No man had a more thorough knowledge of the proper night stations, where good feed might be procured for his charge, and good liquor for Watch and himself; Watch, like other sheepdogs, being accustomed to live chiefly on bread and beer, while his master preferred gin.
But when a rheumatic fever came one hard winter, and finally settled in Jack Bint's limbs, reducing the most active and handy man in the parish to the state of a confirmed cripple, poor Jack, a thoughtless but kind creature, looked at his three motherless children with acute misery. Then it was that he found help where he least expected it—in the sense and spirit of his young daughter, a girl of twelve years old.
Hannah was a quick, clever lass of a high spirit, a firm temper, some pride, and a horror of accepting parochial relief—that surest safeguard to the sturdy independence of the English character. So when her father talked of giving up their comfortable cottage and removing to the workhouse, while she and her brothers must move to service, Hannah formed a bold resolution, and proceeded to act at once on her own plans and designs.
She knew that the employer in whose service her father's health had suffered so severely was a rich and liberal cattle-dealer in the neighbourhood, who would willingly aid an old and faithful servant. Of Farmer Oakley, accordingly, she asked, not money, but something much more in his own way—a cow! And, amused and interested by the child's earnestness, the wealthy yeoman gave her a very fine young Alderney.
She then went to the lord of the manor, and, with equal knowledge of character, begged his permission to keep her cow on the shaw common. He, too, half from real good nature, and half not to be outdone in liberality by his tenant, not only granted the requested permission, but reduced the rent so much that the produce of the vine seldom failed to satisfy their kind landlord.
Now Hannah showed great judgment in setting up as a dairy-woman. One of the most provoking of the petty difficulties which beset a small establishment in this neighbourhood is the trouble, almost the impossibility, of procuring the pastoral luxuries of milk, eggs, and butter. Hannah's Alderney restored us to our rural privilege. Speedily she established a regular and gainful trade in milk, eggs, butter, honey, and poultry—for poultry they had always kept.
In short, during the five years she has ruled at the shaw cottage the world has gone well with Hannah Bint. She has even taught Watch to like the buttermilk as well as strong beer, and has nearly persuaded her father to accept milk as a substitute for gin. Not but that Hannah hath had her enemies as well as her betters. The old woman at the lodge, who always piqued herself on being spiteful, and crying down new ways, foretold that she would come to no good; nay, even Ned Miles, the keeper, her next neighbour, who had whilom held entire sway over the shaw common, as well as its coppices, grumbled as much as so good-natured and genial a person could grumble when he found a little girl sharing his dominion, a cow grazing beside his pony, and vulgar cocks and hens hovering around the buckwheat destined to feed his noble pheasants.
Yes! Hannah hath had her enemies, but they are passing away. The old woman at the lodge is dead, poor creature; and the keeper?—why, he is not dead, or like to die, but the change that has taken place there is the most astonishing of all—except perhaps the change in Hannah herself.
Few damsels of twelve years old, generally a very pretty age, were less pretty than Hannah Bint. Short and stunted in her figure, thin in face, sharp in feature, with a muddied complexion, wild, sunburnt hair, and eyes whose very brightness had in them something startling, over-informed, too clever for her age; at twelve years old she had quite the air of a little old fairy.
Now, at seventeen, matters are mended. Her complexion has cleared; her countenance has developed itself; her figure has shot up into height and lightness, and a sort of rustic grace; her bright, acute eye is softened and sweetened by a womanly wish to please; her hair is trimmed and curled and brushed with exquisite neatness; and her whole dress arranged with that nice attention to the becoming which would be called the highest degree of coquetry if it did not deserve the better name of propriety. The lass is really pretty, and Ned Miles has discovered that she is so. There he stands, the rogue, close at her side (for he hath joined her whilst we have been telling her little story, and the milking is over); there he stands holding her milk-pail in one hand, and stroking Watch with the other. There they stand, as much like lovers as may be; he smiling and she blushing; he never looking so handsome, nor she so pretty, in their lives.
There they stand, and one would not disturb them for all the milk and the butter in Christendom. I should not wonder if they were fixing the wedding-day.
III.—A Country Cricket Match
I doubt if there be any scene in the world more animating or delightful than a cricket match. I do not mean a set match at Lord's Ground—no! the cricket I mean is a real solid, old-fashioned match between neighbouring parishes, where each attacks the other for honour and a supper.
For the last three weeks our village has been in a state of great excitement, occasioned by a challenge from our north-western neighbours, the men of B——, to contend with us at cricket. Now, we have not been much in the habit of playing matches. The sport had languished until the present season, when the spirit began to revive. Half a dozen fine, active lads, of influence among their comrades, grew into men and yearned for cricket. In short, the practice recommenced, and the hill was again alive with men and boys and innocent merriment. Still, we were modest and doubted our own strength.
The B—— people, on the other hand, must have been braggers born. Never was such boasting! Such ostentatious display of practice! It was a wonder they did not challenge all England. Yet we firmly resolved not to decline the combat; and one of the most spirited of the new growth, William Grey by name, and a farmer's son by station, took up the glove in a style of manly courtesy that would have done honour to a knight in the days of chivalry.
William Grey then set forth to muster his men, remembering with great complacency that Samuel Long, the very man who had bowled us out at a fatal return match some years ago at S—, our neighbours south-by-east, had luckily, in a remove of a quarter of a mile last Lady Day, crossed the boundaries of his old parish and actually belonged to us. Here was a stroke of good fortune! Our captain applied to him instantly, and he agreed at a word. We felt we had half gained the match when we had secured him. Then James Brown, a journeyman blacksmith and a native, who, being of a rambling disposition, had roamed from place to place for half a dozen years, had just returned to our village with a prodigious reputation in cricket and gallantry. To him also went the indefatigable William Grey, and he also consented to play. Having thus secured two powerful auxiliaries, we began to reckon the regular forces.
Thus ran our list. William Grey, 1; Samuel Long, 2; James Brown, 3; George and John Simmons, one capital, the other so-so—an uncertain hitter, but a good fieldsman, 5; Joel Brent, excellent, 6; Ben Appleton—here was a little pause, for Ben's abilities at cricket were not completely ascertained, but then he was a good fellow, so full of fun and waggery! No doing without Ben. So he figured in the list as 7. George Harris—a short halt there too—slowish, but sure, 8; Tom Coper—oh, beyond the world Tom Coper, the red-headed gardening lad, whose left-handed strokes send her (a cricket-ball is always of the feminine gender) send her spinning a mile, 9; Harry Willis, another blacksmith, 10.
We had now ten of our eleven, but the choice of the last occasioned some demur. John Strong, a nice youth—everybody likes John Strong—was the next candidate, but he is so tall and limp that we were all afraid his strength, in spite of his name, would never hold out. So the eve of the match arrived and the post was still vacant, when a little boy of fifteen, David Willis, brother to Harry, admitted by accident to the last practice, saw eight of them out, and was voted in by acclamation.
Morning dawned. On calling over our roll, Brown was missing; and it transpired that he had set off at four o'clock in the morning to play in a cricket match at M——, a little town twelve miles off, which had been his last residence. Here was desertion! Here was treachery! How we cried him down! We were well rid of him, for he was no batter compared with William Grey; not fit to wipe the shoes of Samuel Long as a bowler; the boy David Willis was worth fifty of him. So we took tall John Strong. I never saw any one prouder than the good-humoured lad was at this not very flattering piece of preferment.
They began the warfare—these boastful men of B——! And what think you was the amount of their innings? These challengers—the famous eleven—how many did they get? Think! Imagine! Guess! You cannot. Well, they got twenty-two, or, rather, they got twenty, for two of theirs were short notches, and would never have been allowed, only that, seeing what they were made of, we and our umpires were not particular. Oh, how well we fielded.
Then we went in. And what of our innings? Guess! A hundred and sixty-nine! We headed them by a hundred and forty-seven; and then they gave in, as well they might. William Grey pressed them much to try another innings, but they were beaten sulky and would not move.
The only drawback in my enjoyment was the failure of the pretty boy David Willis, who, injudiciously put in first, and playing for the first time in a match amongst men and strangers, was seized with such a fit of shamefaced shyness that he could scarcely hold his bat, and was bowled out without a stroke, from actual nervousness. Our other modest lad, John Strong, did very well; his length told in the field, and he got good fame. William Grey made a hit which actually lost the cricket-ball. We think she lodged in a hedge a quarter of a mile off, but nobody could find her. And so we parted; the players retired to their supper and we to our homes, all good-humoured and all happy—except the losers.
IV.—Love, the Leveller
The prettiest cottage on our village green is the little dwelling of Dame Wilson. The dame was a respected servant in a most respectable family, which she quitted only on her marriage with a man of character and industry, and of that peculiar universality of genius which forms what is called, in country phrase, a handy fellow. His death, which happened about ten years ago, made quite a gap in our village commonwealth.
Without assistance Mrs. Wilson contrived to maintain herself and her children in their old, comfortable home. The house had still, within and without, the same sunshiny cleanliness, and the garden was still famous over all other gardens. But the sweetest flower of the garden, and the joy and pride of her mother's heart, was her daughter Hannah. Well might she be proud of her! At sixteen, Hannah Wilson was, beyond a doubt, the prettiest girl in the village, and the best. Her chief characteristic was modesty. Her mind was like her person: modest, graceful, gentle and generous above all.
