Chambers’s Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Art, No. 748, April 27,

CHAMBERS’S JOURNAL
OF
POPULAR
LITERATURE, SCIENCE, AND ART.

CONTENTS

OUR CANAL POPULATION.

As much interest has latterly been roused concerning the population habitually living in the English canal traffic boats, we offer the following particulars on the subject from the personal observation of a correspondent. His narrative is as follows:

After allowing one or two barges to pass, the occupants of which seemed to be surly ill-favoured folks, one at length came in sight which answered our purpose, and we shall begin with it.

A cleanly dressed woman looked up at us with a pleasant smile upon her face as we bade her ‘good-day,’ her husband at the same time answering our salutation heartily. Whilst waiting for the lock to fill he came to our side and volunteered some sensible remarks on the great saving of water effected by the use of the side-pound system, which led to a conversation between us, and eventually to an invitation to step on board and go with them as far as Brentford. Accordingly we stepped on board; but at first had some little difficulty in bestowing our person out of the way of the long tiller, which swept completely over the available standing-room in rear of the cabin door, and momentarily threatened to force us overboard.

When at length we were well under way, and the man had relieved his wife at the helm, she invited us to inspect the interior of their cabin, apologising for its unfurnished state as compared with other cabins, on the ground that she did not habitually accompany her husband on his voyages, preferring to stay at home, when possible, to keep the house in order. With no little pride, however, she pointed out the usual arrangement of cupboards, lockers, shelves, hooks, &c., by which the limited space of nine feet by six was made to contain the utensils and necessaries for the use of a whole family. As was natural to a good housewife, she dilated mostly upon the cooking capabilities of a wonderfully small fire-place, erected close by the doorway, at which, she averred, she could cook as readily as at home. We looked sharply round for the sleeping accommodation, but failing to discover anything resembling a bedstead—other than the tops of the lockers placed round two sides of the cabin, and which we calculated could not possibly accommodate more than three persons—were considerably puzzled to understand how such families as we had seen on the other boats were disposed of at night. The roof was not high enough to admit of hammocks being slung; nor was the space between the lockers sufficient to allow of a bed being made up on the floor. Unable to solve the puzzle ourselves, we suggested that surely, where there was a family of five or six children, they did not all sleep in the cabin.

‘Indeed, but they do,’ replied our hostess. ‘And this is how they manage. The father and mother with the youngest baby sleep at the end there, with maybe the next youngest at their feet; then a couple of the children at this side; and another, or two, under here.’

‘Under here’ being the space beneath the father’s bed, a very kennel, closed on all sides except a portion of the front corresponding to the width of the floor—about three feet. That children even could sleep in so confined a space without suffering permanently in health seems contrary to all natural laws; but as a matter of fact, bargemen and their families appear to be remarkably healthy. Expressing our surprise that any person could possibly sleep in so cramped a space, our informant continued: ‘Bless you! that’s nothing. When there’s a butty, he sleeps as best he can on the floor.’

‘And pray, what is a butty?’ we inquire.

‘Well, you see, by rights there must be two able-bodied people on board every boat, besides a lad or a lass to take turn about at driving. Generally it’s the man’s wife. But sometimes it happens as she’s sick or what not; and then they have to get a growing lad of sixteen or seventeen to butty with them for a voyage or two; and then of course he lives and sleeps on the boat along with the family. Not as you must run away with the idea that we all of us live entirely in{258} the boats, as a good many of us have as good homes on shore as you’d wish to put foot in. But on the other hand, there’s as many more who don’t sleep out of the boat once a year, and hardly know what the inside of a house is like.

‘Do I mean to say that children are born in these cabins? Indeed I do, sir. What is more, many’s the child that is not only born on board but dies on board too; for as I told you, there’s many that have no other home than the boat, and no friends but what are boatmen too. So what are they to do? with their husbands a-travelling all over the country; Birmingham one week, and Brentford here maybe, the next. Plenty of ’em indeed have got so used to the boats it would be downright cruel if they were to be compelled to live in a house ashore like decent people; because, you see, everything’s so different, and they’ve become so used to making shift in little room, that they’d be regularly lost in a house.

‘How do they get on when they’re sick? Well, you see, it’s mostly a town that we tie up at, at night, and there’s generally a doctor to be found, however late it may be; and they get medicine that way. I once lost a little girl on board. She was taken a little queer on the Sunday night before we were to start on this very same voyage on the Monday morning. It so happened that the master couldn’t get a butty, and so we’d arranged as I should come down with him; though of course we never dreamt as there was anything serious the matter with little Polly, or I wouldn’t have stirred with her. All day Monday and Tuesday the child got so much worse, that when we tied up at night I made the master take her to a doctor and get some medicine for her. Of course we were obliged to go on the next day, with little Polly getting worse and worse every hour, so that at night we were afraid to take her on shore, and had to pay a doctor to come on board and see her. I hardly liked the thought of going on the next day; but we were on a time voyage, by which the master was bound to be in Brentford on a certain day, and so we had to go on. But before night little Polly died. All that evening my master tried to get somebody to take his boat on; but it was a busy time just then, and there wasn’t a boatman to be got for love or money. We had some thoughts of going on ourselves; but almost as soon as it was daylight the next morning a policeman came on board and stopped us, saying, as no doctor had attended the child, there’d have to be an inquest. It was no use me a-shewing him the medicine bottles, and saying as two doctors had seen her; he wouldn’t believe us. Nor it wasn’t till two days afterwards, after my master had been to the last doctor and got him to give him a letter to the coroner, that we could get leave to bury the child; which we did, with not a soul belonging to her following her except my husband in his working clothes, I myself being too poorly to keep the poor man company in seeing the last of her.

‘As for children being born in the cabins, sir, I know several women who have had large families all born on board the boat while it was making its voyage, with perhaps nobody at all to attend on them except their husband, or some woman from another boat which chanced to be working mates with them.

‘Both my lads can read and write; but there’s nine out of ten as you see on the boats can’t tell “A” from a bull’s foot, and on that account the new Act is sure to do good. But my husband can tell you more about that than I can, and he’ll have done for a mile or two when we get through this next lock.’

‘None such easy work after all—is it, sir?’ inquired the husband, as after passing through several locks all within a few score paces of each other, at every one of which he had been very hard at work opening and closing sluices, he stepped on board the barge and took the helm from his wife. ‘There is them as thinks we bargees have nought to do all day except lean our arms on the tiller, smoke our pipes, and chaff anybody we come across. But you can see for yourself, sir, as we have all our work at times.’

Having expressed our conviction that on that point he was right, we requested him to enlighten us on several matters connected with his particular class, which he willingly did somewhat as follows.

‘About our earnings? Well, I suppose we can’t grumble as times go. Take it all the year round, one week with another, I and the lads earn perhaps a couple of pounds. We get paid mostly by the voyage—so much a ton from one place to another; and if we could only get loaded up as soon as we emptied, we shouldn’t make a bad thing of it; but the worst of it is the waiting about for a load when one voyage is finished before we can start on another. The boats the master finds; but the horse is my own; and out of what I make I have to feed him, which must be on the best of corn and hay that can be got for money; otherwise, he’d never be able to get through the tramp, tramp, for five-and-twenty or thirty miles—sometimes more—which he has to do day after day, wet and fine. Look at that corn, sir! Better you won’t find in any gentleman’s stable, I’ll warrant. And I find that in the long-run it comes the cheapest, for where those as feeds their horses on anything, wear out two or three, I don’t use up one. Of course we don’t walk the whole day through, alongside the horse; but we take it turn about, five or six miles at a spell; though sometimes when we are working quick voyages, night and day that is—owners finding relays of horses—we have regular hours to drive, like watches on board ship; but there ain’t much of that kind of work now. Our day’s work is mostly over by dark, sometimes sooner, sometimes later, all depending on the place we choose to tie up at, or the time we have to wait to pass the locks.

‘Do I think that railways will do away with canals in time? No, sir; I don’t. Because, you see, there’s lots of goods as don’t well bear the packing and unpacking as is necessary for railway travelling, as can be put straight on board a barge and never be shaken even, till they are unloaded just at the very place where they are wanted. And lots of other goods there are that we can carry cheaper than the railway, where a day or two more on the road don’t matter. Besides which, there’s plenty of brickfields, collieries, ironworks, and such like just on the canal banks and some distance from railroads, that will always use barges to save the expense of carting; so that I don’t think canals will go out of fashion yet awhile. And that’s why I’m glad to hear as they’re passing an Act to do something for the poor children. You see it’s just this way, sir: our people as a{259} rule don’t know how to read and write themselves, most of ’em having been on the boats since they could remember, and therefore they don’t see why they shouldn’t have the advantage of their children’s assistance in working the barge, the same as their fathers had.

‘There’s another way in which I think the Act will do good, and that is this. It will teach our women perhaps to have a little more decency about them than some of the worst of them have. If you’ll believe me, sir, I see scenes on the canal sometimes, when some of the worst of them have been paid, as I can’t bear to look at, though not nearly so commonly now as I used to. And then again, it doesn’t always follow as because a man and woman work the same boat that they are married. In fact, in my opinion it would be a good thing if the lasses were not allowed on board after they had grown up to be twelve or thirteen, as it stands to reason that they’re nearly sure to grow up bargewomen. And after all’s said and done, it’s no fitting life for a woman to lead. As you’ve seen for yourself, there’s a good deal of hard work attached to it, even on a fine day like this; but in winter-time it’s simply cruel to a woman who has a young baby. However, I suppose when our children are compelled to go to school, as they say this new Act compels them, there’ll be a stop put to a good deal of what’s wrong about us, and perhaps folks may not have so good a reason for looking upon us as something worse than themselves. People seem to think that generally we are a regular bad lot; but I fancy if they knew a little more about us, they’d see that, though there are some bad ones amongst us, take us all in all we are no worse than most of our neighbours. We seem somehow to have got a name for interfering with people as we chance to come across; but you may see for yourself, sir, that we have quite as much as we can do to mind our own business, and a bargeman can no more afford to neglect his business than anybody else, if he means to do any good in the world.

