Chambers’s Journal of Popular Literature, Science, and Art, No. 744, March 30,



The corvette Lyre, one of Her Majesty’s vessels, is to be imagined as lying at anchor off the mouth of the river Langhat, in the Straits of Malacca, a long heavy ground-swell rolling her lazily from side to side, as though even the sea found the climate too trying for much exertion. It is a glorious scene which lies before us: a white beach curtained with brilliant foliage, above which rises Parcelar Hill, a cone-shaped mountain, with its steep sides covered with dense jungle; but on board, the pitiless sun is pouring down his cloudless rays, making the pitch bubble out of the seams of the deck even through the double awning which is spread overhead. It is one o’clock in the afternoon, the dinner hour, and the officers, clad in white tunics and helmets, are listlessly lounging in long chairs abaft the mizzen-mast; while on the forecastle, blue-jackets and marines are in little groups smoking, and some who find even that amusement too hot, are stretched about the deck sleeping or reading. Suddenly there is a slight stir among them, and the shrill whistle of a boatswain’s mate is heard, followed by a hoarse bellow at the hatchway: ‘D’ye hear there? A seining-party will leave the ship at four bells [two o’clock]. All you as wish to go give your names to the master-at-arms. Away there, first cutters and dingey boys! Lower your boats!’

While the crews thus named are preparing their boats for the expedition, volunteers in plenty are sending in their names; for a seining, or in other words a fishing-party, which involves a run on shore and a sort of picnic on the beach, is always popular on board a man-of-war. At this time too, we had been nearly a month at sea, and our store of fresh meat in the wardroom having soon been exhausted, we had been living on the ship’s provisions for a fortnight past; and H.M.’s salt beef (generally though disrespectfully known as ‘salt horse’), never very popular at any time, had become extremely distasteful to our palates, though our Chinese cooks had exhausted their science and our patience in inventing new methods of cooking the obnoxious article. I may mention here that the Lyre formed part of a squadron which had assembled in the Straits for the suppression of piracy, for the inhabitants of the Malay states have an interesting custom, handed down from remote ages, of making indiscriminate war on each other. The British government, not taking the view that this was a wise dispensation of Providence for getting rid of a useless race by mutual extermination, instead of leaving them to settle their disputes like the famous Kilkenny cats, resolved to put down this lawless state of affairs with a strong hand; so some of the powers that be, arranged a scheme for sweeping the rivers of the piratical craft which infested them.

The plan was beautifully simple and efficacious in theory: part of the squadron was to ascend a branch of the Salangore River, and drive all the boats they should find there round to the Langhat River, where the remainder, of which the captain of the Lyre had command, was to catch them. It ought to have been a success; but somehow or other the ungrateful pirates declined to come out of their hiding-places and be captured; and after spending a fortnight at anchor without making a single haul, our only duty being to send a detachment occasionally to relieve the guard at a stockade we had taken, we began to get tired of the cruise and the invariable ‘salt horse,’ boiled, fried, or devilled, that formed the ‘standing part’ of every meal; so that any proposal to break the monotony of our daily grind, such as this seining-party promised, was eagerly welcomed both by officers and men.

At two o’clock a heavily laden cutter left the ship, towing the dingey, with the large seine-net which is supplied to every man of war, coiled up in it. Some of the older hands have taken a spare shift of clothes, for a great deal of rough dirty work may be expected, and a wise man likes to be prepared for emergencies; but the majority have been content with putting on the oldest suits they can find. As we have no chart in the boat, we find some difficulty in approaching the{194} shore, as a long reef runs off it, on which the heavy cutter strikes again and again as we pull up and down looking for a passage. ‘Jump out there, half-a-dozen hands, and look for deep water,’ sings out the lieutenant in command of the party; and directly a number of men are overboard, glad to cool themselves from the blazing heat; and they wade and splash about in all directions, till the sudden disappearance of one man, amidst the laughter of the rest, announces that he has found the channel rather suddenly; and pulling in his direction, the boat reaches the shore without difficulty.

Not a promising place for a cast where we are landing—the mouth of a deep rapid river, with steep banks of mud, behind which is a narrow belt of sand and bushes and then a dense jungle; but the dingey—a handy little boat—which has been sent to reconnoitre, returns with a report of a shelving sandy beach a few hundred yards away, which will just suit our purpose. So, telling off a few hands with axes to cut down wood and light a fire—a very necessary precaution when men are wet through—the remainder, after anchoring the cutter in the river, march off to the spot where the dingey is paying out the seine so as to inclose a large space of water. Long ropes are fastened to each end of the net, one of which is already held on shore, and the dingey soon brings in the other. Now comes the real hard work, as the heavy net is slowly and laboriously hauled to land, the two ends being gradually brought together by the direction of the experienced fishermen in charge. As the centre part of the net approaches, the excitement becomes great; and some of the men, regardless of sharks and alligators, swim behind, splashing water to frighten back the fish who are endeavouring to leap over the barrier which separates them from freedom. Then, amidst the cheery notes of a fishing chorus, most of us wading up to our waists in water, the purse or bulge of the net is run high and dry on the sand, and we eagerly examine our spoil. A curious collection they are, and many of them no use for cooking or any other purpose that we can tell. There are crabs of all sizes and brilliant colours, with claws out of all proportion to the size of their bodies, which immediately make their presence felt by severely nipping the bare legs and feet of the men nearest to them, of course much to the amusement of the rest of the party.

Another peril to the unwary are the catfish, unpleasant creatures, that have a playful knack of darting their poisonous spines into the flesh of any one incautiously touching them, thereby causing excruciating agony for some little time. Then come some little round fish, that have a very peculiar habit of swelling themselves out when touched, until they actually burst as it were with their own importance. I am not naturalist enough to tell the name of this peculiar fish, but the men used to call them ‘beadles.’ These and many others are thrown back into the sea as unfit for food; but even after this wholesale rejection, we have several buckets of good eatable fish, which are sent off to the fire, which is now blazing brightly on the strip of sand at the mouth of the river. A question now arises as to who shall be cook, and one of the men is promptly chosen by the others, and placed in charge of the fish. There is a joke about selecting this particular individual. Some months previously, in the course of a chaffing-match with the wardroom cook’s mate, he had made a retort so peculiarly cutting that the enraged knight of the gridiron applied an argumentum ad hominem in the shape of a saucepan, which laid him on the deck with a broken head; so whenever there was a question of cooking to be done after this, he was invariably selected for the office, as the others said he must have gone deeply into the subject.

We make cast after cast now, and fill all our spare buckets with fish, getting rather tired ourselves with the exertion of hauling a heavy net, up to our necks in water, till the night comes on apace, and we edge off towards the fire, making a final cast in front of it, as the glare attracts the fish in great numbers. We have become satiated with sport by this time; so the net is coiled up in the dingey, and all hands draw round the blazing fire; those that have taken the precaution to bring dry clothes now donning them; and the others, who have been less prudent, drying themselves in the grateful heat.

It is a strangely picturesque scene; the flickering blaze of the fire lighting up the groups of men stretched on the sand in various attitudes of negligent ease, their bare muscular limbs contrasting in almost startling whiteness with their bearded faces, bronzed almost black with exposure to the tropical sun. Some are drinking the scalding hot tea, which is now passed round in pannikins; while others are toasting fish, spitted on a stick for want of a more elaborate apparatus, and served up on a biscuit; a few grains of powder from the cartridges—which had been brought in case of an attack, supplying the place of salt, which had of course been forgotten. Our hunger is too great after our arduous exertions to notice any little defects in the cooking, and a hearty meal is enjoyed by all. Soon a pleasant odour of tobacco arises, as a circle is formed round a glorious fire, and a measure of grog is handed round by a corporal to each man. This latter luxury is supplied by the officers, who have in turn been indebted to the men for the tea which they had hospitably pressed on them.

‘Now, my lads, for a song,’ says the officer in command; and after some little demur as to who shall commence, a man strikes up an old sea-song describing the wreck of the Ramilies, near Plymouth, a number of verses with a chorus to each:

With close-reefed tops’ls neatly spread,
She sought for to weather the old Rame Head.
A fine effect is produced as the chorus is taken{195} up by thirty deep voices, many of the men, with a sailor’s natural aptitude for music, singing the second and bass; and the unusual volume of sound drowns for a moment the deafening noises of the beasts and insects that are holding their usual nocturnal concert in the neighbouring jungle.

‘Well done the starboard watch!’ says a man when the song is concluded. ‘Now the port.’ And soon another song begins:

’Twas in Cawsand Bay lying,
With the Blue-Peter flying,
And all hands aboard for the anchor to weigh,
There came a young lady,
As fair as a May-day,
And modestly hailing, this damsel did say—
I forget the exact words that the lady made use of, though the quaint phraseology much amused me at the time, but I remember that she wanted her true love, a seaman on board; but the captain declined her request, although

He said with emotion,
‘What son of the ocean
But would his assistance to Ellen afford.’
In the climax, however, the lady unexpectedly turned the tables in her favour, for

Out of her pocket she hauls his discharge!

For out of her pocket she hauls his discharge!
Song followed song after this, the crackling of the roaring fire and the ceaseless din of the jungle forming an obligato accompaniment, which somehow seemed appropriate to the occasion, till a gun from the distant ship warned us that our time was up. Hereupon the officer in charge sent a couple of hands to haul in the cutter, which had been left at anchor in the river. Easier said than done, however, seeing that after a prolonged absence they returned, looking somewhat alarmed, and reported that they could not find the boat anywhere. This caused rather a commotion among the party, which a whisper of ‘Pirates’ did not diminish; so a rush was made for the rifles; and thus armed we marched to the beach; but not a sign of the boat could be found. There was just a chance that she had broken adrift; so the dingey was quickly manned and shoved off in search; but almost directly a loud shout announced that the cutter had been found full of water and apparently sinking. A number of men swam off to her at once; but the steep banks prevented our hauling her up; and we had just time, by dint of hard work, to remove her sails, oars, &c., when she sank, leaving us to our resources on the sand.