Our village beauty had fairly reached her twentieth year without a sweetheart; without the slightest suspicion of her having ever written a love-letter on her own account, when, all of a sudden, appearances changed. A trim, elastic figure, not unaccompanied, was descried walking down the shady lane. Hannah had gotten a lover!
Since the new marriage act, we, who belong to the country magistrates, have gained a priority over the rest of the parish in matrimonial news. We (the privileged) see on a work-day the names which the Sabbath announces to the generality. One Saturday, walking through our little hall, I saw a fine athletic young man, the very image of health and vigour, mental and bodily, holding the hand of a young woman, who was turning bashfully away, listening, and yet not seeming to listen, to his tender whispers. Hannah! And she went aside with me, and a rapid series of questions and answers conveyed the story of the courtship. "William was," said Hannah, "a journeyman hatter, in B——. He had walked over to see the cricketing, and then he came again. Her mother liked him. Everybody liked him—and she had promised. Was it wrong?"
"Oh, no! And where are you to live?" "William had got a room in B——. He works for Mr. Smith, the rich hatter in the market-place, and Mr. Smith speaks of him, oh, so well! But William will not tell me where our room is. I suppose in some narrow street or lane, which he is afraid I shall not like, as our common is so pleasant. He little thinks—anywhere—" She stopped suddenly. "Anywhere with him!"
The wedding-day was a glorious morning.
"What a beautiful day for Hannah!" was the first exclamation at the breakfast-table. "Did she tell you where they should dine?"
"No, ma'am; I forgot to ask."
"I can tell you," said the master of the house, with the look of a man who, having kept a secret as long as it was necessary, is not sorry to get rid of the burthen. "I can tell you—in London."
"Yes. Your little favourite has been in high luck. She has married the only son of one of the best and richest men in B——, Mr. Smith, the great hatter. It is quite a romance. William Smith walked over to see a match, saw our pretty Hannah, and forgot to look at the cricketers. He came again and again, and at last contrived to tame this wild dove, and even to get the entree of the cottage. Hearing Hannah talk is not the way to fall out of love with her. So William, finding his case serious, laid the matter before his father, and requested his consent to the marriage. Mr. Smith was at first a little startled. But William is an only son, and an excellent son; and after talking with me, and looking at Hannah, the father relented. But, having a spice of his son's romance, and finding that he had not mentioned his station in life, he made a point of its being kept secret till the wedding-day. I hope the shock will not kill Hannah."
"Oh, no! Hannah loves her husband too well."
And I was right. Hannah has survived the shock. She is returned to B——, and I have been to call on her. She is still the same Hannah, and has lost none of her old habits of kindness and gratitude. She did indeed just hint at her trouble with visitors and servants; seemed distressed at ringing the bell, and visibly shrank from the sound of a double knock. But in spite of these calamities Hannah is a happy woman. The double rap was her husband's, and the glow on her cheek, and the smile of her lips and eyes when he appeared spoke more plainly than ever: "Anywhere with him!"
* * * * *
Autobiography of Mansie Wauch
David Macbeth Moir was born at Musselburgh, Scotland, Jan. 5, 1798, and educated at the grammar school of the Royal Burgh and at Edinburgh University, from which he received the diploma of surgeon in 1816. He practised as a physician in his native town from 1817 until 1843, when, health failing, he practically withdrew from the active duties of his profession. Moir began to write in both prose and verse for various periodicals when quite a youth, but his long connection with "Blackwood's Magazine" under the pen name of "Delta", began in 1820, and he became associated with Christopher North, the Ettrick Shepherd, and others of the Edinburgh coterie distinguished in "Noctes Ambrosianae." He contributed to "Blackwood," histories, biographies, essays, and poems, to the number of about 400. His poems were esteemed beyond their merits by his generation, and his reputation now rests almost solely on the caustic humour of his "Autobiography of Mansie Wauch," published in 1828, a series of sketches of the manner of life in the shop-keeping and small-trading class of a Scottish provincial town at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Moir died at Dumfries on July 6, 1851.
I.—Mansie's Forebears and Early Life
Some of the rich houses and great folk pretend to have histories of the ancientness of their families, which they can count back on their fingers almost to the days of Noah's Ark, and King Fergus the First, but it is not in my power to come further back than auld grand-faither, who died when I was a growing callant. I mind him full well. To look at him was just as if one of the ancient patriarchs had been left on the earth, to let succeeding survivors witness a picture of hoary and venerable eld.
My own father, auld Mansie Wauch, was, at the age of thirteen, bound a 'prentice to the weaver trade, which he prosecuted till a mortal fever cut through the thread of his existence. Alas, as Job says, "How time flies like a weaver's shuttle!" He was a decent, industrious, hard-working man, doing everything for the good of his family, and winning the respect of all who knew the value of his worth. On the five-and-twentieth year of his age he fell in love with, and married, my mother, Marion Laverock.
I have no distinct recollection of the thing myself, but there is every reason to believe that I was born on October 13, 1765, in a little house in the Flesh-Market Gate, Dalkeith, and the first thing I have any clear memory of was being carried on my auntie's shoulders to see the Fair Race. Oh! but it was a grand sight! I have read since the story of Aladdin's Wonderful Lamp, but that fair and the race, which was won by a young birkie who had neither hat nor shoon, riding a philandering beast of a horse thirteen or fourteen years auld, beat it all to sticks.
In time, I was sent to school, where I learned to read and spell, making great progress in the Single and Mother's Carritch. What is more, few could fickle me in the Bible, being mostly able to spell it all over, save the second of Ezra and the seventh of Nehemiah, which the Dominie himself could never read through twice in the same way, or without variation.
Being of a delicate make—nature never intended me for the naval or military line, or for any robustious profession—I was apprenticed to the tailoring trade. Just afterwards I had a terrible stound of calf-love, my first flame being the minister's lassie, Jess, a buxom and forward queen, two or three years older than myself. I used to sit looking at her in the kirk, and felt a droll confusion when our eyes met. It dirled through my heart like a dart. Fain would I have spoken to her, but aye my courage failed me, though whiles she gave me a smile when she passed. She used to go to the well every night with her two stoups to draw water, so I thought of watching to give her two apples which I had carried in my pocket for more than a week for that purpose. How she started when I stappit them into her hand, and brushed by without speaking!
Jamie Coom, the blacksmith, who I aye jealoused was my rival, came up and asked Jess, with a loud guffaw, "Where is the tailor?" When I heard that, I took to my heels till I found myself on the little stool by the fireside with the hamely sound of my mother's wheel bum-bumming in my lug, like a gentle lullaby.
The days of the years of my 'prenticeship having glided cannily over, I girt myself round about with a proud determination of at once cutting my mother's apron-string. So I set out for Edinburgh in search of a journeyman's place, which I got the very first day in the Grassmarket. My lodging was up six pairs of stairs, in a room which I rented for half-a-crown a week, coals included; but my heart was sea-sick of Edinburgh folk and town manners, for which I had no stomach. I could form no friendly acquaintanceship with a living soul. Syne I abode by myself, like St. John in the Isle of Patmos, on spare allowance, making a sheep-head serve me for three days' kitchen.
Everything around me seemed to smell of sin and pollution, and often did I commune with my own heart, that I would rather be a sober, poor, honest man in the country, able to clear my day and way by the help of Providence, than the provost himself, my lord though he be, or even the mayor of London, with his velvet gown trailing for yards in the glaur behind him, or riding about the streets in a coach made of clear crystal and wheels of beaten gold.
But when my heart was sickening unto death, I fell in with the greatest blessing of my life, Nanse Cromie, a bit wench of a lassie frae the Lauder direction, who had come to be a servant in the flat below our workshop, and whom I often met on the stairs.
If ever a man loved, and loved like mad, it was me; and I take no shame in the confession. Let them laugh who like; honest folk, I pity them; such know not the pleasures of virtuous affection. Matters were by and bye settled full tosh between us; and though the means of both parties were small, we were young, and able and willing to help one another. Nanse and me laid our heads together towards the taking a bit house in the fore-street of Dalkeith, and at our leisure bought the plenishing.
Two or three days after Maister Wiggie, the minister, had gone through the ceremony of tying us together, my sign was nailed up, painted in black letters on a blue ground, with a picture of a jacket on one side and a pair of shears on the other; and I hung up a wheen ready-made waistcoats, caps, and Kilmarnock cowls in the window. Business in fact, flowed in upon us in a perfect torrent.
Both Nanse and I found ourselves so proud of our new situation that we slipped out in the dark and had a prime look with a lantern at the sign, which was the prettiest ye ever saw, although some sandblind creatures had taken the neatly painted jacket for a goose.
II.—The Resurrection Men
A year or two after the birth and christening of wee Benjie, my son, I was cheated by a swindling black-aviced Englishman out of some weeks' lodgings and keep, and a pair of new velveteen knee-breeches.
Then there arose a great surmise that some loons were playing false with the kirkyard; and, on investigation, it was found that four graves had been opened, and the bodies harled away to the college. Words cannot describe the fear, the dool, and the misery it caused, and the righteous indignation that burst through the parish.
But what remead? It was to watch in the session-house with loaded guns, night about, three at a time. It was in November when my turn came. I never liked to go into the kirkyard after darkening, let-a-be sit through a long winter night with none but the dead around us. I felt a kind of qualm of faintness and downsinking about my heart and stomach, to the dispelling of which I took a thimbleful of spirits, and, tying my red comforter about my neck, I marched briskly to the session-house.
