he sprang with him from the rock. From a dreadful height he flung him headlong, and the torrent bore away with it the shattered corpse of Ambrosio.
* * * * *
ELIZA LYNN LINTON
Mrs. Lynn Linton, daughter of a vicar of Crosthwaite, was born at Keswick, England, Feb. 10, 1822. At the age of three-and-twenty she embarked on a literary career, and as a journalist, magazine contributor, and novelist wrote vigorously for over fifty years. Before her marriage, in 1858, to W.J. Linton, the eminent wood-engraver, who was also a poet, she had served on the staff of the "Morning Chronicle," as Paris correspondent. Later, she contributed to "All the Year Round," and to the "Saturday Review." After nine years of married life, the Lintons parted amicably. In 1872 Mrs. Lynn Linton published "The True History of Joshua Davidson," a powerfully simple story that has had much influence on working-class thought. "Christopher Kirkland," a later story, is largely autobiographical. Mrs. Linton died in London on July 14, 1898. She was a trenchant critic of what she regarded as tendencies towards degeneration in modern women.
I.—A Cornish Christ
Joshua Davidson was the only son of a village carpenter, born in the small hamlet of Trevalga, on the North Cornwall coast, in the year 1835. There was nothing very remarkable about Joshua's childhood. He was always a quiet, thoughtful boy, and from his earliest years noticeably pious. He had a habit of asking why, and of reasoning out a principle, from quite a little lad, which displeased people, so that he did not get all the credit from the schoolmaster and the clergyman to which his diligence and good conduct entitled him.
He was never well looked on by the vicar since a famous scene that took place in the church one Sunday. After catechism was over, Joshua stood out before the rest, just in his rough country clothes as he was, and said very respectfully to the vicar, "Mr. Grand, if you please I would like to ask you a few questions."
"Certainly, my lad. What have you to say?" said Mr. Grand rather shortly.
"If we say, sir, that Jesus Christ was God," said Joshua, "surely all that He said and did must be real right? There cannot be a better way than His?"
"Surely not, my lad," Mr. Grand made answer.
"And His apostles and disciples, they showed the way, too?" said Joshua.
"And they showed the way, too, as you say; and if you come up to half they taught you'll do well, Joshua."
The vicar laughed a little laugh as he said this, but it was a laugh, Joshua's mother said, that seemed to mean the same thing as a "scat"— our Cornish word for a blow—only the boy didn't seem to see it.
"Yes; but, sir, if we are Christians, why don't we live as Christians?" said Joshua.
"Ah, indeed, why don't we?" said Mr. Grand. "Because of the wickedness of the human heart; because of the world, the flesh, and the devil."
"Then, sir, if you feel this, why don't you and all the clergy live like the apostles, and give what you have to the poor?" cried Joshua, clasping his hands and making a step forward, the tears in his eyes.
"Why do you live in a fine house, and have grand dinners, and let Peggy Bray nearly starve in that old mud hut of hers, and Widow Tregellis there, with her six children, and no fire or clothing for them? I can't make it out, sir!"
"Who has been putting these bad thoughts into your head?" said Mr. Grand sternly.
"No one, sir. I have been thinking for myself. Michael, out by Lion's Den, is called an infidel—he calls himself one. And you preached last Sunday that no infidel can be saved. But Michael helped Peggy and her child when the orphan fund people took away her pension; and he worked early and late for Widow Tregellis and her children, and shared with them all he had, going short for them many a time. And I can't help thinking, sir, that Christ would have helped Peggy, and that Michael, being an infidel and such a good man, is something like that second son in the parable who said he would not do his Lord's will when he was ordered, but who went all the same———"
"And that your vicar is like the first?" interrupted Mr. Grand angrily.
"Well, yes, sir, if you please," said Joshua quite modestly, but very fervently.
There was a stir among the ladies and gentlemen when Joshua said this; and some laughed a little, under their breath, and others lifted up their eyebrows and said, "What an extraordinary boy!" But Mr. Grand was very angry, and said, in a severe tone, "These things are beyond the knowledge of an ignorant lad like you, Joshua. I consider you have done a very impertinent thing to-day, and I shall mark you for it!"
"I meant no harm. I meant only the truth and to hear the things of God," repeated Joshua sadly, as he took his seat among his companions, who tittered.
And so Joshua was not well looked on by the clergyman, who was his enemy, as one may say, ever after.
"Mother," said Joshua, "I mean, when I grow up, to live as our Lord and Saviour lived when He was on the earth."
"He is our example, lad," said his mother. "But I doubt lest you fall by over-boldness."
II.—Faith That Moveth Mountains
Joshua did not leave home early. He wrought at his father's bench, and was content to bide with his people. But his spirit was not dead if his life was uneventful. He gathered about him a few youths of his own age, and held with them prayer-meetings and Bible readings, either at home in his father's house, or in the fields when the throng was too great for the cottage.
No one ever knew Joshua tell the shadow of a lie, or go back from his word, or play at pretence. And he had such an odd way of coming right home to us. He seemed to have felt all that we felt, and to have thought all our thoughts.
The youths that Joshua got together as his friends were as well-conditioned a set of lads as you would wish to see—sober, industrious, chaste. Their aim was to be thorough and like Christ. Joshua's great hope was to bring back the world to the simplicity and broad humanity of Christ's acted life, and he could not understand how it had been let drop.
He was but a young man at this time, remember—enthusiastic, with little or no scientific knowledge, and putting the direct interposition of God above the natural law. Wherefore, he accepted the text about faith removing mountains as literally true. And one evening he went down into the Rocky Valley, earnest to try conclusions with God's promise, and sure of proving it true.
He prayed to God to grant us this manifestation—to redeem His promise. Not a shadow of doubt chilled or slacked him. As he stood there in the softening twilight, with his arms raised above his head and his face turned up to the sky, his countenance glowed as Moses' of old. He seemed inspired, transported beyond himself, beyond humanity.
He commanded the stone to move in God's name, and because Christ had promised. But the rock stood still, and a stonechat went and perched on it.
Another time he took up a viper in his hand, quoting the passage, "They shall take up serpents." But the beast stung him, and he was ill for days after.
"Take my advice," said the doctor. "Put all these thoughts out of your head. Get some work to do in a new part of the country, fall in love with some nice girl, and marry as soon as you can make a home for her. That's the only life for you, depend upon it."
"God has given me other thoughts," said Joshua, "and I must obey them."
The doctor said afterwards that he was quite touched at the lad's sweetness and wrong-headedness combined.
The failure of these trials of faith perplexed us all, and profoundly afflicted Joshua. "Friends," he said at last, "it seems to me—indeed, I think we must all see it now—that His Word is not to be accepted literally. The laws of nature are supreme, and even faith cannot change them. Can it be," he then said solemnly, "that much of the Word is a parable—that Christ was truly, as He says of Himself, the corner-stone, but not the whole building—and that we have to carry on the work in His spirit, but in our own way, and not merely to try and repeat His acts?"
