Infomotions, Inc.Alton Locke, Tailor and Poet An Autobiography / Kingsley, Charles, 1819-1875



Author: Kingsley, Charles, 1819-1875
Title: Alton Locke, Tailor and Poet An Autobiography
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): kingsley; poet; charles; alton; locke; god; role; tailor; time; hughes; autobiography; man; thomas; unknown
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Title: Alton Locke, Tailor And Poet

Author: Rev. Charles Kingsley et al

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ALTON LOCKE,

TAILOR AND POET

An Autobiography.

BY THE REV. CHARLES KINGSLEY,

CANON OF WESTMINSTER, RECTOR OF EVERSLEY,
AND CHAPLAIN IN ORDINARY TO THE QUEEN AND PRINCE OF WALES,

_NEW EDITION_,







WITH A PREFATORY MEMOIR BY THOMAS HUGHES, ESQ., Q.C.,

AUTHOR OF "TOM BROWN'S SCHOOL DAYS."





CONTENTS.


PREFATORY MEMOIR

CHEAP CLOTHES AND NASTY

PREFACE--TO THE UNDERGRADUATES OF CAMBRIDGE

PREFACE--TO THE WORKING MEN OF GREAT BRITAIN

CHAPTER I. A POET'S CHILDHOOD

CHAPTER II. THE TAILORS' WORKROOM

CHAPTER III. SANDY MACKAYE

CHAPTER IV. TAILORS AND SOLDIERS

CHAPTER V. THE SCEPTIC'S MOTHER

CHAPTER VI. THE DULWICH GALLERY

CHAPTER VII. FIRST LOVE

CHAPTER VIII. LIGHT IN A DARK PLACE

CHAPTER IX. POETRY AND POETS

CHAPTER X. HOW FOLKS TURN CHARTISTS

CHAPTER XI. "THE YARD WHERE THE GENTLEMEN LIVE"

CHAPTER XII. CAMBRIDGE

CHAPTER XIII. THE LOST IDOL FOUND

CHAPTER XIV. A CATHEDRAL TOWN

CHAPTER XV. THE MAN OF SCIENCE

CHAPTER XVI. CULTIVATED WOMEN

CHAPTER XVII. SERMONS IN STONES

CHAPTER XVIII. MY FALL

CHAPTER XIX. SHORT AND SAD

CHAPTER XX. PEGASUS IN HARNESS

CHAPTER XXI. THE SWEATER'S DEN

CHAPTER XXII. AN EMERSONIAN SERMON

CHAPTER XXIII. THE FREEDOM OF THE PRESS

CHAPTER XXIV. THE TOWNSMAN'S SERMON TO THE GOWNSMAN

CHAPTER XXV. A TRUE NOBLEMAN

CHAPTER XXVI. THE TRIUMPHANT AUTHOR

CHAPTER XXVII. THE PLUSH BREECHES TRAGEDY

CHAPTER XXVIII. THE MEN WHO ARE EATEN

CHAPTER XXIX. THE TRIAL

CHAPTER XXX. PRISON THOUGHTS

CHAPTER XXXI. THE NEW CHURCH

CHAPTER XXXII. THE TOWER OF BABEL

CHAPTER XXXIII. A PATRIOT'S REWARD

CHAPTER XXXIV. THE TENTH OF APRIL

CHAPTER XXXV. THE LOWEST DEEP

CHAPTER XXXVI. DREAMLAND

CHAPTER XXXVII. THE TRUE DEMAGOGUE

CHAPTER XXXVIII. MIRACLES ASD SCIENCE

CHAPTER XXXIX. NEMESIS

CHAPTER XL. PRIESTS AND PEOPLE

CHAPTER XLI. FREEDOM, EQUALITY, AND BROTHERHOOD




PREFATORY MEMOIR.


The tract appended to this preface has been chosen to accompany this
reprint of _Alton Locke_ in order to illustrate, from another side, a
distinct period in the life of Charles Kingsley, which stands out very much
by itself. It may be taken roughly to have extended from 1848 to 1856. It
has been thought that they require a preface, and I have undertaken to
write it, as one of the few survivors of those who were most intimately
associated with the author at the time to which the works refer.

No easy task; for, look at them from what point we will, these years must
be allowed to cover an anxious and critical time in modern English history;
but, above all, in the history of the working classes. In the first of them
the Chartist agitation came to a head and burst, and was followed by the
great movement towards association, which, developing in two directions and
by two distinct methods--represented respectively by the amalgamated Trades
Unions, and Co-operative Societies--has in the intervening years entirely
changed the conditions of the labour question in England, and the relations
of the working to the upper and middle classes. It is with this, the social
and industrial side of the history of those years, that we are mainly
concerned here. Charles Kingsley has left other and more important writings
of those years. But these are beside our purpose, which is to give some
such slight sketch of him as may be possible within the limits of a
preface, in the character in which he was first widely known, as the most
outspoken and powerful of those who took the side of the labouring classes,
at a critical time--the crisis in a word, when they abandoned their old
political weapons, for the more potent one of union and association, which
has since carried them so far.

To no one of all those to whom his memory is very dear can this seem a
superfluous task, for no writer was ever more misunderstood or better
abused at the time, and after the lapse of almost a quarter of a century
the misunderstanding would seem still to hold its ground. For through all
the many notices of him which appeared after his death in last January,
there ran the same apologetic tone as to this part of his life's work.
While generally, and as a rule cordially, recognizing his merits as an
author and a man, the writers seemed to agree in passing lightly over this
ground. When it was touched it was in a tone of apology, sometimes tinged
with sarcasm, as in the curt notice in the "Times"--"He was understood, to
be the Parson Lot of those 'Politics for the People' which made no little
noise in their time, and as Parson Lot he declared in burning language
that to his mind the fault in the 'People's Charter' was that it did not
go nearly far enough." And so the writer turns away, as do most of his
brethren, leaving probably some such impression as this on the minds of
most of their readers--"Young men of power and genius are apt to start with
wild notions. He was no exception. Parson Lot's sayings and doings may well
be pardoned for what Charles Kingsley said and did in after years; so let
us drop a decent curtain over them, and pass on."

Now, as very nearly a generation has passed since that signature used to
appear at the foot of some of the most noble and vigorous writing of our
time, readers of to-day are not unlikely to accept this view, and so to
find further confirmation and encouragement in the example of Parson Lot
for the mischievous and cowardly distrust of anything like enthusiasm
amongst young men, already sadly too prevalent in England. If it were only
as a protest against this "surtout point de zele" spirit, against which it
was one of Charles Kingsley's chief tasks to fight with all his strength,
it is well that the facts should be set right. This done, readers may
safely be left to judge what need there is for the apologetic tone in
connection with the name, the sayings, and doings of Parson Lot.

My first meeting with him was in the autumn of 1848, at the house of Mr.
Maurice, who had lately been appointed Reader of Lincolns Inn. No parochial
work is attached to that post, so Mr. Maurice had undertaken the charge of
a small district in the parish in which he lived, and had set a number of
young men, chiefly students of the Inns of Court who had been attracted by
his teaching, to work in it. Once a week, on Monday evenings, they used
to meet at his house for tea, when their own work was reported upon and
talked over. Suggestions were made and plans considered; and afterwards a
chapter of the Bible was read and discussed. Friends and old pupils of Mr.
Maurice's, residing in the country, or in distant parts of London, were
in the habit of coming occasionally to these meetings, amongst whom was
Charles Kingsley. He had been recently appointed Rector of Eversley, and
was already well known as the author of _The Saint's Tragedy_, his first
work, which contained the germ of much that he did afterwards.

His poem, and the high regard and admiration which Mr. Maurice had for
him, made him a notable figure in that small society, and his presence was
always eagerly looked for. What impressed me most about him when we first
met was, his affectionate deference to Mr. Maurice, and the vigour and
incisiveness of everything he said and did. He had the power of cutting
out what he meant in a few clear words, beyond any one I have ever met.
The next thing that struck one was the ease with which he could turn from
playfulness, or even broad humour, to the deepest earnest. At first I think
this startled most persons, until they came to find out the real deep
nature of the man; and that his broadest humour had its root in a faith
which realized, with extraordinary vividness, the fact that God's Spirit
is actively abroad in the world, and that Christ is in every man, and made
him hold fast, even in his saddest moments,--and sad moments were not
infrequent with him,--the assurance that, in spite of all appearances, the
world was going right, and would go right somehow, "Not your way, or my
way, but God's way." The contrast of his humility and audacity, of his
distrust in himself and confidence in himself, was one of those puzzles
which meet us daily in this world of paradox. But both qualities gave him a
peculiar power for the work he had to do at that time, with which the name
of Parson Lot is associated.

It was at one of these gatherings, towards the end of 1847 or early in
1848, when Kingsley found himself in a minority of one, that he said
jokingly, he felt much as Lot must have felt in the Cities of the Plain,
when he seemed as one that mocked to his sons-in-law. The name Parson Lot
was then and there suggested, and adopted by him, as a familiar _nom de
plume_, He used it from 1848 up to 1856; at first constantly, latterly
much more rarely. But the name was chiefly made famous by his writings in
"Politics for the People," the "Christian Socialist," and the "Journal of
Association," three periodicals which covered the years from '48 to '52; by
"Alton Locke"; and by tracts and pamphlets, of which the best known, "Cheap
Clothes and Nasty," is now republished.

In order to understand and judge the sayings and writings of Parson Lot
fairly, it is necessary to recall the condition of the England of that
day. Through the winter of 1847-8, amidst wide-spread distress, the cloud
of discontent, of which Chartism was the most violent symptom, had been
growing darker and more menacing, while Ireland was only held down by main
force. The breaking-out of the revolution on the Continent in February
increased the danger. In March there were riots in London, Glasgow,
Edinburgh, Liverpool, and other large towns. On April 7th, "the Crown
and Government Security Bill," commonly called "the Gagging Act," was
introduced by the Government, the first reading carried by 265 to 24,
and the second a few days later by 452 to 35. On the 10th of April the
Government had to fill London with troops, and put the Duke of Wellington
in command, who barricaded the bridges and Downing Street, garrisoned the
Bank and other public buildings, and closed the Horse Guards.

When the momentary crisis had passed, the old soldier declared in the House
of Lords that "no great society had ever suffered as London had during the
preceding days," while the Home Secretary telegraphed to all the chief
magistrates of the kingdom the joyful news that the peace had been kept
in London. In April, the Lord Chancellor, in introducing the Crown and
Government Security Bill in the House of Lords, referred to the fact
that "meetings were daily held, not only in London, but in most of the
manufacturing towns, the avowed object of which was to array the people
against the constituted authority of these realms." For months afterwards
the Chartist movement, though plainly subsiding, kept the Government in
constant anxiety; and again in June, the Bank, the Mint, the Custom House,
and other public offices were filled with troops, and the Houses of
Parliament were not only garrisoned but provisioned as if for a siege.

From that time, all fear of serious danger passed away. The Chartists were
completely discouraged, and their leaders in prison; and the upper and
middle classes were recovering rapidly from the alarm which had converted
a million of them into special constables, and were beginning to doubt
whether the crisis had been so serious after all, whether the disaffection
had ever been more than skin deep. At this juncture a series of articles
appeared in the _Morning Chronicle_ on "London Labour and the London Poor,"
which startled the well-to-do classes out of their jubilant and scornful
attitude, and disclosed a state of things which made all fair minded people
wonder, not that there had been violent speaking and some rioting, but that
the metropolis had escaped the scenes which had lately been enacted in
Paris, Vienna, Berlin, and other Continental capitals.

It is only by an effort that one can now realize the strain to which the
nation was subjected during that winter and spring, and which, of course,
tried every individual man also, according to the depth and earnestness of
his political and social convictions and sympathies. The group of men who
were working under Mr. Maurice were no exceptions to the rule. The work of
teaching and visiting was not indeed neglected, but the larger questions
which were being so strenuously mooted--the points of the people's charter,
the right of public meeting, the attitude of the labouring-class to the
other classes--absorbed more and more of their attention. Kingsley was
very deeply impressed with the gravity and danger of the crisis--more so,
I think, than almost any of his friends; probably because, as a country
parson, he was more directly in contact with one class of the poor than any
of them. How deeply he felt for the agricultural poor, how faithfully he
reflected the passionate and restless sadness of the time, may be read in
the pages of "Yeast," which was then coming out in "Fraser." As the winter
months went on this sadness increased, and seriously affected his health.

"I have a longing," he wrote to Mr. Ludlow, "to do _something_--what, God
only knows. You say, 'he that believeth will not make haste,' but I think
he that believeth must _make_ haste, or get damned with the rest. But I
will do anything that anybody likes--I have no confidence in myself or in
anything but God. I am not great enough for such times, alas! '_ne pour
faire des vers_,' as Camille Desmoulins said."

This longing became so strong as the crisis in April approached, that he
came to London to see what could be done, and to get help from Mr. Maurice,
and those whom he had been used to meet at his house. He found them a
divided body. The majority were sworn in as special constables, and several
had openly sided with the Chartists; while he himself, with Mr. Maurice and
Mr. Ludlow, were unable to take active part with either side. The following
extract from a letter to his wife, written on the 9th of April, shows how
he was employed during these days, and how he found the work which he was
in search of, the first result of which was the publication of "those
'Politics for the People' which made no small noise in their times"--

"_April_ 11th, 1848.--The events of a week have been crowded into a few
hours. I was up till four this morning--writing posting placards, under
Maurice's auspices, one of which is to be got out to-morrow morning, the
rest when we can get money. Could you not beg a few sovereigns somewhere
to help these poor wretches to the truest alms?--to words, texts from the
Psalms, anything which may keep even one man from cutting his brother's
throat to-morrow or Friday? _Pray, pray, help us._ Maurice has given me
a highest proof of confidence. He has taken me to counsel, and we are to
have meetings for prayer and study, when I come up to London, and we are to
bring out a new set of real "Tracts for the Times," addressed to the higher
orders. Maurice is _a la hauteur des circonstances_--determined to make a
decisive move. He says, if the Oxford Tracts did wonders, why should not
we? Pray for us. A glorious future is opening, and both Maurice and Ludlow
seem to have driven away all my doubts and sorrow, and I see the blue sky
again, and my Father's face!"

The arrangements for the publication of "Politics for the People" were soon
made; and in one of the earliest numbers, for May, 1848, appeared the paper
which furnishes what ground there is for the statement, already quoted,
that "he declared, in burning language, that the People's Charter did not
go far enough" It was No. 1 of "Parson Lot's Letters to the Chartists." Let
us read it with its context.

"I am not one of those who laugh at your petition of the 10th of April: I
have no patience with those who do. Suppose there were but 250,000 honest
names on that sheet--suppose the Charter itself were all stuff--yet you
have still a right to fair play, a patient hearing, an honourable and
courteous answer, whichever way it may be. But _my only quarrel with the
Charter is that it does not go far enough in reform_. I want to see you
_free_, but I do not see that what you ask for will give you what you want.
I think you have fallen into just the same mistake as the rich, of whom you
complain--the very mistake which has been our curse and our nightmare. I
mean the mistake of fancying that _legislative_ reform is _social_ reform,
or that men's hearts can be changed by Act of Parliament. If any one will
tell me of a country where a Charter made the rogues honest, or the idle
industrious, I will alter my opinion of the Charter, but not till then. It
disappointed me bitterly when I read it. It seemed a harmless cry enough,
but a poor, bald constitution-mongering cry as ever I heard. The French cry
of 'organization of labour' is worth a thousand of it, but yet that does
not go to the bottom of the matter by many a mile." And then, after telling
how he went to buy a number of the Chartist newspaper, and found it in a
shop which sold "flash songsters," "the Swell's Guide," and "dirty milksop
French novels," and that these publications, and a work called "The Devil's
Pulpit," were puffed in its columns, he goes on, "These are strange times.
I thought the devil used to befriend tyrants and oppressors, but he seems
to have profited by Burns' advice to 'tak a thought and mend.' I thought
the struggling freeman's watchword was: 'God sees my wrongs.' 'He hath
taken the matter into His own hands.' 'The poor committeth himself unto
Him, for He is the helper of the friendless.' But now the devil seems all
at once to have turned philanthropist and patriot, and to intend himself to
fight the good cause, against which he has been fighting ever since Adam's
time. I don't deny, my friends, it is much cheaper and pleasanter to be
reformed by the devil than by God; for God will only reform society on the
condition of our reforming every man his own self--while the devil is quite
ready to help us to mend the laws and the parliament, earth and heaven,
without ever starting such an impertinent and 'personal' request, as that
a man should mend himself. _That_ liberty of the subject he will always
respect."--"But I say honestly, whomsoever I may offend, the more I have
read of your convention speeches and newspaper articles, the more I am
convinced that too many of you are trying to do God's work with the devil's
tools. What is the use of brilliant language about peace, and the majesty
of order, and universal love, though it may all be printed in letters a
foot long, when it runs in the same train with ferocity, railing, mad,
one-eyed excitement, talking itself into a passion like a street woman? Do
you fancy that after a whole column spent in stirring men up to fury, a few
twaddling copybook headings about 'the sacred duty of order' will lay the
storm again? What spirit is there but the devil's spirit in bloodthirsty
threats of revenge?"--"I denounce the weapons which you have been deluded
into employing to gain you your rights, and the indecency and profligacy
which you are letting be mixed up with them! Will you strengthen and
justify your enemies? Will you disgust and cripple your friends? Will you
go out of your way to do wrong? When you can be free by fair means will you
try foul? When you might keep the name of Liberty as spotless as the Heaven
from which she comes, will you defile her with blasphemy, beastliness, and
blood? When the cause of the poor is the cause of Almighty God, will you
take it out of His hands to entrust it to the devil? These are bitter
questions, but as you answer them so will you prosper."

In Letter II. he tells them that if they have followed, a different
"Reformer's Guide" from his, it is "mainly the fault of us parsons, who
have never told you that the true 'Reformer's Guide,' the true poor man's
book, the true 'Voice of God against tyrants, idlers, and humbugs, was the
Bible.' The Bible demands for the poor as much, and more, than they demand
for themselves; it expresses the deepest yearnings of the poor man's heart
far more nobly, more searchingly, more daringly, more eloquently than any
modern orator has done. I say, it gives a ray of hope--say rather a certain
dawn of a glorious future, such as no universal suffrage, free trade,
communism, organization of labour, or any other Morrison's-pill-measure can
give--and yet of a future, which will embrace all that is good in these--a
future of conscience, of justice, of freedom, when idlers and oppressors
shall no more dare to plead parchments and Acts of Parliament for their
iniquities. I say the Bible promises this, not in a few places only, but
throughout; it is the thought which runs through the whole Bible, justice
from God to those whom men oppress, glory from God to those whom men
despise. Does that look like the invention of tyrants, and prelates? You
may sneer, but give me a fair hearing, and if I do not prove my words, then
call me the same hard name which I shall call any man, who having read
the Bible, denies that it is the poor man's comfort and the rich man's
warning."

In subsequent numbers (as afterwards in the "Christian Socialist," and the
"Journal of Association") he dwells in detail on the several popular cries,
such as, "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work," illustrating them from
the Bible, urging his readers to take it as the true Radical Reformer's
Guide, if they were longing for the same thing as he was longing for--to
see all humbug, idleness, injustice, swept out of England. His other
contributions to these periodicals consisted of some of his best short
poems: "The Day of the Lord;" "The Three Fishers;" "Old and New," and
others; of a series of Letters on the Frimley murder; of a short story
called "The Nun's Pool," and of some most charming articles on the pictures
in the National Gallery, and the collections in the British Museum,
intended to teach the English people how to use and enjoy their own
property.

I think I know every line which was ever published under the signature
Parson Lot; and I take it upon myself to say, that there is in all that
"burning language" nothing more revolutionary than the extracts given above
from his letters to the Chartists.

But, it may be said, apart from his writings, did not Parson Lot declare
himself a Chartist in a public meeting in London; and did he not preach in
a London pulpit a political sermon, which brought up the incumbent, who had
invited him, to protest from the altar against the doctrine which had just
been delivered?

Yes! Both statements are true. Here are the facts as to the speech, those
as to the sermon I will give in their place. In the early summer of 1848
some of those who felt with C. Kingsley that the "People's Charter" had not
had fair play or courteous treatment, and that those who signed it had real
wrongs to complain of, put themselves into communication with the leaders,
and met and talked with them. At last it seemed that the time was come for
some more public meeting, and one was called at the Cranbourn Tavern, over
which Mr. Maurice presided. After the president's address several very
bitter speeches followed, and a vehement attack was specially directed
against the Church and the clergy. The meeting waxed warm, and seemed
likely to come to no good, when Kingsley rose, folded his arms across his
chest, threw his head back, and began--with the stammer which always came
at first when he was much moved, but which fixed every one's attention at
once--"I am a Church of England parson"--a long pause--"and a Chartist;"
and then he went on to explain how far he thought them right in their claim
for a reform of Parliament; how deeply he sympathized with their sense of
the injustice of the law as it affected them; how ready he was to help in
all ways to get these things set right; and then to denounce their methods,
in very much the same terms as I have already quoted from his letters to
the Chartists. Probably no one who was present ever heard a speech which
told more at the time. I had a singular proof that the effect did not
pass away. The most violent speaker on that occasion was one of the staff
of the leading Chartist newspaper. I lost sight of him entirely for more
than twenty years, and saw him again, a little grey shrivelled man, by
Kingsley's side, at the grave of Mr. Maurice, in the cemetery at Hampstead.

The experience of this meeting encouraged its promoters to continue the
series, which they did with a success which surprised no one more than
themselves. Kingsley's opinion of them may be gathered from the following
extract from a letter to his wife:--

"_June_ 4, 1848, Evening.--A few words before bed. I have just come home
from the meeting. No one spoke but working men, gentlemen I should call
them, in every sense of the term. Even _I_ was perfectly astonished by the
courtesy, the reverence to Maurice, who sat there like an Apollo, their
eloquence, the brilliant, nervous, well-chosen language, the deep simple
earnestness, the rightness and moderation of their thoughts. And these are
the _Chartists_, these are the men who are called fools and knaves--who are
refused the rights which are bestowed on every profligate fop.... It is
God's cause, fear not He will be with us, and if He is with us, who shall
be against us?"

But while he was rapidly winning the confidence of the working classes, he
was raising up a host of more or less hostile critics in other quarters by
his writings in "Politics for the People," which journal was in the midst
of its brief and stormy career. At the end of June, 1848, he writes to Mr.
Ludlow, one of the editors--

"I fear my utterances have had a great deal to do with the 'Politics''
unpopularity. I have got worse handled than any of you by poor and rich.
There is one comfort, that length of ears is in the donkey species always
compensated by toughness of hide. But it is a pleasing prospect for me (if
you knew all that has been said and written about Parson Lot), when I look
forward and know that my future explosions are likely to become more and
more obnoxious to the old gentlemen, who stuff their ears with cotton, and
then swear the children are not screaming."

"Politics for the People" was discontinued for want of funds; but its
supporters, including all those who were working under Mr. Maurice--who,
however much they might differ in opinions, were of one mind as to the
danger of the time, and the duty of every man to do his utmost to meet that
danger--were bent upon making another effort. In the autumn, Mr. Ludlow,
and others of their number who spent the vacation abroad, came back with
accounts of the efforts at association which were being made by the
workpeople of Paris.

The question of starting such associations in England as the best means
of fighting the slop system--which the "Chronicle" was showing to lie at
the root of the misery and distress which bred Chartists--was anxiously
debated. It was at last resolved to make the effort, and to identify the
new journal with the cause of Association, and to publish a set of tracts
in connection with it, of which Kingsley undertook to write the first,
"Cheap Clothes and Nasty."

So "the Christian Socialist" was started, with Mr. Ludlow for editor, the
tracts on Christian Socialism begun under Mr. Maurice's supervision, and
the society for promoting working-men's associations was formed out of the
body of men who were already working with Mr. Maurice. The great majority
of these joined, though the name was too much for others. The question of
taking it had been much considered, and it was decided, on the whole, to be
best to do so boldly, even though it might cost valuable allies. Kingsley
was of course consulted on every point, though living now almost entirely
at Eversley, and his views as to the proper policy to be pursued may be
gathered best from the following extracts from letters of his to Mr.
Ludlow--

"We must touch the workman at all his points of interest. First and
foremost at association--but also at political rights, as grounded both
on the Christian ideal of the Church, and on the historic facts of the
Anglo-Saxon race. Then national education, sanitary and dwelling-house
reform, the free sale of land, and corresponding reform of the land laws,
moral improvement of the family relation, public places of recreation (on
which point I am very earnest), and I think a set of hints from history,
and sayings of great men, of which last I have been picking up from Plato,
Demosthenes, &c."

1849.--"This is a puling, quill-driving, soft-handed age--among our
own rank, I mean. Cowardice is called meekness; to temporize is to be
charitable and reverent; to speak truth, and shame the devil, is to
offend weak brethren, who, somehow or other, never complain of their weak
consciences till you hit them hard. And yet, my dear fellow, I still remain
of my old mind--that it is better to say too much than too little, and more
merciful to knock a man down with a pick-axe than to prick him to death
with pins. The world says, No. It hates anything demonstrative, or violent
(except on its own side), or unrefined."

1849.--"The question of property is one of these cases. We must face it in
this age--simply because it faces us."--"I want to commit myself--I want
to make others commit themselves. No man can fight the devil with a long
ladle, however pleasant it may be to eat with him with one. A man never
fishes well in the morning till he has tumbled into the water."

And the counsels of Parson Lot had undoubtedly great weight in giving an
aggressive tone both to the paper and the society. But if he was largely
responsible for the fighting temper of the early movement, he, at any rate,
never shirked his share of the fighting. His name was the butt at which all
shafts were aimed. As Lot "seemed like one that mocked to his sons-in-law,"
so seemed the Parson to the most opposite sections of the British nation.
As a friend wrote of him at the time, he "had at any rate escaped the
curse of the false prophets, 'Woe unto you when all men shall speak well
of you.'" Many of the attacks and criticisms were no doubt aimed not so
much at him personally as at the body of men with whom, and for whom,
he was working; but as he was (except Mr. Maurice) the only one whose
name was known, he got the lion's share of all the abuse. The storm
broke on him from all points of the compass at once. An old friend and
fellow-contributor to "Politics for the People," led the Conservative
attack, accusing him of unsettling the minds of the poor, making them
discontented, &c. Some of the foremost Chartists wrote virulently against
him for "attempting to justify the God of the Old Testament," who, they
maintained, was unjust and cruel, and, at any rate, not the God "of the
people." The political economists fell on him for his anti-Malthusian
belief, that the undeveloped fertility of the earth need not be overtaken
by population within any time which it concerned us to think about. The
quarterlies joined in the attack on his economic heresies. The "Daily
News" opened a cross fire on him from the common-sense Liberal battery,
denouncing the "revolutionary nonsense, which is termed Christian
Socialisms"; and, after some balancing, the "Guardian," representing in
the press the side of the Church to which he leant, turned upon him in a
very cruel article on the republication of "Yeast" (originally written
for "Fraser's Magazine"), and accused him of teaching heresy in doctrine,
and in morals "that a certain amount of youthful profligacy does no real
permanent harm to the character, perhaps strengthens it for a useful and
religious life."

In this one instance Parson Lot fairly lost his temper, and answered, "as
was answered to the Jesuit of old--_mentiris impudentissime_." With the
rest he seemed to enjoy the conflict and "kept the ring," like a candidate
for the wrestling championship in his own county of Devon against all
comers, one down another come on.

The fact is, that Charles Kingsley was born a fighting man, and believed
in bold attack. "No human power ever beat back a resolute forlorn hope,"
he used to say; "to be got rid of, they must be blown back with grape and
canister," because the attacking party have all the universe behind them,
the defence only that small part which is shut up in their walls. And he
felt most strongly at this time that hard fighting was needed. "It is a
pity" he writes to Mr. Ludlow, "that telling people what's right, won't
make them do it; but not a new fact, though that ass the world has quite
forgotten it; and assures you that dear sweet 'incompris' mankind only
wants to be told the way to the millennium to walk willingly into it--which
is a lie. If you want to get mankind, if not to heaven, at least out of
hell, kick them out." And again, a little later on, in urging the policy
which the "Christian Socialist" should still follow--

1851.--"It seems to me that in such a time as this the only way to fight
against the devil is to attack him. He has got it too much his own way
to meddle with us if we don't meddle with him. But the very devil has
feelings, and if you prick him will roar...whereby you, at all events, gain
the not-every-day-of-the-week-to-be-attained benefit of finding out where
he is. Unless, indeed, as I suspect, the old rascal plays ventriloquist (as
big grasshoppers do when you chase them), and puts you on a wrong scent,
by crying 'Fire!' out of saints' windows. Still, the odds are if you prick
lustily enough, you make him roar unawares."

The memorials of his many controversies lie about in the periodicals of
that time, and any one who cares to hunt them up will be well repaid, and
struck with the vigour of the defence, and still more with the complete
change in public opinion, which has brought the England of to-day clean
round to the side of Parson Lot. The most complete perhaps of his fugitive
pieces of this kind is the pamphlet, "Who are the friends of Order?"
published by J. W. Parker and Son, in answer to a very fair and moderate
article in "Fraser's Mazagine." The Parson there points out how he and
his friends were "cursed by demagogues as aristocrats, and by tories as
democrats, when in reality they were neither." And urges that the very fact
of the Continent being overrun with Communist fanatics is the best argument
for preaching association here.

But though he faced his adversaries bravely, it must not be inferred that
he did not feel the attacks and misrepresentations very keenly. In many
respects, though housed in a strong and vigorous body, his spirit was an
exceedingly tender and sensitive one. I have often thought that at this
time his very sensitiveness drove him to say things more broadly and
incisively, because he was speaking as it were somewhat against the grain,
and knew that the line he was taking would be misunderstood, and would
displease and alarm those with whom he had most sympathy. For he was by
nature and education an aristocrat in the best sense of the word, believed
that a landed aristocracy was a blessing to the country, and that no
country would gain the highest liberty without such a class, holding its
own position firmly, but in sympathy with the people. He liked their habits
and ways, and keenly enjoyed their society. Again, he was full of reverence
for science and scientific men, and specially for political economy and
economists, and desired eagerly to stand well with them. And it was a most
bitter trial to him to find himself not only in sharp antagonism with
traders and employers of labour, which he looked for, but with these
classes also.

On the other hand many of the views and habits of those with whom he found
himself associated were very distasteful to him. In a new social movement,
such as that of association as it took shape in 1849-50, there is certain
to be great attraction for restless and eccentric persons, and in point
of fact many such joined it. The beard movement was then in its infancy,
and any man except a dragoon who wore hair on his face was regarded as a
dangerous character, with whom it was compromising to be seen in any public
place--a person in sympathy with _sansculottes_, and who would dispense
with trousers but for his fear of the police. Now whenever Kingsley
attended a meeting of the promoters of association in London, he was
sure to find himself in the midst of bearded men, vegetarians, and other
eccentric persons, and the contact was very grievous to him. "As if we
shall not be abused enough," he used to say, "for what we must say and do
without being saddled with mischievous nonsense of this kind." To less
sensitive men the effect of eccentricity upon him was almost comic, as
when on one occasion he was quite upset and silenced by the appearance of
a bearded member of Council at an important deputation in a straw hat and
blue plush gloves. He did not recover from the depression produced by those
gloves for days. Many of the workmen, too, who were most prominent in the
Associations were almost as little to his mind--windy inflated kind of
persons, with a lot of fine phrases in their mouths which they did not know
the meaning of.

But in spite of all that was distasteful to him in some of its
surroundings, the co-operative movement (as it is now called) entirely
approved itself to his conscience and judgment, and mastered him so that he
was ready to risk whatever had to be risked in fighting its battle. Often
in those days, seeing how loath Charles Kingsley was to take in hand, much
of the work which Parson Lot had to do, and how fearlessly and thoroughly
he did it after all, one was reminded of the old Jewish prophets, such as
Amos the herdsman of Tekoa--"I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet's
son, but I was an herdsman and a gatherer of sycamore fruit: and the Lord
took me as I followed the flock, and said unto me, Go prophesy unto my
people Israel."

The following short extracts from his correspondence with Mr. Ludlow, as to
the conduct of the "Christian Socialist," and his own contributions to it,
may perhaps serve to show how his mind was working at this time:--

_Sept., 1850_.--"I cannot abide the notion of Branch Churches or Free
(sect) Churches, and unless my whole train of thought alters, I will resist
the temptation as coming from the devil. Where I am I am doing God's work,
and when the Church is ripe for more, the Head of the Church will put the
means our way. You seem to fancy that we may have a _Deus quidam Deceptor_
over us after all. If I did I'd go and blow my dirty brains out and be rid
of the whole thing at once. I would indeed. If God, when people ask Him to
teach and guide them, does not; if when they confess themselves rogues and
fools to Him, and beg Him to make them honest and wise, He does not, but
darkens them, and deludes them into bogs and pitfalls, is he a Father? You
fall back into Judaism, friend."

_Dec., 1850_.--"Jeremiah is my favourite book now. It has taught me more
than tongue can tell. But I am much disheartened, and am minded to speak
no more words in this name (Parson Lot); and yet all these bullyings teach
one, correct one, warn one--show one that God is not leaving one to go
one's own way. 'Christ reigns,' quoth Luther."

It was at this time, in the winter of 1850, that "Alton Locke" was
published. He had been engaged on it for more than a year, working at it
in the midst of all his controversies. The following extracts from his
correspondence with Mr. Ludlow will tell readers more about it than any
criticism, if they have at all realized the time at which it was written,
or his peculiar work in that time.

_February, 1849_.--"I have hopes from the book I am writing, which has
revealed itself to me so rapidly and methodically that I feel it comes
down from above, and that only my folly can spoil it, which I pray against
daily."

1849.--"I think the notion a good one (referring to other work for the
paper which he had been asked to do), but I feel no inspiration at all
that way; and I dread being tempted to more and more bitterness, harsh
judgment, and evil speaking. I dread it. I am afraid sometimes I shall end
in universal snarling. Besides, my whole time is taken up with my book,
and _that_ I do feel inspired to write. But there is something else which
weighs awfully on my mind--(the first number of _Cooper's Journal_, which
he sent me the other day). Here is a man of immense influence openly
preaching Strausseanism to the workmen, and in a fair, honest, manly way
which must tell. Who will answer him? Who will answer Strauss? [Footnote:
He did the work himself. After many interviews, and a long correspondence
with him, Thomas Cooper changed his views, and has been lecturing and
preaching for many years as a Christian.] Who will denounce him as a vile
aristocrat, robbing the poor man of his Saviour--of the ground of all
democracy, all freedom, all association--of the Charter itself? _Oh, si
mihi centum voces et ferrea lingua!_ Think about _that_."

_January, 1850_.--"A thousand thanks for your letter, though it only shows
me what I have long suspected, that I know hardly enough yet to make the
book what it should be. As you have made a hole, you must help to fill it.
Can you send me any publication which would give me a good notion of the
Independents' view of politics, also one which would give a good notion of
the Fox-Emerson-Strauss school of Blague-Unitarianism, which is superseding
dissent just now. It was with the ideal of Calvinism, and its ultimate
bearing on the people's cause, that I wished to deal. I believe that there
must be internecine war between the people's church--_i.e._, the future
development of Catholic Christianity, and Calvinism even in its mildest
form, whether in the Establishment or out of it--and I have counted the
cost and will give every _party_ its slap in their turn. But I will alter,
as far as I can, all you dislike."

_August, 1850_.--"How do you know, dearest man, that I was not right in
making the Alton of the second volume different from the first? In showing
the individuality of the man swamped and warped by the routine of misery
and discontent? How do you know that the historic and human interest of the
book was not intended to end with Mackay's death, in whom old radicalism
dies, 'not having received the promises,' to make room for the radicalism
of the future? How do you know that the book from that point was not
intended to take a mythic and prophetic form, that those dreams come in for
the very purpose of taking the story off the ground of the actual into the
deeper and wider one of the ideal, and that they do actually do what they
were intended to do? How do you know that my idea of carrying out Eleanor's
sermons in practice were just what I could not--and if I could, dared not,
give? that all that I could do was to leave them as seed, to grow by itself
in many forms, in many minds, instead of embodying them in some action
which would have been both as narrow as my own idiosyncrasy, gain the
reproach of insanity, and be simply answered by--'If such things have been
done, where are they?' and lastly, how do you know that I had not a special
meaning in choosing a civilized fine lady as my missionary, one of a class
which, as it does exist, God must have something for it to do, and, as
it seems, plenty to do, from the fact that a few gentlemen whom I could
mention, not to speak of Fowell Buxtons, Howards, Ashleys, &c., have
done, more for the people in one year than they have done for themselves
in fifty? If I had made her an organizer, as well as a preacher, your
complaint might have been just. My dear man, the artist is a law unto
himself--or rather God is a law to him, when he prays, as I have earnestly
day after day about this book--to be taught how to say the right thing
in the right way--and I assure you I did not get tired of my work, but
laboured as earnestly at the end as I did at the beginning. The rest of
your criticism, especially about the interpenetration of doctrine and
action, is most true, and shall be attended to.--Your brother,

"G. K."

The next letter, on the same topic, in answer to criticisms on "Alton
Locke," is addressed to a brother clergyman--

"EVERSLEY, _January 13, 1851_.

"Rec. dear Sir,--I will answer your most interesting letter as shortly as
I can, and if possible in the same spirit of honesty as that in which you
have written to me.

"_First_, I do not think the cry 'Get on' to be anything but a devil's cry.
The moral of my book is that the working man who tries to get on, to desert
his class and rise above it, enters into a lie, and leaves God's path for
his own--with consequences.

"_Second_, I believe that a man might be as a tailor or a costermonger,
every inch of him a saint, a scholar, and a gentleman, for I have seen some
few such already. I believe hundreds of thousands more would be so, if
their businesses were put on a Christian footing, and themselves given by
education, sanitary reforms, &c., the means of developing their own latent
capabilities--I think the cry, 'Rise in Life,' has been excited by the very
increasing impossibility of being anything but brutes while they struggle
below. I know well all that is doing in the way of education, &c., but
I do assert that the disease of degradation has been for the last forty
years increasing faster than the remedy. And I believe, from experience,
that when you put workmen into human dwellings, and give them a Christian
education, so far from wishing discontentedly to rise out of their class,
or to level others to it, exactly the opposite takes place. They become
sensible of the dignity of work, and they begin to see their labour as a
true calling in God's Church, now that it is cleared from the accidentia
which made it look, in their eyes, only a soulless drudgery in a devil's
workshop of a _World_.

"_Third_, From the advertisement of an 'English Republic' you send, I can
guess who will be the writers in it, &c., &c., being behind the scenes.
It will come to nought. Everything of this kind is coming to nought now.
The workmen are tired of idols, ready and yearning for the Church and the
Gospel, and such men as your friend may laugh at Julian Harney, Feargus
O'Connor, and the rest of that smoke of the pit. Only we live in a great
crisis, and the Lord requires great things of us. The fields are white to
harvest. Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He may send forth
labourers into His harvest.

"_Fourth_, As to the capacities of working-men, I am afraid that your
excellent friend will find that he has only the refuse of working
intellects to form his induction on. The devil has got the best long ago.
By the neglect of the Church, by her dealing (like the Popish Church and
all weak churches) only with women, children, and beggars, the cream
and pith of working intellect is almost exclusively self-educated, and,
therefore, alas! infidel. If he goes on as he is doing, lecturing on
history, poetry, science, and all the things which the workmen crave for,
and can only get from such men as H----, Thomas Cooper, &c., mixed up with
Straussism and infidelity, he will find that he will draw back to his
Lord's fold, and to his lecture room, slowly, but surely, men, whose powers
will astonish him, as they have astonished me.

"_Fifth_, The workmen whose quarrels you mention are not Christians, or
socialists either. They are of all creeds and none. We are teaching them
to become Christians by teaching them gradually that true socialism, true
liberty, brotherhood, and true equality (not the carnal dead level equality
of the Communist, but the spiritual equality of the church idea, which
gives every man an equal chance of developing and using God's gifts, and
rewards every man according to his work, without respect of persons) is
only to be found in loyalty and obedience to Christ. They do quarrel, but
if you knew how they used to quarrel before association, the improvement
since would astonish you. And the French associations do not quarrel
at all. I can send you a pamphlet on them, if you wish, written by an
eyewitness, a friend of mine.

"_Sixth_, If your friend wishes to see what can be made of workmen's
brains, let him, in God's name, go down to Harrow Weald, and there see Mr.
Monro--see what he has done with his own national school boys. I have his
opinion as to the capabilities of those minds, which we, alas! now so sadly
neglect. I only ask him to go and ask of that man the question which you
have asked of me.

"_Seventh_, May I, in reference to myself and certain attacks on me, say,
with all humility, that I do not speak from hearsay now, as has been
asserted, from second-hand picking and stealing out of those 'Reports on
Labour and the Poor,' in the 'Morning Chronicle,' which are now being
reprinted in a separate form, and which I entreat you to read if you wish
to get a clear view of the real state of the working classes.

"From my cradle, as the son of an active clergyman, I have been brought
up in the most familiar intercourse with the poor in town and country. My
mother, a second Mrs. Fry, in spirit and act. For fourteen years my father
has been the rector of a very large metropolitan parish--and I speak what I
know, and testify that which I have seen. With earnest prayer, in fear and
trembling, I wrote my book, and I trust in Him to whom I prayed that He has
not left me to my own prejudices or idols on any important point relating
to the state of the possibilities of the poor for whom He died. Any use
which you choose you can make of this letter. If it should seem worth your
while to honour me with any further communications, I shall esteem them a
delight, and the careful consideration of them a duty.--Believe me, Rev.
and dear Sir, your faithful and obedient servant,

"C. KINGSLEY."

By this time the society for promoting associations was thoroughly
organized, and consisted of a council of promoters, of which Kingsley was a
member, and a central board, on which the managers of the associations and
a delegate from each of them sat. The council had published a number of
tracts, beginning with "Cheap Clothes and Nasty," which had attracted the
attention of many persons, including several of the London clergy, who
connected themselves more or less closely with the movement. Mr. Maurice,
Kingsley, Hansard, and others of these, were often asked to preach on
social questions, and when in 1851, on the opening of the Great Exhibition,
immense crowds of strangers were drawn to London, they were specially
in request. For many London incumbents threw open their churches, and
organized series of lectures, specially bearing on the great topic of the
day. It was now that the incident happened which once more brought upon
Kingsley the charge of being a revolutionist, and which gave him more pain
than all other attacks put together. One of the incumbents before referred
to begged Mr. Maurice to take part in his course of lectures, and to
ask Kingsley to do so; assuring Mr. Maurice that he "had been reading
Kingsley's works with the greatest interest, and earnestly desired to
secure him as one of his lecturers." "I promised to mention this request to
him," Mr. Maurice says, "though I knew he rarely came to London, and seldom
preached except in his own parish. He agreed, though at some inconvenience,
that he would preach a sermon on the 'Message of the Church to the
Labouring Man.' I suggested the subject to him. The incumbent intimated
the most cordial approval of it. He had asked us, not only with a previous
knowledge of our published writings, but expressly because he had that
knowledge. I pledge you my word that no questions were asked as to what we
were going to say, and no guarantees given. Mr. Kingsley took precisely
that view of the message of the Church to labouring men which every reader
of his books would have expected him to take."

Kingsley took his text from Luke iv. verses 16 to 21: "The spirit of the
Lord is upon me because He hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the
poor," &c. What then was that gospel? Kingsley asks, and goes on--"I assert
that the business for which God sends a Christian priest in a Christian
nation is, to preach freedom, equality, and brotherhood in the fullest,
deepest, widest meaning of those three great words; that in as far as he so
does, he is a true priest, doing his Lord's work with his Lord's blessing
on him; that in as far as he does not he is no priest at all, but a traitor
to God and man"; and again, "I say that these words express the very
pith and marrow of a priest's business; I say that they preach freedom,
equality, and brotherhood to rich and poor for ever and ever." Then he goes
on to warn his hearers how there is always a counterfeit in this world of
the noblest message and teaching.

Thus there are two freedoms--the false, where a man is free to do what he
likes; the true, where a man is free to do what he ought.

Two equalities--the false, which reduces all intellects and all characters,
to a dead level, and gives the same power to the bad as to the good, to the
wise as to the foolish, ending thus in practice in the grossest inequality;
the true, wherein each man has equal power to educate and use whatever
faculties or talents God has given him, be they less or more. This is the
divine equality which the Church proclaims, and nothing else proclaims as
she does.

Two brotherhoods--the false, where a man chooses who shall be his brothers,
and whom he will treat as such; the true, in which a man believes that
all are his brothers, not by the will of the flesh, or the will of man,
but by the will of God, whose children they all are alike. The Church has
three special possessions and treasures. The Bible, which proclaims man's
freedom, Baptism his equality, the Lord's Supper his brotherhood.

At the end of this sermon (which would scarcely cause surprise to-day
if preached by the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Chapel Royal), the
incumbent got up at the altar and declared his belief that great part of
the doctrine of the sermon was untrue, and that he had expected a sermon of
an entirely different kind. To a man of the preacher's vehement temperament
it must have required a great effort not to reply at the moment. The
congregation was keenly excited, and evidently expected him to do so.
He only bowed his head, pronounced the blessing, and came down from the
pulpit.

I must go back a little to take up the thread of his connection with, and
work for, the Society for Promoting Working Men's Associations. After it
had passed the first difficulties of starting, he was seldom able to
attend either Council or Central Board. Every one else felt how much more
important and difficult work he was doing by fighting the battle in the
press, down at Eversley, but he himself was eager to take part in the
everyday business, and uneasy if he was not well informed as to what was
going on.

Sometimes, however, he would come up to the Council, when any matter
specially interesting to him was in question, as in the following example,
when a new member of the Council, an Eton master, had objected to some
strong expressions in one of his letters on the Frimley murder, in the
"Christian Socialist":--

1849.--"The upper classes are like a Yankee captain sitting on the safety
valve, and serenely whistling--but what will be will be. As for the worthy
Eton parson, I consider it infinitely expedient that he be entreated to
vent his whole dislike in the open Council forthwith, under a promise on my
part not to involve him in any controversy or reprisals, or to answer in
any tone except that of the utmost courtesy and respect. Pray do this. It
will at once be a means of gaining him, and a good example, please God,
to the working men; and for the Frimley letter, put it in the fire if you
like, or send it back to have the last half re-written, or 'anything else
you like, my pretty little dear.'"

But his prevailing feeling was getting to be, that he was becoming an
outsider--

"Nobody deigns to tell me," he wrote to me, "how things go on, and who
helps, and whether I can help. In short, I know nothing, and begin to fancy
that you, like some others, think me a lukewarm and timeserving aristocrat,
after I have ventured more than many, because I had more to venture."

The same feeling comes out in the following letter, which illustrates
too, very well, both his deepest conviction as to the work, the mixture
of playfulness and earnestness with which he handled it, and his humble
estimate of himself. It refers to the question of the admission of a new
association to the Union. It was necessary, of course, to see that the
rules of a society, applying for admission to the Union, were in proper
form, and that sufficient capital was forthcoming, and the decision lay
with the Central Board, controlled in some measure by the Council of
Promoters.

An association of clay-pipe makers had applied for admission, and had been
refused by the vote of the central board. The Council, however, thought
there were grounds for reconsidering the decision, and to strengthen the
case for admission, Kingsley's opinion was asked. He replied:--

"EVERSLEY, _May 31, 1850_.

"The sight of your handwriting comforted me--for nobody takes any notice of
me, not even the printers; so I revenge myself by being as idle as a dog,
and fishing, and gardening, and basking in this glorious sun. But your
letter set me thanking God that he has raised up men to do the work of
which I am not worthy. As for the pipe-makers, give my compliments to the
autocrats, and tell them it is a shame. The Vegetarians would have quite
as much right to refuse the Butchers, because, forsooth, theirs is now
discovered not to be a necessary trade. Bosh! The question is this--If
association be a great Divine law and duty, the realization of the Church
idea, no man has _a right_ to refuse any body of men, into whose heart
God has put it to come and associate. It may be answered that these men's
motives are self-interested. I say, 'Judge no man.' You dare not refuse
a heathen baptism because you choose to think that his only motive for
turning Christian is the selfish one of saving his own rascally soul. No
more have you a right to refuse to men an entrance into the social Church.
They must come in, and they will, because association is not men's dodge
and invention but God's law for mankind and society, which He has made, and
we must not limit. I don't know whether I am intelligible, but what's more
important, I know I am right. Just read this to the autocrats, and tell
them, with my compliments, they are Popes, Tyrants, Manichees, Ascetics,
Sectarians, and everything else that is abominable; and if they used as
many pipes as I do, they would know the blessing of getting them cheap,
and start an associate baccy factory besides. Shall we try? But, this one
little mistake excepted (though, if they repeat it, it will become a great
mistake, and a wrong, and a ruinous wrong), they are much better fellows
than poor I, and doing a great deal more good, and at every fresh news of
their deeds I feel like Job's horse, when he scents the battle afar off."

No small part of the work of the Council consisted in mediating and
arbitrating in the disputes between the associates and their managers;
indeed, such work kept the legal members of the board (none of whom were
then overburdened with regular practice) pretty fully occupied. Some such
dispute had arisen in one of the most turbulent of these associations, and
had been referred to me for settlement. I had satisfied myself as to the
facts, and considered my award, and had just begun to write out the draft,
when I was called away from my chambers, and left the opening lines lying
on my desk. They ran as follows:--"The Trustees of the Mile End Association
of Engineers, seeing that the quarrels between the associates have not
ceased"--at which word I broke off. On returning to my chambers a quarter
of an hour later, I found a continuation in the following words:--

  "And that every man is too much inclined to behave himself like a beast,
  In spite of our glorious humanity, which requires neither God nor priest,
  Yet is daily praised and plastered by ten thousand fools at least--
  Request Mr. Hughes' presence at their jawshop in the East,
  Which don't they wish they may get it, for he goes out to-night to feast
  At the Rev. C. Kingsley's rectory, Chelsea, where he'll get his gullet
      greased
  With the best of Barto Valle's port, and will have his joys increased
  By meeting his old college chum, McDougal the Borneo priest--
  So come you thief, and drop your brief,
  At six o'clock without relief;
  And if you won't may you come to grief,
  Says Parson Lot the Socialist Chief,
  Who signs his mark at the foot of the leaf--thus"

and, at the end, a clenched fist was sketched in a few bold lines, and
under it, "Parson Lot, his mark" written.

I don't know that I can do better than give the history of the rest of the
day. Knowing his town habits well, I called at Parker, the publisher's,
after chambers, and found him there, sitting on a table and holding forth
on politics to our excellent little friend, John Wm. Parker, the junior
partner.

We started to walk down to Chelsea, and a dense fog came on before we had
reached Hyde Park Corner. Both of us knew the way well; but we lost it half
a dozen times, and his spirit seemed to rise as the fog thickened. "Isn't
this like life," he said, after one of our blunders: "a deep yellow fog all
round, with a dim light here and there shining through. You grope your way
on from one lamp to another, and you go up wrong streets and back again;
but you get home at last--there's always light enough for that." After a
short pause he said, quite abruptly, "Tom, do you want to live to be old?"
I said I had never thought on the subject; and he went on, "I dread it more
than I can say. To feel one's powers going, and to end in snuff and stink.
Look at the last days of Scott and Wordsworth, and Southey." I suggested
St. John. "Yes," he said, "that's the right thing, and will do for Bunsen,
and great, tranquil men like him. The longer they live the better for all.
But for an eager, fiery nature like mine, with fierce passions eating one's
life out, it won't do. If I live twenty years I know what will happen to
me. The back of my brain will soften, and I shall most likely go blind."

The Bishop got down somehow by six. The dinner did not last long, for the
family were away, and afterwards we adjourned to the study, and Parson Lot
rose to his best. He stood before the fire, while the Bishop and I took the
two fireside arm chairs, and poured himself out, on subject after subject,
sometimes when much moved taking a tramp up and down the room, a long
clay pipe in his right hand (at which he gave an occasional suck; it was
generally out, but he scarcely noticed it), and his left hand passed behind
his back, clasping the right elbow. It was a favourite attitude with him,
when he was at ease with his company.

We were both bent on drawing him out; and the first topic, I think, raised
by the Bishop was, Fronde's history, then recently published. He took up
the cudgels for Henry VIII., whom we accused of arbitrariness. Henry was
not arbitrary; arbitrary men are the most obstinate of men? Why? Because
they are weak. The strongest men are always ready to hear reason and change
their opinions, because the strong man knows that if he loses an opinion
to-day he can get just as good a one to-morrow in its place. But the weak
man holds on to his opinion, because he can't get another, and he knows it.

Soon afterwards he got upon trout fishing, which was a strong bond of union
between him and me, and discoursed on the proper methods of fishing chalk
streams. "Your flies can't be too big, but they must be on small gut, not
on base viol fiddle strings, like those you brought down to Farnham last
year. I tell you gut is the thing that does it. Trout know that flies don't
go about with a ring and a hand pole through their noses, like so many
prize bulls of Lord Ducie's."

Then he got on the possible effect of association on the future of England,
and from that to the first International Exhibition, and the building which
was going up in Hyde Park.

"I mean to run a muck soon," he said, "against all this talk about genius
and high art, and the rest of it. It will be the ruin of us, as it has been
of Germany. They have been for fifty years finding out, and showing people
how to do everything in heaven and earth, and have done nothing. They are
dead even yet, and will be till they get out of the high art fit. We were
dead, and the French were dead till their revolution; but that brought us
to life. Why didn't the Germans come to life too? Because they set to work
with their arts, sciences, and how to do this, that, and the other thing,
and doing nothing. Goethe was, in great part, the ruin of Germany. He was
like a great fog coming down on the German people, and wrapping them up."

Then he, in his turn, drew the Bishop about Borneo, and its people, and
fauna and flora; and we got some delightful stories of apes, and converts,
and honey bears, Kingsley showing himself, by his questions, as familiar
with the Bornean plants and birds, as though he had lived there. Later on
we got him on his own works, and he told us how he wrote. "I can't think,
even on scientific subjects, except in the dramatic form. It is what Tom
said to Harry, and what Harry answered him. I never put pen to paper till I
have two or three pages in my head, and see them as if they were printed.
Then I write them off, and take a turn in the garden, and so on again." We
wandered back to fishing, and I challenged his keenness for making a bag.
"Ah!" he said, "that's all owing to my blessed habit of intensity, which
has been my greatest help in life. I go at what I am about as if there were
nothing else in the world for the time being. That's the secret of all
hard-working men; but most of them can't carry it into their amusements.
Luckily for me I can stop from all work, at short notice, and turn head
over heels in the sight of all creation, and say, I won't be good or bad,
or wise, or anything, till two o'clock to-morrow."

At last the Bishop would go, so we groped our way with him into the King's
Road, and left him in charge of a link-boy. When we got back, I said
something laughingly about his gift of talk, which had struck me more that
evening than ever before.

"Yes," he said, "I have it all in me. I could be as great a talker as any
man in England, but for my stammering. I know it well; but it's a blessed
thing for me. You must know, by this time, that I'm a very shy man, and
shyness and vanity always go together. And so I think of what every fool
will say of me, and can't help it. When a man's first thought is not
whether a thing is right or wrong, but what will Lady A., or Mr. B. say
about it, depend upon it he wants a thorn in the flesh, like my stammer.
When I am speaking for God, in the pulpit, or praying by bedsides, I never
stammer. My stammer is a blessed thing for me. It keeps me from talking in
company, and from going out as much as I should do but for it."

It was two o'clock before we thought of moving, and then, the fog being as
bad as ever, he insisted on making me up a bed on the floor. While we were
engaged in this process, he confided to me that he had heard of a doctor
who was very successful in curing stammering, and was going to try him. I
laughed, and reminded him of his thorn in the flesh, to which he replied,
with a quaint twinkle of his eye, "Well, that's true enough. But a man has
no right to be a nuisance, if he can help it, and no more right to go about
amongst his fellows stammering, than he has to go about stinking."

At this time he was already at work on another novel; and, in answer to a
remonstrance from a friend, who was anxious that he should keep ail his
strength for social reform, writes--

1851.--"I know that He has made me a parish priest, and that that is the
duty which lies nearest me, and that I may seem to be leaving my calling
in novel writing. But has He not taught me all these very things _by my_
parish priest life? Did He, too, let me become a strong, daring, sporting,
wild man of the woods for nothing? Surely the education He has given me so
different from that which authors generally receive, points out to me a
peculiar calling to preach on these points from my own experience, as it
did to good old Isaac Walton, as it has done in our own day to that truly
noble man, Captain Marryat. Therefore I must believe, '_si tu sequi la tua,
stella_,' with Dante, that He who ordained my star will not lead me _into_
temptation, but _through_ it, as Maurice says. Without Him all places and
methods of life are equally dangerous--with Him, all equally safe. Pray for
me, for in myself I am weaker of purpose than a lost grey hound, lazier
than a dog in rainy weather."

While the co-operative movement was spreading in all directions, the same
impulse was working amongst the trades unions, and the engineers had set
the example of uniting all their branches into one society. In this winter
they believed themselves strong enough to try conclusions with their
employers. The great lock-out in January, 1852, was the consequence. The
engineers had appealed to the Council of Promoters to help them in putting
their case--which had been much misrepresented--fairly before the public,
and Kingsley had been consulted as the person best able to do it. He had
declined to interfere, and wrote me the following letter to explain his
views. It will show how far he was an encourager of violent measures or
views:--

"EVERSLEY, _January 28, 1852_.

"You may have been surprised at my having taken no part in this Amalgamated
Iron Trades' matter. And I think that I am bound to say why I have not, and
how far I wish my friends to interfere in it.

"I do think that we, the Council of Promoters, shall not be wise in
interfering between masters and men; because--1. I question whether the
points at issue between them can be fairly understood by any persons not
conversant with the practical details of the trade...

"2. Nor do I think they have put their case as well as they might. For
instance, if it be true that they themselves have invented many, or most,
of the improvements in their tools and machinery, they have an argument in
favour of keeping out unskilled labourers, which is unanswerable, and yet,
that they have never used--viz.: 'Your masters make hundreds and thousands
by these improvements, while we have no remuneration for this inventive
talent of ours, but rather lose by it, because it makes the introduction
of unskilled labour more easy. Therefore, the only way in which we can get
anything like a payment for this inventive faculty of which we make you a
present over and above our skilled labour, for which you bargained, is to
demand that we, who invent the machines, if we cannot have a share in the
profits of them, shall at least have the exclusive privilege of using them,
instead of their being, as now, turned against us.' That, I think, is a
fair argument; but I have seen nothing of it from any speaker or writer.

"3. I think whatever battle is fought, must be fought by the men
themselves. The present dodge of the Manchester school is to cry out
against us, as Greg did. 'These Christian Socialists are a set of mediaeval
parsons, who want to hinder the independence and self-help of the men, and
bring them back to absolute feudal maxims; and then, with the most absurd
inconsistency, when we get up a corporation workshop, to let the men work
on the very independence and self-help of which they talk so fine, they
turn round and raise just the opposite yell, and cry, The men can't be
independent of capitalists; these associations will fail _because_ the men
are helping themselves'--showing that what they mean is, that the men shall
be independent of every one but themselves--independent of legislators,
parsons, advisers, gentlemen, noblemen, and every one that tries to help
them by moral agents; but the slaves of the capitalists, bound to them by
a servitude increasing instead of lightening with their numbers. Now, the
only way in which we can clear the cause of this calumny is to let the men
fight their own battle; to prevent any one saying, 'These men are the tools
of dreamers and fanatics,' which would be just as ruinously blackening to
them in the public eyes, as it would be to let the cry get abroad, 'This is
a Socialist movement, destructive of rights of property, communism, Louis
Blanc and the devil, &c.' You know the infernal stuff which the devil gets
up on such occasions--having no scruples about calling himself hard names,
when it suits his purpose, to blind and frighten respectable old women.

"Moreover, these men are not poor distressed needlewomen or slop-workers.
They are the most intelligent and best educated workmen, receiving incomes
often higher than a gentleman's son whose education has cost L1000, and if
they can't fight their own battles, no men in England can, and the people
are not ripe for association, and we must hark back into the competitive
rot heap again. All, then, that we can do is, to give advice when asked--to
see that they have, as far as we can get at them, a clear stage and no
favour, but not by public, but by private influence.

"But we can help them in another way, by showing them the way to associate.
That is quite a distinct question from their quarrel with their masters,
and we shall be very foolish if we give the press a handle for mixing up
the two. We have a right to say to masters, men, and public, 'We know and
care nothing about the iron strike. Here are a body of men coming to us,
wishing to be shown how to do that which is a right thing for them to
do--well or ill off, strike or no strike, namely, associate; and we will
help and teach them to do _that_ to the very utmost of our power.'

"The Iron Workers' co-operative shops will be watched with lynx eyes,
calumniated shamelessly. Our business will be to tell the truth about them,
and fight manfully with our pens for them. But we shall never be able to
get the ears of the respectabilities and the capitalists, if we appear at
this stage of the business. What we must say is, 'If you are needy and
enslaved, we will fight for you from pity, whether you be associated or
competitive. But you are neither needy, nor, unless you choose, enslaved;
and therefore we will only fight for you in proportion as you become
associates. Do that, and see if we can't stand hard knocks for your
sake.'--Yours ever affectionate, C. KINGSLEY."

In the summer of 1852 (mainly by the continued exertions of the members of
the Council, who had supplied Mr. Slaney's committee with all his evidence,
and had worked hard in other ways for this object) a Bill for legalizing
Industrial Associations was about to be introduced into the House of
Commons. It was supposed at one time that it would be taken in hand by the
Government of Lord Derby, then lately come into office, and Kingsley had
been canvassing a number of persons to make sure of its passing. On hearing
that a Cabinet Minister would probably undertake it, he writes--

"Let him be assured that he will by such a move do more to carry out true
Conservatism, and to reconcile the workmen with the real aristocracy, than
any politician for the last twenty years has done. The truth is, we are in
a critical situation here in England. Not in one of danger--which is the
vulgar material notion of a crisis, but at the crucial point, the point of
departure of principles and parties which will hereafter become great and
powerful. Old Whiggery is dead, old true blue Toryism of the Robert Inglis
school is dead too-and in my eyes a great loss. But as live dogs are better
than dead lions, let us see what the live dogs are.