‘What becomes of us when we get old? Well, most of us stick to the barges as long as we can; and when we are obliged to give up, if we haven’t put by enough to keep us comfortable, which I’m sorry to say as there ain’t many of us do, there’s generally a lock to be got or a job of some sort at the docks; all depending on the sort of character we’ve kept.

‘Here we are, sir, at our journey’s end for this time,’ he added, as the boat slowly floated into a small open basin, there to remain for the night. The boatman’s wife, being already shawled and armed with a capacious basket, stepped on shore as soon as the boat came near enough; and with a cheerful ‘good-night’ to us, went away to do her marketing before the shops should close.

Tying up the boat, my bargee friend sent off the boys with the horse to its stable, and proceeded to gather together and stow away in their respective lockers the odds and ends which had been in use during the day; remarking as he did so, that though there were watchmen kept in every dock, it often happened that the barges were robbed of any loose things which might be left about, and therefore it was that most of the boats had a dog on board, who made a better policeman than all the watchmen. With a last glance round he took from one of the cupboards a dirty paper, and unfolding it for our inspection, said: ‘There, you see, reading and writing would be of some use to us after all; for according to what tonnage is put down there, we get paid. And as you see, wherever we pay tolls they put down the time we pass, so that if we get drinking or loitering about for a day the owners know it, and make up our character according.

‘Yes; I’m going to sleep on board; but I must go and report our arrival at the office, and see as the horse is all right first. And as for what I’ve told you, I’m sure you’re very welcome to know it, especially if it will only make you believe as if something was done to give our children a little reading and writing, and to stop so many lads and lasses being crammed together in the boats, there might be less respectable people than bargees.’

An unclouded moon was shining upon the calm water of the canal and upon the gaudily painted cabins of some twelve or thirteen barges, which lay motionless in the basin, displaying no other sign of human habitation than the thin columns of smoke which issued from their stove-pipes, as we bade our friend ‘good-night,’ and started on our homeward walk, well satisfied with the experience we had gained while spending an hour or two with some of ‘our canal population.’


HELENA, LADY HARROGATE.

CHAPTER XXIII.—JASPER FEELS PERPLEXED.

Jasper Denzil, as he slowly made his elaborate toilet on the sunny September morning which succeeded to the eventful night on which he had espied from his window Ruth’s slight form gliding across the lonely park, turned over many things in his mind. His man, who groaned over the dull monotony of rural existence, and longed to be once more in Mount Street or Bond Street lodgings, silently opined, as he applied the ivory-backed brushes to his master’s hair or removed the silver-gilt stoppers of the scent-bottles, that ‘the captain’ was brooding over his turf calamities. But he was wrong. Jasper’s reverie was on a different theme.

Who or what was this mysterious Miss Willis, this interesting orphan, whom regard for the mythical major her defunct papa had induced Sir Sykes to take into the bosom of his family? The conversation which he had overheard when lurking in the frowsy garden of The Traveller’s Rest recurred again and again to his memory, and served to explain much, but not all. That the presence beneath his roof-tree of Ruth Willis had been imposed upon the baronet by Hold’s importunity, he well knew. That he had with his own ears heard Hold describe her as his sister, he well remembered, but he recalled too the sneering tone in which the adventurer had claimed kindred with the Indian orphan.

Of one thing alone did Captain Denzil feel sure. Ruth, be her understanding with Hold what it might, was a lady, and no blood-relation of the rough rover who claimed to be her brother. Who then was this Ruth? Again and again Jasper’s thoughts flew back to the little sister that had died so early, and whose untimely death was reported to have made the owner of Carbery Chase the morose joyless recluse that he had long been.{260} Could it be—was it possible that the child had not died at all, that a false registry, a sham burial, had thrown dust in credulous eyes, and that the missing member of the family, hidden for years from all eyes, had at length been introduced under a fictitious name into the household?

A profound distrust of their fellow-creatures is usually a cardinal point of belief with young men of such tastes and habits as those of Jasper; nor did he find it difficult to accredit Sir Sykes with concealed villainy of some sort, or Miss Willis with not, as in sporting language he pithily paraphrased it, ‘running square.’ But he did desire to find a conceivable motive of some kind; and in the absence of that was driven to speculations too wild to shape themselves in rational form.

‘If the governor had been touched in the head’—thus ran the son’s dutiful meditations—‘I could have set down the thing as a rich man’s crazed caprice; but no! he’s as sound as a bell. And then that fellow the pirate actually bullying him to get this girl foisted upon us! What imaginable interest can he have in planting her at Carbery Chase, or what can be the bond of union between a refined dainty little creature and a buccaneering vagabond of his stamp? The whole affair is a riddle.’

It might be added that Jasper was not an adept in the solution of such social puzzles. Turf rascalities of any sort came quite naturally within the compass of an understanding well fitted to grasp all that could be done on the offensive or the defensive where a race-horse was concerned. He knew as much as an outsider could know regarding touts and horse-watchers, stable strategy and the tactics of the course. He no more expected straightforward conduct on the part of an owner than on that of a trainer or of a jockey. He did not except even those owners, trainers, and jockeys, whose honesty was proverbial on the English turf. The money to be won was in his eyes motive sufficient for any moral obtuseness. But the behaviour of Sir Sykes did not square itself with any of his ethical theories, however tolerant.

When, for the very first time since his accident at the steeplechase, Captain Denzil made his appearance at the family breakfast-table, he received the congratulations of his sisters on the marked improvement in his looks. And it was a fact that he not merely seemed but felt in better health than before, in spite of the loss of sleep incumbent on his vigil of the previous night. The activity of his thoughts had stirred his languid pulses and lent a pleasing vigour to his sluggish mind, and he even began to find existence at Carbery more endurable since his fancy had been stimulated by the partial discovery which he had chanced upon.

‘I should like to have a word with you, Jasper,’ said Sir Sykes. (It was a very unusual thing for him to say.) ‘You will find me in the library after breakfast.’

Jasper, who had been stealthily admiring the calm unconcern with which Miss Willis met his gaze, and the perfect steadiness of that young lady’s nerves, started, but instantly recovered himself. ‘To be sure, sir,’ he said, toying with his tea-spoon, while his heart quickened its beating. The enigma was about to be solved then. He could not doubt that the communication which his father had to make had reference to the strange doings of which Carbery Chase had of late been the theatre.

Sir Sykes, in his favourite apartment, was not kept waiting very long. His only son, in obedience to his father’s invitation, sauntered in with his customary air of nonchalant indifference, and took his seat loungingly in an easy-chair opposite to that of Sir Sykes. The baronet seemed at a loss for words wherewith to begin the announcement he desired to make.

‘You are nearly yourself again, Jasper, after your heavy fall?’ said Sir Sykes, by way of a prelude to the conversation.

‘Yes; thanks. My arm is a little troublesome, but otherwise I am getting on capitally,’ replied Jasper after an instant’s hesitation. He had hesitated in diplomatic doubt as to whether the part of an invalid would stand him in better stead than that of a flourishing convalescent, but contented himself with giving an ambiguous answer. Had Captain Prodgers or any sporting friend put the query, ‘I feel fit and well’ would have been the appropriate rejoinder; but with his parent the ex-Lancer did not care to lose any coigne of vantage-ground.

‘I am glad of it,’ mechanically returned the baronet; and then there was another pause, more awkward than the last.

‘My boy,’ said Sir Sykes, plunging with an effort into the subject nearest to his thoughts, ‘you can’t suppose that I like to see you wasting your young life in indolent inaction, or that I am blind to the fact that the quiet humdrum ways of Carbery often pall upon you.’

Jasper pricked up his ears. Here was an exordium which promised well, too well almost. Could it be possible that his father was going to sign, so to speak, his social ticket-of-leave, and to send him back where Fashion reigned supreme—to London, Newmarket, Melton? Had the Fates grown kind; and could he, Jasper Denzil, with a satisfactory bank balance, once more take his place in the constellation of the gilded youth of Britain? He opened his lazy eyes a very little wider, and looked at his father with a renewed interest in the next words that he should hear.

‘The case,’ went on Sir Sykes, ‘lies in a nutshell. You are discontented simply because you have nothing to occupy you and no one to care for. I should like very much, Jasper, to see you happily married; I should indeed.’

Jasper stared. His roseate visions of a prompt reappearance in betting-rings and military clubs were fading fast. But this novel anxiety on the part of Sir Sykes as to his son’s matrimonial future might be twisted somehow into the foundation of at least a qualified prosperity. ‘He can’t mean,’ such was Jasper’s inward soliloquy, ‘myself and my wife to be mere pensioners, living indolently here at Carbery. He must do something for us, he must indeed; unless it is an heiress he is about to suggest as a desirable daughter-in-law.’—‘I suppose I must marry, like other people, some of these days,’ said Jasper, with Pall-Mall philosophy.

‘And there is this advantage in your position,’ returned Sir Sykes, in a quick flurried manner, ‘that you need not look for fortune in a wife. The heir-expectant of Carbery can afford to disregard such matters as dowry and portion.’

{261}

A little pink flush rose to the roots of Jasper’s fair hair. He did not quite enjoy the hearing himself described as heir-expectant, not feeling sure but that a covert sneer was intended; but it was pleasant to be told that he was not expected to earn his bread, as he had known other broken-down men of fashion to do, by wedlock. Perhaps it was rank, not wealth, on which the governor’s thoughts ran—perhaps Lady Gladys De Vere. But here Jasper’s meditations were interrupted, and his thoughts turned into a new channel, when the baronet suddenly said: ‘Has it never occurred to you that Miss Willis, our new inmate here at Carbery, was a very charming little person, a good girl, and a clever one, and who would make an excellent wife?’

The explosion of a hand-grenade would not have produced a more startling effect on Jasper’s nerves than did this wholly unexpected speech on the part of Sir Sykes. For a moment or two he sat motionless, with arched eyebrows and parted lips, and then said, stammeringly: ‘Why, I thought the relationship—no, not that, but I supposed—obstacle—marriage!’

It was for Sir Sykes then to look astonished. Either he was a consummate actor, or his son’s last words had been to him utterly inexplicable.