Andrew Goldie, the pensioner, lent me his piece and loaded it to me. Not being well acquaint with guns, I kept the muzzle aye away from me, as it is every man's duty not to throw his precious life into jeopardy. A bench was set before the sessions-house fire, which bleezed brightly. My spirits rose, and I wondered, in my bravery, that a man like me should be afraid of anything. Nobody was there but a towzy, carroty-haired callant.
The night was now pitmirk. The wind soughed amid the headstones and railings of the gentry (for we must all die), and the black corbies in the steeple-holes cackled and crawed in a fearsome manner. Oh, but it was lonesome and dreary; and in about an hour the laddie wanted to rin awa hame; but, trying to look brave, though half-frightened out of my seven senses, I said, "Sit down, sit down; I've baith whiskey and porter wi' me. Hae, man, there's a cawker to keep your heart warm; and set down that bottle of Deacon Jaffrey's best brown stout to get a toast."
The wind blew like a hurricane; the rain began to fall in perfect spouts. Just in the heart of the brattle the grating of the yett turning on its rusty hinges was but too plainly heard.
"The're coming; cock the piece, ye sumph!" cried the laddie, while his red hair rose, from his pow like feathers. "I hear them tramping on the gravel," and he turned the key in the lock and brizzed his back against the door like mad, shouting out, "For the Lord's sake, prime the gun, or our throats will be cut before you can cry Jack Robinson."
I did the best I could, but the gun waggled to and fro like a cock's tail on a rainy day. I trust I was resigned to die, but od' it was a frightful thing to be out of one's bed to be murdered in an old session-house at the dead hour of the night by devils incarnate of ressurrection men with blacked faces, pistols, big sticks, and other deadly weapons.
After all, it was only Isaac, the bethrel, who, when we let him in, said that he had just keppit four ressurrectioners louping over the wall. But that was a joke. I gave Isaac a dram to kep his heart up, and he sung and leuch as if he had been boozing with some of his drucken cronies; for feint a hair cared he about auld kirkyards, or vouts, or dead folk in their winding-sheets, with the wet grass growing over them. Then, although I tried to stop him, he began to tell stories of Eirish ressurrectioners, and ghaists, seen in the kirkyard at midnight.
Suddenly a clap like thunder was heard, and the laddie, who had fallen asleep on the bench, jumped up and roared "Help!" "Murder!" "Thieves!" while Isaac bellowed out, "I'm dead! I'm killed!—shot through the head! Oh, oh, oh!" Surely, I had fainted away, for, when I came to myself, I found my red comforter loosed, my face all wet, Isaac rubbing down his waistcoat with his sleeve—the laddie swigging ale out of a bicker—and the brisk brown stout, which, by casting its cork, had caused all the alarm, whizz-whizz, whizzing in the chimney lug.
III.—The Friends of the People
The sough of war and invasion flew over the land at this time, like a great whirlwind; and the hearts of men died within their persons with fear and trembling. Abroad the heads of crowned kings were cut off, and great dukes and lords were thrown into dark dungeons, or obligated to flee for their lives to foreign countries.
But worst of all the trouble seemed a smittal one, and even our own land began to show symptoms of the plague spot. Agents of the Spirit of Darkness, calling themselves the Friends of the People, held secret meetings, and hatched plots to blow up our blessed king and constitution. Yet the business, though fearsome in the main, was in some parts almost laughable. Everything was to be divided, and everyone made alike. Houses and lands were to be distributed by lots, and the mighty man and the beggar—the old man and the hobble-de-hoy—the industrious man and the spendthrift, the maimed, the cripple, and the blind, the clever man of business, and the haveril simpleton, made all just brethern, and alike. Save us! but to think of such nonsense! At one of their meetings, held at the sign of the Tappet Hen and the Tankard, there was a prime fight of five rounds between Tammy Bowsie, the snab, and auld Thrashem, the dominie, about their drawing cuts which was to get Dalkeith Palace, and which Newbottle Abbey! Oh, sic riff-raff!
It was a brave notion of the king to put the loyalty of the land to the test, that the daft folk might be dismayed, and that the clanjamphrey might be tumbled down before their betters, like the windle-straes in a hurricane. And so they were. Such crowds came forward when the names of the volunteers were taken down. I will never forget the first day that I got my regimentals on, and when I looked myself in the glass, just to think I was a sodger who never in my life could thole the smell of powder! Oh, but it was grand! I sometimes fancied myself a general, and giving the word of command. Big Sam, who was a sergeant in the fencibles, and enough to have put five Frenchmen to flight any day of the year, whiles came to train us; but as nature never intended me for the soldiering trade, I never got out of the awkward squad, though I had two or three neighbours to keep me in countenance.
We all cracked very crouse about fighting; but one dark night we got a fleg in sober earnest. Jow went the town bell, and row-de-dow gaed the drums, and all in a minute was confusion and uproar in ilka street. I was seized with a severe shaking of the knees and a flapping at the heart, when, through the garret window, I saw the signal posts were in a bleeze, and that the French had landed. This was in reality to be a soldier! I never got such a fright since the day I was cleckit. There was such a noise and hullabaloo in the streets, as if the Day of Judgment had come to find us all unprepared.
Notwithstanding, we behaved ourselves like true-blue Scotsmen, called forth to fight the battles of our country, and if the French had come, as they did not come, they would have found that to their cost, as sure as my name is Mansie. However, it turned out that it was a false alarm, and that the thief Buonaparte had not landed at Dunbar, as it was jealoused; so, after standing under arms for half the night, we were sent home to our beds.
But next day we were taken out to be taught the art of firing. We went through our motions bravely—to load, ram down the cartridge, made ready, present, fire. But so flustered and confused was I that I never had mind to pull the tricker, though I rammed down a fresh cartridge at the word of command. At the end of the firing the sergeant of the company ordered all that had loaded pieces to come to the front, and six of us stepped out in a little line in face of the regiment. Our pieces were cocked, and at the word "Fire!" off they went. It was an act of desperation on my part to draw the tricker, and I had hardly well shut my blinkers when I got such a thump on the shoulder as knocked me backwards, head over heels, on the grass. When I came to my senses and found myself not killed outright, and my gun two or three ells away, I began to rise up. Then I saw one of the men going forward to lift the fatal piece, but my care for the safety of others overcame the sense of my own peril. "Let alane, let alane!" cried I to him, "and take care of yoursell, for it has to gang off five times yet." I thought in my innocence that we should hear as many reports as I had crammed cartridges down her muzzle. This was a sore joke against me for a length of time; but I tholed it patiently, considering cannily within myself, that even Johnny Cope himself had not learned the art of war in a single morning.
IV.—My First and Last Play
Maister Glen, a farmer from the howes of the Lammermoor, Hills, a far-awa cousin of our neighbour Widow Grassie, came to Dalkeith to buy a horse at our fair. He put up free of expense at the widow's, who asked me to join him and her at a bit warm dinner, as may be, being a stranger, he would not like to use the freedom of drinking by himself—a custom which is at the best an unsocial one—especially with none but women-folk near him.
When we got our joy filled for the second time, and began to be better acquainted, we became merry, and cracked away just like two pen-guns. I asked him, ye see, about sheep and cows, and ploughing and thrashing, and horses and carts, and fallow land and lambing-time, and such like; and he, in his turn, made inquiries regarding broad and narrow cloth, Shetland hose, and mittens, thread, and patent shears, measuring, and all other particulars belonging to our trade, which he said, at long and last, after we had joked together, was a power better one than the farming line; and he promised to bind his auldest callant 'prentice to me to the tailoring trade.
On the head of this auld Glen and I had another jug, three being cannie, after which we were both a wee tozymozy. Mistress Grassie saw plainly that we were getting into a state where we could not easily make a halt, and brought in the tea-things and told us that a company of strolling players had come to the town and were to give an exhibition in Laird Wheatley's barn. Many a time I had heard of play-acting, and I determined to run the risk of Maister Wiggie, our minister's rebuke, for the transgression. Auld Glen, being as full of nonsense and as fain to gratify his curiosity as myself, volunteered to pay the ransom of a shilling for admission, so we went to the barn, which had been browley set out for the occasion by Johnny Hammer, the joiner.
The place was choke-full, just to excess, and when the curtain was hauled up in came a decent old gentleman in great distress, and implored all the powers of heaven and earth to help him find his runaway daughter that had decamped with some ne'er-do-weel loon of a half-pay captain. Out he went stumping on the other side, determined, he said, to find them, though he should follow them to Johnny Groat's house, or something to that effect. Hardly was his back turned than in came the birkie and the very young lady the old gentleman described, arm-and-arm together, laughing like daft Dog on it! It was a shameless piece of business. As true as death, before all the crowd of folk, he put his arm round her waist and called her his sweetheart, and love, and dearie, and darling, and everything that is fine.
In the middle of their goings on, the sound of a coming foot was heard, and the lassie, taking guilt to her, cried out, "Hide me, hide me, for the sake of goodness, for yonder comes my old father!" No sooner said than done. In he stappit her into a closit, and, after shutting the door on her, he sat down upon a chair, pretending to be asleep in the twinkling of a walking-stick. The old father came bounsing in, shook him up, and gripping him by the cuff of the neck, aske him, in a fierce tone, what he had made of his daughter. Never since I was born did I ever see such brazen-faced impudence! The rascal had the face to say at once that he had not seen the lassie for a month. As a man, as a father, as an elder of our kirk, my corruption was raised, for I aye hated lying as a poor cowardly sin, so I called out, "Dinna believe him, auld gentleman; he's telling a parcel of lees. Never saw her for a month! Just open that press-door, and ye'll see whether I am speaking truth or not!" The old man stared and looked dumfounded; and the young one, instead of running forward with his double nieves to strike me, began a-laughing, as if I had done him a good turn.