Our position looked unpleasant enough now, thus cast away in a piratical district; and besides, the gathering clouds to windward, of inky blackness, foretold to our experienced eyes that one of the violent squalls of wind and rain called Sumatras, which are of daily occurrence at this season, would soon be upon us. Seamen, however, are the handiest of mortals; and in a surprisingly short space of time a tent was rigged from the boats’ sails and spars, under which we all huddled from the storm, which was now in full strength. How the rain did come down! As if the very flood-gates of heaven were open! And how the furious wind shook our frail tent till we expected every moment to have it down about our ears. The situation was becoming every moment the more trying, as with sails soaked through, we were subjected to the full brunt of the awful drench. In spite of the trenches that we had dug in the sand with our oars to serve as water-ways, we were soon lying in a pool of water.

Strange to say, however, this was found rather a relief from the cold breeze, and many men proceeded to deepen their beds so as to immerse the whole body in water. Of the two elements the water was found to be the warmer! All the mosquitoes within hail had of course made their rendezvous in our tent; and even worse than they, the abominable sand-flies commenced their assaults with such zeal that nothing was to be heard but slaps and anathemas, bestowed with great impartiality. Strange to say, many men actually slept calmly through all the din; but most of us kept awake, singing and smoking; and so the wretched night passed away till the last touch was given to our misery by seeing the fire put out by an unusually heavy squall and rain. To supplement even the last touch, a cruel stop was put to our smoking, as our matches had become soaked and useless. Our pipe was literally put out; and as the last drop of grog had been served out, we had to content ourselves with singing and yarning till the first faint streaks of dawn appeared and the rain ceased.

What miserable, bedraggled creatures we were when the morning sun broke bright and cloudless on the beach, our dripping clothes stained with mud and sand, and our faces so swollen with bites that it was with difficulty we could recognise each other! However it did not do to stand and shiver—that is an absurdity which Jack has never been guilty of—so one party set to work trying to light a fire with the help of a cartridge (a futile endeavour, everything being so soaked); while others endeavoured to launch the cutter, which was lying high and dry on the mud, a large hole in her bottom explaining the hitherto unaccountable mystery of her sinking. Our ingenuity was fully taxed in our attempts to again wed the somewhat unwieldy craft to the water; but Jack’s resources seem never to fail him, as with many an ingenious artifice we at length succeed in patching the leak and floating the cutter.

We were hungry enough by this time to eat anything; but it was no use piping to breakfast, for we had no food; and even had we caught some more fish, they were no use without a fire, and all attempts to create even a spark had been in vain. So we sauntered about the beach or tried to penetrate the jungle; in the latter case getting well bitten for our pains by the red ants, till our eyes were gladdened by the sight of two boats pulling in our direction from the ship. This was lucky, for we had just decided on risking the passage in the cutter. It was a long time before the boats could reach us, for they too had a difficulty in finding the channel; but at last they pulled into the river and landed with some provisions. Oh, how enjoyable was that glass of rum! How precious the matches wherewith to rekindle the beloved baccy! Even the raw pork was pleasant enough to our hungry stomachs. But after we had lit our pipes, we forgot all our troubles, and expressed our willingness to remain another night and have some more fun. It was not to be, however. Our relief brought us orders to return{196} aboard immediately; and in another hour we found ourselves alongside the ship, receiving the congratulations and chaff of our shipmates, and after all none the worse for our seining-party.

London boarding-houses being regulated by no statute law, and as little liable to the supervision of the police and the interference of the Right Honourable the Secretary of State for the Home Department as are other free commercial concerns, are very much harder to classify than are London hotels, inns, and public-houses. Their very exterior, which is decorated by no gaudy signs or gold-lettered inscriptions relative to viands, neat wines or cordials, might cause them to be mistaken for schools, workshops, or private dwellings. Even when a brass plate on the door bears the name of Bloss or Grewer or Pawkins—people who keep boarding-houses do appear, for some inscrutable reason, to parade the oddest patronymics—nobody not enlightened enough to know who Pawkins, Bloss, or Grewer may be, would gather much information from the laconic announcement. In all London there was not, taking one place with another, a much queerer boarding-house than one which stood on the Southwark or Surrey side of the Thames, and so nearly opposite to the Tower that the gaunt turrets of the grim old fortress were always (save in a fog of peculiar density) visible from its upper windows. This boarding-house, at the corner of what was called Dampier’s Row, was very solidly built, chiefly as it would seem, of the massive timbers of ships dissected in the breakers’ yards close by; and with its bow-windows and bulging outline, seemed to stand hard by the water’s edge, like some sturdy collier craft that had accidentally got stranded and was trying to accustom itself to life ashore. This particular boarding-house, the green door of which bore no distinguishing mark, was known in the neighbourhood and far along the river below bridge, as ‘Old Plugger’s.’

Whether there was a Plugger still in existence or not, it may be surmised that the original and veteran possessor of that name had enjoyed a widespread connection among mariners, for most of the present inmates of the house were seafaring persons. Most, but not all. And of the nautical boarders at Plugger’s none were common seamen. The title of ‘Captain’ was in as constant requisition within its weather-bleached porch, overgrown with scarlet-runners, as it could possibly be at a military club farther west. Two-thirds of the swarthy, restless-eyed customers claimed to have a right to that honorary prefix, or at the least to have been ‘officers’ of one branch or another of the mercantile marine. The remainder, apparently attracted to the spot by the smell of the tar and paint from the neighbouring wharfs, or by the sight of the forest of masts that rose up between them and the Middlesex shore, or by congenial company, had much to say as to gulches and placers and auriferous river-bars, and gold-dust which, after months of toil and hunger, had been fooled away in a week’s mad revel; and colossal fortunes that could infallibly be realised by any one who had a pitiful thousand pounds at command, and would be guided by sound advice as to its investment.

It was not a cheap boarding-house, according to the tariff of such establishments, this one of Old Plugger’s. Rivals and humbler imitators held it in respect, for it was a thriving concern. Its rooms seldom stood empty for long, and its frequenters somehow found the wherewithal to pay their score. It was not a noisy place; by no means comparable to the riotous dens about Tiger Bay and elsewhere, or to the sailors’ publics at Wapping or Rotherhithe; but now and then there was a din from within it, a shouting of hoarse voices, a trampling of heavy feet, a crashing of woodwork or of glass, and then silence. And if just then a patrol of the police happened to be passing down the main street, and some one said that the disturbance was at Old Plugger’s, the sergeant would shake his head as meaningly as Lord Burleigh in the Critic. But nobody seemed to care to inquire too curiously into the nature of the altercation in what was euphemistically known, among the trades-folk of the vicinity, as the captains’ boarding-house.

It was, as has been said with reference to contemporary events at Carbery, sultry August weather, and if it was hot even on the spurs of breezy Dartmoor, assuredly it was hotter in the east of London. The strong sun brought out with great effect the combined perfumes of pitch and paint, of gas refuse and train-oil, of tide-mud and fried flat-fish, of old tarpaulins, rotten timber, and animal and vegetable refuse, never so pungent as beside the Thames. Society, gasping for air of purer quality than that town-made article which during the season and the parliamentary session it had respired perforce, had left London. But the captains who patronised Plugger’s bore the loss of Society with philosophical equanimity, and were content to incur, by stopping where they were, a reputation for being wholly unfashionable.

A controversy might have been waged with reference to Old Plugger’s as to which was the back and which the front of that hospitable mansion. The main-door certainly opened on the street, or rather row, named in honour of Dampier, and by the position of a main-door that of a house-front is commonly to be determined. But then Plugger’s turned all its smiles, all its attractions towards the river. The best rooms were on that side, with their bow-windows and lumbering balconies; and there was even a narrow strip of garden, where snails ran riot among the neglected cabbages and tall sunflowers, and where the half of an old boat, set on end and festooned with sweet-pea and the inevitable scarlet-runner, did duty for an arbour, perilously near to the wash and ripple of the flood-tide.

In the broad wooden balcony that projected from the low first-floor of Plugger’s and in part overhung this delectable garden, were some six or seven men in their shirt sleeves mostly, for coolness’ sake, but otherwise not ill clad. Through the open bow-windows of the long room of which the balcony was an appendage, glimpses might be caught of some ten or twelve other customers, very similar in garb and bearing to those outside. It was early as yet, and breakfast—as betokened by the empty cups, empty bottles, and confusion of knives and forks and dirty plates—was already over. Some of the company were smoking a solemn morning pipe of{197} the yard-long ‘churchwarden’ variety, affected by sea-going persons when on shore; two seated at a round-table were engaged in a game at cards; and one copper-visaged and gray-haired captain, with a glass of steaming rum-and-water at his elbow, sat on the flat top of the wooden balustrade itself, and alternately swept the waters with the aid of a gleaming brass-bound telescope, or glanced critically at the cards and the players. In all this there was nothing to distinguish Plugger’s from many another long-shore boarding-house, wherein mates and skippers take their spell of rest, as it were, between the hardships of the last voyage and those of the next; and those who have seen much of men of this class are aware how much of sterling worth is apt to underlie the harmless peculiarities traditional to the calling. But a physiognomist who should have, himself unseen, accompanied some Asmodeus bent on taking a bird’s-eye view of the company, could scarcely have failed to draw his own deductions from the countenances thus beheld. There were faces there in plenty which would have seemed in keeping with their surroundings had they been seen above the bulwarks of a long, black-hulled schooner, rakish as to her masts, and clean and sharp as to her run and cut-water, beating to windward off the Isle of Pines, or within sight of the mountain mass of Cuba. There were others, newly shaven, that would have harmonised well with a shaggy beard and tattered cabbage-palm hat, surmounting the red shirt and pistol-studded belt of the Australian bushranger. And again, others which might be conceived to have been tanned to their mahogany hue by the reflection of the sun from the tawny surface of some African river, where, behind the mangrove swamp, might be seen the cane-thatched top of the barracoon, where the cargo of ‘live ebony’ lay shackled. A very dangerous set of scamps, unless their looks belied them, were the bulk of Plugger’s patrons, and the more dangerous perhaps because they were not reckless—because they knew how to abstain from the overdose of liquor that sets the brain afloat and loosens the tongue.