‘I hardly know,’ said the baronet, in that cold half-haughty tone that had become habitual to him, ‘to what you allude, or what insuperable stumbling-block you conceive to stand in your way, should you incline to do so sensible a thing as to pay your addresses to my ward, Miss Willis. She has, it is true, no fortune; but that deficiency, as I have already said, is one which I can easily remedy. In addition to Carbery Chase, which is quite,’ he added with marked emphasis, ‘at my own disposal, I have a large amount of personal property, and should be willing to settle a considerable income on your wife—I say on your wife, Jasper, because, unhappily, I cannot rely on your prudence where money is concerned.’

‘I know I’ve made too strong running, know it well enough,’ answered the ex-cavalry officer, stroking his yellow moustache; ‘and I don’t deny, sir, that you have treated me very kindly as to money and that. But really and seriously, sir, can you wish me to marry Miss Willis?’

‘Really, my son, your pertinacity in cross-questioning me on the matter is—I am sure most unwittingly—almost offensive,’ replied Sir Sykes nervously. ‘Nor do I see what there would be so very wonderful in your selection of an amiable and accomplished girl, domiciled in your father’s house, and the daughter of—poor Willis!’ added the baronet in conclusion, as though the memory of the deceased major had suddenly recurred to him with unusual vividness.

Jasper, who remembered the conversation which he had overheard at The Traveller’s Rest, fairly gasped for breath. His parent’s talent for duplicity seemed to him to be something strange and shocking, as the untruthfulness of an elder generation always does appear.

‘I should not have urged my views upon you as I have done,’ continued Sir Sykes after a pause, ‘but that I have some idea that the young lady who has been the unconscious subject of this conversation entertains—what shall I say?—a preference for your society, which her feminine tact enables her to hide from general notice. I feel assured that it only rests with you to win the heart of Ruth Willis—a prize worth the winning.’

We are all very vain. Jasper, fop and worldling though he was, felt a thrill of gratified vanity run through him like an electric shock, as his father’s artful suggestion sank into the depths of his selfish mind. But he made haste to put in a disclaimer.

‘I’m afraid, sir, you are too partial a judge,’ he said, with an involuntary glance at the Venice mirror opposite. ‘Miss Willis is too sensible to care about a good-for-nothing fellow like me.’

‘I think otherwise, Jasper,’ returned Sir Sykes. ‘However, for the present we have talked enough. My wishes, remember, and even—even my welfare, for reasons not just now to be explained, are on the side of this marriage. Think it over. To you it means easy circumstances, a home of your own, the reversion of Carbery Chase, my cordial good-will, and the society of a charming and high-principled wife. Think it over.’

‘I will think it over, sir,’ said Jasper, rising from his chair, and lounging out of the library with the same listless swagger as that with which he had lounged into it. ‘I should be glad of course to meet your wishes, and that. Quite a surprise though.’

Left alone, Sir Sykes buried his face in his hands, and when he raised it again it looked old, worn, and haggard. ‘That scoundrel Hold,’ he said with a sigh, ‘makes me pay a heavy price for his silence, and even now his motives are to me a problem that I cannot solve.’

(To be continued.)


CURIOUS THEATRE CUSTOMS IN PARIS.

The visitor to Paris may witness a kind of theatrical performance which is strikingly different from any that can be seen in Great Britain. We refer to the Théâtre des Menus Plaisirs, in the Boulevard de Strasbourg. Part of the entertainment here consists in certain of the actors and actresses criticising the performances which are proceeding upon the stage, from seats in various parts of the house—pit, circle, and gallery—which they have quietly got into unobserved by the audience. They assume the rôle of ordinary spectators who find themselves compelled in the interests of literature and art to remonstrate in a rather extraordinary manner against what they see and hear upon the stage; and the surprise of the uninitiated when the ball is set rolling is considerable.

The manager comes upon the stage and begins a modest speech upon past successes and future prospects; but he has not far advanced in his speech when a gentleman rises in the stalls, with hat in hand, and in the most respectful manner corrects him with regard to a word which he declares to be ill chosen and misleading, at the same time obliging the manager with the correct word. Here another gentleman introduces himself into the dispute, and complicates matters by a new suggestion, which involves the subject in inextricable confusion and absurdity. Both gentlemen are extremely polite, but firm in denying the right of the manager to that word; and the latter is driven frantic, and retires from the stage glaring at his antagonists.

Silence for a few seconds succeeds this scene,{262} when suddenly a man in the front seat of the gallery starts up from his seat with a wild cry, throws one leg over the gallery, hangs forward suspended from the railing, and gazes towards the pit entrance of the theatre. He sees something of absorbing interest, and with another cry he is about to throw himself over the gallery. The people scream; and then he finds he has been mistaken; he resumes a normal position, and looking round upon the audience with a kindly smile, which strangely contrasts with his late look of anxiety, he asks pardon for unnecessarily disturbing their composure, and resumes his seat. A tenor singer now comes upon the stage and commences a song; but the two critics in the stalls are particular, and take exception to his style; they do so with manifest regret, but the principles of art must be attended to. With profuse apologies, and an expressed hope that he will proceed with his song in the corrected form, the critics resume their seats. The tenor, at first exasperated, becomes mollified by the courteous manners of the gentlemen, and begins his song again; but almost immediately a lady sitting in the front seat of the circle tells him that he is in danger of dropping his moustache. This last is the final ‘straw’ on the back of the vocalist, and he retires in high dudgeon.

By the side of the lady in the circle there sits a meek-looking old gentleman, who being naturally shocked at the conduct of his wife, puts on his hat as if to leave the theatre; but the better-half is equal to the occasion, and knocks his hat over the meek old gentleman’s eyes, and the meek old gentleman himself back into his seat. Presently several actresses appear upon the stage, and one of them commences to sing, with probably a pleasing sympathetic voice; but such is not the opinion of the lady, who holds the singer up to ridicule. The vocalist then stops, and engages in a verbal and violent encounter with her persecutor, who from her place in the ‘circle’ returns the badinage with interest, so that soon the other retires from the stage vanquished. The victor is now asked herself to sing, a request with which she readily complies, singing with abundant action and in good voice an exceedingly catching song, and at the chorus, giving a royal wave of the hands towards the gallery to join with her at that point.

The stranger will be surprised to learn that this disturbing element in the audience, in reality comes from behind the scenes; the lady who has just sung is the leading member of the company, and the gentlemen critics are well-known and highly appreciated comedians. And though the stranger may think that all this is an impromptu disturbance, it is quite certain that all is rehearsed as carefully as any play that is put upon the stage. How long such a performance would secure the favour of a London audience, is doubtful; here, however, it is an abiding success, is received with immense applause—the claqueurs or professional applauders being apparently altogether dispensed with—and the audience is kept in continual hilarity by the humorous attack and by the instant and witty reply.

Within the Parisian theatres the visitor may derive some amusement from observing the operations of the claqueurs, who are employed at the principal establishments to augment the enthusiasm of the audience. The men who compose this body of professional applauders appear to belong to the artisan class; they number from forty to fifty, that is they are about a hundred hands all told. They occupy the front row of seats in the second or third gallery, so that to observe them and their movements it is necessary to occupy a place in one of the galleries. Their leader sits in their midst, ever ready at the points marked for him by author or manager to give the signal which ‘brings down the house.’ As the moment arrives when the bon-mot shall be uttered, the chef breathes upon his hands, then stretches them slightly upwards, while he at the same time looks right and left along his ranks. This is equivalent to ‘Attention’ or ‘Prepare to fire a volley.’ Each man is now at the ‘ready,’ and waits anxiously upon the chef. When the mot is uttered, he brings his hands together with a frantic wave, and the others simultaneously with him make a very respectable, even enthusiastic show of applause. At the end of a song the leader starts the cry Ploo, ploo (plus, signifying more), in which all join; this, which is equivalent to our ‘Encore,’ sounds in the stranger’s ears more like hooting than aught else; but it is no doubt as welcome to the French actor as a good British cheer is to an English one.

This little army, like all others, has its awkward squad. One evening at the ‘Renaissance’ we observed the chef to become very uneasy on account of one who was exceedingly remiss in his duty; not only was the amount of applause when given small in volume, but once when the signal was given he entirely neglected to comply with it. This was gall and wormwood to the leader, who really seemed a very earnest hard-working man in his profession; so after finishing the round of applause, he ‘went for’ that awkward man, remonstrated with him, and even gave him on the spur of the moment, a lesson on the correct method of clapping hands. After this the pupil shewed marked improvement, and by the end of the play performed his duty in such a satisfactory manner as promised well for his future advancement in this handy profession. The effect of this pernicious system upon the audience is very different, we should think, from what was anticipated when it was first organised; for finding that the applause is supplied by the establishment, just as it supplies programmes or turns on the gas, the audience feel that they are relieved from all obligations in the matter, and unless stirred by an irresistible influence, seldom dream of applauding at all.


THE RIVAL LAIRDS.

In a recent article on Curling we endeavoured to give a sketch of the history of this popular Scottish pastime, together with a brief outline of the mode in which the game is usually played. The following story of a match between two rival parishes, supposed to have been played about the beginning of the present century, may give the reader a further idea of the enthusiasm evoked on the ice whenever and wherever curlers forgather. Let the non-initiated imagine himself standing beside a frozen sheet of water, upon which are assembled a company of men of various ranks from peer to peasant, each striving to do his best to support the prowess and honour of his rink. The rink let it be understood is a certain{263} portion of ice, from thirty to forty yards in length, apportioned off to the players. The players consist usually of four on each side, and whereas in the well-known game of grass-bowls, each player is provided with two wooden bowls which he drives towards a small white ball called the Jack, each player on the ice has two curling-stones shaped much like a Gouda cheese—with a handle atop—which he propels or hurls towards a certain marked spot at each end of the rink, called the tee; and round each tee is scratched a series of concentric rings ranging from two to ten or twelve feet in diameter. Standing at one end of the rink the man whose turn it is to play, waits the bidding of his director or ‘skip’ who stands at the other end, and then endeavours to act according to the directions that may be given by that important personage. Each of the four players on one side plays alternately against his antagonist, the main object being to send the stone gliding up the ice so that it may eventually lie within the rings and as near the tee as possible. Thus, when the ‘end’ is finished, the side whose stones lie nearest the tee scores so many towards the game.