But never since I had a being did I ever witness such an uproar and noise as immediately took place. The whole house was so glad that the scoundrel had been exposed that they set up siccan a roar of laughter, and thumped away at siccan a rate with their feet that down fell the place they called the gallery, all the folk in't being hurl'd topsy-turvy among the sawdust on the floor below.
Then followed cries of "Murder," "Hold off me," "My ribs are in," "I'm killed," "I'm speechless." There was a rush to the door, the lights were knocked out, and such tearing, swearing, tumbling, and squealing was never witnessed in the memory of man since the building of Babel. I was carried off my feet, my wind was fairly gone, and a sick qualm came over me, which entirely deprived me of my senses. On opening my eyes in the dark, I found myself leaning with my broadside against the wall on the opposite side of the close, with the tail of my Sunday coat docked by the hainch buttons. So much for plays and play-actors—the first and the last I trust in grace that I shall ever see.
Next morning I had to take my breakfast in bed, a thing very uncommon to me, except on Sunday mornings whiles, when each one according to the bidding of the Fourth Commandment, has a licence to do as he likes. Having a desperate sore head, our wife, poor body, put a thimbleful of brandy into my first cup of tea which had a wonderful virtue in putting all things to rights.
In the afternoon Thomas Burlings, the ruling elder in the kirk, popped into the shop, and, in our two-handed crack, after asking me in a dry, curious way if I had come by no skaith in the business of the play, he said the thing had now spread far and wide, and was making a great noise in the world. I thought the body a wee sharp in his observe, so I pretended to take it quite lightly. Then he began to tell me a wheen stories, each one having to do with drinking.
"It's a wearyfu' thing that whisky," said Thomas. "I wish it could be banished to Botany Bay."
"It is that," said I. "Muckle and nae little sin does it breed and produce in this world."
"I'm glad," quoth Thomas, stroking down his chin in a slee way, "I'm glad the guilty should see the folly o' their ain ways; it's the first step, ye ken, till amendment. And indeed I tell't Maister Wiggie, when he sent me here, that I could almost become guid for your being mair wary of your conduct for the future time to come."
This was a thunder-clap to me, but I said briskly, "So ye're after some session business in this visit, are ye?"
"Ye've just guessed it," answered Thomas, sleeking down his front hair with his fingers in a sober way. "We had a meeting this forenoon, and it was resolved ye should stand a public rebuke in the meeting house next Sunday."
"Hang me if I do!" answered I. "Not for all the ministers and elders that were ever cleckit. I was born a free man, I live in a free country, I am the subject of a free king and constitution, and I'll be shot before I submit to such rank diabolical papistry."
"Hooly and fairly, Mansie," quoth Thomas. "They'll maybe no be sae hard as they threaten. But ye ken, my friend, I'm speaking to you as a brither; it was an unco'-like business for an elder, not only to gang till a play, which is ane of the deevil's rendevouses, but to gan there in a state of liquor, making yourself a world's wonder, and you an elder of our kirk! I put the question to yourself soberly."
His threatening I could despise; but ah, his calm, brotherly, flattering way I could not thole with. So I said till him, "Weel, weel, Thomas, I ken I have done wrong, and I am sorry for't; they'll never find me in siccan a scrape again."
Thomas Burlings, in a friendly way, shook hands with me; telling that he would go back and plead with the session in my behalf. To do him justice he was not worse than his word, for I have aye attended the kirk as usual, standing, when it came to my rotation, at the plate, and nobody, gentle or simple, ever spoke to me on the subject of the playhouse, or minted the matter of the rebuke from that day to this.
V.—Benjie a Barber
When wee Benjie came to his thirteenth year, many and long were the debates between his fond mother and me what trade we would bring him up to. His mother thought that he had just the physog of an admiral, and when the matter was put to himsell, Benjie said quite briskly he would like to be a gentleman. At which I broke through my rule never to lift my fist to the bairn, and gave him such a yerk in the cheek with the loof of my hand, as made, I am sure, his lugs ring, and sent him dozing to the door like a peerie.
We discussed, among other trades and professions, a lawyer's advocatt, a preaching minister, a doctor, a sweep, a rowley-powley man, a penny-pie-man, a man-cook, that easiest of all lives, a gentleman's gentleman; but in the end Nanse, when I suggested a barber, gave a mournful look and said in a state of Christian resignation, "Tak' your ain way, gudeman."
And so Benjie was apprenticed to be a barber, for, as I made the observe, "Commend me to a safe employment, and a profitable. They may give others the nick, and draw blood, but catch them hurting themselves. The foundations of the hair-cutting and the shaving line are as sure as that of the everlasting rocks; beards being likely to roughen, and heads to require polling as long as wood grows and water runs."
Benjie is now principal shop-man in a Wallflower Hair-Powder and Genuine Macassar Oil Warehouse, kept by three Frenchmen, called Moosies Peroukey, in the West End of London. But, though our natural enemies, he writes me that he has found them agreeable and shatty masters, full of good manners and pleasant discourse, and, except in their language, almost Christians.
I aye thought Benjie was a genius, and he is beginning to show himself his father's son, being in thoughts of taking out a patent for making a hair-oil from rancid butter. If he succeeds it will make the callant's fortune. But he must not marry Madamoselle Peroukey without my special consent, as Nance says that her having a French woman for a daughter-in-law would be the death of her.
As for myself, I have now retired from business with my guid wife Nanse to our ain cottage at Lugton, with a large garden and henhouse attached, there to spend the evening of our days. I have enjoyed a pleasant run of good health through life, reading my Bible more in hope than fear; our salvation, and not our destruction, being, I should suppose, its purpose. And I trust that the overflowing of a grateful heart will not be reckoned against me for unrighteousness.
* * * * *
The Adventures of Hajji Baba of Ispahan
"Hajji Baba" stands by itself among the innumerable books written of the East by Europeans. For these inimitable concessions of a Persian rogue are intended to give a picture of Oriental life as seen by Oriental and not by Western eyes—-to present the country and people of Persia from a strictly Persian standpoint. This daring attempt to look at the East from the inside, as it were, is acknowledged to be successful; all Europeans familiar with Persia testify to the truth, often very caustic truth, of James Morier's portraiture. The author of "The Adventures of Hajji Baba of Ispahan" was born about 1780, and spent most of his days as a diplomatic representative of Great Britain in the East. He first visited Persia in 1808-09, as private secretary to the mission mentioned in the closing pages of "Hajji Baba." He returned to Persia in 1811-12, and again in 1814, and wrote two books about the country. But the thoroughness and candour of his intimacy with the Persian character were not fully revealed until the publication of "Hajji Baba" in 1824. So popular was the work that Morier wrote an amusing sequel to it entitled "Hajji Baba in England." He died on March 23, 1849.
My father, Kerbelai Hassan, was one of the most celebrated barbers of Ispahan. I was the son of his second wife, and as I was born when my father and mother were on a pilgrimage to the tomb of Hosein, in Kerbelah, I was called Hajji, or the pilgrim, a name which has procured for me a great deal of unmerited respect, because that honoured title is seldom conferred on any but those who have made the great pilgrimage to the tomb of the blessed Prophet of Mecca.
I was taught to read and write by a mollah, or priest, who kept a school in a mosque near at hand; when not in school I attended the shop, and by the time I was sixteen it would be difficult to say whether I was most accomplished as a barber or a scholar. My father's shop, being situated near the largest caravanserai in the city, was the common resort of the foreign merchants; and one of them, Osman Aga, of Bagdad, took a great fancy to me, and so excited me by describing the different cities he had visited, that I soon felt a strong desire to travel. He was then in want of someone to keep his accounts, and as I associated the two qualifications of barber and scribe, he made me such advantageous offers that I agreed to follow him.
His purpose was to journey to Meshed with the object of purchasing the lambskins of Bokhara. Our caravan proceeded without impediment to Tehran; but the dangerous part of the journey was yet to come, as a tribe of Turcomans were known to infest the road.
We advanced by slow marches over a parched and dreary country, and our conversation chiefly turned upon the Turcomans. Everyone vaunted his own courage; my master above the rest, his teeth actually chattering with apprehension, boasted of what he would do in case we were attacked. But when we in reality perceived a body of Turcomans coming down upon us, the scene instantly changed. Some ran away; others, and among them my master, yielded to intense fear, and began to exclaim: "O Allah! O Imams! O Mohammed the Prophet, we are gone! We are dying! We are dead!" A shower of arrows, which the enemy discharged as they came in, achieved their conquest, and we soon became their prey. The Turcomans having completed their plunder, placed each of us behind a horseman, and we passed through wild tracts of mountainous country to a large plain, covered with the black tents and the flocks and herds of our enemies.