‘Let me tell yew, mister, yew’d be riddled, yew would, like any catamount treed, ef yew played thet sorter game in Georgia, whar I war raised, yew would,’ suddenly exclaimed one of the card-players, whose nasal drawl would of itself have revealed his nationality. ‘Thet’s three times I’ve seen yew try to pass the king.’

‘Don’t cry afore you ’re hurt,’ retorted his adversary, whose air and tone were those of a sailor, and whose muscular wrists, emerging from shirt-cuffs linked by heavy sleeve-buttons of silver, were ornamented by mermaids and anchors and true-lovers’ knots in blue tattooing of the true salt-water pattern. ‘Guess this child wasn’t born last week, shipmate! Haven’t I sported the pasteboard at New York with Dead Rabbits; at New Orleans with Plug-uglies; and in California with fellows that stuck the points of their bowies in the table afore they set to a hand at poker! You’re a nice hand to tax a man with cheating, you, with two court cards up your sleeve now!’

The American, who was spare and lightly built, compared with the opposite player, scowled as he thrust his bony right hand into an inner pocket of the loose coat which he alone of all the occupants of the balcony wore. It may have been for the concealment of the cards alluded to; it may have been to get a grasp of some hidden weapon. The latter was the supposition that the most commended itself to the other gamester.

‘Shew your hand, Sam Barks!’ he said roughly, grasping a Dutch bottle, probably containing Schiedam, which stood in company with two glasses on the table, ‘or I’——

‘Belay there, you brace of babies!’ interrupted the copper-visaged captain, thrusting his flashing telescope and his metallic face betwixt the disputants. ‘Dog don’t eat dog, my mates! I always was agin play between friends.—Sam, my lad, you won’t make much out of Captain Hold.—Dick, my Trojan, you’ll not find the American quite as green as spinach. Draw your stakes, my heroes, and let’s shake hands and have a drink all round, for the renewal of friendship!’ And this singular specimen of a peacemaker flourished his glass, swallowed its contents, and rattled the teaspoon against its sides until this substitute for a bell attracted the notice of a watchful attendant, wearing a striped cotton jacket, such as cabin-boys in hot latitudes affect.

‘Three grogs, steward, and a goodish squeeze of lemon in mine, d’ye hear?’ called out he of the copper countenance; and the dark-skinned mulatto lad who was called ‘steward,’ as factotums in The Traveller’s Rest were called Deputy, nodded his woolly head, and was not long in bringing the desired refreshment. The kettle must have been kept always boiling, even on hot August mornings, at Plugger’s, so ready was the supply of steaming spirits and water.

‘Ah! my boys,’ said the venerable founder of the feast, as he took a second sip at the potent liquor, ‘here’s a blue blazing day for ye—puts me in mind, and you too mayhap, of a morning in the doldrums, where sun is sun, and the very sea seems to simmer like a can of hot broth. I’d like to smell blue water again, I would. I’d an offer, Monday, to command a decentish brig, West Ingies and Demerary way; regular molasses wagon; but old as I am, I’d rather have another bout in the South Seas. Black-birding for the Fiji and Queensland labour market is about the best sport a man can have, since they spoiled the fun we used to have off the West Coast.’

‘Ay, but that game’s pretty near played out too,’ answered Hold meditatively. ‘Why, you yourself, Captain Grincher, lost your schooner that the man-o’-war captured off the Solomons, and were tried at Sydney for what the government fellows called kidnapping. No; give me Chinese waters, and a handy crew aboard a bit of a fast-sailing lorcha to’——

‘Gentlemen, gentlemen!’ broke in the American, now in a good temper; ‘allow me to say it air a pity to see men of your talents a-huddling of ’em into corners wheer they’ll fail of their just reward. Now, listen, ef I could but get together a few spirited citizens and, mind ye, the handful of coin necessary for preliminary expenses, this child could point the place where lies, in fourteen fathom water, the treasure-ship Happy Land that left San Francisco, bound for New York, in the fall of ’49, and never was heard of more. She had the value, in dust and bars, of’——

But the precise amount of the golden freight which, on board the Happy Land, awaited the{198} bold explorers who should reach that sunken vessel, is not destined to be set down in these pages, for the coloured steward at this juncture appeared holding a letter between his dusky finger and thumb. ‘For Cap’en Hold,’ said the mulatto; and Hold, recognising the handwriting, jumped to his feet in a trice, and snatched rather than received the envelope which the dark Ganymede of Plugger’s held out to him; and tearing it open, read as follows: ‘Come, and come at once. There is no time to lose. Something has occurred—something which makes your presence necessary. Come by noonday train. I will be at the park gate to the north soon after ten o’clock. Meet me there.’ The letter was signed ‘Ruth Willis.’

Hold’s mind was instantly made up. ‘I must heave anchor in a hurry,’ he said, as he thrust back the letter into his pocket. ‘So good-bye, Grincher; and good-bye, Barks!’ and without further delay, he withdrew to prepare for the journey to Carbery. To pay his reckoning, to push some needful articles into a bag, and to consign his sea-chest to the custody of the authorities of Plugger’s, well used to similar trusts, took but half an hour; and when the mid-day train started for the west of England it carried with it a second-class passenger, whose only luggage was a black bag, and who could easily have been mistaken for a man-o’-war’s man bound for Plymouth, there to rejoin one of those Hornets or Monkeys which have superseded the Arethusas and Hermiones of the past.

Arrived at the station most convenient for his purpose, Hold trudged sturdily on until he reached his old quarters at The Traveller’s Rest, where he installed his bag in one of those single-bedded rooms which were always at the service of so solvent a customer as Mr Hold, who, while inland and among shore-going folks, dropped his titular distinction of captain. After supper, the fresh arrival at The Rest sallied forth, and making his way to Carbery, waited, pacing softly to and fro, under the shelter of the park wall.

All through that August day which witnessed the hurried journey of Mr Richard Hold, master mariner, from the river-side bowers of Plugger’s to the silvan shades of The Traveller’s Rest, Sir Sykes Denzil’s ward was in a state of feverish agitation, which it was hard for even her to conceal from those about her. We may fairly own that women surpass us in the social diplomacy which they study from the cradle almost, and that their powers of suppressing what they feel—not seldom from a noble motive—are greater than ours. All of us must have wondered, as we read the marvellous narratives of such prisoners as Trenck and Latude, at the patient ingenuity that could contrive rope-ladders out of the flax thread of shirts, files out of scraps of rusty iron, tools from any fragment of metal that came to hand. None the less should we be astonished at the power of dissembling evinced by the captives on the watch for the propitious moment to break prison.

What Ruth dreaded above all other things was what a woman always does dread, the scrutiny of her own sex. That men are credulous, careless, prone to give credit to the shallowest excuse, readily hoodwinked, and easy to pacify, has been an article of faith with Eve’s daughters since prehistoric times. The real spy to be feared, the real censor before whom to tremble, is decidedly feminine, in the estimation of women who have anything to hide. Ruth therefore devoted her whole attention to keeping up a brave outside before the eyes of her guardian’s daughters, Blanche and Lucy, two as honestly unsuspicious girls as could be met with in all Devonshire.

But as all a priori reasoning is tainted with the fatal flaw of bad logic, Ruth forgot Jasper Denzil, still shut up in the house on account of his recent accident, and whose crooked mind had not much to do save to employ itself in fathoming the crooked ways of others. Now a man, if circumstances coerce him to limit his powers of observation to the narrow sphere of domesticity, is capable of becoming a spy more formidable than women would readily admit. If he sees less, he reasons more cogently as to what he does see, and he has the further advantage of being an unsuspected scout from whom no danger is anticipated.

Jasper Denzil had excellent reasons for the profound mistrust with which he regarded the Indian orphan. The very presence beneath his father’s roof of such a one as Ruth was in itself a standing puzzle and challenge to his curiosity. That she was Hold’s sister, the sister of a coarse-mannered adventurer of humble birth, was what the captain could not bring himself to believe. For Ruth seemed innately a lady. Either she must have had the advantages of gentle nurture and education, or as an actress in the never-ending social drama she displayed consummate skill. But whatever might have been her birth (and there were times when he was tempted to fancy that in her he saw that young sister of his own, long dead, the date of whose decease was supposed to coincide with that of the sad mood which had become habitual to Sir Sykes), Jasper with just cause regarded her as a most artful person.

The ex-cavalry officer remembered well enough that interview between Sir Sykes and Hold, at which he had played the part of an unsuspected audience. The demand to which his father had acceded was that Sir Sykes should receive in a false character Hold’s sister as an inmate of Carbery. True the seafaring fellow—smuggler, pirate, or whatever he might be—had laughed mockingly, and had spoken in strangely ironical accents when dictating to the baronet on this subject. But be she who she might, Ruth must be either an accomplished schemer or the willing instrument of others, or she would not have been where she was.

It may have been a petty malice, suited to his feline nature, that caused Jasper on that particular night to remain down-stairs later than usual, causing his sisters also to defer their retiring to rest for an extra half-hour. They kept early hours at Carbery as a rule, as rich people, in the profound dullness of the dignified ease which is not enlivened by guests, are sometimes apt to do. Sir Sykes, who always stayed long enough in the drawing-room to sip his coffee, was the first to disappear; but no one save himself and his valet knew when he left the library for his bedroom. When the captain was in health it was his custom to spend an hour or two in trying rare combinations of skill and luck among the ivory balls in{199} the billiard-room; but since the steeplechase he had been glad to retire unfashionably early.

It was because he fancied that Miss Willis was impatiently awaiting the moment for separating for the night, that Jasper chose to delay it; but at length the time came when the good-nights had been exchanged, and the drawing-room was abandoned. Captain Denzil’s room, which adjoined the picture-gallery on the first-floor, was immediately beneath that occupied by the Indian orphan. Repeatedly, after he reached it, did Jasper fancy that he heard a light swift step overhead, as if Sir Sykes’s ward were hurrying to and fro; and then his sharpened ear caught the sound of a stealthy tread upon the oaken staircase.