"1.--The Peelites, who will ultimately, be sure, absorb into themselves all
the remains of Whiggery, and a very large proportion of the Conservative
party. In an effete unbelieving age, like this, the Sadducee and the
Herodian will be the most captivating philosopher. A scientific laziness,
lukewarmness, and compromise, is a cheery theory for the young men of
the day, and they will take to it _con amore_. I don't complain of Peel
himself. He was a great man, but his method of compromise, though useful
enough in particular cases when employed by a great man, becomes a most
dastardly "_schema mundi_" when taken up by a school of little men.
Therefore the only help which we can hope for from the Peelites is that
they will serve as ballast and cooling pump to both parties, but their very
trimming and moderation make them fearfully likely to obtain power. It
depends on the wisdom of the present government, whether they do or not.

"2.--Next you have the Manchester school, from whom Heaven defend us; for
of all narrow, conceited, hypocritical, and anarchic and atheistic schemes
of the universe, the Cobden and Bright one is exactly the worst. I have no
language to express my contempt for it, and therefore I quote what Maurice
wrote me this morning. 'If the Ministry would have thrown Protection to
the dogs (as I trust they have, in spite of the base attempts of the Corn
Law Leaguers to goad them to committing themselves to it, and to hold them
up as the people's enemies), and thrown themselves into social measures,
who would not have clung to them, to avert that horrible catastrophe
of a Manchester ascendency, which I believe in my soul would be fatal
to intellect, morality, and freedom, and will be more likely to move a
rebellion among the working men than any Tory rule which can be conceived.'

"Of course it would. To pretend to be the workmen's friends, by keeping
down the price of bread, when all they want thereby is to keep down wages,
and increase profits, and in the meantime to widen the gulf between the
working man and all that is time-honoured, refined, and chivalrous in
English society, that they may make the men their divided slaves, that
is-perhaps half unconsciously, for there are excellent men amongst
them--the game of the Manchester School."

"I have never swerved from my one idea of the last seven years, that the
real battle of the time is, if England is to be saved from anarchy and
unbelief, and utter exhaustion caused by the competitive enslavement of
the masses, not Radical or Whig against Peelite or Tory--let the dead bury
their dead-but the Church, the gentlemen, and the workman, against the
shop-keepers and the Manchester School. The battle could not have been
fought forty years ago, because, on one side, the Church was an idle
phantasm, the gentleman too ignorant, the workman too merely animal; while,
on the other, the Manchester cotton-spinners were all Tories, and the
shopkeepers were a distinct class interest from theirs. But now these
two latter have united, and the sublime incarnation of shop-keeping and
labour-buying in the cheapest market shines forth in the person of Moses &
Son, and both cotton-spinners and shop-keepers say 'This is the man!'" and
join in one common press to defend his system. Be it so: now we know our
true enemies, and soon the working-men will know them also. But if the
present Ministry will not see the possibility of a coalition between them,
and the workmen, I see no alternative but just what we have been straining
every nerve to keep off--a competitive United States, a democracy before
which the work of ages will go down in a few years. A true democracy, such
as you and I should wish to see, is impossible without a Church and a
Queen, and, as I believe, without a gentry. On the conduct of statesmen it
will depend whether we are gradually and harmoniously to develop England
on her ancient foundations, or whether we are to have fresh paralytic
governments succeeding each other in doing nothing, while the workmen and
the Manchester School fight out the real questions of the day in ignorance
and fury, till the '_culbute generale_' comes, and gentlemen of ancient
family, like your humble servant, betake themselves to Canada, to escape,
not the Amalgamated Engineers, but their 'masters,' and the slop-working
savages whom their masters' system has created, and will by that time have
multiplied tenfold.

"I have got a Thames boat on the lake at Bramshill, and am enjoying
vigorous sculls. My answer to 'Fraser' is just coming out; spread it where
you can."

In the next year or two the first excitement about the co-operative
movement cooled down. Parson Lot's pen was less needed, and he turned to
other work in his own name. Of the richness and variety of that work this
is not the place to speak, but it all bore on the great social problems
which had occupied him in the earlier years. The Crimean war weighed on
him like a nightmare, and modified some of his political opinions. On the
resignation of Lord Aberdeen's Government on the motion for inquiry into
the conduct of the war, he writes, February 5, 1855, "It is a very bad job,
and a very bad time, be sure, and with a laughing House of Commons we shall
go to Gehenna, even if we are not there already--But one comfort is, that
even Gehenna can burn nothing but the chaff and carcases, so we shall be
none the poorer in reality. So as the frost has broken gloriously, I wish
you would get me a couple of dozen of good flies, viz., cock a bondhues,
red palmers with plenty of gold twist; winged duns, with bodies of hare's
ear and yellow mohair mixed well; hackle duns with grey bodies, and a wee
silver, these last tied as palmers, and the silver ribbed all the way down.
If you could send them in a week I shall be very glad, as fishing begins
early."

In the midst of the war he was present one day at a council meeting, after
which the manager of one of the associations referring to threatened bread
riots at Manchester, asked Kingsley's opinion as to what should be done.
"There never were but two ways," he said, "since the beginning of the world
of dealing with a corn famine. One is to let the merchants buy it up and
hold it as long as they can, as we do. And this answers the purpose best in
the long run, for they will be selling corn six months hence when we shall
want it more than we do now, and makes us provident against our wills.
The other is Joseph's plan." Here the manager broke in, "Why didn't our
Government step in then, and buy largely, and store in public granaries?"
"Yes," said Kingsley, "and why ain't you and I flying about with wings and
dewdrops hanging to our tails. Joseph's plan won't do for us. What minister
would we trust with money enough to buy corn for the people, or power to
buy where he chose." And he went on to give his questioner a lecture in
political economy, which the most orthodox opponent of the popular notions
about Socialism would have applauded to the echo.

By the end of the year he had nearly finished "Westward Ho!"--the most
popular of his novels, which the war had literally wrung out of him. He
writes--

? "_December 18, 1855_.

"I am getting more of a Government man every day. I don't see how they
could have done better in any matter, because I don't see but that _I_
should have done a thousand times worse in their place, and that is the
only fair standard.

"As for a ballad--oh! my dear lad, there is no use fiddling while Rome is
burning. I have nothing to sing about those glorious fellows, except 'God
save the Queen and them.' I tell you the whole thing stuns me, so I cannot
sit down to make fiddle rhyme with diddle about it--or blundered with
hundred like Alfred Tennyson. He is no Tyrtaeus, though he has a glimpse of
what Tyrtaeus ought to be. But I have not even that; and am going rabbit
shooting to-morrow instead. But every man has his calling, and my novel
is mine, because I am fit for nothing better. The book" ('Westward Ho!')
"will be out the middle or end of January, if the printers choose. It is
a sanguinary book, but perhaps containing doctrine profitable for these
times. My only pain is that I have been forced to sketch poor Paddy as a
very worthless fellow then, while just now he is turning out a hero. I have
made the deliberate _amende honorable_ in a note."

Then, referring to some criticism of mine on 'Westward Ho!'--"I suppose you
are right as to Amyas and his mother; I will see to it. You are probably
right too about John Hawkins. The letter in Purchas is to me unknown,
but your conception agrees with a picture my father says he has seen of
Captain John (he thinks at Lord Anglesey's, at Beaudesert) as a prim, hard,
terrier-faced, little fellow, with a sharp chin, and a dogged Puritan eye.
So perhaps I am wrong: but I don't think _that_ very important, for there
must have been sea-dogs of my stamp in plenty too." Then, referring to the
Crimean war--"I don't say that the two cases are parallel. I don't ask
England to hate Russia as she was bound to hate Spain, as God's enemy; but
I do think that a little Tudor pluck and Tudor democracy (paradoxical as
the word may seem, and inconsistently as it was carried out then) is just
what we want now."

"Tummas! Have you read the story of Abou Zennab, his horse, in Stanley's
'Sinai,' p. 67? What a myth! What a poem old Wordsworth would have writ
thereon! If I didn't cry like a babby over it. What a brick of a horse he
must have been, and what a brick of an old head-splitter Abou Zennab must
have been, to have his commandments keeped unto this day concerning of his
horse; and no one to know who he was, nor when, nor how, nor nothing. I
wonder if anybody'll keep _our_ commandments after we be gone, much less
say, 'Eat, eat, O horse of Abou Kingsley!'"

By this time the success of "Westward Ho!" and "Hypatia" had placed him in
the first rank of English writers. His fame as an author, and his character
as a man, had gained him a position which might well have turned any man's
head. There were those amongst his intimate friends who feared that it
might be so with him, and who were faithful enough to tell him so. And I
cannot conclude this sketch better than by giving his answer to that one
of them with whom he had been most closely associated in the time when, as
Parson Lot, every man's hand had been against him--

"MY DEAR LUDLOW,

"And for this fame, &c.,

"I know a little of her worth.

"And I will tell you what I know,

"That, in the first place, she is a fact, and as such, it is not wise to
ignore her, but at least to walk once round her, and see her back as well
as her front.

"The case to me seems to be this. A man feels in himself the love of
praise. Every man does who is not a brute. It is a universal human faculty;
Carlyle nicknames it the sixth sense. Who made it? God or the devil? Is
it flesh or spirit? a difficult question; because tamed animals grow to
possess it in a high degree; and our metaphysician does not yet allow
them spirit. But, whichever it be, it cannot be for bad: only bad when
misdirected, and not controlled by reason, the faculty which judges between
good and evil. Else why has God put His love of praise into the heart of
every child which is born into the world, and entwined it into the holiest
filial and family affections, as the earliest mainspring of good actions?
Has God appointed that every child shall be fed first with a necessary
lie, and afterwards come to the knowledge of your supposed truth, that the
praise of God alone is to be sought? Or are we to believe that the child is
intended to be taught as delicately and gradually as possible the painful
fact, that the praise of all men is not equally worth having, and to use
his critical faculty to discern the praise of good men from the praise
of bad, to seek the former and despise the latter? I should say that the
last was the more reasonable. And this I will say, that if you bring up
any child to care nothing for the praise of its parents, its elders, its
pastors, and masters, you may make a fanatic of it, or a shameless cynic:
but you will neither make it a man, an Englishman, or a Christian.

"But 'our Lord's words stand, about not seeking the honour which comes from
men, but the honour which comes from God only!' True, they do stand, and
our Lord's fact stands also, the fact that He has created every child to
be educated by an honour which comes from his parents and elders. Both are
true. Here, as in most spiritual things, you have an antinomia, an apparent
contradiction, which nothing but the Gospel solves. And it does solve it;
and your one-sided view of the text resolves itself into just the same
fallacy as the old ascetic one. 'We must love God alone, therefore we must
love no created thing.' To which St. John answers pertinently 'He who
loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath
not seen?' If you love your brethren, you love Christ in them. If you love
their praise, you love the praise of Christ in them. For consider this,
you cannot deny that, if one loves any person, one desires that person's
esteem. But we are bound to love all men, and that is our highest state.
Therefore, in our highest state, we shall desire all men's esteem.
Paradoxical, but true. If we believe in Christmas-day; if we believe in
Whitsunday, we shall believe that Christ is in all men, that God's spirit
is abroad in the earth, and therefore the dispraise, misunderstanding, and
calumny of men will be exquisitely painful to us, and ought to be so; and,
on the other hand, the esteem of men, and renown among men for doing good
deeds will be inexpressibly precious to us. They will be signs and warrants
to us that God is pleased with us, that we are sharing in that 'honour and
glory' which Paul promises again and again, with no such scruples as yours,
to those who lead heroic lives. We shall not neglect the voice of God
within us; but we shall remember that there is also a voice of God without
us, which we must listen to; and that in a Christian land, _vox populi_,
patiently and discriminately listened to, is sure to be found not far off
from the _vox Dei_.

"Now, let me seriously urge this last fact on you. Of course, in listening
to the voice of the man outside there is a danger, as there is in the use
of any faculty. You may employ it, according to Divine reason and grace,
for ennobling and righteous purposes; or you may degrade it to carnal and
selfish ones; so you may degrade the love of praise into vanity, into
longing for the honour which comes from men, by pandering to their passions
and opinions, by using your powers as they would too often like to use
theirs, for mere self-aggrandisement, by saying in your heart--_quam
pulchrum digito monstrari el diceri hic est_. That is the man who wrote the
fine poem, who painted the fine picture, and so forth, till, by giving way
to this, a man may give way to forms of vanity as base as the red Indian
who sticks a fox's tail on, and dances about boasting of his brute cunning.
I know all about that, as well as any poor son of Adam ever did. But I
know, too, that to desire the esteem of as many rational men as possible;
in a word, to desire an honourable, and true renown for having done good
in my generation, has nothing to do with that; and the more I fear and
struggle against the former, the more I see the exceeding beauty and
divineness, and everlasting glory of the latter as an entrance into the
communion of saints.

"Of course, all this depends on whether we do believe that Christ is in
every man, and that God's spirit is abroad in the earth. Of course, again,
it will be very difficult to know who speaks by God's spirit, and who
sees by Christ's light in him; but surely the wiser, the humbler path, is
to give men credit for as much wisdom and rightness as possible, and to
believe that when one is found fault with, one is probably in the wrong.
For myself, on Looking back, I see clearly with shame and sorrow, that the
obloquy which I have brought often on myself and on the good cause, has
been almost all of it my own fault--that I have given the devil and bad
men a handle, not by caring what people would say, but by _not caring_--by
fancying that I was a very grand fellow, who was going to speak what I knew
to be true, in spite of all fools (and really did and do intend so to do),
while all the while I was deceiving myself, and unaware of a canker at
the heart the very opposite to the one against which you warn me. I mean
the proud, self-willed, self-conceited spirit which made no allowance for
other men's weakness or ignorance; nor again, for their superior experience
and wisdom on points which I had never considered--which took a pride in
shocking and startling, and defying, and hitting as hard as I could, and
fancied, blasphemously, as I think, that the word of God had come to me
only, and went out from me only. God forgive me for these sins, as well
as for my sins in the opposite direction; but for these sins especially,
because I see them to be darker and more dangerous than the others.

"For there has been gradually revealed to me (what my many readings in the
lives of fanatics and ascetics ought to have taught me long before), that
there is a terrible gulf ahead of that not caring what men say. Of course
it is a feeling on which the spirit must fall back in hours of need, and
cry, 'Thou, God, knowest mine integrity. I have believed, and therefore I
will speak; thou art true, though all men be liars!' But I am convinced
that that is a frame in which no man can live, or is meant to live;
that it is only to be resorted to in fear and trembling, after deepest
self-examination, and self-purification, and earnest prayer. For otherwise,
Ludlow, a man gets to forget that voice of God without him, in his
determination to listen to nothing but the voice of God within him, and so
he falls into two dangers. He forgets that there is a voice of God without
him. He loses trust in, and charity to, and reverence for his fellow-men;
he learns to despise, deny, and quench the Spirit, and to despise
prophesyings, and so becomes gradually cynical, sectarian, fanatical.

"And then comes a second and worse danger. Crushed into self, and his own
conscience and _schema mundi_, he loses the opportunity of correcting his
impression of the voice of God within, by the testimony of the voice of God
without; and so he begins to mistake more and more the voice of that very
flesh of his, which he fancies he has conquered, for the voice of God,
and to become, without knowing it, an autotheist. And out of that springs
eclecticism, absence of tenderness _for_ men, for want of sympathy _with_
men; as he makes his own conscience his standard for God, so he makes his
own character the standard for men; and so he becomes narrow, hard, and
if he be a man of strong will and feelings, often very inhuman and cruel.
This is the history of thousands-of Jeromes, Lauds, Puritans who scourged
Quakers, Quakers who cursed Puritans; nonjurors, who though they would die
rather than offend their own conscience in owning William, would plot with
James to murder William, or to devastate England with Irish Rapparees and
Auvergne dragoons. This, in fact, is the spiritual diagnosis of those many
pious persecutors, who though neither hypocrites or blackguards themselves,
have used both as instruments of their fanaticism.

"Against this I have to guard myself, you little know how much, and to
guard my children still more, brought up, as they will be, under a father,
who, deeply discontented with the present generation, cannot but express
that discontent at times. To make my children '_banausoi_,' insolent and
scoffing radicals, believing in nobody and nothing but themselves, would be
perfectly easy in me if I were to make the watchword of my house, 'Never
mind what people say.' On the contrary, I shall teach them that there are
plenty of good people in the world; that public opinion has pretty surely
an undercurrent of the water of life, below all its froth and garbage;
and that in a Christian country like this, where, with all faults, a man
(sooner or later) has fair play and a fair hearing, the esteem of good men,
and the blessings of the poor, will be a pretty sure sign that they have
the blessing of God also; and I shall tell them, when they grow older, that
ere they feel called on to become martyrs, in defending the light within
them against all the world, they must first have taken care most patiently,
and with all self-distrust and humility, to make full use of the light
which is around them, and has been here for ages before them, and would be
here still, though they had never been born or thought of. The antinomy
between this and their own conscience may be painful enough to them some
day. To what thinking man is it not a life-long battle? but I shall not
dream that by denying one pole of the antinomy I can solve it, or do
anything but make them, by cynicism or fanaticism, bury their talent in the
earth, and _not_ do the work which God has given them to do, because they
will act like a parson who, before beginning his sermon, should first kick
his congregation out of doors, and turn the key; and not like St. Paul, who
became all things to all men, if by any means he might save some.

"Yours ever affectionately, with all Christmas blessings,

"C. KINGSLEY.

"FARLY COURT, _December 26, 1855_.

"I should be very much obliged to you to show this letter to Maurice."

One more letter only I will add, dated about the end of the "Parson Lot"
period. He had written to inform me that one of the old Chartist leaders,
a very worthy fellow, was in great distress, and to ask me to do what I
could for him. In my reply I had alluded somewhat bitterly to the apparent
failure of the Association movement in London, and to some of our blunders,
acknowledging how he had often seen the weak places, and warned us against
them. His answer came by return of post:--

"EVERSLEY, _May, 1856_.

"DEAR TOM,--It's an ill bird that fouls its own nest; and don't cry
stinking fish, neither don't hollow till you're out of the wood--which you
oughtn't to have called yourself Tom fool, and blasphemed the holy name
thereby, till you knowed you was sich, which you wasn't, as appears by
particulars. And I have heard from T---- twice to-day, and he is agreeable,
which, if he wasn't, he is an ass, and don't know half a loaf is better
than no bread, and you musn't look a gift horse in the mouth, but all is as
right as a dog-fox down wind and vi. _millia passuum_, to the next gorse.
But this L25 of his is a grueller, and I learnt with interest that you are
inclined to get the fishes nose out of the weed. I have offered to lend him
L10--hopes it may be lending--and have written a desperate begging letter
to R. Monckton Milnes, Esq., which 'evins prosper. Poor T---- says to-night
that he has written to Forster about it--which he must have the small of
his back very hard against the ropes so to do, so the sooner we get the
ginger-beer bottle out the longer he'll fight, or else he'll throw up the
sponge at once; for I know his pride. I think we can raise it somehow. I
have a last card in old ----, the judge who tried and condemned him, and is
the dearest old soul alive, only he will have it T---- showed dunghill, and
don't carry a real game nackle. If I am to tackle he you must send me back
those letters to appeal to his piety and 'joys as does abound,' as your
incomparable father remarks. When _will_ you give me that canticle? He
says Tom Taylor (I believe all the world is called Thomas) has behaved to
him like a brother, which, indeed, was to be expexed, and has promised
him copying at a shilling an hour, and _will_ give him a chop daily free
gracious; but the landlord won't wait, which we musn't neither.

"Now, business afore pleasure. You are an old darling, and who says no,
I'd kick him, if it warn't for my cloth; but you are green in cottoning to
me about our '48 mess. Because why? I lost nothing--I risked nothing. You
fellows worked like bricks, spent money, and got midshipman's half-pay
(nothing a-day and find yourself), and monkey's allowance (more kicks than
halfpence). I risked no money; 'cause why, I had none; but _made_ money out
of the movement, and fame too. I've often thought what a dirty beast I was.
I made L150 by Alton Locke, and never lost a farthing; and I got, not in
spite of, but by the rows, a name and a standing with many a one who would
never have heard of me otherwise, and I should have been a stercoraceous
mendicant if I had hollowed when I got a facer, while I was winning by the
cross, though I didn't mean to fight one. No. And if I'd had L100,000, I'd
have, and should have, staked and lost it all in 1848-50. I should, Tom,
for my heart was and is in it, and you'll see it will beat yet; but we
ain't the boys. We don't see but half the bull's eye yet, and don't see
_at all_ the policeman which is a going on his beat behind the bull's eye,
and no thanks to us. Still, _some_ somedever, it's in the fates, that
Association is the pure caseine, and must be eaten by the human race if it
would save its soul alive, which, indeed, it will; only don't you think me
a good fellow for not crying out, when I never had more to do than scratch
myself and away went the fleas. But you all were real bricks; and if you
were riled, why let him that is without sin cast the first stone, or let me
cast it for him, and see if I don't hit him in the eye.

"Now to business; I have had a sorter kinder sample day. Up at 5, to see a
dying man; ought to have been up at 2, but Ben King the rat-catcher, who
came to call me, was taken nervous!!! and didn't make row enough; was from
5.30 to 6.30 with the most dreadful case of agony--insensible to me, but
not to his pain. Came home, got a wash and a pipe, and again to him at
8. Found him insensible to his own pain, with dilated pupils, dying of
pressure of the brain--going any moment. Prayed the commendatory prayers
over him, and started for the river with West. Fished all the morning
in a roaring N.E. gale, with the dreadful agonized face between me and
the river, pondering on THE mystery. Killed eight on 'March brown' and
'governor,' by drowning the flies, and taking _'em out gently to see_ if
ought was there--which is the only dodge in a north-easter. 'Cause why? The
water is warmer than the air--_ergo_, fishes don't like to put their noses
out o' doors, and feeds at home down stairs. It is the only wrinkle, Tom.
The captain fished a-top, and caught but three all day. They weren't going
to catch a cold in their heads to please him or any man. Clouds burn up at
1 P.M. I put on a minnow, and kill three more; I should have had lots, but
for the image of the dirty hickory stick, which would 'walk the waters like
a thing of life,' just ahead of my minnow. Mem.--Never fish with the sun in
your back; it's bad enough with a fly, but with a minnow it's strichnine
and prussic acid. My eleven weighed together four and a-half pounds--three
to the pound; not good, considering I had spased many a two-pound fish, I
_know_.

"Corollary.--Brass minnow don't suit the water. Where is your wonderful
minnow? Send him me down, or else a _horn_ one, which I believes in
desperate; but send me something before Tuesday, and I will send you P.O.O.
Horn minnow looks like a gudgeon, which is the pure caseine. One pounder I
caught to-day on the 'March brown' womited his wittles, which was rude, but
instructive; and among worms was a gudgeon three inches long and more. Blow
minnows--gudgeon is the thing.

"Came off the water at 3. Found my man alive, and, thank God, quiet. Sat
with him, and thought him going once or twice. What a mystery that long,
insensible death-struggle is! Why should they be so long about it? Then had
to go Hartley Row for an Archdeacon's Sunday-school meeting--three hours
useless (I fear) speechifying and 'shop'; but the Archdeacon is a good
man, and works like a brick beyond his office. Got back at 10:30, and sit
writing to you. So goes one's day. All manner of incongruous things to
do--and the very incongruity keeps one beany and jolly. Your letter was
delightful. I read part of it to West, who says, you are the best fellow on
earth, to which I agree.

"So no more from your sleepy and tired--C. KINGSLEY."

This was almost the last letter I ever received from him in the Parson Lot
period of his life, with which alone this notice has to do. It shows, I
think, very clearly that it was not that he had deserted his flag (as has
been said) or changed his mind about the cause for which he had fought so
hard and so well. His heart was in it still as warmly as ever, as he says
himself. But the battle had rolled away to another part of the field.
Almost all that Parson Lot had ever striven for was already gained. The
working-classes had already got statutory protection for their trade
associations, and their unions, though still outside the law, had become
strong enough to fight their own battles. And so he laid aside his fighting
name and his fighting pen, and had leisure to look calmly on the great
struggle more as a spectator than an actor.

A few months later, in the summer of 1856, when he and I were talking
over and preparing for a week's fishing in the streams and lakes of his
favourite Snowdonia, he spoke long and earnestly in the same key. I well
remember how he wound it all up with, "the long and short of it is, I am
becoming an optimist. All men, worth anything, old men especially, have
strong fits of optimism--even Carlyle has--because they can't help hoping,
and sometimes feeling, that the world is going right, and will go right,
not your way, or my way, but its own way. Yes; we've all tried our
Holloway's Pills, Tom, to cure all the ills of all the world--and we've
all found out I hope by this time that the tough old world has more in
its inside than any Holloway's Pills will clear out." A few weeks later I
received the following invitation to Snowdon, and to Snowdon we went in the
autumn of 1856.

THE INVITATION.

  Come away with me, Tom,
  Term and talk is done;
  My poor lads are reaping,
  Busy every one.
  Curates mind the parish,
  Sweepers mind the Court,
  We'll away to Snowdon
  For our ten days' sport,
  Fish the August evening
  Till the eve is past,
  Whoop like boys at pounders
  Fairly played and grassed.
  When they cease to dimple,
  Lunge, and swerve, and leap,
  Then up over Siabod
  Choose our nest, and sleep.
  Up a thousand feet, Tom,
  Round the lion's head,
  Find soft stones to leeward
  And make up our bed.
  Bat our bread and bacon,
  Smoke the pipe of peace,
  And, ere we be drowsy,
  Give our boots a grease.
  Homer's heroes did so,
  Why not such as we?
  What are sheets and servants?
  Superfluity.
  Pray for wives and children
  Safe in slumber curled,
  Then to chat till midnight
  O'er this babbling world.
  Of the workmen's college,
  Of the price of grain,
  Of the tree of knowledge,
  Of the chance of rain;
  If Sir A. goes Romeward,
  If Miss B. sings true,
  If the fleet comes homeward,
  If the mare will do,--
  Anything and everything--
  Up there in the sky
  Angels understand us,
  And no "_saints_" are by.
  Down, and bathe at day-dawn,
  Tramp from lake to lake,
  Washing brain and heart clean
  Every step we take.
  Leave to Robert Browning
  Beggars, fleas, and vines;
  Leave to mournful Ruskin
  Popish Apennines,
  Dirty Stones of Venice
  And his Gas-lamps Seven;
  We've the stones of Snowdon
  And the lamps of heaven.
  Where's the mighty credit
  In admiring Alps?
  Any goose sees "glory"
  In their "snowy scalps."
  Leave such signs and wonders
  For the dullard brain,
  As aesthetic brandy,
  Opium, and cayenne;
  Give me Bramshill common
  (St. John's harriers by),
  Or the vale of Windsor,
  England's golden eye.
  Show me life and progress,
  Beauty, health, and man;
  Houses fair, trim gardens,
  Turn where'er I can.
  Or, if bored with "High Art,"
  And such popish stuff,
  One's poor ears need airing,
  Snowdon's high enough.
  While we find God's signet
  Fresh on English ground,
  Why go gallivanting
  With the nations round?
  Though we try no ventures
  Desperate or strange;
  Feed on common-places
  In a narrow range;
  Never sought for Franklin
  Round the frozen Capes;
  Even, with Macdougall,
  Bagged our brace of apes;
  Never had our chance, Tom,
  In that black Redan;
  Can't avenge poor Brereton
  Out in Sakarran;
  Tho' we earn our bread, Tom,
  By the dirty pen,
  What we can we will be,
  Honest Englishmen.
  Do the work that's nearest,
  Though it's dull at whiles;
  Helping, when we meet them
  Lame dogs over stiles;
  See in every hedgerow
  Marks of angels' feet,
  Epics in each pebble
  Underneath our feet;
  Once a-year, like schoolboys,
  Robin-Hooding go.
  Leaving fops and fogies
  A thousand feet below.

T. H.




CHEAP CLOTHES AND NASTY.


King Ryence, says the legend of Prince Arthur, wore a paletot trimmed with
kings' beards. In the first French Revolution (so Carlyle assures us)
there were at Meudon tanneries of human skins. Mammon, at once tyrant and
revolutionary, follows both these noble examples--in a more respectable
way, doubtless, for Mammon hates cruelty; bodily pain is his devil--the
worst evil of which he, in his effeminacy, can conceive. So he shrieks
benevolently when a drunken soldier is flogged; but he trims his
paletots, and adorns his legs, with the flesh of men and the skins of
women, with degradation, pestilence, heathendom, and despair; and then
chuckles self-complacently over the smallness of his tailors' bills.
Hypocrite!--straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel! What is flogging,
or hanging, King Ryence's paletot, or the tanneries of Meudon, to the
slavery, starvation, waste of life, year-long imprisonment in dungeons
narrower and fouler than those of the Inquisition, which goes on among
thousands of free English clothes-makers at this day?

"The man is mad," says Mammon, smiling supercilious pity. Yes, Mammon; mad
as Paul before Festus; and for much the same reason, too. Much learning has
made us mad. From two articles in the "Morning Chronicle" of Friday, Dec.
14th, and Tuesday, Dec. 18th, on the Condition of the Working Tailors,
we learnt too much to leave us altogether masters of ourselves. But there
is method in our madness; we can give reasons for it--satisfactory to
ourselves, perhaps also to Him who made us, and you, and all tailors
likewise. Will you, freshly bedizened, you and your footmen, from
Nebuchadnezzar and Co.'s "Emporium of Fashion," hear a little about how
your finery is made? You are always calling out for facts, and have a firm
belief in salvation by statistics. Listen to a few.

The Metropolitan Commissioner of the "Morning Chronicle" called two
meetings of the Working Tailors, one in Shad well, and the other at the
Hanover Square Rooms, in order to ascertain their condition from their
own lips. Both meetings were crowded. At the Hanover Square Rooms there
were more than one thousand men; they were altogether unanimous in their
descriptions of the misery and slavery which they endured. It appears
that there are two distinct tailor trades--the "honourable" trade, now
almost confined to the West End, and rapidly dying out there, and the
"dishonourable" trade of the show-shops and slop-shops--the plate-glass
palaces, where gents--and, alas! those who would be indignant at that
name--buy their cheap-and-nasty clothes. The two names are the tailors'
own slang; slang is true and expressive enough, though, now and then. The
honourable shops in the West End number only sixty; the dishonourable, four
hundred and more; while at the East End the dishonourable trade has it all
its own way. The honourable part of the trade is declining at the rate of
one hundred and fifty journeymen per year; the dishonourable increasing at
such a rate that, in twenty years it will have absorbed the whole tailoring
trade, which employs upwards of twenty-one thousand journeymen. At the
honourable shops the work is done, as it was universally thirty years ago,
on the premises and at good wages. In the dishonourable trade, the work is
taken home by the men, to be done at the very lowest possible prices, which
decrease year by year, almost month by month. At the honourable shops, from
36s. to 24s. is paid for a piece of work for which the dishonourable shop
pays from 22s. to 9s. But not to the workmen; happy is he if he really
gets two-thirds, or half of that. For at the honourable shops, the master
deals directly with his workmen; while at the dishonourable ones, the
greater part of the work, if not the whole, is let out to contractors, or
middle-men--"_sweaters_," as their victims significantly call them--who, in
their turn, let it out again, sometimes to the workmen, sometimes to fresh
middlemen; so that out of the price paid for labour on each article, not
only the workmen, but the sweater, and perhaps the sweater's sweater, and a
third, and a fourth, and a fifth, have to draw their profit. And when the
labour price has been already beaten down to the lowest possible, how much
remains for the workmen after all these deductions, let the poor fellows
themselves say!

One working tailor (at the Hanover Square Rooms Meeting) "mentioned a
number of shops, both at the east and west ends, whose work was all
taken by sweaters; and several of these shops were under royal and noble
patronage. There was one notorious sweater who kept his carriage. He was a
Jew, and, of course, he gave a preference to his own sect. Thus, another
Jew received it from him second hand and at a lower rate; then it went to a
third-till it came to the unfortunate Christian at perhaps the eighth rate,
and he performed the work at barely living prices; this same Jew required a
deposit of 5_l_. in money before he would give out a single garment to be
made. He need not describe the misery which this system entailed upon the
workmen. It was well known, but it was almost impossible, except for those
who had been at the two, to form an idea of the difference between the
present meeting and one at the East-end, where all who attended worked for
slop-shops and sweaters. The present was a highly respectable assembly; the
other presented no other appearance but those of misery and degradation."

Another says--"We have all worked in the honourable trade, so we know the
regular prices from our own personal experience. Taking the bad work with
the good work we might earn 11s. a week upon an average. Sometimes we do
earn as much as 15s.; but, to do this, we are obliged to take part of our
work home to our wives and daughters. We are not always fully employed. We
are nearly half our time idle. Hence, our earnings are, upon an average
throughout the year, not more than 5s. 6d. a week." "Very often I have made
only 3s. 4d. in the week," said one. "That's common enough with us all, I
can assure you," said another. "Last week my wages was 7s. 6d.," declared
one. "I earned 6s. 4d.," exclaimed the second. "My wages came to 9s. 2d.
The week before I got 6s. 3d." "I made 7s. 9d.," and "I 7s. or 8s., I can't
exactly remember which." "This is what we term the best part of our winter
season. The reason why we are so long idle is because more hands than
are wanted are kept on the premises, so that in case of a press of work
coming in, our employers can have it done immediately. Under the day work
system no master tailor had more men on the premises than he could keep
continually going; but since the change to the piecework system, masters
made a practice of engaging double the quantity of hands that they
have any need for, so that an order may be executed 'at the shortest
possible notice,' if requisite. A man must not leave the premises when,
unemployed,--if he does, he loses his chance of work coming in. I have been
there four days together, and had not a stitch of work to do." "Yes; that
is common enough." "Ay, and then you're told, if you complain, you can go,
if you don't like it. I am sure twelve hands would do all they have done at
home, and yet they keep forty of us. It's generally remarked that, however
strong and healthy a man may be when he goes to work at that shop, in a
month's time he'll be a complete shadow, and have almost all his clothes in
pawn. By Sunday morning, he has no money at all left, and he has to subsist
till the following Saturday upon about a pint of weak tea, and four slices
of bread and butter per day!!!"

"Another of the reasons for the sweaters keeping more hands than they want
is, the men generally have their meals with them. The more men they have
with them the more breakfasts and teas they supply, and the more profit
they make. The men usually have to pay 4d., and very often, 5d. for their
breakfast, and the same for their tea. The tea or breakfast is mostly a
pint of tea or coffee, and three to four slices of bread and butter. _I
worked for one sweater who almost starved the men; the smallest eater there
would not have had enough if he had got three times as much. They had only
three thin slices of bread and butter, not sufficient for a child, and the
tea was both weak and bad. The whole meal could not have stood him in 2d.
a head, and what made it worse was, that the men who worked there couldn't
afford to have dinners, so that they were starved to the bone._ The
sweater's men generally lodge where they work. A sweater usually keeps
about six men. These occupy two small garrets; one room is called the
kitchen, and the other the workshop; and here the whole of the six men, and
the sweater, his wife, and family, live and sleep. One sweater _I worked
with had four children and six men, and they, together with his wife,
sister-in-law, and himself, all lived in two rooms, the largest of which
was about eight feet by ten. We worked in the smallest room and slept there
as well--all six of us. There were two turnup beds in it, and we slept
three in a bed. There was no chimney, and, indeed, no ventilation whatever.
I was near losing my life there--the foul air of so many people working
all day in the place, and sleeping there at night, was quite suffocating.
Almost all the men were consumptive, and I myself attended the dispensary
for disease of the lungs. The room in which we all slept was not more than
six feet square. We were all sick and weak, and both to work._ Each of the
six of us paid 2s. 6d. a week for our lodging, or 15s. altogether, and I
am sure such a room as we slept and worked in might be had for 1s. a week;
you can get a room with a fire-place for 1s. 6d. a week. The usual sum that
the men working for sweaters pay for their tea, breakfasts, and lodging
is 6s. 6d. to 7s. a week, and they seldom earn more money in the week.
Occasionally at the week's end they are in debt to the sweater. This is
seldom for more than 6d., for the sweater will not give them victuals if
he has no work for them to do. Many who live and work at the sweater's are
married men, and are obliged to keep their wives and children in lodgings
by themselves. Some send them to the workhouse, others to their friends
in the country. Besides the profit of the board and lodging, the sweater
takes 6d. out of the price paid for every garment under 10s.; some take
1s., and I do know of one who takes as much as 2s. This man works for a
large show-shop at the West End. The usual profit of the sweater, over and
above the board and lodging, is 2s. out of every pound. Those who work
for sweaters soon lose their clothes, and are unable to seek for other
work, because they have not a coat to their back to go and seek it in.
_Last week, I worked with another man at a coat for one of her Majesty's
ministers, and my partner never broke his fast while he was making his half
of it._ The minister dealt at a cheap West End show-shop. All the workman
had the whole day-and-a-half he was making the coat was a little tea. But
sweaters' work is not so bad as government work after all. At that, we
cannot make more than 4s. or 5s. a week altogether--that is, counting the
time we are running after it, of course. _Government contract work is the
worst of all, and the starved-out and sweated-out tailor's last resource._
But still, government does not do the regular trade so much harm as the
cheap show and slop shops. These houses have ruined thousands. They have
cut down the prices, so that men cannot live at the work; and the masters
who did and would pay better wages, are reducing the workmen's pay every
day. They say they must either compete with the large show shops or go into
the 'Gazette.'"

Sweet competition! Heavenly maid!--Now-a-days hymned alike by
penny-a-liners and philosophers as the ground of all society--the only
real preserver of the earth! Why not of Heaven, too? Perhaps there is
competition among the angels, and Gabriel and Raphael have won their rank
by doing the maximum of worship on the minimum of grace? We shall know some
day. In the meanwhile, "these are thy works, thou parent of all good!"
Man eating man, eaten by man, in every variety of degree and method! Why
does not some enthusiastic political economist write an epic on "The
Consecration of Cannibalism"?

But if any one finds it pleasant to his soul to believe the poor
journeymen's statements exaggerated, let him listen to one of the sweaters
themselves:--

"I wish," says he, "that others did for the men as decently as I do. I
know there are many who are living entirely upon them. Some employ as many
as fourteen men. I myself worked in the house of a man who did this. The
chief part of us lived, and worked, and slept together in two rooms, on the
second floor. They charged 2s. 6d. per head for the lodging alone. Twelve
of the workmen, I am sure, lodged in the house, and these paid altogether
30s. a week rent to the sweater. I should think the sweater paid 8s. a week
for the rooms--so that he gained at least 22s. clear out of the lodging
of these men, and stood at no rent himself. For the living of the men he
charged--5d. for breakfasts, and the same for teas, and 8d. for dinner--or
at the rate of 10s. 6d. each per head. Taking one with the other, and
considering the manner in which they lived, I am certain that the cost for
keeping each of them could not have been more than 5s. This would leave 5s.
6d. clear profit on the board of each of the twelve men, or, altogether,
L3, 6s. per week; and this, added to the L1, 2s. profit on the rent, would
give L4, 8s. for the sweater's gross profit on the board and lodging of
the workmen in his place. But, besides this, he got 1s. out of each coat
made on his premises, and there were twenty-one coats made there, upon an
average, every week; so that, altogether, the sweater's clear gains out of
the men were L5, 9s. every week. Each man made about a coat and a half in
the course of the seven days (_for they all worked on a Sunday--they were
generally told to 'borrow a day off the Lord_.') For this coat and a half
each hand got L1, 2s. 6d., and out of it he had to pay 13s. for board and
lodging; so that there was 9s. 6d. clear left. These are the profits of the
sweater, and the earnings of the men engaged under him, when working for
the first rate houses. But many of the cheap houses pay as low as 8s. for
the making of each dress and frock coat, and some of them as low as 6s.
Hence the earnings of the men at such work would be from 9s. to 12s. per
week, and the cost of their board and lodging without dinners, for these
they seldom have, would be from 7s. 6d. to 8s. per week. Indeed, the men
working under sweaters at such prices generally consider themselves well
off if they have a shilling or two in their pockets for Sunday. The profits
of the sweater, however, would be from L4 to L5 out of twelve men, working
on his premises. The usual number of men working under each sweater is
about six individuals; and the average rate of profit, about L2, 10s.,
without the sweater doing any work himself. It is very often the case that
a man working under a sweater is obliged to pawn his own coat to get any
pocket-money that he may require. Over and over again the sweater makes out
that he is in his debt from 1s. to 2s. at the end of the week, and when
the man's coat is in pledge, he is compelled to remain imprisoned in the
sweater's lodgings for months together. In some sweating places, there is
an old coat kept called a "reliever," and this is borrowed by such men as
have none of their own to go out in. There are very few of the sweaters'
men who have a coat to their backs or a shoe to their feet to come out into
the streets on Sunday. Down about Fulwood's Rents, Holborn, I am sure I
would not give 6d. for the clothes that are on a dozen of them; and it is
surprising to me, working and living together in such numbers and in such
small close rooms, in narrow close back courts as they do, that they are
not all swept off by some pestilence. I myself have seen half-a-dozen men
at work in a room that was a little better than a bedstead long. It was as
much as one could do to move between the wall and the bedstead when it was
down. There were two bedsteads in this room, and they nearly filled the
place when they were down. The ceiling was so low, that I couldn't stand
upright in the room. There was no ventilation in the place. There was no
fireplace, and only a small window. When the window was open, you could
nearly touch the houses at the back, and if the room had not been at the
top of the house, the men could not have seen at all in the place. The
staircase was so narrow, steep, and dark, that it was difficult to grope
your way to the top of the house--it was like going up a steeple. This is
the usual kind of place in which the sweater's men are lodged. The reason
why there are so many Irishmen working for the sweaters is, because they
are seduced over to this country by the prospect of high wages and plenty
of work. They are brought over by the Cork boats at 10s. a-head, and when
they once get here, the prices they receive are so small, that they are
unable to go back. In less than a week after they get here, their clothes
are all pledged, and they are obliged to continue working under the
sweaters.

"The extent to which this system of 'street kidnapping' is carried on
is frightful. Young tailors, fresh from the country, are decoyed by the
sweaters' wives into their miserable dens, under extravagant promises of
employment, to find themselves deceived, imprisoned, and starved, often
unable to make their escape for months--perhaps years; and then only
fleeing from one dungeon to another as abominable."

In the meantime, the profits of the beasts of prey who live on these poor
fellows--both masters and sweaters--seem as prodigious as their cruelty.

Hear another working tailor on this point:--"In 1844, I belonged to the
honourable part of the trade. Our house of call supplied the present
show-shop with men to work on the premises. The prices then paid were at
the rate of 6d. per hour. For the same driving capes that they paid 18s.
then, they give only 12s. for now. For the dress and frock coats they gave
15s. then, and now they are 14s. The paletots and shooting coats were 12s.;
there was no coat made on the premises under that sum. At the end of the
season, they wanted to reduce the paletots to 9s. The men refused to make
them at that price, when other houses were paying as much as 15s. for them.
The consequence of this was, the house discharged all the men, and got a
Jew middle-man from the neighbourhood of Petticoat-lane, to agree to do
them all at 7s. 6d. a piece. The Jew employed all the poor people who were
at work for the slop warehouses in Houndsditch and its vicinity. This
Jew makes on an average 500 paletots a week. The Jew gets 2s. 6d. profit
out of each, and having no sewing trimmings allowed to him, he makes the
work-people find them. The saving in trimmings alone to the firm, since
the workmen left the premises, must have realized a small fortune to them.
Calculating men, women, and children, I have heard it said that the cheap
house at the West End employs 1,000 hands. The trimmings for the work done
by these would be about 6d. a week per head, so that the saving to the
house since the men worked on the premises has been no less than L1,300
a year, and all this taken out of the pockets of the poor. The Jew who
contracts for making the paletots is no tailor at all. A few years ago he
sold sponges in the street, and now he rides in his carriage. The Jew's
profits are 500 half-crowns, or L60 odd, per week--that is upwards of
L3,000 a-year. Women are mostly engaged at the paletot work. When I came to
work for the cheap show-shop I had L5, 10s. in the saving bank; now I have
not a half-penny in it. All I had saved went little by little to keep me
and my family. I have always made a point of putting some money by when I
could afford it, but since I have been at this work it has been as much as
I could do to _live_, much more to _save_. One of the firm for which I work
has been heard publicly to declare that he employed 1,000 hands constantly.
Now the earnings of these at the honourable part of the trade would be upon
an average, taking the skilful with the unskilful, 15s. a week each, or
L39,000 a year. But since they discharged the men from off their premises,
they have cut down the wages of the workmen one-half--taking one garment
with another--_though the selling prices remain the same to the public_, so
that they have saved by the reduction of the workmen's wages no less than
L19,500 per year. Every other quarter of a year something has been 'docked'
off our earnings, until it is almost impossible for men with families to
live decently by their labour; and now, for the first time, they pretend
to feel for them. They even talk of erecting a school for the children of
their workpeople; but where is the use of erecting schools, when they know
as well as we do, that at the wages they pay, the children must be working
for their fathers at home? They had much better erect workshops, and employ
the men on the premises at fair living wages, and then the men could
educate their own children, without being indebted to their charity."

On this last question of what the master-cannibals had "much better do," we
have somewhat to say presently. In the meantime, hear another of the things
which they had much better _not_ do. "Part of the fraud and deception of
the slop trade consists in the mode in which the public are made believe
that the men working for such establishments earn more money than they
really do. The plan practised is similar to that adopted by the army
clothier, who made out that the men working on his establishment made per
week from 15s. to 17s. each, whereas, on inquiry, it was found that a
considerable sum was paid out of that to those who helped to do the looping
for those who took it home. When a coat is given to me to make, a ticket is
handed to me with the garment, similar to this one which I have obtained
from a friend of mine.

  +--------------------------------------------+
  | 448                                        |
  |   Mr. _Smith_ 6,675 Made by _M_            |
  |     _Ze_ = 12s. = _lined lustre            |
  |                    quilted double stitched |
  |                    each side seams_        |
  |                                            |
  | 448. No. 6,675.                            |
  |                 o'clock _Friday_           |
  |                                            |
  | Mr. _Smith_                                |
  +--------------------------------------------+

On this you see the price is marked at 12s.," continued my informant, "and
supposing that I, with two others, could make three of these garments in
the week, the sum of thirty-six shillings would stand in the books of the
establishment as the amount earned by me in that space of time. This would
be sure to be exhibited to the customers, immediately that there was the
least outcry made about the starvation price they paid for their work, as
a proof that the workpeople engaged on their establishment received the
full prices; whereas, of that 36s. entered against my name, _I should have
had to pay 24s. to those who assisted me_; besides this, my share of the
trimmings and expenses would have been 1s. 6d., and probably my share of
the fires would be 1s. more; so that the real fact would be, that I should
make 9s. 6d. clear, and this it would be almost impossible to do, if I did
not work long over hours. I am obliged to keep my wife continually at work
helping me, in order to live."

In short, the condition of these men is far worse than that of the wretched
labourers of Wilts or Dorset. Their earnings are as low and often lower;
their trade requires a far longer instruction, far greater skill and
shrewdness; their rent and food are more expensive; and their hours of
work, while they have work, more than half as long again. Conceive sixteen
or eighteen hours of skilled labour in a stifling and fetid chamber,
earning not much more than 6s. 6d. or 7s. a week! And, as has been already
mentioned in one case, the man who will earn even that, must work all
Sunday. He is even liable to be thrown out of his work for refusing to work
on Sunday. Why not? Is there anything about one idle day in seven to be
found among the traditions of Mammon? When the demand comes, the supply
must come; and will, in spite of foolish auld-warld notion about keeping
days holy--or keeping contracts holy either, for, indeed, Mammon has no
conscience--right and wrong are not words expressible by any commercial
laws yet in vogue; and therefore it appears that to earn this wretched
pittance is by no means to get it. "For," says one, and the practice is
asserted to be general, almost universal, "there is at our establishment a
mode of reducing the price of our labour even lower than we have mentioned.
The prices we have stated are those _nominally_ paid for making the
garments; but it is not an uncommon thing in our shop for a man to make a
garment, and receive nothing at all for it. I remember a man once having a
waistcoat to do, the price of making which was 2s., and when he gave the
job in he was told that he owed the establishment 6d. The manner in which
this is brought about is by a system of fines. We are fined if we are
behind time with our job, 6d. the first hour, and 3d. for each hour that we
are late." "I have known as much as 7s. 6d. to be deducted off the price of
a coat on the score of want of punctuality," one said; "and, indeed, very
often the whole money is stopped. It would appear, as if our employers
themselves strove to make us late with our work, and so have an opportunity
of cutting down the price paid for our labour. They frequently put off
giving out the trimmings to us till the time at which the coat is due has
expired. If to the trimmer we return an answer that is considered 'saucy,'
we are find 6d. or 1s., according to the trimmer's temper." "I was called a
thief," another of the three declared, "and because I told the man I would
not submit to such language, I was fined 6d. These are the principal of
the in-door fines. The out-door fines are still more iniquitous. There are
full a dozen more fines for minor offences; indeed, we are fined upon every
petty pretext. We never know what we have to take on a Saturday, for the
meanest advantages are taken to reduce our wages. If we object to pay these
fines, we are told that we may leave; but they know full well that we are
afraid to throw ourselves out of work."

Folks are getting somewhat tired of the old rodomontade that a slave is
free the moment he sets foot on British soil! Stuff!--are these tailors
free? Put any conceivable sense you will on the word, and then say--are
they free? We have, thank God, emancipated the black slaves; it would seem
a not inconsistent sequel to that act to set about emancipating these
white ones. Oh! we forgot; there is an infinite difference between the two
cases--the black slaves worked for our colonies; the white slaves work for
_us_. But, indeed, if, as some preach, self-interest is the mainspring
of all human action, it is difficult to see who will step forward to
emancipate the said white slaves; for all classes seem to consider it
equally their interest to keep them as they are; all classes, though by
their own confession they are ashamed, are yet not afraid to profit by the
system which keeps them down.

Not only the master tailors and their underlings, but the retail tradesmen,
too, make their profit out of these abominations. By a method which smacks
at first sight somewhat of benevolence, but proves itself in practice to be
one of those "precious balms which break," not "the head" (for that would
savour of violence, and might possibly give some bodily pain, a thing
intolerable to the nerves of Mammon) but the heart--an organ which, being
spiritual, can of course be recognized by no laws of police or commerce.
The object of the State, we are told, is "the conservation of body and
goods"; there is nothing in that about broken hearts; nothing which should
make it a duty to forbid such a system as a working-tailor here describes--

"Fifteen or twenty years ago, such a thing as a journeyman tailor having
to give security before he could get work was unknown; but now I and such
as myself could not get a stitch to do first handed, if we did not either
procure the security of some householder, or deposit L5 in the hands of the
employer. The reason of this is, the journeymen are so badly paid, that the
employers know they can barely live on what they get, and consequently they
are often driven to pawn the garments given out to them, in order to save
themselves and their families from starving. If the journeyman can manage
to scrape together L5, he has to leave it in the hands of his employer all
the time that he is working for the house. I know one person who gives out
the work for a fashionable West End slop-shop that will not take household
security, and requires L5 from each hand. I am informed by one of the
parties who worked for this man that he has as many as 150 hands in
his employ, and that each of these has placed L5 in his hands, so that
altogether the poor people have handed over L750 to increase the capital
upon which he trades, and for which he pays no interest whatsoever."

This recalls a similar case (mentioned by a poor stay-stitcher in another
letter, published in the "Morning Chronicle"), of a large wholesale
staymaker in the City, who had amassed a large fortune by beginning to
trade upon the 5s. which he demanded to be left in his hands by his
workpeople before he gave them employment.

"Two or three years back one of the slopsellers at the East End became
bankrupt, and the poor people lost all the money that had been deposited
as security for work in his hands. The journeymen who get the security
of householders are enabled to do so by a system which is now in general
practice at the East End. Several bakers, publicans, chandler-shop keepers,
and coal-shed keepers, make a trade of becoming security for those seeking
slop-work. They consent to be responsible for the workpeople upon the
condition of the men dealing at their shops. The workpeople who require
such security are generally very good customers, from the fact of their
either having large families, all engaged in the same work, or else several
females or males working under them, and living at their house. The parties
becoming securities thus not only greatly increase their trade, but furnish
a second-rate article at a first-rate price. It is useless to complain of
the bad quality or high price of the articles supplied by the securities,
for the shopkeepers know, as well as the workpeople, that it is impossible
for the hands to leave them without losing their work. I know one baker
whose security was refused at the slop-shop because he was already
responsible for so many, and he begged the publican to be his deputy, so
that by this means the workpeople were obliged to deal at both baker's
and publican's too. I never heard of a butcher making a trade of becoming
security, _because the slopwork people cannot afford to consume much meat_.

"The same system is also pursued by lodging-house keepers. They will become
responsible if the workmen requiring security will undertake to lodge at
their house."

But of course the men most interested in keeping up the system are those
who buy the clothes of these cheap shops. And who are they? Not merely
the blackguard gent--the butt of Albert Smith and Punch, who flaunts at
the Casinos and Cremorne Gardens in vulgar finery wrung out of the souls
and bodies of the poor; not merely the poor lawyer's clerk or reduced
half-pay officer who has to struggle to look as respectable as his class
commands him to look on a pittance often no larger than that of the day
labourer--no, strange to say--and yet not strange, considering our modern
eleventh commandment--"Buy cheap and sell dear," the richest as well as the
poorest imitate the example of King Ryence and the tanners of Meudon, At
a great show establishment--to take one instance out of many--the very
one where, as we heard just now, "however strong and healthy a man may be
when he goes to work at that shop, in a month's time he will be a complete
shadow, and have almost all his clothes in pawn"--

"We have also made garments for Sir ---- ----, Sir ---- ----, Alderman
----, Dr. ----, and Dr. ----. We make for several of the aristocracy. We
cannot say whom, because the tickets frequently come to us as Lord ---- and
the Marquis of ----. This could not be a Jew's trick, because the buttons
on the liveries had coronets upon them. And again, we know the house is
patronized largely by the aristocracy, clergy, and gentry, by the number of
court-suits and liveries, surplices, regimentals, and ladies' riding-habits
that we continually have to make up. _There are more clergymen among the
customers than any other class, and often we have to work at home upon
the Sunday at their clothes, in order to get a living._ The customers are
mostly ashamed of dealing at this house, for the men who take the clothes
to the customers' houses in the cart have directions to pull up at the
corner of the street. We had a good proof of the dislike of gentlefolks to
have it known that they dealt at that shop for their clothes, for when the
trousers buttons were stamped with the name of the firm, we used to have
the garments returned, daily, to have other buttons put on them, and now
the buttons are unstamped"!!!

We shall make no comment on this extract. It needs none. If these men know
how their clothes are made, they are past contempt. Afraid of man, and not
afraid of God! As if His eye could not see the cart laden with the plunder
of the poor, because it stopped round the corner! If, on the other hand,
they do _not_ know these things, and doubtless the majority do not,--it is
their sin that they do not know it. Woe to a society whose only apology to
God and man is, "Am I my brother's keeper?" Men ought to know the condition
of those by whose labour they live. Had the question been the investment
of a few pounds in a speculation, these gentlemen would have been careful
enough about good security. Ought they to take no security when they invest
their money in clothes, that they are not putting on their backs accursed
garments, offered in sacrifice to devils, reeking with the sighs of the
starving, tainted--yes, tainted, indeed, for it comes out now that diseases
numberless are carried home in these same garments from the miserable
abodes where they are made. Evidence to this effect was given in 1844; but
Mammon was too busy to attend to it. These wretched creatures, when they
have pawned their own clothes and bedding, will use as substitutes the
very garments they are making. So Lord ----'s coat has been seen covering
a group of children blotched with small-pox. The Rev. D---- finds himself
suddenly unpresentable from a cutaneous disease, which it is not polite to
mention on the south of Tweed, little dreaming that the shivering dirty
being who made his coat has been sitting with his arms in the sleeves for
warmth while he stitched at the tails. The charming Miss C---- is swept off
by typhus or scarlatina, and her parents talk about "God's heavy judgment
and visitation"--had they tracked the girl's new riding-habit back to the
stifling undrained hovel where it served as a blanket to the fever-stricken
slopworker, they would have seen _why_ God had visited them, seen that His
judgments are true judgments, and give His plain opinion of the system
which "speaketh good of the covetous whom God abhorreth"--a system, to
use the words of the "Morning Chronicle's" correspondent, "unheard of
and unparalleled in the history of any country--a scheme so deeply laid
for the introduction and supply of under-paid labour to the market, that
it is impossible for the working man not to sink and be degraded, by it
into the lowest depths of wretchedness and infamy--a system which is
steadily and gradually increasing, and sucking more and more victims out
of the honourable trade, who are really intelligent artizans, living in
comparative comfort and civilization, into the dishonourable or sweating
trade in which the slopworkers are generally almost brutified by their
incessant toil, wretched pay, miserable food, and filthy homes."

But to us, almost the worse feature in the whole matter is, that the
government are not merely parties to, but actually the originators of this
system. The contract system, as a working tailor stated, in the name of the
rest, "had been mainly instrumental in destroying the living wages of the
working man. Now, the government were the sole originators of the system
of contracts and of sweating. Forty years ago, there was nothing known of
contracts, except government contracts; and at that period the contractors
were confined to making slops for the navy, the army, and the West India
slaves. It was never dreamt of then that such a system was to come
into operation in the better classes of trade, till ultimately it was
destructive of masters as well as men. The government having been the cause
of the contract system, and consequently of the sweating system, he called
upon them to abandon it. The sweating system had established the show shops
and the ticket system, both of which were countenanced by the government,
till it had become a fashion to support them.

"Even the court assisted to keep the system in fashion, and the royal arms
and royal warrants were now exhibited common enough by slopsellers."

Government said its duty was to do justice. But was it consistent with
justice to pay only 2s. 6d. for making navy jackets, which would be paid
10s. for by every 'honourable' tradesman? Was it consistent with justice
for the government to pay for Royal Marine clothing (private's coat and
epaulettes) 1s. 9d.? Was it consistent with justice for the government to
pay for making a pair of trousers (four or five hours' work) only 2-1/2d?
And yet, when a contractor, noted for paying just wages to those he
employed, brought this under the consideration of the Admiralty, they
declared they had nothing to do with it. Here is their answer:--

"Admiralty, March 19, 1847.

"Sir,--Having laid before my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, your
letter of the 8th inst., calling their attention to the extremely low
prices paid for making up articles of clothing, provided for Her Majesty's
naval service, I am commanded by their lordships to acquaint you, that
they have no control whatever over the wages paid for making up contract
clothing. Their duty is to take care that the articles supplied are of good
quality, and well made: the cost of the material and the workmanship are
matters which rest with the contractor; and if the public were to pay him a
higher price than that demanded, it would not ensure any advantage to the
men employed by him, as their wages depend upon the amount of competition
for employment amongst themselves. I am, Sir, your most obedient servant,

"H. G. WARD.

"W. Shaw, Esq."

Oh most impotent conclusion, however officially cautious, and
"philosophically" correct! Even if the wages did depend entirely on the
amount of competition, on whom does the amount of competition depend?
Merely on the gross numbers of the workmen? Somewhat, too, one would think,
on the system according to which the labour and the wages are distributed.
But right or wrong, is it not a pleasant answer for the poor working
tailors, and one likely to increase their faith, hope, and charity towards
the present commercial system, and those who deny the possibility of any
other?

"The government," says another tailor at the same meeting, "had really been
the means of reducing prices in the tailoring trade to so low a scale that
no human being, whatever his industry, could live and be happy in his lot.
The government were really responsible for the first introduction of female
labour. He would clearly prove what he had stated. He would refer first
to the army clothing. Our soldiers were comfortably clothed, as they had
a right to be; but surely the men who made the clothing which was so
comfortable, ought to be paid for their labour so as to be able to keep
themselves comfortable and their families virtuous. But it was in evidence,
that the persons working upon army clothing could not, upon an average,
earn more than 1s. a-day. Another government department, the post-office,
afforded a considerable amount of employment to tailors; but those who
worked upon the post-office clothing earned, at the most, only 1s. 6d.
a-day. The police clothing was another considerable branch of tailoring;
this, like the others, ought to be paid for at living prices; but the men
at work at it could only earn 1s. 6d. a-day, supposing them to work hard
all the time, fourteen or fifteen hours. The Custom House clothing gave
about the same prices. Now, all these sorts of work were performed by time
workers, who, as a natural consequence of the wages they received, were the
most miserable of human beings. Husband, wife, and family all worked at
it; they just tried to breathe upon it; to live it never could be called.
_Yet the same Government which paid such wretched wages, called upon the
wretched people to be industrious, to be virtuous, and happy_, How was
it possible, whatever their industry, to be virtuous and happy? The fact
was, the men who, at the slack season, had been compelled to fall back
upon these kinds of work, became so beggared and broken down by it,
notwithstanding the assistance of their wives and families, that they were
never able to rise out of it."

And now comes the question--What is to be done with these poor tailors, to
the number of between fifteen and twenty thousand? Their condition, as it
stands, is simply one of ever-increasing darkness and despair. The system
which is ruining them is daily spreading, deepening. While we write, fresh
victims are being driven by penury into the slopworking trade, fresh
depreciations of labour are taking place. Like Ulysses' companions in
the cave of Polyphemus, the only question among them is, to scramble so
far back as to have _a chance of being eaten at last_. Before them is
ever-nearing slavery, disease, and starvation. What can be done?

First--this can be done. That no man who calls himself a Christian--no
man who calls himself a man--shall ever disgrace himself by dealing at
any show-shop or slop-shop. It is easy enough to know them. The ticketed
garments, the impudent puffs; the trumpery decorations, proclaim
them,--every one knows them at first sight, He who pretends not to do so,
is simply either a fool or a liar. Let no man enter them--they are the
temples of Moloch--their thresholds are rank with human blood. God's curse
is on them, and on those who, by supporting them, are partakers of their
sins. Above all, let no clergyman deal at them. Poverty--and many clergymen
are poor--doubly poor, because society often requires them to keep up the
dress of gentlemen on the income of an artizan; because, too, the demands
on their charity are quadruple those of any other class--yet poverty is no
excuse. The thing is damnable--not Christianity only, but common humanity
cries out against it. Woe to those who dare to outrage in private the
principles which they preach in public! God is not mocked; and his curse
will find out the priest at the altar, as well as the nobleman in his
castle.

But it is so hard to deprive the public of the luxury of cheap clothes!
Then let the public look out for some other means of procuring that
priceless blessing. If that, on experiment, be found impossible--if the
comfort of the few be for ever to be bought by the misery of the many--if
civilization is to benefit every one except the producing class--then this
world is truly the devil's world, and the sooner so ill-constructed and
infernal a machine is destroyed by that personage, the better.