My master was set to tend camels in the hills; but when the Turcomans discovered my abilities as a barber and a surgeon, I became a general favourite, and gained the confidence of the chief of the tribe himself. Finally, he determined to permit me to accompany him on a predatory excursion into Persia—a permission which I hoped would lead to my escaping. I was the more ready to do so, in that I secretly possessed fifty ducats. These had been concealed by my master, Osman Aga, in his turban at the outset of his journey. The turban had been taken from him and carried to the women's quarters, whence I had recovered it. I had some argument with myself as to whether I ought to restore the ducats to him; but I persuaded myself that the money was now mine rather than his. "Had it not been for me," I said, "the money was lost for ever; who, therefore, has a better claim to it than myself?"
We carried off much property on the raid, but as our only prisoners were a court poet, a carpet-spreader, and a penniless cadi, we had little to hope for in the way of ransom. On our return journey we perceived a large body of men, too compact for a caravan—plainly some great personage and his escort. The Turcomans retired hastily, but I lagged behind, seeing in this eventuality a means of escape. I was soon overtaken and seized, plundered of my fifty ducats and everything else, and dragged before the chief personage of the party—a son of the Shah, on his way to become governor of Khorassan.
Kissing the ground before him, I related my story, and petitioned for the return of my fifty ducats. The rogues who had taken the money were brought before the prince, who ordered them to be bastinadoed until they produced it. After a few blows they confessed, and gave up the ducats, which were carried to the prince. He counted the money, put it under the cushion on which he was reclining, and said loudly to me, "You are dismissed."
"My money, where is it?" I exclaimed.
"Give him the shoe," said the prince to his master of the ceremonies, who struck me over the mouth with the iron-shod heel of his slipper, saying: "Go in peace, or you'll have your ears cut off."
"You might as well expect a mule to give up a mouthful of fresh grass," said an old muleteer to whom I told my misfortune, "as a prince to give up money that has once been in his hands."
Reaching Meshed in a destitute state, I practised for a time the trade of water-carrier, and then became an itinerant vendor of smoke. I was not very scrupulous about giving my tobacco pure; and when one day the Mohtesib, or inspector, came to me, disguised as an old woman, I gave him one of my worst mixtures. Instantly he summoned half a dozen stout fellows; my feet were noosed, and blow after blow was inflicted on them until they were a misshapen mass of flesh and gore. All that I possessed was taken from me, and I crawled home miserably on my hands and knees.
I felt I had entered Meshed in an unlucky hour, and determined to leave it. Dressed as a dervish I joined a caravan for Tehran.
II.—The Fate of the Lovely
I at first resolved to follow the career of a dervish, tempted thereto by the confidences of my companion, Dervish Sefer, who befriended me after my unhappy encounter with the Mohtesib.
"With one-fiftieth of your accomplishments, and a common share of effrontery," he told me, "you may command both the purses and the lives of your hearers. By impudence I have been a prophet, by impudence I have wrought miracles—by impudence, in short, I live a life of great ease."
But a chance came to me of stealing a horse, the owner of which confessed he had himself stolen it; and by selling it I hoped to add to the money I had obtained as a dervish, and thereby get into some situation where I might gain my bread honestly. Unfortunately, when I had reached Tehran, the real owner of the horse appeared. I was compelled to refund to the dealer the money I had been paid for the horse, and had some difficulty, when we went before the magistrate at the bazaar, in proving that I was not a thief. I had heard that the court poet, with whom I had formed a friendship during his captivity among the Turcomans, had escaped and returned to Tehran. To him, therefore, I repaired, and through his good offices I secured a post as assistant to Mirza Ahmak, the king's chief physician.
Although the physician was willing to have my services, he was too avaricious to pay me anything for them; and I would not have remained long with him had I not fallen in love. In the heat of summer I made any bed in the open air, in a corner of a terrace that overlooked an inner court where the women's apartments were situated. I came presently to exchanging glances with a beautiful Curdish slave. From glances we came to conversation. At length, when Zeenab—for that was her name—was alone in the women's apartments, she would invite me down from the terrace, and we would spend long hours feasting and singing together.
But our felicity was destined to be interrupted. The Shah was about to depart for his usual summer campaign, and, according to his wont, paid a round of visits to noblemen, thereby reaping for himself a harvest of presents. The physician, being reputed rich, was marked out as prey fit for the royal grasp. The news of the honour to be paid him left him half-elated at the distinction, half-trembling at the ruin that awaited his finances. The Shah came with his full suite, dined gorgeously at my master's expense, and, as is customary, visited the women's apartments. Presently came the news that my master had presented the Shah with Zeenab! She was to be trained as a dancing-girl, and was to dance before the Shah on his return from the campaign.
When Zeenab was thus removed out of my reach, I had no inducement to remain in the physician's service. I therefore sought and secured a post as nasakchi, or officer of the chief executioner. I was now a person of authority with the crowd, and used my stick so freely upon their heads and backs that I soon acquired a reputation for courage. Nor did I fail to note the advice given to me by my brother officers as to the making of money by extortion—how an officer inflicts the bastinado fiercely or gently according to the capacity of the sufferer to pay; how bribes may be obtained from villages anxious not to have troops quartered upon them, and so on. I lived in such an atmosphere of violence and cruelty—I heard of nothing but slitting noses, putting out eyes, and chopping men in two—that I am persuaded I could almost have impaled my own father.
The chief executioner was a tall and bony man, extremely ferocious. "Give me good hard fighting," he was accustomed to declare; "let me have my thrust with the lance, and my cut with the sabre, and I want no more. We all have our weaknesses—these are mine." This terrible man accompanied the Shah in his campaign, and I and the others went along with him, in the army that was to expel the Muscovite infidels from Georgia. Having heard that the Muscovites were posted on the Pembaki river, the chief executioner, with a large body of cavalry and infantry, proceeded to advance upon them.
On reaching the river, we found two Muscovite soldiers on the opposite bank. The chief put on a face of the greatest resolution. "Go, seize, strike, kill!" he exclaimed. "Bring me their heads!"
Several men dashed into the river, but the Russians, firing steadily, killed two of them, whereupon the rest retreated; nor could all the chief's oaths, entreaties, and offers of money persuade anybody to go forward.
While we were thus parleying, a shot hit the chief executioner's stirrup, which awoke his fears to such a degree that he recalled his troops, and himself rode hastily away, exclaiming, "Curses be on their beards! Whoever fought after this fashion? Killing, killing, as if we were so many hogs! They will not run away, do all you can to them. They are worse than brutes! O Allah, Allah, if there was no dying in the case, how the Persians would fight!"
On our return to the camp, a proclamation was issued announcing that an army of 50,000 infidels had been vanquished by the all-victorious armies of the Shah, that 10,000 of the dogs had given up their souls, and that the prisoners were so many that the prices of slaves had diminished a hundred per cent.
When we went back with the Shah to Tehran, a horrid event occurred which plunged me in the greatest misery. I heard that Zeenab was ill, and unable to dance before the Shah; and, knowing the royal methods of treating unsatisfactory slaves, I feared greatly for the consequences. My fears were warranted. I was ordered, with others, to wait below the tower of the royal harem at midnight and bear away a corpse. We saw a woman struggling with two men at the top of the tower. The woman was flung over. We rushed forward. At my feet, in the death-agony, lay my beloved Zeenab. I hung over her in the deepest despair; my feelings could not be concealed from the ruffians around me.
I abandoned everything, and left Tehran next day determined to become a real dervish, and spend the rest of my life in penitence and privations.
III.—Among the Holy Men
As I was preparing next night to sleep on the bare ground outside a caravanserai—for I was almost destitute—I saw a horseman ride up whom I recognised. It was one of the nasakchis who had assisted in the burial of Zeenab. I had been betrayed, then; my love for the king's slave had been revealed, and they were pursuing me.
I went into the caravanserai, sought out a friend—the dervish whom I had known at Meshed—and asked his advice. "I can expect no mercy from this man," I said, "particularly as I have not enough money to offer him, for I know his price. Where shall I go?"
The dervish replied, "You must lose not a moment in getting within the sanctuary of the tomb of Fatimeh at Kom. You can reach it before morning, and then you will be safe even from the Shah's power."
"But how shall I live when I am there?" I asked.
"I shall soon overtake you, and then, Inshallah (please God), you will not fare so ill as you imagine."
As the day broke, I could distinguish the gilt cupola of the tomb before me; and as I perceived the horseman at some distance behind, I made all possible speed until I had passed the gateway of the sanctuary. Kissing the threshold of the tomb, I said my prayers with all the fervency of one who has got safe from a tempest into port.
My friend the dervish arrived soon afterwards, and immediately urged upon me the importance of saying my prayers, keeping fasts, and wearing a long and mortified countenance. As he assured me that unless I made a pretence of deep piety I should be starved or stoned to death, I assumed forthwith the character of a rigid Mussulman. I rose at the first call, made my ablutions at the cistern in the strictest forms, and then prayed in the most conspicuous spot I could find.
By the intensity of my devotion I won the goodwill of Mirza Abdul Cossim, the first mashtehed (divine) of Persia, and by his influence I obtained a pardon from the Shah. Now that I was free from the sanctuary, I became anxious to gain some profit by my fame for piety; so I applied to Mirza Abdul Cossim, who straightway sent me to assist the mollah Nadan, one of the principal men of the law in Tehran. My true path of advancement, I believed, was now open. I was on the way to become a mollah.
Nadan was an exemplary Mussulman in all outward matters; but I was not long in discovering that he had two ruling passions—jealousy of the chief priest of Tehran, and a hunger for money. My earliest duty was to gratify his second passion by negotiating temporary marriages for handsome fees. In these transactions we prospered fairly well; but unfortunately Nadan's desire to supplant the chief priest led him to stir up the populace to attack the Christians of the city, and plunder their property. The Shah was then in a humour to protect the Christians; consequently, Nadan had his beard plucked out by the roots, was mounted on an ass with his face to its tail, and was driven out of the city with blows and execrations.