It was after this that we noticed a certain restlessness in Joshua. But in time he had an offer to go up to London to follow his trade at a large house in the City, and got me a job as well, that I might be alongside of him. For we were like brothers. A few days before he went, Joshua happened to be coming out of his father's workshop just as Mr. Grand was passing, driving the neat pair-horse phaeton he had lately bought.
"Well, Joshua, and how are you doing? And why have you not been to church lately?" said the parson, pulling up.
"Well, sir," said Joshua, "I don't go to church, you know."
"A new light on your own account, hey?" and he laughed as if he mocked him.
"No, sir; only a seeker."
"The old path's not good enough for you?"
"I must answer for my conscience to God, sir," said Joshua.
"And your clergyman, appointed by God and the state to be your guide, what of him? Has he no authority in his own parish?"
"Look here, sir," said Joshua, quite respectfully; "I deny your appointment as a God-given leader of souls. The Church is but the old priesthood as it existed in the days of our Lord. I see no sacrifice of the world, no brotherhood with the poor——"
"The poor!" interrupted Mr. Grand disdainfully. "What would you have, you young fool? The poor have the laws of their country to protect them, and the Gospel preached to them for their salvation."
"Why, sir, the poor of our day are the lepers of Christ's, and who among you Christian priests consorts with them? Who ranks the man above his station, or the soul above the man?"
"Now we have come to it!" cried Mr. Grand. "I thought I should touch the secret spring at last! And you would like us to associate with you as equals—is that it, Joshua? Gentlemen and common men hob-and-nob together, and no distinctions made? You to ride in our carriages, and perhaps marry our daughters?"
"That's just it, sir. You are gentlemen, as you say, but not the followers of Christ. If you were, you would have no carriages to ride in, and your daughters would be what Martha and Mary and Lydia and Dorcas were, and their title to ladyhood founded on their degrees of goodness."
"Shall I tell you what would be the very thing for you," said Mr. Grand, quite quietly.
"Yes, sir; what?" asked Joshua eagerly.
"This whip across your shoulders! And, by George, if I were not a clergyman, I would lay it there with a will!" cried the parson.
No one had ever seen Joshua angry since he had grown up. His temper was proverbially sweet, and his self-control was a marvel. But this time he lost both.
"God shall smite thee, thou white wall!" he cried with vehemence. "You are the gentleman, sir, and I am only a poor carpenter's son; but I spurn you with a deeper and more solemn scorn than you have spurned me!"
He lifted his hand as he said this, with a strange and passionate gesture, then turned himself about and went in, and Mr. Grand drove off more his ill-wisher than before. He also made old Davidson, Joshua's father, suffer for his son, for he took away his custom from him, and did him what harm in the neighbourhood a gentleman's ill word can do a working man.
III.—Is Christ's Way Livable?
In London a new view of life opened to Joshua. The first thing that struck him in our workshop was the avowed infidelity of the workmen. Distrust had penetrated to their inmost souls. Christianity represents to the poor, not Christ tender to the sinful, visiting the leprous, the brother of publicans, at Whose feet sat the harlots and were comforted, but the gentleman taking sides with God against the poor and oppressed, an elder brother in the courts of heaven kicking the younger out of doors.
At this time Joshua's mind was like an unpiloted vessel. He was beset with doubts, in which the only thing that kept its shape or place was the character of Christ. For the rest, everything had failed him. During this time he did not neglect what I suppose may be called the secular life. He attended all such science classes as he had time for, and being naturally quick in study, he picked up a vast deal of knowledge in a very short time; he interested himself in politics, in current social questions, specially those relating to labour and capital, and in the condition of the poor.
So his time passed, till at last one evening, "Friends," he said, "I have at last cleared my mind and come to a belief. I have proved to myself the sole meaning of Christ: it is humanity. The modern Christ would be a politician. His aim would be to raise the whole platform of society. He would work at the destruction of caste, which is the vice at the root of all our creeds and institutions. He would accept the truths of science, and He would teach that a man saves his own soul best by helping his neighbour. Friends, the doctrine I have chosen for myself is Christian Communism, and my aim will be, the life after Christ in the service of humanity."
It was this which made him begin his "night school," where he got together all who would come, and tried to interest them in a few homely truths in the way of cleanliness, health, good cooking, and the like, with interludes, so to speak, of lessons in morality.
We lodged in a stifling court, Church Court, where every room was filled as if cubic inches were gold, as indeed they are to London house-owners, if human life is but dross. Opposite us lived Mary Prinsep, who was what the world calls lost—a bad girl—a castaway—but I have reason to speak well of her, for to her we owe the life of Joshua. Joshua fell ill in our wretched lodgings, where we lived and did for ourselves, and I was obliged to leave him for twelve hours and more at a stretch; but Mary Prinsep came over and nursed him, and kept him alive. We helped her all we could, and she helped us. This got us the name of associating with bad women.
Among the rest of the doubtful characters with which our court abounded was one Joe Traill, who had been in prison many a time for petty larceny and the like. He was one of those who stink in the nostrils of cleanly, civilised society, and who are its shame and secret sore. There was no place for Joe in this great world of ours. He said to Joshua one night in his blithe way that there was nothing for him but to make a running fight for it, now up, now down, as his luck went.
"Burglary's a bad trade," said Joshua.
"Only one I've got at my fingers' ends, governor," laughed the thief; "and starvation is a worse go than quod."
"Well, till you've learned a better, share with us," said Joshua. So now we had a reformed burglar and a reformed prostitute in our little circle.
"It is what Christ would have done," said Joshua, when he was remonstrated with.
But the police did not see it. Wherefore, "from information received," Joshua and I were called up before the master, and had our dismissal from the shop, and we found ourselves penniless in the wilds of London. But Joshua was undisturbed. He told both Joe and Mary that he would not forsake them, come what might.
It was a hard time, and, bit by bit, everything we possessed passed over the pawnbroker's counter, even to our tools. But when we were at the worst Joshua received a letter enclosing a five-pound note, "from a friend." We never knew where it came from, and there was no clue by which we could guess. Immediately after both Joshua and I got a job, and Joe and Mary still bided with us.
Joshua's life of work and endeavour brought with it no reward of praise or popularity. It suffered the fate of all unsectarianism, and made him to be as one man in the midst of foes. He soon began to see that the utmost he could do was only palliative and temporary. So he turned to class organisation as something more hopeful than private charity. When the International Workingmen's Association was formed, he joined it as one of its first members; indeed, he mainly helped to establish it. And though he never got the ear of the International, because he was so truly liberal, he had some little influence, and what influence he had ennobled their councils as they have never been ennobled since.
One evening Joe Traill, who had been given a situation, came into the night school staggering drunk, and made a commotion, and though Joshua quieted him, after being struck by him, the police, attracted by the tumult, came up into the room and marched Joshua and myself off to the police station, where we were locked up for the night. As we had to be punished, reason or none, we were both sent to prison for a couple of weeks next morning.
Well, Christ was the criminal of his day!