But let, secondly, a dozen, or fifty, or a hundred journeymen say to
one another: "It is competition that, is ruining us, and competition is
division, disunion, every man for himself, every man against his brother.
The remedy must be in association, co-operation, self-sacrifice for the
sake of one another. We can work together at the honourable tailor's
workshop--we can work and live together in the sweater's den for the
profit of our employers; why should we not work and live together in our
own workshops, or our own homes, for our own profit? The journeymen of
the honourable trade are just as much interested as the slopworkers in
putting down sweaters and slopsellers, since their numbers are constantly
decreasing, so that their turn must come some day. Let them, if no one else
does, lend money to allow us to set up a workshop of our own, a shop of our
own. If the money be not lent, still let us stint and strain ourselves to
the very bone, if it were only to raise one sweater's security-money, which
one of us should pay into the slopseller's hands, in his own name, but on
behalf of all: that will at least save one sweater's profit out of our
labour, and bestow it upon ourselves; and we will not spend that profit,
but hoard it, till we have squeezed out all the sweaters one by one. Then
we will open our common shop, and sell at as low a price as the cheapest
of the show shops. We _can_ do this,--by the abolition of sweaters'
profits,--by the using, as far as possible, of one set of fires, lights,
rooms, kitchens, and washhouses,--above all, by being true and faithful
to one another, as all partners should be. And, then, all that the master
slopsellers had better do, will be simply to vanish and become extinct."

And again, let one man, or half-a-dozen men arise, who believe that the
world is not the devil's world at all, but God's: that the multitude of
the people is not, as Malthusians aver, the ruin, but as Solomon believed,
"the strength of the rulers"; that men are not meant to be beasts of prey,
eating one another up by competition, as in some confined pike pond, where
the great pike having despatched the little ones, begin to devour each
other, till one overgrown monster is left alone to die of starvation. Let a
few men who have money, and believe that, arise to play the man.

Let them help and foster the growth of association by all means. Let them
advise the honourable tailors, while it is time, to save themselves from
being degraded into slopsellers by admitting their journeymen to a share in
profits. Let them encourage the journeymen to compete with Nebuchadnezzar &
Co. at their own game. Let them tell those journeymen that the experiment
is even now being tried, and, in many instances successfully, by no less
than one hundred and four associations of journeymen in Paris. Let them
remind them of that Great Name which the Parisian "ouvrier" so often
forgets--of Him whose everlasting Fatherhood is the sole ground of all
human brotherhood, whose wise and loving will is the sole source of all
perfect order and government. Let them, as soon as an association is
formed, provide for them a properly ventilated workshop, and let it out
to the associate tailors at a low, fair rent. I believe that they will
not lose by it--because it is right. God will take care of their money.
The world, it comes out now, is so well ordered by Him, that model
lodging-houses, public baths, wash-houses, insurance offices, all pay a
reasonable profit to those who invest money in them--perhaps associate
workshops may do the same. At all events, the owners of these show-shops
realize a far higher profit than need be, while the buildings required for
a tailoring establishment are surely not more costly than those absurd
plate-glass fronts, and brass scroll-work chandeliers, and puffs, and paid
poets. A large house might thus be taken, in some central situation, the
upper floors of which might be fitted up as model lodging-rooms for the
tailor's trade alone. The drawing-room floor might be the work-room; on the
ground floor the shop; and, if possible, a room of call or registration
office for unemployed journeymen, and a reading-room. Why should not this
succeed, if the owners of the house and the workers who rent it are only
true to one another? Every tyro in political economy knows that association
involves a saving both of labour and of capital. Why should it not succeed,
when every one connected with the establishment, landlords and workmen,
will have an interest in increasing its prosperity, and none whatever in
lowering the wages of any party employed?

But above all, so soon as these men are found working together for common
profit, in the spirit of mutual self-sacrifice, let every gentleman and
every Christian, who has ever dealt with, or could ever have dealt with,
Nebuchadnezzar and Co., or their fellows, make it a point of honour and
conscience to deal with the associated workmen, and get others to do the
like. _It is by securing custom, far more than by gifts or loans of money,
that we can help the operatives._ We should but hang a useless burthen of
debt round their necks by advancing capital, without affording them the
means of disposing of their produce.

Be assured, that the finding of a tailors' model lodging house, work rooms,
and shop, and the letting out of the two latter to an association, would
be a righteous act to do. If the plan does not pay, what then? only a part
of the money can be lost; and to have given that to an hospital or an
almshouse would have been called praiseworthy and Christian charity; how
much more to have spent it not in the cure, but in the prevention of
evil--in making almshouses less needful, and lessening the number of
candidates for the hospital!

Regulations as to police order, and temperance, the workmen must, and, if
they are worthy of the name of free men, they can organize for themselves.
Let them remember that an association of labour is very different from
an association of capital. The capitalist only embarks his money on the
venture; the workman embarks his time--that is, much at least of his
life. Still more different is the operatives' association from the single
capitalist, seeking only to realize a rapid fortune, and then withdraw. The
association knows no withdrawal from business; it must grow in length and
in breadth, outlasting rival slopsellers, swallowing up all associations
similar to itself, and which might end by competing with it. "Monopoly!"
cries a free-trader, with hair on end. Not so, good friend; there will
be no real free trade without association. Who tells you that tailors'
associations are to be the only ones?

Some such thing, as I have hinted, might surely be done. Where there is a
will there is a way. No doubt there are difficulties--Howard and Elizabeth
Fry, too, had their difficulties. Brindley and Brunel did not succeed at
the first trial. It is the sluggard only who is always crying, "There is a
lion in the streets." Be daring--trust in God, and He will fight for you;
man of money, whom these words have touched, godliness has the promise
of this life, as well as of that to come. The thing must be done, and
speedily; for if it be not done by fair means, it will surely do itself
by foul. The continual struggle of competition, not only in the tailors'
trade, but in every one which is not, like the navigator's or engineer's,
at a premium from its novel and extraordinary demand, will weaken and
undermine more and more the masters, who are already many of them
speculating on borrowed capital, while it will depress the workmen to a
point at which life will become utterly intolerable; increasing education
will serve only to make them the more conscious of their own misery; the
boiler will be strained to bursting pitch, till some jar, some slight
crisis, suddenly directs the imprisoned forces to one point, and then--

What then?

Look at France, and see.

PARSON LOT.




PREFACE

_To the UNDERGRADUATES of CAMBRIDGE._


I have addressed this preface to the young gentlemen of the University,
first, because it is my duty to teach such of them as will hear me, Modern
History; and I know no more important part of Modern History than the
condition and the opinions of our own fellow-countrymen, some of which are
set forth in this book.

Next, I have addressed them now, because I know that many of them, at
various times, have taken umbrage at certain scenes of Cambridge life drawn
in this book. I do not blame them for having done so. On the contrary, I
have so far acknowledged the justice of their censure, that while I have
altered hardly one other word in this book, I have re-written all that
relates to Cambridge life.

Those sketches were drawn from my own recollections of 1838-1842. Whether
they were overdrawn is a question between me and men of my own standing.

But the book was published in 1849; and I am assured by men in whom I have
the most thorough confidence, that my sketches had by then at least become
exaggerated and exceptional, and therefore, as a whole, untrue; that a
process of purification was going on rapidly in the University; and that I
must alter my words if I meant to give the working men a just picture of
her.

Circumstances took the property and control of the book out of my hand, and
I had no opportunity of reconsidering and of altering the passages. Those
circumstances have ceased, and I take the first opportunity of altering all
which my friends tell me should be altered.

But even if, as early as 1849, I had not been told that I must do so, I
should have done so of my own accord, after the experiences of 1861. I have
received at Cambridge a courtesy and kindness from my elders, a cordial
welcome from my co-equals, and an earnest attention from the undergraduates
with whom I have come in contact, which would bind me in honour to say
nothing publicly against my University, even if I had aught to say. But I
have nought. I see at Cambridge nothing which does not gain my respect for
her present state and hope for her future. Increased sympathy between the
old and young, increased intercourse between the teacher and the taught,
increased freedom and charity of thought, and a steady purpose of internal
self-reform and progress, seem to me already bearing good fruit, by making
the young men regard their University with content and respect. And
among the young men themselves, the sight of their increased earnestness
and high-mindedness, increased sobriety and temperance, combined with a
manliness not inferior to that of the stalwart lads of twenty years ago,
has made me look upon my position among them as most noble, my work among
them as most hopeful, and made me sure that no energy which I can employ in
teaching them will ever have been thrown away.

Much of this improvement seems to me due to the late High-Church movement;
much to the influence of Dr. Arnold; much to that of Mr. Maurice; much to
the general increase of civilization throughout the country: but whatever
be the causes of it, the fact is patent; and I take delight in thus
expressing my consciousness of it.

Another change I must notice in the tone of young gentlemen, not only
at Cambridge, but throughout Britain, which is most wholesome and most
hopeful. I mean their altered tone in speaking to and of the labouring
classes. Thirty years ago, and even later, the young men of the labouring
classes were "the cads," "the snobs," "the blackguards"; looked on with a
dislike, contempt, and fear, which they were not backward to return, and
which were but too ready to vent themselves on both sides in ugly words and
deeds. That hateful severance between the classes was, I believe, an evil
of recent growth, unknown to old England. From the middle ages, up to the
latter years of the French war, the relation between the English gentry and
the labourers seems to have been more cordial and wholesome than in any
other country of Europe. But with the French Revolution came a change for
the worse. The Revolution terrified too many of the upper, and excited too
many of the lower classes; and the stern Tory system of repression, with
its bad habit of talking and acting as if "the government" and "the people"
were necessarily in antagonism, caused ever increasing bad blood. Besides,
the old feudal ties between class and class, employer and employed,
had been severed. Large masses of working people had gathered in the
manufacturing districts in savage independence. The agricultural labourers
had been debased by the abuses of the old Poor-law into a condition upon
which one looks back now with half-incredulous horror. Meanwhile, the
distress of the labourers became more and more severe. Then arose Luddite
mobs, meal mobs, farm riots, riots everywhere; Captain Swing and his
rickburners, Peterloo "massacres," Bristol conflagrations, and all the
ugly sights and rumours which made young lads, thirty or forty years ago,
believe (and not so wrongly) that "the masses" were their natural enemies,
and that they might have to fight, any year, or any day, for the safety of
their property and the honour of their sisters.

How changed, thank God! is all this now. Before the influence of religion,
both Evangelical and Anglican; before the spread of those liberal
principles, founded on common humanity and justice, the triumph of which we
owe to the courage and practical good sense of the Whig party; before the
example of a Court, virtuous, humane, and beneficent; the attitude of the
British upper classes has undergone a noble change. There is no aristocracy
in the world, and there never has been one, as far as I know, which has so
honourably repented, and brought forth fruits meet for repentance; which
has so cheerfully asked what its duty was, that it might do it. It is not
merely enlightened statesmen, philanthropists, devotees, or the working
clergy, hard and heartily as they are working, who have set themselves to
do good as a duty specially required of them by creed or by station. In
the generality of younger laymen, as far as I can see, a humanity (in the
highest sense of the word) has been awakened, which bids fair, in another
generation, to abolish the last remnants of class prejudices and class
grudges. The whole creed of our young gentlemen is becoming more liberal,
their demeanour more courteous, their language more temperate. They inquire
after the welfare, or at least mingle in the sports of the labouring man,
with a simple cordiality which was unknown thirty years ago; they are
prompt, the more earnest of them, to make themselves of use to him on the
ground of a common manhood, if any means of doing good are pointed out to
them; and that it is in any wise degrading to "associate with low fellows,"
is an opinion utterly obsolete, save perhaps among a few sons of squireens
in remote provinces, or of parvenus who cannot afford to recognize the
class from whence they themselves have risen. In the army, thanks to the
purifying effect of the Crimean and Indian wars, the same altered tone
is patent. Officers feel for and with their men, talk to them, strive to
instruct and amuse them more and more year by year; and--as a proof that
the reform has not been forced on the officers by public opinion from
without, but is spontaneous and from within, another instance of the
altered mind of the aristocracy--the improvement is greatest in those
regiments which are officered by men of the best blood; and in care for
and sympathy with their men, her Majesty's Footguards stands first of all.
God grant that the friendship which exists there between the leaders and
the led may not be tested to the death amid the snow-drift or on the
battle-field; but if it be so, I know too that it will stand the test.

But if I wish for one absolute proof of the changed relation between
the upper and the lower classes, I have only to point to the volunteer
movement. In 1803, in the face of the most real and fatal danger, the
Addington ministry was afraid of allowing volunteer regiments, and Lord
Eldon, while pressing the necessity, could use as an argument that if the
people did not volunteer for the Government, they would against it. So
broad was even then the gulf between the governed and the governors. How
much broader did it become in after years! Had invasion threatened us at
any period between 1815 and 1830, or even later, would any ministry have
dared to allow volunteer regiments? Would they have been justified in doing
so, even if they had dared?

And now what has come to pass, all the world knows: but all the world
should know likewise, that it never would have come to pass save for--not
merely the late twenty years of good government in State, twenty years
of virtue and liberality in the Court, but--the late twenty years of
increasing right-mindedness in the gentry, who have now their reward in
finding that the privates in the great majority of corps prefer being
officered by men of a rank socially superior to their own. And as good
always breeds fresh good, so this volunteer movement, made possible by the
goodwill between classes, will help in its turn to increase that goodwill.
Already, by the performance of a common duty, and the experience of a
common humanity, these volunteer corps are become centres of cordiality
between class and class; and gentleman, tradesman, and workman, the more
they see of each other, learn to like, to trust, and to befriend each other
more and more; a good work in which I hope the volunteers of the University
of Cambridge will do their part like men and gentlemen; when, leaving this
University, they become each of them, as they ought, an organizing point
for fresh volunteers in their own districts.

I know (that I may return to Cambridge) no better example of the way in
which the altered tone of the upper classes and the volunteer movement
have acted and reacted upon each other, than may be seen in the
Cambridge Working Men's College, and its volunteer rifle corps, the 8th
Cambridgeshire.

There we have--what perhaps could not have existed, what certainly did not
exist twenty years ago--a school of a hundred men or more, taught for the
last eight years gratuitously by men of the highest attainments in the
University; by a dean--to whom, I believe, the success of the attempt is
mainly owing; by professors, tutors, prizemen, men who are now head-masters
of public schools, who have given freely to their fellow-men knowledge
which has cost them large sums of money and the heavy labour of years.
Without insulting them by patronage, without interfering with their
religious opinions, without tampering with their independence in any wise,
but simply on the ground of a common humanity, they have been helping to
educate these men, belonging for the most part, I presume, to the very
class which this book sets forth as most unhappy and most dangerous--the
men conscious of unsatisfied and unemployed intellect. And they have their
reward in a practical and patent form. Out of these men a volunteer corps
is organized, officered partly by themselves, partly by gentlemen of the
University; a nucleus of discipline, loyalty, and civilization for the
whole population of Cambridge.

A noble work this has been, and one which may be the parent of works nobler
still. It is the first instalment of, I will not say a debt, but a duty,
which the Universities owe to the working classes. I have tried to express
in this book, what I know were, twenty years ago, the feelings of clever
working men, looking upon the superior educational advantages of our class.
I cannot forget, any more than the working man, that the Universities
were not founded exclusively, or even primarily, for our own class; that
the great mass of students in the middle ages were drawn from the lower
classes, and that sizarships, scholarships, exhibitions, and so forth, were
founded for the sake of those classes, rather than of our own. How the case
stands now, we all know. I do not blame the Universities for the change. It
has come about, I think, simply by competition. The change began, I should
say, in the sixteenth century. Then, after the Wars of the Roses, and the
revival of letters, and the dissolution of the monasteries, the younger
sons of gentlemen betook themselves to the pursuit of letters, fighting
having become treasonable, and farming on a small scale difficult (perhaps
owing to the introduction of large sheep-farms, which happened in those
days), while no monastic orders were left to recruit the Universities, as
they did continually through the middle ages, from that labouring-class to
which they and their scholars principally belonged.

So the gentlemen's sons were free to compete against the sons of working
men; and by virtue of their superior advantages they beat them out of
the field. We may find through the latter half of the sixteenth and the
beginning of the seventeenth centuries, bequest after bequest for the
purpose of stopping this change, and of enabling poor men's sons to enter
the Universities; but the tendency was too strong to be effectually
resisted then. Is it too strong to be resisted now? Does not the increased
civilization and education of the working classes call on the Universities
to consider whether they may not now try to become, what certainly they
were meant to be, places of teaching and training for genius of every
rank, and not merely for that of young gentlemen? Why should not wealthy
Churchmen, in addition to the many good deeds in which they employ their
wealth now-a-days, found fresh scholarships and exhibitions, confined to
the sons of working men? If it be asked, how can they be so confined? What
simpler method than that of connecting them with the National Society, and
bestowing them exclusively on lads who have distinguished themselves in our
National Schools? I believe that money spent in such a way, would be well
spent both for the Nation, the Church, and the University. As for the
introduction of such a class of lads lowering the tone of the University, I
cannot believe it. There is room enough in Cambridge for men of every rank.
There are still, in certain colleges, owing to circumstances which I should
be very sorry to see altered, a fair sprinkling of young men who, at least
before they have passed through a Cambridge career, would not be called
well-bred. But they do not lower the tone of the University; the tone of
the University raises them. Wherever there is intellectual power, good
manners are easily acquired; the public opinion of young men expresses
itself so freely, and possibly coarsely, that priggishness and forwardness
(the faults to which a clever National School pupil would be most prone)
are soon hammered out of any Cambridge man; and the result is, that some of
the most distinguished and most popular men in Cambridge, are men who have
"risen from the ranks." All honour to them for having done so. But if they
have succeeded so well, may there not be hundreds more in England who would
succeed equally? and would it not be as just to the many, as useful to the
University, in binding her to the people and the people to her, to invent
some method for giving those hundreds a fair chance?

I earnestly press this suggestion (especially at the present time of
agitation among Churchmen on the subject of education) upon the attention,
not of the University itself, but of those wealthy men who wish well both
to the University and to the people. Not, I say, of the University: it is
not from her that the proposal must come, but from her friends outside. She
is doing her best with the tools which she has; fresh work will require
fresh tools, and I trust that such will be some day found for her.

I have now to tell those of them who may read this book, that it is not
altogether out of date.

Those political passions, the last outburst of which it described, have,
thank God, become mere matter of history by reason of the good government
and the unexampled prosperity of the last twelve years: but fresh outbursts
of them are always possible in a free country, whenever there is any
considerable accumulation of neglects and wrongs; and meanwhile it is
well--indeed it is necessary--for every student of history to know what
manner of men they are who become revolutionaries, and what causes drive
them to revolution; that they may judge discerningly and charitably of
their fellow-men, whenever they see them rising, however madly, against the
powers that be.

As for the social evils described in this book, they have been much
lessened in the last few years, especially by the movement for Sanatory
Reform: but I must warn young men that they are not eradicated; that for
instance, only last year, attention was called by this book to the working
tailors in Edinburgh, and their state was found, I am assured, to be
even more miserable than that of the London men in 1848. And I must warn
them also that social evils, like dust and dirt, have a tendency to
re-accumulate perpetually; so that however well this generation may have
swept their house (and they have worked hard and honestly at it), the
rising generation will have assuredly in twenty years' time to sweep it
over again.

One thing more I have to say, and that very earnestly, to the young men of
Cambridge. They will hear a "Conservative Reaction" talked of as imminent,
indeed as having already begun. They will be told that this reaction is
made more certain by the events now passing in North America; they will be
bidden to look at the madnesses of an unbridled democracy, to draw from
them some such lesson as the young Spartans were to draw from the drunken
Helots, and to shun with horror any further attempts to enlarge the
suffrage.

But if they have learnt (as they should from the training of this
University) accuracy of thought and language, they will not be content with
such vague general terms as "Conservatism" and "Democracy": but will ask
themselves--If this Conservative Reaction is at hand, what things is it
likely to conserve; and still more, what ought it to conserve? If the
violences and tyrannies of American Democracy are to be really warnings
to, then in what points does American Democracy coincide with British
Democracy?--For so far and no farther can one be an example or warning for
the other.

And looking, as they probably will under the pressure of present
excitement, at the latter question first, they will surely see that no
real analogy would exist between American and English Democracy, even were
universal suffrage to be granted to-morrow.

For American Democracy, being merely arithmocratic, provides no
representation whatsoever for the more educated and more experienced
minority, and leaves the conduct of affairs to the uneducated and
inexperienced many, with such results as we see. But those results are, I
believe, simply impossible in a country which possesses hereditary Monarchy
and a House of Lords, to give not only voice, but practical power to
superior intelligence and experience. Mr. J. S. Mill, Mr. Stapleton, and
Mr. Hare have urged of late the right of minorities to be represented as
well as majorities, and have offered plans for giving them a fair hearing.
That their demands are wise, as well as just, the present condition of the
Federal States proves but too painfully. But we must not forget meanwhile,
that the minorities of Britain are not altogether unrepresented. In a
hereditary Monarch who has the power to call into his counsels, private and
public, the highest intellect of the land; in a House of Lords not wholly
hereditary, but recruited perpetually from below by the most successful
(and therefore, on the whole, the most capable) personages; in a free
Press, conducted in all its most powerful organs by men of character and
of liberal education, I see safeguards against any American tyranny of
numbers, even if an enlargement of the suffrage did degrade the general
tone of the House of Commons as much as some expect.

As long, I believe, as the Throne, the House of Lords, and the Press, are
what, thank God, they are, so long will each enlargement of the suffrage be
a fresh source not of danger, but of safety; for it will bind the masses to
the established order of things by that loyalty which springs from content;
from the sense of being appreciated, trusted, dealt with not as children,
but as men.

There are those who will consider such language as this especially
ill-timed just now, in the face of Strikes and Trades' Union outrages.
They point to these things as proofs of the unfitness of workmen for the
suffrage; they point especially to the late abominable murder at Sheffield,
and ask, not without reason, would you give political power to men who
would do that?

Now that the Sheffield murder was in any wise planned or commanded by the
Trades' Unions in general, I do not believe; nor, I think, does any one
else who knows aught of the British workman. If it was not, as some of the
Sheffield men say, a private act of revenge, it was the act of only one
or two Trades' Unions of that town, which are known; and their conduct
has been already reprobated and denounced by the other Trades' Unions of
England, But there is no denying that the case as against the Trades'
Unions is a heavy one. It is notorious that they have in past years planned
and commanded illegal acts of violence. It is patent that they are too apt,
from a false sense of class-honour, to connive at such now, instead of
being, as they ought to be, the first to denounce them. The workmen will
not see, that by combining in societies for certain purposes, they make
those societies responsible for the good and lawful behaviour of all their
members, in all acts tending to further those purposes, and are bound to
say to every man joining a Trades' Union: "You shall do nothing to carry
out the objects which we have in view, save what is allowed by British
Law." They will not see that they are outraging the first principles of
justice and freedom, by dictating to any man what wages he should receive,
what master he shall work for, or any other condition which interferes with
his rights as a free agent.

But, in the face of these facts (and very painful and disappointing
they are to me), I will ask the upper classes: Do you believe that the
average of Trades' Union members are capable of such villanies as that at
Sheffield? Do you believe that the average of them are given to violence
or illegal acts at all, even though they may connive at such acts in their
foolish and hasty fellows, by a false class-honour, not quite unknown,
I should say, in certain learned and gallant professions? Do you fancy
that there are not in these Trades' Unions, tens of thousands of loyal,
respectable, rational, patient men, as worthy of the suffrage as any
average borough voter? If you do so, you really know nothing about the
British workman. At least, you are confounding the workman of 1861 with the
workman of 1831, and fancying that he alone, of all classes, has gained
nothing by the increased education, civilization, and political experience
of thirty busy and prosperous years. You are unjust to the workman; and
more, you are unjust to your own class. For thirty years past, gentlemen
and ladies of all shades of opinion have been labouring for and among the
working classes, as no aristocracy on earth ever laboured before; and do
you suppose that all that labour has been in vain? That it has bred in the
working classes no increased reverence for law, no increased content with
existing institutions, no increased confidence in the classes socially
above them? If so, you must have as poor an opinion of the capabilities of
the upper classes, as you have of those of the lower.

So far from the misdoings of Trades' Unions being an argument against the
extension of the suffrage, they are, in my opinion, an argument for it. I
know that I am in a minority just now. I know that the common whisper is
now, not especially of those who look for a Conservative reaction, that
these Trades' Unions must be put down by strong measures: and I confess
that I hear such language with terror. Punish, by all means, most severely,
all individual offences against individual freedom, or personal safety;
but do not interfere, surely, with the Trades' Unions themselves. Do not
try to bar these men of their right as free Englishmen to combine, if they
choose, for what they consider their own benefit. Look upon these struggles
between employers and employed as fair battles, in which, by virtue of the
irreversible laws of political economy, the party who is in the right is
almost certain to win; and interfere in no wise, save to see fair play, and
lawful means used on both sides alike. If you do more; if you interfere
in any wise with the Trades' Unions themselves, you will fail, and fail
doubly. You will not prevent the existence of combinations: you will only
make them secret, dark, revolutionary: you will demoralize the working man
thereby as surely as the merchant is demoralized by being converted into a
smuggler; you will heap up indignation, spite, and wrath against the day
of wrath; and finally, to complete your own failure, you will drive the
working man to demand an extension of the suffrage, in tones which will
very certainly get a hearing. He cares, or seems to care, little about
the suffrage now, just because he thinks that he can best serve his own
interests by working these Trades' Unions. Take from him that means of
redress (real or mistaken, no matter); and he will seek redress in a way in
which you wish him still less to seek it; by demanding a vote and obtaining
one.

That consummation, undesirable as it may seem to many, would perhaps be the
best for the peace of the trades. These Trades' Unions, still tainted with
some of the violence, secrecy, false political economy which they inherit
from the evil times of 1830-40, last on simply, I believe, because the
workman feels that they are his only organ, that he has no other means of
making his wants and his opinions known to the British Government. Had he a
vote, he believes (and I believe with him) he could send at least a few men
to Parliament who would state his case fairly in the House of Commons, and
would not only render a reason for him, but hear reason against him, if
need were. He would be content with free discussion if he could get that.
It is the feeling that he cannot get it that drives him often into crooked
and dark ways. If any answer, that the representatives, whom he would
choose would be merely noisy demagogues, I believe them to be mistaken.
No one can have watched the Preston strike, however much he may have
disapproved, as I did, of the strike itself, without seeing from the
temper, the self-restraint, the reasonableness, the chivalrous honour of
the men, that they were as likely to choose a worthy member for the House
of Commons as any town constituency in England; no one can have watched the
leaders of the working men for the last ten years without finding among
them men capable of commanding the attention and respect of the House of
Commons, not merely by their eloquence, surprising as that is, but by their
good sense, good feeling, and good breeding.

Some training at first, some rubbing off of angles, they might require:
though two at least I know, who would require no such training, and who
would be ornaments to any House of Commons; the most inexperienced of the
rest would not give the House one-tenth the trouble which is given by a
certain clique among the representatives of the sister Isle; and would,
moreover, learn his lesson in a week, instead of never learning it at all,
like some we know too well. Yet Catholic emancipation has pacified Ireland,
though it has brought into the House an inferior stamp of members: and much
more surely would an extension of the suffrage pacify the trades, while
it would bring into the House a far superior stamp of member to those who
compose the clique of which I have spoken.

But why, I hear some one say impatiently, talk about this subject of all
others at this moment, when nobody, not even the working classes, cares
about a Reform Bill?

Because I am speaking to young men, who have not yet entered public life;
and because I wish them to understand, that just because the question of
parliamentary reform is in abeyance now, it will not be in abeyance ten
years or twenty years hence. The question will be revived, ere they are
in the maturity of their manhood; and they had best face that certain
prospect, and learn to judge wisely and accurately on the subject, before
they are called on, as they will be, to act upon it. If it be true that the
present generation has done all that it can do, or intends to do, towards
the suffrage (and I have that confidence in our present rulers, that I
would submit without murmuring to their decision on the point), it is
all the more incumbent on the rising generation to learn how to do (as
assuredly they will have to do) the work which their fathers have left
undone. The question may remain long in abeyance, under the influence of
material prosperity such as the present; or under the excitement of a war,
as in Pitt's time; but let a period of distress or disaster come, and it
will be re-opened as of yore. The progress towards institutions more and
more popular may be slow, but it is sure. Whenever any class has conceived
the hope of being fairly represented, it is certain to fulfil its own
hopes, unless it employs, or provokes, violence impossible in England.
The thing will be. Let the young men of Britain take care that it is done
rightly when it is done.

And how ought it to be done? That will depend upon any circumstances now
future and uncertain. It will depend upon the pace at which sound education
spreads among the working classes. It will depend, too, very much--I fear
only too much--upon the attitude of the upper classes to the lower, in this
very question of Trades' Unions and of Strikes. It will depend upon their
attitude toward the unrepresented classes during the next few years, upon
this very question of extended suffrage. And, therefore, I should advise,
I had almost said entreat, any young men over whom I have any influence,
to read and think freely and accurately upon the subject; taking, if
I may propose to them a text-book, Mr. Mill's admirable treatise on
"Representative Government." As for any theory of my own, if I had one
I should not put it forward. How it will not be done, I can see clearly
enough. It will not be done well by the old charter. It will not be done
well by merely lowering the money qualification of electors. But it may
be done well by other methods beside; and I can trust the freedom and
soundness of the English mind to discover the best method of all, when it
is needed.

Let therefore this "Conservative Reaction" which I suspect is going on in
the minds of many young men at Cambridge, consider what it has to conserve.
It is not asked to conserve the Throne. That, thank God, can take good care
of itself. Let it conserve the House of Lords; and that will be conserved,
just in proportion as the upper classes shall copy the virtues of Royalty;
both of him who is taken from us, and of her who is left. Let the upper
classes learn from them, that the just and wise method of strengthening
their political power, is to labour after that social power, which comes
only by virtue and usefulness. Let them make themselves, as the present
Sovereign has made herself, morally necessary to the people; and then there
is no fear of their being found politically unnecessary. No other course
is before them, if they wish to make their "Conservative Reaction" a
permanent, even an endurable fact. If any young gentlemen fancy (and some
do) that they can strengthen their class by making any secret alliance with
the Throne against the masses, then they will discover rapidly that the
sovereigns of the House of Brunswick are grown far too wise, and far too
noble-hearted, to fall once more into that trap. If any of them (and some
do) fancy that they can better their position by sneering, whether in
public or in their club, at a Reformed House of Commons and a Free Press,
they will only accelerate the results which they most dread, by forcing
the ultra-liberal party of the House, and, what is even worse, the most
intellectual and respectable portion of the Press, to appeal to the people
against them; and if again they are tempted (as too many of them are) to
give up public life as becoming too vulgar for them, and prefer ease and
pleasure to the hard work and plain-speaking of the House of Commons; then
they will simply pay the same penalty for laziness and fastidiousness which
has been paid by the Spanish aristocracy; and will discover that if they
think their intellect unnecessary to the nation, the nation will rapidly
become of the same opinion, and go its own way without them.

But if they are willing to make themselves, as they easily can, the
best educated, the most trustworthy, the most virtuous, the most truly
liberal-minded class of the commonweal; if they will set themselves to
study the duties of rank and property, as of a profession to which they are
called by God, and the requirements of which they must fulfil; if they will
acquire, as they can easily, a sound knowledge both of political economy,
and of the social questions of the day; if they will be foremost with
their personal influence in all good works; if they will set themselves
to compete on equal terms with the classes below them, and, as they may,
outrival them: then they will find that those classes will receive them not
altogether on equal terms; that they will accede to them a superiority,
undefined perhaps, but real and practical enough to conserve their class
and their rank, in every article for which a just and prudent man would
wish.

But if any young gentlemen look forward (as I fear a few do still) to a
Conservative Reaction of any other kind than this; to even the least return
to the Tory maxims and methods of George the Fourth's time; to even the
least stoppage of what the world calls progress--which I should define
as the putting in practice the results of inductive science; then do
they, like king Picrochole in Rabelais, look for a kingdom which shall be
restored to them at the coming of the Cocqcigrues. The Cocqcigrues are
never coming; and none know that better than the present able and moderate
leaders of the Conservative party; none will be more anxious to teach that
fact to their young adherents, and to make them swim with the great stream,
lest it toss them contemptuously ashore upon its banks, and go on its way
unheeding.

Return to the system of 1800--1830, is, I thank God, impossible. Even
though men's hearts should fail them, they must onward, they know not
whither: though God does know. The bigot, who believes in a system, and not
in the living God; the sentimentalist, who shrinks from facts because they
are painful to his taste; the sluggard, who hates a change because it
disturbs his ease; the simply stupid person, who cannot use his eyes and
ears; all these may cry feebly to the world to do what it has never done
since its creation--stand still awhile, that they may get their breaths.
But the brave and honest gentleman--who believes that God is not the
tempter and deceiver, but the father and the educator of man--he will
not shrink, even though the pace may be at moments rapid, the path be at
moments hid by mist; for he will believe that freedom and knowledge, as
well as virtue, are the daughters of the Most High; and he will follow them
and call on the rest to follow them, whithersoever they may lead; and will
take heart for himself and for his class, by the example of that great
Prince who is of late gone home. For if, like that most royal soul, he and
his shall follow with single eye and steadfast heart, freedom, knowledge,
and virtue; then will he and his be safe, as Royalty is safe in England
now; because both God and man have need thereof.




PREFACE.

_Written in 1854._

ADDRESSED TO THE WORKING MEN OF GREAT BRITAIN.


My Friends,--Since I wrote this book five years ago, I have seen a good
deal of your class, and of their prospects. Much that I have seen has given
me great hope; much has disappointed me; nothing has caused me to alter the
opinions here laid down.

Much has given me hope; especially in the North of England. I believe that
there, at least, exists a mass of prudence, self-control, genial and sturdy
manhood, which will be England's reserve-force for generations yet to come.
The last five years, moreover, have certainly been years of progress for
the good cause. The great drag upon it--namely, demagogism--has crumbled to
pieces of its own accord; and seems now only to exhibit itself in anilities
like those of the speakers who inform a mob of boys and thieves that wheat
has lately been thrown into the Thames to keep up prices, or advise them
to establish, by means hitherto undiscovered, national granaries, only
possible under the despotism of a Pharaoh. Since the 10th of April, 1848
(one of the most lucky days which the English workman ever saw), the trade
of the mob-orator has dwindled down to such last shifts as these, to which
the working man sensibly seems merely to answer, as he goes quietly about
his business, "Why will you still keep talking, Signor Benedick? Nobody
marks you."

But the 10th of April, 1848, has been a beneficial crisis, not merely in
the temper of the working men, so called, but in the minds of those who are
denominated by them "the aristocracy." There is no doubt that the classes
possessing property have been facing, since 1848, all social questions with
an average of honesty, earnestness, and good feeling which has no parallel
since the days of the Tudors, and that hundreds and thousands of "gentlemen
and ladies" in Great Britain now are saying, "Show what we ought to do to
be just to the workman, and we will do it, whatsoever it costs." They may
not be always correct (though they generally are so) in their conceptions
of what ought to be done; but their purpose is good and righteous; and
those who hold it are daily increasing in number. The love of justice and
mercy toward the handicraftsman is spreading rapidly as it never did before
in any nation upon earth; and if any man still represents the holders of
property, as a class, as the enemies of those whom they employ, desiring
their slavery and their ignorance, I believe that he is a liar and a child
of the devil, and that he is at his father's old work, slandering and
dividing between man and man. These words may be severe: but they are
deliberate; and working men are, I hope, sufficiently accustomed to hear me
call a spade a spade, when I am pleading for them, to allow me to do the
same when I am pleading to them.

Of the disappointing experiences which I have had I shall say nothing,
save in as far as I can, by alluding to them, point out to the working man
the causes which still keep him weak: but I am bound to say that those
disappointments have strengthened my conviction that this book, in the
main, speaks the truth.

I do not allude, of course, to the thoughts, and feelings of the hero. They
are compounded of right and wrong, and such as I judged (and working men
whom I am proud to number among my friends have assured me that I judged
rightly) that a working man of genius would feel during the course of
his self-education. These thoughts and feelings (often inconsistent and
contradictory to each other), stupid or careless, or ill-willed persons,
have represented as my own opinions, having, as it seems to me, turned
the book upside down before they began to read it. I am bound to pay the
working men, and their organs in the press, the compliment of saying that
no such misrepresentations proceeded from them. However deeply some of
them may have disagreed with me, all of them, as far as I have been able
to judge, had sense to see what I meant; and so, also, have the organs of
the High-Church party, to whom, differing from them on many points, I am
equally bound to offer my thanks for their fairness. But, indeed, the way
in which this book, in spite of its crudities, has been received by persons
of all ranks and opinions, who instead of making me an offender for a
word, have taken the book heartily and honestly, in the spirit and not in
the letter, has made me most hopeful for the British mind, and given me
a strong belief that, in spite of all foppery, luxury, covetousness, and
unbelief, the English heart is still strong and genial, able and willing
to do and suffer great things, as soon as the rational way of doing and
suffering them becomes plain. Had I written this book merely to please
my own fancy, this would be a paltry criterion, at once illogical and
boastful; but I wrote it, God knows, in the fear of God, that I might speak
what seems to me the truth of God. I trusted in Him to justify me, in spite
of my own youth, inexperience, hastiness, clumsiness; and He has done it;
and, I trust, will do it to the end.

And now, what shall I say to you, my friends, about the future? Your
destiny is still in your own hands. For the last seven years you have let
it slip through your fingers. If you are better off than you were in 1848,
you owe it principally to those laws of political economy (as they are
called), which I call the brute natural accidents of supply and demand, or
to the exertions which have been made by upright men of the very classes
whom demagogues taught you to consider as your natural enemies. Pardon me
if I seem severe; but, as old Aristotle has it, "Both parties being my
friends, it is a sacred duty to honour truth first." And is this not the
truth? How little have the working men done to carry out that idea of
association in which, in 1848-9, they were all willing to confess their
salvation lay. Had the money which was wasted in the hapless Preston strike
been wisely spent in relieving the labour market by emigration, or in
making wages more valuable by enabling the workman to buy from co-operative
stores and mills his necessaries at little above cost price, how much
sorrow and heart-burning might have been saved to the iron-trades. Had the
real English endurance and courage which was wasted in that strike been
employed in the cause of association, the men might have been, ere now, far
happier than they are ever likely to be, without the least injury to the
masters. What, again, has been done toward developing the organization
of the Trades' Unions into its true form, Association for distribution,
from its old, useless, and savage form of Association for the purpose of
resistance to masters--a war which is at first sight hopeless, even were it
just, because the opposite party holds in his hand the supplies of his foe
as well as his own, and therefore can starve him out at his leisure? What
has been done, again, toward remedying the evils of the slop system, which
this book especially exposed? The true method for the working men, if they
wished to save their brothers and their brothers' wives and daughters from
degradation, was to withdraw their custom from the slopsellers, and to
deal, even at a temporary increase of price, with associate workmen. Have
they done so? They can answer for themselves. In London (as in the country
towns), the paltry temptation of buying in the cheapest market has still
been too strong for the labouring man. In Scotland and in the North of
England, thank God, the case has been very different; and to the North I
must look still, as I did when I wrote Alton Locke, for the strong men in
whose hands lies the destiny of the English handicraftsman.

God grant that the workmen of the South of England may bestir themselves
ere it be too late, and discover that the only defence against want is
self-restraint; the only defence against slavery, obedience to rule; and
that, instead of giving themselves up, bound hand and foot, by their own
fancy for a "freedom" which is but selfish and conceited license, to the
brute accidents of the competitive system, they may begin to organize
among themselves associations for buying and selling the necessaries of
life, which may enable them to weather the dark season of high prices and
stagnation, which is certain sooner or later, to follow in the footsteps of
war.

On politics I have little to say. My belief remains unchanged that true
Christianity, and true monarchy also, are not only compatible with, but
require as their necessary complement, true freedom for every man of every
class; and that the Charter, now defunct, was just as wise and as righteous
a "Reform Bill" as any which England had yet had, or was likely to have.
But I frankly say that my experience of the last five years gives me little
hope of any great development of the true democratic principle in Britain,
because it gives me little sign that the many are fit for it. Remember
always that Democracy means a government not merely by numbers of isolated
individuals, but by a Demos--by men accustomed to live in Demoi, or
corporate bodies, and accustomed, therefore, to the self-control, obedience
to law, and self-sacrificing public spirit, without which a corporate body
cannot exist: but that a "democracy" of mere numbers is no democracy,
but a mere brute "arithmocracy," which is certain to degenerate into an
"ochlocracy," or government by the mob, in which the numbers have no real
share: an oligarchy of the fiercest, the noisiest, the rashest, and the
most shameless, which is surely swallowed up either by a despotism, as in
France, or as in Athens, by utter national ruin, and helpless slavery to
a foreign invader. Let the workmen of Britain train themselves in the
corporate spirit, and in the obedience and self-control which it brings, as
they easily can in associations, and bear in mind always that _only he who
can obey is fit to rule_; and then, when they are fit for it, the Charter
may come, or things, I trust, far better than the Charter; and till they
have done so, let them thank the just and merciful Heavens for keeping
out of their hands any power, and for keeping off their shoulders any
responsibility, which they would not be able to use aright. I thank God
heartily, this day, that I have no share in the government of Great
Britain; and I advise my working friends to do the same, and to believe
that, when they are fit to take their share therein, all the powers of
earth cannot keep them from taking it; and that, till then, happy is the
man who does the duty which lies nearest him, who educates his family,
raises his class, performs his daily work as to God and to his country, not
merely to his employer and himself; for it is only he that is faithful over
a few things who will be made, or will be happy in being made, ruler over
many things.

Yours ever,

C. K.




ALTON LOCKE,

TAILOR AND POET.




CHAPTER I.

A POET'S CHILDHOOD.


I am a Cockney among Cockneys. Italy and the Tropics, the Highlands
and Devonshire, I know only in dreams. Even the Surrey Hills, of whose
loveliness I have heard so much, are to me a distant fairy-land, whose
gleaming ridges I am worthy only to behold afar. With the exception of two
journeys, never to be forgotten, my knowledge of England is bounded by the
horizon which encircles Richmond Hill.

My earliest recollections are of a suburban street; of its jumble of little
shops and little terraces, each exhibiting some fresh variety of capricious
ugliness; the little scraps of garden before the doors, with their dusty,
stunted lilacs and balsam poplars, were my only forests; my only wild
animals, the dingy, merry sparrows, who quarrelled fearlessly on my
window-sill, ignorant of trap or gun. From my earliest childhood, through
long nights of sleepless pain, as the midnight brightened into dawn, and
the glaring lamps grew pale, I used to listen, with pleasant awe, to the
ceaseless roll of the market-waggons, bringing up to the great city the
treasures of the gay green country, the land of fruits and flowers, for
which I have yearned all my life in vain. They seemed to my boyish fancy
mysterious messengers from another world: the silent, lonely night, in
which they were the only moving things, added to the wonder. I used to get
out of bed to gaze at them, and envy the coarse men and sluttish women who
attended them, their labour among verdant plants and rich brown mould, on
breezy slopes, under God's own clear sky. I fancied that they learnt what
I knew I should have learnt there; I knew not then that "the eye only sees
that which it brings with it the power of seeing." When will their eyes be
opened? When will priests go forth into the highways and the hedges, and
preach to the ploughman and the gipsy the blessed news, that there too, in
every thicket and fallow-field, is the house of God,--there, too, the gate
of Heaven?

I do not complain that I am a Cockney. That, too, is God's gift. He
made me one, that I might learn to feel for poor wretches who sit
stifled in reeking garrets and workrooms, drinking in disease with every
breath,--bound in their prison-house of brick and iron, with their own
funeral pall hanging over them, in that canopy of fog and poisonous smoke,
from their cradle to their grave. I have drunk of the cup of which they
drink. And so I have learnt--if, indeed, I have learnt--to be a poet--a
poet of the people. That honour, surely, was worth buying with asthma,
and rickets, and consumption, and weakness, and--worst of all to me--with
ugliness. It was God's purpose about me; and, therefore, all circumstances
combined to imprison me in London. I used once, when I worshipped
circumstance, to fancy it my curse, Fate's injustice to me, which kept
me from developing my genius, asserting my rank among poets. I longed to
escape to glorious Italy, or some other southern climate, where natural
beauty would have become the very element which I breathed; and yet, what
would have come of that? Should I not, as nobler spirits than I have done,
have idled away my life in Elysian dreams, singing out like a bird into the
air, inarticulately, purposeless, for mere joy and fulness of heart; and
taking no share in the terrible questionings, the terrible strugglings of
this great, awful, blessed time--feeling no more the pulse of the great
heart of England stirring me? I used, as I said, to call it the curse of
circumstance that I was a sickly, decrepit Cockney. My mother used to tell
me that it was the cross which God had given me to bear. I know now that
she was right there. She used to say that my disease was God's will. I do
not think, though, that she spoke right there also. I think that it was
the will of the world and of the devil, of man's avarice and laziness and
ignorance. And so would my readers, perhaps, had they seen the shop in
the city where I was born and nursed, with its little garrets reeking
with human breath, its kitchens and areas with noisome sewers. A sanitary
reformer would not be long in guessing the cause of my unhealthiness. He
would not rebuke me--nor would she, sweet soul! now that she is at rest and
bliss--for my wild longings to escape, for my envying the very flies and
sparrows their wings that I might flee miles away into the country, and
breathe the air of heaven once, and die. I have had my wish. I have made
two journeys far away into the country, and they have been enough for me.

My mother was a widow. My father, whom I cannot recollect, was a small
retail tradesman in the city. He was unfortunate; and when he died, my
mother came down, and lived penuriously enough, I knew not how till I
grew older, down in that same suburban street. She had been brought
up an Independent. After my father's death she became a Baptist, from
conscientious scruples. She considered the Baptists, as I do, as the only
sect who thoroughly embody the Calvinistic doctrines. She held it, as I do,
an absurd and impious thing for those who believe mankind to be children
of the devil till they have been consciously "converted," to baptise
unconscious infants and give them the sign of God's mercy on the mere
chance of that mercy being intended for them. When God had proved by
converting them, that they were not reprobate and doomed to hell by His
absolute and eternal will, then, and not till then, dare man baptise them
into His name. She dared not palm a presumptuous fiction on herself,
and call it "charity." So, though we had both been christened during
my father's lifetime, she purposed to have us rebaptised, if ever that
happened--which, in her sense of the word, never happened, I am afraid, to
me.

She gloried in her dissent; for she was sprung from old Puritan blood,
which had flowed again and again beneath the knife of Star-Chamber
butchers, and on the battle-fields of Naseby and Sedgemoor. And on winter
evenings she used to sit with her Bible on her knee, while I and my little
sister Susan stood beside her and listened to the stories of Gideon and
Barak, and Samson and Jephthah, till her eye kindled up, and her thoughts
passed forth from that old Hebrew time home into those English times which
she fancied, and not untruly, like them. And we used to shudder, and yet
listen with a strange fascination, as she told us how her ancestor called
his seven sons off their small Cambridge farm, and horsed and armed them
himself to follow behind Cromwell, and smite kings and prelates with "the
sword of the Lord and of Gideon." Whether she were right or wrong, what
is it to me? What is it now to her, thank God? But those stories, and the
strict, stern Puritan education, learnt from the Independents and not the
Baptists, which accompanied them, had their effect on me, for good and ill.

My mother moved by rule and method; by God's law, as she considered, and
that only. She seldom smiled. Her word was absolute. She never commanded
twice, without punishing. And yet there were abysses of unspoken tenderness
in her, as well as clear, sound, womanly sense and insight. But she thought
herself as much bound to keep down all tenderness as if she had been some
ascetic of the middle ages--so do extremes meet! It was "carnal," she
considered. She had as yet no right to have any "spiritual affection" for
us. We were still "children of wrath and of the devil,"--not yet "convinced
of sin," "converted, born again." She had no more spiritual bond with us,
she thought, than she had with a heathen or a Papist. She dared not even
pray for our conversion, earnestly as she prayed on every other subject.
For though the majority of her sect would have done so, her clear logical
sense would yield to no such tender inconsistency. Had it not been decided
from all eternity? We were elect, or we were reprobate. Could her prayers
alter that? If He had chosen us, He would call us in His own good time:
and, if not,--. Only again and again, as I afterwards discovered from a
journal of hers, she used to beseech God with agonized tears to set her
mind at rest by revealing to her His will towards us. For that comfort she
could at least rationally pray. But she received no answer. Poor, beloved
mother! If thou couldst not read the answer, written in every flower and
every sunbeam, written in the very fact of our existence here at all, what
answer would have sufficed thee.

And yet, with all this, she kept the strictest watch over our morality.
Fear, of course, was the only motive she employed; for how could our still
carnal understandings be affected with love to God? And love to herself
was too paltry and temporary to be urged by one who knew that her life was
uncertain, and who was always trying to go down to the deepest eternal
ground and reason of everything, and take her stand upon that. So our god,
or gods rather, till we were twelve years old, were hell, the rod, the ten
commandments, and public opinion. Yet under them, not they, but something
deeper far, both in her and us, preserved us pure. Call it natural
character, conformation of the spirit,--conformation of the brain, if you
like, if you are a scientific man and a phrenologist. I never yet could
dissect and map out my own being, or my neighbour's, as you analysts do. To
me, I myself, ay, and each person round me, seem one inexplicable whole; to
take away a single faculty whereof, is to destroy the harmony, the meaning,
the life of all the rest. That there is a duality in us--a lifelong battle
between flesh and spirit--we all, alas! know well enough; but which is
flesh and which is spirit, what philosophers in these days can tell us?
Still less bad we two found out any such duality or discord in ourselves;
for we were gentle and obedient children. The pleasures of the world
did not tempt us. We did not know of their existence; and no foundlings
educated in a nunnery ever grew up in a more virginal and spotless
innocence--if ignorance be such--than did Susan and I.

The narrowness of my sphere of observation only concentrated the faculty
into greater strength. The few natural objects which I met--and they, of
course, constituted my whole outer world (for art and poetry were tabooed
both by my rank and my mother's sectarianism, and the study of human beings
only develops itself as the boy grows into the man)--these few natural
objects, I say, I studied with intense keenness. I knew every leaf and
flower in the little front garden; every cabbage and rhubarb plant in
Battersea fields was wonderful and beautiful to me. Clouds and water I
learned to delight in, from my occasional lingerings on Battersea bridge,
and yearning westward looks toward the sun setting above rich meadows and
wooded gardens, to me a forbidden El Dorado.

I brought home wild-flowers and chance beetles and butterflies, and pored
over them, not in the spirit of a naturalist, but of a poet. They were to
me God's angels shining in coats of mail and fairy masquerading dresses. I
envied them their beauty, their freedom. At last I made up my mind, in the
simple tenderness of a child's conscience, that it was wrong to rob them of
the liberty for which I pined,--to take them away from the beautiful broad
country whither I longed to follow them; and I used to keep them a day or
two, and then, regretfully, carry them back, and set them loose on the
first opportunity, with many compunctions of heart, when, as generally
happened, they had been starved to death in the mean time.

They were my only recreations after the hours of the small day-school at
the neighbouring chapel, where I learnt to read, write, and sum; except,
now and then, a London walk, with my mother holding my hand tight the whole
way. She would have hoodwinked me, stopped my ears with cotton, and led
me in a string,--kind, careful soul!--if it had been reasonably safe on
a crowded pavement, so fearful was she lest I should be polluted by some
chance sight or sound of the Babylon which she feared and hated--almost as
much as she did the Bishops.

The only books which I knew were the Pilgrim's Progress and the Bible. The
former was my Shakespeare, my Dante, my Vedas, by which I explained every
fact and phenomenon of life. London was the City of Destruction, from
which I was to flee; I was Christian; the Wicket of the Way of Life I
had strangely identified with the turnpike at Battersea-bridge end; and
the rising ground of Mortlake and Wimbledon was the Land of Beulah--the
Enchanted Mountains of the Shepherds. If I could once get there I was
saved: a carnal view, perhaps, and a childish one; but there was a dim
meaning and human reality in it nevertheless.

As for the Bible, I knew nothing of it really, beyond the Old Testament.
Indeed, the life of Christ had little chance of becoming interesting to me.
My mother had given me formally to understand that it spoke of matters too
deep for me; that "till converted, the natural man could not understand the
things of God": and I obtained little more explanation of it from the two
unintelligible, dreary sermons to which I listened every dreary Sunday, in
terror lest a chance shuffle of my feet, or a hint of drowsiness,--natural
result of the stifling gallery and glaring windows and gas lights,--should
bring down a lecture and a punishment when I returned home. Oh, those
"sabbaths!"--days, not of rest, but utter weariness, when the beetles and
the flowers were put by, and there was nothing to fill up the long vacuity
but books of which I could not understand a word: when play, laughter,
or even a stare out of window at the sinful, merry, sabbath-breaking
promenaders, were all forbidden, as if the commandment had run, "In it thou
shalt take no manner of amusement, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter." By
what strange ascetic perversion has _that_ got to mean "keeping holy the
sabbath-day"?

Yet there was an hour's relief in the evening, when either my mother told
us Old Testament stories, or some preacher or two came in to supper after
meeting; and I used to sit in the corner and listen to their talk; not that
I understood a word, but the mere struggle to understand--the mere watching
my mother's earnest face--my pride in the reverent flattery with which the
worthy men addressed her as "a mother in Israel," were enough to fill up
the blank for me till bed-time.

Of "vital Christianity" I heard much; but, with all my efforts, could find
out nothing. Indeed, it did not seem interesting enough to tempt me to find
out much. It seemed a set of doctrines, believing in which was to have a
magical effect on people, by saving them from the everlasting torture due
to sins and temptations which I had never felt. Now and then, believing,
in obedience to my mother's assurances, and the solemn prayers of the
ministers about me, that I was a child of hell, and a lost and miserable
sinner, I used to have accesses of terror, and fancy that I should surely
wake next morning in everlasting flames. Once I put my finger a moment
into the fire, as certain Papists, and Protestants too, have done, not
only to themselves, but to their disciples, to see if it would be so very
dreadfully painful; with what conclusions the reader may judge.... Still, I
could not keep up the excitement. Why should I? The fear of pain is not the
fear of sin, that I know of; and, indeed, the thing was unreal altogether
in my case, and my heart, my common sense, rebelled against it again and
again; till at last I got a terrible whipping for taking my little sister's
part, and saying that if she was to die,--so gentle, and obedient, and
affectionate as she was,--God would be very unjust in sending her to
hell-fire, and that I was quite certain He would do no such thing--unless
He were the Devil: an opinion which I have since seen no reason to change.
The confusion between the King of Hell and the King of Heaven has cleared
up, thank God, since then!

So I was whipped and put to bed--the whipping altering my secret heart just
about as much as the dread of hell-fire did.

I speak as a Christian man--an orthodox Churchman (if you require that
shibboleth). Was I so very wrong? What was there in the idea of religion
which was represented to me at home to captivate me? What was the use
of a child's hearing of "God's great love manifested in the scheme of
redemption," when he heard, in the same breath, that the effects of that
redemption were practically confined only to one human being out of a
thousand, and that the other nine hundred and ninety-nine were lost and
damned from their birth-hour to all eternity--not only by the absolute
will and reprobation of God (though that infernal blasphemy I heard often
enough), but also, putting that out of the question, by the mere fact of
being born of Adam's race? And this to a generation to whom God's love
shines out in every tree and flower and hedge-side bird; to whom the
daily discoveries of science are revealing that love in every microscopic
animalcule which peoples the stagnant pool! This to working men, whose
craving is only for some idea which shall give equal hopes, claims, and
deliverances, to all mankind alike! This to working men, who, in the smiles
of their innocent children, see the heaven which they have lost--the
messages of baby-cherubs, made in God's own image! This to me, to whom
every butterfly, every look at my little sister, contradicted the lie! You
may say that such thoughts were too deep for a child; that I am ascribing
to my boyhood the scepticism of my manhood; but it is not so; and what went
on in my mind goes on in the minds of thousands. It is the cause of the
contempt into which not merely sectarian Protestantism, but Christianity
altogether, has fallen in the minds of the thinking workmen. Clergymen, who
anathematize us for wandering into Unitarianism--you, you have driven us
thither. You must find some explanation of the facts of Christianity more
in accordance with the truths which we do know, and will live and die for,
or you can never hope to make us Christians; or, if we do return to the
true fold, it will be as I returned, after long, miserable years of
darkling error, to a higher truth than most of you have yet learned to
preach.

But those old Jewish heroes did fill my whole heart and soul. I learnt from
them lessons which I never wish to unlearn. Whatever else I saw about them,
this I saw,--that they were patriots, deliverers from that tyranny and
injustice from which the child's heart,--"child of the devil" though you
may call him,--instinctively, and, as I believe, by a divine inspiration,
revolts. Moses leading his people out of Egypt; Gideon, Barak, and Samson,
slaying their oppressors; David, hiding in the mountains from the tyrant,
with his little band of those who had fled from the oppressions of an
aristocracy of Nabals; Jehu, executing God's vengeance on the kings--they
were my heroes, my models; they mixed themselves up with the dim legends
about the Reformation martyrs, Cromwell and Hampden, Sidney and Monmouth,
which I had heard at my mother's knee. Not that the perennial oppression
of the masses, in all ages and countries, had yet risen on me as an
awful, torturing, fixed idea. I fancied, poor fool! that tyranny was the
exception, and not the rule. But it was the mere sense of abstract pity
and justice which was delighted in me. I thought that these were old fairy
tales, such as never need be realized again. I learnt otherwise in after
years.

I have often wondered since, why all cannot read the same lesson as I did
in those old Hebrew Scriptures--that they, of all books in the world,
have been wrested into proofs of the divine right of kings, the eternal
necessity of slavery! But the eye only sees what it brings with it the
power of seeing. The upper classes, from their first day at school, to
their last day at college, read of nothing but the glories of Salamis and
Marathon, of freedom and of the old republics. And what comes of it? No
more than their tutors know will come of it, when they thrust into the
boys' hands books which give the lie in every page to their own political
superstitions.

But when I was just turned of thirteen, an altogether new fairy-land was
opened to me by some missionary tracts and journals, which were lent to my
mother by the ministers. Pacific coral islands and volcanoes, cocoa-nut
groves and bananas, graceful savages with paint and feathers--what an El
Dorado! How I devoured them and dreamt of them, and went there in fancy,
and preached small sermons as I lay in my bed at night to Tahitians and New
Zealanders, though I confess my spiritual eyes were, just as my physical
eyes would have been, far more busy with the scenery than with the souls
of my audience. However, that was the place for me, I saw clearly. And one
day, I recollect it well, in the little dingy, foul, reeking, twelve foot
square back-yard, where huge smoky party-walls shut out every breath of air
and almost all the light of heaven, I had climbed up between the water-butt
and the angle of the wall for the purpose of fishing out of the dirty fluid
which lay there, crusted with soot and alive with insects, to be renewed
only three times in the seven days, some of the great larvae and kicking
monsters which made up a large item in my list of wonders: all of a sudden
the horror of the place came over me; those grim prison-walls above, with
their canopy of lurid smoke; the dreary, sloppy, broken pavement; the
horrible stench of the stagnant cesspools; the utter want of form, colour,
life, in the whole place, crushed me down, without my being able to analyse
my feelings as I can now; and then came over me that dream of Pacific
Islands, and the free, open sea; and I slid down from my perch, and
bursting into tears threw myself upon my knees in the court, and prayed
aloud to God to let me be a missionary.

Half fearfully I let out my wishes to my mother when she came home. She
gave me no answer; but, as I found out afterwards,--too late, alas! for
her, if not for me,--she, like Mary, had "laid up all these things, and
treasured them in her heart."

You may guess, then, my delight when, a few days afterwards, I heard that a
real live missionary was coming to take tea with us. A man who had actually
been in New Zealand!--the thought was rapture. I painted him to myself over
and over again; and when, after the first burst of fancy, I recollected
that he might possibly not have adopted the native costume of that
island, or, if he had, that perhaps it would look too strange for him to
wear it about London, I settled within myself that he was to be a tall,
venerable-looking man, like the portraits of old Puritan divines which
adorned our day-room; and as I had heard that "he was powerful in prayer,"
I adorned his right hand with that mystic weapon "all-prayer," with
which Christian, when all other means have failed, finally vanquishes
the fiend--which instrument, in my mind, was somewhat after the model
of an infernal sort of bill or halbert--all hooks, edges, spikes, and
crescents--which I had passed, shuddering, once, in the hand of an old suit
of armour in Wardour Street.

He came--and with him the two ministers who often drank tea with my mother;
both of whom, as they played some small part in the drama of my after-life,
I may as well describe here. The elder was a little, sleek, silver-haired
old man, with a blank, weak face, just like a white rabbit. He loved me,
and I loved him too, for there were always lollipops in his pocket for me
and Susan. Had his head been equal to his heart!--but what has been was
to be--and the dissenting clergy, with a few noble exceptions among the
Independents, are not the strong men of the day--none know that better than
the workmen. The old man's name was Bowyer. The other, Mr. Wigginton, was a
younger man; tall, grim, dark, bilious, with a narrow forehead, retreating
suddenly from his eyebrows up to a conical peak of black hair over his
ears. He preached "higher doctrine," _i.e._, more fatalist and antinomian
than his gentler colleague,--and, having also a stentorian voice, was much
the greater favourite at the chapel. I hated him--and if any man ever
deserved hatred, he did.

Well, they came. My heart was in my mouth as I opened the door to them, and
sank back again to the very lowest depths of my inner man when my eyes fell
on the face and figure of the missionary--a squat, red-faced, pig-eyed,
low-browed man, with great soft lips that opened back to his very ears:
sensuality, conceit, and cunning marked on every feature--an innate
vulgarity, from which the artisan and the child recoil with an instinct as
true, perhaps truer, than that of the courtier, showing itself in every
tone and motion--I shrank into a corner, so crestfallen that I could not
even exert myself to hand round the bread and butter, for which I got duly
scolded afterwards. Oh! that man!--how he bawled and contradicted, and laid
down the law, and spoke to my mother in a fondling, patronizing way, which
made me, I knew not why, boil over with jealousy and indignation. How he
filled his teacup half full of the white sugar to buy which my mother had
curtailed her yesterday's dinner--how he drained the few remaining drops
of the threepennyworth of cream, with which Susan was stealing off to keep
it as an unexpected treat for my mother at breakfast the next morning--how
he talked of the natives, not as St. Paul might of his converts, but as a
planter might of his slaves; overlaying all his unintentional confessions
of his own greed and prosperity, with cant, flimsy enough for even a boy to
see through, while his eyes were not blinded with the superstition that a
man must be pious who sufficiently interlards his speech with a jumble of
old English picked out of our translation of the New Testament. Such was
the man I saw. I don't deny that all are not like him. I believe there are
noble men of all denominations, doing their best according to their light,
all over the world; but such was the one I saw--and the men who were sent
home to plead the missionary cause, whatever the men may be like who stay
behind and work, are, from my small experience, too often such. It appears
to me to be the rule that many of those who go abroad as missionaries, go
simply because they are men of such inferior powers and attainments that if
they stayed in England they would starve.