Once more homeless and almost penniless, not knowing what to do, I strolled in the dusk into a bath, and undressed. The bath was empty save for one man, whom I recognized as the chief priest. He was splashing about in a manner that struck me as remarkable for so sedate a character; then a most unusual floundering, attended with a gurgling of the throat, struck my ear. To my horror, I saw that he was drowned. Here was a predicament; it was inevitable that I should be charged with his murder.
Suddenly it occurred to me that I bore a close resemblance to the dead man. For an hour or two, at any rate, I might act as an impostor. So, in the dim light, I dressed myself in the chief priest's clothes, and repaired to his house.
I was there received by two young slaves, who paid me attentions that would at most times have delighted me; but just then they filled me with apprehension, and I was heartily glad when I got rid of the slaves and fastened the door. I then explored the chief priest's pockets, and found therein two letters. One was from the chief executioner—a notorious drunkard—begging permission to take unlimited wine for his health's sake. The other was from a priest at the mollah's village saying that he had extracted from the peasantry one hundred tomauns (L80), which would be delivered to a properly qualified messenger.
To the chief executioner I wrote cheerfully granting the permission he sought, and suggesting that the loan of a well-caparisoned horse would not be amiss. I wrote a note to the priest requesting that the money be delivered to the bearer, our confidential Hajji Baba. Next morning I rose early, and made certain alterations in the chief priest's clothes so as to avoid detection. I went to the chief executioner's house, presented the letter, and received the horse, upon which I rode hastily away to the village. Having obtained the hundred tomauns I escaped across the frontier to Bagdad.
IV.—Hajji and the Infidels
On reaching Bagdad, I sought the house of my old master, Osman Aga, long since returned from his captivity, and through his assistance, and with my hundred tomauns as capital, I was able to set up in business as a merchant in pipe-sticks, and, having made myself as like as possible to a native of Bagdad, I travelled in Osman Aga's company to Constantinople. Having a complaint to make, I went to Mirza Ferouz, Persian ambassador on a special mission to Constantinople.
"Your wit and manner are agreeable," he said to me; "you have seen the world and its business; you are a man who can make play under another's beard. Such I am in want of."
"I am your slave and your servant," I replied.
"Lately an ambassador came from Europe to Tehran," said Mirza Ferouz, "saying he was sent, with power to make a treaty, by a certain Boonapoort, calling himself Emperor of the French. He promised, that Georgia should be reconquered for us from the Russians, and that the English should be driven from India. Soon afterwards the English infidels in India sent agents to impede the reception of the Frenchman. We soon discovered that much was to be got between the rival curs of uncleanness; and the true object of my mission here is to discover all that is to be known of these French and English. In this you can help me."
This proposal I gladly accepted, and went forth to interview a scribe of the Reis Effendi with whom I had struck up a friendship. He told me that Boonapoort was indeed a rare and daring infidel, who, from a mere soldier, became the sultan of an immense nation, and gave the law to all the Europeans.
"And is there not a tribe of infidels called Ingliz?" I asked.
"Yes, truly. They live in an island, are powerful in ships, and in watches and broad-cloth are unrivalled. They have a shah, but it is a farce to call him by that title. The power lies with certain houses full of madmen, who meet half the year round for the purposes of quarrelling. Nothing can be settled in the state, be it only whether a rebellious aga is to have his head cut off and his property confiscated, or some such trifle, until these people have wrangled. Let us bless Allah and our Prophet that we are not born to eat the miseries of the poor English infidels, but can smoke our pipes in quiet on the shores of our own peaceful Bosphorus!"
I returned to my ambassador full of the information I had acquired; daily he sent me in search of fresh particulars, and before long I felt able to draw up the history of Europe that the Shah had ordered Mirza Ferouz to provide. So well pleased was the ambassador with my labours, that he announced his intention of taking me back to Persia and continuing me in Government employ. To this I readily agreed, knowing that, with the protection of men in office, I might show myself in my own country with perfect safety.
On out return to Tehran we found an English ambassador negotiating a treaty, the French having gone away unsuccessful. Owing to the knowledge I had acquired of European affairs when at Constantinople, I was much employed in these transactions with the infidels, and when I gained the confidence of the grand vizier himself, destiny almost as much as whispered that the buffetings of the world had taken their departure from me.
The negotiations reached a difficult point, and threatened to break down; neither the Persians nor the infidels would give way. I was sent by the grand vizier on a delicate mission to the English ambassador. I prevailed. I returned to the grand vizier with a sack of gold for him and the promise of a diamond ring, and the treaty was signed.
It was decided to send an ambassador to England. Mirza Berouz was appointed, and I was chosen as his first mirza, or secretary. What pleased me most of all was that I was sent to Ispahan to raise part of the money for the presents to be taken to England. Hajji Baba, the barber's son, entered his native place as Mirza Hajji Baba, the Shah's deputy, with all the parade of a man of consequence, and on a mission that gave him unbounded opportunity of enriching himself. I found myself, after all my misfortunes, at the summit of what, in my Persian eyes, was perfect human bliss.
* * * * *
DAVID CHRISTIE MURRAY
The Way of the World
David Christie Murray was born at West Bromwich, England, April 13, 1847, and began his journalistic career at Birmingham. In 1873 he moved to London and joined the staff of the "Daily News" and in 1878 he was correspondent of the "Times" and the "Scotsman" in the Russo-Turkish war. He now began to transfer his abundant experience of life to the pages of fiction. His first novel, "A Life's Atonement," was published in 1880, and was followed a year later by "Joseph's Coat." In "The Way of the World," published in 1884, his art as a story-teller and his keen observation of men and manners were displayed as strikingly as in any of his later works— several of which were written in collaboration with other authors. Altogether he produced over thirty volumes of short stories and novels single-handed. At the end of last century he emerged from his literary seclusion in Wales and became active in current affairs; he was one of the leading English champions of Dreyfus, and obtained the warm friendship of Emile Zola. He died on August 1, 1907.
Your sympathies are requested for Mr. Bolsover Kimberley, a gentleman embarrassed beyond measure.
Mr. Kimberley was thirty-five years of age. He was meek, and had no features to speak of. His hair was unassuming, and his whiskers were too shy to curl. He was a clerk in a solicitor's office in the town of Gallowbay, and he seemed likely to live to the end of his days in the pursuit of labours no more profitable or pretentious.
A cat may look at a king. A solicitor's clerk may love an earl's daughter. It was an undeniable madness in Kimberley even to dream of loving the Lady Ella Santerre. He knew perfectly well what a fool he was; but he was in love for all that.
To Bolsover Kimberley, seated in a little room with a dingy red desk and cobwebbed skylight, there entered Mr. Ragshaw, senior clerk to Messrs. Begg, Batter, and Bagg, solicitors.
"My dear Mr. Kimberley," said Mr. Ragshaw, "allow me the honour of shaking hands with you. I believe that I am the first bearer of good news."
Mr. Kimberley turned pale.
"My firm, sir," pursued Mr. Ragshaw, "represented the trustees of the late owner of the Gallowbay Estate, who died three months ago at the age of twenty, leaving no known relatives. We instituted a search, which resulted in the discovery of an indisputable title to the estate. Permit me to congratulate you, sir—the estate is yours."
Bolsover Kimberley gasped, and his voice was harsh.
"The estate, sir, is now approximately valued at forty-seven thousand per annum."
Kimberley lurched forward, and fell over in a dead faint. Mr. Ragshaw's attentions restored him to his senses, and he drank a little water, and sobbed hysterically.
When he had recovered a little, he arose weakly from the one office chair, took off his office coat, rolled it up neatly, and put it in his desk. Then he put on his walking coat and his hat and went out.
"Don't you think, Mr. Kimberley," asked Mr. Ragshaw, with profound respect, "that a little something——"
They were outside the Windgall Arms, and Kimberley understood.
"Why, yes, sir," he said; "but I never keep it in the 'ouse, and having had to pay a tailor's bill this week, I don't happen——"
"My dear sir, allow me!" said Ragshaw, with genuine emotion.
The champagne, the dinner that followed, the interviews with pressmen, the excitement and obsequiousness of everybody, conveyed to Kimberley's mind, in a dizzy sort of a way, that he was somebody in the world, and ought to be proud of it. But his long life of servitude, his shyness and want of nerve, all weighed heavily upon him, and he was far from being happy.
Mr. Begg, senior partner of Messrs. Begg, Batter, and Bagg, was sitting in his office a day or two later when a clerk ushered in the Earl of Windgall.
"What's this news about Gallowbay, Begg? Is it true?" asked the earl.
"It is certainly true," answered Begg.
"What sort of fellow is this Kimberley?"
"Well, he seems to be a shy little man, gauche, and—and—underbred, even for his late position."
"That's a pity. I should like to see him," added the grey little nobleman. "I suppose you will act for him as you did for poor young Edward?"
Poor young Edward was the deceased minor whose early death had wrecked the finest chances the Windgall family craft had ever carried.
"I suppose so," said Begg.
"I presume," said the earl, "that even if he wanted to call in his money you could arrange elsewhere?"
"With regard to the first mortgage?" asked Mr. Begg. "Certainly."