Sometimes when the ice is partially thawed the players have difficulty in hurling their stones all the way to the tee; and sometimes they fail to get them beyond a transverse mark called the ‘hog-score,’ two-thirds down the rink—in which case the lagging stone is put off the ice and cannot count for that ‘end.’ Besoms, however, with which each man is armed, are here of great account, the laws of the game permitting each player to sweep the ice in front of an approaching stone belonging to his side, so as to accelerate its progress, if necessary. The shouts of ‘Sweep, sweep!’ or rather ‘Soop, soop!’ are of continual recurrence, and are exceedingly amusing to strangers. The skip on each side first directs his three men and then lastly plays himself. On his generalship in skipping much depends, his efforts being mainly directed first to get as many stones as possible near the tee, and then to get his men to ‘guard’ them from being driven off by those of the opposite side. Or he may direct a player to aim at a certain stone already lying, with a view to take an angle, or ‘wick’ as it is termed, and so land his own stone near the tee. This wicking is a very pretty part of the game and requires great delicacy of play.

The anxiety of the opposing skips is very amusing to watch, and the enthusiasm of the several players when an unusually good shot is made, is boundless. A good ‘lead’ or first player, though he is necessarily debarred from the niceties of the game which fall to the lot of the subsequent players, is a very important man in the game if he can place his stones within the circles that surround the tee, or in familiar parlance, ‘lie within the house.’ Second player’s post is not so important; but ‘third stone’ is a position given usually to an experienced player, as he has frequently to either drive off some dangerous stone belonging to the other side, and himself take its place; or has to guard a stone of his own side, which though in a good position may lie open to the enemy. Thus proceeds with varying fortune this ‘roaring game’ of give and take, stone after stone being driven along the icy plain, till the skips themselves come to play and so finish the ‘end.’

With these preliminary remarks we proceed to our tale.

Snow had fallen long and silently over all the high-lying districts of the south of Scotland. It was an unusually bad year for the sheep-farmers, whose stock was suffering severely from the protracted storm and the snow which enveloped both hill and low-lying pasturage. But while sheep-farmers were thus kept anxiously waiting for fresh weather, curlers were in their glory, as day after day they forgathered on the ice and followed up the ‘roaring game.’

The century was young, and the particular year of our story was that known and spoken of for long afterwards as the ‘bad year.’ In these days, there was no free-trade to keep down the price of corn or beef, which during years of bad harvest in Great Britain, or long periods of frost and snow, rose to famine prices, and were all but unprocurable by the poorer classes. Oatmeal at half-a-crown a peck told a sad tale in many a household, and especially on the helpless children—the bairns.

As we have said, curling had been enjoyed to the full; perhaps there had even been a surfeit of it, if the real truth were told. Match after match had been played by parish against parish, and county against county. Rival rinks of choice players belonging to counties such as Peebles had challenged those of the neighbouring counties of Selkirkshire, or even Midlothian. Prizes, consisting of medals or money, had been gained by various enthusiasts; and last though not least, matches for suppers of beef and greens—the true curlers’ fare, had been contested, the reckoning to be paid by the losing rinks. The benedicts too had played the bachelors, and had as usual, beaten them.

Country squires had given prizes to be played for by their tenantry versus adjoining tenantry, and had brought their fur-clad wives and daughters to the ice to congratulate them on success, or condole with them on defeat. In short, the sole occupation of the majority of the adult male rural population of the south of Scotland in the year of which we speak, seemed to be—curling.

Amongst other matches in the county of Peeblesshire there was one that yet remained to come off, namely between the parishes of Tweedsmuir and Broughton. In a series of matches—or bonspiels as they were termed—between parish and parish, these two had stood unbeaten. It therefore remained to be seen which parish should beat the other, and thereby achieve the envied position of champion of the county.

When the honour of a parish is at stake on the ice, the choice of the men who are to play, is a matter of very grave import. In a friendly match between two rinks, a little unskilfulness on the part of one or more of the players is a very common affair and is comparatively unheeded: but in a bonspiel between the two best parishes in a celebrated curling county, the failure or even the occasional uncertainty of any one man may be fraught with direst consequences.

Foremost among the promoters of the forthcoming match which was to decide matters, were Robert Scott laird of Tweedsmuir, and Andrew Murray laird of Broughton. These worthies had long been rivals on other than ice-fields, and though on friendly enough terms at kirk or market{264} were each keenly alive to his own honour and prowess. Any game, therefore, in which these rival lairds engaged, was sure to be closely contested; and the result was at all times as eagerly watched by interested spectators as it was keenly fought by the rival parties. It is even said that the lairds had been rivals in love as well as in other sports, the result of which was that Murray had carried off the lady and Scott had remained a bachelor, with an old housekeeper named Betty to take charge of him. But as the story of the love-match was but the ‘clash’ of the country, it may be taken for what it is worth.

On the morning of the day fixed for the match (which was to come off at Broughton and to consist of four men on each side), the laird of Tweedsmuir was early astir, in order to see that the cart which was to convey his own curling-stones and those of his men to Broughton—a distance of some half-dozen miles—was ready, and that the men themselves were prepared to accompany it. The cart having been duly despatched with the schoolmaster of the parish, who was to be one of the players, and the shepherd from Talla Linns, who was to be another, Laird Scott ordered out his gig and himself prepared to start.

‘Now Betty,’ cried the laird to his old housekeeper, as he proceeded to envelop himself in his plaid, ‘you’ll see and have plenty of beef and greens ready by six o’clock, and a spare bed or two; for besides our own men it’s likely enough I may bring back one or two of the beaten lads to stop all night.’

‘’Deed laird, tak ye care the Broughton folk dinna get the better o’ you, and beat ye after a’: they tell me they’re grand curlers.’

‘Well Betty, I’m not afraid of them, with Andrew Denholm on my side.’

Thus assured, the stalwart laird seized the reins and took the road for Broughton. On his way down the valley of the Tweed he called at the humble cottage of the said Andrew Denholm, who usually played the critical part of ‘third stone,’ and was one of his best supporters; and whose employment, that of a mason, was for the nonce at a stand-still.

‘What! not ready yet Andrew?’ exclaimed the laird in a tone of disappointment. ‘Bestir yourself man, or we’ll not be on the ice by ten o’clock.’

‘I’m no’ gaun’ to the curlin’ the day sir,’ replied Andrew with an air of dejection.

‘And what for no’?’ inquired the laird with uneasy apprehension. ‘You know Andrew, my man, the game canna’ go on without you. The honour of Tweedsmuir at stake too! there’s not another man I would risk in your place on the ice this day.’

‘Get Wattie Laidlaw the weaver to tak’ my place laird; he’s a grand curler, and can play up a stane as well as ony man in the parish; the fact is sir, just now I have na’ the heart even to curl. Gang yer ways yersell laird, and skip against the laird o’ Broughton, and there’s nae fear o’ the result: and Wattie can play third stane instead o’ me.’

‘Wattie will play nae third stane for me: come yourself Andrew, and we’ll try to cheer you up; and you’ll take your beef and greens up bye wi’ the rink callants and me in the afternoon.’

Denholm was considered one of the best curlers in that part of the county, and was usually one of the first to be on the ice; to see him, therefore, thus cast down and listless, filled the laird’s warm heart with sorrow. He saw there was something wrong. He must rally the dejected mason.

‘Do you think,’ continued the laird, ‘that I would trust Wattie to play in your place; a poor silly body that can barely get to the hog-score, let alone the tee? Na, na Andrew; rather let the match be off than be beaten in that way.’

Seeing the laird thus determined to carry off his ‘third man’ to the scene of the approaching conflict, the poor mason endeavoured still further to remonstrate by a recital of his grievances.

‘Ye ken sir,’ he began, ‘what a long storm it has been. Six weeks since I’ve had a day at my trade, though I have made a shilling or two now and again up-bye at the homestead yonder. But wi’ the price o’ meal at half-a-crown the peck, and no’ very good after a’; and nineteenpence for a loaf of bread, we’ve had a sair time of it. But we wadna’ vex oorsels about that, Maggie and me, if we had meal eneugh to keep the bairns fed. Five o’ them dwining away before our eyes; it’s been an unco job I assure you, laird. Indeed if it hadna been for Mag’s sister that’s married upon the grieve o’ Drummelzier, dear knows what would have become of us, wi’ whiles no a handfu’ o’ meal left in the girnel. Even wi’ the siller to pay for it, it’s no’ aye to be gotten; and,’ faltered the poor fellow in conclusion, ‘there’s just meal eneugh in the house to-day to last till the morn.’

‘Well, cheer up my man!’ cried the laird; ‘the longest day has an end, and this storm cannot last much longer. In fact there’s a thaw coming on or I’m far cheated. There’s a crown to Maggie to replenish the meal-ark, and get maybe a sup o’ something better for the bairns. And there’s cheese an’ bread in the gig here that will serve you and me Andrew, till the beef and greens are ready for us up-bye in the afternoon. Meanwhile, a tastin’ o’ the flask will no be amiss, and then for Broughton.’

Thus invigorated and reassured, the mason took his seat beside the laird, and amid blessings from the gudewife and well-wishings from the bairns, the two sped on their journey.

Arrived at the pond, they found tees marked, distances measured, and all in readiness for the play to begin. The usual salutations ensued. Broughton and Tweedsmuir shook hands all round with much apparent warmth; and the two sides, of four each, took their places in the following order:

BROUGHTON. TWEEDSMUIR.
Wil. Elliot, shoemaker, lead; Mr Henderson, schoolmaster, lead;
Rev. Isaac Stevenson, 2d stone; Wattie Dalgleish, shepherd, 2d stone;
Tam Johnston, blacksmith, 3d stone; Andrew Denholm, mason, 3d stone;
Laird Murray, skip. Laird Scott, skip.