Three parts of his conversation, after all, was made up of abuse of the
missionaries of the Church of England, not for doing nothing, but for being
so much more successful than his own sect; accusing them, in the same
breath, of being just of the inferior type of which he was himself, and
also of being mere University fine gentlemen. Really, I do not wonder, upon
his own showing, at the savages preferring them to him; and I was pleased
to hear the old white-headed minister gently interpose at the end of one of
his tirades--"We must not be jealous, my brother, if the Establishment has
discovered what we, I hope, shall find out some day, that it is not wise to
draft our missionaries from the offscouring of the ministry, and serve God
with that which costs us nothing except the expense of providing for them
beyond seas."

There was somewhat of a roguish twinkle in the old man's eye as he said it,
which emboldened me to whisper a question to him.

"Why is it, Sir, that in olden times the heathens used to crucify the
missionaries and burn them, and now they give them beautiful farms, and
build them houses, and carry them about on their backs?"

The old man seemed a little puzzled, and so did the company, to whom he
smilingly retailed my question.

As nobody seemed inclined to offer a solution, I ventured one myself.

"Perhaps the heathens are grown better than they used to be?"

"The heart of man," answered the tall, dark minister, "is, and ever was,
equally at enmity with God."

"Then, perhaps," I ventured again, "what the missionaries preach now is not
quite the same as what the missionaries used to preach in St. Paul's time,
and so the heathens are not so angry at it?"

My mother looked thunder at me, and so did all except my white-headed
friend, who said, gently enough,

"It may be that the child's words come from God."

Whether they did or not, the child took very good care to speak no more
words till he was alone with his mother; and then finished off that
disastrous evening by a punishment for the indecency of saying, before his
little sister, that he thought it "a great pity the missionaries taught
black people to wear ugly coats and trousers; they must have looked so
much handsomer running about with nothing on but feathers and strings of
shells."

So the missionary dream died out of me, by a foolish and illogical
antipathy enough; though, after all, it was a child of my imagination only,
not of my heart; and the fancy, having bred it, was able to kill it also.
And David became my ideal. To be a shepherd-boy, and sit among beautiful
mountains, and sing hymns of my own making, and kill lions and bears,
with now and then the chance of a stray giant--what a glorious life! And
if David slew giants with a sling and a stone, why should not I?--at all
events, one ought to know how; so I made a sling out of an old garter and
some string, and began to practise in the little back-yard. But my first
shot broke a neighbour's window, value sevenpence, and the next flew
back in my face, and cut my head open; so I was sent supperless to bed
for a week, till the sevenpence had been duly saved out of my hungry
stomach--and, on the whole, I found the hymn-writing side of David's
character the more feasible; so I tried, and with much brains-beating,
committed the following lines to a scrap of dirty paper. And it was
strangely significant, that in this, my first attempt, there was an
instinctive denial of the very doctrine of "particular redemption," which
I had been hearing all my life, and an instinctive yearning after the
very Being in whom I had been told I had "no part nor lot" till I was
"converted." Here they are. I am not ashamed to call them--doggerel though
they be--an inspiration from Him of whom they speak. If not from Him, good
readers, from whom?

  Jesus, He loves one and all;
  Jesus, He loves children small;
  Their souls are sitting round His feet,
  On high, before His mercy-seat.

  When on earth He walked in shame,
  Children small unto Him came;
  At His feet they knelt and prayed,
  On their heads His hands He laid.

  Came a spirit on them then,
  Greater than of mighty men;
  A spirit gentle, meek, and mild,
  A spirit good for king and child.

  Oh! that spirit give to me,
  Jesus, Lord, where'er I be!
  So--

But I did not finish them, not seeing very clearly what to do with that
spirit when I obtained it; for, indeed, it seemed a much finer thing to
fight material Apollyons with material swords of iron, like my friend
Christian, or to go bear and lion hunting with David, than to convert
heathens by meekness--at least, if true meekness was at all like that of
the missionary whom I had lately seen.

I showed the verses in secret to my little sister. My mother heard us
singing them together, and extorted, grimly enough, a confession of the
authorship. I expected to be punished for them (I was accustomed weekly to
be punished for all sorts of deeds and words, of the harmfulness of which
I had not a notion). It was, therefore, an agreeable surprise when the old
minister, the next Sunday evening, patted my head, and praised me for them.

"A hopeful sign of young grace, brother," said he to the dark tall man.
"May we behold here an infant Timothy!"

"Bad doctrine, brother, in that first line--bad doctrine, which I am
sure he did not learn from our excellent sister here. Remember, my boy,
henceforth, that Jesus does _not_ love one and all--not that I am angry
with you. The carnal mind cannot be expected to understand divine things,
any more than the beasts that perish. Nevertheless, the blessed message of
the Gospel stands true, that Christ loves none but His Bride, the Church.
His merits, my poor child, extend to none but the elect. Ah! my dear sister
Locke, how delightful to think of the narrow way of discriminating grace!
How it enhances the believer's view of his own exceeding privileges, to
remember that there be few that be saved!"

I said nothing. I thought myself only too lucky to escape so well from the
danger of having done anything out of my own head. But somehow Susan and I
never altered it when we sang it to ourselves.

       *       *       *       *       *

I thought it necessary, for the sake of those who might read my story, to
string together these few scattered recollections of my boyhood,--to give,
as it were, some sample of the cotyledon leaves of my young life-plant, and
of the soil in which it took root, ere it was transplanted--but I will not
forestall my sorrows. After all, they have been but types of the woes of
thousands who "die and give no sign." Those to whom the struggles of every,
even the meanest, human being are scenes of an awful drama, every incident
of which is to be noted with reverent interest, will not find them void of
meaning; while the life which opens in my next chapter is, perhaps, full
enough of mere dramatic interest (and whose life is not, were it but truly
written?) to amuse merely as a novel. Ay, grim and real is the action and
suffering which begins with my next page,--as you yourself would have
found, high-born reader (if such chance to light upon this story), had
you found yourself at fifteen, after a youth of convent-like seclusion,
settled, apparently for life--in a tailor's workshop.

Ay--laugh!--we tailors can quote poetry as well as make your court-dresses:

  You sit in a cloud and sing, like pictured angels,
  And say the world runs smooth--while right below
  Welters the black fermenting heap of griefs
  Whereon your state is built....




CHAPTER II.

THE TAILOR'S WORKROOM.


Have you done laughing! Then I will tell you how the thing came to pass.

My father had a brother, who had steadily risen in life, in proportion as
my father fell. They had both begun life in a grocer's shop. My father
saved enough to marry, when of middle age, a woman of his own years, and
set up a little shop, where there were far too many such already, in the
hope--to him, as to the rest of the world, quite just and innocent--of
drawing away as much as possible of his neighbours' custom. He failed,
died--as so many small tradesmen do--of bad debts and a broken heart, and
left us beggars. His brother, more prudent, had, in the meantime, risen to
be foreman; then he married, on the strength of his handsome person, his
master's blooming widow; and rose and rose, year by year, till, at the
time of which I speak, he was owner of a first-rate grocery establishment
in the City, and a pleasant villa near Herne Hill, and had a son, a year
or two older than myself, at King's College, preparing for Cambridge and
the Church--that being now-a-days the approved method of converting a
tradesman's son into a gentleman,--whereof let artisans, and gentlemen
also, take note.

My aristocratic readers--if I ever get any, which I pray God I may--may
be surprised at so great an inequality of fortune between two cousins;
but the thing is common in our class. In the higher ranks, a difference
in income implies none in education or manners, and the poor "gentleman"
is a fit companion for dukes and princes--thanks to the old usages of
Norman chivalry, which after all were a democratic protest against the
sovereignty, if not of rank, at least of money. The knight, however
penniless, was the prince's equal, even his superior, from whose hands he
must receive knighthood; and the "squire of low degree," who honourably
earned his spurs, rose also into that guild, whose qualifications, however
barbaric, were still higher ones than any which the pocket gives. But in
the commercial classes money most truly and fearfully "makes the man." A
difference in income, as you go lower, makes more and more difference in
the supply of the common necessaries of life; and worse--in education and
manners, in all which polishes the man, till you may see often, as in
my case, one cousin a Cambridge undergraduate, and the other a tailor's
journeyman.

My uncle one day came down to visit us, resplendent in a black velvet
waistcoat, thick gold chain, and acres of shirt-front; and I and Susan were
turned to feed on our own curiosity and awe in the back-yard, while he and
my mother were closeted together for an hour or so in the living-room. When
he was gone, my mother called me in; and with eyes which would have been
tearful had she allowed herself such a weakness before us, told me very
solemnly and slowly, as if to impress upon me the awfulness of the matter,
that I was to be sent to a tailor's workrooms the next day.

And an awful step it was in her eyes, as she laid her hands on my head and
murmured to herself, "Behold, I send you forth as a lamb in the midst of
wolves. Be ye, therefore, wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." And
then, rising hastily to conceal her own emotion, fled upstairs, where
we could hear her throw herself on her knees by the bedside, and sob
piteously.

That evening was spent dolefully enough, in a sermon of warnings against
all manner of sins and temptations, the very names of which I had never
heard, but to which, as she informed me, I was by my fallen nature
altogether prone: and right enough was she in so saying, though as often
happens, the temptations from which I was in real danger were just the ones
of which she had no notion--fighting more or less extinct Satans, as Mr.
Carlyle says, and quite unconscious of the real, modern, man-devouring
Satan close at her elbow.

To me, in spite of all the terror which she tried to awaken in me, the
change was not unwelcome; at all events, it promised me food for my eyes
and my ears,--some escape from the narrow cage in which, though I hardly
dare confess it to myself, I was beginning to pine. Little I dreamt to what
a darker cage I was to be translated! Not that I accuse my uncle of neglect
or cruelty, though the thing was altogether of his commanding. He was as
generous to us as society required him to be. We were entirely dependent on
him, as my mother told me then for the first time, for support. And had he
not a right to dispose of my person, having bought it by an allowance to my
mother of five-and-twenty pounds a year? I did not forget that fact; the
thought of my dependence on him rankled in me, till it almost bred hatred
in me to a man who had certainly never done or meant anything to me but in
kindness. For what could he make me but a tailor--or a shoemaker? A pale,
consumptive, rickety, weakly boy, all forehead and no muscle--have not
clothes and shoes been from time immemorial the appointed work of such? The
fact that that weakly frame is generally compensated by a proportionally
increased activity of brain, is too unimportant to enter into the
calculations of the great King Laissez-faire. Well, my dear Society, it is
you that suffer for the mistake, after all, more than we. If you do tether
your cleverest artisans on tailors' shopboards and cobblers' benches,
and they--as sedentary folk will--fall a thinking, and come to strange
conclusions thereby, they really ought to be much more thankful to you than
you are to them. If Thomas Cooper had passed his first five-and-twenty
years at the plough tail instead of the shoemaker's awl, many words would
have been left unsaid which, once spoken, working men are not likely to
forget.

With a beating heart I shambled along by my mother's side next day to Mr.
Smith's shop, in a street off Piccadilly; and stood by her side, just
within the door, waiting till some one would condescend to speak to us, and
wondering when the time would come when I, like the gentleman who skipped
up and down the shop, should shine glorious in patent-leather boots, and a
blue satin tie sprigged with gold.

Two personages, both equally magnificent, stood talking with their backs
to us; and my mother, in doubt, like myself, as to which of them was the
tailor, at last summoned up courage to address the wrong one, by asking if
he were Mr. Smith.

The person addressed answered by a most polite smile and bow, and assured
her that he had not that honour; while the other he-he'ed, evidently a
little flattered by the mistake, and then uttered in a tremendous voice
these words:

"I have nothing for you, my good woman--go. Mr. Elliot! how did you come to
allow these people to get into the establishment?"

"My name is Locke, sir, and I was to bring my son here this morning."

"Oh--ah!--Mr. Elliot, see to these persons. As I was saying, my lard,
the crimson velvet suit, about thirty-five guineas. By-the-by, that coat
ours? I thought so--idea grand and light--masses well broken--very fine
chiaroscuro about the whole--an aristocratic wrinkle just above the
hips--which I flatter myself no one but myself and my friend Mr. Cooke
really do understand. The vapid smoothness of the door dummy, my lard,
should be confined to the regions of the Strand. Mr. Elliot, where are you?
Just be so good as to show his lardship that lovely new thing in drab and
_blue fonce_. Ah! your lardship can't wait.--Now, my good woman, is this
the young man?"

"Yes," said my mother: "and--and--God deal so with you, sir, as you deal
with the widow and the orphan."

"Oh--ah--that will depend very much, I should say, on how the widow and
the orphan deal with me. Mr. Elliot, take this person into the office
and transact the little formalities with her, Jones, take the young man
up-stairs to the work-room."

I stumbled after Mr. Jones up a dark, narrow, iron staircase till we
emerged through a trap-door into a garret at the top of the house.
I recoiled with disgust at the scene before me; and here I was to
work--perhaps through life! A low lean-to room, stifling me with the
combined odours of human breath and perspiration, stale beer, the sweet
sickly smell of gin, and the sour and hardly less disgusting one of new
cloth. On the floor, thick with dust and dirt, scraps of stuff and ends of
thread, sat some dozen haggard, untidy, shoeless men, with a mingled look
of care and recklessness that made me shudder. The windows were tight
closed to keep out the cold winter air; and the condensed breath ran in
streams down the panes, chequering the dreary outlook of chimney-tops and
smoke. The conductor handed me over to one of the men.

"Here, Crossthwaite, take this younker and make a tailor of him. Keep him
next you, and prick him up with your needle if he shirks."

He disappeared down the trap-door, and mechanically, as if in a dream,
I sat down by the man and listened to his instructions, kindly enough
bestowed. But I did not remain in peace two minutes. A burst of chatter
rose as the foreman vanished, and a tall, bloated, sharp-nosed young man
next me bawled in my ear,--

"I say, young'un, fork out the tin and pay your footing at Conscrumption
Hospital."

"What do you mean?"

"Aint he just green?--Down with the stumpy--a tizzy for a pot of
half-and-half."

"I never drink beer."

"Then never do," whispered the man at my side; "as sure as hell's hell,
it's your only chance."

There was a fierce, deep earnestness in the tone which made me look up at
the speaker, but the other instantly chimed in--

"Oh, yer don't, don't yer, my young Father Mathy? then yer'll soon learn it
here if yer want to keep yer victuals down."

"And I have promised to take my wages home to my mother."

"Oh criminy! hark to that, my coves! here's a chap as is going to take the
blunt home to his mammy."

"T'aint much of it the old'un'll see," said another. "Ven yer pockets it
at the Cock and Bottle, my kiddy, yer won't find much of it left o' Sunday
mornings."

"Don't his mother know he's out?" asked another, "and won't she know it--

 "Ven he's sitting in his glory
  Half-price at the Victory.

"Oh! no, ve never mentions her--her name is never heard. Certainly not, by
no means. Why should it?"

"Well, if yer won't stand a pot," quoth the tall man, "I will, that's all,
and blow temperance. 'A short life and a merry one,' says the tailor--

 "The ministers talk a great deal about port,
    And they makes Cape wine very dear,
  But blow their hi's if ever they tries
    To deprive a poor cove of his beer.

"Here, Sam, run to the Cock and Bottle for a pot of half-and-half to my
score."

A thin, pale lad jumped up and vanished, while my tormentor turned to me:

"I say, young'un, do you know why we're nearer heaven here than our
neighbours?"

"I shouldn't have thought so," answered I with a _naivete_ which raised a
laugh, and dashed the tall man for a moment.

"Yer don't? then I'll tell yer. A cause we're a top of the house in the
first place, and next place yer'll die here six months sooner nor if yer
worked in the room below. Aint that logic and science, Orator?" appealing
to Crossthwaite.

"Why?" asked I.

"A cause you get all the other floors' stinks up here as well as your
own. Concentrated essence of man's flesh, is this here as you're a
breathing. Cellar workroom we calls Rheumatic Ward, because of the damp.
Ground-floor's Fever Ward--them as don't get typhus gets dysentery, and
them as don't get dysentery gets typhus--your nose'd tell yer why if you
opened the back windy. First floor's Ashmy Ward--don't you hear 'um now
through the cracks in the boards, a puffing away like a nest of young
locomotives? And this here most august and upper-crust cockloft is the
Conscrumptive Hospital. First you begins to cough, then you proceeds
to expectorate--spittoons, as you see, perwided free gracious for
nothing--fined a kivarten if you spits on the floor--

 "Then your cheeks they grows red, and your nose it grows thin,
  And your bones they stick out, till they comes through your skin:

"and then, when you've sufficiently covered the poor dear shivering bare
backs of the hairystocracy--

 "Die, die, die,
  Away you fly,
  Your soul is in the sky!

"as the hinspired Shakspeare wittily remarks."

And the ribald lay down on his back, stretched himself out, and pretended
to die in a fit of coughing, which last was, alas! no counterfeit, while
poor I, shocked and bewildered, let my tears fall fast upon my knees.

"Fine him a pot!" roared one, "for talking about kicking the bucket. He's
a nice young man to keep a cove's spirits up, and talk about 'a short life
and a merry one.' Here comes the heavy. Hand it here to take the taste of
that fellow's talk out of my mouth."

"Well, my young'un," recommenced my tormentor, "and how do you like your
company?"

"Leave the boy alone," growled Crossthwaite; "don't you see he's crying?"

"Is that anything good to eat? Give me some on it if it is--it'll save me
washing my face." And he took hold of my hair and pulled my head back.

"I'll tell you what, Jemmy Downes," said Crossthwaite, in a voice which
made him draw back, "if you don't drop that, I'll give you such a taste of
my tongue as shall turn you blue."

"You'd better try it on then. Do--only just now--if you please."

"Be quiet, you fool!" said another. "You're a pretty fellow to chaff the
orator. He'll slang you up the chimney afore you can get your shoes on."

"Fine him a kivarten for quarrelling," cried another; and the bully
subsided into a minute's silence, after a _sotto voce_--"Blow temperance,
and blow all Chartists, say I!" and then delivered himself of his feelings
in a doggerel song:

   "Some folks leads coves a dance,
    With their pledge of temperance,
  And their plans for donkey sociation;
    And their pockets full they crams
    By their patriotic flams,
  And then swears 'tis for the good of the nation.

   "But I don't care two inions
    For political opinions,
  While I can stand my heavy and my quartern;
    For to drown dull care within,
    In baccy, beer, and gin,
  Is the prime of a working-tailor's fortin!

"There's common sense for yer now; hand the pot here."

I recollect nothing more of that day, except that I bent myself to my work
with assiduity enough to earn praises from Crossthwaite. It was to be done,
and I did it. The only virtue I ever possessed (if virtue it be) is the
power of absorbing my whole heart and mind in the pursuit of the moment,
however dull or trivial, if there be good reason why it should be pursued
at all.

I owe, too, an apology to my readers for introducing all this ribaldry. God
knows, it is as little to my taste as it can be to theirs, but the thing
exists; and those who live, if not by, yet still besides such a state of
things, ought to know what the men are like to whose labour, ay, lifeblood,
they own their luxuries. They are "their brothers' keepers," let them deny
it as they will. Thank God, many are finding that out; and the morals of
the working tailors, as well as of other classes of artisans, are rapidly
improving: a change which has been brought about partly by the wisdom
and kindness of a few master tailors, who have built workshops fit for
human beings, and have resolutely stood out against the iniquitous and
destructive alterations in the system of employment. Among them I may, and
will, whether they like it or not, make honourable mention of Mr. Willis,
of St. James's Street, and Mr. Stultz, of Bond Street.

But nine-tenths of the improvement has been owing, not to the masters, but
to the men themselves; and who among them, my aristocratic readers, do you
think, have been the great preachers and practisers of temperance, thrift,
charity, self-respect, and education. Who?--shriek not in your Belgravian
saloons--the Chartists; the communist Chartists: upon whom you and your
venal press heap every kind of cowardly execration and ribald slander. You
have found out many things since Peterloo; add that fact to the number.

It may seem strange that I did not tell my mother into what a pandemonium
I had fallen, and got her to deliver me; but a delicacy, which was not
all evil, kept me back; I shrank from seeming to dislike to earn my daily
bread, and still more from seeming to object to what she had appointed for
me. Her will had been always law; it seemed a deadly sin to dispute it. I
took for granted, too, that she knew what the place was like, and that,
therefore, it must be right for me. And when I came home at night, and
got back to my beloved missionary stories, I gathered materials enough
to occupy my thoughts during the next day's work, and make me blind and
deaf to all the evil around me. My mother, poor dear creature, would have
denounced my day-dreams sternly enough, had she known of their existence;
but were they not holy angels from heaven? guardians sent by that Father,
whom I had been taught _not_ to believe in, to shield my senses from
pollution?

I was ashamed, too, to mention to my mother the wickedness which I saw
and heard. With the delicacy of an innocent boy, I almost imputed the
very witnessing of it as a sin to myself; and soon I began to be ashamed
of more than the mere sitting by and hearing. I found myself gradually
learning slang-insolence, laughing at coarse jokes, taking part in angry
conversations; my moral tone was gradually becoming lower; but yet the
habit of prayer remained, and every night at my bedside, when I prayed to
"be converted and made a child of God," I prayed that the same mercy might
be extended to my fellow-workmen, "if they belonged to the number of the
elect." Those prayers may have been answered in a wider and deeper sense
than I then thought of.

But, altogether, I felt myself in a most distracted, rudderless state. My
mother's advice I felt daily less and less inclined to ask. A gulf was
opening between us; we were moving in two different worlds, and she saw
it, and imputed it to me as a sin; and was the more cold to me by day, and
prayed for me (as I knew afterwards) the more passionately while I slept.
But help or teacher I had none. I knew not that I had a Father in heaven.
How could He be my Father till I was converted? I was a child of the Devil,
they told me; and now and then I felt inclined to take them at their word,
and behave like one. No sympathizing face looked on me out of the wide
heaven--off the wide earth, none. I was all boiling with new hopes, new
temptations, new passions, new sorrows, and "I looked to the right hand and
to the left, and no man cared for my soul."

I had felt myself from the first strangely drawn towards Crossthwaite,
carefully as he seemed to avoid me, except to give me business directions
in the workroom. He alone had shown me any kindness; and he, too, alone was
untainted with the sin around him. Silent, moody, and preoccupied, he was
yet the king of the room. His opinion was always asked, and listened to.
His eye always cowed the ribald and the blasphemer; his songs, when he
rarely broke out into merriment, were always rapturously applauded. Men
hated, and yet respected him. I shrank from him at first, when I heard
him called a Chartist; for my dim notions of that class were, that they
were a very wicked set of people, who wanted to kill all the soldiers and
policemen and respectable people, and rob all the shops of their contents.
But, Chartist or none, Crossthwaite fascinated me. I often found myself
neglecting my work to study his face. I liked him, too, because he was as I
was--small, pale, and weakly. He might have been five-and-twenty; but his
looks, like those of too many a working man, were rather those of a man
of forty. Wild grey eyes gleamed out from under huge knitted brows, and a
perpendicular wall of brain, too large for his puny body. He was not only,
I soon discovered, a water-drinker, but a strict "vegetarian" also; to
which, perhaps, he owed a great deal of the almost preternatural clearness,
volubility, and sensitiveness of his mind. But whether from his ascetic
habits, or the un-healthiness of his trade, the marks of ill-health were
upon him; and his sallow cheek, and ever-working lip, proclaimed too
surely--

  The fiery soul which, working out its way,
  Fretted the pigmy body to decay;
  And o'er informed the tenement of clay.

I longed to open my heart to him. Instinctively I felt that he was a
kindred spirit. Often, turning round suddenly in the workroom, I caught him
watching me with an expression which seemed to say, "Poor boy, and art thou
too one of us? Hast thou too to fight with poverty and guidelessness, and
the cravings of an unsatisfied intellect, as I have done!" But when I tried
to speak to him earnestly, his manner was peremptory and repellent. It was
well for me that so it was--well for me, I see now, that it was not from
him my mind received the first lessons in self-development. For guides did
come to me in good time, though not such, perhaps, as either my mother or
my readers would have chosen for me.

My great desire now was to get knowledge. By getting that I fancied, as
most self-educated men are apt to do, 1 should surely get wisdom. Books, I
thought, would tell me all I needed. But where to get the books? And which?
I had exhausted our small stock at home; I was sick and tired, without
knowing why, of their narrow conventional view of everything. After all,
I had been reading them all along, not for their doctrines but for their
facts, and knew not where to find more, except in forbidden paths. I dare
not ask my mother for books, for I dare not confess to her that religious
ones were just what I did not want; and all history, poetry, science, I had
been accustomed to hear spoken of as "carnal learning, human philosophy,"
more or less diabolic and ruinous to the soul. So, as usually happens
in this life--"By the law was the knowledge of sin"--and unnatural
restrictions on the development of the human spirit only associated with
guilt of conscience, what ought to have been an innocent and necessary
blessing.

My poor mother, not singular in her mistake, had sent me forth, out of an
unconscious paradise into the evil world, without allowing me even the sad
strength which comes from eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil;
she expected in me the innocence of the dove, as if that was possible on
such an earth as this, without the wisdom of the serpent to support it. She
forbade me strictly to stop and look into the windows of print shops, and
I strictly obeyed her. But she forbade me, too, to read any book which I
had not first shown her; and that restriction, reasonable enough in the
abstract, practically meant, in the case of a poor boy like myself, reading
no books at all. And then came my first act of disobedience, the parent of
many more. Bitterly have I repented it, and bitterly been punished. Yet,
strange contradiction! I dare not wish it undone. But such is the great law
of life. Punished for our sins we surely are; and yet how often they become
our blessings, teaching us that which nothing else can teach us! Nothing
else? One says so. Rich parents, I suppose, say so, when they send their
sons to public schools "to learn life." We working men have too often no
other teacher than our own errors. But surely, surely, the rich ought to
have been able to discover some mode of education in which knowledge may be
acquired without the price of conscience, Yet they have not; and we must
not complain of them for not giving such a one to the working man when they
have not yet even given it to their own children.

In a street through which I used to walk homeward was an old book shop,
piled and fringed outside and in with books of every age, size, and colour.
And here I at last summoned courage to stop, and timidly and stealthily
taking out some volume whose title attracted me, snatch hastily a few pages
and hasten on, half fearful of being called on to purchase, half ashamed of
a desire which I fancied every one else considered as unlawful as my mother
did. Sometimes I was lucky enough to find the same volume several days
running, and to take up the subject where I had left it off; and thus I
contrived to hurry through a great deal of "Childe Harold," "Lara," and the
"Corsair"--a new world of wonders to me. They fed, those poems, both my
health and my diseases; while they gave me, little of them as I could
understand, a thousand new notions about scenery and man, a sense of poetic
melody and luxuriance as yet utterly unknown. They chimed in with all
my discontent, my melancholy, my thirst after any life of action and
excitement, however frivolous, insane, or even worse. I forgot the
Corsair's sinful trade in his free and daring life; rather, I honestly
eliminated the bad element--in which, God knows, I took no delight--and
kept the good one. However that might be, the innocent--guilty pleasure
grew on me day by day. Innocent, because human--guilty, because
disobedient. But have I not paid the penalty?

One evening, however, I fell accidentally on a new book--"The Life and
Poems of J. Bethune." I opened the story of his life--became interested,
absorbed--and there I stood, I know not how long, on the greasy pavement,
heedless of the passers who thrust me right and left, reading by the
flaring gas-light that sad history of labour, sorrow, and death.--How
the Highland cotter, in spite of disease, penury, starvation itself, and
the daily struggle to earn his bread by digging and ditching, educated
himself--how he toiled unceasingly with his hands--how he wrote his poems
in secret on dirty scraps of paper and old leaves of books--how thus he
wore himself out, manful and godly, "bating not a jot of heart or hope,"
till the weak flesh would bear no more; and the noble spirit, unrecognized
by the lord of the soil, returned to God who gave it. I seemed to see in
his history a sad presage of my own. If he, stronger, more self-restrained,
more righteous far than ever I could be, had died thus unknown, unassisted,
in the stern battle with social disadvantages, what must be my lot?

And tears of sympathy, rather than of selfish fear, fell fast upon the
book.

A harsh voice from the inner darkness of the shop startled me.

"Hoot, laddie, ye'll better no spoil my books wi' greeting ower them."

I replaced the book hastily, and was hurrying on, but the same voice called
me back in a more kindly tone.

"Stop a wee, my laddie. I'm no angered wi' ye. Come in, and we'll just ha'
a bit crack thegither."

I went in, for there was a geniality in the tone to which I was
unaccustomed, and something whispered to me the hope of an adventure, as
indeed it proved to be, if an event deserves that name which decided the
course of my whole destiny.

"What war ye greeting about, then? What was the book?"

"'Bethune's Life and Poems,' sir," I said. "And certainly they did affect
me very much."

"Affect ye? Ah, Johnnie Bethune, puir fellow! Ye maunna take on about sic
like laddies, or ye'll greet your e'en out o' your head. It's mony a braw
man beside Johnnie Bethune has gane Johnnie-Bethune's gate."

Though unaccustomed to the Scotch accent, I could make out enough of
this speech to be in nowise consoled by it. But the old man turned the
conversation by asking me abruptly my name, and trade, and family.

"Hum, hum, widow, eh? puir body! work at Smith's shop, eh? Ye'll ken John
Crossthwaite, then? ay? hum, hum; an' ye're desirous o' reading books? vara
weel--let's see your cawpabilities."

And he pulled me into the dim light of the little back window, shoved back
his spectacles, and peering at me from underneath them, began, to my great
astonishment, to feel my head all over.

"Hum, hum, a vara gude forehead--vara gude indeed. Causative organs large,
perceptive ditto. Imagination superabundant--mun be heeded. Benevolence,
conscientiousness, ditto, ditto. Caution--no that large--might be
developed," with a quiet chuckle, "under a gude Scot's education. Just turn
your head into profile, laddie. Hum, hum. Back o' the head a'thegither
defective. Firmness sma'--love of approbation unco big. Beware o' leeing,
as ye live; ye'll need it. Philoprogenitiveness gude. Ye'll be fond o'
bairns, I'm guessing?"

"Of what?"

"Children, laddie,--children."

"Very," answered I, in utter dismay at what seemed to me a magical process
for getting at all my secret failings.

"Hum, hum! Amative and combative organs sma'--a general want o' healthy
animalism, as my freen' Mr. Deville wad say. And ye want to read books?"

I confessed my desire, without, alas! confessing that my mother had
forbidden it.

"Vara weel; then books I'll lend ye, after I've had a crack wi'
Crossthwaite aboot ye, gin I find his opinion o' ye satisfactory. Come
to me the day after to-morrow. An' mind, here are my rules:--a' damage
done to a book to be paid for, or na mair books lent; ye'll mind to
take no books without leave; specially ye'll mind no to read in bed o'
nights,--industrious folks ought to be sleeping' betimes, an' I'd no be a
party to burning puir weans in their beds; and lastly, ye'll observe not to
read mair than five books at once."

I assured him that I thought such a thing impossible; but he smiled in his
saturnine way, and said--

"We'll see this day fortnight. Now, then, I've observed ye for a month past
over that aristocratic Byron's poems. And I'm willing to teach the young
idea how to shoot--but no to shoot itself; so ye'll just leave alane that
vinegary, soul-destroying trash, and I'll lend ye, gin I hear a gude report
of ye, 'The Paradise Lost,' o' John Milton--a gran' classic model; and
for the doctrine o't, it's just aboot as gude as ye'll hear elsewhere the
noo. So gang your gate, and tell John Crossthwaite, privately, auld Sandy
Mackaye wad like to see him the morn's night."

I went home in wonder and delight. Books! books! books! I should have my
fill of them at last. And when I said my prayers at night, I thanked God
for this unexpected boon; and then remembered that my mother had forbidden
it. That thought checked the thanks, but not the pleasure. Oh, parents! are
there not real sins enough in the world already, without your defiling it,
over and above, by inventing new ones?




CHAPTER III.

SANDY MACKAYE.


That day fortnight came,--and the old Scotchman's words came true. Four
books of his I had already, and I came in to borrow a fifth; whereon he
began with a solemn chuckle:

"Eh, laddie, laddie, I've been treating ye as the grocers do their new
prentices. They first gie the boys three days' free warren among the figs
and the sugar-candy, and they get scunnered wi' sweets after that. Noo,
then, my lad, ye've just been reading four books in three days--and here's
a fifth. Ye'll no open this again."

"Oh!" I cried, piteously enough, "just let me finish what I am reading. I'm
in the middle of such a wonderful account of the Hornitos of Jurullo."

"Hornets or wasps, a swarm o' them ye're like to have at this rate; and
a very bad substitute ye'll find them for the Attic bee. Now tak' tent.
I'm no in the habit of speaking without deliberation, for it saves a man
a great deal of trouble in changing his mind. If ye canna traduce to me
a page o' Virgil by this day three months, ye read no more o' my books.
Desultory reading is the bane o' lads. Ye maun begin with self-restraint
and method, my man, gin ye intend to gie yoursel' a liberal education. So
I'll just mak' you a present of an auld Latin grammar, and ye maun begin
where your betters ha' begun before you."

"But who will teach me Latin?"

"Hoot, man! who'll teach a man anything except himsel'? It's only
gentlefolks and puir aristocrat bodies that go to be spoilt wi' tutors and
pedagogues, cramming and loading them wi' knowledge, as ye'd load a gun, to
shoot it all out again, just as it went down, in a college examination, and
forget all aboot it after."

"Ah!" I sighed, "if I could have gone to college!"

"What for, then? My father was a Hieland farmer, and yet he was a weel
learned man: and 'Sandy, my lad,' he used to say, 'a man kens just as
much as he's taught himsel', and na mair. So get wisdom; and wi' all your
getting, get understanding.' And so I did. And mony's the Greek exercise
I've written in the cowbyres. And mony's the page o' Virgil, too, I've
turned into good Dawric Scotch to ane that's dead and gane, poor hizzie,
sitting under the same plaid, with the sheep feeding round us, up among
the hills, looking out ower the broad blue sea, and the wee haven wi' the
fishing cobles--"

There was a long solemn pause. I cannot tell why, but I loved the man from
that moment; and I thought, too, that he began to love me. Those few words
seemed a proof of confidence, perhaps all the deeper, because accidental
and unconscious.

I took the Virgil which he lent me, with Hamilton's literal translation
between the lines, and an old tattered Latin grammar; I felt myself quite
a learned man--actually the possessor of a Latin book! I regarded as
something almost miraculous the opening of this new field for my ambition.
Not that I was consciously, much less selfishly, ambitious. I had no idea
as yet to be anything but a tailor to the end; to make clothes--perhaps in
a less infernal atmosphere--but still to make clothes and live thereby. I
did not suspect that I possessed powers above the mass. My intense longing
after knowledge had been to me like a girl's first love--a thing to be
concealed from every eye--to be looked at askance even by myself, delicious
as it was, with holy shame and trembling. And thus it was not cowardice
merely, but natural modesty, which put me on a hundred plans of concealing
my studies from my mother, and even from my sister.

I slept in a little lean-to garret at the back of the house, some ten feet
long by six wide. I could just stand upright against the inner wall, while
the roof on the other side ran down to the floor. There was no fireplace in
it, or any means of ventilation. No wonder I coughed all night accordingly,
and woke about two every morning with choking throat and aching head. My
mother often said that the room was "too small for a Christian to sleep in,
but where could she get a better?"

Such was my only study. I could not use it as such, however, at night
without discovery; for my mother carefully looked in every evening, to
see that my candle was out. But when my kind cough woke me, I rose, and
creeping like a mouse about the room--for my mother and sister slept in the
next chamber, and every sound was audible through the narrow partition--I
drew my darling books out from under a board of the floor, one end of which
I had gradually loosened at odd minutes, and with them a rushlight, earned
by running on messages, or by taking bits of work home, and finishing them
for my fellows.

No wonder that with this scanty rest, and this complicated exertion of
hands, eyes, and brain, followed by the long dreary day's work of the shop,
my health began to fail; my eyes grew weaker and weaker; my cough became
more acute; my appetite failed me daily. My mother noticed the change,
and questioned me about it, affectionately enough. But I durst not, alas!
tell the truth. It was not one offence, but the arrears of months of
disobedience which I should have had to confess; and so arose infinite
false excuses, and petty prevarications, which embittered and clogged still
more my already overtasked spirit. About my own ailments--formidable as
I believed they were--I never had a moment's anxiety. The expectation of
early death was as unnatural to me as it is, I suspect, to almost all. I
die? Had I not hopes, plans, desires, infinite? Could I die while they were
unfulfilled? Even now, I do not believe I shall die yet. I will not believe
it--but let that pass.

Yes, let that pass. Perhaps I have lived long enough--longer than many a
grey-headed man.

  There is a race of mortals who become
  Old in their youth, and die ere middle age.

And might not those days of mine then have counted as months?--those days
when, before starting forth to walk two miles to the shop at six o'clock in
the morning, I sat some three or four hours shivering on my bed, putting
myself into cramped and painful postures, not daring even to cough, lest my
mother should fancy me unwell, and come in to see me, poor dear soul!--my
eyes aching over the page, my feet wrapped up in the bedclothes, to keep
them from the miserable pain of the cold; longing, watching, dawn after
dawn, for the kind summer mornings, when I should need no candlelight.
Look at the picture awhile, ye comfortable folks, who take down from your
shelves what books you like best at the moment, and then lie back, amid
prints and statuettes, to grow wise in an easy-chair, with a blazing fire
and a camphine lamp. The lower classes uneducated! Perhaps you would be so
too, if learning cost you the privation which it costs some of them.

But this concealment could not last. My only wonder is, that I continued to
get whole months of undiscovered study. One morning, about four o'clock, as
might have been expected, my mother heard me stirring, came in, and found
me sitting crosslegged on my bed, stitching away, indeed, with all my
might, but with a Virgil open before me.

She glanced at the book, clutched it with one hand and my arm with the
other, and sternly asked,

"Where did you get this heathen stuff?"

A lie rose to my lips; but I had been so gradually entangled in the loathed
meshes of a system of concealment, and consequent prevarication, that
I felt as if one direct falsehood would ruin for ever my fast-failing
self-respect, and I told her the whole truth. She took the book and left
the room. It was Saturday morning, and I spent two miserable days, for she
never spoke a word to me till the two ministers had made their appearance,
and drank their tea on Sunday evening: then at last she opened:

"And now, Mr. Wigginton, what account have you of this Mr. Mackaye, who has
seduced my unhappy boy from the paths of obedience?"

"I am sorry to say, madam," answered the dark man, with a solemn snuffle,
"that he proves to be a most objectionable and altogether unregenerate
character. He is, as I am informed, neither more nor less than a Chartist,
and an open blasphemer."

"He is not!" I interrupted, angrily. "He has told me more about God, and
given me better advice, than any human being, except my mother."

"Ah! madam, so thinks the unconverted heart, ignorant that the god of the
Deist is not the God of the Bible--a consuming fire to all but His beloved
elect; the god of the Deist, unhappy youth, is a mere self-invented,
all-indulgent phantom--a will-o'-the-wisp, deluding the unwary, as he has
deluded you, into the slough of carnal reason and shameful profligacy."

"Do you mean to call me a profligate?" I retorted fiercely, for my blood
was up, and I felt I was fighting for all which I prized in the world:
"if you do, you lie. Ask my mother when I ever disobeyed her before? I
have never touched a drop of anything stronger than water; I have slaved
over-hours to pay for my own candle, I have!--I have no sins to accuse
myself of, and neither you nor any person know of any. Do you call me a
profligate because I wish to educate myself and rise in life?"

"Ah!" groaned my poor mother to herself, "still unconvinced of sin!"

"The old Adam, my dear madam, you see,--standing, as he always does, on his
own filthy rags of works, while all the imaginations of his heart are only
evil continually. Listen to me, poor sinner--"

"I will not listen to you," I cried, the accumulated disgust of years
bursting out once and for all, "for I hate and despise you, eating my poor
mother here out of house and home. You are one of those who creep into
widows' houses, and for pretence make long prayers. You, sir, I will hear,"
I went on, turning to the dear old man who had sat by shaking his white
locks with a sad and puzzled air, "for I love you."

"My dear sister Locke," he began, "I really think sometimes--that is,
ahem--with your leave, brother--I am almost disposed--but I should wish to
defer to your superior zeal--yet, at the same time, perhaps, the desire for
information, however carnal in itself, may be an instrument in the Lord's
hands--you know what I mean. I always thought him a gracious youth, madam,
didn't you? And perhaps--I only observe it in passing--the Lord's people
among the dissenting connexions are apt to undervalue human learning as a
means--of course, I mean, only as a means. It is not generally known, I
believe, that our reverend Puritan patriarchs, Howe and Baxter, Owen and
many more, were not altogether unacquainted with heathen authors; nay, that
they may have been called absolutely learned men. And some of our leading
ministers are inclined--no doubt they will be led rightly in so important
a matter--to follow the example of the Independents in educating their
young ministers, and turning Satan's weapons of heathen mythology against
himself, as St. Paul is said to have done. My dear boy, what books have you
now got by you of Mr. Mackaye's?"

"Milton's Poems and a Latin Virgil."

"Ah!" groaned the dark man; "will poetry, will Latin save an immortal
soul?"

"I'll tell you what, sir; you say yourself that it depends on God's
absolute counsel whether I am saved or not. So, if I am elect, I shall be
saved whatever I do; and if I am not, I shall be damned whatever I do; and
in the mean time you had better mind your own business, and let me do the
best I can for this life, as the next is all settled for me."

This flippant, but after all not unreasonable speech, seemed to silence the
man; and I took the opportunity of running up-stairs and bringing down my
Milton. The old man was speaking as I re-entered.

"And you know, my dear madam, Mr. Milton was a true converted man, and a
Puritan."

"He was Oliver Cromwell's secretary," I added.

"Did he teach you to disobey your mother?" asked my mother.

I did not answer; and the old man, after turning over a few leaves, as if
he knew the book well, looked up.

"I think, madam, you might let the youth keep these books, if he will
promise, as I am sure he will, to see no more of Mr. Mackaye."

I was ready to burst out crying, but I made up my mind and answered,

"I must see him once again, or he will think me so ungrateful. He is the
best friend that I ever had, except you, mother. Besides, I do not know if
he will lend me any, after this."

My mother looked at the old minister, and then gave a sullen assent.

"Promise me only to see him once--but I cannot trust you. You have deceived
me once, Alton, and you may again!"

"I shall not, I shall not," I answered proudly. "You do not know me"--and I
spoke true.

"You do not know yourself, my poor dear foolish child!" she replied--and
that was true too.

"And now, dear friends," said the dark man, "let us join in offering up a
few words of special intercession."

We all knelt down, and I soon discovered that by the special intercession
was meant a string of bitter and groundless slanders against poor me,
twisted into the form of a prayer for my conversion, "if it were God's
will." To which I responded with a closing "Amen," for which I was sorry
afterwards, when I recollected that it was said in merely insolent mockery.
But the little faith I had was breaking up fast--not altogether, surely, by
my own fault. [Footnote: The portraits of the minister and the missionary
are surely exceptions to their class, rather than the average. The Baptists
have had their Andrew Fuller and Robert Hall, and among missionaries Dr.
Carey, and noble spirits in plenty. But such men as those who excited
Alton Locke's disgust are to be met with, in every sect; in the Church of
England, and in the Church of Rome. And it is a real and fearful scandal
to the young, to see such men listened to as God's messengers, in spite
of their utter want of any manhood or virtue, simply because they are
"orthodox," each according to the shibboleths of his hearers, and possess
that vulpine "discretion of dulness," whose miraculous might Dean Swift
sets forth in his "Essay on the Fates of Clergymen." Such men do exist, and
prosper; and as long as they are allowed to do so, Alton Lockes will meet
them, and be scandalized by them.--ED.]

At all events, from that day I was emancipated from modern Puritanism. The
ministers both avoided all serious conversation with me; and my mother
did the same; while, with a strength of mind, rare among women, she never
alluded to the scene of that Sunday evening. It was a rule with her never
to recur to what was once done and settled. What was to be, might be prayed
over. But it was to be endured in silence; yet wider and wider ever from
that time opened the gulf between us.

I went trembling the next afternoon to Mackaye and told my story. He first
scolded me severely for disobeying my mother. "He that begins o' that gate,
laddie, ends by disobeying God and his ain conscience. Gin ye're to be a
scholar, God will make you one--and if not, ye'll no mak' yoursel' ane
in spite o' Him and His commandments." And then he filled his pipe and
chuckled away in silence; at last he exploded in a horse-laugh.

"So ye gied the ministers a bit o' yer mind? 'The deil's amang the tailors'
in gude earnest, as the sang says. There's Johnnie Crossthwaite kicked the
Papist priest out o' his house yestreen. Puir ministers, it's ill times wi'
them! They gang about keckling and screighing after the working men, like
a hen that's hatched ducklings, when she sees them tak' the water. Little
Dunkeld's coming to London sune, I'm thinking.

 "Hech! sic a parish, a parish, a parish;
  Hech! sic a parish as little Dunkeld!
  They hae stickit the minister, hanged the precentor,
  Dung down the steeple, and drucken the bell."

"But may I keep the books a little while, Mr. Mackaye?"

"Keep them till ye die, gin ye will. What is the worth o' them to me? What
is the worth o' anything to me, puir auld deevil, that ha' no half a dizen
years to live at the furthest. God bless ye, my bairn; gang hame, and mind
your mither, or it's little gude books'll do ye."




CHAPTER IV.

TAILORS AND SOLDIERS.


I was now thrown again utterly on my own resources. I read and re-read
Milton's "Poems" and Virgil's "AEneid" for six more months at every spare
moment; thus spending over them, I suppose, all in all, far more time than
most gentlemen have done. I found, too, in the last volume of Milton, a few
of his select prose works: the "Areopagitica," the "Defence of the English
People," and one or two more, in which I gradually began to take an
interest; and, little of them as I could comprehend, I was awed by their
tremendous depth and power, as well as excited by the utterly new trains of
thought into which they led me. Terrible was the amount of bodily fatigue
which I had to undergo in reading at every spare moment, while walking to
and fro from my work, while sitting up, often from midnight till dawn,
stitching away to pay for the tallow-candle which I burnt, till I had to
resort to all sorts of uncomfortable contrivances for keeping myself awake,
even at the expense of bodily pain--Heaven forbid that I should weary
my readers by describing them! Young men of the upper classes, to whom
study--pursue it as intensely as you will--is but the business of the day,
and every spare moment relaxation; little you guess the frightful drudgery
undergone by a man of the people who has vowed to educate himself,--to live
at once two lives, each as severe as the whole of yours,--to bring to the
self-imposed toil of intellectual improvement, a body and brain already
worn out by a day of toilsome manual labour. I did it. God forbid, though,
that I should take credit to myself for it. Hundreds more have done it,
with still fewer advantages than mine. Hundreds more, an ever-increasing
army of martyrs, are doing it at this moment: of some of them, too, perhaps
you may hear hereafter.

I had read through Milton, as I said, again and again; I had got out of
him all that my youth and my unregulated mind enabled me to get. I had
devoured, too, not without profit, a large old edition of "Fox's Martyrs,"
which the venerable minister lent me, and now I was hungering again for
fresh food, and again at a loss where to find it.

I was hungering, too, for more than information--for a friend. Since my
intercourse with Sandy Mackaye had been stopped, six months had passed
without my once opening my lips to any human being upon the subjects with
which my mind was haunted day and night. I wanted to know more about
poetry, history, politics, philosophy--all things in heaven and earth. But,
above all, I wanted a faithful and sympathizing ear into which to pour all
my doubts, discontents, and aspirations. My sister Susan, who was one year
younger than myself, was growing into a slender, pretty, hectic girl of
sixteen. But she was altogether a devout Puritan. She had just gone through
the process of conviction of sin and conversion; and being looked upon
at the chapel as an especially gracious professor, was either unable or
unwilling to think or speak on any subject, except on those to which I
felt a growing distaste. She had shrunk from me, too, very much, since my
ferocious attack that Sunday evening on the dark minister, who was her
special favourite. I remarked it, and it was a fresh cause of unhappiness
and perplexity.

At last I made up my mind, come what would, to force myself upon
Crossthwaite. He was the only man whom I knew who seemed able to help me;
and his very reserve had invested him with a mystery, which served to
heighten my imagination of his powers. I waylaid him one day coming out of
the workroom to go home, and plunged at once desperately into the matter.

"Mr. Crossthwaite, I want to speak to you. I want to ask you to advise me."

"I have known that a long time."

"Then why did you never say a kind word to me?"

"Because I was waiting to see whether you were worth saying a kind word to.
It was but the other day, remember, you were a bit of a boy. Now, I think,
I may trust you with a thing or two. Besides, I wanted to see whether you
trusted me enough to ask me. Now you've broke the ice at last, in with you,
head and ears, and see what you can fish out."

"I am very unhappy--"

"That's no new disorder that I know of."

"No; but I think the reason I am unhappy is a strange one; at least, I
never read of but one person else in the same way. I want to educate
myself, and I can't."

"You must have read precious little then, if you think yourself in a
strange way. Bless the boy's heart! And what the dickens do you want to be
educating yourself for, pray?"

This was said in a tone of good-humoured banter, which gave me courage. He
offered to walk homewards with me; and, as I shambled along by his side, I
told him all my story and all my griefs.

I never shall forget that walk. Every house, tree, turning, which we passed
that day on our way, is indissolubly connected in my mind with some strange
new thought which arose in me just at each spot; and recurs, so are the
mind and the senses connected, as surely as I repass it.

I had been telling him about Sandy Mackaye. He confessed to an acquaintance
with him; but in a reserved and mysterious way, which only heightened my
curiosity.

We were going through the Horse Guards, and I could not help lingering
to look with wistful admiration on the huge mustachoed war-machines who
sauntered about the court-yard.

A tall and handsome officer, blazing in scarlet and gold, cantered in on a
superb horse, and, dismounting, threw the reins to a dragoon as grand and
gaudy as himself. Did I envy him? Well--I was but seventeen. And there is
something noble to the mind, as well as to the eye, in the great strong
man, who can fight--a completeness, a self-restraint, a terrible sleeping
power in him. As Mr. Carlyle says, "A soldier, after all, is--one of the
few remaining realities of the age. All other professions almost promise
one thing, and perform--alas! what? But this man promises to fight, and
does it; and, if he be told, will veritably take out a long sword and kill
me."

So thought my companion, though the mood in which he viewed the fact was
somewhat different from my own.

"Come on," he said, peevishly clutching me by the arm; "what do you want
dawdling? Are you a nursery-maid, that you must stare at those red-coated
butchers?" And a deep curse followed.

"What harm have they done you?"

"I should think I owed them turn enough."

"What?"

"They cut my father down at Sheffield,--perhaps with the very swords he
helped to make,--because he would not sit still and starve, and see us
starving around him, while those who fattened on the sweat of his brow, and
on those lungs of his, which the sword-grinding dust was eating out day by
day, were wantoning on venison and champagne. That's the harm they've done
me, my chap!"

"Poor fellows!--they only did as they were ordered, I suppose."

"And what business have they to let themselves be ordered? What right, I
say--what right has any free, reasonable soul on earth, to sell himself for
a shilling a day to murder any man, right or wrong--even his own brother
or his own father--just because such a whiskered, profligate jackanapes
as that officer, without learning, without any god except his own
looking-glass and his opera-dancer--a fellow who, just because he is born
a gentleman, is set to command grey-headed men before he can command his
own meanest passions. Good heavens! that the lives of free men should be
entrusted to such a stuffed cockatoo; and that free men should be such
traitors to their country, traitors to their own flesh and blood, as to
sell themselves, for a shilling a day and the smirks of the nursery-maids,
to do that fellow's bidding!"

"What are you a-grumbling here about, my man?--gotten the cholera?" asked
one of the dragoons, a huge, stupid-looking lad.

"About you, you young long-legged cut-throat," answered Crossthwaite, "and
all your crew of traitors."

"Help, help, coomrades o' mine!" quoth the dragoon, bursting with laughter;
"I'm gaun be moorthered wi' a little booy that's gane mad, and toorned
Chartist."

I dragged Crossthwaite off; for what was jest to the soldiers, I saw, by
his face, was fierce enough earnest to him. We walked on a little, in
silence.

"Now," I said, "that was a good-natured fellow enough, though he was a
soldier. You and he might have cracked many a joke together, if you did but
understand each other;--and he was a countryman of yours, too."

"I may crack something else besides jokes with him some day," answered he,
moodily.

"'Pon my word, you must take care how you do it. He is as big as four of
us."

"That vile aristocrat, the old Italian poet--what's his
name?--Ariosto--ay!--he knew which quarter the wind was making for, when he
said that fire-arms would be the end of all your old knights and gentlemen
in armour, that hewed down unarmed innocents as if they had been sheep.
Gunpowder is your true leveller--dash physical strength! A boy's a man with
a musket in his hand, my chap!"

"God forbid," I said, "that I should ever be made a man of in that way, or
you either. I do not think we are quite big enough to make fighters; and if
we were, what have we got to fight about?"

"Big enough to make fighters?" said he, half to himself; "or strong enough,
perhaps?--or clever enough?--and yet Alexander was a little man, and the
Petit Caporal, and Nelson, and Caesar, too; and so was Saul of Tarsus,
and weakly he was into the bargain. AEsop was a dwarf, and so was Attila;
Shakspeare was lame; Alfred, a rickety weakling; Byron, clubfooted;--so
much for body _versus_ spirit--brute force _versus_ genius--genius."

I looked at him; his eyes glared like two balls of fire. Suddenly he turned
to me.

"Locke, my boy, I've made an ass of myself, and got into a rage, and broken
a good old resolution of mine, and a promise that I made to my dear little
woman--bless her! and said things to you that you ought to know nothing of
for this long time; but those red-coats always put me beside myself. God
forgive me!" And he held out his hand to me cordially.

"I can quite understand your feeling deeply on one point," I said, as I
took it, "after the sad story you told me; but why so bitter on all? What
is there so very wrong about things, that we must begin fighting about it?"

"Bless your heart, poor innocent! What is wrong?--what is not wrong? Wasn't
there enough in that talk with Mackaye, that you told me of just now, to
show anybody that, who can tell a hawk from a hand-saw?"

"Was it wrong in him to give himself such trouble about the education of a
poor young fellow, who has no tie on him, who can never repay him?"

"No; that's just like him. He feels for the people, for he has been one of
us. He worked in a printing-office himself many a year, and he knows the
heart of the working man. But he didn't tell you the whole truth about
education. He daren't tell you. No one who has money dare speak out his
heart; not that he has much certainly; but the cunning old Scot that he is,
he lives by the present system of things, and he won't speak ill of the
bridge which carries him over--till the time comes."

I could not understand whither all this tended, and walked on silent and
somewhat angry, at hearing the least slight cast on Mackaye.

"Don't you see, stupid?" he broke out at last. "What did he say to you
about gentlemen being crammed by tutors and professors? Have not you as
good a right to them as any gentleman?"

"But he told me they were no use--that every man must educate himself."

"Oh! all very fine to tell you the grapes are sour, when you can't reach
them. Bah, lad! Can't you see what comes of education?--that any dolt,
provided he be a gentleman, can be doctored up at school and college,
enough to make him play his part decently--his mighty part of ruling us,
and riding over our heads, and picking our pockets, as parson, doctor,
lawyer, member of parliament--while we--you now, for instance--cleverer
than ninety-nine gentlemen out of a hundred, if you had one-tenth the
trouble taken with you that is taken with every pig-headed son of an
aristocrat--"

"Am I clever?" asked I, in honest surprise.

"What! haven't you found that out yet? Don't try to put that on me. Don't a
girl know when she's pretty, without asking her neighbours?"

"Really, I never thought about it."

"More simpleton you. Old Mackaye has, at all events; though, canny
Scotchman that he is, he'll never say a word to you about it, yet he makes
no secret of it to other people. I heard him the other day telling some of
our friends that you were a thorough young genius."

I blushed scarlet, between pleasure and a new feeling; was it ambition?

"Why, hav'n't you a right to aspire to a college education as any
do-nothing canon there at the abbey, lad?"

"I don't know that I have a right to anything."

"What, not become what Nature intended you to become? What has she given
you brains for, but to be educated and used? Oh! I heard a fine lecture
upon that at our club the other night. There was a man there--a gentleman,
too, but a thorough-going people's man, I can tell you, Mr. O'Flynn. What
an orator that man is to be sure! The Irish AEschines, I hear they call
him in Conciliation Hall. Isn't he the man to pitch into the Mammonites?
'Gentlemen and ladies,' says he, 'how long will a diabolic society'--no, an
effete society it was--'how long will an effete, emasculate, and effeminate
society, in the diabolic selfishness of its eclecticism, refuse to
acknowledge what my immortal countryman, Burke, calls the "Dei voluntatem
in rebus revelatam"--the revelation of Nature's will in the phenomena of
matter? The cerebration of each is the prophetic sacrament of the yet
undeveloped possibilities of his mentation. The form of the brain alone,
and not the possession of the vile gauds of wealth and rank, constitute
man's only right to education--to the glories of art and science. Those
beaming eyes and roseate lips beneath me proclaim a bevy of undeveloped
Aspasias, of embryo Cleopatras, destined by Nature, and only restrained by
man's injustice, from ruling the world by their beauty's eloquence. Those
massive and beetling brows, gleaming with the lambent flames of patriotic
ardour--what is needed to unfold them into a race of Shakspeares and of
Gracchi, ready to proclaim with sword and lyre the divine harmonies of
liberty, equality, and fraternity, before a quailing universe?'"

"It sounds very grand," replied I, meekly; "and I should like very much
certainly to have a good education. But I can't see whose injustice keeps
me out of one if I can't afford to pay for it."

"Whose? Why, the parson's to be sure. They've got the monopoly of education
in England, and they get their bread by it at their public schools and
universities; and of course it's their interest to keep up the price of
their commodity, and let no man have a taste of it who can't pay down
handsomely. And so those aristocrats of college dons go on rolling in
riches, and fellowships, and scholarships, that were bequeathed by the
people's friends in old times, just to educate poor scholars like you and
me, and give us our rights as free men."

"But I thought the clergy were doing so much to educate the poor. At
least, I hear all the dissenting ministers grumbling at their continual
interference."

"Ay, educating them to make them slaves and bigots. They don't teach them
what they teach their own sons. Look at the miserable smattering of general
information--just enough to serve as sauce for their great first and last
lesson of 'Obey the powers that be'--whatever they be; leave us alone in
our comforts, and starve patiently; do, like good boys, for it's God's
will. And then, if a boy does show talent in school, do they help him up
in life? Not they; when he has just learnt enough to whet his appetite for
more, they turn him adrift again, to sink and drudge--to do his duty, as
they call it, in that state of life to which society and the devil have
called him."

"But there are innumerable stories of great Englishmen who have risen from
the lowest ranks."

"Ay; but where are the stories of those who have not risen--of all the
noble geniuses who have ended in desperation, drunkenness, starvation,
suicide, because no one would take the trouble of lifting them up, and
enabling them to walk in the path which Nature had marked out for them?
Dead men tell no tales; and this old whited sepulchre, society, ain't going
to turn informer against itself."

"I trust and hope," I said, sadly, "that if God intends me to rise, He
will open the way for me; perhaps the very struggles and sorrows of a poor
genius may teach him more than ever wealth and prosperity could."

"True, Alton, my boy! and that's my only comfort. It does make men of us,
this bitter battle of life. We working men, when we do come out of the
furnace, come out, not tinsel and papier mache, like those fops of red-tape
statesmen, but steel and granite, Alton, my boy--that has been seven times
tried in the fire: and woe to the papier mache gentleman that runs against
us! But," he went on, sadly, "for one who comes safe through the furnace,
there are a hundred who crack in the burning. You are a young bear, my
lad, with all your sorrows before you; and you'll find that a working
man's training is like the Red Indian children's. The few who are
strong enough to stand it grow up warriors; but all those who are not
fire-and-water-proof by nature--just die, Alton, my lad, and the tribe
thinks itself well rid of them."

So that conversation ended. But it had implanted in my bosom a new seed of
mingled good and evil, which was destined to bear fruit, precious perhaps
as well as bitter. God knows, it has hung on the tree long enough. Sour
and harsh from the first, it has been many a year in ripening. But the
sweetness of the apple, the potency of the grape, as the chemists tell
us, are born out of acidity--a developed sourness. Will it be so with
my thoughts? Dare I assert, as I sit writing here, with the wild waters
slipping past the cabin windows, backwards and backwards ever, every plunge
of the vessel one forward leap from the old world--worn-out world I had
almost called it, of sham civilization and real penury--dare I hope ever to
return and triumph? Shall I, after all, lay my bones among my own people,
and hear the voices of freemen whisper in my dying ears?

Silence, dreaming heart! Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof--and
the good thereof also. Would that I had known that before! Above all, that
I had known it on that night, when first the burning thought arose in my
heart, that I was unjustly used; that society had not given me my rights.
It came to me as a revelation, celestial-infernal, full of glorious hopes
of the possible future in store for me through the perfect development of
all my faculties; and full, too, of fierce present rage, wounded vanity,
bitter grudgings against those more favoured than myself, which grew in
time almost to cursing against the God who had made me a poor untutored
working man, and seemed to have given me genius only to keep me in a
Tantalus' hell of unsatisfied thirst.