"And what about the new arrangement?" asked the earl nervously.
"Impossible, I regret to say."
"Very well," returned the earl, with a sigh. "I suppose the timber must go. If poor Edward had lived, it would all have been very different."
Next day, when Kimberley, preposterously overdressed and thoroughly ashamed of himself, was trying to talk business in Mr. Begg's office, the Earl of Windgall was announced. There was nothing in the world that could have terrified him more. And when the father of his ideal love, Lady Ella Santerre, shook him by the hand, he could only gasp and gurgle in response. But the earl's manner gradually reassured him, and in a little time he began to plume himself in harmless trembling vanity upon sitting in the same room with a nobleman and a great lawyer.
"I am pleased to have met Mr. Kimberley," said the earl, in going; "and I trust we shall see more of each other."
Mr. Kimberley flushed, and bowed in a violent flutter.
As the earl was driven homeward he could not help feeling that he was engaged in a shameful enterprise. People would talk if he invited this gilded little snob to Shouldershott Castle, and would know very well why he was asked there. Let them talk.
"A million and a quarter!" said the poor peer. "And if I don't catch him, somebody else will."
Meanwhile, Captain Jack Clare, an extremely popular young officer of dragoons, was in the depths of despair. He was the younger brother of Lord Montacute, whose family was poor; he loved Lady Ella Santerre, whose family was still poorer. The heads of the families had forbidden the match for financial reasons. He had stolen an interview with Ella, and had found that she bowed to the decision of the seniors.
"It is all quite hopeless and impossible," she had said. "Good-bye, Jack!"
As he rode dispiritedly away, he could not see, for the intervening trees, that she was kneeling in the fern and crying.
II.—A Peer in Difficulties
The Lady Ella slipped an arm about her father's neck.
"You are in trouble, dear," she said. "Can I help you?"
"No," said the poor nobleman. "There's no help for it, Beggs says, and they'll have to cut down the timber in the park. Poverty, my dear, poverty."
This was a blow, and a heavy one.
"That isn't the worst of it," said Windgall, after a pause. "I am in the hands of the Jews. A wretched Hebrew fellow says he will have a thousand pounds by this day week. He might as well ask me for a million."
"The diamonds are worth more than a thousand pounds, dear," she said gently.
"No, no, my darling," he answered. "I have robbed you of everything already."
"You must take them, papa," she said in tender decision. She left him, only to return in a few minutes' time with a dark shagreen case in her hands. The earl paced about the room for a minute or two.
"I take these," he said at last, "in bitter unwillingness, because I can't help taking them, my dear. I had best get the business over, Ella. I will go up to town this afternoon."
During the whole of his journey the overdressed figure of Kimberley seemed to stand before the embarrassed man, and a voice seemed to issue from it. "Catch me, flatter me, wheedle me, marry me to one of your daughters, and see the end of your woes." He despised himself heartily for permitting the idea to enter his mind, but he could not struggle against its intrusion.
Next day Kimberley entered his jewellers to consult him concerning a scarf-pin. It was a bull-dog's head, carved in lava, and not quite life-size. The eyes were rubies, the collar was of gold and brilliants. This egregious jewel was of his own designing, and was of a piece with his general notions of how a millionaire should attire himself.
As he passed through the door somebody leapt from a cab carrying something in his hands, and jostled against him. He turned round apologetically, and confronted the Earl of Windgall.
His lordship looked like a man detected in a theft, and shook hands with a confused tremor.
"Can you spare me half an hour?" he asked. Then he handed the package to the shop-man. "Take care of that," he stammered. "It is valuable. I will call to-morrow."
That afternoon Kimberley accepted an invitation to stay at Shouldershott Castle.
He was prodigiously flattered and fluttered. When he thought of being beneath the same roof with Lady Ella, he flushed and trembled as he had never done before.
"I shall see her," he muttered wildly to himself. "I shall see her in the 'alls, the 'alls of dazzling light." It is something of a wonder that he did not lose his mental balance altogether.
When he was daily in the presence of Ella, the little man's heart ached with sweet anguish and helpless worship and desire. Yet before her he was tongue-tied, incapable of uttering a consecutive sentence. With her sister, Lady Alice Santerre, who had been the intended bride of the deceased heir to the Gallowbay Estate, Kimberley felt on a different footing. He had hardly ever been so much at ease with anybody in his life as this young lady made him.
Kimberley's own anxious efforts at self-improvement, Lady Alice's good-natured advice, and the bold policy of the earl, who persuaded him to undergo the terrors of an election, and get returned to Parliament as member for Gallowbay, gradually made the millionaire a more presentable person. He learned how to avoid dropping his h's; but two vices were incurable—the shyness and his appalling taste in dress.
The world, meanwhile, had guessed at the earl's motives in extending his friendship to Kimberley, and the little man's name was knowingly linked with that of Lady Alice. Kimberley came to hear what the world was saying through meeting Mr. Blandy, his former employer. Mr. Blandy invited him to his house, honoured the occasion with champagne, drank freely of it, and became confidential.
"The noble earl'll nail you f' one o' the girls, Kimbly. I'm a lill bit 'fected when I think, seeing my dear Kimbly 'nited marriage noble family. That's what makes me talk like this. I b'leeve you're gone coon already, ole man. 'Gratulate you, allmy heart."
Kimberley went away in a degradation of soul. Was it possible that this peer of the realm could be so coarsely and openly bent on securing him and his money that the whole world should know of it? What had Kimberley, he asked himself bitterly, to recommend him but his money? But then, triumphing over his miseries, came the fancy—he could have his dream of love; he had cried for the moon, and now he could have it.
The earl's liabilities amounted roughly to ninety thousand pounds. The principal mortgagee was insisting upon payment or foreclosure, and there was a general feeling abroad that the estate was involved beyond its capacity to pay.
Kimberley learned these circumstances in an interview with Mr. Begg. A few days afterwards he drove up desperately to the castle and asked for a private interview with his lordship.
"My lord," he said, when they were alone, "I want to ask your lordship's acceptance of these papers."
The earl understood them at a glance. Kimberley had bought his debts.
"I ask you to take them now," Kimberley went on, "before I say another word."
He rose, walked to the fire, and dropped the papers on the smouldering coal. The earl seized the papers and rescued them, soiled but unsinged.
"Kimberley," he said, "I dare not lay myself under such an obligation to any man alive."
"They are yours, my lord," replied Kimberley. "I shall never touch them again. You're under no obligation to me, my lord. But"—he blushed and stammered—"I want to ask you for the hand of Lady Ella."
It took Windgall a full minute to pull himself together. He had schooled himself to the trembling hope that Alice might be chosen; but Ella! "Forgive me," he began, "I was unprepared—I was not altogether unprepared—" Then he lapsed into silence.
"I will submit your proposal to my daughter," he said after a time, "but—I am powerless—altogether powerless."
Kimberley went home in a tremor of nervous anxiety, and Windgall sent for his daughter.
"I want you to understand, my dear," he began nervously, "that you are free to act just as you will. Mr. Kimberley gave these into my hands this morning"—showing her the papers. "He gave them freely, as a gift. If I could accept them I should be free from the nightmare of debt. But in the same breath with that unconditional gift, he asked me for your hand in marriage."
She kept silence.
"You know our miserable necessities, Ella," he pleaded. "But I can't force your inclinations in a matter like this, my dear."
She ran to him, and threw her arms about his neck.
"If it depends upon me to end your troubles, my dear, they are ended already."
"Shall I," he asked lamely, "make Kimberley happy?"
She answered simply, "Yes."
Kimberley came to luncheon next day. Lady Ella gave him a hand like marble, and he kissed it. Her father, anxious to preserve a seeming satisfaction, put his arm about her waist and kissed her. Her cheek was like ice and her whole figure trembled.
It was a dull, dreadful meal to all three who sat at table, and the millionaire's heart was the heaviest and the sorest.
If Ella suffered, she had the consolation, so dear to the nobler sort of women, that she was a sacrifice. If Windgall suffered, he had a solid compensation locked in the drawers of his library table. But Kimberley had no consolation, and knew only that he was expected somehow to be happy, and was, in spite of his prosperous wooing, more miserable than he had ever been before.
As time went on, Kimberley grew no happier. The gulf between Lady Ella and himself had not been bridged by their betrothal. She was always courteous to him, but always cold. She had accepted him, and yet——
The first inkling that something was wrong came through the altered demeanour of Alice. The girl was furious at her father for sacrificing her sister, and furious with her sister for consenting to the sacrifice; her former half-humourous comradeship for Kimberley was changed into chilly disdain.
The suspicions that were thus suggested to him were confirmed by a meeting with Ella outside the castle lodge. As he approached, he caught sight of her face as she was nodding a smiling good-bye to the old gate-keeper. She saw Kimberley, and the smile fled from her face with so swift a change, and left for a mere second something so like terror there, that he could scarcely fail to notice it.
He returned home possessed with remorse and shame. There was no doubt what the end should be. Ella must be released.
"She never cared about the money," he said, pacing the room with tear-blotted face. "She wanted to save her father, and she was ready to break her heart to do it. But she shall never break her heart through me. No, no. What a fool I was to think she could ever be happy with a man like me!"
Jack Clare, with a heart burning with rage at what he deemed Ella's treachery, had resigned his commission and bought an estate in New Zealand with a sum of money that had been left him. He became possessed of a desire to see Ella once more. He wrote to her that he was about to start for New Zealand, and wished to say good-bye to her. This letter he brought to the castle gate-keeper, and caused it to be taken to Ella. Then he paced up and down the avenue, impatiently awaiting her.