Such backslidings and failures at that of Joe Traill were among the greatest difficulties of Joshua's work. Men and women whom he had thought he had cleansed and set on a wholesome way of living, turned back again to the drink and the deviltry of their lives, and the various sectarians who came along all agreed that the cause of his failures was—Joshua was not a Christian!
Next a spasmodic philanthropist, Lord X., struck up a friendship with Joshua, who, he said, wanted, as a background, a man of position. This led to Joshua's first introduction into a wealthy house of the upper classes, and the luxury and lavishness almost stupefied him. Lady X. liked Joshua, and felt he was a master-spirit, but when she came to Church Court, and found out what Mary had been, she went away offended, and we saw her no more.
IV.—The Pathway of Martyrdom
Sometimes Joshua went as a lecturer to various towns, for his political associates were willing to use his political zeal, though they did not go in for his religious views. He insisted on the need of the working classes raising themselves to a higher level in mind and circumstance, and on the right of each man to a fair share of the primary essentials for good living. His discourses roused immense antagonism, and he was sometimes set upon and severely handled by the men to whom he spoke. I have known swindlers and murderers more gently entreated. When, after the war between France and Prussia the Commune declared itself in Paris, Joshua went over to help, as far as he could, in the cause of humanity. I went with him, and poor, loving, faithful Mary followed us. But there, notwithstanding all that we and others of like mind could do, blood was shed which covered liberty with shame, and in the confusion that followed Mary was shot as a petroleuse while she was succouring the wounded. We buried her tenderly, and I laid part of my life in her grave.
On our return Joshua was regarded as the representative of social destruction and godless licence, for the very name of the Commune was a red rag to English thought.
At last we came to a place called Lowbridge, where Joshua was announced to lecture on Communism in the town hall. Grave as he always was, that night he was grave to sadness, like a martyr going to his death. He shook hands with me before going on the platform, and said, "God bless you, John; you have been a true friend to me."
In the first row in front of him was the former clergyman of Trevalga, Mr. Grand, who had lately been given the rich living of Lowbridge and one or two stately cathedral appointments. At the first word Joshua spoke there broke out such a tumult as I had never heard in any public meeting. The yells, hisses, cat-calls, whoopings, were indescribable. It only ceased when Mr. Grand rose, and standing on a chair, appealed to the audience to "Give him your minds, my men, and let him understand that Lowbridge is no place for a godless rascal like him."
I will do Mr. Grand the justice to say I do not think he intended his words to have the effect they did have. A dozen men leaped on the platform, and in a moment I saw Joshua under their feet. They had it all their own way, and while he lay on the ground, pale and senseless, one, with a fearful oath, kicked him twice on the head. Suddenly a whisper went round, they all drew a little, way off, the gas was turned down, and the place cleared as if by magic. When the lights were up again, I went to lift him—and he was dead.
The man who had lived the life after Christ more exactly than any human being ever known to me was killed by the Christian party of order. So the world has ever disowned its best when they came.
The death of my friend has left me not only desolate but uncertain. Like Joshua in earlier days, my mind is unpiloted and unanchored. Everywhere I see the sifting of competition, and nowhere Christian protection of weakness; everywhere dogma adored, and nowhere Christ realised. And again I ask, Which is true—modern society in its class strife and consequent elimination of its weaker elements, or the brotherhood and communism taught by the Jewish Carpenter of Nazareth? Who will answer me? Who will make the dark thing clear?
* * * * *
Samuel Lover, born at Dublin on February 24, 1797, was the most versatile man of his age. He was a song-writer, a novelist, a painter, a dramatist, and an entertainer; and in each of these parts he was remarkably successful. In 1835 he came to London, and set up as a miniature painter; then he turned to literature, and in "Rory O'More," published in 1837, and "Handy Andy, a Tale of Irish Life," which appeared in 1842, he took the town. Lover was a typical Irishman of the old school—high-spirited, witty, and jovially humorous; and his work is informed with a genuine Irish raciness that gives it a perennial freshness. He is a man gaily in love with life, and with a quick eye for all the varied humours of it. "Handy Andy" is one of the most amusing books ever written; a roaring farce, written by a man who combined the liveliest sense of fun with a painter's gift of portraying real character in a few vivid touches. Samuel Lover died on July 6, 1868.
I.—The Squire Gets a Surprise
Andy Rooney was a fellow with a most ingenious knack of doing everything the wrong way. "Handy" Andy was the nickname the neighbours stuck on him, and the poor simple-minded lad liked the jeering jingle. Even Mrs. Rooney, who thought that her boy was "the sweetest craythur the cun shines on," preferred to hear him called "Handy Andy" rather than "Suds."
For sad memories attached to the latter nickname. Knowing what a hard life Mrs. Rooney had had—she had married a stranger, who disappeared a month after marriage, so Andy came into the world with no father to beat a little sense into him—Squire Egan of Merryvale engaged the boy as a servant. One of the first things that Andy was called upon to do was to wait at table during an important political dinner given by the squire. Andy was told to ice the champagne, and the wine and a tub of ice were given to him.
"Well, this is the quarest thing I ever heered of," said Andy. "Musha! What outlandish inventions the quality has among them! They're not content with wine, but they must have ice along with it—and in a tub, too, like pigs! Troth, its a' dirty thrick, I think. But here goes!" said he; and opening a bottle of champagne, he poured it into the tub with the ice.
Andy distinguished himself right at the beginning of the dinner. One of the guests asked him for soda-water.
"Would you like it hot or cold, sir?" he said.
"Never mind," replied the guest, with a laugh. But Andy was anxious to please, and the squire's butler met him hurrying to the kitchen, bewildered, but still resolute.
"One of the gintlemen wants some soap and wather with his wine," exclaimed Andy. "Shall I give it hot or cold?"
The distracted and irate butler took Andy to the sideboard and pushed a small soda into his hand, saying, "Cut the cord, you fool!" Andy took it gingerly, and holding it over the table, carried out the order. Bang I went the bottle, and the cork, after knocking out two of the lights, struck the squire in the eye, while the hostess had a cold bath down her back. Poor Andy, frightened by the soda-water jumping out of the bottle, kept holding it out at arm's-length, exclaiming at every fizz, "Ow, ow, ow!"
"Send that fellow out of the room," said the squire to the butler, "and bring in the champagne."
In staggered Andy with the tub.
"Hand it round the table," said the squire.
Andy tried to lift up the tub "to hand it round the table," but finding he could not, he whispered, "I can't get it up, sir!"
"Draw it then," murmured his master, thinking that Andy meant he had got a bottle which was not effervescent enough to expel its own cork.
"Here it is," said Andy, pulling the tub up to the squire's chair.
"What do you mean, you stupid rascal?" exclaimed the squire, staring at the strange stuff before him. "There's not a single bottle there!"
"To be sure there's no bottle there, sir," said Andy. "I've poured every dhrop of wine in the ice, as you towld me, sir. If you put your hand down into it, you'll feel it."
A wild roar of laughter uprose from the listening guests. Happily they were now too merry to be upset by the mishap, and it was generally voted that the joke was worth twice as much as the wine. Handy Andy was, however, expelled from the dining-room in disgrace, and for days kept out of his master's way, and the servants for months would call him by no other name but "Suds."