Ay, respectable gentlemen and ladies, I will confess all to you--you shall
have, if you enjoy it, a fresh opportunity for indulging that supreme
pleasure which the press daily affords you of insulting the classes
whose powers most of you know as little as you do their sufferings. Yes;
the Chartist poet is vain, conceited, ambitious, uneducated, shallow,
inexperienced, envious, ferocious, scurrilous, seditious, traitorous.--Is
your charitable vocabulary exhausted? Then ask yourselves, how often have
you yourself honestly resisted and conquered the temptation to any one of
these sins, when it has come across you just once in a way, and not as they
came to me, as they come to thousands of the working men, daily and hourly,
"till their torments do, by length of time, become their elements"? What,
are we covetous too? Yes! And if those who have, like you, still covet
more, what wonder if those who have nothing covet something? Profligate
too? Well, though that imputation as a generality is utterly calumnious,
though your amount of respectable animal enjoyment per annum is a hundred
times as great as that of the most self-indulgent artizan, yet, if you had
ever felt what it is to want, not only every luxury of the senses, but even
bread to eat, you would think more mercifully of the man who makes up by
rare excesses, and those only of the limited kinds possible to him, for
long intervals of dull privation, and says in his madness, "Let us eat and
drink, for to-morrow we die!" We have our sins, and you have yours. Ours
may be the more gross and barbaric, but yours are none the less damnable;
perhaps all the more so, for being the sleek, subtle, respectable,
religious sins they are. You are frantic enough, if our part of the press
calls you hard names, but you cannot see that your part of the press
repays it back to us with interest. _We_ see those insults, and feel them
bitterly enough; and do not forget them, alas! soon enough, while they pass
unheeded by your delicate eyes as trivial truisms. Horrible, unprincipled,
villanous, seditious, frantic, blasphemous, are epithets, of course, when
applied to--to how large a portion of the English people, you will some day
discover to your astonishment. When will that come, and how? In thunder,
and storm, and garments rolled in blood? Or like the dew on the mown grass,
and the clear shining of the sunlight after April rain?

Yes, it was true. Society had not given me my rights. And woe unto the man
on whom that idea, true or false, rises lurid, filling all his thoughts
with stifling glare, as of the pit itself. Be it true, be it false, it is
equally a woe to believe it; to have to live on a negation; to have to
worship for our only idea, as hundreds of thousands of us have this day,
the hatred, of the things which are. Ay, though, one of us here and there
may die in faith, in sight of the promised land, yet is it not hard, when
looking from the top of Pisgah into "the good time coming," to watch the
years slipping away one by one, and death crawling nearer and nearer, and
the people wearying themselves in the fire for very vanity, and Jordan not
yet passed, the promised land not yet entered? While our little children
die around us, like lambs beneath the knife, of cholera and typhus and
consumption, and all the diseases which the good time can and will prevent;
which, as science has proved, and you the rich confess, might be prevented
at once, if you dared to bring in one bold and comprehensive measure,
and not sacrifice yearly the lives of thousands to the idol of vested
interests, and a majority in the House. Is it not hard to men who smart
beneath such things to help crying aloud--"Thou cursed Moloch-Mammon, take
my life if thou wilt; let me die in the wilderness, for I have deserved
it; but these little ones in mines and factories, in typhus-cellars, and
Tooting pandemoniums, what have they done? If not in their fathers' cause,
yet still in theirs, were it so great a sin to die upon a barricade?"

Or after all, my working brothers, is it true of our promised land, even as
of that Jewish one of old, that the _priests'_ feet must first cross the
mystic stream into the good land and large which God has prepared for us?

Is it so indeed? Then in the name of the Lord of Hosts, ye priests of His,
why will ye not awake, and arise, and go over Jordan, that the people of
the Lord may follow you?




CHAPTER V.

THE SCEPTIC'S MOTHER.


My readers will perceive from what I have detailed, that I was not likely
to get any positive ground of comfort from Crossthwaite; and from within
myself there was daily less and less hope of any. Daily the struggle became
more intolerable between my duty to my mother and my duty to myself--that
inward thirst for mental self-improvement, which, without any clear
consciousness of its sanctity or inspiration, I felt, and could not help
feeling, that I _must_ follow. No doubt it was very self-willed and
ambitious of me to do that which rich men's sons are flogged for not doing,
and rewarded with all manner of prizes, scholarships, fellowships for
doing. But the nineteenth year is a time of life at which self-will is apt
to exhibit itself in other people besides tailors; and those religious
persons who think it no sin to drive their sons on through classics and
mathematics, in hopes of gaining them a station in life, ought not to be
very hard upon me for driving myself on through the same path without any
such selfish hope of gain--though perhaps the very fact of my having no
wish or expectation of such advantage will constitute in their eyes my sin
and folly, and prove that I was following the dictates merely of a carnal
lust, and not of a proper worldly prudence. I really do not wish to be
flippant or sneering. I have seen the evil of it as much as any man, in
myself and in my own class. But there are excuses for such a fault in the
working man. It does sour and madden him to be called presumptuous and
ambitious for the very same aspirations which are lauded up to the skies in
the sons of the rich--unless, indeed, he will do one little thing, and so
make his peace with society. If he will desert his own class; if he will
try to become a sham gentleman, a parasite, and, if he can, a Mammonite,
the world will compliment him on his noble desire to "_rise in life_."
He will have won his spurs, and be admitted into that exclusive pale of
knighthood, beyond which it is a sin to carry arms even in self-defence.
But if the working genius dares to be true to his own class--to stay among
them--to regenerate them--to defend them--to devote his talents to those
among whom God placed him and brought him up--then he is the demagogue, the
incendiary, the fanatic, the dreamer. So you would have the monopoly of
talent, too, exclusive worldlings? And yet you pretend to believe in the
miracle of Pentecost, and the religion that was taught by the carpenter's
Son, and preached across the world by fishermen!

I was several times minded to argue the question out with my mother, and
assert for myself the same independence of soul which I was now earning for
my body by my wages. Once I had resolved to speak to her that very evening;
but, strangely enough, happening to open the Bible, which, alas! I did
seldom at that time, my eye fell upon the chapter where Jesus, after having
justified to His parents His absence in the Temple, while hearing the
doctors and asking them questions, yet went down with them to Nazareth
after all, and was subject unto them. The story struck me vividly as a
symbol of my own duties. But on reading further, I found more than one
passage which seemed to me to convey a directly opposite lesson, where His
mother and His brethren, fancying Him mad, attempted to interfere with His
labours, and asserting their family rights as reasons for retaining Him,
met with a peremptory rebuff. I puzzled my head for some time to find
out which of the two cases was the more applicable to my state of
self-development. The notion of asking for teaching from on high on
such a point had never crossed me. Indeed, if it had, I did not believe
sufficiently either in the story or in the doctrines connected with it,
to have tried such a resource. And so, as may be supposed, my growing
self-conceit decided for me that the latter course was the fitting one.

And yet I had not energy to carry it out. I was getting so worn out in body
and mind from continual study and labour, stinted food and want of sleep,
that I could not face the thought of an explosion, such as I knew must
ensue, and I lingered on in the same unhappy state, becoming more and more
morose in manner to my mother, while I was as assiduous as ever in all
filial duties. But I had no pleasure in home. She seldom spoke to me.
Indeed, there was no common topic about which we could speak. Besides, ever
since that fatal Sunday evening, I saw that she suspected me and watched
me. I had good reason to believe that she set spies upon my conduct. Poor
dear mother! God forbid that I should accuse thee for a single care of
thine, for a single suspicion even, prompted as they all were by a mother's
anxious love. I would never have committed these things to paper, hadst
thou not been far beyond the reach or hearing of them; and only now, in
hopes that they may serve as a warning, in some degree to mothers, but ten
times more to children. For I sinned against thee, deeply and shamefully,
in thought and deed, while thou didst never sin against me; though all thy
caution did but hasten the fatal explosion which came, and perhaps must
have come, under some form or other, in any case.

I had been detained one night in the shop till late; and on my return my
mother demanded, in a severe tone, the reason of my stay; and on my telling
her, answered as severely that she did not believe me; that she had too
much reason to suspect that I had been with bad companions.

"Who dared to put such a thought into your head?"

She "would not give up her authorities, but she had too much reason to
believe them."

Again I demanded the name of my slanderer, and was refused it. And then.
I burst out, for the first time in my life, into a real fit of rage with
her. I cannot tell how I dared to say what I did, but I was weak, nervous,
irritable--my brain excited beyond all natural tension. Above all, I felt
that she was unjust to me; and my good conscience, as well as my pride,
rebelled.

"You have never trusted me," I cried, "you have watched me--"

"Did you not deceive me once already?"

"And if I did," I answered, more and more excited, "have I not slaved for
you, stinted myself of clothes to pay your rent? Have I not run to and fro
for you like a slave, while I knew all the time you did not respect me or
trust me? If you had only treated me as a child and an idiot, I could have
borne it. But you have been thinking of me all the while as an incarnate
fiend--dead in trespasses and sins--a child of wrath and the devil. What
right have you to be astonished if I should do my father's works?"

"You may be ignorant of vital religion," she answered; "and you may insult
me. But if you make a mock of God's Word, you leave my house. If you can
laugh at religion, you can deceive me."

The pent-up scepticism of years burst forth.

"Mother," I said, "don't talk to me about religion, and election, and
conversion, and all that--I don't believe one word of it. Nobody does,
except good kind people--(like you, alas! I was going to say, but the devil
stopped the words at my lips)--who must needs have some reason to account
for their goodness. That Bowyer--he's a soft heart by nature, and as he
is, so he does--religion has had nothing to do with that, any more than it
has with that black-faced, canting scoundrel who has been telling you lies
about me. Much his heart is changed. He carries sneak and slanderer written
in his face--and sneak and slanderer he will be, elect or none. Religion?
Nobody believes in it. The rich don't; or they wouldn't fill their churches
up with pews, and shut the poor out, all the time they are calling them
brothers. They believe the gospel? Then why do they leave the men who make
their clothes to starve in such hells on earth as our workroom? No more
do the tradespeople believe in it; or they wouldn't go home from sermon
to sand the sugar, and put sloe-leaves in the tea, and send out lying
puffs of their vamped-up goods, and grind the last farthing out of the
poor creatures who rent their wretched stinking houses. And as for the
workmen--they laugh at it all, I can tell you. Much good religion is doing
for them! You may see it's fit only for women and children--for go where
you will, church or chapel, you see hardly anything but bonnets and babies!
I don't believe a word of it,--once and for all. I'm old enough to think
for myself, and a free-thinker I will be, and believe nothing but what I
know and understand."

I had hardly spoken the words, when I would have given worlds to recall
them--but it was to be--and it was.

Sternly she looked at me full in the face, till my eyes dropped before her
gaze. Then she spoke steadily and slowly:

"Leave this house this moment. You are no son of mine henceforward. Do you
think I will have my daughter polluted by the company of an infidel and a
blasphemer?"

"I will go," I answered fiercely; "I can get my own living at all events!"
And before I had time to think, I had rushed upstairs, packed up my bundle,
not forgetting the precious books, and was on my way through the frosty,
echoing streets, under the cold glare of the winter's moon.

I had gone perhaps half a mile, when the thought of home rushed over
me--the little room where I had spent my life--the scene of all my childish
joys and sorrows--which I should never see again, for I felt that my
departure was for ever. Then I longed to see my mother once again--not to
speak to her--for I was at once too proud and too cowardly to do that--but
to have a look at her through the window. One look--for all the while,
though I was boiling over with rage and indignation, I felt that it was all
on the surface--that in the depths of our hearts I loved her and she loved
me. And yet I wished to be angry, wished to hate her. Strange contradiction
of the flesh and spirit!

Hastily and silently I retraced my steps to the house. The gate was
padlocked. I cautiously stole over the palings to the window--the shutter
was closed and fast. I longed to knock--I lifted my hand to the door, and
dare not: indeed, I knew that it was useless, in my dread of my mother's
habit of stern determination. That room--that mother I never saw again. I
turned away; sickened at heart, I was clambering back again, looking behind
me towards the window, when I felt a strong grip on my collar, and turning
round, had a policeman's lantern flashed in my face.

"Hullo, young'un, and what do you want here?" with a strong emphasis, after
the fashion of policemen, on all his pronouns.

"Hush! or you'll alarm my mother!"

"Oh! eh! Forgot the latch-key, you sucking Don Juan, that's it, is it? Late
home from the Victory?"

I told him simply how the case stood, and entreated him to get me a night's
lodging, assuring him that my mother would not admit me, or I ask to be
admitted.

The policeman seemed puzzled, but after scratching his hat in lieu of his
head for some seconds, replied,

"This here is the dodge--you goes outside and lies down on the kerb-stone;
whereby I spies you a-sleeping in the streets, contrary to Act o'
Parliament; whereby it is my duty to take you to the station-house; whereby
you gets a night's lodging free gracious for nothing, and company perwided
by her Majesty."

"Oh, not to the station-house!" I cried in shame and terror.

"Werry well; then you must keep moving all night continually, whereby you
avoids the hact; or else you goes to a twopenny-rope shop and gets a lie
down. And your bundle you'd best leave at my house. Twopenny-rope society
a'n't particular. I'm going off my beat; you walk home with me and leave
your traps. Everybody knows me--Costello, V 21, that's my number."

So on I went with the kind-hearted man, who preached solemnly to me all the
way on the fifth commandment. But I heard very little of it; for before I
had proceeded a quarter of a mile, a deadly faintness and dizziness came
over me, I staggered, and fell against the railings.

"And have you been drinking arter all?"

"I never--a drop in my life--nothing but bread-and-water this fortnight."

And it was true. I had been paying for my own food, and had stinted
myself to such an extent, that between starvation, want of sleep, and
over-exertion, I was worn to a shadow, and the last drop had filled the
cup; the evening's scene and its consequences had been too much for me, and
in the middle of an attempt to explain matters to the policeman, I dropped
on the pavement, bruising my face heavily.

He picked me up, put me under one arm and my bundle under the other, and
was proceeding on his march, when three men came rollicking up.

"Hullo, Poleax--Costello--What's that? Work for us? A demp unpleasant
body?"

"Oh, Mr. Bromley, sir! Hope you're well, sir! Werry rum go this here, sir!
I finds this cove in the streets. He says his mother turned him out o'
doors. He seems very fair spoken, and very bad in he's head, and very bad
in he's chest, and very bad in he's legs, he does. And I can't come to no
conclusions respecting my conduct in this here case, nohow!"

"Memorialize the Health of Towns Commission," suggested one.

"Bleed him in the great toe," said the second.

"Put a blister on the back of his left eye-ball," said a third.

"Case of male asterisks," observed the first. "Rj. Aquae pumpis purae
quantum suff. Applicatur extero pro re nata. J. Bromley, M.D., and don't
he wish he may get through!"--

"Tip us your daddle, my boy," said the second speaker. "I'll tell you what,
Bromley, this fellow's very bad. He's got no more pulse than the
Pimlico sewer. Run in into the next pot'us. Here--you lay hold of him,
Bromley--that last round with the cabman nearly put my humerus out."

The huge, burly, pea-jacketed medical student--for such I saw at once
he was--laid hold of me on the right tenderly enough, and walked me off
between him and the policeman.

I fell again into a faintness, from which I was awakened by being shoved
through the folding-doors of a gin-shop, into a glare of light and hubbub
of blackguardism, and placed on a settle, while my conductor called out--

"Pots round, Mary, and a go of brandy hot with, for the patient. Here,
young'un, toss it off, it'll make your hair grow."

I feebly answered that I never had drunk anything stronger than water.

"High time to begin, then; no wonder you're so ill. Well, if you won't,
I'll make you--"

And taking my head under his arm, he seized me by the nose, while another
poured the liquor down my throat--and certainly it revived me at once.

A drunken drab pulled another drunken, drab off the settle to make room for
the "poor young man"; and I sat there with a confused notion that something
strange and dreadful had happened to me, while the party drained their
respective quarts of porter, and talked over the last boat-race with the
Leander.

"Now then, gen'l'men," said the policeman, 'if you think he's recovered,
we'll take him home to his mother; she ought for to take him in, surely."

"Yes, if she has as much heart in her as a dried walnut."

But I resisted stoutly; though I longed to vindicate my mother's affection,
yet I could not face her. I entreated to be taken to the station-house;
threatened, in my desperation, to break the bar glasses, which, like Doll
Tearsheet's abuse, only elicited from the policeman a solemn "Very well";
and under the unwonted excitement of the brandy, struggled so fiercely, and
talked so incoherently, that the medical students interfered.

"We shall have this fellow in phrenitis, or laryngitis, or dothenenteritis,
or some other itis, before long, if he's aggravated."

"And whichever it is, it'll kill him. He has no more stamina left than a
yard of pump water."

"I should consider him chargeable to the parish," suggested the bar-keeper.

"Exactually so, my Solomon of licensed victuallers. Get a workhouse order
for him, Costello."

"And I should consider, also, sir," said the licensed victualler, with
increased importance, "having been a guardian myself, and knowing the hact,
as the parish couldn't refuse, because they're in power to recover all
hexpenses out of his mother."

"To be sure; it's all the unnatural old witch's fault."

"No, it is not," said I, faintly.

"Wait till your opinion's asked, young'un. Go kick up the authorities,
policeman."

"Now, I'll just tell you how that'll work, gemmen," answered the policeman,
solemnly. "I goes to the overseer--werry good sort o' man--but he's in bed.
I knocks for half an hour. He puts his nightcap out o' windy, and sends me
to the relieving-officer. Werry good sort o' man he too; but he's in bed.
I knocks for another half-hour. He puts his nightcap out o' windy--sends
me to the medical officer for a certificate. Medical officer's gone to a
midwifery case. I hunts him for an hour or so. He's got hold of a babby
with three heads, or summat else; and two more women a-calling out for him
like blazes. 'He'll come to-morrow morning.' Now, I just axes your opinion
of that there most procrastinationest go."

The big student, having cursed the parochial authorities in general,
offered to pay for my night's lodging at the public-house. The good man of
the house demurred at first, but relented on being reminded of the value
of a medical student's custom: whereon, without more ado, two of the rough
diamonds took me between them, carried me upstairs, undressed me, and put
me to bed, as tenderly as if they had been women.

"He'll have the tantrums before morning, I'm afraid," said one.

"Very likely to turn to typhus," said the other.

"Well, I suppose--it's a horrid bore, but

 "What must be must; man is but dust,
  If you can't get crumb, you must just eat crust.

"Send me up a go of hot with, and I'll sit up with him till he's asleep,
dead, or better."

"Well, then, I'll stay too; we may just as well make a night of it here as
well as anywhere else."

And he pulled a short black pipe out of his pocket, and sat down to
meditate with his feet on the hobs of the empty grate; the other man went
down for the liquor; while I, between the brandy and exhaustion, fell fast
asleep, and never stirred till I woke the next morning with a racking
headache, and saw the big student standing by my bedside, having, as I
afterwards heard, sat by me till four in the morning.

"Hallo, young'un, come to your senses? Headache, eh? Slightly
comato-crapulose? We'll give you some soda and salvolatile, and I'll pay
for your breakfast."

And so he did, and when he was joined by his companions on their way to St.
George's, they were very anxious, having heard my story, to force a few
shillings on me "for luck," which, I need not say, I peremptorily refused,
assuring them that I could and would get my own living, and never take a
farthing from any man.

"That's a plucky dog, though he's a tailor," I heard them say, as, after
overwhelming them with thanks, and vowing, amid shouts of laughter, to
repay them every farthing I had cost them, I took my way, sick and stunned,
towards my dear old Sandy Mackaye's street.

Rough diamonds indeed! I have never met you again, but I have not forgotten
you. Your early life may be a coarse, too often a profligate one--but you
know the people, and the people know you: and your tenderness and care,
bestowed without hope of repayment, cheers daily many a poor soul in
hospital wards and fever-cellars--to meet its reward some day at the
people's hands. You belong to us at heart, as the Paris barricades can
tell. Alas! for the society which stifles in after-life too many of your
better feelings, by making you mere flunkeys and parasites, dependent for
your livelihood on the caprices and luxuries of the rich.




CHAPTER VI.

THE DULWICH GALLERY.


Sandy Mackaye received me in a characteristic way--growled at me for
half an hour for quarrelling with my mother, and when I was at my wit's
end, suddenly offered me a bed in his house and the use of his little
sitting-room--and, bliss too great to hope! of his books also; and when I
talked of payment, told me to hold my tongue and mind my own business. So
I settled myself at once; and that very evening he installed himself as my
private tutor, took down a Latin book, and set me to work on it.

"An' mind ye, laddie," said he, half in jest and half in earnest, "gin I
find ye playing truant, and reading a' sorts o' nonsense instead of minding
the scholastic methods and proprieties, I'll just bring ye in a bill at the
year's end o' twa guineas a week for lodgings and tuition, and tak' the law
o' ye; so mind and read what I tell ye. Do you comprehend noo?"

I did comprehend, and obeyed him, determining to repay him some day--and
somehow--how I did not very clearly see. Thus I put myself more or less
into the old man's power; foolishly enough the wise world will say. But I
had no suspicion in my character; and I could not look at those keen grey
eyes, when, after staring into vacancy during some long preachment, they
suddenly flashed round at me, and through me, full of fun and quaint
thought, and kindly earnestness, and fancy that man less honest than his
face seemed to proclaim him.

By-the-by, I have as yet given no description of the old eccentric's
abode--an unpardonable omission, I suppose, in these days of Dutch painting
and Boz. But the omission was correct, both historically and artistically,
for I had as yet only gone to him for books, books, nothing but books; and
I had been blind to everything in his shop but that fairy-land of shelves,
filled, in my simple fancy, with inexhaustible treasures, wonder-working,
omnipotent, as the magic seal of Solomon.

It was not till I had been settled and at work for several nights in his
sanctum, behind the shop, that I began to become conscious what a strange
den that sanctum was.

It was so dark, that without a gaslight no one but he could see to read
there, except on very sunny days. Not only were the shelves which covered
every inch of wall crammed with books and pamphlets, but the little window
was blocked up with them, the floor was piled with bundles of them, in some
places three feet deep, apparently in the wildest confusion--though there
was some mysterious order in them which he understood, and symbolized,
I suppose, by the various strange and ludicrous nicknames on their
tickets--for he never was at fault a moment if a customer asked for a
book, though it were buried deep in the chaotic stratum. Out of this book
alluvium a hole seemed to have been dug near the fireplace, just big enough
to hold his arm-chair and a table, book-strewn like everything else, and
garnished with odds and ends of MSS., and a snuffer-tray containing scraps
of half-smoked tobacco, "pipe-dottles," as he called them, which were
carefully resmoked over and over again, till nothing but ash was left.
His whole culinary utensils--for he cooked as well as eat in this strange
hole--were an old rusty kettle, which stood on one hob, and a blue plate
which, when washed, stood on the other. A barrel of true Aberdeen meal
peered out of a corner, half buried in books, and a "keg o' whusky, the
gift o' freens," peeped in like case out of another.

This was his only food. "It was a' poison," he used to say, "in London.
Bread full o' alum and bones, and sic filth--meat over-driven till it was
a' braxy--water sopped wi' dead men's juice. Naething was safe but gude
Scots parrich and Athol brose." He carried his water-horror so far as to
walk some quarter of a mile every morning to fill his kettle at a favourite
pump. "Was he a cannibal, to drink out o' that pump hard-by, right under
the kirkyard?" But it was little he either ate or drank--he seemed to live
upon tobacco. From four in the morning till twelve at night, the pipe
never left his lips, except when he went into the outer shop. "It promoted
meditation, and drove awa' the lusts o' the flesh. Ech! it was worthy o'
that auld tyrant, Jamie, to write his counter-blast to the poor man's
freen! The hypocrite! to gang preaching the virtues o' evil-savoured smoke
'ad daemones abigendos,--and then rail again tobacco, as if it was no as
gude for the purpose as auld rags and horn shavings!"

Sandy Mackaye had a great fancy for political caricatures, rows of which,
there being no room for them on the walls, hung on strings from the
ceiling--like clothes hung out to dry--and among them dangled various books
to which he had taken an antipathy, principally High Tory and Benthamite,
crucified, impaled through their covers, and suspended in all sorts of
torturing attitudes. Among them, right over the table, figured a copy of
Icon Basilike dressed up in a paper shirt, all drawn over with figures of
flames and devils, and surmounted by a peaked paper cap, like a victim
at an _auto-da-fe_. And in the midst of all this chaos grinned from the
chimney-piece, among pipes and pens, pinches of salt and scraps of butter,
a tall cast of Michael Angelo's well-known skinless model--his pristine
white defaced by a cap of soot upon the top of his scalpless skull, and
every muscle and tendon thrown into horrible relief by the dirt which had
lodged among the cracks. There it stood, pointing with its ghastly arm
towards the door, and holding on its wrist a label with the following
inscription:--

  Here stand I, the working man,
  Get more off me if you can.

I questioned Mackaye one evening about those hanged and crucified books,
and asked him if he ever sold any of them.

"Ou, ay," he said; "if folks are fools enough to ask for them, I'll just
answer a fool according to his folly."

"But," I said, "Mr. Mackaye, do you think it right to sell books of the
very opinions of which you disapprove so much?"

"Hoot, laddie, it's just a spoiling o' the Egyptians; so mind yer book, and
dinna tak in hand cases o' conscience for ither folk. Yell ha' wark eneugh
wi' yer ain before ye're dune."

And he folded round his knees his Joseph's coat, as he called it, an old
dressing-gown with one plaid sleeve, and one blue one, red shawl-skirts,
and a black broadcloth back, not to mention, innumerable patches of every
imaginable stuff and colour, filled his pipe, and buried his nose in
"Harrington's Oceana." He read at least twelve hours every day of his life,
and that exclusively old history and politics, though his favourite books
were Thomas Carlyle's works. Two or three evenings in the week, when he had
seen me safe settled at my studies, he used to disappear mysteriously
for several hours, and it was some time before I found out, by a chance
expression, that he was attending some meeting or committee of working-men.
I begged him to take me there with him. But I was stopped by a laconic
answer--

"When ye're ready."

"And when shall I be ready, Mr. Mackaye?"

"Read yer book till I tell ye."

And he twisted himself into his best coat, which had once been black,
squeezed on his little Scotch cap, and went out.

       *       *       *       *       *

I now found myself, as the reader may suppose, in an element far more
congenial to my literary tastes, and which compelled far less privation of
sleep and food in order to find time and means for reading; and my health
began to mend from the very first day. But the thought of my mother haunted
me; and Mackaye seemed in no hurry to let me escape from it, for he
insisted on my writing to her in a penitent strain, informing her of my
whereabouts, and offering to return home if she should wish it. With
feelings strangely mingled between the desire of seeing her again and the
dread of returning to the old drudgery of surveillance, I sent the letter,
and waited the whole week without any answer. At last, one evening, when
I returned from work, Sandy seemed in a state of unusual exhilaration. He
looked at me again and again, winking and chuckling to himself in a way
which showed me that his good spirits had something to do with my concerns:
but he did not open on the subject till I had settled to my evening's
reading. Then, having brewed himself an unusually strong mug of
whisky-toddy, and brought out with great ceremony a clean pipe, he
commenced.

"Alton, laddie, I've been fiechting Philistines for ye the day."

"Ah! have you heard from my mother?"

"I wadna say that exactly; but there's been a gran bailie body wi' me that
calls himsel' your uncle, and a braw young callant, a bairn o' his, I'm
thinking."

"Ah! that's my cousin--George; and tell me--do tell me, what you said to
them."

"Ou--that'll be mair concern o' mine than o' yourn. But ye're no going back
to your mither."

My heart leapt up with--joy; there is no denying it--and then I burst into
tears.

"And she won't see me? Has she really cast me off?"

"Why, that'll be verra much as ye prosper, I'm thinking. Ye're an
unaccreedited hero, the noo, as Thomas Carlyle has it. 'But gin ye do weel
by yoursel', saith the Psalmist, 'ye'll find a' men speak well o' ye'--if
ye gang their gate. But ye're to gang to see your uncle at his shop o'
Monday next, at one o'clock. Now stint your greeting, and read awa'."

On the next Monday I took a holiday, the first in which I had ever indulged
myself; and having spent a good hour in scrubbing away at my best shoes
and Sunday suit, started, in fear and trembling, for my uncle's
"establishment."

I was agreeably surprised, on being shown into the little back office at
the back of the shop, to meet with a tolerably gracious reception from the
good-natured Mammonite. He did not shake hands with me, it is true;--was
I not a poor relation? But he told me to sit down, commended me for the
excellent character which he had of me both from my master and Mackaye,
and then entered on the subject of my literary tastes. He heard I was a
precious clever fellow. No wonder, I came of a clever stock; his poor dear
brother had plenty of brains for everything but business. "And you see, my
boy" (with a glance at the big ledgers and busy shop without), "I knew
a thing or two in my time, or I should not have been here. But without
capital, _I_ think brains a curse. Still we must make the best of a bad
matter; and if you are inclined to help to raise the family name--not
that I think much of book writers myself--poor starving devils, half of
them--but still people do talk about them--and a man might get a snug thing
as newspaper editor, with interest; or clerk to something or other--always
some new company in the wind now--and I should have no objection, if you
seemed likely to do us credit, to speak a word for you. I've none of your
mother's confounded puritanical notions, I can tell you; and, what's more,
I have, thank Heaven, as fine a city connexion as any man. But you must
mind and make yourself a good accountant--learn double entry on the Italian
method--that's a good practical study; and if that old Sawney is soft
enough to teach you other things gratis, he may as well teach you that
too. I'll bet he knows something about it--the old Scotch fox. There
now--that'll do--there's five shillings for you--mind you don't lose
them--and if I hear a good account of you, why, perhaps--but there's no use
making promises."

At this moment a tall handsome young man, whom I did not at first recognize
as my cousin George, swung into the office, and shook me cordially by the
hand.

"Hullo, Alton, how are you? Why, I hear you're coming out as a regular
genius--breaking out in a new place, upon my honour! Have you done with
him, governor?"

"Well, I think I have. I wish you'd have a talk with him, my boy. I'm sorry
I can't see more of him, but I have to meet a party on business at the
West-end at two, and Alderman Tumbril and family dine with us this evening,
don't they? I think our small table will be full."

"Of course it will. Come along with me, and we'll have a chat in some quiet
out-of-the-way place. This city is really so noisy that you can't hear your
own ears, as our dean says in lecture."

So he carried me off, down back streets and alleys, a little puzzled at the
extreme cordiality of his manner. Perhaps it sprung, as I learned afterward
to suspect, from his consistent and perpetual habit of ingratiating himself
with every one whom he approached. He never cut a chimney-sweep if he
knew him. And he found it pay. The children of this world are in their
generation wiser than the children of light.

Perhaps it sprung also, as I began to suspect in the first hundred yards of
our walk, from the desire of showing off before me the university clothes,
manners, and gossip, which he had just brought back with him from
Cambridge.

I had not seen him more than three or four times in my life before, and
then he appeared to me merely a tall, handsome, conceited, slangy boy. But
I now found him much improved--in all externals at least. He had made it
his business, I knew, to perfect himself in all athletic pursuits which
were open to a Londoner. As he told me that day--he found it pay, when one
got among gentlemen. Thus he had gone up to Cambridge a capital
skater, rower, pugilist--and billiard player. Whether or not that last
accomplishment ought to be classed in the list of athletic sports, he
contrived, by his own account, to keep it in that of paying ones. In
both these branches he seemed to have had plenty of opportunities of
distinguishing himself at college; and his tall, powerful figure showed
the fruit of these exercises in a stately and confident, almost martial,
carriage. Something jaunty, perhaps swaggering, remained still in his air
and dress, which yet sat not ungracefully on him; but I could see that he
had been mixing in society more polished and artificial than that to which
we had either of us been accustomed, and in his smart Rochester, well-cut
trousers, and delicate French boots, he excited, I will not deny it, my
boyish admiration and envy.

"Well," he said, as soon as we were out of the shop, "which way? Got a
holiday? And how did you intend to spend it?"

"I wanted very much," I said, meekly, "to see the pictures at the National
Gallery."

"Oh! ah! pictures don't pay; but, if you like--much better ones at
Dulwich--that's the place to go to--you can see the others any day--and
at Dulwich, you know, they've got--why let me see--" And he ran over
half-a-dozen outlandish names of painters, which, as I have never again
met with them, I am inclined on the whole to consider as somewhat
extemporaneous creations. However, I agreed to go.

"Ah! capital--very nice quiet walk, and convenient for me--very little out
of my way home. I'll walk there with you."

"One word for your neighbour and two for yourself," thought I; but on
we walked. To see good pictures had been a long cherished hope of mine.
Everything beautiful in form or colour was beginning of late to have an
intense fascination for me. I had, now that I was emancipated, gradually
dared to feed my greedy eyes by passing stares into the print-shop windows,
and had learnt from them a thousand new notions, new emotions, new longings
after beauties of Nature, which seemed destined never to be satisfied. But
pictures, above all, foreign ones, had been in my mother's eyes, Anathema
Maranatha, as vile Popish and Pagan vanities, the rags of the scarlet woman
no less than the surplice itself--and now, when it came to the point, I
hesitated at an act of such awful disobedience, even though unknown to
her. My cousin, however, laughed down my scruples, told me I was out of
leading-strings now, and, which was true enough, that it was "a * * * *
deal better to amuse oneself in picture galleries without leave, than live
a life of sneaking and lying under petticoat government, as all home-birds
were sure to do in the long-run." And so I went on, while my cousin kept up
a running fire of chat the whole way, intermixing shrewd, bold observations
upon every woman who passed, with sneers at the fellows of the college to
which we were going--their idleness and luxury--the large grammar-school
which they were bound by their charter to keep up, and did not--and hints
about private interest in high quarters, through which their wealthy
uselessness had been politely overlooked, when all similar institutions
in the kingdom were subject to the searching examination of a government
commission. Then there were stories of boat-races and gay noblemen,
breakfast parties, and lectures on Greek plays flavoured with a spice of
Cambridge slang, all equally new to me--glimpses into a world of wonders,
which made me feel, as I shambled along at his side, trying to keep step
with his strides, more weakly and awkward and ignorant than ever.

We entered the gallery. I was in a fever of expectation.

The rich sombre light of the rooms, the rich heavy warmth of the
stove-heated air, the brilliant and varied colouring and gilded frames
which embroidered the walls, the hushed earnestness of a few artists,
who were copying, and the few visitors who were lounging from picture to
picture, struck me at once with mysterious awe. But my attention was in a
moment concentrated on one figure opposite to me at the furthest end. I
hurried straight towards it. When I had got half-way up the gallery I
looked round for my cousin. He had turned aside to some picture of a Venus
which caught my eye also, but which, I remember now, only raised in me then
a shudder and a blush, and a fancy that the clergymen must be really as
bad as my mother had taught me to believe, if they could allow in their
galleries pictures of undressed women. I have learnt to view such things
differently now, thank God. I have learnt that to the pure all things are
pure. I have learnt the meaning of that great saying--the foundation of all
art, as well as all modesty, all love, which tells us how "the man and his
wife were both naked, and not ashamed." But this book is the history of my
mental growth; and my mistakes as well as my discoveries are steps in that
development, and may bear a lesson in them.

How I have rambled! But as that day was the turning-point of my whole short
life, I may be excused for lingering upon every feature of it.

Timidly, but eagerly, I went up to the picture, and stood entranced before
it. It was Guido's St. Sebastian. All the world knows the picture, and all
the world knows, too, the defects of the master, though in this instance he
seems to have risen above himself, by a sudden inspiration, into that true
naturalness, which is the highest expression of the Spiritual. But the
very defects of the picture, its exaggeration, its theatricality, were
especially calculated to catch the eye of a boy awaking out of the narrow
dulness of Puritanism. The breadth and vastness of light and shade upon
those manly limbs, so grand and yet so delicate, standing out against the
background of lurid night, the helplessness of the bound arms, the arrow
quivering in the shrinking side, the upturned brow, the eyes in whose dark
depths enthusiastic faith seemed conquering agony and shame, the parted
lips, which seemed to ask, like those martyrs in the Revelations,
reproachful, half-resigned, "O Lord, how long?"--Gazing at that picture
since, I have understood how the idolatry of painted saints could arise in
the minds even of the most educated, who were not disciplined by that stern
regard for fact which is--or ought to be--the strength of Englishmen. I
have understood the heart of that Italian girl, whom some such picture of
St. Sebastian, perhaps this very one, excited, as the Venus of Praxiteles
the Grecian boy, to hopeless love, madness, and death. Then I had never
heard of St. Sebastian. I did not dream of any connexion between that, or
indeed any picture, and Christianity; and yet, as I stood before it, I
seemed to be face to face with the ghosts of my old Puritan forefathers, to
see the spirit which supported them on pillories and scaffolds--the spirit
of that true St. Margaret, the Scottish maiden whom Claverhouse and his
soldiers chained to a post on the sea-sands to die by inches in the rising
tide, till the sound of her hymns was slowly drowned in the dash of the
hungry leaping waves. My heart swelled within me, my eyes seemed bursting
from my head with the intensity of my gaze, and great tears, I knew not
why, rolled slowly down my face.

A woman's voice close to me, gentle yet of deeper tone than most, woke me
from my trance.

"You seem to be deeply interested in that picture?"

I looked round, yet not at the speaker. My eyes before they could meet
hers, were caught by an apparition the most beautiful I had ever yet
beheld. And what--what--have I seen equal to her since? Strange, that I
should love to talk of her. Strange, that I fret at myself now because
I cannot set down on paper line by line, and hue by hue, that wonderful
loveliness of which--. But no matter. Had I but such an imagination as
Petrarch, or rather, perhaps, had I his deliberate cold self-consciousness,
what volumes of similes and conceits I might pour out, connecting that
peerless face and figure with all lovely things which heaven and earth
contain. As it is, because I cannot say all, I will say nothing, but repeat
to the end again and again, Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beyond all
statue, picture, or poet's dream. Seventeen--slight but rounded, a
masque and features delicate and regular, as if fresh from the chisel of
Praxiteles--I must try to describe after all, you see--a skin of alabaster
(privet-flowers, Horace and Ariosto would have said, more true to Nature),
stained with the faintest flush; auburn hair, with that peculiar crisped
wave seen in the old Italian pictures, and the warm, dark hazel eyes which
so often accompany it; lips like a thread of vermillion, somewhat too thin,
perhaps--but I thought little of that then; with such perfect finish and
grace in every line and hue of her features and her dress, down to the
little fingers and nails, which showed through her thin gloves, that she
seemed to my fancy fresh from the innermost chamber of some enchanted
palace, "where no air of heaven could visit her cheek too roughly." I
dropped my eyes quite dazzled. The question was repeated by a lady
who stood with her, whose face I remarked then--as I did to the last,
alas!--too little; dazzled at the first by outward beauty, perhaps because
so utterly unaccustomed to it.

"It is indeed a wonderful picture," I said, timidly. "May I ask what is the
subject of it?"

"Oh! don't you know?" said the young beauty, with a smile that thrilled
through me. "It is St. Sebastian."

"I--I am very much ashamed," I answered, colouring up, "but I do not know
who St. Sebastian was. Was he a Popish saint?"

A tall, stately old man, who stood with the two ladies, laughed kindly.
"No, not till they made him one against his will; and at the same time, by
putting him into the mill which grinds old folks young again, converted him
from a grizzled old Roman tribune into the young Apollo of Popery."

"You will puzzle your hearer, my dear uncle," said the same deep-toned
woman's voice which had first spoken to me. "As you volunteered the saint's
name, Lillian, you shall also tell his history."

Simply and shortly, with just feeling enough to send through me a fresh
thrill of delighted interest, without trenching the least on the most
stately reserve, she told me the well known history of the saint's
martyrdom.

If I seem minute in my description, let those who read my story remember
that such courteous dignity, however natural, I am bound to believe, it
is to them, was to me an utterly new excellence in human nature. All my
mother's Spartan nobleness of manner seemed unexpectedly combined with all
my little sister's careless ease.

"What a beautiful poem the story would make!" said I, as soon as I
recovered my thoughts.

"Well spoken, young man," answered the old gentleman. "Let us hope that
your seeing a subject for a good poem will be the first step towards your
writing one."

As he spoke, he bent on me two clear grey eyes, full of kindliness, mingled
with practised discernment. I saw that he was evidently a clergyman; but
what his tight silk stockings and peculiar hat denoted I did not know.
There was about him the air of a man accustomed equally to thought, to men,
and to power. And I remarked somewhat maliciously, that my cousin, who had
strutted up towards us on seeing me talking to two ladies, the instant
he caught sight of those black silk stockings and that strange hat,
fell suddenly in countenance, and sidling off somewhat meekly into the
background, became absorbed in the examination of a Holy Family.

I answered something humbly, I forget what, which led to a conversation.
They questioned me as to my name, my mother, my business, my studies; while
I revelled in the delight of stolen glances at my new-found Venus Victrix,
who was as forward as any of them in her questions and her interest.
Perhaps she enjoyed, at least she could not help seeing, the admiration
for herself which I took no pains to conceal. At last the old man cut the
conversation short by a quiet "Good morning, sir," which astonished me. I
had never heard words whose tone was so courteous and yet so chillingly
peremptory. As they turned away, he repeated to himself once or twice,
as if to fix them in his mind, my name and my master's, and awoke in me,
perhaps too thoughtlessly, a tumult of vain hopes. Once and again the
beauty and her companion looked back towards me, and seemed talking of
me, and my face was burning scarlet, when my cousin swung up in his hard,
off-hand way.

"By Jove, Alton, my boy! you're a knowing fellow. I congratulate you! At
your years, indeed! to rise a dean and two beauties at the first throw, and
hook them fast!"

"A dean!" I said, in some trepidation.

"Ay, a live dean--didn't you see the cloven foot sticking out from under
his shoe-buckle? What news for your mother! What will the ghosts of your
grandfathers to the seventh generation say to this, Alton? Colloquing in
Pagan picture galleries with shovel-hatted Philistines! And that's not the
worst, Alton," he ran on. "Those daughters of Moab--those daughters of
Moab--."

"Hold your tongue," I said, almost crying with vexation.

"Look there, if you want to save your good temper. There, she is looking
back again--not at poor me, though. What a lovely girl she is!--and a real
lady--_l'air noble_--the real genuine grit, as Sam Slick says, and no
mistake. By Jove, what a face! what hands! what feet! what a figure--in
spite of crinolines and all abominations! And didn't she know it? And
didn't she know that you knew it too?" And he ran on descanting coarsely on
beauties which I dared not even have profaned by naming, in a way that made
me, I knew not why, mad with jealousy and indignation. She seemed mine
alone in all the world. What right had any other human being, above all,
he, to dare to mention her? I turned again to my St. Sebastian. That
movement only brought on me a fresh volley of banter.

"Oh, that's the dodge, is it, to catch intellectual fine ladies?--to fall
into an ecstatic attitude before a picture--But then we must have Alton's
genius, you know, to find out which the fine pictures are. I must read up
that subject, by-the-by. It might be a paying one among the dons. For
the present, here goes in for an attitude. Will this do, Alton?" And he
arranged himself admiringly before the picture in an attitude so absurd and
yet so graceful, that I did not know whether to laugh at him or hate him.

"At all events," he added, dryly, "it will be as good as playing the
Evangelical at Carus's tea-parties, or taking the sacrament regularly for
fear one's testimonials should be refused." And then he looked at me, and
through me, in his intense, confident way, to see that his hasty words had
not injured him with me. He used to meet one's eye as boldly as any man I
ever saw; but it was not the simple gaze of honesty and innocence, but an
imperious, searching look, as if defying scrutiny. His was a true mesmeric
eye, if ever there was one. No wonder it worked the miracles it did.

"Come along," he said, suddenly seizing my arm. "Don't you see they're
leaving? Out of the gallery after them, and get a good look at the carriage
and the arms upon it. I saw one standing there as we came in. It may pay
us--you, that is--to know it again."

We went out, I holding him back, I knew not why, and arrived at the outer
gate just in time to see them enter the carriage and drive off. I gazed to
the last, but did not stir.

"Good boy," he said, "knowing still. If you had bowed, or showed the least
sign of recognition, you would have broken the spell."

But I hardly heard what he said, and stood gazing stupidly after the
carriage as it disappeared. I did not know then what had happened to me. I
know now, alas! too well.




CHAPTER VII.

FIRST LOVE.


Truly I said, I did not know what had happened to me. I did not attempt to
analyse the intense, overpowering instinct which from that moment made the
lovely vision I had seen the lodestar of all my thoughts. Even now, I can
see nothing in those feelings of mine but simple admiration--idolatry, if
you will--of physical beauty. Doubtless there was more--doubtless--I had
seen pretty faces before, and knew that they were pretty, but they had
passed from my retina, like the prints of beauties which I saw in the
shop windows, without exciting a thought--even a conscious emotion of
complacency. But this face did not pass away. Day and night I saw it, just
as I had seen it in the gallery. The same playful smile--the same glance
alternately turned to me, and the glowing picture above her head--and that
was all I saw or felt. No child ever nestled upon its mother's shoulder
with feelings more celestially pure, than those with which I counted
over day and night each separate lineament of that exceeding loveliness.
Romantic? extravagant? Yes; if the world be right in calling a passion
romantic just in proportion as it is not merely hopeless, but pure and
unselfish, drawing its delicious power from no hope or faintest desire of
enjoyment, but merely from simple delight in its object--then my passion
was most romantic. I never thought of disparity in rank. Why should I? That
could not blind the eyes of my imagination. She was beautiful, and that was
all, and all in all to me; and had our stations been exchanged, and more
than exchanged; had I been King Cophetua, or she the beggar-maid, I should
have gloried in her just as much.

Beloved sleepless hours, which I spent in picturing that scene to myself,
with all the brilliance of fresh recollection! Beloved hours! how soon
you pass away! Soon--soon my imagination began to fade; the traces of her
features on my mind's eye became confused and dim; and then came over me
the fierce desire to see her again, that I might renew the freshness of
that charming image. Thereon grew up an agony of longing--an agony of
weeks, and months, and years. Where could I find that face again? was my
ruling thought from morning till eve. I knew that it was hopeless to look
for her at the gallery where I had first seen her. My only hope was, that
at some place of public resort at the West End I might catch, if but for a
moment, an inspiring glance of that radiant countenance. I lingered round
the Burton Arch and Hyde Park Gate--but in vain. I peered into every
carriage, every bonnet that passed me in the thoroughfares--in vain. I
stood patiently at the doors of exhibitions and concerts, and playhouses,
to be shoved back by policemen, and insulted by footmen--but in vain. Then
I tried the fashionable churches, one by one; and sat in the free seats,
to listen to prayers and sermons, not a word of which, alas! I cared to
understand, with my eyes searching carefully every pew and gallery, face
by face; always fancying, in self-torturing waywardness, that she might be
just in the part of the gallery which I could not see. Oh! miserable
days of hope deferred, making the heart sick! Miserable gnawing of
disappointment with which I returned at nightfall, to force myself down to
my books! Equally miserable rack of hope on which my nerves were stretched
every morning when I rose, counting the hours till my day's work should be
over, and my mad search begin again! At last "my torment did by length of
time become my element." I returned steadily as ever to the studies which
I had at first neglected, much to Mackaye's wonder and disgust; and a vain
hunt after that face became a part of my daily task, to be got through with
the same dull, sullen effort, with which all I did was now transacted.

Mackaye, I suppose, at first, attributed my absences and idleness to my
having got into bad company. But it was some weeks before he gently enough
told me his suspicions, and they were answered by a burst of tears, and a
passionate denial, which set them at rest forever. But I had not courage to
tell him what was the matter with me. A sacred modesty, as well as a sense
of the impossibility of explaining my emotions, held me back. I had a
half-dread, too, to confess the whole truth, of his ridiculing a fancy,
to say the least, so utterly impracticable; and my only confidant was
a picture in the National Gallery, in one of the faces of which I had
discovered some likeness to my Venus; and there I used to go and stand
at spare half hours, and feel the happier for staring and staring, and
whispering to the dead canvas the extravagances of my idolatry.

But soon the bitter draught of disappointment began to breed harsher
thoughts in me. Those fine gentlemen who rode past me in the park, who
rolled by in carriages, sitting face to face with ladies, as richly
dressed, if not as beautiful, as she was--they could see her when they
liked--why not I? What right had their eyes to a feast denied to mine?
They, too, who did not appreciate, adore that beauty as I did--for who
could worship her like me? At least they had not suffered for her as I
had done; they had not stood in rain and frost, fatigue, and blank
despair--watching--watching--month after month; and I was making coats for
them! The very garment I was stitching at, might, in a day's time, be in
her presence--touching her dress; and its wearer bowing, and smiling, and
whispering--he had not bought that bliss by watching in the ram. It made me
mad to think of it.

I will say no more about it. That is a period of my life on which I cannot
even now look back without a shudder.

At last, after perhaps a year or more, I summoned up courage to tell my
story to Sandy Mackaye, and burst out with complaints more pardonable,
perhaps, than reasonable.

"Why have I not as good a right to speak to her, to move in the same
society in which she moves, as any of the fops of the day? Is it because
these aristocrats are more intellectual than I? I should not fear to
measure brains against most of them now; and give me the opportunities
which they have, and I would die if I did not outstrip them. Why have I not
those opportunities? Is that fault of others to be visited on me? Is it
because they are more refined than I? What right have they, if this said
refinement be so necessary a qualification, a difference so deep--that,
without it, there is to be an everlasting gulf between man and man--what
right have they to refuse to let me share in it, to give me the opportunity
of acquiring it?"

"Wad ye ha' them set up a dancing academy for working men, wi' 'manners
tocht here to the lower classes'? They'll no break up their ain monopoly;
trust them for it! Na: if ye want to get amang them, I'll tell ye the
way o't. Write a book o' poems, and ca' it 'A Voice fra' the Goose, by a
working Tailor'--and then--why, after a dizen years or so of starving and
scribbling for your bread, ye'll ha' a chance o' finding yoursel' a lion,
and a flunkey, and a licker o' trenchers--ane that jokes for his dinner,
and sells his soul for a fine leddy's smile--till ye presume to think
they're in earnest, and fancy yoursel' a man o' the same blude as they, and
fa' in love wi' one o' them--and then they'll teach you your level, and
send ye off to gauge whusky like Burns, or leave ye' to die in a ditch as
they did wi' puir Thom."

"Let me die, anywhere or anyhow, if I can but be near her--see her--"

"Married to anither body?--and nursing anither body's bairns. Ah boy,
boy--do ye think that was what ye were made for; to please yersel wi' a
woman's smiles, or e'en a woman's kisses--or to please yersel at all? How
do ye expect ever to be happy, or strong, or a man at a', as long as ye go
on looking to enjoy yersel--yersel? I ha' tried it. Mony was the year I
looked for nought but my ain pleasure, and got it too, when it was a'

 "Sandy Mackaye, bonny Sandy Mackaye,
  There he sits singing the lang simmer's day;
  Lassies gae to him,
  And kiss him, and woo him--
  Na bird is sa merry as Sandy Mackaye.

"An' muckle good cam' o't. Ye may fancy I'm talking like a sour,
disappointed auld carle. But I tell ye nay. I've got that's worth living
for, though I am downhearted at times, and fancy a's wrong, and there's na
hope for us on earth, we be a' sic liars--a' liars, I think: 'a universal
liars--rock substrawtum,' as Mr. Carlyle says. I'm a great liar often
mysel, especially when I'm praying. Do ye think I'd live on here in this
meeserable crankit auld bane-barrel o' a body, if it was not for The Cause,
and for the puir young fellows that come in to me whiles to get some
book-learning about the gran' auld Roman times, when folks didna care for
themselves, but for the nation, and a man counted wife and bairns and money
as dross and dung, in comparison wi' the great Roman city, that was the
mither o' them a', and wad last on, free and glorious, after they and their
bairns were a' dead thegither? Hoot, man! If I had na The Cause to care for
and to work for, whether I ever see it triumphant on earth or no--I'd just
tak' the cauld-water-cure off Waterloo-bridge, and mak' mysel a case for
the Humane Society."

"And what is The Cause?" I asked.

"Wud I tell ye? We want no ready-made freens o' The Cause. I dinna hauld
wi' thae French indoctrinating pedants, that took to stick free opinions
into a man as ye'd stick pins into a pincushion, to fa' out again the first
shake. Na--The Cause must find a man, and tak' hauld o' him, willy-nilly,
and grow up in him like an inspiration, till he can see nocht but in the
light o't. Puir bairn!" he went on, looking with a half-sad, half-comic
face at me--"puir bairn--like a young bear, wi' a' your sorrows before ye!
This time seven years ye'll ha' no need to come speering and questioning
what The Cause is, and the Gran' Cause, and the Only Cause worth working
for on the earth o' God. And noo gang your gate, and mak' fine feathers for
foul birds. I'm gaun whar ye'll be ganging too, before lang."

As I went sadly out of the shop, he called me back.

"Stay a wee, bairn; there's the Roman History for ye. There ye'll read what
The Cause is, and how they that seek their ain are no worthy thereof."

I took the book, and found in the legends of Brutus, and Cocles, and
Scaevola, and the retreat to the Mons Sacer, and the Gladiator's war, what
The Cause was, and forgot awhile in those tales of antique heroism and
patriotic self-sacrifice my own selfish longings and sorrows.

       *       *       *       *       *

But, after all, the very advice which was meant to cure me of those selfish
longings, only tended, by diverting me from my living outward idol, to turn
my thoughts more than ever inward, and tempt them to feed on their
own substance. I passed whole days on the workroom floor in brooding
silence--my mind peopled with an incoherent rabble of phantasms patched
up from every object of which I had ever read. I could not control my
daydreams; they swept me away with them over sea and land, and into the
bowels of the earth. My soul escaped on every side from my civilized
dungeon of brick and mortar, into the great free world from which my body
was debarred. Now I was the corsair in the pride of freedom on the dark
blue sea. Now I wandered in fairy caverns among the bones of primaeval
monsters. I fought at the side of Leonidas, and the Maccabee who stabbed
the Sultan's elephant, and saw him crushed beneath its falling bulk. Now
I was a hunter in tropic forests--I heard the parrots scream, and saw the
humming birds flit on from gorgeous flower to flower. Gradually I took
a voluntary pleasure in calling up these images, and working out their
details into words with all the accuracy and care for which my small
knowledge gave me materials. And as the self-indulgent habit grew on me,
I began to live two lives--one mechanical and outward, one inward and
imaginative. The thread passed through my fingers without my knowing it;
I did my work as a machine might do it. The dingy stifling room, the wan
faces of my companions, the scanty meals which I snatched, I saw dimly, as
in a dream. The tropics, and Greece, the imaginary battles which I fought,
the phantoms into whose mouths I put my thoughts, were real and true to
me. They met me when I woke--they floated along beside me as I walked to
work--they acted their fantastic dramas before me through the sleepless
hours of night. Gradually certain faces among them became familiar--certain
personages grew into coherence, as embodiments of those few types of
character which had struck me the most, and played an analogous part in
every fresh fantasia. Sandy Mackaye's face figured incongruously enough as
Leonidas, Brutus, a Pilgrim Father; and gradually, in spite of myself, and
the fear with which I looked on the recurrence of that dream, Lillian's
figure re-entered my fairy-land. I saved her from a hundred dangers; I
followed her through dragon-guarded caverns and the corridors of magic
castles; I walked by her side through the forests of the Amazon....

And now I began to crave for some means of expressing these fancies
to myself. While they were mere thoughts, parts of me, they were
unsatisfactory, however delicious. I longed to put them outside me, that I
might look at them and talk to them as permanent independent things. First
I tried to sketch them on the whitewashed walls of my garret, on scraps
of paper begged from Mackaye, or picked up in the workroom. But from my
ignorance of any rules of drawing, they were utterly devoid of beauty, and
only excited my disgust. Besides, I had thoughts as well as objects to
express--thoughts strange, sad, wild, about my own feelings, my own
destiny, and drawing could not speak them for me.

Then I turned instinctively to poetry: with its rules I was getting rapidly
conversant. The mere desire of imitation urged me on, and when I tried, the
grace of rhyme and metre covered a thousand defects. I tell my story, not
as I saw it then, but as I see it now. A long and lonely voyage, with its
monotonous days and sleepless nights--its sickness and heart-loneliness,
has given me opportunities for analysing my past history which were
impossible then, amid the ceaseless in-rush of new images, the ceaseless
ferment of their re-combination, in which my life was passed from sixteen
to twenty-five. The poet, I suppose, must be a seer as long as he is a
worker, and a seer only. He has no time to philosophize--to "think about
thinking," as Goethe, I have somewhere read, says that he never could do.
It is too often only in sickness and prostration and sheer despair, that
the fierce veracity and swift digestion of his soul can cease, and give him
time to know himself and God's dealings with him; and for that reason it is
good for him, too, to have been afflicted.

I do not write all this to boast of it; I am ready to bear sneers at my
romance--my day-dreams--my unpractical habits of mind, for I know that I
deserve them. But such was the appointed growth of my uneducated mind; no
more unhealthy a growth, if I am to believe books, than that of many a
carefully trained one. Highborn geniuses, they tell me, have their idle
visions as well as we working-men; and Oxford has seen of late years as
wild Icarias conceived as ever were fathered by a red Republic. For,
indeed, we have the same flesh and blood, the same God to teach us, the
same devil to mislead us, whether we choose to believe it or not. But there
were excuses for me. We Londoners are not accustomed from our youth to the
poems of a great democratic genius, as the Scotchmen are to their glorious
Burns. We have no chance of such an early acquaintance with poetic art
as that which enabled John Bethune, one of the great unrepresented--the
starving Scotch day-labourer, breaking stones upon the parish roads, to
write at the age of seventeen such words as these:--

  Hail, hallow'd evening! sacred hour to me!
  Thy clouds of grey, thy vocal melody,
  Thy dreamy silence oft to me have brought
  A sweet exchange from toil to peaceful thought.
  Ye purple heavens! how often has my eye,
  Wearied with its long gaze on drudgery,
  Look'd up and found refreshment in the hues
  That gild thy vest with colouring profuse!

    O, evening grey! how oft have I admired
  Thy airy tapestry, whose radiance fired
  The glowing minstrels of the olden time,
  Until their very souls flow'd forth in rhyme.
  And I have listened, till my spirit grew
  Familiar with their deathless strains, and drew
  From the same source some portion of the glow
  Which fill'd their spirits, when from earth below
  They scann'd thy golden imagery. And I
  Have consecrated _thee_, bright evening sky
  My fount of inspiration; and I fling
  My spirit on thy clouds--an offering
  To the great Deity of dying day.
  Who hath transfused o'er thee his purple ray.
       *       *       *       *       *

After all, our dreams do little harm to the rich. Those who consider
Chartism as synonymous with devil-worship, should bless and encourage them,
for the very reason for which we working men ought to dread them; for,
quickened into prurient activity by the low, novel-mongering press, they
help to enervate and besot all but the noblest minds among us. Here and
there a Thomas Cooper, sitting in Stafford gaol, after a youth spent in
cobbling shoes, vents his treasures of classic and historic learning in a
"Purgatory of Suicides"; or a Prince becomes the poet of the poor, no
less for having fed his boyish fancy with "The Arabian Nights" and "The
Pilgrim's Progress." But, with the most of us, sedentary and
monotonous occupations, as has long been known, create of themselves a
morbidly-meditative and fantastic turn of mind. And what else, in
Heaven's name, ye fine gentlemen--what else can a working man do with
his imagination, but dream? What else will you let him do with it, oh ye
education-pedants, who fancy that you can teach the masses as you would
drill soldiers, every soul alike, though you will not bestir yourselves
to do even that? Are there no differences of rank--God's rank, not
man's--among us? You have discovered, since your schoolboy days, the
fallacy of the old nomenclature which civilly classed us altogether as "the
snobs," "the blackguards"; which even--so strong is habit--tempted
Burke himself to talk of us as "the swinish multitude." You are finding
yourselves wrong there. A few more years' experience not in mis-educating
the poor, but in watching the poor really educate themselves, may teach you
that we are not all by nature dolts and idiots; that there are differences
of brain among us, just as great as there is between you; and that there
are those among us whose education ought not to end, and will not end, with
the putting off of the parish cap and breeches; whom it is cruelty, as well
as folly, to toss back into the hell of mere manual drudgery, as soon as
you have--if, indeed, you have been even so bountiful as that--excited in
them a new thirst of the intellect and imagination. If you provide that
craving with no wholesome food, you at least have no right to blame it if
it shall gorge itself with poison.

Dare for once to do a strange thing, and let yourself be laughed at; go to
a workman's meeting--a Chartist meeting, if you will; and look honestly
at the faces and brows of those so-called incendiaries, whom your venal
caricaturists have taught you to believe a mixture of cur-dog and
baboon--we, for our part, shall not be ashamed to show foreheads against
your laughing House of Commons--and then say, what employment can those men
find in the soulless routine of mechanical labour for the mass of brain
which they almost universally possess? They must either dream or agitate;
perhaps they are now learning how to do both to some purpose.

But I have found, by sad experience, that there is little use in
declamation. I had much better simply tell my story, and leave my readers
to judge of the facts, if, indeed, they will be so far courteous as to
believe them.




CHAPTER VIII.

LIGHT IN A DARK PLACE.


So I made my first attempt at poetry--need I say that my subject was the
beautiful Lillian? And need I say, too, that I was as utterly disgusted
at my attempt to express her in words, as I had been at my trial with the
pencil? It chanced also, that after hammering out half a dozen verses, I
met with Mr. Tennyson's poems; and the unequalled sketches of women that I
found there, while they had, with the rest of the book, a new and
abiding influence on my mind, were quite enough to show me my own fatal
incompetency in that line. I threw my verses away, never to resume them.
Perhaps I proved thereby the depth of my affection. Our mightiest feelings,
are always those which remain most unspoken. The most intense lovers and
the greatest poets have generally, I think, written very little personal
love-poetry, while they have shown in fictitious characters a knowledge of
the passion too painfully intimate to be spoken of in the first person.

But to escape from my own thoughts, I could not help writing something; and
to escape from my own private sorrows, writing on some matter with which
I had no personal concern. And so, after much casting about for subjects,
Childe Harold and the old missionary records contrived to celebrate
a spiritual wedding in my brain, of which anomalous marriage came a
proportionately anomalous offspring.

My hero was not to be a pirate, but a pious sea-rover, who, with a crew of
saints, or at least uncommonly fine fellows, who could be very manly
and jolly, and yet all be good Christians, of a somewhat vague and
latitudinarian cast of doctrine (for my own was becoming rapidly so),
set forth under the red-cross flag to colonize and convert one of my old
paradises, a South Sea Island.

I forget most of the lines--they were probably great trash, but I hugged
them to my bosom as a young mother does her first child.

    'Twas sunset in the lone Pacific world,
    The rich gleams fading in the western sky;
    Within the still Lagoon the sails were furled,
    The red-cross flag alone was flaunting high.
  Before them was the low and palm-fringed shore,
  Behind, the outer ocean's baffled roar.