The play was begun and continued with varying fortune: sometimes one side scored, sometimes the other. The match was to consist of thirty-one points; and at one o’clock when a halt was called for refreshments, the scoring was tolerably even.{265} The frost was beginning to shew a slight tendency to give way, but this only nerved the players to further exertions in sweeping up the stones on the somewhat dulled ice. The scene in the forenoon had been a very lively one: but as the afternoon approached and the game was nearing an end, the liveliness was tempered with anxiety, which amounted almost to pain, as shot after shot was ‘put in’ by one side, only to be cleverly ‘taken’ by the other. ‘Soop! soop!’ was the incessant cry of the skips as from their point of vantage they descried a lagging stone; or ‘Haud up! I tell ye; haud up!’ when from that same point they beheld one of their players’ stones approaching with sufficient velocity to do all that was wanted. Anxiety was nearing a crisis. At half-past three the game stood: Broughton thirty, Tweedsmuir twenty-nine. The game was anybody’s. Coats had been cast as needless encumbrances; besoms were clutched with determined firmness: the skips slightly pale with the terrible excitement of the occasion, and the stake that was as it were hanging in the balance: want of nerve on their part to direct, or on the part of any one man to play, might decide the fate of the day. The last end had come to be played, and Broughton having won the previous end, was to lead. The shoemaker’s stone is played, and lies well over the hog-score in good line with the tee, and on the road to promotion. Tweedsmuir’s leading man, the schoolmaster, passes the souter’s stone and lies in ‘the house.’ ‘Well played dominie!’ cries Laird Scott to his lead. And so proceeds the ‘end’ till it comes to our friend the mason’s turn to play; the blacksmith having just played his first stone with but indifferent effect.

‘What do ye see o’ that stane Andrew?’ roars Laird Scott from the tee, pointing at the same time to the winning stone of the other side, which, however, was partially ‘guarded.’

‘I see the half o’ t.’

‘Then,’ says the laird, ‘make sure of it: tak it awa’, and if you rub off the guard there’s no harm done.’

For a moment the mason steadies himself, settles his foot in the crampet, and with a straight delivered shot shaves the guard and wicks out the rival stone, himself lying in close to the tee, and guarded both at the side and in front by stones belonging to his side.

The effect of such a shot as this, at so critical a period of the game, was electric, and is not easily to be described. Enthusiasm on the part of Tweedsmuir, dismay on that of Broughton. But there are yet several stones to come: the order may again be reversed, and Andrew’s deftly played shot may be yet taken. We shall see. The blacksmith, the third player on the Broughton side, follows with his second stone, and though by adhering to the direction of his skip he might have knocked off the guard and so laid open Andrew’s winner, over-anxiety causes him to miss the guard and miss everything. Thus is his second and last stone unfortunately played for Broughton.

The mason has his second stone still to play for Tweedsmuir, and before doing so Laird Scott thus accosts him: ‘Andrew my man, we are lying shot now; we want but another to be game; and for the honour o’ Tweedsmuir I am going to give you the shot that will give it to us: do ye see this port?’ pointing to an open part of the ice (in curling phraseology a port) to the left of the tee, with a stone on each side.

‘I see the port sir.’

‘Well then,’ continued the laird, ‘I want you to fill that port; lay a stone there Andrew, and there’s a lade o’ meal at your door to-morrow morning.’

The stone is raised just for one instant with an easy backward sweep of hand and arm, and delivered with a twist that curls it on and on by degrees towards the spot required. Not just with sufficient strength perhaps, but aligned to the point. In an instant the skip is master of the situation. ‘Soop lads! O soop! soop her up—s-o-o-o-p—there now; let her lie!’ as the stone curls into the ‘port,’ and lies a provoking impediment to the opposite players. The pressure on players of both sides is now too great to admit of many outward demonstrations. Stern rigour of muscle stiffens every face as the two skips themselves now leave the tee and take their places at the other end. The silence bodes a something that no one cares to explain away, so great is the strain of half-hope half-fear that animates every breast.

Laird Murray is directed by his adviser at the tee (the blacksmith) to break-off the guard in front, but misses. Scott his antagonist, by a skilfully played stone, puts on another guard still, in order to avoid danger from Laird Murray’s second and last stone. One chance only now apparently remains for the laird of Broughton, who requires but one shot to reverse the order of things and retrieve the game, and he tries it. It is one of those very difficult shots known amongst curlers as an outwick. A stone of his side has lain considerably to the right of the tee short of it, which if touched on the outer side might be driven in towards the centre and perhaps lie shot. The inwick would be easier, but that the stone is unfortunately guarded for that attempt. He knows that Denholm’s first stone still lies the shot, and is guarded both in front and at the side; and that with another, Tweedsmuir will be thirty-one and game. The shot is risked—after other contingencies have been duly weighed—but without the desired effect: the outlying stone is certainly touched, which in itself was a good shot, but is not sufficiently taken on the side to produce the desired effect. The laird of Broughton pales visibly as the shot is missed, and mutters something between his clenched teeth anything but complimentary to things in general.

The last stone now lies by the foot of our Tweedsmuir laird, who calmly awaits the word of direction from Andrew at the other end.

‘Laird!’ shouts the anxious mason, ‘there’s but the one thing for it, and I’ve seen ye play a dafter-like shot. What would ye say to try an inwick aff my last stane and lift this ane a foot?’ pointing to a stone of his side which lay near, though still not counting; ‘that would give us another shot, and the game!’

‘Well Andrew, that’s why I asked you to fill the port, for I saw what they didna see, that a wick and curl-in would be left: I think it may be done. At any rate I can but try.’

Silence reigns o’er the rink: the sweepers on each side stand in breathless suspense: the wick taken, as given by Andrew in advice to the Laird,{266} may proclaim Broughton beaten and Tweedsmuir the champion parish of the county!

‘Stand back from behind, and shew me the stone with your besom, Andrew; there.’

The suspense is soon broken, the last stone has sped on its mission, the wick has been taken, a stone on Laird Scott’s side that was lying farther from the tee than one of the opponents’, is ‘lifted’ into second place, which with the mason’s winner makes exactly the magic score of thirty-one! Like the thaw which after this long-continued storm will be welcomed by man and beast alike, so does the thaw now melt the frozen tongues of the players. Hats fly up in frenzy of delight, and the phenomenon is witnessed (only to be witnessed on ice) of a Scottish laird and his humble tenant in ecstatic embrace. Flasks are produced, hands shaken by rivals as well as by friends—though chiefly by friends: preparations are made to carry home the paraphernalia of the roaring game: and while Betty congratulates the laird and his guests on their victory, there is happiness in store for Andrew Denholm, whose prowess so notably contributed to secure the honour of Tweedsmuir.


AN IRISH COUNTRY FUNERAL.

The difference between English and Irish as regards the funeral customs of the peasantry in both countries is great. To have a large assemblage at the ‘berrin’ is among the latter an object of ambition and pride to the family; and the concourse of neighbours, friends, and acquaintances who flock from all parts to the funeral is often immense. Even strangers will swell the funeral cortège, and will account for doing so by saying: ‘Sure, won’t it come to our turn some day, and isn’t a big following—to do us credit at our latter end—what we’d all like? So why shouldn’t we do what is dacent and neighbourly by one another?’

What a contrast there is between a quiet interment in an English country parish, attended only by the household of the departed, and the well-remembered scenes in the churchyard of Kilkeedy, County Limerick!

Here, in days gone by, a funeral was a picturesque and touching sight. There was something very weird and solemn in the sound of the ‘keen,’ as it came, mournful and wild upon the ear, rising and falling with the windings of the road along which the vast procession moved. In the centre was the coffin, borne on the shoulders of relatives or friends, and followed by the next of kin. Outside the churchyard gate, where was a large open space, there was a halt. The coffin was laid reverently on the ground, the immediate relatives of the dead kneeling round it.

And now on bended knees all in that vast assemblage sink down. Every head is bowed in prayer—the men devoutly uncovered—every lip moves; the wail of the keeners is hushed; you could hear a pin drop among the silent crowds. It is a solemn and impressive pause. After a few minutes the bearers again take up their burden and carry it into the churchyard, when after being three times borne round the church, it is committed to its final resting-place.

Years have passed since these scenes were witnessed by the writer of these pages. The old familiar church has been pulled down (a new one built on a neighbouring site), and nought of it remains but the ivy-clad tower and graceful spire left standing—that ‘ivy-mantled tower,’ where the sparrow had found her a house and the swallow a nest; whose green depths in the still eventide were made vocal by the chirpings and chatterings of its feathered inhabitants—the sparrows fluttering fussily in and out, and after the manner of their kind, closing the day in noisy gossip before subsiding into rest and silence. Here too were to be found owls, curiously light—soft masses of feathers with apparently no bodies to speak of, who captured by the workmen while clipping the ivy, were brought up, all dazed-looking and sleepy, to be admired and wondered at by the rectory children, and finally restored tenderly to their ‘secret bower!’

A funeral scene similar to that just described forms the subject of one of the illustrations in Lady Chatterton’s Rambles in the South of Ireland, sketched by herself. She had stopped to make a drawing of the beautiful ruins of Quin Abbey in the County Clare, when the wail of an approaching funeral came floating on the breeze, and the melancholy cadence was soon followed by the appearance of the usual concourse of country people. Their figures scattered about in groups, and the coffin in the foreground, enter with very picturesque effect into the sketch.

When the funeral is over, those who have attended it disperse through the churchyard; and any having friends buried there betake themselves to their graves to pray and weep over them. The wild bursts of grief and vehement sobbing, even over moss-grown graves whose time-stained headstones bear witness to the length of time their occupants have slept beneath, would surprise those who are unfamiliar with the impulsive and demonstrative Irish nature.

An old man sitting beside a grave was rocking himself to and fro, and wiping his eyes with a blue cotton handkerchief, while, rosary in hand, he prayed with extraordinary fervour.