II.—O'Grady Gets a Blister
Mr. Egan was a kind-hearted man, and, instead of dismissing Andy, he kept him on for out-door work. Our hero at once distinguished himself in his new walk of life.
"Ride into the town and see if there is a letter for me," said the squire.
"I want a letther, if you plaze!" shouted Andy, rushing into the post-office.
"Who do you want it for?" asked the postmaster.
"What consarn is that o' yours?" exclaimed Andy.
Happily, a man who knew Andy looked in for a letter, paid the postage of fourpence on it, and then settled the dispute between Andy and the postmaster by mentioning Mr. Egan's name.
"Why didn't you tell me you came from the squire?" said the postmaster. "Here's a letter for him. Elevenpence postage."
"Elevenpence postage!" Andy cried. "Didn't I see you give that man a letther for fourpence, and a bigger letther than this? Do you think I'm a fool?"
"No," said the postmaster; "I'm sure of it."
He walked off to serve another customer, and Andy meditated. His master wanted the letter badly, so he would have to pay the exorbitant price. He snatched two other letters from the heap on the counter while the postmaster's back was turned, paid the elevenpence, received the epistle to which he was entitled, and rode home triumphant.
"Look at that!" he exclaimed, slapping the three letters down under his broad fist on the table before the astonished squire. "He made me pay elevenpence, by gor! But I've brought your honour the worth of your money, anyhow."
"Well, by the powers!" said the squire, as Andy stalked out of the room with an air of supreme triumph. "That's the most extraordinary genius I ever came across!"
He read the letter for which he had been anxiously waiting. It was from his lawyer about the forthcoming election. In it he was warned to beware of his friend O'Grady, who was selling his interest to the government candidate.
"So that's the work O'Grady's at!" exclaimed the squire angrily. "Foul, foul! And after all the money I lent him, too!"
He threw down the letter, and his eye caught the other two that Andy had stolen.
"More of that mad fool's work! Robbing the mail now. That's a hanging job. I'd better send them to the parties to whom they're addressed."
Picking up one of the epistles, he found it was a government letter directed to his new enemy, O'Grady. "All's fair in war," thought the squire, and pinching the letter until it gaped, he peeped in and read: "As you very properly remark, poor Egan is a spoon—a mere spoon." "Am I a spoon, your villain!" roared the squire, tearing the letter and throwing it into the fire. "I'm a spoon you'll sup sorrow with yet!"
"Get out a writ on O'Grady for all the money he owes me," he wrote to his lawyer. "Send me the blister, and I'll slap it on him."
Unfortunately, he sent Andy with this letter; still more unfortunately, Mrs. Egan also gave the simple fellow a prescription to be made up at the chemist's. Andy surpassed himself on this occasion. He called at the chemist's on his way back from the lawyer's, and carefully laid the sealed envelope containing the writ on the counter, while he was getting the medicine. On leaving, he took up a different envelope.
"My dear Squire," ran the letter Andy brought back, "I send you the blister for O'Grady, as you insist on it; but I don't think you will find it easy to serve him with it.—Your obedient, MURTOUGH MURPHY."
When the squire opened the accompanying envelope, and found within a real instead of a figurative blister, he grew crimson with rage. But he was consoled when he went to horsewhip his attorney, and met the chemist pelting down the street with O'Grady tearing after him with a cudgel. For some years O'Grady had successfully kept out of his door every process-server sent by his innumerable creditors; but now, having got a cold, he had dispatched his man to the chemist for a blister, and owing to Handy Andy, he obtained Squire Egan's writ against him.
"You've made a mistake this time, you rascal," said the squire to Andy, "for which I'll forgive you."
And this was only fair, for through it he was able to carry the election, and become Edward Egan, Esq., M.P.
III.—Andy Gets Married
Andy was among the guests invited to the wedding feast of pretty Matty Dwyer and handsome young James Casey; like everybody else he came to the marriage full of curiosity. Matty's father, John Dwyer, was a hard, close-fisted fellow, and, as all the neighbours knew, there had been many fierce disputes between him and Casey over the question of a farm belonging to Dwyer going into the marriage settlement.
A grand dinner was laid in the large barn, but it was kept waiting owing to the absence of the bridegroom. Father Phil, the kindly, jovial parish priest, who had come to help James and Matty "tie with their tongues the knot they couldn't undo with their teeth," had not broken his fast that day, and wanted the feast to go on. To the great surprise of the company, Matty backed him, and full of life and spirits, began to lay the dinner. For some time the hungry guests were busy with the good cheer provided for them, but the women at last asked in loud whispers, "Where in the world is James Casey?" Still the bride kept up her smiles, but old Jack Dwyer's face grew blacker and blacker. Unable to bear the strain any longer, he stood up and addressed the expectant crowd.
"You see the disgrace that's put on me!"
"He'll come yet, sir," said Andy.
"No, he won't!" cried Dwyer, "I see he won't. He wanted to get everything his own way, and he thinks to disgrace me in doing what he likes, but he shan't;" and he struck the table fiercely. "He goes back of his bargain now, thinkin' I'll give in to him; but I won't. Friends and neighbours, here's the lease of the three-cornered field below there and a snug little cottage, and it's ready for my girl to walk in with the man that will have her! If there's a man among you here that's willing, let him say the word, and I'll give her to him!"
Matty tried to protest, but her father silenced her with a terrible look. When old Dwyer's blood was up, he was capable of murder. No guest dared to speak.
"Are yiz all dumb?" shouted Dwyer. "It's not every day a farm and a fine girl falls in a man's way."
Still no one spoke, and Andy thought they were using Dwyer and his daughter badly.
"Would I do, sir?" he timidly said.
Andy was just the last man Dwyer would have chosen, but he was determined that someone should marry the girl, and show Casey "the disgrace should not be put on him." He called up Andy and Matty, and asked the priest to marry them.
"I can't, if your daughter objects," said Father Phil.
Dwyer turned on the girl, and there was the devil in his eye.
"I'll marry him," said Matty.
So the rites and blessings of the Church were dispensed between two persons who an hour before had never given a thought to each other. Yet it was wonderful with what lightness of heart Matty went through the honours consequent on a peasant bridal in Ireland. She gaily led off the dance with Andy, and the night was far spent before the bride and bridegroom were escorted to the cottage which was to be their home.
Matty sat quiet, looking at the fire, while Andy bolted the door; but when he tried to kiss her she leaped up furiously.
"I'll crack your silly head if you don't behave yourself," she cried, seizing a stool and brandishing it above him.
"Oh, wirra, wirra!" said Andy. "Aren't you my wife? Why did you marry me?"
"Did I want owld Jack Dwyer to murther me as soon as the people's backs was turned?" said Matty. "But though I'm afraid of him, I'm not afraid of you!"
"Och!" cried poor Andy, "what'll be the end of it?"
There was a tap at the door as he spoke, and Matty ran and opened it.