After which valiant plunge _in medias res_, came a great lump of deception,
after the manner of youths--of the island, and the whitehouses, and the
banana groves, and above all, the single volcano towering over the whole,
which

  Shaking a sinful isle with thundering shocks,
  Reproved the worshippers of stones and stocks.

Then how a line of foam appears on the Lagoon, which is supposed at
first to be a shoal of fish, but turns out to be a troop of naked island
beauties, swimming out to the ship. The decent missionaries were certainly
guiltless of putting that into my head, whether they ever saw it or not--a
great many things happening in the South Seas of which they find it
convenient to say nothing. I think I picked it up from Wallis, or Cook, or
some other plain spoken voyager.

The crew gaze in pardonable admiration, but the hero, in a long speech,
reproves them for their lightmindedness, reminds them of their sacred
mission, and informs them that,

  The soldiers of the cross should turn their eyes
  From carnal lusts and heathen vanities;

beyond which indisputable assertion I never got; for this being about
the fiftieth stanza, I stopped to take breath a little; and reading and
re-reading, patching and touching continually, grew so accustomed to my
bantling's face, that, like a mother, I could not tell whether it was
handsome or hideous, sense or nonsense. I have since found out that the
true plan, for myself at least, is to write off as much as possible at a
time, and then lay it by and forget it for weeks--if I can, for months.
After that, on returning to it, the mind regards it as something altogether
strange and new, and can, or rather ought to, judge of it as it would of
the work of another pen.

But really, between conceit and disgust, fancying myself one day a great
new poet, and the next a mere twaddler, I got so puzzled and anxious, that
I determined to pluck up courage, go to Mackaye, and ask him to solve the
problem for me.

"Hech, sirs, poetry! I've been expecting it. I suppose it's the appointed
gate o' a workman's intellectual life--that same lust o' versification.
Aweel, aweel,--let's hear."

Blushing and trembling, I read my verses aloud in as resonant and
magniloquent a voice as I could command. I thought Mackaye's upper lip
would never stop lengthening, or his lower lip protruding. He chuckled
intensely at the unfortunate rhyme between "shocks" and "stocks." Indeed,
it kept him in chuckling matter for a whole month afterwards; but when I
had got to the shoal of naked girls, he could bear no more, and burst out--

"What the deevil! is there no harlotry and idolatry here in England, that
ye maun gang speering after it in the Cannibal Islands? Are ye gaun to be
like they puir aristocrat bodies, that wad suner hear an Italian dog howl,
than an English nightingale sing, and winna harken to Mr. John Thomas
till he calls himself Giovanni Thomasino; or do ye tak yourself for a
singing-bird, to go all your days tweedle-dumdeeing out into the lift,
just for the lust o' hearing your ain clan clatter? Will ye be a man or a
lintic? Coral Islands? Pacific? What do ye ken about Pacifics? Are ye a
Cockney or a Cannibal Islander? Dinna stand there, ye gowk, as fusionless
as a docken, but tell me that! Whaur do ye live?"

"What do you mean, Mr. Mackaye?" asked I, with a doleful and disappointed
visage.

"Mean--why, if God had meant ye to write aboot Pacifics, He'd ha' put ye
there--and because He means ye to write aboot London town, He's put ye
there--and gien ye an unco sharp taste o' the ways o't; and I'll gie ye
anither. Come along wi' me."

And he seized me by the arm, and hardly giving me time to put on my hat,
marched me out into the streets, and away through Clare Market to St.
Giles's.

It was a foul, chilly, foggy Saturday night. From the butchers' and
greengrocers' shops the gas lights flared and flickered, wild and ghastly,
over haggard groups of slip-shod dirty women, bargaining for scraps of
stale meat and frost-bitten vegetables, wrangling about short weight and
bad quality. Fish-stalls and fruit-stalls lined the edge of the greasy
pavement, sending up odours as foul as the language of sellers and buyers.
Blood and sewer-water crawled from under doors and out of spouts, and
reeked down the gutters among offal, animal and vegetable, in every stage
of putrefaction. Foul vapours rose from cowsheds and slaughter houses, and
the doorways of undrained alleys, where the inhabitants carried the filth
out on their shoes from the back-yard into the court, and from the court
up into the main street; while above, hanging like cliffs over the
streets--those narrow, brawling torrents of filth, and poverty, and
sin,--the houses with their teeming load of life were piled up into the
dingy, choking night. A ghastly, deafening sickening sight it was. Go,
scented Belgravian! and see what London is! and then go to the library
which God has given thee--one often fears in vain--and see what science
says this London might be!

"Ay," he muttered to himself, as he strode along, "sing awa; get yoursel
wi' child wi' pretty fancies and gran' words, like the rest o' the poets,
and gang to hell for it."

"To hell, Mr. Mackaye?"

"Ay, to a verra real hell, Alton Locke, laddie--a warse ane than ony
fiends' kitchen, or subterranean Smithfield that ye'll hear o' in the
pulpits--the hell on earth o' being a flunkey, and a humbug, and a useless
peacock, wasting God's gifts on your ain lusts and pleasures--and kenning
it--and not being able to get oot o' it, for the chains o' vanity and
self-indulgence. I've warned ye. Now look there--"

He stopped suddenly before the entrance of a miserable alley--

"Look! there's not a soul down that yard but's either beggar, drunkard,
thief, or warse. Write anent that! Say how you saw the mouth o' hell, and
the twa pillars thereof at the entry--the pawnbroker's shop o' one side,
and the gin palace at the other--twa monstrous deevils, eating up men, and
women, and bairns, body and soul. Look at the jaws o' the monsters, how
they open and open, and swallow in anither victim and anither. Write anent
that."

"What jaws, Mr. Mackaye?"

"They faulding-doors o' the gin shop, goose. Are na they a mair damnable
man-devouring idol than ony red-hot statue o' Moloch, or wicker Gogmagog,
wherein thae auld Britons burnt their prisoners? Look at thae bare-footed
bare-backed hizzies, with their arms roun' the men's necks, and their
mouths full o' vitriol and beastly words! Look at that Irishwoman pouring
the gin down the babbie's throat! Look at that rough o' a boy gaun out
o' the pawn shop, where he's been pledging the handkerchief he stole the
morning, into the gin shop, to buy beer poisoned wi' grains o'
paradise, and cocculus indicus, and saut, and a' damnable, maddening,
thirst-breeding, lust-breeding drugs! Look at that girl that went in wi'
a shawl on her back and cam' out wi'out ane! Drunkards frae the
breast!--harlots frae the cradle! damned before they're born! John Calvin
had an inkling o' the truth there, I'm a'most driven to think, wi' his
reprobation deevil's doctrines!"

"Well--but--Mr. Mackaye, I know nothing about these poor creatures."

"Then ye ought. What do ye ken anent the Pacific? Which is maist to your
business?--thae bare-backed hizzies that play the harlot o' the other side
o' the warld, or these--these thousands o' bare-backed hizzies that play
the harlot o' your ain side--made out o' your ain flesh and blude? You a
poet! True poetry, like true charity, my laddie, begins at hame. If ye'll
be a poet at a', ye maun be a cockney poet; and while the cockneys be what
they be, ye maun write, like Jeremiah of old, o' lamentation and mourning
and woe, for the sins o' your people. Gin you want to learn the spirit o' a
people's poet, down wi' your Bible and read thae auld Hebrew prophets; gin
ye wad learn the style, read your Burns frae morning till night; and gin
ye'd learn the matter, just gang after your nose, and keep your eyes open,
and ye'll no miss it."

"But all this is so--so unpoetical."

"Hech! Is there no the heeven above them there, and the hell beneath them?
and God frowning, and the deevil grinning? No poetry there! Is no the verra
idea of the classic tragedy defined to be, man conquered by circumstance?
Canna ye see it there? And the verra idea of the modern tragedy, man
conquering circumstance?--and I'll show you that, too--in mony a garret
where no eye but the gude God's enters, to see the patience, and the
fortitude, and the self-sacrifice, and the luve stronger than death, that's
shining in thae dark places o' the earth. Come wi' me, and see."

We went on through a back street or two, and then into a huge, miserable
house, which, a hundred years ago, perhaps, had witnessed the luxury, and
rung to the laughter of some one great fashionable family, alone there
in their glory. Now every room of it held its family, or its group of
families--a phalanstery of all the fiends;--its grand staircase, with the
carved balustrades rotting and crumbling away piecemeal, converted into a
common sewer for all its inmates. Up stair after stair we went, while wails
of children, and curses of men, steamed out upon the hot stifling rush of
air from every doorway, till, at the topmost story, we knocked at a garret
door. We entered. Bare it was of furniture, comfortless, and freezing cold;
but, with the exception of the plaster dropping from the roof, and the
broken windows, patched with rags and paper, there was a scrupulous
neatness about the whole, which contrasted strangely with the filth and
slovenliness outside. There was no bed in the room--no table. On a broken
chair by the chimney sat a miserable old woman, fancying that she was
warming her hands over embers which had long been cold, shaking her head,
and muttering to herself, with palsied lips, about the guardians and the
workhouse; while upon a few rags on the floor lay a girl, ugly, small-pox
marked, hollow eyed, emaciated, her only bed clothes the skirt of a large
handsome new riding-habit, at which two other girls, wan and tawdry, were
stitching busily, as they sat right and left of her on the floor. The old
woman took no notice of us as we entered; but one of the girls looked up,
and, with a pleased gesture of recognition, put her finger up to her lips,
and whispered, "Ellen's asleep."

"I'm not asleep, dears," answered a faint, unearthly voice; "I was only
praying. Is that Mr. Mackaye?"

"Ay, my lassies; but ha' ye gotten na fire the nicht?"

"No," said one of them, bitterly, "we've earned no fire to-night, by fair
trade or foul either."

The sick girl tried to raise herself up and speak, but was stopped by a
frightful fit of coughing and expectoration, as painful, apparently, to the
sufferer as it was, I confess, disgusting even to me.

I saw Mackaye slip something into the hand of one of the girls, and
whisper, "A half-hundred of coals;" to which she replied, with an eager
look of gratitude that I never can forget, and hurried out. Then the
sufferer, as if taking advantage of her absence, began to speak quickly and
eagerly.

"Oh, Mr. Mackaye--dear, kind Mr. Mackaye--do speak to her; and do speak to
poor Lizzy here! I'm not afraid to say it before her, because she's more
gentle like, and hasn't learnt to say bad words yet--but do speak to them,
and tell them not to go the bad Way, like all the rest. Tell them it'll
never prosper. I know it is want that drives them to it, as it drives all
of us--but tell them it's best to starve and die honest girls, than to go
about with the shame and the curse of God on their hearts, for the sake of
keeping this poor, miserable, vile body together a few short years more in
this world o' sorrow. Do tell them, Mr. Mackaye."

"I'm thinking," said he, with the tears running down his old withered face,
"ye'll mak a better preacher at that text than I shall, Ellen."

"Oh, no, no; who am I, to speak to them?--it's no merit o' mine, Mr.
Mackaye, that the Lord's kept me pure through it all. I should have been
just as bad as any of them, if the Lord had not kept me out of temptation
in His great mercy, by making me the poor, ill-favoured creature I am. From
that time I was burnt when I was a child, and had the small-pox afterwards,
oh! how sinful I was, and repined and rebelled against the Lord! And now I
see it was all His blessed mercy to keep me out of evil, pure and unspotted
for my dear Jesus, when He comes to take me to Himself. I saw Him last
night, Mr. Mackaye, as plain as I see you now, ail in a flame of beautiful
white fire, smiling at me so sweetly; and He showed me the wounds in His
hands and His feet, and He said, 'Ellen, my own child, those that suffer
with me here, they shall be glorified with me hereafter, for I'm coming
very soon to take you home.'"

Sandy shook his head at all this with a strange expression of face, as if
he sympathized and yet disagreed, respected and yet smiled at the shape
which her religious ideas had assumed; and I remarked in the meantime that
the poor girl's neck and arm were all scarred and distorted, apparently
from the effects of a burn.

"Ah," said Sandy, at length, "I tauld ye ye were the better preacher of the
two; ye've mair comfort to gie Sandy than he has to gie the like o' ye. But
how is the wound in your back the day?"

Oh, it was wonderfully better! the doctor had come and given her such
blessed ease with a great thick leather he had put under it, and then she
did not feel the boards through so much. "But oh, Mr. Mackaye, I'm so
afraid it will make me live longer to keep me away from my dear Saviour.
And there's one thing, too, that's breaking my heart, and makes me long to
die this very minute, even if I didn't go to Heaven at all, Mr. Mackaye."
(And she burst out crying, and between her sobs it came out, as well as
I could gather, that her notion was, that her illness was the cause of
keeping the girls in "_the bad ivay_," as she called it.) "For Lizzy here,
I did hope that she had repented of it after all my talking to her; but
since I've been so bad, and the girls have had to keep me most o' the time,
she's gone out of nights just as bad as ever."

Lizzy had hid her face in her hands the greater part of this speech. Now
she looked up passionately, almost fiercely--

"Repent--I have repented--I repent of it every hour--I hate myself, and
hate all the world because of it; but I must--I must; I cannot see her
starve, and I cannot starve myself. When she first fell sick she kept on as
long as she could, doing what she could, and then between us we only earned
three shillings a week, and there was ever so much to take off for fire,
and twopence for thread, and fivepence for candles; and then we were always
getting fined, because they never gave us out the work till too late on
purpose, and then they lowered prices again; and now Ellen can't work at
all, and there's four of us with the old lady, to keep off two's work that
couldn't keep themselves alone."

"Doesn't the parish allow the old lady anything?" I ventured to ask.

"They used to allow half-a-crown for a bit; and the doctor ordered Ellen
things from the parish, but it isn't half of 'em she ever got; and when the
meat came, it was half times not fit to eat, and when it was her stomach
turned against it. If she was a lady she'd be cockered up with all sorts of
soups and jellies, and nice things, just the minute she fancied 'em, and
lie on a water bed instead of the bare floor--and so she ought; but where's
the parish'll do that? And the hospital wouldn't take her in because she
was incurable; and, besides, the old'un wouldn't let her go--nor into the
union neither. When she's in a good-humour like, she'll sit by her by the
hour, holding her hand and kissing of it, and nursing of it, for all the
world like a doll. But she won't hear of the workhouse; so now, these last
three weeks, they takes off all her pay, because they says she must go into
the house, and not kill her daughter by keeping her out--as if they warn't
a killing her themselves."

"No workhouse--no workhouse!" said the old woman, turning round suddenly,
in a clear, lofty voice. "No workhouse, sir, for an officer's daughter!"

And she relapsed into her stupor.

At that moment the other girl entered with the coals--but without staying
to light the fire, ran up to Ellen with some trumpery dainty she had
bought, and tried to persuade her to eat it.

"We have been telling Mr. Mackaye everything," said poor Lizzy.

"A pleasant story, isn't it? Oh! if that fine lady, as we're making that
riding-habit for, would just spare only half the money that goes to
dressing her up to ride in the park, to send us out to the colonies,
wouldn't I be an honest girl there?--maybe an honest man's wife! Oh, my
God, wouldn't I slave my fingers to the bone to work for him! Wouldn't I
mend my life then! I couldn't help it--it would be like getting into heaven
out of hell. But now--we must--we must, I tell you. I shall go mad soon, I
think, or take to drink. When I passed the gin-shop down there just now,
I had to run like mad for fear I should go in; and if I once took to
that--Now then, to work again. Make up the fire, Mrs. * * * *, please do."

And she sat down, and began stitching frantically at the riding-habit,
from which the other girl had hardly lifted her hands or eyes for a moment
during our visit.

We made a motion, as if to go.

"God bless you," said Ellen; "come again soon, dear Mr. Mackaye."

"Good-bye," said the elder girl; "and good-night to you. Night and day's
all the same here--we must have this home by seven o'clock to-morrow
morning. My lady's going to ride early, they say, whoever she may be, and
we must just sit up all night. It's often we haven't had our clothes off
for a week together, from four in the morning till two the next morning
sometimes--stitch, stitch, stitch. Somebody's wrote a song about that--I'll
learn to sing it--it'll sound fitting-like up here."

"Better sing hymns," said Ellen.

"Hymns for * * * * * *?" answered the other, and then burst out into that
peculiar, wild, ringing, fiendish laugh--has my reader never heard it?

I pulled out the two or three shillings which I possessed, and tried to
make the girls take them, for the sake of poor Ellen.

"No; you're a working man, and we won't feed on you--you'll want it some
day--all the trade's going the same way as we, as fast as ever it can!"

Sandy and I went down the stairs.

"Poetic element? Yon lassie, rejoicing in her disfigurement and not her
beauty--like the nuns of Peterborough in auld time--is there na poetry
there? That puir lassie, dying on the bare boards, and seeing her Saviour
in her dreams, is there na poetry there, callant? That auld body owre the
fire, wi' her 'an officer's dochter,' is there na poetry there? That
ither, prostituting hersel to buy food for her freen--is there na poetry
there?--tragedy--

 "With hues as when some mighty painter dips
  His pen in dyes of earthquake and eclipse.

"Ay, Shelley's gran'; always gran'; but Fact is grander--God and Satan are
grander. All around ye, in every gin-shop and costermonger's cellar, are
God and Satan at death grips; every garret is a haill Paradise Lost or
Paradise Regained; and will ye think it beneath ye to be the 'People's
Poet?'"




CHAPTER IX.

POETRY AND POETS.


In the history of individuals, as well as in that of nations, there is
often a period of sudden blossoming--a short luxuriant summer, not without
its tornadoes and thunder-glooms, in which all the buried seeds of past
observation leap forth together into life, and form, and beauty. And such
with me were the two years that followed. I thought--I talked poetry
to myself all day long. I wrote nightly on my return from work. I am
astonished, on looking back, at the variety and quantity of my productions
during that short time. My subjects were intentionally and professedly
cockney ones. I had taken Mackaye at his word. I had made up my mind, that
if I had any poetic powers I must do my duty therewith in that station of
life to which it had pleased God to call me, and look at everything simply
and faithfully as a London artizan. To this, I suppose, is to be attributed
the little geniality and originality for which the public have kindly
praised my verses--a geniality which sprung, not from the atmosphere whence
I drew, but from the honesty and single-mindedness with which, I hope, I
laboured. Not from the atmosphere, indeed,--that was ungenial enough; crime
and poverty, all-devouring competition, and hopeless struggles against
Mammon and Moloch, amid the roar of wheels, the ceaseless stream of pale,
hard faces, intent on gain, or brooding over woe; amid endless prison walls
of brick, beneath a lurid, crushing sky of smoke and mist. It was a dark,
noisy, thunderous element that London life; a troubled sea that cannot
rest, casting up mire and dirt; resonant of the clanking of chains, the
grinding of remorseless machinery, the wail of lost spirits from the pit.
And it did its work upon me; it gave a gloomy colouring, a glare as of some
Dantean "Inferno," to all my utterances. It did not excite me or make me
fierce--I was too much inured to it--but it crushed and saddened me; it
deepened in me that peculiar melancholy of intellectual youth, which
Mr. Carlyle has christened for ever by one of his immortal
nicknames--"Werterism"; I battened on my own melancholy. I believed, I
loved to believe, that every face I passed bore the traces of discontent as
deep as was my own--and was I so far wrong? Was I so far wrong either in
the gloomy tone of my own poetry? Should not a London poet's work just now
be to cry, like the Jew of old, about the walls of Jerusalem, "Woe, woe
to this city!" Is this a time to listen to the voices of singing men and
singing women? or to cry, "Oh! that my head were a fountain of tears, that
I might weep for the sins of my people"? Is it not noteworthy, also, that
it is in this vein that the London poets have always been greatest? Which
of poor Hood's lyrics have an equal chance of immortality with "The Song of
the Shirt" and "The Bridge of Sighs," rising, as they do, right out of
the depths of that Inferno, sublime from their very simplicity? Which
of Charles Mackay's lyrics can compare for a moment with the Eschylean
grandeur, the terrible rhythmic lilt of his "Cholera Chant"--

  Dense on the stream the vapours lay,
  Thick as wool on the cold highway;
  Spungy and dim each lonely lamp
  Shone o'er the streets so dull and damp;
  The moonbeams could not pierce the cloud
  That swathed the city like a shroud;
  There stood three shapes on the bridge alone,
  Three figures by the coping-stone;
  Gaunt and tall and undefined,
  Spectres built of mist and wind.
  *       *       *       *       *
  I see his footmarks east and west--
  I hear his tread in the silence fall--
  He shall not sleep, he shall not rest--
  He comes to aid us one and all.
  Were men as wise as men might be,
  They would not work for you, for me,
  For him that cometh over the sea;
  But they will not hear the warning voice:
  The Cholera comes,--Rejoice! rejoice!
  He shall be lord of the swarming town!
  And mow them down, and mow them down!
  *       *       *       *       *

Not that I neglected, on the other hand, every means of extending the
wanderings of my spirit into sunnier and more verdant pathways. If I had to
tell the gay ones above of the gloom around me, I had also to go forth into
the sunshine, to bring home if it were but a wild-flower garland to those
that sit in darkness and the shadow of death. That was all that I could
offer them. The reader shall judge, when he has read this book throughout,
whether I did not at last find for them something better than even all the
beauties of nature.

But it was on canvas, and not among realities, that I had to choose my
garlands; and therefore the picture galleries became more than ever my
favourite--haunt, I was going to say; but, alas! it was not six times a
year that I got access to them. Still, when once every May I found myself,
by dint of a hard saved shilling, actually within the walls of that to me
enchanted palace, the Royal Academy Exhibition--Oh, ye rich! who gaze round
you at will upon your prints and pictures, if hunger is, as they say,
a better sauce than any Ude invents, and fasting itself may become the
handmaid of luxury, you should spend, as I did perforce, weeks and months
shut out from every glimpse of Nature, if you would taste her beauties,
even on canvas, with perfect relish and childish self-abandonment. How
I loved and blessed those painters! how I thanked Creswick for every
transparent shade-chequered pool; Fielding, for every rain-clad down;
Cooper, for every knot of quiet cattle beneath the cool grey willows;
Stanfield, for every snowy peak, and sheet of foam-fringed sapphire--each
and every one of them a leaf out of the magic book which else was ever
closed to me. Again, I say, how I loved and blest those painters! On the
other hand, I was not neglecting to read as well as to write poetry; and,
to speak first of the highest, I know no book, always excepting Milton,
which at once so quickened and exalted my poetical view of man and his
history, as that great prose poem, the single epic of modern days, Thomas
Carlyle's "French Revolution." Of the general effect which his works had on
me, I shall say nothing: it was the same as they have had, thank God, on
thousands of my class and of every other. But that book above all first
recalled me to the overwhelming and yet ennobling knowledge that there
was such a thing as Duty; first taught me to see in history not the mere
farce-tragedy of man's crimes and follies, but the dealings of a righteous
Ruler of the universe, whose ways are in the great deep, and whom the sins
and errors, as well as the virtues and discoveries of man, must obey and
justify.

Then, in a happy day, I fell on Alfred Tennyson's poetry, and found there,
astonished and delighted, the embodiment of thoughts about the earth around
me which I had concealed, because I fancied them peculiar to myself. Why is
it that the latest poet has generally the greatest influence over the minds
of the young? Surely not for the mere charm of novelty? The reason is that
he, living amid the same hopes, the same temptations, the same sphere of
observation as they, gives utterance and outward form to the very questions
which, vague and wordless, have been exercising their hearts. And what
endeared Tennyson especially to me, the working man, was, as I afterwards
discovered, the altogether democratic tendency of his poems. True, all
great poets are by their office democrats; seers of man only as man;
singers of the joys, the sorrows, the aspirations common to all humanity;
but in Alfred Tennyson there is an element especially democratic, truly
levelling; not his political opinions, about which I know nothing, and
care less, but his handling of the trivial every-day sights and sounds of
nature. Brought up, as I understand, in a part of England which possesses
not much of the picturesque, and nothing of that which the vulgar call
sublime, he has learnt to see that in all nature, in the hedgerow and the
sandbank, as well as in the alp peak and the ocean waste, is a world of
true sublimity,--a minute infinite,--an ever fertile garden of poetic
images, the roots of which are in the unfathomable and the eternal, as
truly as any phenomenon which astonishes and awes the eye. The descriptions
of the desolate pools and creeks where the dying swan floated, the hint of
the silvery marsh mosses by Mariana's moat, came to me like revelations.
I always knew there was something beautiful, wonderful, sublime, in those
flowery dykes of Battersea Fields; in the long gravelly sweeps of that lone
tidal shore; and here was a man who had put them into words for me! This
is what I call democratic art--the revelation of the poetry which lies in
common things. And surely all the age is tending in that direction: in
Landseer and his dogs--in Fielding and his downs, with a host of noble
fellow-artists--and in all authors who have really seized the nation's
mind, from Crabbe and Burns and Wordsworth to Hood and Dickens, the great
tide sets ever onward, outward, towards that which is common to the many,
not that which is exclusive to the few--towards the likeness of Him who
causes His rain to fall on the just and the unjust, and His sun to shine on
the evil and the good; who knoweth the cattle upon a thousand hills, and
all the beasts of the field are in His sight.

Well--I must return to my story. And here some one may ask me, "But did
you not find this true spiritual democracy, this universal knowledge and
sympathy, in Shakspeare above all other poets?" It may be my shame to have
to confess it; but though I find it now, I did not then. I do not think,
however, my case is singular: from what I can ascertain, there is, even
with regularly educated minds, a period of life at which that great writer
is not appreciated, just on account of his very greatness; on account of
the deep and large experience which the true understanding of his plays
requires--experience of man, of history, of art, and above all of those
sorrows whereby, as Hezekiah says, and as I have learnt almost too
well--"whereby men live, and in all which, is the life of the spirit." At
seventeen, indeed, I had devoured Shakspeare, though merely for the food to
my fancy which his plots and incidents supplied, for the gorgeous colouring
of his scenery: but at the period of which I am now writing, I had
exhausted that source of mere pleasure; I was craving for more explicit and
dogmatic teaching than any which he seemed to supply; and for three years,
strange as it may appear, I hardly ever looked into his pages. Under what
circumstances I afterwards recurred to his exhaustless treasures, my
readers shall in due time be told.

So I worked away manfully with such tools and stock as I possessed, and
of course produced, at first, like all young writers, some sufficiently
servile imitations of my favourite poets.

"Ugh!" said Sandy, "wha wants mongrels atween Burns and Tennyson? A gude
stock baith: but gin ye'd cross the breed ye maun unite the spirits, and
no the manners, o' the men. Why maun ilk a one the noo steal his neebor's
barnacles, before he glints out o' windows? Mak a style for yoursel,
laddie; ye're na mair Scots hind than ye are Lincolnshire laird: sae gang
yer ain gate and leave them to gang theirs; and just mak a gran', brode,
simple, Saxon style for yoursel."

"But how can I, till I know what sort of a style it ought to be?"

"Oh! but yon's amazing like Tom Sheridan's answer to his father. 'Tom,'
says the auld man, 'I'm thinking ye maun tak a wife.' 'Verra weel, father,'
says the puir skellum; 'and wha's wife shall I tak?' Wha's style shall I
tak? say all the callants the noo. Mak a style as ye would mak a wife, by
marrying her a' to yoursel; and ye'll nae mair ken what's your style till
it's made, than ye'll ken what your wife's like till she's been mony a year
by your ingle."

"My dear Mackaye," I said, "you have the most unmerciful way of raising
difficulties, and then leaving poor fellows to lay the ghost for
themselves."

"Hech, then, I'm a'thegither a negative teacher, as they ca' it in the new
lallans. I'll gang out o' my gate to tell a man his kye are laired, but I'm
no obligated thereby to pu' them out for him. After a', nae man is rid o' a
difficulty till he's conquered it single-handed for himsel: besides, I'm na
poet, mair's the gude hap for you."

"Why, then?"

"Och, och! they're puir, feckless, crabbit, unpractical bodies, they poets;
but if it's your doom, ye maun dree it; and I'm sair afeard ye ha' gotten
the disease o' genius, mair's the pity, and maun write, I suppose,
willy-nilly. Some folks' booels are that made o' catgut, that they canna
stir without chirruping and screeking."

However, _aestro percitus_, I wrote on; and in about two years and a half
had got together "Songs of the Highways" enough to fill a small octavo
volume, the circumstances of whose birth shall be given hereafter. Whether
I ever attained to anything like an original style, readers must judge for
themselves--the readers of the same volume I mean, for I have inserted none
of those poems in this my autobiography; first, because it seems too like
puffing my own works; and next, because I do not want to injure the as yet
not over great sale of the same. But, if any one's curiosity is so far
excited that he wishes to see what I have accomplished, the best advice
which I can give him is, to go forth, and buy all the working-men's
poetry which has appeared during the last twenty years, without favour or
exception; among which he must needs, of course, find mine, and also, I am
happy to say, a great deal which is much better and more instructive than
mine.




CHAPTER X.

HOW FOLKS TURN CHARTISTS.


Those who read my story only for amusement, I advise to skip this chapter.
Those, on the other hand, who really wish to ascertain what working men
actually do suffer--to see whether their political discontent has not its
roots, not merely in fanciful ambition, but in misery and slavery most real
and agonizing--those in whose eyes the accounts of a system, or rather
barbaric absence of all system, which involves starvation, nakedness,
prostitution, and long imprisonment in dungeons worse than the cells of the
Inquisition, will be invested with something at least of tragic interest,
may, I hope, think it worth their while to learn how the clothes which they
wear are made, and listen to a few occasional statistics, which, though
they may seem to the wealthy mere lists of dull figures, are to the workmen
symbols of terrible physical realities--of hunger, degradation, and
despair. [Footnote: Facts still worse than those which Mr. Locke's story
contains have been made public by the _Morning Chronicle_ in a series of
noble letters on "Labour and the Poor"; which we entreat all Christian
people to "read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest." "That will be better
for them," as Mahomet, in similar cases, used to say.]

Well: one day our employer died. He had been one of the old sort of
fashionable West-end tailors in the fast decreasing honourable trade;
keeping a modest shop, hardly to be distinguished from a dwelling-house,
except by his name on the window blinds. He paid good prices for work,
though not as good, of course, as he had given twenty years before, and
prided himself upon having all his work done at home. His workrooms, as I
have said, were no elysiums; but still, as good, alas! as those of three
tailors out of four. He was proud, luxurious, foppish; but he was honest
and kindly enough, and did many a generous thing by men who had been long
in his employ. At all events, his journeymen could live on what he paid
them.

But his son, succeeding to the business, determined, like Rehoboam of old,
to go ahead with the times. Fired with the great spirit of the nineteenth
century--at least with that one which is vulgarly considered its especial
glory--he resolved to make haste to be rich. His father had made money very
slowly of late; while dozens, who had begun business long after him, had
now retired to luxurious ease and suburban villas. Why should he remain in
the minority? Why should he not get rich as fast as he could? Why should he
stick to the old, slow-going, honourable trade? Out of some four hundred
and fifty West-end tailors, there were not one hundred left who were
old-fashioned and stupid enough to go on keeping down their own profits by
having all their work done at home and at first-hand. Ridiculous scruples!
The government knew none such. Were not the army clothes, the post-office
clothes, the policemen's clothes, furnished by contractors and sweaters,
who hired the work at low prices, and let it out again to journeymen
at still lower ones? Why should he pay his men two shillings where the
government paid them one? Were there not cheap houses even at the West-end,
which had saved several thousands a year merely by reducing their workmen's
wages? And if the workmen chose to take lower wages, he was not bound
actually to make them a present of more than they asked for? They would go
to the cheapest market for anything they wanted, and so must he. Besides,
wages had really been quite exorbitant. Half his men threw each of them as
much money away in gin and beer yearly, as would pay two workmen at cheap
house. Why was he to be robbing his family of comforts to pay for their
extravagance? And charging his customers, too, unnecessarily high
prices--it was really robbing the public!

Such, I suppose, were some of the arguments which led to an official
announcement, one Saturday night, that our young employer intended to
enlarge his establishment, for the purpose of commencing business in the
"show-trade"; and that, emulous of Messrs. Aaron, Levi, and the rest of
that class, magnificent alterations were to take place in the premises, to
make room for which our workrooms were to be demolished, and that for that
reason--for of course it was only for that reason--all work would in future
be given out, to be made up at the men's own homes.

Our employer's arguments, if they were such as I suppose, were reasonable
enough according to the present code of commercial morality. But, strange
to say, the auditory, insensible to the delight with which the public would
view the splendid architectural improvements--with taste too grovelling
to appreciate the glories of plate-glass shop-fronts and brass scroll
work--too selfish to rejoice, for its own sake, in the beauty of arabesques
and chandeliers, which, though they never might behold, the astonished
public would--with souls too niggardly to leap for joy at the thought that
gents would henceforth buy the registered guanaco vest, and the patent
elastic omni-seasonum paletot half-a-crown cheaper than ever--or that
needy noblemen would pay three-pound-ten instead of five pounds for their
footmen's liveries--received the news, clod-hearted as they were, in sullen
silence, and actually, when they got into the street, broke out into
murmurs, perhaps into execrations.

"Silence!" said Crossthwaite; "walls have ears. Come down to the nearest
house of call, and talk it out like men, instead of grumbling in the street
like fish-fags."

So down we went. Crossthwaite, taking my arm, strode on in moody
silence--once muttering to himself, bitterly--

"Oh, yes; all right and natural! What can the little sharks do but follow
the big ones?"

We took a room, and Crossthwaite coolly saw us all in; and locking the
door, stood with his back against it.

"Now then, mind, 'One and all,' as the Cornishmen say, and no peaching. If
any man is scoundrel enough to carry tales, I'll--"

"Do what?" asked Jemmy Downes, who had settled himself on the table, with a
pipe and a pot of porter. "You arn't the king of the Cannibal Islands, as I
know of, to cut a cove's head off?"

"No; but if a poor man's prayer can bring God's curse down upon a traitor's
head--it may stay on his rascally shoulders till it rots."

"If ifs and ans were pots and pans. Look at Shechem Isaacs, that sold
penknives in the street six months ago, now a-riding in his own carriage,
all along of turning sweater. If God's curse is like that--I'll be happy to
take any man's share of it."

Some new idea seemed twinkling in the fellow's cunning bloated face as he
spoke. I, and others also, shuddered at his words; but we all forgot them a
moment afterwards, as Crossthwaite began to speak.

"We were all bound to expect this. Every working tailor must come to this
at last, on the present system; and we are only lucky in having been spared
so long. You all know where this will end--in the same misery as fifteen
thousand out of twenty thousand of our class are enduring now. We shall
become the slaves, often the bodily prisoners, of Jews, middlemen, and
sweaters, who draw their livelihood out of our starvation. We shall have to
face, as the rest have, ever decreasing prices of labour, ever increasing
profits made out of that labour by the contractors who will employ
us--arbitrary fines, inflicted at the caprice of hirelings--the competition
of women, and children, and starving Irish--our hours of work will increase
one-third, our actual pay decrease to less than one-half; and in all this
we shall have no hope, no chance of improvement in wages, but ever more
penury, slavery, misery, as we are pressed on by those who are sucked by
fifties--almost by hundreds--yearly, out of the honourable trade in which
we were brought up, into the infernal system of contract work, which is
devouring our trade and many others, body and soul. Our wives will be
forced to sit up night and day to help us--our children must labour from
the cradle without chance of going to school, hardly of breathing the
fresh air of heaven,--our boys, as they grow up, must turn beggars or
paupers--our daughters, as thousands do, must eke out their miserable
earnings by prostitution. And after all, a whole family will not gain what
one of us had been doing, as yet, single-handed. You know there will be no
hope for us. There is no use appealing to government or parliament. I don't
want to talk politics here. I shall keep them for another place. But you
can recollect as well as I can, when a deputation of us went up to a
member of parliament--one that was reputed a philosopher, and a political
economist, and a liberal--and set before him the ever-increasing penury
and misery of our trade, and of those connected with it; you recollect his
answer--that, however glad he would be to help us, it was impossible--he
could not alter the laws of nature--that wages were regulated by the amount
of competition among the men themselves, and that it was no business of
government, or any one else, to interfere in contracts between the employer
and employed, that those things regulated themselves by the laws of
political economy, which it was madness and suicide to oppose. He may have
been a wise man. I only know that he was a rich one. Every one speaks well
of the bridge which carries him over. Every one fancies the laws which fill
his pockets to be God's laws. But I say this, If neither government nor
members of parliament can help us, we must help ourselves. Help yourselves,
and heaven will help you. Combination among ourselves is the only chance.
One thing we can do--sit still."

"And starve!" said some one.

"Yes, and starve! Better starve than sin. I say, it is a sin to give in to
this system. It is a sin to add our weight to the crowd of artizans who are
now choking and strangling each other to death, as the prisoners did in the
black hole of Calcutta. Let those who will turn beasts of prey, and feed
upon their fellows; but let us at least keep ourselves pure. It may be the
law of political civilization, the law of nature, that the rich should eat
up the poor, and the poor eat up each other. Then I here rise up and curse
that law, that civilization, that nature. Either I will destroy them,
or they shall destroy me. As a slave, as an increased burden on my
fellow-sufferers, I will not live. So help me God! I will take no work
home to my house; and I call upon every one here to combine, and to sign a
protest to that effect."

"What's the use of that, my good Mr. Crossthwaite?" interrupted some one,
querulously. "Don't you know what came of the strike a few years ago, when
this piece-work and sweating first came in? The masters made fine promises,
and never kept 'em; and the men who stood out had their places filled up
with poor devils who were glad enough to take the work at any price--just
as ours will be. There's no use kicking against the pricks. All the rest
have come to it, and so must we. We must live somehow, and half a loaf is
better than no bread; and even that half loaf will go into other men's
mouths, if we don't snap at it at once. Besides, we can't force others to
strike. We may strike and starve ourselves, but what's the use of a dozen
striking out of 20,000?"

"Will you sign the protest, gentlemen, or not?" asked Crossthwaite, in a
determined voice.

Some half-dozen said they would if the others would.

"And the others won't. Well, after all, one man must take the
responsibility, and I am that man. I will sign the protest by myself. I
will sweep a crossing--I will turn cress-gatherer, rag-picker; I will
starve piecemeal, and see my wife starve with me; but do the wrong thing I
will not! The Cause wants martyrs. If I must be one, I must."

All this while my mind had been undergoing a strange perturbation. The
notion of escaping that infernal workroom, and the company I met there--of
taking my work home, and thereby, as I hoped, gaining more time for
study--at least, having my books on the spot ready at every odd moment, was
most enticing. I had hailed the proposed change as a blessing to me, till I
heard Crossthwaite's arguments--not that I had not known the facts before;
but it had never struck me till then that it was a real sin against my
class to make myself a party in the system by which they were allowing
themselves (under temptation enough, God knows) to be enslaved. But now
I looked with horror on the gulf of penury before me, into the vortex
of which not only I, but my whole trade, seemed irresistibly sucked. I
thought, with shame and remorse, of the few shillings which I had earned
at various times by taking piecework home, to buy my candles for study.
I whispered my doubts to Crossthwaite, as he sat, pale and determined,
watching the excited and querulous discussions among the other workmen.

"What? So you expect to have time to read? Study after sixteen hours a
day stitching? Study, when you cannot earn money enough to keep you from
wasting and shrinking away day by day? Study, with your heart full of shame
and indignation, fresh from daily insult and injustice? Study, with the
black cloud of despair and penury in front of you? Little time, or heart,
or strength, will you have to study, when you are making the same coats you
make now, at half the price."

I put my name down beneath Crossthwaite's, on the paper which he handed me,
and went out with him.

"Ay," he muttered to himself, "be slaves--what you are worthy to be, that
you will be! You dare not combine--you dare not starve--you dare not
die--and therefore you dare not be free! Oh! for six hundred men like
Barbaroux's Marseillois--'who knew how to die!'"

"Surely, Crossthwaite, if matters were properly represented to the
government, they would not, for their own existence' sake, to put
conscience out of the question, allow such a system to continue growing."

"Government--government? You a tailor, and not know that government are the
very authors of this system? Not to know that they first set the example,
by getting the army and navy clothes made by contractors, and taking the
lowest tenders? Not to know that the police clothes, the postmen's clothes,
the convicts' clothes, are all contracted for on the same infernal plan, by
sweaters, and sweaters' sweaters, and sweaters' sweaters' sweaters, till
government work is just the very last, lowest resource to which a poor
starved-out wretch betakes himself to keep body and soul together? Why,
the government prices, in almost every department, are half, and less than
half, the very lowest living price. I tell you, the careless iniquity of
government about these things will come out some day. It will be known, the
whole abomination, and future generations will class it with the tyrannies
of the Roman emperors and the Norman barons. Why, it's a fact, that the
colonels of the regiments--noblemen, most of them--make their own vile
profit out of us tailors--out of the pauperism of the men, the slavery of
the children, the prostitution of the women. They get so much a uniform
allowed them by government to clothe the men with; and then--then, they
let out the jobs to the contractors at less than half what government
give them, and pocket the difference. And then you talk of appealing to
government."

"Upon my word," I said, bitterly, "we tailors seem to owe the army a double
grudge. They not only keep under other artizans, but they help to starve us
first, and then shoot us, if we complain too loudly."

"Oh, ho! your blood's getting up, is it? Then you're in the humour to be
told what you have been hankering to know so long--where Mackaye and I go
at night. We'll strike while the iron's hot, and go down to the Chartist
meeting at * * * * *.

"Pardon me, my dear fellow," I said. "I cannot bear the thought of being
mixed up in conspiracy--perhaps, in revolt and bloodshed. Not that I am
afraid. Heaven knows I am not. But I am too much harassed, miserable,
already. I see too much wretchedness around me, to lend my aid in
increasing the sum of suffering, by a single atom, among rich and poor,
even by righteous vengeance."

"Conspiracy? Bloodshed? What has that to do with the Charter? It suits the
venal Mammonite press well enough to jumble them together, and cry 'Murder,
rape, and robbery,' whenever the six points are mentioned; but they know,
and any man of common sense ought to know, that the Charter is just as much
an open political question as the Reform Bill, and ten times as much as
Magna Charter was, when it got passed. What have the six points, right or
wrong, to do with the question whether they can be obtained by moral
force, and the pressure of opinion alone, or require what we call ulterior
measures to get them carried? Come along!"

So with him I went that night.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Well, Alton! where was the treason and murder? Your nose must have been a
sharp one, to smell out any there. Did you hear anything that astonished
your weak mind so very exceedingly, after all?"

"The only thing that did astonish me was to hear men of my own class--and
lower still, perhaps some of them--speak with such fluency and eloquence.
Such a fund of information--such excellent English--where did they get it
all?"

"From the God who knows nothing about ranks. They're the unknown great--the
unaccredited heroes, as Master Thomas Carlyle would say--whom the flunkeys
aloft have not acknowledged yet--though they'll be forced to, some day,
with a vengeance. Are you convinced, once for all?"

"I really do not understand political questions, Crossthwaite."

"Does it want so very much wisdom to understand the rights and the wrongs
of all that? Are the people represented? Are you represented? Do you feel
like a man that's got any one to fight your battle in parliament, my young
friend, eh?"

"I'm sure I don't know--"

"Why, what in the name of common sense--what interest or feeling of yours
or mine, or any man's you ever spoke to, except the shopkeeper, do Alderman
A---- or Lord C---- D---- represent? They represent property--and we have
none. They represent rank--we have none. Vested interests--we have
none. Large capitals--those are just what crush us. Irresponsibility of
employers, slavery of the employed, competition among masters, competition
among workmen, that is the system they represent--they preach it, they
glory in it.--Why, it is the very ogre that is eating us all up. They are
chosen by the few, they represent the few, and they make laws for the
many--and yet you don't know whether or not the people are represented!"

We were passing by the door of the Victoria Theatre; it was just half-price
time--and the beggary and rascality of London were pouring in to their low
amusement, from the neighbouring gin palaces and thieves' cellars. A herd
of ragged boys, vomiting forth slang, filth, and blasphemy, pushed past us,
compelling us to take good care of our pockets.

"Look there! look at the amusements, the training, the civilization, which
the government permits to the children of the people! These licensed pits
of darkness, traps of temptation, profligacy, and ruin, triumphantly
yawning night after night--and then tell me that the people who see their
children thus kidnapped into hell are represented by a government who
licenses such things!"

"Would a change in the franchise cure that?"

"Household suffrage mightn't--but give us the Charter, and we'll see about
it! Give us the Charter, and we'll send workmen, into parliament that shall
soon find out whether something better can't be put in the way of the ten
thousand boys and girls in London who live by theft and prostitution, than
the tender mercies of the Victoria--a pretty name! They say the Queen's
a good woman--and I don't doubt it. I wonder often if she knows what her
precious namesake here is like."

"But really, I cannot see how a mere change in representation can cure such
things as that."

"Why, didn't they tell us, before the Reform Bill, that extension of the
suffrage was to cure everything? And how can you have too much of a good
thing? We've only taken them at their word, we Chartists. Haven't all
politicians been preaching for years that England's national greatness was
all owing to her political institutions--to Magna Charta, and the Bill of
Rights, and representative parliaments, and all that? It was but the
other day I got hold of some Tory paper, that talked about the English
constitution, and the balance of queen, lords, and commons, as the
'Talismanic Palladium' of the country. 'Gad, we'll see if a move onward in
the same line won't better the matter. If the balance of classes is such a
blessed thing, the sooner we get the balance equal, the better; for it's
rather lopsided just now, no one can deny. So, representative institutions
are the talismanic palladium of the nation, are they? The palladium of the
classes that have them, I dare say; and that's the very best reason why the
classes that haven't got 'em should look out for the same palladium for
themselves. What's sauce for the gander is sauce for the goose, isn't it?
We'll try--we'll see whether the talisman they talk of has lost its power
all of a sudden since '32--whether we can't rub the magic ring a little for
ourselves and call up genii to help us out of the mire, as the shopkeepers
and the gentlemen have done."

       *       *       *       *       *

From that night I was a Chartist, heart and soul--and so were a million and
a half more of the best artisans in England--at least, I had no reason to
be ashamed of my company. Yes; I too, like Crossthwaite, took the upper
classes at their word; bowed down to the idol of political institutions,
and pinned my hopes of salvation on "the possession of one ten-thousandth
part of a talker in the national palaver." True, I desired the Charter, at
first (as I do, indeed, at this moment), as a means to glorious ends--not
only because it would give a chance of elevation, a free sphere of action,
to lowly worth and talent; but because it was the path to reforms--social,
legal, sanatory, educational--to which the veriest Tory--certainly not the
great and good Lord Ashley--would not object. But soon, with me, and I am
afraid with many, many more, the means became, by the frailty of poor human
nature, an end, an idol in itself. I had so made up my mind that it was
the only method of getting what I wanted, that I neglected, alas! but too
often, to try the methods which lay already by me. "If we had but the
Charter"--was the excuse for a thousand lazinesses, procrastinations. "If
we had but the Charter"--I should be good, and free, and happy. Fool that I
was! It was within, rather than without, that I needed reform.

And so I began to look on man (and too many of us, I am afraid, are doing
so) as the creature and puppet of circumstances--of the particular outward
system, social or political, in which he happens to find himself. An
abominable heresy, no doubt; but, somehow, it appears to me just the same
as Benthamites, and economists, and high-churchmen, too, for that matter,
have been preaching for the last twenty years with great applause from
their respective parties. One set informs the world that it is to be
regenerated by cheap bread, free trade, and that peculiar form of the
"freedom of industry" which, in plain language, signifies "the despotism
of capital"; and which, whatever it means, is merely some outward system,
circumstance, or "dodge" _about_ man, and not _in_ him. Another party's
nostrum is more churches, more schools, more clergymen--excellent things in
their way--better even than cheap bread, or free trade, provided only that
they are excellent--that the churches, schools, clergymen, are good ones.
But the party of whom I am speaking seem to us workmen to consider the
quality quite a secondary consideration, compared with the quantity. They
expect the world to be regenerated, not by becoming more a Church--none
would gladlier help them in bringing that about than the Chartists
themselves, paradoxical as it may seem--but by being dosed somewhat more
with a certain "Church system," circumstance, or "dodge." For my part, I
seem to have learnt that the only thing to regenerate the world is not more
of any system, good or bad, but simply more of the Spirit of God.

About the supposed omnipotence of the Charter, I have found out my mistake.
I believe no more in "Morison's-Pill-remedies," as Thomas Carlyle calls
them. Talismans are worthless. The age of spirit-compelling spells, whether
of parchment or carbuncle, is past--if, indeed, it ever existed. The
Charter will no more make men good, than political economy, or the
observance of the Church Calendar--a fact which we working men, I really
believe, have, under the pressure of wholesome defeat and God-sent
affliction, found out sooner than our more "enlightened" fellow-idolaters.
But at that time, as I have confessed already, we took our betters at their
word, and believed in Morison's Pills. Only, as we looked at the world from
among a class of facts somewhat different from theirs, we differed from
them proportionably as to our notions of the proper ingredients in the said
Pill.

       *       *       *       *       *

But what became of our protest?

It was received--and disregarded. As for turning us off, we had, _de
facto_, like Coriolanus, banished the Romans, turned our master off. All
the other hands, some forty in number, submitted and took the yoke upon
them, and went down into the house of bondage, knowing whither they went.
Every man of them is now a beggar, compared with what he was then. Many are
dead in the prime of life of consumption, bad food and lodging, and the
peculiar diseases of our trade. Some have not been heard of lately--we
fancy them imprisoned in some sweaters' dens--but thereby hangs a tale,
whereof more hereafter.

But it was singular, that every one of the six who had merely professed
their conditional readiness to sign the protest, were contumeliously
discharged the next day, without any reason being assigned. It was evident
that there had been a traitor at the meeting; and every one suspected Jemmy
Downes, especially as he fell into the new system with suspiciously strange
alacrity. But it was as impossible to prove the offence against him, as to
punish him for it. Of that wretched man, too, and his subsequent career, I
shall have somewhat to say hereafter. Verily, there is a God who judgeth
the earth!

But now behold me and my now intimate and beloved friend, Crossthwaite,
with nothing to do--a gentlemanlike occupation; but, unfortunately, in our
class, involving starvation. What was to be done? We applied for work at
several "honourable shops"; but at all we received the same answer. Their
trade was decreasing--the public ran daily more and more to the cheap
show-shops--and they themselves were forced, in order to compete with these
latter, to put more and more of their work out at contract prices. _Facilis
descensus Averni!_ Having once been hustled out of the serried crowd of
competing workmen, it was impossible to force our way in again. So, a
week or ten days past, our little stocks of money were exhausted. I was
down-hearted at once; but Crossthwaite bore up gaily enough.

"Katie and I can pick a crust together without snarling over it. And, thank
God, I have no children, and never intend to have, if I can keep true to
myself, till the good times come."

"Oh! Crossthwaite, are not children a blessing?"

"Would they be a blessing to me now? No, my lad.--Let those bring slaves
into the world who will! I will never beget children to swell the numbers
of those who are trampling each other down in the struggle for daily
bread, to minister in ever deepening poverty and misery to the rich man's
luxury--perhaps his lust."

"Then you believe in the Malthusian doctrines?"

"I believe them to be an infernal lie, Alton Locke; though good and wise
people like Miss Martineau may sometimes be deluded into preaching them. I
believe there's room on English soil for twice the number there is now; and
when we get the Charter we'll prove it; we'll show that God meant living
human heads and hands to be blessings and not curses, tools and not
burdens. But in such times as these, let those who have wives be as though
they had none--as St. Paul said, when he told his people under the Roman
Emperor to be above begetting slaves and martyrs. A man of the people
should keep himself as free from encumbrances as he can just now. He win
find it all the more easy to dare and suffer for the people, when their
turn comes--"

And he set his teeth, firmly, almost savagely.

"I think I can earn a few shillings, now and then, by writing for a paper I
know of. If that won't do, I must take up agitating for a trade, and live
by spouting, as many a Tory member as well as Radical ones do. A man may do
worse, for he may do nothing. At all events, my only chance now is to
help on the Charter; for the sooner it comes the better for me. And if I
die--why, the little woman won't be long in coming after me, I know that
well; and there's a tough business got well over for both of us!"

"Hech," said Sandy,

                  "To every man
  Death comes but once a life--

"as my countryman, Mr. Macaulay, says, in thae gran' Roman ballants o' his.
But for ye, Alton, laddie, ye're owre young to start off in the People's
Church Meelitant, sae just bide wi' me, and the barrel o' meal in the
corner there winna waste, nae mair than it did wi' the widow o' Zareptha; a
tale which coincides sae weel wi' the everlasting righteousness, that I'm
at times no inclined to consider it a'thegither mythical."

But I, with thankfulness which vented itself through my eyes, finding my
lips alone too narrow for it, refused to eat the bread of idleness.

"Aweel, then, ye'll just mind the shop, and dust the books whiles; I'm
getting auld and stiff, and ha' need o' help i' the business."

"No," I said; "you say so out of kindness; but if you can afford no greater
comforts than these, you cannot afford to keep me in addition to yourself."

"Hech, then! How do ye ken that the auld Scot eats a' he makes? I was na
born the spending side o' Tweed, my man. But gin ye daur, why dinna ye pack
up your duds, and yer poems wi' them, and gang till your cousin i' the
university? he'll surely put you in the way o' publishing them. He's bound
to it by blude; and there's na shame in asking him to help you towards
reaping the fruits o' yer ain labours. A few punds on a bond for repayment
when the addition was sauld, noo,--I'd do that for mysel; but I'm thinking
ye'd better try to get a list o' subscribers. Dinna mind your independence;
it's but spoiling the Egyptians, ye ken, and the bit ballants will be their
money's worth, I'll warrant, and tell them a wheen facts they're no that
weel acquentit wi'. Hech? Johnnie, my Chartist?"

"Why not go to my uncle?"

"Puir sugar-and-spice-selling bailie body! is there aught in his ledger
about poetry, and the incommensurable value o' the products o' genius? Gang
till the young scholar; he's a canny one, too, and he'll ken it to be worth
his while to fash himsel a wee anent it."

So I packed up my little bundle, and lay awake all that night in a fever
of expectation about the as yet unknown world of green fields and woods
through which my road to Cambridge lay.




CHAPTER XI.

"THE YARD WHERE THE GENTLEMEN LIVE."


I may be forgiven, surely, if I run somewhat into detail about this my
first visit to the country.

I had, as I have said before, literally never been further afield than
Fulham or Battersea Rise. One Sunday evening, indeed, I had got as far as
Wandsworth Common; but it was March, and, to my extreme disappointment, the
heath was not in flower.

But, usually, my Sundays had been spent entirely in study; which to me was
rest, so worn out were both my body and my mind with the incessant drudgery
of my trade, and the slender fare to which I restricted myself. Since I had
lodged with Mackaye certainly my food had been better. I had not required
to stint my appetite for money wherewith to buy candles, ink, and pens.
My wages, too, had increased with my years, and altogether I found myself
gaining in strength, though I had no notion how much I possessed till I set
forth on this walk to Cambridge.

It was a glorious morning at the end of May; and when. I escaped from
the pall of smoke which hung over the city, I found the sky a sheet of
cloudless blue. How I watched for the ending of the rows of houses, which
lined the road for miles--the great roots of London, running far out
into the country, up which poured past me an endless stream of food and
merchandise and human beings--the sap of the huge metropolitan life-tree!
How each turn of the road opened a fresh line of terraces or villas, till
hope deferred made the heart sick, and the country seemed--like the place
where the rainbow touches the ground, or the El Dorado of Raleigh's Guiana
settler--always a little farther off! How between gaps in the houses, right
and left, I caught tantalizing glimpses of green fields, shut from me by
dull lines of high-spiked palings! How I peeped through gates and over
fences at trim lawns and gardens, and longed to stay, and admire, and
speculate on the name of the strange plants and gaudy flowers; and then
hurried on, always expecting to find something still finer ahead--something
really worth stopping to look at--till the houses thickened again into a
street, and I found myself, to my disappointment, in the midst of a town!
And then more villas and palings; and then a village;--when would they
stop, those endless houses?

At last they did stop. Gradually the people whom I passed began to look
more and more rural, and more toil-worn and ill-fed. The houses ended,
cattle-yards and farm-buildings appeared; and right and left, far away,
spread the low rolling sheet of green meadows and cornfields. Oh, the joy!
The lawns with their high elms and firs, the green hedgerows, the delicate
hue and scent of the fresh clover-fields, the steep clay banks where I
stopped to pick nosegays of wild flowers, and became again a child,--and
then recollected my mother, and a walk with her on the river bank towards
the Red House--and hurried on again, but could not be unhappy, while my
eyes ranged free, for the first time in my life, over the chequered squares
of cultivation, over glittering brooks, and hills quivering in the green
haze, while above hung the skylarks, pouring out their souls in melody.
And then, as the sun grew hot, and the larks dropped one by one into the
growing corn, the new delight of the blessed silence! I listened to the
stillness; for noise had been my native element; I had become in London
quite unconscious of the ceaseless roar of the human sea, casting up mire
and dirt. And now, for the first time in my life, the crushing, confusing
hubbub had flowed away, and left my brain calm and free. How I felt at that
moment a capability of clear, bright meditation, which was as new to me,
as I believe it would have been to most Londoners in my position. I cannot
help fancying that our unnatural atmosphere of excitement, physical as well
as moral, is to blame for very much of the working man's restlessness and
fierceness. As it was, I felt that every step forward, every breath of
fresh air, gave me new life. I had gone fifteen miles before I recollected
that, for the first time for many months, I had not coughed since I rose.

So on I went, down the broad, bright road, which seemed to beckon me
forward into the unknown expanses of human life.

  The world was all before me, where to choose,

and I saw it both with my eyes and my imagination, in the temper of a boy
broke loose from school. My heart kept holiday. I loved and blessed the
birds which flitted past me, and the cows which lay dreaming on the sward.
I recollect stopping with delight at a picturesque descent into the road,
to watch a nursery-garden, full of roses of every shade, from brilliant
yellow to darkest purple; and as I wondered at the innumerable variety of
beauties which man's art had developed from a few poor and wild species, it
seemed to me the most delightful life on earth, to follow in such a
place the primaeval trade of gardener Adam; to study the secrets of the
flower-world, the laws of soil and climate; to create new species, and
gloat over the living fruit of one's own science and perseverance. And then
I recollected the tailor's shop, and the Charter, and the starvation, and
the oppression which I had left behind, and ashamed of my own selfishness,
went hurrying on again.

At last I came to a wood--the first real wood that I had ever seen; not a
mere party of stately park trees growing out of smooth turf, but a real
wild copse; tangled branches and grey stems fallen across each other; deep,
ragged underwood of shrubs, and great ferns like princes' feathers, and gay
beds of flowers, blue and pink and yellow, with butterflies flitting about
them, and trailers that climbed and dangled from bough to bough--a poor,
commonplace bit of copse, I dare say, in the world's eyes, but to me a
fairy wilderness of beautiful forms, mysterious gleams and shadows, teeming
with manifold life. As I stood looking wistfully over the gate, alternately
at the inviting vista of the green-embroidered path, and then at the grim
notice over my head, "All trespassers prosecuted," a young man came up
the ride, dressed in velveteen jacket and leather gaiters, sufficiently
bedrabbled with mud. A fishing-rod and basket bespoke him some sort of
destroyer, and I saw in a moment that he was "a gentleman." After all,
there is such a thing as looking like a gentleman. There are men whose
class no dirt or rags could hide, any more than they could Ulysses. I
have seen such men in plenty among workmen, too; but, on the whole, the
gentlemen--by whom I do not mean just now the rich--have the superiority
in that point. But not, please God, for ever. Give us the same air,
water, exercise, education, good society, and you will see whether this
"haggardness," this "coarseness," &c., &c., for the list is too long to
specify, be an accident, or a property, of the man of the people.

"May I go into your wood?" asked I at a venture, curiosity conquering
pride.

"Well! what do you want there, my good fellow?"

"To see what a wood is like--I never was in one in my life."

"Humph! well--you may go in for that, and welcome. Never was in a wood in
his life--poor devil!"

"Thank you!" quoth I. And I slowly clambered over the gate. He put his hand
carelessly on the top rail, vaulted over it like a deer, and then turned to
stare at me.

"Hullo! I say--I forgot--don't go far in, or ramble up and down, or you'll
disturb the pheasants."

I thanked him again for what license he had given me--went in, and lay down
by the path-side.

Here, I suppose, by the rules of modern art, a picturesque description of
the said wood should follow; but I am the most incompetent person in the
world to write it. And, indeed, the whole scene was so novel to me, that I
had no time to analyse; I could only enjoy. I recollect lying on my face
and fingering over the delicately cut leaves of the weeds, and wondering
whether the people who lived in the country thought them as wonderful and
beautiful as I did;--and then I recollected the thousands whom I had left
behind, who, like me, had never seen the green face of God's earth; and the
answer of the poor gamin in St. Giles's, who, when he was asked what the
country was, answered, "_The yard where the gentlemen live when they go out
of town_"--significant that, and pathetic;--then I wondered whether the
time would ever come when society would be far enough advanced to open to
even such as he a glimpse, if it were only once a year, of the fresh, clean
face of God's earth;--and then I became aware of a soft mysterious hum,
above and around me, and turned on my back to look whence it proceeded,
and saw the leaves gold-green and transparent in the sunlight, quivering
against the deep heights of the empyrean blue; and hanging in the sunbeams
that pierced the foliage, a thousand insects, like specks of fire, that
poised themselves motionless on thrilling wings, and darted away, and
returned to hang motionless again;--and I wondered what they eat, and
whether they thought about anything, and whether they enjoyed the
sunlight;--and then that brought back to me the times when I used to lie
dreaming in my crib on summer mornings, and watched the flies dancing reels
between me and the ceilings;--and that again brought the thought of Susan
and my mother; and I prayed for them--not sadly--I could not be sad
there;--and prayed that we might all meet again some day and live happily
together; perhaps in the country, where I could write poems in peace; and
then, by degrees, my sentences and thoughts grew incoherent, and in happy,
stupid animal comfort, I faded away into a heavy sleep, which lasted an
hour or more, till I was awakened by the efforts of certain enterprising
great black and red ants, who were trying to found a small Algeria in my
left ear.