Extinguishing the lights for the time being, Captain Denzil threw open his window, which overlooked the park; and by the time his eyes grew somewhat accustomed to the darkness, he saw, or thought he saw, a female form glide from under the black shadow of the giant sycamores and flit bat-like away through the solitary gloom.

‘If it were not for this provoking arm,’ said the captain, who was still, despite the skilful care of worthy little Dr Aulfus from Pebworth, suffering less from his hurts than from the Nemesis that dogs the steps of the hard-liver, ‘I’d win the odd trick to-night. But if I can’t follow to see who it is that she meets, at anyrate I shall get a second peep at yonder ingenuous creature when she comes back. A rare moonless night it is for such an errand!’

Jasper’s eyes had not deceived him. It was Ruth whose slight figure had passed away into the deepening shadows of the night, crossing the park towards its northern boundary, which abutted upon the broken country leading to the royal forest, treeless, but none the less in sound law the forest of Dartmoor. It was so dark that even one better accustomed to the locality might have failed to keep to the right course among narrow and grass-grown paths, many of them trodden by no human foot, but by the cloven hoofs of the deer trooping down to pool or pasture.

Yet Ruth threaded her devious way past holt and thicket, past pond and hollow, almost as well as the oldest keeper on the estate would have done, and presently gained the gate which, as has been already remarked, stood always open on the northern side of the park, corresponding to that on the southern or seaward side, for, as has been said, the public had an ancient right or user to traverse Carbery Chase. But as a right of ingress for men might imply a right of egress for deer, some zigzag arrangement of iron bars had been set up, screen-like, at either extremity of the footpath, and this effectually restrained the roving propensities of the antlered herd within.

‘So—you are late, Ruth! I have kicked about here, till I began to think you’d thrown me over. No wonder, living among fine folks, that you’re getting to care little how long a rough fellow like yours to command is kept on the look-out.’

Such was the surly greeting of the stout sailor-like man whom Ruth found irritably pacing to and fro under the lee of the wall.

‘I could not come, brother, one moment earlier without arousing suspicion that might be the ruin of us both,’ answered the girl steadily, but in a conciliatory tone. ‘And what, after all, signify a few minutes more or less of expectation, compared with a life of constant effort, constant watchfulness, and the sense of depending on one’s self alone in the midst of enemies who sleep beneath the same roof and feed at the same table? I tell you that the tension on my nerves is far greater than I ever dreamed that it could be, and that there are times when I even fancy that I shall be driven mad by the strain imposed upon me of playing a part, ever and always, without rest or respite!’

Ruth’s voice as she proceeded had grown shrill and tremulous with the effect of the emotions, long pent up, that found expression at last, and she pressed her slender hand upon her heated brow with a gesture which Hold was not slow to mark.

‘Come, come, Missy,’ he said in accents far more gentle than those which he had first employed; ‘you’ve taken this thing, whatever it is, too much to heart. See, now; I’d never have suggested the plan if I had not believed that in the house of Sir Sykes Denzil, Baronet, you’d have been like a fish in water. Didn’t we always call you in joke “My Lady,” and that because your ways weren’t as our plain ways? Haven’t you got your head stuffed as full of book-learning as an egg is full of meat? Aren’t you dainty and proud and what not? Till folks declared, to be sister o’ mine, you must have been changed at nurse. And now do you find it a hardship to have to consort with yon Denzil people?—not your equals, I’ll be bound, if all had their due.’

‘You can’t understand me, Brother Dick,’ said the girl softly, and turning away her face. ‘Give me, I say, a real stand-point; let not my life be a lie, and I should fear no comparison with those who are daily my dupes. But I hold my tenure of the bed I sleep on, the bread I eat, by mere sufferance, and I see no way as yet to’——

‘That fop—the dandy Lancer fellow—Captain Jasper don’t seem to take to you then?’ asked Hold; and Ruth winced perceptibly at the blunt question.

‘Captain Denzil will never, I imagine, care very much for any one but his dear self,’ she answered gently. ‘Now that he is an invalid—though he will soon be out and about again—he thinks that he pays me no small compliment in preferring my conversation to the insipid society of his excellent sisters. But I no more expect a proposal of marriage from Jasper Denzil than I expect the sky to fall.’

‘That’s a pity,’ said Hold dryly; and then a pause ensued. ‘You didn’t send for me, Missy, to tell me that?’ he added, after some moments spent in thought.

‘No!’ returned Ruth in her low clear voice. ‘I sent for you that you might read a letter—how obtained I leave you to guess—which concerns us both. Have you the means of doing so?’

‘Catch me without light, Missy!’ complacently replied the seaman, drawing from one of his deep coat-pockets a small dark-lantern, which he lighted. ‘Now for this letter,’ he said; and receiving it from Ruth’s hand, read it attentively twice over. As he did so, some rays from the shaded lantern that he held illumined his resolute face.

‘Wilkins, eh? Enoch Wilkins. That’s the name the craft hails by; and he’s a land-shark, it seems,’ muttered Hold, as he refolded the document.


‘He is a London lawyer, as you see,’ explained Ruth; ‘and all I know of him, gleaned from various sources, is that he was the captain’s creditor for a large sum, which Sir Sykes has very recently paid. He is, I gather, a sort of turf solicitor of no very good repute, and has somehow a grip on poor weak Sir Sykes. Now the baronet, I feel sure, has but one secret’——

‘That, you may be certain of!’ interjected Hold.

‘And this man knows it and trades on it,’ said the baronet’s ward eagerly; ‘and in doing so his path crosses ours. See! The word “others,” which is underlined, must surely have reference to you and me. Rely on it, he has an inkling of our plans, and may counteract them.’

‘Take the wind out of my sails, will he, eh?’ said Hold grimly, and with a threatening gesture.

‘Brother Dick, Brother Dick, when will you learn wisdom!’ said his sister, smiling. ‘Your buccaneer tricks of clenched fist and angry frown are as out of place in peaceable England as it would be to strut about with pistols and cutlass. You are not on the West Coast now, or off the Isle of Pines, or in the Straits of Malacca, to carry things with a high hand. Our plain course is to make an ally, not an enemy of this lawyer. He knows much, but perhaps not all, and may be induced to accept as true the story that has been told to Sir Sykes. In any case, he cannot be very scrupulous; and will not be desirous, by bringing about a dispute and a scandal, to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. The baronet’s purse is deep enough for all of us.’

‘You’re right!’ rejoined the sailor, with a whistle that was meant to express unbounded admiration for his sister’s shrewdness. ‘I’ll make tracks to London, and see what terms can be made with Commodore Wilkins, before he shews his face here.’

‘Tell him nothing that he does not know,’ said Ruth, as the pair separated.

‘Trust me for that!’ was Hold’s confident reply.

Jasper, still at his window, caught but a glimpse of the girl’s slight form as it glided by and re-entered the house.

To be continued.

If the walls of the Dublin ‘Four Courts’ could speak, how many a pleasant story and witty repartee and sparkling bon-mot they could tell! Let me recall and string together some of these pearls of anecdote and wit, some of which, though perhaps not altogether new to lovers of anecdote, may well bear repetition.

The first Viscount Guillamore, when Chief Baron O’Grady, was remarkable for his dry humour and biting wit. The latter was so fine that its sarcasm was often unperceived by the object against whom the shaft was directed.

A legal friend, extremely studious, but in conversation notoriously dull, was once shewing off to him his newly-built house. The bookworm prided himself especially on a sanctum he had contrived for his own use, so secluded from the rest of the building that he could pore over his books in private quite secure from disturbance.

‘Capital!’ exclaimed the Chief Baron. ‘You surely could, my dear fellow, read and study here from morning till night, and no human being be one bit the wiser.’

A young and somewhat dull tyro at the bar pleading before him commenced: ‘My lord, my unfortunate client’—— then stopped, hemmed, hawed, hesitated. Again he began: ‘My lord, my most unfortunate client’—— Another stop, more hemming and confusion.

‘Pray go on, sir,’ said the Chief Baron. ‘So far the court is with you.’

In those days, before competitive examinations were known, men with more interest than brains got good appointments, for the duties of which they were wholly incompetent. Of such was the Honourable —— ——. He was telling Lord Guillamore of the summary way in which he disposed of matters in his court.

‘I say to the fellows that are bothering with foolish arguments, that there’s no use in wasting my time and their breath; for that all their talk only just goes in at one ear and out at the other.’

‘No great wonder in that,’ said O’Grady, ‘seeing that there’s so little between to stop it.’

It was this worthy, who being at a public dinner shortly after he got his place, had his health proposed by a waggish guest.

‘I will give you a toast,’ he said: ‘The Honourable —— ——, and long may he continue indifferently to administer justice.’ The health was drunk with much merriment, the object of it never perceiving what caused the fun.

Lord Guillamore could tell a story with inimitable humour. He used to vary his voice according to the speakers, and act as it were the scene he was describing, in a way infinitely diverting. Very droll was his mimicry of a dialogue between the guard of the mail and a mincing old lady with whom he once travelled from Cork to Dublin, in the old coaching days.

The coach had stopped to change horses, and the guard, a big red-faced jolly man, beaming with good-humour and civility, came bustling up to the window to see if the ‘insides’ wanted anything.

‘Guard!’ whispered the old lady.

‘Well, ma’am, what can I do for you?’

‘Could you’—in a faint voice—‘could you get me a glass of water?’

‘To be sure, ma’am; with all the pleasure in life.’

‘And guard!’—still fainter—‘I’d—hem—I’d—a—like it hot.’

‘Hot water! Oh, all right, ma’am! Why not, if it’s plazing to you?’

‘With a lump of sugar, guard, if you please.’

‘By all manner of means, ma’am.’

‘And—and—guard dear’—as the man was turning to go away—‘a small squeeze of lemon, and a little—just a thimbleful—of spirits through it.’