In came James Casey and half a dozen strong young fellows. Behind them crept a reprobate, degraded priest who got his living and his name of "Couple-Beggar" by performing irregular marriages. The end of it was that Matty was married over again to Casey, whom she had sent for while the dancing was going on. Poor Andy, bound hand and foot, was carried out of the cottage to a lonely by-way, and there he passed his wedding-night roped to the stump of an old tree.
IV.—Andy Gets Married Again
Misfortunes now accumulated on Andy's head. At break of day he was released from the tree-stump by Squire Egan, who was riding by with some bad news for the man he thought was now a happy bridegroom. Owing to an indiscreet word dropped by our simple-minded hero, a gang of smugglers, who ran an illicit still on the moors, had gathered something about Andy stealing the letters from the post-office and Squire Egan burning them. They had already begun to blackmail the squire, and in order to defeat them it was necessary to get Andy out of the country for some time. So nothing could be done against Casey.
And, on going home to prepare for a journey to England with a friend of the squire's, Andy found his mother in a sad state of anxiety. His pretty cousin, Oonah, was crying in a corner of the room, and Ragged Nance, an unkempt beggar-woman, to whom the Rooneys had done many a good turn, was screaming, "I tell you Shan More means to carry off Oonah to-night. I heard them laying the plan for it."
"We'll go to the squire," sobbed Mrs. Rooney. "The villain durst not!"
"He's got the squire under his thumb, I tell you," replied Ragged Nance. "You must look after yourselves. I've got it," she said, turning to Andy. "We'll dress him as a girl, and let the smugglers take him."
Andy roared with laughter at the notion of being made a girl of. Though Shan More was the blackguardly leader of the smugglers who were giving the squire trouble, Andy was too taken up with the fun of being transformed into the very rough likeness of a pleasing young woman to think of the danger. It was difficult to give his angular form the necessary roundness of outline; but Ragged Nance at last padded him out with straw, and tied a bonnet on his head to shade his face, saying, "That'll deceive them. Shan More won't come himself. He'll send some of his men, and they're all dhrunk already."
"But they'll murdher my boy when they find out the chate," said Mrs. Rooney.
"Suppose they did," exclaimed Andy stoutly; "I'd rather die, sure, than the disgrace should fall upon Oonah there."
"God bless you, Andy dear!" said Oonah.
The tramp of approaching horses rang through the stillness of the night, and Oonah and Nance ran out and crouched in the potato tops in the garden. Four drunken vagabonds broke into the cottage, and, seeing Andy in the dim light clinging to his mother, they dragged him away and lifted him on a horse, and galloped off with him.
As it happened, luck favoured Andy. When he came to the smugglers' den, Shan More was lying on the ground stunned, and his sister, Red Bridget, was tending him; in going up the ladder from the underground whisky-still, he had fallen backward. The upshot was that Andy was left in charge of Red Bridget. But, alas! just as he was hoping to escape, she penetrated through his disguise. More unfortunately still, Andy was, with all his faults, a rather good-looking young fellow, and Red Bridget took a fancy to him, and the "Couple-Beggar" was waiting for a job.
Smugglers' whisky is very strong, and Bridget artfully plied him with it. Andy was still rather dazed when he reached home next morning.
"I've married again," he said to his mother.
"Married?" interrupted Oonah, growing pale. "Who to?"
"Shan More's sister," said Andy.
"Wirasthru!" screamed Mrs. Rooney, tearing her cap off her head. "You got the worst woman in Ireland."
"Then I'll go and 'list for a sojer," said he.
V.—Andy Gets Married a Third Time
It was Father Phil that brought the extraordinary news to Squire Egan.
"Do you remember those two letters that Andy stole from the post-office, and that someone burnt?" he asked, with a smile.
"I've been meaning to tell you, father, that one was for you," said the squire, looking very uncomfortable.
"Oh, Andy let it out long ago," said the kindly old priest. "But the joke is that by stealing my letter Andy nearly lost a title and a great fortune. Ever heard of Lord Scatterbrain? He died a little time ago, confessing in his will that it was he that married Mrs. Rooney, and deserted her."
"So Handy Andy is now a lord!" exclaimed the squire, rocking with laughter.
Andy took it like a true son of the wildest and most eccentric of Irish peers. On getting over the first shock of astonishment, he broke out into short peals of laughter, exclaiming at intervals, that "it was mighty quare." When, after much questioning, his wishes in regard to his new life were made clear, it was found that they all centred on one object, which was "to have a goold watch."
The squire was perplexed what to do with a great nobleman of this sort, and at last he got a kinsman, Dick Dawson, who loved fun, to take Andy under his especial care to London. When they arrived there it was wonderful how many persons were eager to show civility to his new lordship, and he who as Handy Andy had been cried down all his life as a "stupid rascal," "a blundering thief," "a thick-headed brute," suddenly acquired, under the title of Lord Scatterbrain, a reputation for being "vastly amusing, a little eccentric, perhaps, but so droll."
All this was very delightful for Andy—so delightful that he quite forgot Red Bridget. But Red Bridget did not forget him.
"Lady Scatterbrain!" announced the servant one day; and in came Bridget and Shan More and an attorney.
The attorney brought out a settlement in which an exorbitant sum was to be settled on Bridget, and Shan More, with a threatening air, ordered Andy to sign the deed.
"I can't," cried Andy, retreating to the fire-place, "and I won't!"
"You must sign your name!" roared Shan More.
"I can't, I tell you!" yelled Andy, seizing the poker. "I've never larned to write."
"Your lordship can make your mark," said the attorney.
"I'll make my mark with this poker," cried Andy, "if you don't all clear out!"
The noise of a frightful row brought Dick Dawson into the room, and he managed to get rid of the intruders by inducing the attorney to conduct the negotiations through Lord Scatterbrain's solicitors.
But while the negotiations were going on, a fact came to light that altered the whole complexion of the matter, and Andy went post-haste over to Ireland to the fine house in which his mother and his cousin were living.
Bursting into the drawing-room, he made a rush upon Oonah, whom he hugged and kissed most outrageously, with exclamations of the wildest affection.
When Oonah freed herself from his embraces, and asked him what he was about, Andy turned over the chairs, threw the mantelpiece ornaments into the fire, and banged the poker and tongs together, shouting! "Hurroo! I'm not married at all!"
It had been discovered that Red Bridget had a husband living when she forced Andy to marry her, and as soon as it was legally proved that Lord Scatterbrain was a free man, Father Phil was called in, and Oonah, who had all along loved her wild cousin, was made Lady Scatterbrain.