‘It’s my poor old wife is lying here,’ he said; ‘the heavens be her bed! God rest her soul this day! Many’s the long year since she wint from me, poor Norry, and left me sore and lonesome! She was well on in years then, though the childer were young; for we were married a long time before there was any. The neighbours were all at me to marry again, if it was only for one to wash the shirt or knit the stocking for me, or to keep the weenochs from running wild about the roads while I was away at my work earning their bit. But I couldn’t give in to the notion. I was used to my poor Norry, and the thoughts of a stranger on the floor was bitter to my heart. Ah, it’s a sore loss to a man in years when his old wife is took from him! The old comrade he’s had so long; that understands every turn of him, and knows his humours and his fancies; and fits him as easy and comfortable as an old shoe. A man might get a new one—and maybe more sightly to look at than the one that’s gone—but dear knows, ’twould be at his peril! As likely as not, she’d fret him and heart-scald him, and make him oneasy day and night, just blistering like new leather! The old wife is like the shoe he’s used to, that will lie into his foot. Stretching here and giving there, and coming, by constant wearing, to fit, as easy and souple as{267} the skin itself, into th’ exactness of every bump and contrairy spot! For there’s none of us,’ continued the old man, who seemed to be a bit of a moralist, ‘that hasn’t our tendher places and our corns and oddities in body and mind, God help us! Some more and some less, according. And there’s no one can know where them raw spots lie, or how to save ’em from being hurt, like the loving crathur that’s been next us through the long years, in rain and shine. So yer honours,’ he added, getting up with a last sorrowful look at his wife’s grave, ‘I wouldn’t hearken to the neighbours, and take a strange comrade. And after a while a widow sister o’ mine came to live with me and to care my poor orphans; but my heart is still with my poor Norry here in the clay!’

There was another loving couple in the same neighbourhood, whose apparently impending separation by death caused much sympathy among their friends. The man was a farmer, and owing to his industry and good conduct, he and his young wife were in comfortable circumstances and well to do. They were devoted to each other. When he was attacked with the severe illness that threatened his life, she nursed him night and day until she was wasted to a shadow, and looked from anxiety and want of sleep almost as corpse-like as he did. Her misery when the doctors pronounced the case hopeless was dreadful to witness. The poor fellow’s strength was, they said, nearly exhausted, his illness had lasted so long; so that his holding out was considered impossible.

Things were in this state, and the sufferer’s death daily expected, when we were called away from the place, to pay a distant visit. On our return home after some weeks’ absence, one of the first persons we saw was young Mrs D—— dressed in the deepest widow’s weeds—a moving mass of crape.

It was on a Sunday morning going to church; she was walking along the road before us, stepping out with wonderful briskness, we thought, considering her very recent bereavement. We had to quicken our pace to come up with her, and said when we did so: ‘We are so sorry for you, so very sorry! You have lost your husband.’

‘Thank you kindly; you were always good,’ she said, lifting up her heavy crape veil from off a face radiant with smiles. ‘He isn’t dead at all, glory be to God! an’ ’tis recovering beautiful he is. The doctor says if he goes on gettin’ up his strength as he’s doing the last fortnight, he’ll soon be finely; out and about in no time.—Oh, the clothes, is it? Sure ’twas himself, the dear man, bought them for me! When he was that bad there wasn’t a spark of hope, he calls me over to him, an’ “Katie my heart,” sez he, “I’m going from you. The doctors have gave me up, and you’ll be a lone widow before long, my poor child. And when I’m gone, jewel, and you’re left without a head or provider, there’ll be no one in the wide world to give you a stitch of clothes or anything conformable. So I’ll order them home now, darlin’, the best that can be got for money; for I’d like to leave you dacent and respectable behind me.” And your honours,’ she went on, ‘so he did. Two golden guineas he gev for the bonnet; and as for the gownd, ladies dear, only feel the stuff that’s in it, and ye may guess what that cost. And beautiful crape, no end of a price!—every whole thing the hoight of good quality—top lot of the shop, and no stint.—Well,’ she continued, ‘there they all were in the chest. And sure when himself got well we thought it a sin and a shame to let lovely clothes like these lie by without wearing ’em—to be ruined entirely and feed the moths—after they costing such a sight of money too. So he made me put them on; and a proud man himself was this morning, and a happy, seeing me go out the door so grand and iligant—the best of everything upon me!’

There was something absurd, almost grotesque, in the self-conscious complacent way in which the young woman gazed admiringly down on her lugubrious finery; tripping off exulting and triumphant, her manner in curious contrast with the sore woe associated with those garments—the saddest in which mortal can be clad.


MR ASLATT’S WARD.

IN FOUR CHAPTERS.—CHAPTER IV.

I will pass over the misery of the days that followed; days stretched by anxiety and suspense to double their ordinary length. The woman succeeded only too well in proving the truth of her story; and knowing how useless it would be, Mr Hammond did not attempt to deny that she was his wife. Nor did he endeavour to justify his conduct, which was truly inexcusable. Yet in after-years, when our indignation had cooled, and we were able calmly to reflect upon the history thus revealed, we could not help pitying the unfortunate young man. He had not been much past twenty when, on a visit to Wiesbaden, he had made the acquaintance of a woman several years older than himself, whose brilliant beauty and fascinating address had fairly bewitched him. She was a gay adventuress, who, living by the chances of the gaming-table, and tired of such a precarious livelihood, had fostered the young man’s passion, and then condescended to marry him.

Alas! Frederick Hammond had not been long married before he bitterly regretted the step he had taken. His wife proved the bane of his life. She had contracted the habit of drinking to excess, and her intemperance destroyed all hope of happiness in domestic life. Her husband’s love changed to hatred, and unable to control her vicious propensities, he deserted her. In one place after another he took refuge, hoping to elude her search; but again and again she succeeded in tracking him to his place of concealment, though she was willing to leave him to himself when he had satisfied her demand for money. But at last for a long time he heard nothing of her; and as the months passed into years, the hope sprang up within him that his wife was either dead, or else had lost all clue to his whereabouts. Weary of residing abroad, he returned to England, and finding it difficult to obtain other employment, was glad to accept the post of village schoolmaster, for he thought the little country village might prove a secure hiding-place. And here becoming acquainted with Miss Sinclair, he basely yielded to the temptation to act as though the hope he cherished that his wife was dead were already a realised fact. He dared not openly ask Rose’s hand of her guardian; but he sought by all the means in his power to win{268} her love, and did not rest till he had won from her a response to his avowed affection, and gained her consent to a secret engagement. It was a cruel selfish proceeding, for which his past misfortunes offered no excuse; and thankful indeed were we that his scheme of eloping with Rose had been frustrated.

But poor Rose! Bitter indeed was her distress when she found we had no comfort to give her. The shock was too great for her physical strength, and ere many hours had elapsed it was evident that a severe illness would be the consequence. For days she lay tossing in feverish delirium; whilst we kept anxious watch by her bedside, much fearing what the issue might be. But our fears were mercifully disappointed; the fever turned, and soon the much-loved patient was pronounced out of danger. But the improvement was very gradual, and after a while almost imperceptible. Extreme exhaustion was accompanied in Rose’s case by an apathetic indifference to everything around her, which formed the chief barrier to her recovery. She felt no desire to get strong again, now that life had no longer any great attraction for her.

‘If we could only rouse her to take an interest in anything, she would soon be well,’ the doctor said to me one day.

A possibility of doing so occurred to me at that moment, and I resolved to try, though I could scarcely hope to succeed. In the evening, when I was sitting by Rose’s couch, and knew that Mr Aslatt had gone out, and would not be back for an hour or two, I said to her gently: ‘I think you feel a little stronger to-day; do you not, darling?’

A heavy sigh was the only response to my question.

I knelt by her side, and gently drew her head upon my shoulder as I whispered: ‘I wish you could unburden your heart to me, dear Rose. Would it not be a relief to tell me the sad thoughts that occupy your mind?’

No answer but by tears, which I was glad to see, for I knew they would relieve her heavy heart. After a while, words followed. She told me how little she cared to get well again; what a dreary blank life appeared to her, now that he whom she had so loved and trusted had proved unworthy; how it seemed to her she was of no use in the world, and the sooner she were out of it the better for herself and every one else. And a great deal more in the same strain.

I reminded her of her guardian’s love for her, and his great anxiety for her recovery, and urged her to try to get well for his sake. But she only shook her head despondingly. ‘I have never been anything but a trouble to him,’ she said; ‘he would be happier without me. If I were out of the way, I daresay he would marry. I used to make plans for his future as well as for my own, you know; but now everything will be different.’

‘I do not think Mr Aslatt would have married,’ I ventured to say.

‘Why not?’ asked Rose.

I was silent, and she did not repeat the question.

‘I have a story to tell you, Rose, which I think you may like to hear,’ I said presently.

‘A story!’ she said in surprise.

‘Yes, darling, a story.’

‘Many years ago, a gentleman was passing through the streets of Vienna. He was a man about thirty years of age, but he looked older, for he had known sorrow and disappointment, and life appeared to him then nought but vanity and vexation of spirit. Yet many would have envied his position, for he possessed much of what the world most values. He was walking listlessly along, when his attention was attracted by a group of musicians, who were performing at the corner of a square. In the centre of the band stood a pretty little fair-haired girl about six years old. She was poorly clad. Her tiny feet were bare, and bleeding from contact with the sharp stones with which the roads were strewn; and tears were in her large blue eyes as, in her childish voice, she joined in the song. Her pretty yet sorrowful face and the plaintive tone in which she sang touched the stranger’s kind heart. He stood still to watch the group, and when the song was ended went forward to place some money in the child’s upturned palm. “Is this your little girl?” he asked the man by whose side she was standing. He replied in the negative. The little girl was an orphan, the child of an Englishman, who had formerly belonged to the band, but who had died some months before, leaving his little daughter entirely dependent on the good-will of his late comrades.

‘Well, darling, you must know that they did not object to keeping her with them, as her appearance was calculated to call forth pity, and thus increase their earnings. But it was a rough life for the child, and she suffered from the exposure to all weathers which it entailed. Her father, who it was believed had seen better days, had never allowed her to go out with the troop, and had done his utmost to shield her from hardships. But now there was no help for it; she could not be kept in idleness. Moved with pity for the child’s hapless lot, the gentleman inquired where the musicians resided, and returned to his hotel to consider how he might best serve the little orphan. After much reflection his resolution was taken. He was a lonely man, with no near relative to claim his love. His heart yearned with pity for the desolate child, whose pleading blue eyes and plaintive voice kept appealing to his compassion, to the exclusion of all other considerations. He determined to adopt her, and provide for her for the rest of her life. With this intention he sought the street musicians on the following day, and easily induced them to commit the child to his care. After handsomely rewarding the musicians, he took her away with him that very day, and ever since she has had the first place in his heart. His loving care for the orphan child brought its own reward, for in striving to promote the happiness of little Rose he found his own.’