‘Och, isn’t that punch!’ shouted the guard. ‘Where was the good of beating about the bush? Couldn’t you have asked out for a tumbler of punch at once, ma’am, like a man!’

Another favourite story was of a trial at quarter-sessions in Mayo, which developed some of the ingenious resources of Paddy when he chooses to exercise his talent in an endeavour not to pay. A doctor had summoned a man for the sum of one guinea, due for attendance on the man’s wife. The medico proved his case, and was about to{201} retire triumphant, when the defendant humbly begged leave to ask him a few questions. Permission was granted, and the following dialogue took place.

Defendant. ‘Docthor, you remember when I called on you?’

Doctor. ‘I do.’

Defendant. ‘What did I say?’

Doctor. ‘You said your wife was sick, and you wished me to go and see her.’

Defendant. ‘What did you say?’

Doctor. ‘I said I would, if you’d pay me my fee.’

Defendant. ‘What did I say?’

Doctor. ‘You said you’d pay the fee, if so be you knew what it was.’

Defendant. ‘What did you say?’

Doctor. ‘I said I’d take the guinea at first, and maybe more at the end, according to the sickness.’

Defendant. ‘Now, docthor, by vartue of your oath, didn’t I say: “Kill or cure, docthor, I’ll give you a guinea?” And didn’t you say: “Kill or cure, I’ll take it?”’

Doctor. ‘You did; and I agreed to the bargain. And I want the guinea accordingly.’

Defendant. ‘Now, docthor, by vartue of your oath answer this: Did you cure my wife?’

Doctor. ‘No; she’s dead. You know that.’

Defendant. ‘Then, docthor, by vartue of your oath answer this: Did you kill my wife?’

Doctor. ‘No; she died of her illness.’

Defendant (to the bench). ‘Your worship, see this. You heard him tell our bargain. It was to kill or cure. By vartue of his oath, he done neither!—and he axes the fee!’

The verdict, however, went against poor Pat, notwithstanding his ingenuity.

Something like the following story has been told before in these pages. It will, however, bear repetition. Mr F——, Clerk of the Crown for Limerick, was over six feet high and stout in proportion. He was the dread of the cabmen, and if their horses could have spoken, they would not have blessed him.

One day when driving in the outlets of Dublin, they came to a long and steep hill. Cabby got down, and walking alongside the cab, looked significantly in at the windows. ‘His honour’ knew very well what he meant; but the day was hot, and he was lazy and fat, and had no notion of taking the hint and getting out to ease the horse while ‘larding the lean earth’ himself. At last Paddy changed his tactics. Making a rush at the cab, he suddenly opened the door, and then slammed it to with a tremendous bang.

‘What’s that for?’ roared Mr F——, startled at the man’s violence and the loud report.

‘Whist, yer honour! Don’t say a word!’ whispered Paddy, putting his finger on his lips.

‘But what do you mean, sirrah?’ cried the fare.

‘Arrah, can’t ye hush, sir? Spake low now—do. Sure, ’tis letting on I am to the little mare that your honour’s got out to walk. Don’t let her hear you, and the craythur ’ll have more heart to face the hill if she thinks you’re not inside, and that ’tis only the cab that’s throubling her.’

Baron R——, one of the gravest and most decorous judges on the bench, had a younger brother singularly unlike him, who was a perpetual thorn in his side. A scapegrace at school, the youth would learn nothing, and was the torment of his teachers. Having been set a sum by one of the latter, he, after an undue delay, presented himself before the desk and held up his slate, at one corner of which appeared a pile of coppers.

‘What is the meaning of all this, sir?’ said the master.

‘Oh!’ cried the youth, ‘I’m very sorry, sir, but I really can’t help it. All the morning I’ve been working at that sum. Over and over again I’ve tried, but in spite of all I can do, it will not come right. So I’ve made up the difference in halfpence, and there it is on the slate.’

The originality of the device disarmed the wrath of the pedagogue, and young R—— was dismissed with his coppers to his place.

The youngster when grown up boasted an enormous pair of whiskers, of which he was very proud. One day a friend met him walking up Dame Street with one of these cherished bushy adornments shaved clean off, giving a most comical lop-sided appearance to his physiognomy.

‘Hollo, R——!’ he exclaimed, ‘what has become of your whisker?’

‘Lost it at play,’ he replied. ‘Regularly cleaned out last night at the gaming-table of every mortal thing I had—nothing left to wager but my whisker.’

‘And why, man, don’t you cut off the rest, and not have one side of your face laughing at the other?’

‘I’m keeping that for to-night,’ said the scamp with a wink, as he passed on.

The father of the Lord Chancellor—afterwards Lord Plunket—was a very simple-minded man. Kindly and unsuspicious, he was often imposed upon, and the Chancellor used to tell endless stories illustrative of his parent’s guileless nature.

One morning, Mr Plunket taking an early walk was overtaken by two respectable-looking men, carpenters apparently by trade, each carrying the implements of his work.

‘Good-morning, my friends,’ said the old gentleman; ‘you are early afoot. Going on a job, eh?’

‘Good-morrow kindly, sir; yes, we are; and a quare job too. The quarest and the most out-of-the-way you ever heard of, I’ll be bound, though you’ve lived long in the world, and heard and read of many a thing. Oh, you’ll never guess it, your honour, so I may as well tell at once. We’re going to cut the legs off a dead man.’

‘What!’ cried his hearer, aghast. ‘You don’t mean’——

‘Yes, indeed, ’tis true for me; and here’s how it come about. Poor Mary Neil’s husband—a carpenter like ourselves, and an old comrade—has been sick all the winter, and departed life last Tuesday. What with the grief and the being left on the wide world with her five orphans, and no one to earn bit or sup for them, the craythur is fairly out of her mind—stupid from the crying and the fret; for what does she do, poor woman, but send the wrong measure for the coffin; and when it come home it was ever so much too short! Barney Neil was a tall man; nigh six feet we reckoned him. He couldn’t be got into it, do what they would; and the poor craythur hadn’t{202} what would buy another. Where would she get it, after the long sickness himself had, and with five childher to feed and clothe? So, your honour, all that’s in it is to cut the legs off him. Me and my comrade here is going to do it for the desolate woman. We’ll just take ’em off at the knee-joints and lay them alongside him in the coffin. I think, sir, now I’ve told you our job, you’ll say ’tis the quarest ever you heard of.’

‘Oh!’ cried the old gentleman, ‘such a thing must not be done. It’s impossible! How much will a new coffin cost?’

The carpenter named the sum, which was immediately produced, and bestowed on him with injunctions to invest forthwith in the necessary purchase.

The business, however, took quite an unexpected turn. Mr Plunket on his return home related his matutinal adventure to his family at breakfast, the future Chancellor, then a young barrister, being at the table. Before the meal was ended, the carpenters made their appearance, and with many apologies tendered back the coin they had received. He who had been spokesman in the morning explained that on seeing the gentleman in advance of them on the road, he had for a lark made a bet with his companion that he would obtain the money; which, having won his wager, he now refunded. Genuine Irish this!


There is no phrase of abuse so apparently innocent and yet so cutting and disturbing as that, ‘I know all about you.’ It asserts nothing of which one can take hold, and yet it implies a great deal that may well be offensive. It is customary to say that the life of the best of men, could it be subjected to the full glare of daylight in all its bearings, would be found more or less spotty and blemished; and perhaps it is this secret consciousness of hidden iniquities that gives such force to the innuendo.

But in the mouth of Houlot, who you will remember made use of the expression, and thus caused his speedy expulsion from my premises, the phrase was one that gave us all considerable uneasiness. Did he really know anything about my connection with the firm of Collingwood Dawson? It seemed hardly likely that he would have come to borrow money of me, had such been the case. But this, after all, might have merely been a device to throw dust in our eyes. His visit might have been a spying one, for the purpose of seeing how the land lay. He might indeed have seen his wife and recognised her.

Mrs Collingwood was full of terror lest such should have been the case. She dreaded that he was coming to claim her. Every passing footstep, every ring at the bell of the outer gate caused her a vivid throb of fear. For my own part I did not think the danger thus great in that direction. It was hardly likely that a man who had taken such pains to escape from a tie that must have been profoundly irksome to him, would wish to renew it now. His habits were fixed and eccentric, and probably he would be as much dismayed at the prospect of being claimed by his wife, as she would at the idea of going back to him. These thoughts I did not divulge to Mrs Collingwood. They suggested to me, however, a plan of action.

I determined to go and see M. Houlot, to beard the lion in his den. Probably I should be ill-treated and abused for my pains; but it was worth the trial. Houlot’s house was, as I have said, on the slope of one of the hills overlooking the town, the top of which was fringed with forest, whilst all down the sides were houses with terraced gardens, full of greenery, and with dividing walls covered thick with vines and pear-trees. It was a tall, timbered house, occupied by many families; and a common staircase, rickety and creaky, but with fine old carved oak balusters, led to the various floors. Houlot lived on the fourth stage, I found; and I made my way up panting, and not without fear lest the boards should give way beneath me. A sempstress who was busily at work in one of the rooms with her door wide open and her children scattered about the landing, indicated the door of Houlot’s room, and told me that she had just seen him go in.

I knocked several times without any one taking notice of me. Finally, after I had made a considerable din, the door was suddenly opened and Houlot stood before me.

‘What do you want?’ he cried, after glaring at me a few moments from under his pent-house brows. ‘Have you come to bring me the money?’

‘Let me come in and explain matters,’ I said.