I rose and left the wood, and a gate or two on, stopped again to look
at the same sportsman fishing in a clear silver brook. I could not help
admiring with a sort of childish wonder the graceful and practised aim with
which he directed his tiny bait, and called up mysterious dimples on the
surface, which in a moment increased to splashings and stragglings of a
great fish, compelled, as if by some invisible spell, to follow the point
of the bending rod till he lay panting on the bank. I confess, in spite of
all my class prejudices against "game-preserving aristocrats," I almost
envied the man; at least I seemed to understand a little of the universally
attractive charms which those same outwardly contemptible field sports
possess; the fresh air, fresh fields and copses, fresh running brooks, the
exercise, the simple freedom, the excitement just sufficient to keep alive
expectation and banish thought.--After all, his trout produced much the
same mood in him as my turnpike-road did in me. And perhaps the man did not
go fishing or shooting every day. The laws prevented him from shooting, at
least, all the year round; so sometimes there might be something in which
he made himself of use. An honest, jolly face too he had--not without
thought and strength in it. "Well, it is a strange world," said I to
myself, "where those who can, need not; and those who cannot, must!"

Then he came close to the gate, and I left it just in time to see a little
group arrive at it--a woman of his own rank, young, pretty, and simply
dressed, with a little boy, decked out as a Highlander, on a shaggy
Shetland pony, which his mother, as I guessed her to be, was leading. And
then they all met, and the little fellow held up a basket of provisions
to his father, who kissed him across the gate, and hung his creel of fish
behind the saddle, and patted the mother's shoulder, as she looked up
lovingly and laughingly in his face. Altogether, a joyous, genial bit
of--Nature? Yes, Nature. Shall I grudge simple happiness to the few,
because it is as yet, alas! impossible for the many.

And yet the whole scene contrasted so painfully with me--with my past,
my future, my dreams, my wrongs, that I could not look at it; and with a
swelling heart I moved on--all the faster because I saw they were looking
at me and talking of me, and the fair wife threw after me a wistful,
pitying glance, which I was afraid might develop itself into some offer of
food or money--a thing which I scorned and dreaded, because it involved the
trouble of a refusal.

Then, as I walked on once more, my heart smote me. If they had wished to be
kind, why had I grudged them the opportunity of a good deed? At all events,
I might have asked their advice. In a natural and harmonious state, when
society really means brotherhood, a man could go up to any stranger, to
give and receive, if not succour, yet still experience and wisdom: and was
I not bound to tell them what I knew? was sure that they did not know? Was
I not bound to preach the cause of my class wherever I went? Here were
kindly people who, for aught I knew, would do right the moment they were
told where it was wanted; if there was an accursed artificial gulf between
their class and mine, had I any right to complain of it, as long as I
helped to keep it up by my false pride and surly reserve? No! I would speak
my mind henceforth--I would testify of what I saw and knew of the wrongs,
if not of the rights of the artisan, before whomsoever I might come. Oh!
valiant conclusion of half an hour's self-tormenting scruples! How I kept
it, remains to be shown.

I really fear that I am getting somewhat trivial and prolix; but there was
hardly an incident in my two days' tramp which did not give me some small
fresh insight into the _terra incognita_ of the country; and there may be
those among my readers, to whom it is not uninteresting to look, for once,
at even the smallest objects with a cockney workman's eyes.

Well, I trudged on--and the shadows lengthened, and I grew footsore and
tired; but every step was new, and won me forward with fresh excitement for
my curiosity.

At one village I met a crowd of little, noisy, happy boys and girls pouring
out of a smart new Gothic school-house. I could not resist the temptation
of snatching a glance through the open door. I saw on the walls maps,
music, charts, and pictures. How I envied those little urchins! A solemn,
sturdy elder, in a white cravat, evidently the parson of the parish, was
patting children's heads, taking down names, and laying down the law to a
shrewd, prim young schoolmaster.

Presently, as I went up the village, the clergyman strode past
me, brandishing a thick stick and humming a chant, and joined a
motherly-looking wife, who, basket on arm, was popping in and out of the
cottages, looking alternately serious and funny, cross and kindly--I
suppose, according to the sayings and doings of the folks within.

"Come," I thought, "this looks like work at least." And as I went out
of the village, I accosted a labourer, who was trudging my way, fork on
shoulder, and asked him if that was the parson and his wife?

I was surprised at the difficulty with which I got into conversation with
the man; at his stupidity, feigned or real, I could not tell which; at the
dogged, suspicious reserve with which he eyed me, and asked me whether I
was "one of they parts"? and whether I was a Londoner, and what I wanted on
the tramp, and so on, before he seemed to think it safe to answer a single
question. He seemed, like almost every labourer I ever met, to have
something on his mind; to live in a state of perpetual fear and
concealment. When, however, he found I was both a cockney and a passer-by,
he began to grow more communicative, and told me, "Ees--that were the
parson, sure enough."

"And what sort of a man was he?"

"Oh! he was a main kind man to the poor; leastwise, in the matter of
visiting 'em, and praying with 'em, and getting 'em to put into clubs, and
such like; and his lady too. Not that there was any fault to find with the
man about money--but 'twasn't to be expected of him."

"Why, was he not rich?"

"Oh, rich enough to the likes of us. But his own tithes here arn't more
than a thirty pounds we hears tell; and if he hadn't summat of his own, he
couldn't do not nothing by the poor; as it be, he pays for that ere school
all to his own pocket, next part. All the rest o' the tithes goes to some
great lord or other--they say he draws a matter of a thousand a year out of
the parish, and not a foot ever he sot into it; and that's the way with a
main lot o' parishes, up and down."

This was quite a new fact to me. "And what sort of folks were the parsons
all round."

"Oh, some of all sorts, good and bad. About six and half a dozen. There's
two or three nice young gentlemen come'd round here now, but they're all
what's-'em-a-call it?--some sort o' papishes;--leastwise, they has prayers
in the church every day, and doesn't preach the Gospel, no how, I hears
by my wife, and she knows all about it, along of going to meeting. Then
there's one over thereaway, as had to leave his living--he knows why. He
got safe over seas. If he had been a poor man, he'd been in * * * * *
gaol, safe enough, and soon enough. Then there's two or three as goes
a-hunting--not as I sees no harm in that; if a man's got plenty of money,
he ought to enjoy himself, in course: but still he can't be here and there
too, to once. Then there's two or three as is bad in their healths, or
thinks themselves so--or else has livings summer' else; and they lives
summer' or others, and has curates. Main busy chaps is they curates,
always, and wonderful hands to preach; but then, just as they gets a little
knowing like at it, and folks gets to like 'em, and run to hear 'em, off
they pops to summat better; and in course they're right to do so; and so
we country-folks get nought but the young colts, afore they're broke, you
see."

"And what sort of a preacher was his parson?"

"Oh, he preached very good Gospel, not that he went very often himself,
acause he couldn't make out the meaning of it; he preached too high, like.
But his wife said it was uncommon good Gospel; and surely when he come to
visit a body, and talked plain English, like, not sermon-ways, he was a
very pleasant man to heer, and his lady uncommon kind to nurse folk. They
sot up with me and my wife, they two did, two whole nights, when we was in
the fever, afore the officer could get us a nurse."

"Well," said I, "there are some good parsons left."

"Oh, yes; there's some very good ones--each one after his own way; and
there'd be more on 'em, if they did but know how bad we labourers was off.
Why bless ye, I mind when they was very different. A new parson is a mighty
change for the better, mostwise, we finds. Why, when I was a boy, we never
had no schooling. And now mine goes and learns singing and jobrafy, and
ciphering, and sich like. Not that I sees no good in it. We was a sight
better off in the old times, when there weren't no schooling. Schooling
harn't made wages rise, nor preaching neither."

"But surely," I said, "all this religious knowledge ought to give you
comfort, even if you are badly off."

"Oh! religion's all very well for them as has time for it; and a very good
thing--we ought all to mind our latter end. But I don't see how a man can
hear sermons with an empty belly; and there's so much to fret a man, now,
and he's so cruel tired coming home o' nights, he can't nowise go to pray a
lot, as gentlefolks does."

"But are you so ill off?"

"Oh! he'd had a good harvesting enough; but then he owed all that for he's
rent; and he's club money wasn't paid up, nor he's shop. And then, with
he's wages"--(I forget the sum--under ten shillings)--"how could a man
keep his mouth full, when he had five children! And then, folks is so
unmarciful--I'll just tell you what they says to me, now, last time I was
over at the board--"

And thereon he rambled off into a long jumble of medical-officers, and
relieving-officers, and Farmer This, and Squire That, which indicated a
mind as ill-educated as discontented. He cursed or rather grumbled at--for
he had not spirit, it seemed, to curse anything--the New Poor Law; because
it "ate up the poor, flesh and bone";--bemoaned the "Old Law," when "the
Vestry was forced to give a man whatsomdever he axed for, and if they
didn't, he'd go to the magistrates and make 'em, and so sure as a man got a
fresh child, he went and got another loaf allowed him next vestry, like a
Christian;"--and so turned through a gate, and set to work forking up some
weeds on a fallow, leaving me many new thoughts to digest.

That night, I got to some town or other, and there found a night's lodging,
good enough for a walking traveller.




CHAPTER XII.

CAMBRIDGE.


When I started again next morning, I found myself so stiff and footsore,
that I could hardly put one leg before the other, much less walk upright. I
was really quite in despair, before the end of the first mile; for I had no
money to pay for a lift on the coach, and I knew, besides, that they would
not be passing that way for several hours to come. So, with aching back and
knees, I made shift to limp along, bent almost double, and ended by sitting
down for a couple of hours, and looking about me, in a country which would
have seemed dreary enough, I suppose, to any one but a freshly-liberated
captive, such as I was. At last I got up and limped on, stiffer than ever
from my rest, when a gig drove past me towards Cambridge, drawn by a stout
cob, and driven by a tall, fat, jolly-looking farmer, who stared at me as
he passed, went on, looked back, slackened his pace, looked back again, and
at last came to a dead stop, and hailed me in a broad nasal dialect--

"Whor be ganging, then, boh?"

"To Cambridge."

"Thew'st na git there that gate. Be'est thee honest man?"

"I hope so," said I, somewhat indignantly.

"What's trade?"

"A tailor," I said.

"Tailor!--guide us! Tailor a-tramp? Barn't accoostomed to tramp, then?"

"I never was out of London before," said I, meekly--for I was too worn-out
to be cross--lengthy and impertinent as this cross-examination seemed.

"Oi'll gie thee lift; dee yow joomp in. Gae on, powney! Tailor, then! Oh!
ah! tailor, saith he."

I obeyed most thankfully, and sat crouched together, looking up out of
the corner of my eyes at the huge tower of broad-cloth by my side, and
comparing the two red shoulders of mutton which held the reins, with my own
wasted, white, woman-like fingers.

I found the old gentleman most inquisitive. He drew out of me all my
story--questioned me about the way "Lunnon folks" lived, and whether they
got ony shooting or "pattening"--whereby I found he meant skating--and
broke in, every now and then, with ejaculations of childish wonder, and
clumsy sympathy, on my accounts of London labour and London misery.

"Oh, father, father!--I wonders they bears it. Us'n in the fens wouldn't
stand that likes. They'd roit, and roit, and roit, and tak' oot the
dook-gunes to un--they would, as they did five-and-twenty year agone. Never
to goo ayond the housen!--never to go ayond the housen! Kill me in a three
months, that would--bor', then!"

"Are you a farmer?" I asked, at last, thinking that my turn for questioning
was come.

"I bean't varmer; I be yooman born. Never paid rent in moy life, nor never
wool. I farms my own land, and my vathers avore me, this ever so mony
hoondred year. I've got the swoord of 'em to home, and the helmet that they
fut with into the wars, then when they chopped off the king's head--what
was the name of um?"

"Charles the First?"

"Ees--that's the booy. We was Parliament side--true Britons all we was,
down into the fens, and Oliver Cromwell, as dug Botsham lode, to the head
of us. Yow coom down to Metholl, and I'll shaw ye a country. I'll shaw
'ee some'at like bullocks to call, and some'at like a field o' beans--I
wool,--none o' this here darned ups and downs o' hills" (though the country
through which we drove was flat enough, I should have thought, to please
any one), "to shake a body's victuals out of his inwards--all so flat as a
barn's floor, for vorty mile on end--there's the country to live in!--and
vour sons--or was vour on 'em--every one on 'em fifteen stone in his shoes,
to patten again' any man from Whit'sea Mere to Denver Sluice, for twenty
pounds o' gold; and there's the money to lay down, and let the man as
dare cover it, down with his money, and on wi' his pattens, thirteen-inch
runners, down the wind, again' either a one o' the bairns!"

And he jingled in his pockets a heavy bag of gold, and winked, and
chuckled, and then suddenly checking himself, repeated in a sad, dubious
tone, two or three times, "Vour on 'em there was--vour on 'em there was;"
and relieved his feelings by springing the pony into a canter till he came
to a public-house, where he pulled up, called for a pot of hot ale, and
insisted on treating me. I assured him that I never drank fermented
liquors.

"Aw? Eh? How can yow do that then? Die o' cowd i' the fen, that gate, yow
would. Love ye then! they as dinnot tak' spirits down thor, tak' their
pennord o' elevation, then--women-folk especial."

"What's elevation?"

"Oh! ho! ho!--yow goo into druggist's shop o' market-day, into Cambridge,
and you'll see the little boxes, doozens and doozens, a' ready on the
counter; and never a ven-man's wife goo by, but what calls in for her
pennord o' elevation, to last her out the week. Oh! ho! ho! Well, it keeps
women-folk quiet, it do; and it's mortal good agin ago pains."

"But what is it?"

"Opium, bor' alive, opium!"

"But doesn't it ruin their health? I should think it the very worst sort of
drunkenness."

"Ow, well, yow moi soy that-mak'th 'em cruel thin then, it do; but what can
bodies do i' th'ago? Bot it's a bad thing, it is. Harken yow to me. Didst
ever know one called Porter, to yowr trade?"

I thought a little, and recollected a man of that name, who had worked with
us a year or two before--a great friend of a certain scatter-brained Irish
lad, brother of Crossthwaite's wife.

"Well, I did once, but I have lost sight of him twelve months, or more."

The old man faced sharp round on me, swinging the little gig almost over,
and then twisted himself back again, and put on a true farmer-like look of
dogged, stolid reserve. We rolled on a few minutes in silence.

"Dee yow consider, now, that a mon mought be lost, like, into Lunnon?"

"How lost?"

"Why, yow told o' they sweaters--dee yow think a mon might get in wi' one
o' they, and they that mought be looking for un not to vind un?"

"I do, indeed. There was a friend of that man Porter got turned away from
our shop, because he wouldn't pay some tyrannical fine for being saucy, as
they called it, to the shopman; and he went to a sweater's--and then to
another; and his friends have been tracking him up and down this six
months, and can hear no news of him."

"Aw! guide us! And what'n, think yow, be gone wi' un?"

"I am afraid he has got into one of those dens, and has pawned his clothes,
as dozens of them do, for food, and so can't get out."

"Pawned his clothes for victuals! To think o' that, noo! But if he had
work, can't he get victuals?"

"Oh!" I said, "there's many a man who, after working seventeen or eighteen
hours a day, Sundays and all, without even time to take off his clothes,
finds himself brought in in debt to his tyrant at the week's end. And if
he gets no work, the villain won't let him leave the house; he has to stay
there starving, on the chance of an hour's job. I tell you, I've known half
a dozen men imprisoned in that way, in a little dungeon of a garret, where
they had hardly room to stand upright, and only just space to sit and work
between their beds, without breathing the fresh air, or seeing God's sun,
for months together, with no victuals but a few slices of bread-and-butter,
and a little slop of tea, twice a day, till they were starved to the very
bone."

"Oh, my God! my God!" said the old man, in a voice which had a deeper
tone of feeling than mere sympathy with others' sorrow was likely to have
produced. There was evidently something behind all these inquiries of his.
I longed to ask him if his name, too, was not Porter.

"Aw yow knawn Billy Porter? What was a like? Tell me, now--what was a like,
in the Lord's name! what was a like unto?"

"Very tall and bony," I answered.

"Ah! sax feet, and more? and a yard across?--but a was starved, a was a'
thin, though, maybe, when yow sawn un?--and beautiful fine hair, hadn't a,
like a lass's?"

"The man I knew had red hair," quoth I.

"Ow, ay, an' that it wor, red as a rising sun, and the curls of un like
gowlden guineas! And thou knew'st Billy Porter! To think o' that, noo."--

Another long silence.

"Could you find un, dee yow think, noo, into Lunnon? Suppose, now,
there was a mon 'ud gie--may be five pund--ten pund--twenty pund, by
* * *--twenty pund down, for to ha' him brocht home safe and soun'--Could
yow do't, bor'? I zay, could yow do't?"

"I could do it as well without the money as with, if I could do it at all.
But have you no guess as to where he is?"

He shook his head sadly.

"We--that's to zay, they as wants un--hav'n't heerd tell of un vor this
three year--three year coom Whitsuntide as ever was--" And he wiped his
eyes with his cuff.

"If you will tell me all about him, and where he was last heard of, I will
do all I can to find him."

"Will ye, noo? will ye? The Lord bless ye for zaying that." And he grasped
my hand in his great iron fist, and fairly burst out crying.

"Was he a relation of yours?" I asked, gently.

"My bairn--my bairn--my eldest bairn. Dinnot yow ax me no moor--dinnot
then, bor'. Gie on, yow powney, and yow goo leuk vor un."

Another long silence.

"I've a been to Lunnon, looking vor un."

Another silence.

"I went up and down, up and down, day and night, day and night, to all
pot-houses as I could zee; vor, says I, he was a'ways a main chap to drink,
he was. Oh, deery me! and I never cot zight on un--and noo I be most spent,
I be."--

And he pulled up at another public-house, and tried this time a glass of
brandy. He stopped, I really think, at every inn between that place and
Cambridge, and at each tried some fresh compound; but his head seemed, from
habit, utterly fire-proof.

At last, we neared Cambridge, and began to pass groups of gay horsemen, and
then those strange caps and gowns--ugly and unmeaning remnant of obsolete
fashion.

The old man insisted on driving me up to the gate of * * * College, and
there dropped me, after I had given him my address, entreating me to "vind
the bairn, and coom to zee him down to Metholl. But dinnot goo ax for
Farmer Porter--they's all Porters there away. Yow ax for Wooden-house
Bob--that's me; and if I barn't to home, ax for Mucky Billy--that's my
brawther--we're all gotten our names down to ven; and if he barn't to home,
yow ax for Frog-hall--that's where my sister do live; and they'll all veed
ye, and lodge ye, and welcome come. We be all like one, doon in the ven;
and do ye, do ye, vind my bairn!" And he trundled on, down the narrow
street.

I was soon directed, by various smart-looking servants, to my cousin's
rooms; and after a few mistakes, and wandering up and down noble courts and
cloisters, swarming with gay young men, whose jaunty air and dress seemed
strangely out of keeping with the stem antique solemnity of the Gothic
buildings around, I espied my cousin's name over a door; and, uncertain how
he might receive me, I gave a gentle, half-apologetic knock, which,
was answered by a loud "Come in!" and I entered on a scene, even more
incongruous than anything I had seen outside.

"If we can only keep away from Jesus as far as the corner, I don't care."

"If we don't run into that first Trinity before the willows, I shall care
with a vengeance."

"If we don't it's a pity," said my cousin. "Wadham ran up by the side of
that first Trinity yesterday, and he said that they were as well gruelled
as so many posters, before they got to the stile."

This unintelligible, and to my inexperienced ears, irreverent conversation,
proceeded from half a dozen powerful young men, in low-crowned
sailors' hats and flannel trousers, some in striped jerseys, some in
shooting-jackets, some smoking cigars, some beating up eggs in sherry;
while my cousin, dressed like "a fancy waterman," sat on the back of a
sofa, puffing away at a huge meerschaum.

"Alton! why, what wind on earth has blown you here?"

By the tone, the words seemed rather an inquiry as to what wind would be
kind enough to blow me back again. But he recovered his self-possession in
a moment.

"Delighted to see you! Where's your portmanteau? Oh--left it at the Bull!
Ah! I see. Very well, we'll send the gyp for it in a minute, and order some
luncheon. We're just going down to the boat-race. Sorry I can't stop, but
we shall all be fined--not a moment to lose. I'll send you in luncheon as
I go through the butteries; then, perhaps, you'd like to come down and see
the race. Ask the gyp to tell you the way. Now, then, follow your noble
captain, gentlemen--to glory and a supper." And he bustled out with his
crew.

While I was staring about the room, at the jumble of Greek books,
boxing-gloves, and luscious prints of pretty women, a shrewd-faced, smart
man entered, much better dressed than myself.

"What would you like, sir? Ox-tail soup, sir, or gravy-soup, sir? Stilton
cheese, sir, or Cheshire, sir? Old Stilton, sir, just now."

Fearing lest many words might betray my rank--and, strange to say, though
I should not have been afraid of confessing myself an artisan before the
"gentlemen" who had just left the room, I was ashamed to have my low estate
discovered, and talked over with his compeers, by the flunkey who waited on
them--I answered, "Anything--I really don't care," in as aristocratic and
off-hand a tone as I could assume.

"Porter or ale, sir?"

"Water," without a "thank you," I am ashamed to say for I was not at that
time quite sure whether it was well-bred to be civil to servants.

The man vanished, and reappeared with a savoury luncheon, silver forks,
snowy napkins, smart plates--I felt really quite a gentleman.

He gave me full directions as to my "way to the boats, sir;" and I started
out much refreshed; passed through back streets, dingy, dirty, and
profligate-looking enough; out upon wide meadows, fringed with enormous
elms; across a ferry; through a pleasant village, with its old grey church
and spire; by the side of a sluggish river, alive with wherries. I had
walked down some mile or so, and just as I heard a cannon, as I thought,
fire at some distance, and wondered at its meaning, I came to a sudden bend
of the river, with a church-tower hanging over the stream on the opposite
bank, a knot of tall poplars, weeping willows, rich lawns, sloping down to
the water's side, gay with bonnets and shawls; while, along the edge of
the stream, light, gaudily-painted boats apparently waited for the
race,--altogether the most brilliant and graceful group of scenery which I
had beheld in my little travels. I stopped to gaze; and among the ladies on
the lawn opposite, caught sight of a figure--my heart leapt into my mouth!
Was it she at last? It was too far to distinguish features; the dress was
altogether different--but was it not she? I saw her move across the lawn,
and take the arm of a tall, venerable-looking man; and his dress was the
same as that of the Dean, at the Dulwich Gallery--was it? was it not?
To have found her, and a river between us! It was ludicrously
miserable--miserably ludicrous. Oh, that accursed river, which debarred me
from certainty, from bliss! I would have plunged across--but there were
three objections--first, that I could not swim; next, what could I do when
I had crossed? and thirdly, it might not be she after all.

And yet I was certain--instinctively certain--that it was she, the idol of
my imagination for years. If I could not see her features under that little
white bonnet, I could imagine them there; they flashed up in my memory as
fresh as ever. Did she remember my features, as I did hers? Would she know
me again? Had she ever even thought of me, from that day to this? Fool!
But there I stood, fascinated, gazing across the river, heedless of the
racing-boats, and the crowd, and the roar that was rushing up to me at the
rate of ten miles an hour, and in a moment more, had caught me, and swept
me away with it, whether I would or not, along the towing-path, by the side
of the foremost boats.

And yet, after a few moments, I ceased to wonder either at the Cambridge
passion for boat-racing, or at the excitement of the spectators. "_Honi
soit qui mal y pense_." It was a noble sport--a sight such as could only be
seen in England--some hundred of young men, who might, if they had chosen,
been lounging effeminately about the streets, subjecting themselves
voluntarily to that intense exertion, for the mere pleasure of toil.
The true English stuff came out there; I felt that, in spite of all
my prejudices--the stuff which has held Gibraltar and conquered at
Waterloo--which has created a Birmingham and a Manchester, and colonized
every quarter of the globe--that grim, earnest, stubborn energy, which,
since the days of the old Romans, the English possess alone of all the
nations of the earth. I was as proud of the gallant young fellows as if
they had been my brothers--of their courage and endurance (for one could
see that it was no child's-play, from the pale faces, and panting lips),
their strength and activity, so fierce and yet so cultivated, smooth,
harmonious, as oar kept time with oar, and every back rose and fell in
concert--and felt my soul stirred up to a sort of sweet madness, not merely
by the shouts and cheers of the mob around me, but by the loud fierce pulse
of the rowlocks, the swift whispering rush of the long snake-like eight
oars, the swirl and gurgle of the water in their wake, the grim, breathless
silence of the straining rowers. My blood boiled over, and fierce tears
swelled into my eyes; for I, too, was a man, and an Englishman; and when I
caught sight of my cousin, pulling stroke to the second boat in the long
line, with set teeth and flashing eyes, the great muscles on his bare arms
springing up into knots at every rapid stroke, I ran and shouted among the
maddest and the foremost.

But I soon tired, and, footsore as I was, began to find my strength fail
me. I tried to drop behind, but found it impossible in the press. At last,
quite out of breath, I stopped; and instantly received a heavy blow from
behind, which threw me on my face; and a fierce voice shouted in my ear,
"Confound you, sir! don't you know better than to do that?" I looked up,
and saw a man twice as big as myself sprawling over me, headlong down the
bank, toward the river, whither I followed him, but alas! not on my feet,
but rolling head over heels. On the very brink he stuck his heels into the
turf, and stopped dead, amid a shout of, "Well saved, Lynedale!" I did not
stop; but rolled into some two-feet water, amid the laughter and shouts of
the men.

I scrambled out, and limped on, shaking with wet and pain, till I was
stopped by a crowd which filled the towing-path. An eight-oar lay under the
bank, and the men on shore were cheering and praising those in the boat for
having "bumped," which word I already understood to mean, winning a race.

Among them, close to me, was the tall man who had upset me; and a very
handsome, high-bred looking man he was. I tried to slip by, but he
recognized me instantly, and spoke.

"I hope I didn't hurt you much, Really, when I spoke so sharply, I did not
see that you were not a gownsman!"

The speech, as I suppose now, was meant courteously enough. It indicated
that though he might allow himself liberties with men of his own class, he
was too well bred to do so with me. But in my anger I saw nothing but the
words, "not a gownsman." Why should he see that I was not a gownsman?
Because I was shabbier?--(and my clothes, over and above the ducking they
had had, were shabby); or more plebeian in appearance (whatsoever that may
mean)? or wanted something else, which the rest had about them, and I had
not? Why should he know that I was not a gownsman? I did not wish,
of course, to be a gentleman, and an aristocrat; but I was nettled,
nevertheless, at not being mistaken for one; and answered, sharply enough--

"No matter whether I am hurt or not. It serves me right for getting among
you cursed aristocrats."

"Box the cad's ears, Lord Lynedale," said a dirty fellow with a long
pole--a cad himself, I should have thought.

"Let him go home and ask his mammy to hang him out to dry," said another.

The lord (for so I understood he was) looked at me with an air of surprise
and amusement, which may have been good-natured enough in him, but did not
increase the good-nature in me.

"Tut, tut, my good fellow. I really am very sorry for having upset you.
Here's half-a-crown to cover damages."

"Better give it me than a muff like that," quoth he of the long pole; while
I answered, surlily enough, that I wanted neither him nor his money, and
burst through the crowd toward Cambridge. I was so shabby and plebeian,
then, that people actually dare offer me money! Intolerable!

The reader may say that I was in a very unwholesome and unreasonable frame
of mind.

So I was. And so would he have been in my place.




CHAPTER XIII.

THE LOST IDOL FOUND.


On my return, I found my cousin already at home, in high spirits at having,
as he informed me, "bumped the first Trinity." I excused myself for my
dripping state, simply by saying that I had slipped into the river. To tell
him the whole of the story, while the fancied insult still rankled fresh in
me, was really too disagreeable both to my memory and my pride.

Then came the question, "What had brought me to Cambridge?" I told him all,
and he seemed honestly to sympathize with my misfortunes.

"Never mind; we'll make it all right somehow. Those poems of yours--you
must let me have them and look over them; and I dare say I shall persuade
the governor to do something with them. After all, it's no loss for you;
you couldn't have got on tailoring--much too sharp a fellow for that;--you
ought to be at college, if one could only get you there. These sizarships,
now, were meant for--just such cases as yours--clever fellows who could not
afford to educate themselves; if we could only help you to one of them,
now--

"You forget that in that case," said I, with something like a sigh, "I
should have to become a member of the Church of England."

"Why, no; not exactly. Though, of course, if you want to get all out of the
university which you ought to get, you must do so at last."

"And pretend to believe what I do not; for the sake of deserting my own
class, and pandering to the very aristocrats, whom--"

"Hullo!" and he jumped with a hoarse laugh. "Stop that till I see whether
the door is sported. Why, you silly fellow, what harm have the aristocrats,
as you call them, ever done you? Are they not doing you good at this
moment? Are you not, by virtue of their aristocratic institutions, nearer
having your poems published, your genius recognized, etc. etc., than ever
you were before?"

"Aristocrats? Then you call yourself one?"

"No, Alton, my boy; not yet," said he quietly and knowingly. "Not yet: but
I have chosen the right road, and shall end at the road's end; and I advise
you--for really, as my cousin, I wish you all success, even for the mere
credit of the family, to choose the same road likewise."

"What road?"

"Come up to Cambridge, by hook or by crook, and then take orders."

I laughed scornfully.

"My good cousin, it is the only method yet discovered for turning a snob
(as I am, or was) into a gentleman; except putting him into a heavy cavalry
regiment. My brother, who has no brains, preferred the latter method. I,
who flatter myself that I have some, have taken the former." The thought
was new and astonishing to me, and I looked at him in silence while he ran
on--

"If you are once a parson, all is safe. Be you who you may before, from
that moment you are a gentleman. No one will offer an insult. You are good
enough for any man's society. You can dine at any nobleman's table. You can
be friend, confidant, father confessor, if you like, to the highest women
in the land; and if you have person, manners, and common sense, marry one
of them into the bargain, Alton, my boy."

"And it is for that that you will sell your soul--to become a hanger-on of
the upper classes, in sloth and luxury?"

"Sloth and luxury? Stuff and nonsense! I tell you that after I have taken
orders, I shall have years and years of hard work before me; continual
drudgery of serving tables, managing charities, visiting, preaching, from
morning till night, and after that often from night to morning again.
Enough to wear out any but a tough constitution, as I trust mine is. Work,
Alton, and hard work, is the only way now-a-days to rise in the Church, as
in other professions. My father can buy me a living some day: but he
can't buy me success, notoriety, social position, power--" and he stopped
suddenly, as if he had been on the point of saying something more which
should not have been said.

"And this," I said, "is your idea of a vocation for the sacred ministry? It
is for this, that you, brought up a dissenter, have gone over to the Church
of England?"

"And how do you know"--and his whole tone of voice changed instantly
into what was meant, I suppose, for a gentle seriousness and reverent
suavity--"that I am not a sincere member of the Church of England? How do
you know that I may not have loftier plans and ideas, though I may not
choose to parade them to everyone, and give that which is holy to the
dogs?"

"I am the dog, then?" I asked, half amused, for I was too curious about his
state of mind to be angry.

"Not at all, my dear fellow. But those great men to whom we (or at least I)
owe our conversion to the true Church, always tell us (and you will feel
yourself how right they are) not to parade religious feelings; to look upon
them as sacred things, to be treated with that due reserve which springs
from real reverence. You know, as well as I, whether that is the fashion
of the body in which we were, alas! brought up. You know, as well as I,
whether the religious conversation of that body has heightened your respect
for sacred things."

"I do, too well." And I thought of Mr. Wigginton and my mother's tea
parties.

"I dare say the vulgarity of that school has, ere now, shaken your faith in
all that was holy?"

I was very near confessing that it had: but a feeling came over me, I knew
not why, that my cousin would have been glad to get me into his power, and
would therefore have welcomed a confession of infidelity. So I held my
tongue.

"I can confess," he said, in the most confidential tone, "that it had for a
time that effect on me. I have confessed it, ere now, and shall again and
again, I trust. But I shudder to think of what I might have been believing
or disbelieving now, if I had not in a happy hour fallen in with Mr.
Newman's sermons, and learnt from them, and from his disciples, what the
Church of England really was; not Protestant, no; but Catholic in the
deepest and highest sense."

"So you are one of these new Tractarians? You do not seem to have adopted
yet the ascetic mode of life, which I hear they praise up so highly,"

"My dear Alton, if you have read, as you have, your Bible, you will
recollect a text which tells you not to appear to men to fast. What I do
or do not do in the way of self-denial, unless I were actually profligate,
which I give you my sacred honour I am not, must be a matter between Heaven
and myself."

There was no denying that truth; but the longer my cousin talked the less I
trusted in him--I had almost said, the less I believed him. Ever since the
tone of his voice had changed so suddenly, I liked him less than when he
was honestly blurting out his coarse and selfish ambition. I do not think
he was a hypocrite. I think he believed what he said, as strongly as he
could believe anything. He proved afterwards that he did so, as far as
man can judge man, by severe and diligent parish work: but I cannot help
doubting at times, if that man ever knew what believing meant. God forgive
him! In that, he is no worse than hundreds more who have never felt the
burning and shining flame of intense conviction, of some truth rooted in
the inmost recesses of the soul, by which a man must live, for which he
would not fear to die.

And therefore I listened to him dully and carelessly; I did not care to
bring objections, which arose thick and fast, to everything he said. He
tried to assure me--and did so with a great deal of cleverness--that this
Tractarian movement was not really an aristocratic, but a democratic one;
that the Catholic Church had been in all ages the Church of the poor; that
the clergy were commissioned by Heaven to vindicate the rights of the
people, and to stand between them and the tyranny of Mammon. I did not
care to answer him that the "Catholic Church" had always been a Church of
slaves, and not of free men; that the clergy had in every age been the
enemies of light, of liberty; the oppressors of their flocks; and that to
exalt a sacerdotal caste over other aristocracies, whether of birth or
wealth, was merely to change our tyrants. When he told me that a clergyman
of the Established Church, if he took up the cause of the working classes,
might be the boldest and surest of all allies, just because, being
established, and certain of his income, he cared not one sixpence what he
said to any man alive, I did not care to answer him, as I might--And more
shame upon the clergy that, having the safe vantage-ground which you
describe, they dare not use it like men in a good cause, and speak their
minds, if forsooth no one can stop them from so doing. In fact, I was
distrustful, which I had a right to be, and envious also; but if I had a
right to be that, I was certainly not wise, nor is any man, in exercising
the said dangerous right as I did, and envying my cousin and every man in
Cambridge.

But that evening, understanding that a boating supper, or some jubilation
over my cousin's victory, was to take place in his rooms, I asked leave to
absent myself--and I do not think my cousin felt much regret at giving me
leave--and wandered up and down the King's Parade, watching the tall gables
of King's College Chapel, and the classic front of the Senate House, and
the stately tower of St. Mary's, as they stood, stern and silent, bathed in
the still glory of the moonlight, and contrasting bitterly the lot of those
who were educated under their shadow to the lot which had befallen me.
[Footnote: It must be remembered that these impressions of, and comments on
the universities, are not my own. They are simply what clever working men
thought about them from 1845 to 1850; a period at which I had the fullest
opportunities for knowing the thoughts of working men.]

"Noble buildings!" I said to myself, "and noble institutions! given freely
to the people, by those who loved the people, and the Saviour who died
for them. They gave us what they had, those mediaeval founders: whatsoever
narrowness of mind or superstition defiled their gift was not their fault,
but the fault of their whole age. The best they knew they imparted freely,
and God will reward them for it. To monopolize those institutions for the
rich, as is done now, is to violate both the spirit and the letter of
the foundations; to restrict their studies to the limits of middle-aged
Romanism, their conditions of admission to those fixed at the Reformation,
is but a shade less wrongful. The letter is kept--the spirit is thrown
away. You refuse to admit any who are not members of the Church of England,
say, rather, any who will not sign the dogmas of the Church of England,
whether they believe a word of them or not. Useless formalism! which lets
through the reckless, the profligate, the ignorant, the hypocritical:
and only excludes the honest and the conscientious, and the mass of the
intellectual working men. And whose fault is it that THEY are not members
of the Church of England? Whose fault is it, I ask? Your predecessors
neglected the lower orders, till they have ceased to reverence either you
or your doctrines, you confess that, among yourselves, freely enough. You
throw the blame of the present wide-spread dislike to the Church of England
on her sins during 'the godless eighteenth century.' Be it so. Why are
those sins to be visited on us? Why are we to be shut out from the
universities, which were founded for us, because you have let us grow
up, by millions, heathens and infidels, as you call us? Take away your
subterfuge! It is not merely because we are bad churchmen that you exclude
us, else you would be crowding your colleges, now, with the talented poor
of the agricultural districts, who, as you say, remain faithful to the
church of their fathers. But are there six labourers' sons educating in
the universities at this moment! No! the real reason for our exclusion,
churchmen or not, is, because we are _poor_--because we cannot pay your
exorbitant fees, often, as in the case of bachelors of arts, exacted for
tuition which is never given, and residence which is not permitted--because
we could not support the extravagance which you not only permit, but
encourage--because by your own unblushing confession, it insures the
university 'the support of the aristocracy.'"

"But, on religious points, at least, you must abide by the statutes of the
university."

Strange argument, truly, to be urged literally by English Protestants in
possession of Roman Catholic bequests! If that be true in the letter,
as well as in the spirit, you should have given place long ago to the
Dominicans and the Franciscans. In the spirit it is true, and the Reformers
acted on it when they rightly converted the universities to the uses of the
new faith. They carried out the spirit of the founders' statutes by making
the universities as good as they could be, and letting them share in the
new light of the Elizabethan age. But was the sum of knowledge, human and
divine, perfected at the Reformation? Who gave the Reformers, or you, who
call yourselves their representatives, a right to say to the mind of man,
and to the teaching of God's Spirit, "Hitherto, and no farther"? Society
and mankind, the children of the Supreme, will not stop growing for your
dogmas--much less for your vested interests; and the righteous law of
mingled development and renovation, applied in the sixteenth century, must
be reapplied in the nineteenth; while the spirits of the founders, now
purged from the superstitions and ignorances of their age, shall smile from
heaven, and say, "So would we have had it, if we had lived in the great
nineteenth century, into which it has been your privilege to be born."

But such thoughts soon passed away. The image which I had seen that
afternoon upon the river banks had awakened imperiously the frantic
longings of past years; and now it reascended its ancient throne, and
tyrannously drove forth every other object, to keep me alone with its own
tantalizing and torturing beauty. I did not think about her--No; I only
stupidly and steadfastly stared at her with my whole soul and imagination,
through that long sleepless night; and, in spite of the fatigue of my
journey, and the stiffness proceeding from my fall and wetting, I lay
tossing till the early sun poured into my bedroom window. Then I arose,
dressed myself, and went out to wander up and down the streets, gazing
at one splendid building after another, till I found the gates of King's
College open. I entered eagerly, through a porch which, to my untutored
taste, seemed gorgeous enough to form the entrance to a fairy palace, and
stood in the quadrangle, riveted to the spot by the magnificence of the
huge chapel on the right.

If I had admired it the night before, I felt inclined to worship it this
morning, as I saw the lofty buttresses and spires, fretted with all their
gorgeous carving, and "storied windows richly dight," sleeping in the glare
of the newly-risen sun, and throwing their long shadows due westward down
the sloping lawn, and across the river which dimpled and gleamed below,
till it was lost among the towering masses of crisp elms and rose-garlanded
chestnuts in the rich gardens beyond.

Was I delighted? Yes--and yet no. There is a painful feeling in seeing
anything magnificent which one cannot understand. And perhaps it was a
morbid sensitiveness, but the feeling was strong upon me that I was an
interloper there--out of harmony with the scene and the system which had
created it; that I might be an object of unpleasant curiosity, perhaps of
scorn (for I had not forgotten the nobleman at the boat-race), amid those
monuments of learned luxury. Perhaps, on the other hand, it was only from
the instinct which makes us seek for solitude under the pressure of intense
emotions, when we have neither language to express them to ourselves, nor
loved one in whose silent eyes we may read kindred feelings--a sympathy
which wants no words. Whatever the cause was, when a party of men, in their
caps and gowns, approached me down the dark avenue which led into the
country, I was glad to shrink for concealment behind the weeping-willow
at the foot of the bridge, and slink off unobserved to breakfast with my
cousin.

We had just finished breakfast, my cousin was lighting his meerschaum, when
a tall figure passed the window, and the taller of the noblemen, whom I
had seen at the boat-race, entered the room with a packet of papers in his
hand.

"Here, Locule mi! my pocket-book--or rather, to stretch a bad pun till
it bursts, my pocket-dictionary--I require the aid of your
benevolently-squandered talents for the correction of these proofs. I am,
as usual, both idle and busy this morning; so draw pen, and set to work for
me."

"I am exceedingly sorry, my lord," answered George, in his most obsequious
tone, "but I must work this morning with all my might. Last night,
recollect, was given to triumph, Bacchus, and idleness."

"Then find some one who will do them for me, my Ulysses polumechane,
polutrope, panurge."

"I shall be most happy (with a half-frown and a wince) to play Panurge to
your lordship's Pantagruel, on board the new yacht."

"Oh, I am perfect in that character, I suppose? And is she after all, like
Pantagruel's ship, to be loaded with hemp? Well, we must try two or three
milder cargoes first. But come, find me some starving genius--some graeculus
esuriens--"

"Who will ascend to the heaven of your lordship's eloquence for the
bidding?"

"Five shillings a sheet--there will be about two of them, I think, in the
pamphlet."

"May I take the liberty of recommending my cousin here?"

"Your cousin?" And he turned to me, who had been examining with a sad and
envious eye the contents of the bookshelves. Our eyes met, and first a
faint blush, and then a smile of recognition, passed over his magnificent
countenance.

"I think I had--I am ashamed that I cannot say the pleasure, of meeting him
at the boat race yesterday."

My cousin looked inquiringly and vexed at us both. The nobleman smiled.

"Oh, the fault was mine, not his."

"I cannot think," I answered, "that you have any reasons to remember with
shame your own kindness and courtesy. As for me," I went on bitterly, "I
suppose a poor journeyman tailor, who ventures to look on at the sports of
gentlemen, only deserves to be run over."

"Sir," he said, looking at me with a severe and searching glance, "your
bitterness is pardonable--but not your sneer. You do not yourself think
what you say, and you ought to know that I think it still less than
yourself. If you intend your irony to be useful, you should keep it till
you can use it courageously against the true offenders."

I looked up at him fiercely enough, but the placid smile which had returned
to his face disarmed me.

"Your class," he went on, "blind yourselves and our class as much by
wholesale denunciations of us, as we, alas! who should know better, do by
wholesale denunciations of you. As you grow older, you will learn that
there are exceptions to every rule."

"And yet the exception proves the rule."

"Most painfully true, sir. But that argument is two-edged. For instance,
am I to consider it the exception or the rule, when I am told that you, a
journeyman tailor, are able to correct these proofs for me?"

"Nearer the rule, I think, than you yet fancy."

"You speak out boldly and well; but how can you judge what I may please to
fancy? At all events, I will make trial of you. There are the proofs. Bring
them to me by four o'clock this afternoon, and if they are well done, I
will pay you more than I should do to the average hack-writer, for you will
deserve more."

I took the proofs; he turned to go, and by a side-look at George beckoned
him out of the room. I heard a whispering in the passage; and I do not deny
that my heart beat high with new hopes, as I caught unwillingly the words--

"Such a forehead!--such an eye!--such a contour of feature as that!--Locule
mi--that boy ought not to be mending trousers."

My cousin returned, half laughing, half angry.

"Alton, you fool, why did you let out that you were a snip?"

"I am not ashamed of my trade."

"I am, then. However, you've done with it now; and if you can't come the
gentleman, you may as well come the rising genius. The self-educated dodge
pays well just now; and after all, you've hooked his lordship--thank me for
that. But you'll never hold him, you impudent dog, if you pull so hard
on him"--He went on, putting his hands into his coat-tail pockets, and
sticking himself in front of the fire, like the Delphic Pythoness upon the
sacred tripod, in hopes, I suppose, of some oracular afflatus--"You will
never hold him, I say, if you pull so hard on him. You ought to 'My lord'
him for months yet, at least. You know, my good fellow, you must take every
possible care to pick up what good breeding you can, if I take the trouble
to put you in the way of good society, and tell you where my private
birds'-nests are, like the green schoolboy some poet or other talks of."

"He is no lord of mine," I answered, "in any sense of the word, and
therefore I shall not call him so."

"Upon my honour! here is a young gentleman who intends to rise in the
world, and then commences by trying to walk through the first post he
meets! Noodle! can't you do like me, and get out of the carts' way when
they come by? If you intend to go ahead, you must just dodge in and out
like a dog at a fair. 'She stoops to conquer' is my motto, and a precious
good one too."

"I have no wish to conquer Lord Lynedale, and so I shall not stoop to him."

"I have, then; and to very good purpose, too. I am his whetstone, for
polishing up that classical wit of his on, till he carries it into
Parliament to astonish the country squires. He fancies himself a second
Goethe, I hav'n't forgot his hitting at me, before a large supper party,
with a certain epigram of that old turkeycock's about the whale having his
unmentionable parasite--and the great man likewise. Whale, indeed! I bide
my time, Alton, my boy--I bide my time; and then let your grand aristocrat
look out! If he does not find the supposed whale-unmentionable a good stout
holding harpoon, with a tough line to it, and a long one, it's a pity,
Alton my boy!"

And he burst into a coarse laugh, tossed himself down on the sofa, and
re-lighted his meerschaum.

"He seemed to me," I answered, "to have a peculiar courtesy and liberality
of mind towards those below him in rank."

"Oh! he had, had he? Now, I'll just put you up to a dodge. He intends to
come the Mirabeau--fancies his mantle has fallen on him--prays before the
fellow's bust, I believe, if one knew the truth, for a double portion of
his spirit; and therefore it is a part of his game to ingratiate himself
with all pot-boy-dom, while at heart he is as proud, exclusive an
aristocrat, as ever wore nobleman's hat. At all events, you may get
something out of him, if you play your cards well--or, rather, help me
to play mine; for I consider him as my property, and you only as my
aide-de-camp."

"I shall play no one's cards," I answered, sulkily. "I am doing work
fairly, and shall be fairly paid for it, and keep my own independence."

"Independence--hey-day! Have you forgotten that, after all, you are
my--guest, to call it by the mildest term?"

"Do you upbraid me with that?" I said, starting up. "Do you expect me to
live on your charity, on condition of doing your dirty work? You do not
know me, sir. I leave your roof this instant!"

"You do not!" answered he, laughing loudly, as he sprang over the sofa, and
set his back against the door. "Come, come, you Will-o'-the-Wisp, as full
of flights, and fancies, and vagaries, as a sick old maid! can't you see
which side your bread is buttered? Sit down, I say! Don't you know that I'm
as good-natured a fellow as ever lived, although I do parade a little Gil
Bias morality now and then, just for fun's sake? Do you think I should be
so open with it, if I meant anything very diabolic? There--sit down, and
don't go into King Cambyses' vein, or Queen Hecuba's tears either, which
you seem inclined to do."

"I know you have been very generous to me," I said, penitently; "but a
kindness becomes none when you are upbraided with it."

"So say the copybooks--I deny it. At all events, I'll say no more; and
you shall sit down there, and write as still as a mouse till two, while
I tackle this never-to-be-enough-by-unhappy-third-years'-men-execrated
Griffin's Optics."

       *       *       *       *       *

At four that afternoon, I knocked, proofs in hand, at the door of Lord
Lynedale's rooms in the King's Parade. The door was opened by a little
elderly groom, grey-coated, grey-gaitered, grey-haired, grey-visaged. He
had the look of a respectable old family retainer, and his exquisitely
neat groom's dress gave him a sort of interest in my eyes. Class costumes,
relics though they are of feudalism, carry a charm with them. They are
symbolic, definitive; they bestow a personality on the wearer, which
satisfies the mind, by enabling it instantly to classify him, to connect
him with a thousand stories and associations; and to my young mind, the
wiry, shrewd, honest, grim old serving-man seemed the incarnation of all
the wonders of Newmarket, and the hunting-kennel, and the steeple-chase,
of which I had read, with alternate admiration and contempt, in the
newspapers. He ushered me in with a good breeding which surprised
me;--without insolence to me, or servility to his master; both of which I
had been taught to expect.

Lord Lynedale bade me very courteously sit down while he examined the
proofs. I looked round the low-wainscoted apartment, with its narrow
mullioned windows, in extreme curiosity. What a real nobleman's abode could
be like, was naturally worth examining, to one who had, all his life, heard
of the aristocracy as of some mythic Titans--whether fiends or gods, being
yet a doubtful point--altogether enshrined on "cloudy Olympus," invisible
to mortal ken. The shelves were gay with morocco, Russia leather, and
gilding--not much used, as I thought, till my eye caught one of the
gorgeously-bound volumes lying on the table in a loose cover of polished
leather--a refinement of which poor I should never have dreamt. The walls
were covered with prints, which soon turned my eyes from everything else,
to range delighted over Landseers, Turners, Roberts's Eastern sketches,
the ancient Italian masters; and I recognized, with a sort of friendly
affection, an old print of my favourite St. Sebastian, in the Dulwich
Gallery. It brought back to my mind a thousand dreams, and a thousand
sorrows. Would those dreams be ever realized? Might this new acquaintance
possibly open some pathway towards their fulfilment?--some vista towards
the attainment of a station where they would, at least, be less chimerical?
And at that thought, my heart beat loud with hope. The room was choked up
with chairs and tables, of all sorts of strange shapes and problematical
uses. The floor was strewed with skins of bear, deer, and seal. In a corner
lay hunting-whips, and fishing-rods, foils, boxing-gloves, and gun-cases;
while over the chimney-piece, an array of rich Turkish pipes, all amber and
enamel, contrasted curiously with quaint old swords and daggers--bronze
classic casts, upon Gothic oak brackets, and fantastic scraps of
continental carving. On the centre table, too, reigned the same rich
profusion, or if you will, confusion--MSS., "Notes in Egypt," "Goethe's
Walverwandschaften," Murray's Hand-books, and "Plato's Republic." What
was there not there? And I chuckled inwardly, to see how _Bell's Life in
London_ and the _Ecclesiologist_ had, between them, got down "McCulloch
on Taxation," and were sitting, arm-in-arm, triumphantly astride of him.
Everything in the room, even to the fragrant flowers in a German glass,
spoke of a travelled and cultivated luxury--manifold tastes and powers of
self-enjoyment and self-improvement, which, Heaven forgive me if I envied,
as I looked upon them. If I, now, had had one-twentieth part of those
books, prints, that experience of life, not to mention that physical
strength and beauty, which stood towering there before the fire--so simple;
so utterly unconscious of the innate nobleness and grace which shone out
from every motion of those stately limbs and features--all the delicacy
which blood can give, combined, as one does sometimes see, with the broad
strength of the proletarian--so different from poor me!--and so different,
too, as I recollected with perhaps a savage pleasure, from the miserable,
stunted specimens of over-bred imbecility whom I had often passed in
London! A strange question that of birth! and one in which the philosopher,
in spite of himself, must come to democratic conclusions. For, after
all, the physical and intellectual superiority of the high-born is only
preserved, as it was in the old Norman times, by the continual practical
abnegation of the very caste-lie on which they pride themselves--by
continual renovation of their race, by intermarriage with the ranks below
them. The blood of Odin flowed in the veins of Norman William; true--and so
did the tanner's of Falaise!

At last he looked up and spoke courteously--

"I'm afraid I have kept you long; but now, here is for your corrections,
which are capital. I have really to thank you for a lesson in writing
English." And he put a sovereign into my hand.

"I am very sorry," said I, "but I have no change."

"Never mind that. Your work is well worth the money."

"But," I said, "you agreed with me for five shillings a sheet, and--I do
not wish to be rude, but I cannot accept your kindness. We working men make
a rule of abiding by our wages, and taking nothing which looks like--"

"Well, well--and a very good rule it is. I suppose, then, I must find out
some way for you to earn more. Good afternoon." And he motioned me out
of the room, followed me down stairs, and turned off towards the College
Gardens.

I wandered up and down, feeding my greedy eyes, till I found myself again
upon the bridge where I had stood that morning, gazing with admiration
and astonishment at a scene which I have often expected to see painted or
described, and which, nevertheless, in spite of its unique magnificence,
seems strangely overlooked by those who cater for the public taste, with
pen and pencil. The vista of bridges, one after another spanning the
stream; the long line of great monastic palaces, all unlike, and yet all in
harmony, sloping down to the stream, with their trim lawns and ivied walls,
their towers and buttresses; and opposite them, the range of rich gardens
and noble timber-trees, dimly seen through which, at the end of the
gorgeous river avenue, towered the lofty buildings of St. John's. The whole
scene, under the glow of a rich May afternoon, seemed to me a fragment
out of the "Arabian Nights" or Spencer's "Fairy Queen." I leaned upon the
parapet, and gazed, and gazed, so absorbed in wonder and enjoyment, that I
was quite unconscious, for some time, that Lord Lynedale was standing by my
side, engaged in the same employment. He was not alone. Hanging on his arm
was a lady, whose face, it seemed to me, I ought to know. It certainly was
one not to be easily forgotten. She was beautiful, but with the face and
figure rather of a Juno than a Venus--dark, imperious, restless--the lips
almost too firmly set, the brow almost too massive and projecting--a queen,
rather to be feared than loved--but a queen still, as truly royal as the
man into whose face she was looking up with eager admiration and delight,
as he pointed out to her eloquently the several beauties of the landscape.
Her dress was as plain as that of any Quaker; but the grace of its
arrangement, of every line and fold, was enough, without the help of the
heavy gold bracelet on her wrist, to proclaim her a fine lady; by which
term, I wish to express the result of that perfect education in taste and
manner, down to every gesture, which Heaven forbid that I, professing to be
a poet, should undervalue. It is beautiful; and therefore I welcome it, in
the name of the Author of all beauty. I value it so highly, that I would
fain see it extend, not merely from Belgravia to the tradesman's villa,
but thence, as I believe it one day will, to the labourer's hovel, and the
needlewoman's garret.

Half in bashfulness, half in the pride which shrinks from anything like
intrusion, I was moving away; but the nobleman, recognising me with a smile
and a nod, made some observation on the beauty of the scene before us.
Before I could answer, however, I saw that his companion's eyes were fixed
intently on my face.

"Is this," she said to Lord Lynedale, "the young person of whom you were
speaking to me just now? I fancy that I recollect him, though, I dare say,
he has forgotten me."

If I had forgotten the face, that voice, so peculiarly rich, deep, and
marked in its pronunciation of every syllable, recalled her instantly to my
mind. It was the dark lady of the Dulwich Gallery!

"I met you, I think," I said, "at the picture gallery at Dulwich, and you
were kind enough, and--and some persons who were with you, to talk to me
about a picture there."

"Yes; Guido's St. Sebastian. You seemed fond of reading then. I am glad to
see you at college."

I explained that I was not at college. That led to fresh gentle questions
on her part, till I had given her all the leading points of my history.
There was nothing in it of which I ought to have been ashamed.

She seemed to become more and more interested in my story, and her
companion also.

"And have you tried to write? I recollect my uncle advising you to try a
poem on St. Sebastian. It was spoken, perhaps, in jest; but it will not, I
hope, have been labour lost, if you have taken it in earnest."

"Yes--I have written on that and on other subjects, during the last few
years."

"Then, you must let us see them, if you have them with you. I think my
uncle, Arthur, might like to look over them; and if they were fit for
publication, he might be able to do something towards it."

"At all events," said Lord Lynedale, "a self-educated author is always
interesting. Bring any of your poems, that you have with you, to the Eagle
this afternoon, and leave them there for Dean Winnstay; and to-morrow
morning, if you have nothing better to do, call there between ten and
eleven o'clock."

He wrote me down the dean's address, and nodding a civil good morning,
turned away with his queenly companion, while I stood gazing after him,
wondering whether all noblemen and high-born ladies were like them in
person and in spirit--a question which, in spite of many noble exceptions,
some of them well known and appreciated by the working men, I am afraid
must be answered in the negative.

I took my MSS. to the Eagle, and wandered out once more, instinctively,
among those same magnificent trees at the back of the colleges, to enjoy
the pleasing torment of expectation. "My uncle!" was he the same old man
whom I had seen at the gallery; and if so, was Lillian with him? Delicious
hope! And yet, what if she was with him--what to me? But yet I sat silent,
dreaming, all the evening, and hurried early to bed--not to sleep, but to
lie and dream on and on, and rise almost before light, eat no breakfast,
and pace up and down, waiting impatiently for the hour at which I was to
find out whether my dream, was true.

And it was true! The first object I saw, when I entered the room, was
Lillian, looking more beautiful than ever. The child of sixteen had
blossomed into the woman of twenty. The ivory and vermilion of the
complexion had toned down together into still richer hues. The dark hazel
eyes shone with a more liquid lustre. The figure had become more rounded,
without losing a line of that fairy lightness, with which her light
morning-dress, with its delicate French semi-tones of colour, gay and
yet not gaudy, seemed to harmonize. The little plump jewelled hands--the
transparent chestnut hair, banded round the beautiful oval masque--the tiny
feet, which, as Suckling has it,

  Underneath her petticoat
  Like little mice peeped in and out--

I could have fallen down, fool that I was! and worshipped--what? I could
not tell then, for I cannot tell even now.

The dean smiled recognition, bade me sit down, and disposed my papers,
meditatively, on his knee. I obeyed him, trembling, choking--my eyes
devouring my idol--forgetting why I had come--seeing nothing but
her--listening for nothing but the opening of these lips. I believe the
dean was some sentences deep in his oration, before I became conscious
thereof.

"--And I think I may tell you, at once, that I have been very much
surprised and gratified with them. They evince, on the whole, a far
greater acquaintance with the English classic-models, and with the laws of
rhyme and melody, than could have been expected from a young man of your
class--_macte virtute puer_. Have you read any Latin?"

"A little." And I went on staring at Lillian, who looked up, furtively,
from her work, every now and then, to steal a glance at me, and set my poor
heart thumping still more fiercely against my side.

"Very good; you will have the less trouble, then, in the preparation
for college. You will find out for yourself, of course, the immense
disadvantages of self-education. The fact is, my dear lord" (turning to
Lord Lynedale), "it is only useful as an indication of a capability of
being educated by others. One never opens a book written by working men,
without shuddering at a hundred faults of style. However, there are some
very tolerable attempts among these--especially the imitations of Milton's
'Comus.'"

Poor I had by no means intended them as imitations; but such, no doubt,
they were.

"I am sorry to see that Shelley has had so much influence on your writing.
He is a guide as irregular in taste, as unorthodox in doctrine; though
there are some pretty things in him now and then. And you have caught his
melody tolerably here, now--"

"Oh, that is such a sweet thing!" said Lillian. "Do you know, I read it
over and over last night, and took it up-stairs with me. How very fond
of beautiful things you must be, Mr. Locke, to be able to describe so
passionately the longing after them."

That voice once more! It intoxicated me, so that I hardly knew what I
stammered out--something about working men having very few opportunities
of indulging the taste for--I forget what. I believe I was on the point
of running off into some absurd compliment, but I caught the dark lady's
warning eye on me.

"Ah, yes! I forgot. I dare say it must be a very stupid life. So little
opportunity, as he says. What a pity he is a tailor, papa! Such an
unimaginative employment! How delightful it would be to send him to college
and make him a clergyman!"

Fool that I was! I fancied--what did I not fancy?--never seeing how that
very "_he_" bespoke the indifference--the gulf between us. I was not a
man--an equal; but a thing--a subject, who was to be talked over, and
examined, and made into something like themselves, of their supreme and
undeserved benevolence.

"Gently, gently, fair lady! We must not be as headlong as some people would
kindly wish to be. If this young man really has a proper desire to rise
into a higher station, and I find him a fit object to be assisted in
that praiseworthy ambition, why, I think he ought to go to some training
college; St. Mark's, I should say, on the whole, might, by its strong
Church principles, give the best antidote to any little remaining taint of
_sansculottism_. You understand me, my lord? And, then, if he distinguished
himself there, it would be time to think of getting him a sizarship."

"Poor Pegasus in harness!" half smiled, half sighed, the dark lady.

"Just the sort of youth," whispered Lord Lynedale, loud enough for me to
hear, "to take out with us to the Mediterranean as secretary--s'il y avait
la de la morale, of course--"

Yes--and of course, too, the tailor's boy was not expected to understand
French. But the most absurd thing was, how everybody, except perhaps the
dark lady, seemed to take for granted that I felt myself exceedingly
honoured, and must consider it, as a matter of course, the greatest
possible stretch of kindness thus to talk me over, and settle everything
for me, as if I was not a living soul, but a plant in a pot. Perhaps they
were not unsupported by experience. I suppose too many of us would have
thought it so; there are flunkeys in all ranks, and to spare. Perhaps the
true absurdity was the way in which I sat, demented, inarticulate, staring
at Lillian, and only caring for any word which seemed to augur a chance of
seeing her again; instead of saying, as I felt, that I had no wish whatever
to rise above my station; no intention whatever of being sent to training
schools or colleges, or anywhere else at the expense of other people. And
therefore it was that I submitted blindly, when the dean, who looked as
kind, and was really, I believe, as kind as ever was human being, turned to
me with a solemn authoritative voice--

"Well, my young friend, I must say that I am, on the whole, very much
pleased with your performance. It corroborates, my dear lord, the
assertion, for which I have been so often ridiculed, that there are many
real men, capable of higher things, scattered up and down among the masses.
Attend to me, sir!" (a hint which I suspect I very much wanted). "Now,
recollect; if it should be hereafter in our power to assist your prospects
in life, you must give up, once and for all, the bitter tone against the
higher classes, which I am sorry to see in your MSS. As you know more of
the world, you will find that the poor are not by any means as ill used as
they are taught, in these days, to believe. The rich have their sorrows
too--no one knows it better than I"--(and he played pensively with his gold
pencil-case)--"and good and evil are pretty equally distributed among all
ranks, by a just and merciful God. I advise you most earnestly, as you
value your future success in life, to give up reading those unprincipled
authors, whose aim is to excite the evil passions of the multitude; and
to shut your ears betimes to the extravagant calumnies of demagogues, who
make tools of enthusiastic and imaginative minds for their own selfish
aggrandisement. Avoid politics; the workman has no more to do with them
than the clergyman. We are told, on divine authority, to fear God and the
king, and meddle not with those who are given to change. Rather put before
yourself the example of such a man as the excellent Dr. Brown, one of the
richest and most respected men of the university, with whom I hope to have
the pleasure of dining this evening--and yet that man actually, for several
years of his life, worked at a carpenter's bench!"

I too had something to say about all that. I too knew something about
demagogues and working men: but the sight of Lillian made me a coward; and
I only sat silent as the thought flashed across me, half ludicrous, half
painful, by its contrast, of another who once worked at a carpenter's
bench, and fulfilled his mission--not by an old age of wealth,
respectability, and port wine; but on the Cross of Calvary. After all, the
worthy old gentleman gave me no time to answer.