* * * * *
EDWARD BULWER LYTTON
Novelist, poet, essayist, and politician, Edward Bulwer Lytton was born in London on May 25, 1805. His father was General Earle Bulwer. He assumed his mother's family name on her death in 1843, and was elevated to the peerage as Baron Lytton in 1866. At seventeen Lytton published a volume entitled, "Ismael, and Other Poems." An unhappy marriage in 1827 was followed by extraordinary literary activity, and during the next ten years he produced twelve novels, two poems, a play, "England and the English," and "Athens: Its Rise and Fall," besides an enormous number of shorter stories, essays, and articles for contemporary periodicals. Altogether his output is represented by nearly sixty volumes. Few books on their publication have created a greater furore than Lord Lytton's "Eugene Aram," which was published in 1832. One section of the novel-reading public hailed its moving, dramatic story with manifest delight, while the other severely condemned it on the plea of its false morality. The story takes its title from that remarkable scholar and criminal, Eugene Aram, at one time a tutor in the Lytton family, who was executed at York in 1759, for a murder committed fourteen years before. The crime caused much consternation at the time, Aram's refined and mild disposition being apparently in direct contradiction to his real nature. The novel is an unusually successful, though perhaps one-sided psychological study. In a revised edition Lytton made the narrative agree with his own conclusion that, though an accomplice in robbery, Aram was not guilty of premeditated or actual murder. Edward Bulwer Lytton died on January 18, 1873.
I.—At the Sign of the Spotted Dog
In the county of —— was a sequestered hamlet, to which I shall give the name of Grassdale. It lay in a fruitful valley between gentle and fertile hills. Its single hostelry, the Spotted Dog, was owned by one Peter Dealtry, a small farmer, who was also clerk of the parish. On summer evenings Peter was frequently to be seen outside his inn discussing psalmody and other matters with Jacob Bunting, late a corporal in his majesty's army, a man who prided himself on his knowledge of the world, and found Peter's too easy fund of merriment occasionally irritating.
On one such evening their discussion was interrupted by an unprepossessing and travel-stained stranger, who, when his wants, none too amiably expressed, had been attended to, exhibited a marked curiosity concerning the people of the locality. As the stranger paid for his welcome with a liberal hand, Peter became more than usually communicative.
He described the lord of the manor, a distinguished nobleman who lived at the castle some six miles away. He talked of the squire and his household. "But," he continued, "the most noticeable man is a great scholar. There, yonder," said he, "you may just catch a glimpse of the tall what-d'ye-call-it he has built on the top of his house that he may get nearer to the stars."
"The scholar, I suppose," observed the stranger, "is not very rich. Learning does not clothe men nowadays, eh, corporal?"
"And why should it?" asked Bunting. "Zounds! can it teach a man how to defend his country? Old England wants soldiers. But the man's well enough, I must own—civil, modest——"
"And by no means a beggar," added Peter. "He gave as much to the poor last winter as the squire himself. But if he were as rich as Lord——he could not be more respected. The greatest folk in the country come in their carriages-and-four to see him. There is not a man more talked on in the whole county than Eugene Aram——"
"What!" cried the traveller, his countenance changing as he sprang from his seat. "What! Aram! Did you say Aram? Great heavens! How strange!"
"What! You know him?" gasped the astonished landlord.
Instead of replying, the stranger muttered inaudible words between his teeth. Now he strode two steps forward, clenching his hands. Now smiled grimly. Then he threw himself upon his seat, still in silence.
"Rum tantrums!" ejaculated the corporal. "What the devil! Did the man eat your grandmother?"
The stranger lifted his head, and addressing Peter, said, with a forced smile, "You have done me a great kindness, my friend. Eugene Aram was an early acquaintance of mine. We have not met for many years. I never guessed that he lived in these parts."
And then, directed, in answer to his inquiries, to Aram's dwelling, a lonely grey house in the middle of a broad plain, the traveller went his way.
II.—The Squire's Guest
The man the stranger went to seek was one who perhaps might have numbered some five-and-thirty years, but at a hasty glance would have seemed considerably younger. His frame was tall, slender, but well-knit and fair proportioned; his cheek was pale, but with thought; his hair was long, and of a rich, deep brown; his brow was unfurrowed; his face was one that a physiognomist would have loved to look upon, so much did it speak of both the refinement and the dignity of intellect.
Eugene Aram had been now about two years settled in his present retreat, with an elderly dame as housekeeper. From almost every college in Europe came visitors to his humble dwelling, and willingly he imparted to others any benefit derived from his lonely researches. But he proffered no hospitality, and shrank from all offers of friendship. Yet, unsocial as he was, everyone loved him. The peasant threw kindly pity into his respectful greeting. Even that terror of the village, Mother Darkmans, saved her bitterest gibes for others; and the village maiden, as she curtseyed by him, stole a glance at his handsome but melancholy countenance, and told her sweetheart she was certain the poor scholar had been crossed in love.
At the manor house he was often the subject of remark, but only on the day of the stranger's appearance at the Spotted Dog had the squire found an opportunity of breaking through the scholar's habitual reserve, and so persuaded him to dine with him and his family on the day following.
The squire, Rowland Lester, a man of cultivated tastes, was a widower, with two daughters and a nephew. Walter, the only son of Rowland's brother Geoffrey, who had absconded, leaving his wife and child to shift for themselves, was in his twenty-first year, tall and strong, with a striking if not strictly handsome face; high-spirited, jealous of the affections of those he loved; cheerful outwardly, but given to moody reflections on his orphaned and dependent lot, for his mother had not long survived her desertion.
Madeline Lester, at the age of eighteen, was the beauty and toast of the whole country; with a mind no less beautiful than her form was graceful, and a desire for study equalled only by her regard for those who possessed it, a regard which had extended secretly, if all but unacknowledged to herself, to the solitary scholar of whom I have been speaking. Ellinor, her junior by two years, was of a character equally gentle, but less elevated, and a beauty akin to her sister's.
When Eugene Aram arrived at the manor house in keeping with his promise, something appeared to rest upon his mind, from which, however, by the excitement lent by wine and occasional bursts of eloquence, he seemed striving to escape, and at length he apparently succeeded.
When the ladies had retired, Lester and his guest resumed their talk in the open, Walter declining to join them.
Aram was advancing the view that it is impossible for a man who leads the life of the world ever to experience content.
"For me," observed the squire, "I have my objects of interest in my children."
"And I mine in my books," said Aram.
As they passed over the village green, the gaunt form of Corporal Bunting arrested their progress.
"Beg pardon, your honour," said he to the scholar, "but strange-looking dog here last evening—asked after you—said you were old friend of his—trotted off in your direction—hope all was right, master—augh!"
"All right," repeated Aram, fixing his eyes on the corporal, who had concluded his speech with a significant wink. Then, as if satisfied with his survey, he added, "Ay, ay; I know whom you mean. He had become acquainted with me some years ago. I don't know—I know very little of him." And the student was turning away, but stopped to add, "The man called on me last night for assistance. I gave what I could afford, and he has now proceeded on his journey. Good evening!"
Lester and his companion passed on, the former somewhat surprised, a feeling increased when shortly afterwards Aram abruptly bade him farewell. But, recalling the peculiar habits of the scholar, he saw that the only way to hope for a continuance of that society which had so pleased him was to indulge Aram at first in his unsocial inclinations; and so, without further discourse, he shook hands with him, and they parted.
III.—The Old Riding-Whip
When Lester regained the little parlour in his home he found his nephew sitting, silent and discontented, by the window. Madeline had taken up a book, and Ellinor, in an opposite corner, was plying her needle with an earnestness that contrasted with her customary cheerful vivacity.