He looked doubtfully at me for a moment, and then sullenly drew on one side and allowed me to pass in. His room was bare of furniture, except for one square deal table and a chair without a back. In one corner of the room a mattress and blanket were spread on the floor, in another a lot of books and papers were heaped confusedly together, all covered by a thick mantle of dust. A small cooking stove stood in the middle of the room, the black iron pipe from which went through a hole into the huge chimney; and a large open fireplace, which had once warmed the room, was covered with a rough framework of planks and sacking. The aspect of the place was squalid and comfortless, but it had one redeeming feature—there was a splendid view from the open window. A great fold of shining river, inclosing a stretch of marsh-land and wide green prairie, dotted with feathery aspens and monumental poplars, among which shewed here and there a cluster of farm buildings, and an occasional church spire. A black morose-looking windmill, with sails pugnaciously stretched out, as if daring an attack from some nineteenth-century Don Quixote, stood solitary on its grass toft. Range upon range of hills inclosed the landscape, dappled with the shadow of the lazy clouds; with here a dark ravine, and there a white gleaming chalk cliff.


‘You are well placed here,’ I said, making for the window. There was an overpowering smell of brandy in the room, that made one feel quite sick this fine summer morning. ‘You have a splendid view.’

‘Well enough for that,’ growled Houlot. ‘But what is the good of a view to a hungry man?’

I noticed now that he looked haggard and starved, and that there was an unhealthy fiery flush upon his face and a wild look in his eyes, as if he had been drinking without eating for a good while.

‘You need not go hungry unless you like,’ I said. ‘I can’t lend you all the money you ask for; but anything you want for daily needs I will let you have till you get your remittances from England.’

‘I have no remittances coming from England,’ said Houlot. ‘I have given up writing for the rascal who filched my work. But if you will only let me have that five-pound note we will put matters on a different footing. Let me shew up Collingwood Dawson!’

‘Yes, that’s all very well; but what will you gain by it?’

‘I shall vindicate my own name.’

‘What! the name of Houlot?’

He winced, but retorted angrily: ‘What business is it of yours what name?’

‘If I lend you the money to carry out your plans, it seems that I am entitled to ask what chance I have to be repaid. But apart from that, having vindicated your name, how many five-pound notes will it be worth?’

‘Why, look here,’ he said; ‘if that rascal can make a reputation and money by his stuff, which is only mine diluted and spoilt, surely for the genuine work of the real man’——

‘If you are trusting to that, I must decline to advance any money for the speculation. Why on earth, man, when you had a sufficient income paid you regularly, and lived as you liked, did you give it up and embark on a sea of trouble?’

‘Because I have a mission in this world, which I dream sometimes I shall accomplish.’

‘And the mission is?’

‘To open the eyes of fools.’

‘My dear fellow, they object to the operation, and have punished a good many people for trying it.’

‘Then I will be punished,’ he said. ‘But anyhow, I’ll expose these wretched smatterers, who serve up my things with all their wit and wisdom taken out of them, who travesty my best thoughts. Why, they have even made vulgar my very name!’

‘Houlot?’ I said, ‘Houlot? Is that the French for Dawson or Collingwood?’

‘That is not my real name,’ he said. ‘I abandoned that years ago. Every one turned his back upon the name. I did so myself at last.’

‘One of the results of the eye-opening process, I suppose?’

He nodded sullenly. ‘My name used to be Dawson,’ he said.

‘You don’t mean to say,’ I cried, ‘that you are the Dawson who was supposed to have been drowned years and years ago?’

‘I was that man—that unhappy man! But why,’ he cried, turning round fiercely upon me, ‘why do you make me go back to all these hateful things?’

‘Then is the memory of your former life hateful to you?’

‘I escaped from the most wretched condition that a man was ever in: tied to a woman who made my life an intolerable burden. She was not a bad woman, not an unworthy woman. She was—— Well, she had a mother who was fat and well to do, and lived in St John’s Wood.’

Houlot laughed hoarsely, knocked out his pipe on the empty stove, looked mechanically for some tobacco in a jar on the chimney-piece. It was empty. I offered him my pouch, which he took with an indignant scowl.

‘Well, I was meant for great things,’ he went on between the whiffs of his pipe—‘meant for great things; and here I am. Life fribbled and frittered away, and that woman the main cause of it! There was no escape from her any other way. I believe in my heart that the woman loved me in her fashion; all the greater was my unutterable woe.’

‘And you ran away from her?’

‘I disappeared from existence. I would not harm the woman. I would not spoil her life any longer. No; I adopted another plan. At the risk of my own life, I contrived that my death should be apparent. The means were simple enough, although they caused me some anxious thought and preparation. I went down to a little visited part of the coast with which I was well acquainted, and put up at an inn where I was known. Taking my cue partly from the well-known farce of Box and Cox, I went out one morning early and deposited a suit of clothes in a little niche in the cliffs: a wild and solitary spot, rarely visited by any living creature. Later in the day, I went out again, telling the people of the inn that I was going to bathe. I left my clothes on the beach and took to the water. I had chosen my time so that the set of the tide would carry me to the place where I had deposited my clothes, and I drifted along with little exertion. Arrived at the spot, I landed, found my clothes all right, and put them on. Then I started on foot along the coast till I reached a road-side station, made my way to London, and then crossed the Channel, intending to go to Paris. I thought that I should be able to get literary employment there; for French is as a second native tongue to me. My mother was a Frenchwoman; her name was Houlot; hence the name I adopted. But I took this place on my way; and on the journey I fell from the roof of the diligence, and the wheel went over my hand. Amputation was necessary; and by the time that I was cured, I had spent all my little store of money and owed something beside. But the people here were very humane and kind. I set to work to write with my left hand, and earned a little money meanwhile by teaching English; and by degrees I got into the knack of writing again, and contributed some articles to the English press, by which I got a little money. It was all a flash in the pan; my pupils fell away, my articles were no longer acceptable. My friend here’—pointing to the bottle—‘was always at my elbow. But I shall shake myself free one of these days.’

‘And if it happened,’ I said, as he finished and{204} was silent, sitting puffing at the pipe that had long since gone out—‘if it happened that the wife was still waiting for you—that she had heard a rumour of your existence, and had come to seek you’——

‘No; don’t talk of that, for any sake!’ he cried, springing to his feet. ‘Wretched and miserable as I have been, I have never wished myself again tied in that hateful knot. There! you would never betray me?’

‘But if she were rich, and able to give you a good home?’

‘Never, never!’ he said. ‘What degradation, what abasement!’

‘To take you out of this den of yours, to clothe you in well-made garments, to bring you again into society?’

‘Never, never! I would hide myself in the remotest corner of the world. Tell me, man, what do you mean? You know something; you are a spy, a traitor!’

Houlot looked here and there as if for a weapon, and I thought it prudent to make quickly for the door.

I went home and told Mrs Collingwood all that had occurred, excepting the horror that M. Houlot had shewn at the idea of returning to her. That I thought it most prudent to suppress. She seemed a little softened, I thought, when I told her his account of his disappearance in the sea, and that his motive was a good one as far as she was concerned.

We sat till late that night talking in the little pavilion, the light from the windows of which was reflected in the dark river. I fancied every now and then I heard a footstep softly pacing up and down the embankment between us and the water’s edge. I certainly thought I had securely locked the garden gate, and never dreamt of our being disturbed. Just as my guest had risen to take her leave, the door suddenly opened, and M. Houlot stood upon the threshold. Mrs Collingwood screamed, and ran to the furthest corner of the room, crouching behind the window curtains. Houlot glared at her for a moment, then slammed to the door and strode away. I ran after him.

‘You have deceived me!’ he said savagely, as, breathless, I overtook him upon the embankment; ‘and I, like a fool, believed you, and pictured her to myself—still loving, still faithful to the memory of a wretched being; and I came to seek you, to know more about this wonderful phenomenon. And now I see it all; she dreads me as if I were a leper! Well, it matters not now; I am away to-morrow. Some kind friends have raised a little money for me; I don’t need your help now. To-morrow before daylight I start on my way to make my claim for that which is mine own. Tell her—tell her that she need not fear me, that I shall never trouble her, nor she me! I have been a slave long enough; but to-morrow, light; to-morrow, freedom!’

‘Take care what you do,’ I said, ‘for the person whom you seek to ruin, whom you would expose and bring to confusion, is the woman whom you abandoned and left to the mercy of a pitiless world! Every step you take to that end is over her, poor creature! The harm you did before came right, after much misery; the harm you will do now can never be cured!’

He uttered an exclamation of rage and despair, and disappeared in the darkness.

‘Is he gone?’ cried Mrs Collingwood, as I returned once more to the pavilion.

‘Yes, he is gone; he is away to London to-morrow to claim his rights, as he calls them—to ruin us if he can. We must go also, and fight him.’

‘Do you know,’ faltered Mrs Collingwood, ‘that there has come a great change over me these last few minutes? The thought that he really loved me and sacrificed himself for my sake; and then he living here so lonely and wretched, and I luxuriating on the fruits of his genius! Oh, my heart has smitten me sorely, and I think if he came again I should not be frightened!’

‘In that case,’ I said bitterly, ‘your course is easy enough; you have only to make him understand he is forgiven. I will go with you to-night.’

‘O no, not to-night!’ she said. ‘No; it is too sudden. But don’t let him go away; tell him to stay, and that perhaps things may yet be well.’

‘He can’t leave before the first diligence,’ I said, ‘and I will meet him there and tell him to stop.’

‘Do, do!’ she cried. ‘Keep him here for to-morrow; then I may have made up my mind what will be for the best.’

I went to see the diligence start next morning; but no M. Houlot was there. He had overslept himself probably. Well, I would go and see him at his apartment, and tell him how matters stood. I knocked at his door; but could not make him hear. Then I scribbled some words upon a visiting card I happened to have in my pocket, and thrust it under the door.

The next time I saw that card it was in the hands of the commissaire of police, who came, accompanied by the juge d’instruction, to make some perquisitions as to what I might know of the last hours of M. Houlot; for he had been found that morning lying dead on his mattress.