I was interrupted by a cry from my companion. ‘Rose!’ she exclaimed excitedly. ‘What are you saying, Miss Bygrave? Tell me—was I—am I that little child?’

‘You are, darling; and now you know how truly you are the light of Mr Aslatt’s life. He has no one to care for but you, and you alone can make him happy.’

‘And I have really no claim upon him, am in no way related to him, as I thought! I knew I{269} owed him much, but I had no idea to what extent I was indebted to him. But for his goodness, what should I be now? Oh, if I had only known this before! How ungrateful I have been to him, how wayward and perverse! Oh, Miss Bygrave, I cannot bear to think of it!’

‘Do not trouble about that, dear,’ I said, trying to soothe her, for her agitation alarmed me; ‘it is all forgiven and forgotten by Mr Aslatt.’

‘But I shall never forgive myself,’ she exclaimed passionately. ‘To think that I have been receiving everything from him for years, living upon his bounty, and yet making no return, evincing no gratitude, taking all his kindness as a matter of course, just because I imagined I was dear to him for my parents’ sake!’

‘Nay; you are too hard upon yourself, dear Rose,’ I said gently. ‘To a certain extent you have been grateful to him; you have again and again acknowledged to me your sense of his goodness; and now that you know all, you will clearly prove your gratitude, I have no doubt.’

‘But how?’ exclaimed Rose. ‘How can I express—how can I shew my deep sense of all that I owe him?’

‘In the first place, by getting well as soon as possible, and by letting him see that you once more take an interest in life. For his sake, I know you will strive to bear bravely a trial, the bitterness of which he fully appreciates. And Rose, I must beg you not to attempt to express to Mr Aslatt your sense of indebtedness. He feels a morbid shrinking from hearing such words from your lips, and has implored me—in case I ever revealed to you the secret of your early life, as I have been led to do this evening—to assure you that you are under no great obligation to him, for he considers that he has been fully repaid for what he has done for you, by the happiness your companionship has given him.’

‘But I cannot bear to go on receiving so much from him, and yet give no expression to my gratitude,’ said Rose.

‘You cannot do otherwise,’ I replied; ‘unless you wish to make him very unhappy, and that would be a poor return for all his goodness. Do all you can to please him; be as bright and cheerful as possible; but do not, I beseech you, let him see that you labour under a sense of painful obligation to him.’

‘I will act as you desire,’ said Rose. ‘But is there really no other way in which I can prove my gratitude?’

‘Not at present,’ I replied. ‘But perhaps at some future time you may be able to give him what he will consider worth far more than all he has ever bestowed upon you; but it would not be acceptable to him if it proceeded only from the promptings of gratitude.’

‘I do not understand you,’ said Rose, though her cheek flushed.

‘Perhaps you may some day,’ I answered. ‘But now, darling, you must be still, and not talk any more, else I am afraid you will not be so well to-morrow.’

I had hard work to persuade her to be quiet, and though after a time she refrained from talking in obedience to my repeated injunctions, I could see her thoughts were dwelling on the communication I had made to her. Only good results, however, followed from the excitement of that evening. There was a tinge of pink on Rose’s delicate cheek the next day; her countenance was brighter, and her manner more animated than we had seen it for some time. Mr Aslatt was delighted at the change, and encouraged by it, he began to talk to Rose of the plans he had formed for taking her to Italy as soon as she felt strong enough to travel. He was overjoyed to find that she made no objection to his proposal, but even entered cheerfully into his plans, and declared that she should be quite ready to start in the course of a few weeks. And so it proved, for she gained strength with a rapidity which shewed the truth of the doctor’s words, that she only needed to be roused in order to get well.

We started for the continent at the end of October. It was thought that residence abroad during the winter months would promote Rose’s restoration to health, and afford that diversion of mind which was so desirable after the trying experience she had passed through. The result was most satisfactory. There was no return of the apathetic melancholy which had been so distressing to witness; and her enjoyment of the various entertainments her kind friend provided for her was unassumed. I began to hope that, after all, her attachment to Mr Hammond had not been very deep, but merely a romantic fancy, kindled by the thought of his misfortunes, and fanned into a flame by the breath of opposition. A thousand little incidents strengthened this conviction of mine. Every day it became evident that Rose was learning to appreciate her guardian’s character more highly than she had done before. She took a growing delight in his society, and indeed never seemed quite at ease if he were absent.

When in the spring we returned to England, Rose’s health and spirits had so completely returned, that she appeared little different from the radiant girl whose loveliness had charmed me when I first looked at her, save that her manner was gentler, being marked by a winning humility and patience which her former bearing had lacked.

I did not long remain at Westwood Hall in the capacity of Rose’s companion, though I have frequently visited it since as her friend. One day soon after our return from Italy, she came to me with a bright and blushing countenance, and whispered that she had a secret to tell me. I had little doubt what the secret was, and could therefore help Rose out with her confession, that Mr Aslatt had asked her to be his wife, and that she had consented, though with some reluctance, caused by a sense of her unworthiness.

‘I could not do otherwise,’ she said, ‘when he told me that the happiness of his future life depended upon my answer; though I know how little I deserve the love he bestows upon me.’

‘But Rose,’ I said, anxious to be relieved of a painful doubt, ‘you have not, I trust, been led to a decision contrary to the dictates of your heart? You know nothing would be further from Mr Aslatt’s desire than that you should sacrifice your own inclinations from a mistaken notion of his claims upon you. He would not be happy if he thought you had only consented that you might not make him unhappy, and not because your own happiness would be promoted by the union.’

‘I know that,’ murmured Rose, as her cheek took a deeper tint; ‘but it is not so. I feel very{270} differently towards Mr Aslatt from what I did when you first knew me. I think him the best and noblest of men, and I shall be proud and happy to be his wife; only I wish I were more worthy of him. O Miss Bygrave! I cannot tell you how ashamed I feel, when I think of the infatuation which led me to deceive so kind a friend, or how intensely thankful I am that you saved me from a wicked act which would have caused unspeakable misery for us both! I pity poor Mr Hammond, and forgive him for the injury he so nearly inflicted upon me; but I must confess to you that I never really had such confidence in him or cared for him, as I now care for and trust the one whose love I have slighted and undervalued so long.’

It only remains to add that shortly after that terrible scene at the Priory, Mr Hammond disappeared, and it was thought, went abroad; but of him and his wretched wife not a scrap of intelligence has ever reached us.


THE MONTH:
SCIENCE AND ARTS.

In a lecture at the Royal Institution, Dr Tyndall has made known the results of a long series of experiments on fog-signals, all involving more or less of noise, and demonstrating that the noisiest are the best. Mariners in a fog are helpless: no lights, no cliffs, no towers can be seen, and they must be warned off the land through their ears. So in conjunction with the Trinity House and the authorities at Woolwich, the Professor fired guns of various kinds and sizes, and very soon found that a short five-and-a-half-inch howitzer with a three-pound charge of powder produced a louder report than an eighteen-pounder with the same weight of charge. Thereupon guns of different forms were constructed, and one among them which had a parabolic muzzle proved to be the best, that is in throwing the sound over the sea, and not wasting it to rearward over the land. Then it was ascertained that fine-grained powder produces a louder report than coarse-grained; the shock imparted to the air being more rapid in the one case than in the other.

Experiments made with gun-cotton shewed conclusively that the cotton was ‘loudest of all;’ and ‘fired in the focus of the reflector, the gun-cotton clearly dominated over all the other sound-producers.’ The reports were heard at distances varying from two to thirteen miles and a half.

When the fog clears off, the noisy signals are laid aside and bright lights all round the coast guide the seaman on his way. Some years ago the old oil light was superseded by the magneto-electric light, and this in turn has given place to the dynamo-electric light, which excels all in brilliance and intensity. In this machine the required movements are effected by steam or water power; and when the electric current is thereby generated, it is conducted by wires to a second machine, which co-operates in the work with remarkable economy and efficiency. Readers desirous of knowing the improvements made in the dynamo-electric machines by Messrs Siemens, and the experiments carried on in lighthouses, should refer to the Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers for the present session.

Particulars of a galvanic battery of extraordinary power have been brought to this country from the United States. Instead of the carbon plate commonly used as one of the elements in the cells, it has a copper plate coated with lead and platinum; and a blowing apparatus is so combined that a stream of air can be blown through the acid liquid with which the cells are filled. The effects of this aeration are remarkable: the galvanic current is rendered unusually powerful, and a large amount of heat is developed. The way in which these effects are produced is not yet satisfactorily made out; but that this battery offers a new and potent means of investigation to chemists and physicists cannot be doubted.

An account of an exclusively metallic cell has been given to the Royal Society by Professors Ayrton and Perry of the Engineering College, Tokio, Japan, in a paper on ‘Contact Theory of Voltaic Action.’ They took strips of platinum and magnesium, which were in connection with the electrodes of the electrometer, and dipped them into mercury, and immediately saw evidence of a strong current. The experiments were continued with much care until the Professors felt assured that ‘the electro-motive force obtained was about one and a half times the electro-motive force of a Daniell’s cell.’ ‘It may be possible,’ they remark further, ‘by mechanical or other means, or by using another metal than magnesium, to give constancy to this arrangement; and as its internal resistance is extremely small, the cell may be of great practical use for the production of powerful currents.’

In a discussion about Iron at the meeting of the Iron and Steel Institute, one of the speakers shewed that it was not so much quality of metal as mechanical structure that constituted good iron. He took certain railway bars and planed them, whereby he was enabled to examine their structure, and he saw that some of the rails contained much cinder, which accounted for their showing more signs of wear than others. On sifting the shavings and passing a magnet over them, all the iron could be taken out and the quantity of cinder ascertained; and not until this cinder could be thoroughly got rid of would the manufacturer be able to produce good iron. The same defect had been noticed in Swedish iron made for a special purpose; and there was reason to fear that manufacturers made more haste to send iron into the market than to produce the best quality. Fortunately, a few scientific men have introduced improvements which will in time abolish the rule of thumb that has too long prevailed.