Destiny ordained that Kimberley should come that way just then on his fateful errand of releasing Ella from her engagement. As he entered the park his resolve failed him; he wandered unhappily to and fro, until he became aware of a strange gentleman prowling about the avenue in a mighty hurry. The stranger caught sight of him.
"Pardon me," said Kimberley nervously, "have you lost your way?"
Jack eyed him from head to foot—the vulgar glories of his attire, the extraordinary bull-dog pin. This, he guessed, was Kimberley—the man to whom Ella had sold herself. He smiled bitterly, and turned on his heel.
"I beg your pardon, sir," said Kimberley ruffled. "I did myself the honour to address you."
"You pestilential little cad!" cried Jack, wheeling round and letting out his wrath; "go home!"
"Cad, sir!" answered Kimberley in indignation.
"I call any man a cad, sir," answered Jack, "who goes about dressed like that."
Jack walked on and Kimberley stood rooted to the ground. He was crushed and overwhelmed beneath the sense of his own humiliation. His fineries had been the one thing on which he had relied to make himself look like a gentleman, and he knew now what they made him look like.
He retreated to a little arboured seat, and a few minutes later would have given anything to escape from it. For he was a witness of the parting of Jack and Ella. He saw the tears streaming from her eyes; he heard Jack tell her that he had never loved another woman and never would. As they clasped each other's hands for the final good-bye, Jack seized her passionately and kissed her. Her head fell back from his shoulder; she had fainted. He laid her down upon the grass, and looked upon her in an agony of fear and self-reproach. Then his mood changed.
"Curse the man that broke her heart and mine!" he cried wildly. "Darling, look up!"
Presently she recovered, and he begged her forgiveness.
"I am better," said Ella feebly. "Leave me now. Good-bye, dear!"
Soon afterwards a little man, with a tear-stained face and enormous bull-dog scarf-pin, arrived at the castle, and asked in a breaking voice to see his lordship.
"Did you know, my lord," he began, "that Lady Ella was breaking her heart because she was to marry me?"
"You didn't know it? I should be glad to think you didn't. Perhaps in spite of all I said, you thought I had bought those papers to have you in my grasp. I am not a gentleman, my lord, but I hope I am above that. I was a fool to think I could ever make Lady Ella happy, and I resign my claim upon her hand, my lord, and I must leave your roof for ever."
"Stop, sir!" cried the earl, in a rage of embarrassment and despair. He seemed face to face with the wreck of all his hopes. "Do you know that this is an insult to my daughter and to me?"
"My lord," returned Kimberley, "I am very sorry, but it was a shame to ask her to marry a man like me. I won't help to break her heart—I can't—not if I break my own a million times over."
The earl beat his foot upon the carpet. It was true enough. It had been a shame; and yet the man was a gentleman when all was said and done.
"By heaven, Kimberley," cried his lordship, in spite of himself, "you are a noble-hearted fellow!"
"Excuse me the trouble I have caused you. Good-bye, my lord." Kimberley bowed and left.
That night Kimberley received a package containing the papers and a note from the earl congratulating him on the magnanimous manner in which he had acted, but declaring that he felt compelled to return the documents. This added another drop to the bitterness of Kimberley's cup. He could well nigh have died for shame; he could well nigh have died for pity of himself.
V.—Kimberley's Wedding Gift
"My lord," said Kimberley, as he met the earl of Windgall outside the London hotel where the earl was staying, "can you give me a very few minutes?"
"Certainly," said his lordship. "You are not well?" he added, with solicitude.
He had brought a dispatch-box with him; he put it on the table and slowly unlocked it. The earl's heart beat violently as he looked once more upon the precious documents.
"You sent these back to me," said Kimberley. "Will you take 'em now? My lord, my lord, marry lady Ella to the man she loves, and take these for a wedding gift. I helped to torture her. I have a right to help to make her happy."
Windgall was as wildly agitated as Kimberley himself. He recoiled and waved his hands.
"I—I do not think, Kimberley," he said with quivering lip, "that I have ever known so noble an act before."
"If I die," said Kimberley in a loud voice which quavered suddenly down into a murmur, "everything is to go to Lady Ella, with my dearest love and worship."
Windgall caught only the first three words; he tugged at the bell-pull, and sent for a doctor.
An hour afterwards Kimberley was in bed with brain fever.
On the following morning Jack Clare stood in the rain on the deck of the steamship Patagonia, a travelling-cap pulled moodily over his eyes, watching the bestowal of his belongings in the hold.
"Honourable Captain Clare aboard?" cried a voice from the quay. A messenger came and handed Jack a letter. He saw with amazement that it bore the Windgall crest.
It was a hastily written note from the earl stating that circumstances had occurred which enabled him to withdraw his opposition to the union of Clare with Lady Ella.
* * * * *
Kimberley recovered. He can speak now to Clare's wife without embarrassment and without pain. Has he forgotten his love? No. He will never love again, never marry; but he is by no means unhappy or solitary or burdened with regrets. And he knows that those for whom he made his great sacrifice have given him their profoundest gratitude and sincerest friendship.
The ways of the world are various and many. And along them travel all sorts of people. Very dark grey, indeed—almost black some of them—middling grey, light grey, and here and there a figure that shines with a pure white radiance.
* * * * *
Frank Norris, one of the most brilliant of contemporary American novelists, was born at Chicago in 1870. He was educated at the University of California and at Harvard, and also spent three years as an art student in Paris. Afterwards he adopted journalism, and served in the capacity of war correspondent for various newspapers. His first novel, "McTeague," a virile, realistic romance, brought him instant recognition. This was followed in 1900 by "Moran of the Lady Betty," a romantic narrative of adventures on the Californian Coast. In 1901 Norris conceived the idea of trilogy of novels dealing with wheat, the object being an arraignment of wheat operations at Chicago, and the consequent gambling with the world's food-supply. The first of the series, "The Octopus," deals with wheat raising and transportation; the second, "The Pit," a vigorous, human story covers wheat-exchange gambling, and appeared in 1903; the third, which was to have been entitled "The Wolf," was cut short by the author's death, which occurred on October 25, 1902.
I.—Curtis Jadwin and His Wife
Laura Dearborn's native town was Barrington, in Massachusetts. Both she and her younger sister Page had lived there until the death of their father. The mother had died long before, and of all their relations, Aunt Wess, who lived at Chicago, alone remained. It was at the entreaties of Aunt Wess and of their dearest friends, the Cresslers, that the two girls decided to live with their aunt in Chicago. Both Laura and Page had inherited money, and when they faced the world they had the assurance that, at least, they were independent.
Chicago, the great grey city, interested Laura at every instant and under every condition. The life was tremendous. All around, on every side, in every direction, the vast machinery of commonwealth clashed and thundered from dawn to dark, and from dark to dawn. For thousands of miles beyond its confines the influence of the city was felt. At times Laura felt a little frightened at the city's life, and of the men for whom all the crash of conflict and commerce had no terrors. Those who could subdue this life to their purposes, must they not be themselves terrible, pitiless, brutal? What could women ever know of the life of men, after all?
Her friend, Mr. Cressler, who had been almost a second father to her, was in business, and had once lost a fortune by a gamble in wheat; and there was Mr. Curtis Jadwin, whom she had met at the opera with the Cresslers.
Mrs. Cressler had told Laura, very soon after her arrival in Chicago, that Mr. Jadwin wanted to marry her.
"I've known Curtis Jadwin now for fifteen years—nobody better," said Mrs. Cressler. "He's as old a family friend as Charlie and I have. And I tell you the man is in love with you. He told me you had more sense and intelligence than any girl he had ever known, and that he never remembered to have seen a more beautiful woman. What do you think of him, Laura—of Mr. Jadwin?"
"I don't know," Laura answered. "I thought he was a strong man—mentally, and that he would be kindly and generous. But I saw very little of him."
"Jadwin struck you as being a kindly man, a generous man? He's just that, and charitable. You know, he has a Sunday-school over on the West side—a Sunday-school for mission children—and I do believe he's more interested in that than in his business. He wants to make it the biggest Sunday-school in Chicago. It's an ambition of his. Laura," she exclaimed, "he's a fine man. No one knows Curtis Jadwin better than Charlie and I, and we just love him. The kindliest, biggest-hearted fellow. Oh, well, you'll know him for yourself, and then you'll see!"
"I don't know anything about him," Laura had remarked in answer to this. "I never heard of him before the theatre party."
But Mrs. Cressler promptly supplied information. Curtis Jadwin was a man about thirty-five, who had begun life without a sou in his pockets. His people were farmers in Michigan, hardy, honest fellows, who ploughed and sowed for a living. Curtis had only a rudimentary schooling, and had gone into business with a livery-stable keeper. Someone in Chicago owed him money, and, in default of payment, had offered him a couple of lots of ground on Wabash Avenue. That was how he happened to come to Chicago. Naturally enough, as the city grew the Wabash Avenue property increased in value. He sold the lots, and bought other real estate; sold that, and bought somewhere else, and so on till he owned some of the best business sites in the city, and was now one of the largest real-estate owners in Chicago. But he no longer bought and sold. His property had grown so large, that just the management of it alone took up most of his time. As a rule, he deplored speculation. He had no fixed principles about it, and occasionally he hazarded small operations.