The sad end of Houlot—well, of Dawson, if you like, but I have grown to think of him and talk of him as Houlot—quite unmanned me for a while. I could not help blaming myself as being in some way the cause of it. From the moment of its discovery, I took a violent antipathy to the work I had in hand. Houlot seemed to be always standing at my elbow, reproaching me with killing him over again. I don’t know whether the widow—really now a widow—had any such visions; I fancy not. After the first shock of the news, she found that Houlot’s death was really a great relief to her. It put an end to her troubles once for all. We found at his lodgings a great heap of manuscript, which she purchased from the agent acting for the landlord of the premises—who had taken possession of everything in satisfaction of rent—for a few francs. Whether she found the material among it for a series of novels, I don’t know, for as soon as I had finished the work in hand, I gave up my connection with Collingwood Dawson. I have since taken to writing improving books for the young, and find that it pays much better. Still I hear of him occasionally, and find that he continues to be a tolerably successful author; and the other day I met my late employer, who told me that she was married for a third time, and to a gentleman of great literary ability, who had undertaken the management of Collingwood Dawson. For my own part, I advised her{205} to form him into a Limited company, with a preference in the allotment of shares for gentlemen of the press.

The prodigious quantities of silver recently dug from the mines of Nevada and California, have, as is generally known, had the effect of lowering the commercial value of silver to the extent of several pence per ounce, and thereby depreciated the American dollar from one hundred to about ninety cents; that is to say, the dollar has sunk nearly fivepence in value—a circumstance greedily seized hold of by certain parties in the United States, who propose, with more ingenuity than honesty, to pay the public creditors in silver money without making any allowance for depreciation. On this extraordinary policy so much has been said by the newspapers, that we do not need to go into particulars, further than to hint that before all the play is played, the supporters of this scheme may unpleasantly find that there is some truth in the old proverb that ‘honesty is the best policy.’

Something like an idea of what enormous wealth is being realised by means of the above-mentioned silver mines is given in an account of Mr Fair, ‘The Silver King,’ in a late number of that smart London newspaper, The World. The following is an abridgment of this amusing paper.

‘There is a man alive at this present moment who, if he were so minded, could give his daughter a marriage-portion of thirty millions sterling. He would then have about ten millions left for himself. He lives six thousand miles west of London, half-way up a mountain-side in Nevada; and his daughter lives with him. Seven years ago he was a poor man; to-day he is the Silver King of America. He has dug forty million pounds’ worth of silver out of the hill he is living on, and has about forty millions more yet to dig. If he lives three years longer he will be the richest man in the world. His name is James Fair, and he is the manager, superintendent, chief partner, and principal shareholder in the Consolidated Virginia and California Silver Mines, known to men as the “Big Bonanzas.” He has an army of men toiling for him day and night down in the very depths of the earth—digging, picking, blasting, and crushing a thousand tons of rock every twenty-four hours.

‘Seven years ago there were two little Irishmen in the city of San Francisco keeping a drinking-bar of very modest pretensions, close to one of the principal business thoroughfares. Their customers were of all kinds, but chiefly commercial men and clerks. Among them was an unusually large proportion of stock and share dealers, mining-brokers and the like, who, in the intervals of speculation, rushed out of the neighbouring Exchange five or six times a day for drinks. Whisky being almost the religion of California, and the two little bar-keepers being careful to sell nothing but the best article, their bar soon became a place of popular resort. And as no true Californian could ever swallow a drink of whisky under any circumstances without talking about silver mines or gold mines or shares in mines, it soon fell out that, next to the Stock Exchange itself, there was no place in San Francisco where so much mining-talk went on as in the saloon of Messrs Flood & O’Brien, which were the names of the two little Irishmen. Keeping their ears wide open, and sifting the mass of gossip that they listened to every day, these two gentlemen picked up a good many crumbs of useful information, besides getting now and then a direct confidential tip; and they turned some of them to such good account in a few quiet little speculations, that they shortly had a comfortable sum of money lying at their bankers’. Instead of throwing it away headlong in wild extravagant ventures, which was the joyous custom of the average Californian in those days, they let it lie where it was, waiting, with commendable prudence, till they knew of something good to put it into. They soon heard of something good enough. On Fair’s advice they bought shares in a mine called the Hale and Norcross, and were speedily taking out of it fifteen thousand pounds a month in dividends. This mine was the property of a company, and though it had at one time paid large and continuous dividends, it was now supposed to be worked out and worthless. Mr Fair, however, held a different opinion; and when he came to examine it carefully, he found just what he expected to find—a large deposit of silver-ore. Thereupon he and Flood and O’Brien together bought up all the shares they could lay their hands upon, and obtained complete control of the mine.’

Besides being a clever and experienced miner, Mr Fair entertained the belief that by patient examination into holes and corners of the mine he would discover a gigantic vein of silver-bearing ore. He discovered the vein, the estimated value of which was a hundred and twenty millions sterling.

‘In the excitement caused by this astounding discovery it is scarcely more than the hard truth to say that San Francisco went raving mad. The vein in which the Bonanza was found was known to run straight through the Consolidated Virginia and California mines, dipping down as it went, and could not be traced any farther. But that fact was nothing to people who were bent on having mining stock; and vein or no vein, the stock they would have. Consequently they bought into every mine in the neighbourhood—good and bad alike—sending prices up to unheard-of limits, and investing millions in worthless properties that have never yielded a shilling in dividends, and never will. When Flood had bought a large quantity of the Bonanza stock, and had assured to himself and his partners the controlling interest in the mines, he recommended all his friends to buy a little; and O’Brien did the same. Those who took the advice are now drawing their proportionate shares of dividends, amounting to about five hundred thousand pounds a month. The majority of those who bought into other mines are, in Californian parlance “busted.” What these three men and their latest partner Mackay are going to do with their money is a curious problem, the solution of which will be watched with great interest in a year or two to come. The money they hold now is yielding them returns so enormous that their maddest extravagances could make no impression on the amount. Every year they are earning more, saving more, and investing more. They have organised a bank with a capital of ten millions of dollars; they control nearly all the mining interests of Nevada and California;{206} they have a strong grip of the commercial, financial, and farming interests all along the Pacific slope; and by a single word they can at any moment raise a disastrous panic, and plunge thousands of men into hopeless ruin. It will be an interesting thing to wait and watch how this terrible power for good or evil is to be wielded.’

Professor Osborne Reynolds, in his presidential address to the Scientific and Mechanical Society of Manchester, discussed the Smoke question; a very pressing question in a town with so grimy an atmosphere as Manchester. He pointed out that great part of the smoke is produced by the furnaces of small steam-engines carelessly managed, which are numerous throughout the town and neighbourhood, and suggested that it might be possible to do away with these by producing power at some great central establishment, and supplying it by transmission to all the little factories of a district. But how is the transmission to be effected? That is a question which has often been considered by engineers, ‘not so much as a means of preventing smoke, but because there are in our towns numberless purposes for which power is, or at all events might be, usefully employed, and for which it is almost impossible or very inconvenient to provide on the spot. Very small steam-engines are very extravagant in coal, besides requiring almost as much attention as large ones; and they are dangerous…. If, therefore,’ continues Professor Reynolds, ‘power in a convenient form could be obtained whenever and wherever required, at a fixed and reasonable charge, and with no other trouble than the throwing into gear of a clutch or the turning of a tap,’ it would be largely made use of, and would ‘supplant steam-engines, which are now kept working with little or nothing to do for the greater part of their time;’ whereby an important saving of coal would be effected. The suggestion of supplying steam-power on a retail principle is not new, and nothing but some practical difficulties stand in the way. All we want is a solution of the question by some competent engineer. Let the genius but arise; he will find fame as well as fortune waiting for him.

The Council of the Statistical Society will give their Howard Medal for the present year and twenty pounds to the author of the best essay on ‘The Effects of Health and Disease on Military and Naval Operations.’

The Council of the Royal Geographical Society have resolved to devote five hundred pounds yearly—‘in grants to assist persons having proper qualifications, in undertaking special geographical investigations (as distinct from mere exploration) in any part of the world—To aid in the compilation of useful geographical data and preparing them for publication, and in making improvements in apparatus or appliances useful for geographical instruction, or for scientific research by travellers—In fees to persons of recognised high attainments for delivering lectures on physical geography in all its branches, as well as on other truly scientific aspects of geography, in relation to its past history, or the influences of geographical conditions on the human race.’ Adherence to this course for a few years will do more to advance geography as a science than having recourse to sensational meetings.

Mr Dumas, the distinguished chemist, in giving an account to a scientific Society in Paris of the liquefaction and solidification of gases, stated that the specimen of oxygen produced by Mr Pictet of Geneva was the size of a hen’s egg, and resembled snow in the solid form, and water in the liquid form. Theoretically he had concluded that the density of liquid oxygen would be about the same as that of water; and this has been confirmed by experiment.

As regards hydrogen, Mr Dumas explained that it was liquefied under a pressure of six hundred and fifty atmospheres with cold minus one hundred and forty degrees; and by evaporating the liquid thus obtained, the solid condition, shewing the colour of blue steel, was arrived at. Many years ago this possibility was foreseen, and the most advanced chemists admitted the existence of a theoretical metal—hydrogenium. ‘This confirmation of the real nature of hydrogen,’ continued Mr Dumas, ‘is not to be regarded merely as a theoretical result useful to pure science; it appears to be of great importance for the future of industry. A certain knowledge of the metallic nature of hydrogen will have a certain influence on metallurgy, of which manufacturing arts will take advantage.’

The phonograph has been exhibited, and made the subject of lectures and experiments in many places, and as we anticipated, has given ample demonstration that the statements put forth concerning it are true. Marvellous as the fact may appear, all the words spoken into the instrument seem to be there stored up ready for repetition whenever excited by the cylinder of tinfoil. They do not come out quite in the same tone as that in which they go in; but they are perfectly distinct, and retain the characteristics of the speaker or singer. At a scientific meeting in London, one of the company sung God Save the Queen into the phonograph. On coming to the highest note, he had to make three attempts before he could reach it; and these failures excited much merriment when the stanza was (only too faithfully) repeated by the instrument. The same air was sung and produced without failures, and a comic ditty was sung and inscribed on the same cylinder: and very curious it was afterwards to hear the stately movement of the national hymn accompanied by the jingling notes of the funny melody. An instrument so ingenious as this ought to be applicable to many useful purposes. Already there are improvements on the original invention, and we shall doubtless hear of others.