The manufacture of bricks from slag is still carried on at the Tees Iron-works, Middlesbrough, by machines constructed for the purpose. The slag, ground into sand, is mixed with lime, squeezed into moulds, and each machine turns out about ten thousand bricks a day. Being pressed, these bricks present advantages over ordinary bricks: they are uniform in size and thickness; do not break; occasion less trouble to the bricklayer and plasterer; require less mortar; and do not split when nails are driven into them, whereby carpenters are saved the work of plugging. Another important fact, which the labourers will appreciate, is that the weight of a thousand slag bricks is one ton less than the weight of a thousand red bricks; and as regards durability, we are informed that the longer they are kept the harder they become.

{271}

An invention which simplifies photography out of doors may be said to have claims on the attention of tourists and travellers, as well as of professional photographers. To carry the bottles, liquids, and other appliances at present required necessitates troublesome baggage; but Mr Chardon of Paris shews that all this may be avoided by the use of his ‘Dry bromide of silver emulsion.’ This preparation, a mixture of collodion and the bromide, will keep an indefinite time in bottles excluded from the light, and does not suffer from varying temperatures. Specimens carried to China, and back by way of the Red Sea, underwent no alteration; an important consideration for travellers and astronomers who wish to take photographs in tropical countries. When required for use the bromide is mixed in certain proportions with ether and alcohol; the plates are coated with this solution, and as soon as dry are ready for the photographer. They require no further preparation, and retain their sensibility through many months. The image may be developed immediately or after some weeks, according to circumstances; in proof of which photographs taken at Aden have been developed in Paris. But a very small quantity of water is necessary, and the image may be transferred to a film of gelatine or a sheet of paper at pleasure, which lessens the risk of breakage, and the plates may be used for fresh pictures.

An account has been published of the disturbance and destruction which the telegraph lines in Germany underwent during the widespread storm one night in March 1876. The destruction was so very great, that had the storm occurred during a political crisis or a war, the consequences might have been much more calamitous. This liability to derangement has in nearly all countries led practical minds to conclude that underground telegraphs are preferable to lines carried on posts through the air; and the German government have laid underground wires from Berlin to Mainz (Mayence), a distance of about three hundred and eighty miles, which will afford excellent means for comparing the two systems.

Vast as are the forests of the United States, Americans are finding out that they are not inexhaustible. The annual product of ‘lumber,’ which means timber in all its forms, is estimated at ten thousand million feet, a quantity sufficient to make a perceptible gap in the broadest of forests. Among the heaviest items of consumption are the railways with their eighty thousand miles of sleepers, to say nothing of ties, bridges, platforms, and fences. The average ‘life’ of the wood when laid in the ground is from four to six years; and each year’s renewal is said to use up one-sixth of the enormous product above mentioned. These facts have led some thinking constructors to reconsider the national objection to precautions, and they now advocate the use of preserved timber, and have invented a method of preservation. The principal part of the apparatus is a large air-tight iron cylinder one hundred feet long, into which the wood is run on rails; all the openings are closed; steam at a high temperature is forced in, and the process is maintained until every part of the wood is heated up to two hundred and twelve degrees. The steam is then driven from the cylinder; heat is applied; then a vacuum is produced, and ‘many barrels of sap’ pour from the wood. Creosote oil is then forced into the cylinder. ‘Every stick is at once bathed with oil. The wood, being in a soft somewhat spongy condition, the fibres porous, and the pores open, absorbs at once the hot penetrating oil. If the wood be of a porous character like pine, it absorbs all the oil required in the first flow without any pressure; but if the fibre be solid and close and the timber of a large size, a further pressure of from sixty to one hundred and fifty pounds is needed to make the impregnation complete.’ This process reminds us of one on a somewhat similar principle which was noticed in this Journal for November 25, 1876.

In an address to the Royal Geological Society of Ireland, Sir Robert Kane remarked on the activity prevailing among the geologists and chemists of that country in investigation of their mineral resources. The search for fluorine in rocks has had favourable results; and the discovery of phosphoric acid is regarded as an indication of the extent to which organic remains were included originally in those mineral masses. Certain beds described by geologists as lower Silurian and Cambrian, destitute of fossils, nevertheless contain such traces of phosphorus as shew that they must have been formed in seas rich in organic life. These facts, as Sir R. Kane shewed, are of special interest in Ireland, where, owing to the rareness of those newer formations which furnish the valuable coprolite beds of Cambridge and Suffolk, such sources of agricultural wealth are absent; but where the older strata being so largely developed offer resources for discovery of accumulated organic remains which may be turned to good account in fertilising the soil.

Professor Boyd Dawkins, F.R.S., in discoursing to the Manchester Geological Society, mentioned the discovery of fresh evidence of the antiquity of man. Certain caves in Cresswell Crags, on the borders of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, have been recently explored, and the relics thereby brought to light prove that man lived in the hunter-stage of civilisation in the valley of the Trent and its tributaries, along with the mammoth, woolly rhinoceros, cave-hyena, lion and reindeer, and that he was capable of progress. In the lowest stratum in the caves, says Professor Dawkins, implements are found of the rudest kind and roughest form, made of quartzite pebbles from the neighbourhood. In the middle stratum implements of flint appear mingled with the others; but in the uppermost stratum the tools and implements are of flint, and of the best kind. Among these are bone needles and other appliances of bone and horn, on one of which is rudely engraved a figure of a horse. ‘This sequence,’ remarks the Professor, ‘establishes the fact, that even in the palæolithic age the hunters of reindeer, horse, mammoth, and other creatures were progressive, and that the cave-dwellers of the pleistocene age are to be looked upon from the same point of view as mankind at the present time, as “one man always living and incessantly learning.”’ If Professor Dawkins is right in his conjecture, the cave-dwellers of the very remote period which he describes were somewhat like the Eskimos of the present day.

To this we may add the fact, that rude stone implements have been found in the ‘glacial drift’ in New Jersey, United States, and that some geologists regard this as proof that man lived on the{272} earth during that far-back, dreary, and cold glacial period.

In the course of the admirable surveys of their wide-spread territory carried on by authority of the United States government, discovery has been made of strange and interesting remains of habitations, implements, and pottery of a long-departed and forgotten people, who once occupied the region about the head-waters of the San Juan. Photographers and geologists among the surveying parties have by means of pictures, drawings, and descriptions produced a Report, which will in due time be published at Washington. Meanwhile models of the ancient ruins have been constructed in plaster, and compared with the dwellings of certain Indian tribes in New Mexico and Arizona; and these latter, with allowance for contact with Europeans, are at once recognised as bearing traces of the dwellings of the forgotten people. ‘Forgotten,’ says an American contemporary, ‘because the builders of the modern structures are as ignorant of the ancient builders as we are ourselves.’

A correspondent suggests that the ‘stencils’ produced by Edison’s Electric Pen might be used as communications for blind people, whose sensitive fingers would, he thinks, feel out the meaning of the very slight roughness of the surface of the paper occasioned by the punctures. Why does he not try the experiment? Meanwhile we mention that a naturalist in New York has produced a Catalogue of Diatomaceæ by means of the Electric Pen, and published it in quarto form for private distribution.

Another correspondent informs us that the horse-shoe described in the Month (July 1877) as brought into use in Philadelphia with satisfactory results, was invented in England in 1870 by Mr C. J. Carr. A statement printed in 1874 sets forth that the shoe is made of malleable iron in such a way ‘as to allow of the natural growth of the frog while completely shielding the foot. On the face of the shoe is a hollow semi-circular cavity, which is filled with a pad of hemp and tar; and as no calkins or spikes are required, one of the dangers incident to roughing is entirely obviated.’ We wish success to any one who will persevere in applying common-sense and kindness to the shoeing of horses.

The Japan Daily Herald of 31st January states that when the telephone was brought under the notice of the Japanese government, Mr Ito, the (native) Minister of Public Works, at once ordered experiments to be made. These were carried out by Mr Gilbert, Telegraph Superintendent-in-chief to the Japanese government, and formerly of Edinburgh. The experiments were so satisfactory that they were followed by the establishment of telephonic communication between the police stations in the metropolis and between the Emperor’s palace and the various government departments. When the Public Works Department and the palace were first put in telephonic union, the Emperor and Empress were present, and expressed great surprise at the result. The English newspaper, in recording this fact, adds, ‘As well their Majesties might;’ and it proceeds to speculate whether the Chinese, who have opposed telegraphs and railways, will ‘give ear to the telephone.’ No great expectation appears to be entertained that the Chinese will do anything of the kind.


TWO HEARTS.

(Suggested by the picture ‘In Memoriam.’)

In the sunlight, darting, dancing,
Birds amid the green leaves glancing,
Gaily sing:
In the balmy air entrancing,
Breathes the Spring.
’Tis the dearest hour of daytime;
In the merry, merry Maytime,
Who’d be sad?
Nature revels in her playtime;
All is glad.
Who is this that cometh slowly?
’Tis a maiden meek and lowly;
In her eyes,
Look of resignation holy
Shadowy lies.
Heeds she not the golden gleaming
Of the sunlight softly streaming
Through the leaves:
Still her soul is darkly dreaming;
Still she grieves.
He her heart to win had striven;
She her heart to him had given;
Hope hath fled—
Heart from heart for aye is riven:
He is dead.
Mid the cruel cannon’s rattle,
Passed his soul forth in the battle—
Soul that cried
To Heaven for her from the battle
Ere he died.
On the day when, heavy-hearted,
He had from his love departed
For the fray,
While each heart with sorrow smarted—
On that day
He had left a little token,
That if earthly ties were broken,
On the tree
Tender tie, though all unspoken,
Still might be.
He had carved two hearts united—
Sign of troth and promise plighted;
Sign that they
True will be till death-benighted,
Come what may.
He in each heart—sign that never
Time shall one from other sever—
Graved each name;
Sign that they will be for ever
Still the same.
Daily comes she here to borrow
Short relief from sorest sorrow,
Partial peace,
Till when on her life’s To-morrow
Grief shall cease.
So she dreams of heavenly meeting,
Hears her lost love’s tender greeting
Mid the blest,
Where beyond these troubles fleeting,
There is rest.
Hearts which here were disunited,
Hearts whose hopes on earth were blighted,
On that shore
Rest, in perfect peace delighted,
Evermore.

Printed and Published by W. & R. Chambers, 47 Paternoster Row, London, and 339 High Street, Edinburgh.


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