The squire thought he had cause to complain of his nephew's conduct to their guest. "You eyed the poor student," he said, "as if you wished him amongst the books of Alexandria."
"I would he were burnt with them!" exclaimed Walter sharply. "He seems to have bewitched my fair cousins here into a forgetfulness of all but himself."
"Not me!" said Ellinor eagerly.
"No, not you; you are too just. It is a pity Madeline is not more like you."
Thus was disturbance first introduced into a peaceful family. Walter was jealous; he could not control his feelings. An open breach followed, not only between him and Aram, but a quarrel between him and Madeline. The position came as a revelation to his uncle, who, seeing no other way out of the difficulty, yielded to Walter's request that he should be allowed to travel.
Meanwhile, Aram, drawn out of his habitual solitude by the sweet influence of Madeline, became a frequent visitor to the manor house and the acknowledged suitor for Madeline's hand. As for Walter, when he set out for London, with Corporal Bunting as his servant, he had found consolation in the discovery that Ellinor's regard for him had gone beyond mere cousinly affection. His uncle gave him several letters of introduction to old friends; among them one to Sir Peter Hales, and another to a Mr. Courtland.
An incident that befell him on the London road revived to an extraordinary degree Walter's desire to ascertain the whereabouts of his long-lost father. At the request of Sir Peter Hales he had alighted at a saddler's for the purpose of leaving a parcel committed to him, when his attention was attracted by an old-fashioned riding-whip. Taking it up, he found it bore his own crest, and his father's initials, "G.L." Much agitated, he made quick inquiries, and learned that the whip had been left for repair about twelve years previously by a gentleman who was visiting Mr. Courtland, and had not been heard of since.
Eagerly he sought out Mr. Courtland, and gleaned news which induced him, much to Corporal Bunting's disgust, to set his back on London, and make his way with all speed in the direction of Knaresborough. It appeared that at the time the whip was left at the saddler's, Geoffrey Lester had just returned from India, and when he called on his old acquaintance, Mr. Courtland, he was travelling to the historic town in the West Riding to claim a legacy his old colonel—he had been in the army—had left him for saving his life. The name Geoffrey Lester had assumed on entering the army was Clarke.
While Walter Lester and Corporal Bunting were passing northward, the squire of Grassdale saw, with evident complacency, the passion growing up between his friend and his daughter. He looked upon it as a tie that would permanently reconcile Aram to the hearth of social and domestic life; a tie that would constitute the happiness of his daughter and secure to himself a relation in the man he felt most inclined of all he knew to honour and esteem. Aram seemed another man; and happy indeed was Madeline in the change. But one evening, while the two were walking together, and Aram was discoursing on their future, Madeline uttered a faint shriek, and clung trembling to her lover's arm.
Amazed and roused from his enthusiasm, Aram looked up, and, on seeing the cause of her alarm, seemed himself transfixed, as by a sudden terror to the earth.
But a few paces distant, standing amidst the long and rank fern that grew on each side of their path, quite motionless, and looking on the pair with a sarcastic smile, stood the ominous stranger whom we first met at the sign of the Spotted Dog.
"Pardon me, dear Madeline," said Aram, softly disengaging himself from her, "but for one moment."
He then advanced to the stranger, and after a conversation that lasted but a minute, the latter bowed, and, turning away, soon vanished among the shrubs.
Aram, regaining the side of Madeline, explained, in answer to her startled inquiries, that the man, whom he had known well some fourteen years ago, had again come to ask for his help, and he supposed that he would again have to aid him.
"And is that indeed all?" said Madeline, breathing more freely. "Well, poor man, if he be your friend, he must be inoffensive. Here, Eugene." And the simple-hearted girl put her purse into Aram's hand.
"No, dearest," said he, shrinking back. "I can easily spare him enough. But let us turn back. It grows chill."
"And why did he leave us, Eugene?"
"Because," was the reply, "I desired him to visit me at home an hour hence."
There was a past shared by these two men, and Houseman—for that was the stranger's name—had come for the price of his silence. The next day, on the plea of an old debt that suddenly had to be met, Aram approached his prospective father-in-law for the loan of L300. This sum was readily placed at his disposal. Indeed, he was offered double the amount. His next action was to travel to London, where, with all the money at his command, he purchased an annuity for Houseman, falling back, for his own needs, upon the influence of Lord —— to secure for him a small state allowance which it was in that nobleman's power to grant to him as a needy man of letters.
Houseman was surprised at the scholar's generosity when the paper ensuring the annuity was placed in his hands. "Before daybreak to-morrow," he said, "I will be on the road. You may now rest assured that you are free of me for life. Go home—marry—enjoy your existence. Within four days, if the wind set fair, I shall be in France."
The pale face of Eugene Aram brightened. He had resolved, had Houseman's attitude been different, to surrender Madeline at once.
The unexpected change in her lover's demeanour, on his return to Grassdale, brought unspeakable joy to the heart of Madeline Lester. But hardly had Aram left Houseman's squalid haunt in Lambeth when a letter was put into the ruffian's hand telling of his daughter's serious illness. For this daughter Houseman, villain as he was, would willingly have given his life. Now, casting all other thoughts aside, he set forth, not for France, but for Knaresborough, where his daughter was lying, and whither, guided by his inquiries concerning his father, Walter Lester was also on his way.
It was not long ere Walter found that a certain Colonel Elmore had died in 17—, leaving L1,000 and a house to one Daniel Clarke, and that an executor of the colonel's will survived in the person of a Mr. Jonas Elmore. From Mr. Elmore, Walter learned that Clarke had disappeared suddenly, after receiving the legacy, taking with him a number of jewels with which Mr. Elmore had entrusted him. His disappearance had caused a sensation at the time, and a man named Houseman had assigned as a cause of Clarke's disappearance a loan which he did not mean to repay. It was true that Houseman and a young scholar named Eugene Aram had been interrogated by the authorities, but nothing could be proved against them, and certainly nothing was suspected where Aram was concerned. He left Knaresborough soon after Clarke had disappeared, having received a legacy from a relative at York.
This story of a legacy Walter was not inclined to believe, but proof of it was forthcoming. Another circumstance in Aram's favour was that his memory was still honoured in the town, by the curate, Mr. Summers, as well as by others.
Accompanied by Mr. Summers, Walter visited the house where Daniel Clarke had stayed and also the woman at whose house Aram had lived. It was a lonely, desolate-looking house; its solitary occupant a woman who evidently had been drinking. When the name of Eugene Aram was mentioned, the woman assumed a mysterious air, and eventually disclosed the fact that she had seen Mr. Clarke, Houseman and Aram enter Aram's room early one morning. They went away together. A little later Aram and Houseman returned. She found out afterwards that they had been burning some clothes. She also discovered a handkerchief belonging to Houseman with blood upon it. She had shown this to Houseman, who had threatened to shoot her should she say a word to anyone regarding himself or his companions.