The very best photographs of the sun ever yet{207} seen have been taken at the Observatory, Meudon, near Paris, by Mr Janssen; and copies on glass, twelve inches diameter, are now placed in the hands of some of our scientific societies. They well repay study, for they shew distinctly the granular appearance of the sun’s surface: millions of white specks imbedded, so to speak, in a dense dark cloud. This surface is liable to violent commotions, or ‘vortex movements,’ as Mr Warren De la Rue calls them, ‘of which we can form no conception whatever in thinking of tornados on the earth’s surface. The photosphere,’ he continues, ‘had been whirled up in cloud-like masses in various parts of the sun; and he saw at once that that might be the origin of the luminous prominences with which we are all now so familiar.’ A conclusion drawn from these appearances is that sunspots are not the most important of solar phenomena. ‘There are changes taking place from day to day, from hour to hour, and in some cases from minute to minute, which completely change the aspect of the various parts of the sun, shewing an amount of activity which it is extremely necessary to study.’ And it is suggested that this could best be done by establishing a physical observatory devoted to ceaseless observation of the sun accompanied by photography. Such an observatory has been recently founded at Potsdam, near Berlin.

Professor Wolf of Zurich has spent many years in collecting from every possible source records of sun-spots from the beginning of the seventeenth century, and the beginning of the telescope. And after careful examination he arrives at the conclusion that they do not bear out the theory of an eleven years’ period, for since 1610 there are twenty or thirty different maxima and minima, extending to sixteen years in some instances, and in others contracting to seven years. This is a fresh proof that many more observations are required for a settlement of the question.

Put a lump of zinc into the boiler of a steam-engine, and it will prevent the formation of ‘scale;’ that is, the stony crust which, as all engineers know to their sorrow, is very injurious and involves constant expenditure. The experiment having been successfully tried during four years by certain manufacturers in France, the Minister of Public Works appointed a Commission to inquire into and report upon it. From their Report, which was published last year in the Annales des Mines, we learn that the zinc is to be placed in the boiler as far as possible from the furnace, the quantity being a quarter-pound for every five square feet of boiler-surface if the water be soft, and a half pound if the water be hard. The boiler is then worked in the usual way; and when opened for the usual cleaning the appearances as the Commission describe will be—‘If the water be but slightly calcareous, the deposits, instead of forming solid and adherent scale, are found in a state of fluid mud, which is easily removable by simple washing. The iron being clean and free from rust, no picking or scraping is needed, whereby an important saving of time and labour is effected.’

On the other hand, if the water be strongly calcareous or hard, ‘the deposits are as coherent and strong as though the zinc had not been employed; but this strong coat does not stick to the iron. It can be pulled off by hand, or at the worst detached without much effort, leaving the iron clean. A simple washing clears it from the boiler; and in this case, as in the foregoing, picking and scraping are avoided.’

Here the question arises—What has become of the zinc? The answer given is, that it is not strictly correct to say it has disappeared, for it has been transformed into oxide of zinc, a white and earthy substance, which often preserves the lamellar texture of the metal, the central part sometimes continuing metallic and unattacked. At the same time it is worth remark that no trace of dissolved zinc is found in the water taken from the boilers.

A communication to the Royal Institute of British Architects by Mr Penrose makes known certain important ‘improvements in paint materials invented by Mr W. Noy Wilkins,’ which have been satisfactorily tested in the decoration of St Paul’s Cathedral. In the words of Mr Penrose, ‘The results arrived at are of such extreme simplicity as to make their general application extremely easy, and also to give a strong a priori conviction of their permanence. In the matter of pigments, white-lead is entirely banished from the painter’s stock, and the substitution of kaolin, mixed with a smaller proportion of zinc-white, combined with the limitation of the palette to the mineral colours. Mr Wilkins has practised for twenty-five years exclusively with these materials…. His discovery is that the chemical driers, which produce a very unfavourable effect upon painter’s work, whether of the house-painter or the artist, causing it to darken and to crack, can be entirely dispensed with, by simply boiling for a short time a small quantity of Turkey umber in the oil to be used for painting—whether linseed, poppy, or nut oil—producing as desired a drying painting oil or a varnish, and the residuum forming a valuable oil cement.’ Mr Wilkins permits cultivators of art, desirous of more particulars, to address him at ‘The Cottage, Elm Grove, Peckham’ (London).

In another communication, by Mr I’Anson, on the Architecture of Norway, the wooden churches were of course mentioned, and something was said about Norwegian timber which will bear repetition. ‘The Scotch fir furnishes the red wood, and the spruce-fir the white. What strikes one,’ said the speaker, ‘is, that the Scotch fir, which with us is regarded as the least valuable kind of fir-wood, scarcely fit for railway sleepers or fences, is the best fir in Norway. I account for that superiority of the Norwegian over the English tree in some measure by the greater length of time that Scotch fir takes to come to maturity in Norway than in this country. Scotch fir grows at the rate of as much as two feet a year in Britain, and takes about fifty years to become a usable tree; whereas in Norway it would take probably a century to grow to a tree of equal size.’

In the last annual Report of the Royal Asiatic Society it is stated as a now nearly accepted fact, that the language of Madagascar is a Malay language from Sumatra, and that its connection with the African Suahili is only that of loan-words, just as Persian has borrowed largely from Arabic. Philologists and others interested in Eastern Africa will perhaps be glad to hear that a grammar of Malagasi has been recently published.

Plantations of the cinchona tree were first begun in Jamaica in 1860, at the cost of the government. The experiment has proved so successful that{208} more than eighty thousand trees are now growing in different parts of the island. Henceforth the West Indies will compete with India in supplying the world with quinine.

It is well known that in some churches and large halls a reverberation prevails which annoys the persons assembled, and prevents their hearing distinctly. A few years ago the discovery was made that the reverberation could be deadened by stretching threads across the building from wall to wall below the ceiling. This curious fact has been further confirmed at the Palace of Industry, Amsterdam, and in the church of Notre-Dame des Champs, Paris, in each of which, by the simple means of threads, the reverberation is silenced.

The importation of fresh meat from the United States of America commenced in the autumn of 1875. Since then the quantity brought to this country from New York, Philadelphia, and other ports, has reached a total of more than sixty million pounds; and great as the trade has become, it tends to increase. The graziers and agriculturists of Europe will have to consider whether some means may not be found for increasing and cheapening cattle-food, if they desire to compete with the transatlantic graziers. Whether the way shall be by improved irrigation, extended drainage, or creation of pastures, remains to be discovered. On this subject much valuable information is contained in a work entitled Food from the Far West, with special reference to the Beef Production and importation of Dead Meat from America (W. P. Nimmo, London and Edinburgh).

‘On Some Means used for testing Lubricants’ is the title of a paper by Mr W. H. Bailey, read before the same Society. There needs no argument to prove that if it be possible to discover the oil or grease which will best prevent friction, it ought to be discovered; and the engravings in this paper shew the contrivances for effecting this discovery. To Dr Joule, F.R.S. all who use machinery are indebted for having, as Mr Bailey remarks, ‘enabled us to look upon the cost of friction and the cash value of heat as mere questions of arithmetic. The energy which passes away in wasted heat may be measured and valued with nearly as much facility as any article of commerce. The science of heat teaches us that the relations between heat and mechanical motion are regulated by well-defined, accurate, and rigid principles. Those who would command Nature’s forces must first learn her laws; the first rudiments of which say, that when we produce frictional heat in our machinery, we become law-breaking prodigals, who have incurred fines and penalties, which are generally paid when a cheque is given to settle the coal-bill.’

Perhaps not many people south of the Border are aware that there are gold-fields in Scotland; but that gold can be found in Sutherlandshire and in the south-west, has long been known to the dwellers in those localities; and now in the Scottish Naturalist, Dr Lauder Lindsay describes the gold-fields of Lanarkshire. In the Upper Ward of that county he tells us that ‘of alluvial gold, from nuggets big enough to make breast-pin heads down to granular dust, there is no scarcity. It may be collected at any time by simple washing from the beds or banks of any streams of the district. Whenever a supply of gold is wanted for museum specimens or for presentation jewellery, a sufficiency is forthcoming. A few hours’ work of a miner, and still more the conjoint efforts of a band of miners extending over several days, produce the number of grains or ounces required.’ The people of Scotland have long known that gold can be found in various parts of the country. The difficulty, however, is to find it in sufficient quantities to pay the expense of working, or even in searching for it. Persons of an eager turn do not sufficiently think of this, and hence endless disappointments.

Our notice (No. 726, p. 750, 1877) of Dr Sayre’s method of treating curvature of the spine has led to inquiries for further particulars: we have pleasure therefore in mentioning that Smith, Elder, & Co. have published a book by Dr Sayre, entitled Spinal Disease and Spinal Curvature—their Treatment by Suspension, and the Use of the Plaster of Paris Bandage. Besides clear descriptions, the book contains engravings which represent the method of treatment, and may be easily understood.

Once more I pass along the flowering meadow,
Hear cushats call, and mark the fairy rings;
Till where the lych-gate casts its cool dark shadow,
I pause awhile, musing on many things;
Then raise the latch, and passing through the gate,
Stand in the quiet, where men rest and wait.
Bees in the lime-trees do not break their sleeping;
Swallows beneath church eaves disturb them not;
They heed not bitter sobs or silent weeping;
Cares, turmoil, griefs, regrets, they have forgot.
I murmur sadly: ‘Here, then, all life ends.
We lay you here to rest, and lose you, friends.’
By no rebuke is the sweet silence broken.
No voice reproves me; yet a sign is sent;
For from the grassy mounds there comes a token
Of Life immortal—and I am content.
See! the soul’s emblem meets my downcast eyes:
Over the graves are hovering butterflies!
G. S.
A correspondent suggests that the refuse from broken slate which is thrown aside at the quarries as useless, might be ground down into powder and used as paint. The writer informs us that he has tried powdered slate, and found that it not only made good paint but that the paint lasted well for outdoor work.

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