Armed with this narrative, extracted by the promise of pecuniary reward, Walter and Mr. Summers were making their way to a magistrate's when their attention was attracted by a crowd. A workman, digging for limestone, had unearthed a big wooden chest. The chest contained a skeleton!
In the midst of the commotion caused by this discovery a voice broke out abruptly. It was that of Richard Houseman. His journey had been in vain. His daughter was dead. His appearance revealed all too plainly to what source he had flown for consolation.
"What do ye here, fools?" he cried, reeling forward. "Ha! Human bones! And whose may they be, think ye?"
There were in the crowd those who remembered the disappearance which had so surprised them years before, and more than one repeated the name of "Daniel Clarke."
"Clarke's bones!" exclaimed Houseman. "Ha, ha! They are no more Clarke's than mine!"
At this moment Walter stepped forward.
"Behold!" he cried, in a ringing voice, vibrant with emotion—"behold the murderer!"
Pale, confused, conscience-stricken, the bewilderment of intoxication mingling with that of fear, Houseman gasped out that if they wanted the bones of Clarke they should search St. Robert's Cave. And in the place he named they found at last the unhallowed burial-place of the murdered dead.
But Houseman, now roused by a sense of personal danger, denied that he was the guilty man. Drawing his breath hard, and setting his teeth as with steeled determination, he cried, "The murderer is Eugene Aram!"
VI.—"I Murdered my Own Life"
It was a chill morning in November. But at Grassdale all was bustle and excitement. The church bells were ringing merry peals. It wanted but an hour or so to the wedding of Eugene Aram and Madeline Lester. In this interval the scholar was alone with his thoughts. His reverie was rudely disturbed by a loud knocking, the noise of which penetrated into his study. The outer door was opened. Voices were heard.
"Great God!" he exclaimed. "'Murderer!' Was that the word I heard shouted forth? The voice, too, is Walter Lester's. Can he have learned——"
Calm succeeded to the agitation of the moment. He met the newcomers with a courageous front. But, followed by his bride who was to be, by her sister Ellinor, and by their father, all confident that Walter had made some horrible mistake, Eugene Aram was taken away to be committed to York on the capital charge.
The law's delays were numerous. Winter passed into spring, and spring into summer before the trial came on. Eugene Aram's friends were numerous. Lord —— firmly believed in his innocence, and proffered help. But the prisoner refused legal aid, and conducted his own defence—how ably history records. Madeline was present at the closing scene, in her wedding dress. Her father was all but broken in his grief for daughter and friend. Walter was distraught by the havoc he had caused, and in doubt whether, after all, his action had not been too impetuous. The court was deeply impressed by the prisoner's defence. But the judge's summing-up was all against the accused, and the verdict was "Guilty!" Madeline lived but a few hours after hearing it.
The following evening Walter obtained admittance to the condemned cell.
"Eugene Aram," he said, in tones of agony, "if at this moment you can lay your hand on your heart, and say, 'Before God, and at peril of my soul, I am innocent of this deed,' I will depart; I will believe you, and bear as I may the reflection that I have been one of the unconscious agents in condemning to a fearful death an innocent man. But if you cannot at so dark a crisis take that oath, then, oh then, be generous, even in guilt, and let me not be haunted through life by the spectre of a ghastly and restless doubt!"
On the eve of the day destined to be his last on earth Eugene Aram placed in Walter's hands a paper which that young man pledged himself not to read till Rowland Lester's grey hairs had gone to the grave. This document set forth at length the story of Aram's early life, how he sought knowledge amidst grinding poverty, and how, when a gigantic discovery in science gleamed across his mind, a discovery which only lack of means prevented him from realising to the vast benefit of truth and man, the tempter came to him. This tempter took the form of a distant relative, Richard Houseman, with his doctrine that "Laws order me to starve, but self-preservation is an instinct more sacred than society," and his demand for co-operation in an act of robbery from one Daniel Clarke, whose crimes were many, who was, moreover, on the point of disappearing with a number of jewels he had borrowed on false pretences.
"Houseman lied," wrote the condemned man. "I did not strike the blow. I never designed a murder. But the deed was done, and Houseman divided the booty. My share he buried in the earth, leaving me to withdraw it when I chose. There, perhaps, it lies still. I never touched what I had murdered my own life to gain. Three days after that deed a relative, who had neglected me in life, died and left me wealth—wealth, at least, to me! Wealth greater than that for which I had——My ambition died in remorse!"
Houseman passed away in his own bed. But he had to be buried secretly in the dead of night, for, ten years after Eugene Aram had died on the scaffold, the hatred of the world survived for his accomplice. Rowland Lester did not live long after Madeline's death. But when Walter returned from a period of honourable service with the great Frederick of Prussia, it was with no merely cousinly welcome that Ellinor received him.
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The Last Days of Pompeii
"The Last Days of Pompeii," the most popular of Lytton's historical romances, was begun and almost completed at Naples in the winter of 1832-3, and was first published in 1834. The period dealt with is that of 79 A.D., during the short reign of Titus, when Rome was at its zenith and the picturesque Campanian city a kind of Rome-by-the-Sea. Lytton wrote the novel some thirty years before the excavations of Pompeii had been systematically begun; but his pictures of the life, the luxuries, the pastimes and the gaiety of the half-Grecian colony, its worship of Isis, its trade with Alexandria, and the early struggles of Christianity with heathen superstition are exceptionally vivid. The creation of Nydia, the blind flower-girl, was suggested by the casual remark of an acquaintance that at the time of the destruction of Pompeii the sightless would have found the easiest deliverance.
I.—The Athenian's Love Story
Within the narrow compass of the walls of Pompeii was contained a specimen of every gift which luxury offered to power. In its minute but glittering shops, its tiny palaces, its baths, its forum, its theatre, its circus—in the energy yet corruption, in the refinement yet the vice, of its people, you beheld a model of the whole Roman Empire. It was a toy, a plaything, a show-box, in which the gods seemed pleased to keep the representation of the great monarchy of earth, and which they afterwards hid from time, to give to the wonder of posterity—the moral of the maxim, that under the sun there is nothing new.
Crowded in the glassy bay were vessels of commerce and gilded galleys for the pleasures of the rich citizens. The boats of the fishermen glided to and fro, and afar off you saw the tall masts of the fleet under the command of Pliny.
Drawing a comrade from the crowded streets, Glaucus the Greek, newly returned to Pompeii after a journey to Naples, bent his steps towards a solitary part of the beach; and the two, seated on a small crag which rose amidst the smooth pebbles, inhaled the voluptuous and cooling breeze which, dancing over the waters, kept music with its invisible feet. There was something in the scene which invited them to silence and reverie.
Clodius, the aedile, who sought the wherewithal for his pleasures at the gaming table, shaded his eyes from the burning sky, and calculated the gains of the past week. He was one of the many who found it easy to enrich themselves at the expense of his companion. The Greek, leaning upon his hand, and shrinking not from that sun, his nation's tutelary deity, with whose fluent light of poesy and joy and love his own veins were filled, gazed upon the broad expanse, and envied, perhaps, every wind that bent its pinions toward the shores of Greece.