"Next--I think of showing these MSS. to my publisher, to get his opinion as
to whether they are worth printing just now. Not that I wish you to build
much on the chance. It is not necessary that you should be a poet. I should
prefer mathematics for you, as a methodic discipline of the intellect.
Most active minds write poetry, at a certain age--I wrote a good deal, I
recollect, myself. But that is no reason for publishing. This haste to rush
into print is one of the bad signs of the times--a symptom of the unhealthy
activity which was first called out by the French revolution. In the
Elizabethan age, every decently-educated gentleman was able, as a matter of
course, to indite a sonnet to his mistress's eye-brow, or an epigram on his
enemy; and yet he never dreamt of printing them. One of the few rational
things I have met with, Eleanor, in the works of your very objectionable
pet Mr. Carlyle--though indeed his style is too intolerable to have allowed
me to read much--is the remark that 'speech is silver'--'silvern' he calls
it, pedantically--'while silence is golden.'"

At this point of the sermon, Lillian fled from the room, to my extreme
disgust. But still the old man prosed--

"I think, therefore, that you had better stay with your cousin for the next
week. I hear from Lord Lynedale that he is a very studious, moral, rising
young man; and I only hope that you will follow his good example. At the
end of the week I shall return home, and then I shall be glad to see more
of you at my house at D * * * *, about * * * * miles from this place. Good
morning."

I went, in rapture at the last announcement--and yet my conscience smote
me. I had not stood up for the working men. I had heard them calumniated,
and held my tongue--but I was to see Lillian. I had let the dean fancy I
was willing to become a pensioner on his bounty--that I was a member of
the Church of England, and willing to go to a Church Training School--but
I was to see Lillian. I had lowered myself in my own eyes--but I had seen
Lillian. Perhaps I exaggerated my own offences: however that may be, love
soon, silenced conscience, and I almost danced into my cousin's rooms on my
return.

       *       *       *       *       *

That week passed rapidly and happily. I was half amused with the change in
my cousin's demeanour. I had evidently risen immensely in his eyes; and I
could not help applying, in my heart, to him, Mr. Carlyle's dictum about
the valet species--how they never honour the unaccredited hero, having
no eye to find him out till properly accredited, and countersigned, and
accoutred with full uniform and diploma by that great god, Public Opinion.
I saw through the motive of his new-fledged respect for me--and yet
encouraged it; for it flattered my vanity. The world must forgive me. It
was something for the poor tailor to find himself somewhat appreciated at
last, even outwardly. And besides, this sad respect took a form which was
very tempting to me now--though the week before it was just the one which
I should have repelled with scorn. George became very anxious to lend me
money, to order me clothes at his own tailor's, and set me up in various
little toilette refinements, that I might make a respectable appearance
at the dean's. I knew that he consulted rather the honour of the family,
than my good; but I did not know that his aim was also to get me into his
power; and I refused more and more weakly at each fresh offer, and at last
consented, in an evil hour, to sell my own independence, for the sake of
indulging my love-dream, and appearing to be what I was not.

I saw little of the University men; less than I might have done; less,
perhaps, than I ought to have done. My cousin did not try to keep me from
them; they, whenever I met them, did not shrink from me, and were civil
enough: but I shrank from them. My cousin attributed my reserve to modesty,
and praised me for it in his coarse fashion: but he was mistaken. Pride,
rather, and something very like envy, kept me silent. Always afraid (at
that period of my career) of young men of my own age, I was doubly afraid
of these men; not because they were cleverer than I, for they were not, but
because I fancied I had no fair chance with them; they had opportunities
which I had not, read and talked of books of which I knew nothing; and when
they did touch on matters which I fancied I understood, it was from a point
of view so different from mine, that I had to choose, as I thought, between
standing up alone to be baited by the whole party, or shielding myself
behind a proud and somewhat contemptuous silence. I looked on them as
ignorant aristocrats; while they looked on me, I verily believe now, as a
very good sort of fellow, who ought to talk well, but would not; and went
their way carelessly. The truth is, I did envy those men. I did not envy
them their learning; for the majority of men who came into my cousin's room
had no learning to envy, being rather brilliant and agreeable men than
severe students; but I envied them their opportunities of learning; and
envied them just as much their opportunities of play--their boating, their
cricket, their foot-ball, their riding, and their gay confident carriage,
which proceeds from physical health and strength, and which I mistook for
the swagger of insolence; while Parker's Piece, with its games, was a sight
which made me grind my teeth, when I thought of the very different chance
of physical exercise which falls to the lot of a London artisan.

And still more did I envy them when I found that many of them combined, as
my cousin did, this physical exercise with really hard mental work, and
found the one help the other. It was bitter to me--whether it ought to have
been so or not--to hear of prizemen, wranglers, fellows of colleges, as
first rate oars, boxers, foot-ball players; and my eyes once fairly filled
with tears, when, after the departure of a little fellow no bigger or
heavier than myself, but with the eye and the gait of a game-cock, I was
informed that he was "bow-oar in the University eight, and as sure to be
senior classic next year as he has a head on his shoulders." And I thought
of my nights of study in the lean-to garret, and of the tailor's workshop,
and of Sandy's den, and said to myself bitter words, which I shall not
set down. Let gentlemen readers imagine them for themselves; and judge
rationally and charitably of an unhealthy working-man like me, if
his tongue be betrayed, at moments, to envy, hatred, malice, and all
uncharitableness.

However, one happiness I had--books. I read in my cousin's room from
morning till night. He gave me my meals hospitably enough: but disappeared
every day about four to "hall"; after which he did not reappear till eight,
the interval being taken up, he said, in "wines" and an hour of billiards.
Then he sat down to work, and read steadily and well till twelve, while
I, nothing loth, did the same; and so passed, rapidly enough, my week at
Cambridge.




CHAPTER XIV.

A CATHEDRAL TOWN.


At length, the wished-for day had arrived; and, with my cousin, I was
whirling along, full of hope and desire, towards the cathedral town of
D * * * *--through a flat fen country, which though I had often heard it
described as ugly, struck my imagination much. The vast height and width
of the sky-arch, as seen from those flats as from an ocean--the grey haze
shrouding the horizon of our narrow land-view, and closing us in, till
we seemed to be floating through infinite space, on a little platform of
earth; the rich poplar-fringed farms, with their herds of dappled oxen--the
luxuriant crops of oats and beans--the tender green of the tall-rape, a
plant till then unknown to me--the long, straight, silver dykes, with their
gaudy carpets of strange floating water-plants, and their black banks,
studded with the remains of buried forests--the innumerable draining-mills,
with their creaking sails and groaning wheels--the endless rows of pollard
willows, through which the breeze moaned and rung, as through the strings
of some vast AEolian harp; the little island knolls in that vast sea of
fen, each with its long village street, and delicately taper spire; all
this seemed to me to contain an element of new and peculiar beauty.

"Why!" exclaims the reading public, if perchance it ever sees this tale of
mine, in its usual prurient longing after anything like personal gossip, or
scandalous anecdote--"why, there is no cathedral town which begins with a
D! Through the fen, too! He must mean either Ely, Lincoln, or Peterborough;
that's certain." Then, at one of those places, they find there is dean--not
of the name of Winnstay, true--"but his name begins with a W; and he has
a pretty daughter--no, a niece; well, that's very near it;--it must be
him. No; at another place--there is not a dean, true--but a canon, or an
archdeacon-something of that kind; and he has a pretty daughter, really;
and his name begins--not with W, but with Y; well, that's the last letter
of Winnstay, if it is not the first: that must be the poor man! What a
shame to have exposed his family secrets in that way!" And then a whole
circle of myths grow up round the man's story. It is credibly ascertained
that I am the man who broke into his house last year, after having made
love to his housemaid, and stole his writing-desk and plate--else, why
should a burglar steal family-letters, if he had not some interest in
them?... And before the matter dies away, some worthy old gentleman, who
has not spoken to a working man since he left his living, thirty years ago,
and hates a radical as he does the Pope, receives two or three anonymous
letters, condoling with him on the cruel betrayal of his confidence--base
ingratitude for undeserved condescension, &c., &c.; and, perhaps, with an
enclosure of good advice for his lovely daughter.

But wherever D * * * * is, we arrived there; and with a beating heart,
I--and I now suspect my cousin also--walked up the sunny slopes, where
the old convent had stood, now covered with walled gardens and noble
timber-trees, and crowned by the richly fretted towers of the cathedral,
which we had seen, for the last twenty miles, growing gradually larger and
more distinct across the level flat. "Ely?" "No; Lincoln!" "Oh! but really,
it's just as much like Peterborough!" Never mind, my dear reader; the
essence of the fact, as I think, lies not quite so much in the name of the
place, as in what was done there--to which I, with all the little respect
which I can muster, entreat your attention.

It is not from false shame at my necessary ignorance, but from a fear lest
I should bore my readers with what seems to them trivial, that I refrain
from dilating on many a thing which struck me as curious in this my first
visit to the house of an English gentleman. I must say, however, though
I suppose that it will be numbered, at least, among trite remarks, if
not among trivial ones, that the wealth around me certainly struck me,
as it has others, as not very much in keeping with the office of one who
professed to be a minister of the Gospel of Jesus of Nazareth. But I salved
over that feeling, being desirous to see everything in the brightest light,
with the recollection that the dean had a private fortune of his own;
though it did seem at moments, that if a man has solemnly sworn to devote
himself, body and soul, to the cause of the spiritual welfare of the
nation, that vow might be not unfairly construed to include his money as
well as his talents, time, and health: unless, perhaps, money is considered
by spiritual persons as so worthless a thing, that it is not fit to be
given to God--a notion which might seem to explain how a really pious and
universally respected archbishop, living within a quarter of a mile of one
of the worst _infernos_ of destitution, disease, filth, and profligacy--can
yet find it in his heart to save L120,000 out of church revenues, and
leave it to his family; though it will not explain how Irish bishops can
reconcile it to their consciences to leave behind them, one and all,
large fortunes--for I suppose from fifty to a hundred thousand pounds
is something--saved from fees and tithes, taken from the pockets of a
Roman Catholic population, whom they have been put there to convert to
Protestantism for the last three hundred years--with what success, all the
world knows. Of course, it is a most impertinent, and almost a blasphemous
thing, for a working man to dare to mention such subjects. Is it not
"speaking evil of dignities"? Strange, by-the-by, that merely to mention
facts, without note or comment, should be always called "speaking evil"!
Does not that argue ill for the facts themselves? Working men think so; but
what matter what "the swinish multitude" think?

When I speak of wealth, I do not mean that the dean's household would
have been considered by his own class at all too luxurious. He would have
been said, I suppose, to live in a "quiet, comfortable, gentlemanlike
way"--"everything very plain and very good." It included a butler--a
quiet, good-natured old man--who ushered us into our bedrooms; a footman,
who opened the door--a sort of animal for which I have an extreme
aversion--young, silly, conceited, over-fed, florid--who looked just the
man to sell his soul for a livery, twice as much food as he needed, and the
opportunity of unlimited flirtations with the maids; and a coachman, very
like other coachmen, whom I saw taking a pair of handsome carriage-horses
out to exercise, as we opened the gate.

The old man, silently and as a matter of course, unpacked for me my
little portmanteau (lent me by my cousin), and placed my things neatly in
various drawers--went down, brought up a jug of hot water, put it on the
washing-table--told me that dinner was at six--that the half-hour bell
rang at half-past five--and that, if I wanted anything, the footman would
answer the bell (bells seeming a prominent idea in his theory of the
universe)--and so left me, wondering at the strange fact that free men,
with free wills, do sell themselves, by the hundred thousand, to perform
menial offices for other men, not for love, but for money; becoming, to
define them strictly, bell-answering animals; and are honest, happy,
contented, in such a life. A man-servant, a soldier, and a Jesuit, are to
me the three great wonders of humanity--three forms of moral suicide, for
which I never had the slightest gleam of sympathy, or even comprehension.

       *       *       *       *       *

At last we went down to dinner, after my personal adornments had been
carefully superintended by my cousin, who gave me, over and above, various
warnings and exhortations as to my behaviour; which, of course, took due
effect, in making me as nervous, constrained, and affected, as possible.
When I appeared in the drawing-room, I was kindly welcomed by the dean, the
two ladies, and Lord Lynedale.

But, as I stood fidgeting and blushing, sticking my arms and legs, and head
into all sorts of quaint positions--trying one attitude, and thinking it
looked awkward, and so exchanged it for another, more awkward still--my eye
fell suddenly on a slip of paper, which had conveyed itself, I never knew
how, upon the pages of the Illustrated Book of Ballads, which I was turning
over:--

"Be natural, and you will be gentlemanlike. If you wish others to forget
your rank, do not forget it yourself. If you wish others to remember you
with pleasure, forget yourself; and be just what God has made you."

I could not help fancying that the lesson, whether intentionally or not,
was meant for me; and a passing impulse made me take up the slip, fold it
together, and put it into my bosom. Perhaps it was Lillian's handwriting! I
looked round at the ladies; but their faces were each buried behind a book.

We went in to dinner; and, to my delight, I sat next to my goddess, while
opposite me was my cousin. Luckily, I had got some directions from him as
to what to say and do, when my wonders, the servants, thrust eatables and
drinkables over nay shoulders.

Lillian and my cousin chatted away about church-architecture, and the
restorations which were going on at the cathedral; while I, for the first
half of dinner, feasted my eyes with the sight of a beauty, in which I
seemed to discover every moment some new excellence. Every time I looked
up at her, my eyes dazzled, my face burnt, my heart sank, and soft thrills
ran through every nerve. And yet, Heaven knows, my emotions were as pure as
those of an infant. It was beauty, longed for, and found at last, which I
adored as a thing not to be possessed, but worshipped. The desire, even the
thought, of calling her my own, never crossed my mind. I felt that I could
gladly die, if by death I could purchase the permission to watch her. I
understood, then, and for ever after, the pure devotion of the old knights
and troubadours of chivalry. I seemed to myself to be their brother--one
of the holy guild of poet-lovers. I was a new Petrarch, basking in the
light-rays of a new Laura. I gazed, and gazed, and found new life in
gazing, and was content.

But my simple bliss was perfected, when she suddenly turned to me, and
began asking me questions on the very points on which I was best able to
answer. She talked about poetry, Tennyson and Wordsworth; asked me if I
understood Browning's Sordello; and then comforted me, after my stammering
confession that I did not, by telling me she was delighted to hear that;
for she did not understand it either, and it was so pleasant to have a
companion in ignorance. Then she asked me, if I was much struck with the
buildings in Cambridge?--had they inspired me with any verses yet?--I was
bound to write something about them--and so on; making the most commonplace
remarks look brilliant, from the ease and liveliness with which they were
spoken, and the tact with which they were made pleasant to the listener:
while I wondered at myself, for enjoying from her lips the flippant,
sparkling tattle, which had hitherto made young women to me objects of
unspeakable dread, to be escaped by crossing the street, hiding behind
doors, and rushing blindly into back-yards and coal-holes.

The ladies left the room; and I, with Lillian's face glowing bright in my
imagination, as the crimson orb remains on the retina of the closed eye,
after looking intently at the sun, sat listening to a pleasant discussion
between the dean and the nobleman, about some country in the East, which
they had both visited, and greedily devouring all the new facts which, they
incidentally brought forth out of the treasures of their highly cultivated
minds.

I was agreeably surprised (don't laugh, reader) to find that I was allowed
to drink water; and that the other men drank not more than a glass or two
of wine, after the ladies had retired. I had, somehow, got both lords and
deans associated in my mind with infinite swillings of port wine, and
bacchanalian orgies, and sat down at first, in much fear and trembling,
lest I should be compelled to join, under penalties of salt-and-water; but
I had made up my mind, stoutly, to bear anything rather than get drunk;
and so I had all the merit of a temperance-martyr, without any of its
disagreeables.

"Well" said I to myself, smiling in spirit, "what would my Chartist
friends say if they saw me here? Not even Crossthwaite himself could
find a flaw in the appreciation of merit for its own sake, the courtesy
and condescension--ah! but he would complain of it, simply for being
condescension." But, after all, what else could it be? Were not these men
more experienced, more learned, older than myself? They were my superiors;
it was in vain for me to attempt to hide it from myself. But the wonder
was, that they themselves were the ones to appear utterly unconscious of
it. They treated me as an equal; they welcomed me--the young viscount and
the learned dean--on the broad ground of a common humanity; as I believe
hundreds more of their class would do, if we did not ourselves take a pride
in estranging them from us--telling them that fraternization between our
classes is impossible, and then cursing them for not fraternizing with us.
But of that, more hereafter.

At all events, now my bliss was perfect. No! I was wrong--a higher
enjoyment than all awaited me, when, going into the drawing-room, I found
Lillian singing at the piano. I had no idea that music was capable of
expressing and conveying emotions so intense and ennobling. My experience
was confined to street music, and to the bawling at the chapel. And, as
yet, Mr. Hullah had not risen into a power more enviable than that of
kings, and given to every workman a free entrance into the magic world of
harmony and melody, where he may prove his brotherhood with Mozart and
Weber, Beethoven and Mendelssohn. Great unconscious demagogue!--leader of
the people, and labourer in the cause of divine equality!--thy reward is
with the Father of the people!

The luscious softness of the Italian airs overcame me with a delicious
enervation. Every note, every interval, each shade of expression spoke to
me--I knew not what: and yet they spoke to my heart of hearts. A spirit
out of the infinite heaven seemed calling to my spirit, which longed to
answer--and was dumb--and could only vent itself in tears, which welled
unconsciously forth, and eased my heart from the painful tension of
excitement.

       *       *       *       *       *
  Her voice is hovering o'er my soul--it lingers,
    O'ershadowing it with soft and thrilling wings;
  The blood and life within those snowy fingers
    Teach witchcraft to the instrumental strings.
  My brain is wild, my breath comes quick.
    The blood is listening in my frame;
  And thronging shadows, fast and thick,
    Fall on my overflowing eyes.
  My heart is quivering like a flame;
    As morning-dew that in the sunbeam dies,
    I am dissolved in these consuming ecstacies.
       *       *       *       *       *

The dark lady, Miss Staunton, as I ought to call her, saw my emotion, and,
as I thought unkindly, checked the cause of it at once.

"Pray do not give us any more of those die-away Italian airs, Lillian. Sing
something manful, German or English, or anything you like, except those
sentimental wailings."

Lillian stopped, took another book, and commenced, after a short prelude,
one of my own songs. Surprise and pleasure overpowered me more utterly than
the soft southern melodies had done. I was on the point of springing up and
leaving the room, when my raptures were checked by our host, who turned
round, and stopped short in an oration on the geology of Upper Egypt.

"What's that about brotherhood and freedom, Lillian? We don't want anything
of that kind here."

"It's only a popular London song, papa," answered she, with an arch smile.

"Or likely to become so," added Miss Staunton, in her marked dogmatic tone.

"I am very sorry for London, then." And he returned to the deserts.




CHAPTER XV.

THE MAN OF SCIENCE.


After breakfast the next morning, Lillian retired, saying laughingly, that
she must go and see after her clothing club and her dear old women at the
almshouse, which, of course, made me look on her as more an angel than
ever. And while George was left with Lord Lynedale, I was summoned to a
private conference with the dean, in his study.

I found him in a room lined with cabinets of curiosities, and hung all over
with strange horns, bones, and slabs of fossils. But I was not allowed
much time to look about me; for he commenced at once on the subject of
my studies, by asking me whether I was willing to prepare myself for the
university, by entering on the study of mathematics?

I felt so intense a repugnance to them, that at the risk of offending
him--perhaps, for what I knew, fatally--I dared to demur. He smiled--

"I am convinced, young man, that even if you intended to follow poetry as a
profession--and a very poor one you will find it--yet you will never attain
to any excellence therein, without far stricter mental discipline than
any to which you have been accustomed. That is why I abominate our modern
poets. They talk about the glory of the poetic vocation, as if they
intended to be kings and world-makers, and all the while they indulge
themselves in the most loose and desultory habits of thought. Sir, if they
really believed their own grandiloquent assumptions, they would feel that
the responsibility of their mental training was greater, not less, than
any one's else. Like the Quakers, they fancy that they honour inspiration
by supposing it to be only extraordinary and paroxysmic: the true poet,
like the rational Christian, believing that inspiration is continual
and orderly, that it reveals harmonious laws, not merely excites sudden
emotions. You understand me?"

I did, tolerably; and subsequent conversations with him fixed the thoughts
sufficiently in my mind, to make me pretty sure that I am giving a faithful
verbal transcript of them.

"You must study some science. Have you read any logic?"

I mentioned Watts' "Logic," and Locke "On the Use of the
Understanding"--two books well known to reading artizans.

"Ah," he said, "such books are very well, but they are merely popular.
'Aristotle,' 'Bitter on Induction,' and Kant's 'Prolegomena' and
'Logic'--when you had read them some seven or eight times over, you might
consider yourself as knowing somewhat about the matter."

"I have read a little about induction in Whately."

"Ah, very good book, but popular. Did you find that your method of thought
received any benefit from it?"

"The truth is--I do not know whether I can quite express myself
clearly--but logic, like mathematics, seems to tell me too little about
things. It does not enlarge my knowledge of man or nature; and those are
what I thirst for. And you must remember--I hope I am not wrong in saying
it--that the case of a man of your class, who has the power of travelling,
of reading what he will, and seeing what he will, is very different from
that of an artisan, whose chances of observation are so sadly limited. You
must forgive us, if we are unwilling to spend our time over books which
tell us nothing about the great universe outside the shop-windows."

He smiled compassionately. "Very true, my boy, There are two branches of
study, then, before you, and by either of them a competent subsistence is
possible, with good interest. Philology is one. But before you could arrive
at those depths in it which connect with ethnology, history, and geography,
you would require a lifetime of study. There remains yet another. I see you
stealing glances at those natural curiosities. In the study of them, you
would find, as I believe, more and more daily, a mental discipline superior
even to that which language or mathematics give. If I had been blest with
a son--but that is neither here nor there--it was my intention to have
educated him almost entirely as a naturalist. I think I should like to try
the experiment on a young man like yourself."

Sandy Mackaye's definition of legislation for the masses, "Fiat
experimentum in corpore vili," rose up in my thoughts, and, half
unconsciously, passed my lips. The good old man only smiled.

"That is not my reason, Mr. Locke. I should choose, by preference, a man
of your class for experiments, not because the nature is coarser, or less
precious in the scale of creation, but because I have a notion, for which,
like many others, I have been very much laughed at, that you are less
sophisticated, more simple and fresh from nature's laboratory, than the
young persons of the upper classes, who begin from the nursery to be more
or less trimmed up, and painted over by the artificial state of society--a
very excellent state, mind, Mr. Locke. Civilization is, next to
Christianity of course, the highest blessing; but not so good a state for
trying anthropological experiments on."

I assured him of my great desire to be the subject of such an experiment;
and was encouraged by his smile to tell him something about my intense love
for natural objects, the mysterious pleasure which I had taken, from my
boyhood, in trying to classify them, and my visits to the British Museum,
for the purpose of getting at some general knowledge of the natural groups.

"Excellent," he said, "young man; the very best sign I have yet seen in
you. And what have you read on these subjects?"

I mentioned several books: Bingley, Bewick, "Humboldt's Travels," "The
Voyage of the Beagle," various scattered articles in the Penny and Saturday
Magazines, &c., &c.

"Ah!" he said, "popular--you will find, if you will allow me to give you my
experience--"

I assured him that I was only too much honoured--and I truly felt so. I
knew myself to be in the presence of my rightful superior--my master on
that very point of education which I idolized. Every sentence which he
spoke gave me fresh light on some matter or other; and I felt a worship for
him, totally irrespective of any vulgar and slavish respect for his rank
or wealth. The working man has no want for real reverence. Mr. Carlyle's
being a "gentlemen" has not injured his influence with the people. On the
contrary, it is the artisan's intense longing to find his real _lords_ and
guides, which makes him despise and execrate his sham ones. Whereof let
society take note.

"Then," continued he, "your plan is to take up some one section of the
subject, and thoroughly exhaust that. Universal laws manifest themselves
only by particular instances. They say, man is the microcosm, Mr. Locke;
but the man of science finds every worm and beetle a microcosm in its way.
It exemplifies, directly or indirectly, every physical law in the universe,
though it may not be two lines long. It is not only a part, but a mirror,
of the great whole. It has a definite relation to the whole world, and the
whole world has a relation to it. Really, by-the-by, I cannot give you a
better instance of what I mean, than in my little diatribe on the Geryon
Trifurcifer, a small reptile which I found, some years ago, inhabiting
the mud of the salt lakes of Balkhan, which fills up a long-desired link
between the Chelonia and the Perenni branchiate Batrachians, and, as I
think, though Professor Brown differs from me, connects both with the
Herbivorous Cetacea,--Professor Brown is an exceedingly talented man, but
a little too cautious in accepting any one's theories but his own.

"There it is," he said, as he drew out of a drawer a little pamphlet of
some thirty pages--"an old man's darling. I consider that book the outcome
of thirteen years' labour."

"It must be very deep," I replied, "to have been worth such long-continued
study."

"Oh! science is her own reward. There is hardly a great physical law which
I have not brought to bear on the subject of that one small animal; and
above all--what is in itself worth a life's labour--I have, I believe,
discovered two entirely new laws of my own, though one of them, by-the-by,
has been broached by Professor Brown since, in his lectures. He might have
mentioned my name in connection with the subject, for I certainly imparted
my ideas to him, two years at least before the delivery of those lectures
of his. Professor Brown is a very great man, certainly, and a very
good man, but not quite so original as is generally supposed. Still, a
scientific man must expect his little disappointments and injustices. If
you were behind the scenes in the scientific world, I can assure you,
you would find as much party-spirit, and unfairness, and jealousy, and
emulation there, as anywhere else. Human nature, human nature, everywhere!"

I said nothing, but thought the more; and took the book, promising to study
it carefully.

"There is Cuvier's 'Animal Kingdom,' and a dictionary of scientific terms
to help you; and mind, it must be got up thoroughly, for I purpose to set
you an examination or two in it, a few days hence. Then I shall find out
whether you know what is worth all the information in the world."

"What is that, sir?"

"The art of getting information _artem discendi_, Mr. Locke, wherewith the
world is badly provided just now, as it is overstocked with the _artem
legendi_--the knack of running the eye over books, and fancying that it
understands them, because it can talk about them. You cannot play that
trick with my Geryon Trifurcifer, I assure you; he is as dry and tough as
his name. But, believe me, he is worth mastering, not because he is mine,
but simply because he is tough."

I promised all diligence.

"Very good. And be sure, if you intend to be a poet for these days (and I
really think you have some faculty for it), you must become a scientific
man. Science has made vast strides, and introduced entirely new modes of
looking at nature, and poets must live up to the age. I never read a word
of Goethe's verse, but I am convinced that he must be the great poet of
the day, just because he is the only one who has taken the trouble to go
into the details of practical science. And, in the mean time, I will give
you a lesson myself. I see you are longing to know the contents of these
cabinets. You shall assist me by writing out the names of this lot of
shells, just come from Australia, which I am now going to arrange."

I set to work at once, under his directions; and passed that morning, and
the two or three following, delightfully. But I question whether the good
dean would have been well satisfied, had he known, how all his scientific
teaching confirmed my democratic opinions. The mere fact, that I could
understand these things when they were set before me, as well as any one
else, was to me a simple demonstration of the equality in worth, and
therefore in privilege, of all classes. It may be answered, that I had no
right to argue from myself to the mob; and that other working geniuses have
no right to demand universal enfranchisement for their whole class, just
because they, the exceptions, are fit for it. But surely it is hard to
call such an error, if it be one, "the insolent assumption of democratic
conceit," &c., &c. Does it not look more like the humility of men who
are unwilling to assert for themselves peculiar excellence, peculiar
privileges; who, like the apostles of old, want no glory, save that which
they can share with the outcast and the slave? Let society among other
matters, take note of that.




CHAPTER XVI.

CULTIVATED WOMEN.


I was thus brought in contact, for the first time in my life, with two
exquisite specimens of cultivated womanhood; and they naturally, as
the reader may well suppose, almost entirely engrossed my thoughts and
interest.

Lillian, for so I must call her, became daily more and more agreeable; and
tried, as I fancied, to draw me out, and show me off to the best advantage;
whether from the desire of pleasing herself, or pleasing me, I know not,
and do not wish to know--but the consequences to my boyish vanity were such
as are more easy to imagine, than pleasant to describe. Miss Staunton, on
the other hand, became, I thought, more and more unpleasant; not that she
ever, for a moment, outstepped the bounds of the most perfect courtesy; but
her manner, which was soft to no one except to Lord Lynedale, was, when she
spoke to me, especially dictatorial and abrupt. She seemed to make a point
of carping at chance words of mine, and of setting me, down suddenly, by
breaking in with some severe, pithy observation, on conversations to which
she had been listening unobserved. She seemed, too, to view with dislike
anything like cordiality between me and Lillian--a dislike, which I was
actually at moments vain enough (such a creature is man!) to attribute
to--jealousy!!! till I began to suspect and hate her, as a proud, harsh,
and exclusive aristocrat. And my suspicion and hatred received their
confirmation, when, one morning, after an evening even more charming than
usual, Lillian came down, reserved, peevish, all but sulky, and showed that
that bright heaven of sunny features had room in it for a cloud, and that
an ugly one. But I, poor fool, only pitied her, made up my mind that some
one had ill-used her; and looked on her as a martyr--perhaps to that harsh
cousin of hers.

That day was taken up with writing out answers to the dean's searching
questions on his pamphlet, in which, I believe, I acquitted myself
tolerably; and he seemed far more satisfied with my commentary than I was
with his text. He seemed to ignore utterly anything like religion, or even
the very notion of God, in his chains of argument. Nature was spoken of as
the wilier and producer of all the marvels which he describes; and every
word in the book, to my astonishment, might have been written just as
easily by an Atheist as by a dignitary of the Church of England.

I could not help, that evening, hinting this defect, as delicately as I
could, to my good host, and was somewhat surprised to find that he did not
consider it a defect at all.

"I am in no wise anxious to weaken the antithesis between natural and
revealed religion. Science may help the former, but it has absolutely
nothing to do with the latter. She stands on her own ground, has her own
laws, and is her own reward. Christianity is a matter of faith and of the
teaching of the Church. It must not go out of its way for science, and
science must not go out of her way for it; and where they seem to differ,
it is our duty to believe that they are reconcilable by fuller knowledge,
but not to clip truth in order to make it match with doctrine."

"Mr. Carlyle," said Miss Staunton, in her abrupt way, "can see that the God
of Nature is the God of man."

"Nobody denies that, my dear."

"Except in every word and action; else why do they not write about Nature
as if it was the expression of a living, loving spirit, not merely a dead
machine?"

"It may be very easy, my dear, for a Deist like Mr. Carlyle to see _his_
God in Nature; but if he would accept the truths of Christianity, he would
find that there were deeper mysteries in them than trees and animals can
explain."

"Pardon me, sir," I said, "but I think that a very large portion of
thoughtful working men agree with you, though, in their case, that opinion
has only increased their difficulties about Christianity. They complain
that they cannot identify the God of the Bible with the God of the world
around them; and one of their great complaints against Christianity is,
that it demands assent to mysteries which are independent of, and even
contradictory to, the laws of Nature."

The old man was silent.

"Mr. Carlyle is no Deist," said Miss Staunton; "and I am sure, that unless
the truths of Christianity contrive soon to get themselves justified by the
laws of science, the higher orders will believe in them as little as Mr.
Locke informs us that the working classes do."

"You prophesy confidently, my darling."

"Oh, Eleanor is in one of her prophetic moods to-night," said Lillian,
slyly. "She has been foretelling me I know not what misery and misfortune,
just because I choose to amuse myself in my own way."

And she gave another sly pouting look at Eleanor, and then called me to
look over some engravings, chatting over them so charmingly!--and stealing,
every now and then, a pretty, saucy look at her cousin, which seemed to
say, "I shall do what I like, in spite of your predictions."

This confirmed my suspicions that Eleanor had been trying to separate us;
and the suspicion received a further corroboration, indirect, and perhaps
very unfair, from the lecture which I got from my cousin after I went
up-stairs.

He had been flattering me very much lately about "the impression" I was
making on the family, and tormenting me by compliments on the clever way
in which I "played my cards"; and when I denied indignantly any such
intention, patting me on the back, and laughing me down in a knowing way,
as much as to say that he was not to be taken in by my professions of
simplicity. He seemed to judge every one by himself, and to have no notion
of any middle characters between the mere green-horn and the deliberate
schemer. But to-night, after commencing with the usual compliments, he went
on:

"Now, first let me give you one hint, and be thankful for it. Mind your
game with that Eleanor--Miss Staunton. She is a regular tyrant, I happen to
know: a strong-minded woman, with a vengeance. She manages every one here;
and unless you are in her good books, don't expect to keep your footing in
this house, my boy. So just mind and pay her a little more attention and
Miss Lillian a little less. After all, it is worth the trouble. She is
uncommonly well read; and says confounded clever things, too, when she
wakes up out of the sulks; and you may pick up a wrinkle or two from her,
worth pocketing. You mind what she says to you. You know she is going to be
married to Lord Lynedale."

I nodded assent.

"Well, then, if you want to hook him, you must secure her first."

"I want to hook no one, George; I have told you that a thousand times."

"Oh, no! certainly not--by no means! Why should you?" said the artful
dodger. And he swung, laughing, out of the room, leaving in my mind a
strange suspicion, of which I was ashamed, though I could not shake it off,
that he had remarked Eleanor's wish to cool my admiration for Lillian, and
was willing, for some purpose of his own, to further that wish. The truth
is, I had very little respect for him, or trust in him: and I was learning
to look, habitually, for some selfish motive in all he said or did.
Perhaps, if I had acted more boldly upon what I did see, I should not have
been here now.




CHAPTER XVII.

SERMONS IN STONES.


The next afternoon was the last but one of my stay at D * * *. We were to
dine late, after sunset, and, before dinner, we went into the cathedral.
The choir had just finished practising. Certain exceedingly ill-looking
men, whose faces bespoke principally sensuality and self-conceit, and whose
function was that of praising God, on the sole qualification of good bass
and tenor voices, were coming chattering through the choir gates; and
behind them a group of small boys were suddenly transforming themselves
from angels into sinners, by tearing off their white surplices, and
pinching and poking each other noisily as they passed us, with as little
reverence as Voltaire himself could have desired.

I had often been in the cathedral before--indeed, we attended the service
daily, and I had been appalled, rather than astonished, by what I saw and
heard: the unintelligible service--the irreverent gabble of the choristers
and readers--the scanty congregation--the meagre portion of the vast
building which seemed to be turned to any use: but never more than that
evening, did I feel the desolateness, the doleful inutility, of that vast
desert nave, with its aisles and transepts--built for some purpose or other
now extinct. The whole place seemed to crush and sadden me; and I could not
re-echo Lillian's remark:

"How those pillars, rising story above story, and those lines of pointed
arches, all lead the eye heavenward! It is a beautiful notion, that about
pointed architecture being symbolic of Christianity."

"I ought to be very much ashamed of my stupidity," I answered; "but I
cannot feel that, though I believe I ought to do so. That vast groined
roof, with its enormous weight of hanging stone, seems to crush one--to
bar out the free sky above. Those pointed windows, too--how gloriously the
western sun is streaming through them! but their rich hues only dim and
deface his light. I can feel what you say, when I look at the cathedral on
the outside; there, indeed, every line sweeps the eye upward--carries it
from one pinnacle to another, each with less and less standing-ground, till
at the summit the building gradually vanishes in a point, and leaves the
spirit to wing its way, unsupported and alone, into the ether.

"Perhaps," I added, half bitterly, "these cathedrals may be true symbols
of the superstition which created them--on the outside, offering to
enfranchise the soul and raise it up to heaven; but when the dupes had
entered, giving them only a dark prison, and a crushing bondage, which
neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear."

"You may sneer at them, if you will, Mr. Locke," said Eleanor, in her
severe, abrupt way. "The working classes would have been badly off without
them. They were, in their day, the only democratic institution in the
world; and the only socialist one too. The only chance a poor man had of
rising by his worth, was by coming to the monastery. And bitterly the
working classes felt the want of them, when they fell. Your own Cobbett can
tell you that."

"Ah," said Lillian, "how different it must have been four hundred years
ago!--how solemn and picturesque those old monks must have looked, gliding
about the aisles!--and how magnificent the choir must have been, before all
the glass and carving, and that beautiful shrine of St. * * * *, blazing
with gold and jewels, were all plundered and defaced by those horrid
Puritans!"

"Say, reformer-squires," answered Eleanor; "for it was they who did the
thing; only it was found convenient, at the Restoration, to lay on
the people of the seventeenth century the iniquities which the
country-gentlemen committed in the sixteenth."

"Surely," I added, emboldened by her words, "if the monasteries were what
their admirers say, some method of restoring the good of the old system,
without its evil, ought to be found; and would be found, if it were not--"
I paused, recollecting whose guest I was.

"If it were not, I suppose," said Eleanor, "for those lazy, overfed,
bigoted hypocrites, the clergy. That, I presume, is the description of them
to which you have been most accustomed. Now, let me ask you one question.
Do you mean to condemn, just now, the Church as it was, or the Church as
it is, or the Church as it ought to be? Radicals have a habit of confusing
those three questions, as they have of confusing other things when it suits
them."

"Really," I said--for my blood was rising--"I do think that, with the
confessed enormous wealth of the clergy, the cathedral establishments
especially, they might do more for the people."

"Listen to me a little, Mr. Locke. The laity now-a-days take a pride in
speaking evil of the clergy, never seeing that if they are bad, the laity
have made them so. Why, what do you impute to them? Their worldliness,
their being like the world, like the laity round them--like you, in short?
Improve yourselves, and by so doing, if there is this sad tendency in the
clergy to imitate you, you will mend them; if you do not find that after
all, it is they who will have to mend you. 'As with the people, so with the
priest,' is the everlasting law. When, fifty years ago, all classes were
drunkards, from the statesman to the peasant, the clergy were drunken
also, but not half so bad as the laity. Now the laity are eaten up with
covetousness and ambition; and the clergy are covetous and ambitious, but
not half so bad as the laity. The laity, and you working men especially,
are the dupes of frothy, insincere, official rant, as Mr. Carlyle would
call it, in Parliament, on the hustings, at every debating society and
Chartist meeting; and, therefore, the clergyman's sermons are apt to be
just what people like elsewhere, and what, therefore, they suppose people
will like there."

"If, then," I answered, "in spite of your opinions, you confess the clergy
to be so bad, why are you so angry with men of our opinions, if we do plot
sometimes a little against the Church?"

"I do not think you know what my opinions are, Mr. Locke. Did you not hear
me just now praising the monasteries, because they were socialist and
democratic? But why is the badness of the clergy any reason for pulling
down the Church? That is another of the confused irrationalities into which
you all allow yourselves to fall. What do you mean by crying shame on a man
for being a bad clergyman, if a good clergyman is not a good thing? If the
very idea of a clergyman, was abominable, as your Church-destroyers ought
to say, you ought to praise a man for being a bad one, and not acting out
this same abominable idea of priesthood. Your very outcry against the sins
of the clergy, shows that, even in your minds, a dim notion lies somewhere
that a clergyman's vocation is, in itself, a divine, a holy, a beneficent
one."

"I never looked at it in that light, certainly," said I, somewhat
staggered.

"Very likely not. One word more, for I may not have another opportunity
of speaking to you as I would on these matters. You working men complain
of the clergy for being bigoted and obscurantist, and hating the cause of
the people. Does not nine-tenths of the blame of that lie at your door? I
took up, the other day, at hazard, one of your favourite liberty-preaching
newspapers; and I saw books advertised in it, whose names no modest woman
should ever behold; doctrines and practices advocated in it from which
all the honesty, the decency, the common human feeling which is left in
the English mind, ought to revolt, and does revolt. You cannot deny it.
Your class has told the world that the cause of liberty, equality, and
fraternity, the cause which the working masses claim as theirs, identifies
itself with blasphemy and indecency, with the tyrannous persecutions of
trades-unions, with robbery, assassinations, vitriol-bottles, and midnight
incendiarism. And then you curse the clergy for taking you at your word!
Whatsoever they do, you attack them. If they believe you, and stand up for
common, morality, and for the truths which they know are all-important to
poor as well as rich, you call them bigots and persecutors; while if they
neglect, in any way, the very Christianity for believing which you insult
them, you turn round and call them hypocrites. Mark my words, Mr. Locke,
till you gain the respect and confidence of the clergy, you will never
rise. The day will come when you will find that the clergy are the only
class who can help you. Ah, you may shake your head. I warn you of it. They
were the only bulwark of the poor against the mediaeval tyranny of Rank;
you will find them the only bulwark against the modern tyranny of Mammon."

I was on the point of entreating her to explain herself further, but at
that critical moment Lillian interposed.

"Now, stay your prophetic glances into the future; here come Lynedale and
papa." And in a moment, Eleanor's whole manner and countenance altered--the
petulant, wild unrest, the harsh, dictatorial tone vanished; and she
turned to meet her lover, with a look of tender, satisfied devotion, which
transfigured her whole face. It was most strange, the power he had over
her. His presence, even at a distance, seemed to fill her whole being
with rich quiet life. She watched him with folded hands, like a mystic
worshipper, waiting for the afflatus of the spirit; and, suspicious and
angry as I felt towards her, I could not help being drawn to her by this
revelation of depths of strong healthy feeling, of which her usual manner
gave so little sign.

This conversation thoroughly puzzled me; it showed me that there might be
two sides to the question of the people's cause, as well as to that of
others. It shook a little my faith in the infallibility of my own class,
to hear such severe animadversions on them, from a person who professed
herself as much a disciple of Carlyle as any working man; and who evidently
had no lack either of intellect to comprehend or boldness to speak out his
doctrines; who could praise the old monasteries for being democratic and
socialist, and spoke far more severely of the clergy than I could have
done--because she did not deal merely in trite words of abuse, but showed a
real analytic insight into the causes of their short-coming.

       *       *       *       *       *

That same evening the conversation happened to turn on dress, of which Miss
Staunton spoke scornfully and disparagingly, as mere useless vanity and
frippery--an empty substitute for real beauty of person as well as the
higher beauty of mind. And I, emboldened by the courtesy with which I was
always called on to take my share in everything that was said or done,
ventured to object, humbly enough, to her notions.

"But is not beauty," I said, "in itself a good and blessed thing,
softening, refining, rejoicing the eyes of all who behold?" (And my eyes,
as I spoke, involuntary rested on Lillian's face--who saw it, and blushed.)
"Surely nothing which helps beauty is to be despised. And, without the
charm of dress, beauty, even that of expression, does not really do itself
justice. How many lovely and lovable faces there are, for instance,
among the working classes, which, if they had but the advantages which
ladies possess, might create delight, respect, chivalrous worship in the
beholder--but are now never appreciated, because they have not the same
fair means of displaying themselves which even the savage girl of the South
Sea Islands possesses!"

Lillian said it was so very true--she had really never thought of it
before--and somehow I gained courage to go on.

"Besides, dress is a sort of sacrament, if I may use the word--a sure sign
of the wearer's character; according as any one is orderly, or modest, or
tasteful, or joyous, or brilliant"--and I glanced again at Lillian--"those
excellences, or the want of them, are sure to show themselves, in the
colours they choose, and the cut of their garments. In the workroom, I and
a friend of mine used often to amuse ourselves over the clothes we were
making, by speculating from them on the sort of people the wearers were to
be; and I fancy we were not often wrong."

My cousin looked daggers at me, and for a moment I fancied I had committed
a dreadful mistake in mentioning my tailor-life. So I had in his eyes, but
not in those of the really well-bred persons round me.

"Oh, how very amusing it must have been! I think I shall turn milliner,
Eleanor, for the fun of divining every one's little failings from their
caps and gowns!"

"Go on, Mr. Locke," said the dean, who had seemed buried in the
"Transactions of the Royal Society." "The fact is novel, and I am more
obliged to any one who gives me that, than if he gave me a bank-note. The
money gets spent and done with; but I cannot spend the fact: it remains for
life as permanent capital, returning interest and compound interest _ad
infinitum_. By-the-by, tell me about those same workshops. I have heard
more about them than I like to believe true."

And I did tell him all about them; and spoke, my blood rising as I went on,
long and earnestly, perhaps eloquently. Now and then I got abashed, and
tried to stop; and then the dean informed me that I was speaking well and
sensibly, while Lillian entreated me to go on. She had never conceived
such things possible--it was as interesting as a novel, &c., &c.; and Miss
Staunton sat with compressed lips and frowning brow, apparently thinking of
nothing but her book, till I felt quite angry at her apathy--for such it
seemed to me to be.




CHAPTER XVIII.

MY FALL.


And now the last day of our stay at D * * * had arrived, and I had as yet
heard nothing of the prospects of my book; though, indeed, the company
in which I had found myself had driven literary ambition, for the time
being, out of my head, and bewitched me to float down the stream of daily
circumstance, satisfied to snatch the enjoyment of each present moment.
That morning, however, after I had fulfilled my daily task of arranging
and naming objects of natural history, the dean settled himself back in
his arm-chair, and bidding me sit down, evidently meditated a business
conversation.

He had heard from his publisher, and read his letter to me. "The poems were
on the whole much liked. The most satisfactory method of publishing for all
parties, would be by procuring so many subscribers, each agreeing to take
so many copies. In consideration of the dean's known literary judgment and
great influence, the publisher would, as a private favour, not object to
take the risk of any further expenses."

So far everything sounded charming. The method was not a very independent
one, but it was the only one; and I should actually have the delight of
having published a volume. But, alas! "he thought that the sale of the book
might be greatly facilitated, if certain passages of a strong political
tendency were omitted. He did not wish personally to object to them as
statements of facts, or to the pictorial vigour with which they were
expressed; but he thought that they were somewhat too strong for the
present state of the public taste; and though he should be the last to
allow any private considerations to influence his weak patronage of rising
talent, yet, considering his present connexion, he should hardly wish to
take on himself the responsibility of publishing such passages, unless with
great modifications."

"You see," said the good old man, "the opinion of respectable practical
men, who know the world, exactly coincides with mine. I did not like to
tell you that I could not help in the publication of your MSS. in their
present state; but I am sure, from the modesty and gentleness which I have
remarked in you, your readiness to listen to reason, and your pleasing
freedom from all violence or coarseness in expressing your opinions, that
you will not object to so exceedingly reasonable a request, which, after
all, is only for your good. Ah! young man," he went on, in a more feeling
tone than I had yet heard from him, "if you were once embroiled in that
political world, of which you know so little, you would soon be crying like
David, 'Oh that I had wings like a dove, then would I flee away and be
at rest!' Do you fancy that you can alter a fallen world? What it is, it
always has been, and will be to the end. Every age has its political and
social nostrums, my dear young man, and fancies them infallible; and
the next generation arises to curse them as failures in practice, and
superstitious in theory, and try some new nostrum of its own."

I sighed.

"Ah! you may sigh. But we have each of us to be disenchanted of our dream.
There was a time once when I talked republicanism as loudly as raw youth
ever did--when I had an excuse for it, too; for when I was a boy, I saw the
French Revolution; and it was no wonder if young, enthusiastic brains
were excited by all sorts of wild hopes--'perfectibility of the species,'
'rights of man,' 'universal liberty, equality, and brotherhood.'--My dear
sir, there is nothing new under the sun; all that is stale and trite to
a septuagenarian, who has seen where it all ends. I speak to you freely,
because I am deeply interested in you. I feel that this is the important
question of your life, and that you have talents, the possession of which
is a heavy responsibility. Eschew politics, once and for all, as I have
done. I might have been, I may tell you, a bishop at this moment, if I had
condescended to meddle again in those party questions of which my youthful
experience sickened me. But I knew that I should only weaken my own
influence, as that most noble and excellent man, Dr. Arnold, did, by
interfering in politics. The poet, like the clergyman and the philosopher,
has nothing to do with politics. Let them choose the better part, and it
shall not be taken from them. The world may rave," he continued, waxing
eloquent as he approached his favourite subject--"the world may rave, but
in the study there is quiet. The world may change, Mr. Locke, and will; but
'the earth abideth for ever.' Solomon had seen somewhat of politics, and
social improvement, and so on; and behold, then, as now, 'all was vanity
and vexation of spirit. That which is crooked cannot be made straight, and
that which is wanting cannot be numbered. What profit hath a man of all his
labour which he taketh under the sun? The thing which hath been, it is that
which shall be, and there is no new thing under the sun. One generation
passeth away, and another cometh; but the earth abideth for ever.' No
wonder that the wisest of men took refuge from such experience, as I have
tried to do, in talking of all herbs, from the cedar of Lebanon to the
hyssop that groweth on the wall!

"Ah! Mr. Locke," he went on, in a soft melancholy, half-abstracted
tone--"ah! Mr. Locke, I have felt deeply, and you will feel some day, the
truth of Jarno's saying in 'Wilhelm Meister,' when he was wandering alone
in the Alps, with his geological hammer, 'These rocks, at least, tell
me no lies, as men do.' Ay, there is no lie in Nature, no discord in
the revelations of science, in the laws of the universe. Infinite, pure,
unfallen, earth-supporting Titans, fresh as on the morning of creation,
those great laws endure; your only true democrats, too--for nothing is too
great or too small for them to take note of. No tiniest gnat, or speck of
dust, but they feed it, guide it, and preserve it,--Hail and snow, wind and
vapour, fulfilling their Maker's word; and like him, too, hiding themselves
from the wise and prudent, and revealing themselves unto babes. Yes, Mr.
Locke; it is the childlike, simple, patient, reverent heart, which science
at once demands and cultivates. To prejudice or haste, to self-conceit or
ambition, she proudly shuts her treasuries--to open them to men of humble
heart, whom this world thinks simple dreamers--her Newtons, and Owens,
and Faradays. Why should you not become such a man as they? You have the
talents--you have the love for nature, you seem to have the gentle and
patient spirit, which, indeed, will grow up more and more in you, if you
become a real student of science. Or, if you must be a poet, why not sing
of nature, and leave those to sing political squabbles, who have no eye for
the beauty of her repose? How few great poets have been politicians!"

I gently suggested Milton.

"Ay! he became a great poet only when he had deserted politics, because
they had deserted him. In blindness and poverty, in the utter failure of
all his national theories, he wrote the works which have made him immortal.
Was Shakespeare a politician? or any one of the great poets who have arisen
during the last thirty years? Have they not all seemed to consider it a
sacred duty to keep themselves, as far as they could, out of party strife?"

I quoted Southey, Shelley, and Burns, as instances to the contrary; but his
induction was completed already, to his own satisfaction.

"Poor dear Southey was a great verse-maker, rather than a great poet; and
I always consider that his party-prejudices and party-writing narrowed and
harshened a mind which ought to have been flowing forth freely and lovingly
towards all forms of life. And as for Shelley and Burns, their politics
dictated to them at once the worst portions of their poetry and of their
practice. Shelley, what little I have read of him, only seems himself when
he forgets radicalism for nature; and you would not set Burns' life or
death, either, as a model for imitation in any class. Now, do you know, I
must ask you to leave me a little. I am somewhat fatigued with this long
discussion" (in which, certainly, I had borne no great share); "and I am
sure, that after all I have said, you will see the propriety of acceding to
the publisher's advice. Go and think over it, and let me have your answer
by post time."

I did go and think over it--too long for my good. If I had acted on the
first impulse, I should have refused, and been safe. These passages were
the very pith and marrow of the poems. They were the very words which I had
felt it my duty, my glory, to utter. I, who had been a working man, who had
experienced all their sorrows and temptations--I, seemed called by every
circumstance of my life to preach their cause, to expose their wrongs--I
to squash my convictions, to stultify my book for the sake of popularity,
money, patronage! And yet--all that involved seeing more of Lillian. They
were only too powerful inducements in themselves, alas! but I believe I
could have resisted them tolerably, if they had not been backed by love.
And so a struggle arose, which the rich reader may think a very fantastic
one, though the poor man will understand it, and surely pardon it
also--seeing that he himself is Man. Could I not, just once in a way, serve
God and Mammon at once?--or rather, not Mammon, but Venus: a worship which
looked to me, and really was in my case, purer than all the Mariolatry in
Popedom. After all, the fall might not be so great as it seemed--perhaps I
was not infallible on these same points. (It is wonderful how humble and
self-denying one becomes when one is afraid of doing one's duty.) Perhaps
the dean might be right. He had been a republican himself once, certainly.
The facts, indeed, which I had stated, there could be no doubt of; but I
might have viewed them through a prejudiced and angry medium. I might have
been not quite logical in my deductions from them--I might.... In short,
between "perhapses" and "mights" I fell--a very deep, real, damnable fall;
and consented to emasculate my poems, and become a flunkey and a dastard.

I mentioned my consent that evening to the party; the dean purred content
thereat. Eleanor, to my astonishment, just said, sternly and abruptly,

"Weak!" and then turned away, while Lillian began:

"Oh! what a pity! And really they were some of the prettiest verses of all!
But of course my father must know best; you are quite right to be guided by
him, and do whatever is proper and prudent. After all, papa, I have got the
naughtiest of them all, you know, safe. Eleanor set it to music, and wrote
it out in her book, and I thought it was so charming that I copied it."

What Lillian said about herself I drank in as greedily as usual; what she
said about Eleanor fell on a heedless ear, and vanished, not to reappear in
my recollection till--But I must not anticipate.

So it was all settled pleasantly; and I sat up that evening writing a
bit of verse for Lillian, about the Old Cathedral, and "Heaven-aspiring
towers," and "Aisles of cloistered shade," and all that sort of thing;
which I did not believe or care for; but I thought it would please her, and
so it did; and I got golden smiles and compliments for my first, though not
my last, insincere poem. I was going fast down hill, in my hurry to rise.
However, as I said, it was all pleasant enough. I was to return to town,
and there await the dean's orders; and, most luckily, I had received that
morning from Sandy Mackaye a characteristic letter:

"Gowk, Telemachus, hearken! Item 1. Ye're fou wi' the Circean cup, aneath
the shade o' shovel hats and steeple houses.

"Item 2. I, cuif-Mentor that I am, wearing out a gude pair o' gude Scots
brogues that my sister's husband's third cousin sent me a towmond gane fra
Aberdeen, rinning ower the town to a' journals, respectable and ither,
anent the sellin o' your 'Autobiography of an Engine-Boiler in the Vauxhall
Road,' the whilk I ha' disposit o' at the last, to O'Flynn's _Weekly
Warwhoop_; and gin ye ha' ony mair sic trash in your head, you may get your
meal whiles out o' the same kist; unless, as I sair misdoubt, ye're praying
already, like Eli's bairns, 'to be put into ane o' the priest's offices,
that ye may eat a piece o' bread.'

"Yell be coming the-morrow? I'm lane without ye; though I look for ye
surely to come ben wi' a gowd shoulder-note, and a red nose."

This letter, though it hit me hard, and made me, I confess, a little
angry at the moment with my truest friend, still offered me a means of
subsistence, and enabled me to decline safely the pecuniary aid which I
dreaded the dean's offering me. And yet I felt dispirited and ill at ease.
My conscience would not let me enjoy the success I felt I had attained. But
next morning I saw Lillian; and I forgot books, people's cause, conscience,
and everything.

       *       *       *       *       *

I went home by coach--a luxury on which my cousin insisted--as he did on
lending me the fare; so that in all I owed him somewhat more than eleven
pounds. But I was too happy to care for a fresh debt, and home I went,
considering my fortune made.

My heart fell, as I stepped into the dingy little old shop! Was it the
meanness of the place after the comfort and elegance of my late abode?
Was it disappointment at not finding Mackaye at home? Or was it that
black-edged letter which lay waiting for me on the table? I was afraid to
open it; I knew not why. I turned it over and over several times, trying
to guess whose the handwriting on the cover might be; the postmark was two
days old; and at last I broke the seal.

    "Sir,--This is to inform you that your mother, Mrs. Locke, died this
    morning, a sensible sinner, not without assurance of her election: and
    that her funeral is fixed for Wednesday, the 29th instant.

    "The humble servant of the Lord's people,

    "J. WIGGINTON."




CHAPTER XIX.

SHORT AND SAD.


I shall pass over the agonies of the next few days. There is
self-exenteration enough and to spare in my story, without dilating on
them. They are too sacred to publish, and too painful, alas! even to
recall. I write my story, too, as a working man. Of those emotions which
are common to humanity, I shall say but little--except when it is necessary
to prove that the working man has feelings like the rest of his kind,
But those feelings may, in this case, be supplied by the reader's own
imagination. Let him represent them to himself as bitter, as remorseful as
he will, he will not equal the reality. True, she had cast me off; but had
I not rejoiced in that rejection which should have been my shame? True, I
had fed on the hope of some day winning reconciliation, by winning fame;
but before the fame had arrived, the reconciliation had become impossible.
I had shrunk from going back to her, as I ought to have done, in filial
humility, and, therefore, I was not allowed to go back to her in the pride
of success. Heaven knows, I had not forgotten her. Night and day I had
thought of her with prayers and blessings; but I had made a merit of my own
love to her--my forgiveness of her, as I dared to call it. I had pampered
my conceit with a notion that I was a martyr in the cause of genius and
enlightenment. How hollow, windy, heartless, all that looked now. There! I
will say no more. Heaven preserve any who read these pages from such days
and nights as I dragged on till that funeral, and for weeks after it was
over, when I had sat once more in the little old chapel, with all the
memories of my childhood crowding up, and tantalizing me with the vision
of their simple peace--never, never, to return! I heard my mother's dying
pangs, her prayers, her doubts, her agonies, for my reprobate soul,
dissected for the public good by my old enemy, Mr. Wigginton, who dragged
in among his fulsome eulogies of my mother's "signs of grace," rejoicings
that there were "babes span-long in hell." I saw my sister Susan, now a
tall handsome woman, but become all rigid, sour, with coarse grim lips, and
that crushed, self-conscious, reserved, almost dishonest look about the
eyes, common to fanatics of every creed. I heard her cold farewell, as she
put into my hands certain notes and diaries of my mother's, which she had
bequeathed to me on her death-bed. I heard myself proclaimed inheritor of
some small matters of furniture, which had belonged to her; told Susan
carelessly to keep them for herself; and went forth, fancying that the
curse of Cain was on my brow.

I took home the diary; but several days elapsed before I had courage to
open it. Let the words I read there be as secret as the misery which
dictated them. I had broken my mother's heart!--no! I had not!--The
infernal superstition which taught her to fancy that Heaven's love was
narrower than her own--that God could hate his creature, not for its sins,
but for the very nature which he had given it--that, that had killed her.

And I remarked too, with a gleam of hope, that in several places where
sunshine seemed ready to break through the black cloud of fanatic
gloom--where she seemed inclined not merely to melt towards me (for there
was, in every page, an under-current of love deeper than death, and
stronger than the grave), but also to dare to trust God on my behalf--whole
lines carefully erased page after page torn out, evidently long after the
MSS. were written. I believe, to this day, that either my poor sister or
her father-confessor was the perpetrator of that act. The _fraus pia_ is
not yet extinct; and it is as inconvenient now as it was in popish times,
to tell the whole truth about saints, when they dare to say or do things
which will not quite fit into the formulae of their sect.

But what was to become of Susan? Though my uncle continued to her
the allowance which he had made to my mother, yet I was her natural
protector--and she was my only tie upon earth. Was I to lose her, too?
Might we not, after all, be happy together, in some little hole in Chelsea,
like Elia and his Bridget? That question was solved for me. She declined
my offers; saying, that she could not live with any one whose religious
opinions differed from her own, and that she had already engaged a room at
the house of a Christian friend; and was shortly to be united to that dear
man of God, Mr. Wigginton, who was to be removed to the work of the Lord in
Manchester.

I knew the scoundrel, but it would have been impossible for me to undeceive
her. Perhaps he was only a scoundrel--perhaps he would not ill-treat her.
And yet--my own little Susan! my play-fellow! my only tie on earth!--to
lose her--and not only her, but her respect, her love!--And my spirit, deep
enough already, sank deeper still into sadness; and I felt myself alone on
earth, and clung to Mackaye as to a father--and a father indeed that old
man was to me.




CHAPTER XX.

PEGASUS IN HARNESS.


But, in sorrow or in joy, I had to earn my bread; and so, too, had
Crossthwaite, poor fellow! How he contrived to feed himself and his little
Katie for the next few years is more than I can tell; at all events he
worked hard enough. He scribbled, agitated, ran from London to Manchester,
and Manchester to Bradford, spouting, lecturing--sowing the east wind, I am
afraid, and little more. Whose fault was it? What could such a man do, with
that fervid tongue, and heart, and brain of his, in such a station as his,
such a time as this? Society had helped to make him an agitator. Society
has had, more or less, to take the consequences of her own handiwork. For
Crossthwaite did not speak without hearers. He could make the fierce,
shrewd, artisan nature flash out into fire--not always celestial, nor
always, either, infernal. So he agitated and lived--how, I know not. That
he did do so, is evident from the fact that he and Katie are at this moment
playing chess in the cabin, before my eyes, and making love, all the while,
as if they had not been married a week.... Ah, well!

I, however, had to do more than get my bread; I had to pay off these
fearful eleven pounds odd, which, now that all the excitement of my stay at
D * * * had been so sadly quenched, lay like lead upon my memory. My list
of subscribers filled slowly, and I had no power of increasing it by any
canvassings of my own. My uncle, indeed, had promised to take two copies,
and my cousin one; not wishing, of course, to be so uncommercial as to run
any risk, before they had seen whether my poems would succeed. But, with
those exceptions, the dean had it all his own way; and he could not be
expected to forego his own literary labours for my sake; so, through all
that glaring summer, and sad foggy autumn, and nipping winter, I had to
get my bread as I best could--by my pen. Mackaye grumbled at my writing
so much, and so fast, and sneered about the _furor scribendi_. But it
was hardly fair upon me. "My mouth craved it of me," as Solomon says.
I had really no other means of livelihood. Even if I could have gotten
employment as a tailor, in the honourable trade, I loathed the business
utterly--perhaps, alas! to confess the truth, I was beginning to despise
it. I could bear to think of myself as a poor genius, in connection with my
new wealthy and high-bred patrons; for there was precedent for the thing.
Penniless bards and squires of low degree, low-born artists, ennobled by
their pictures--there was something grand in the notion of mind triumphant
over the inequalities of rank, and associating with the great and wealthy
as their spiritual equal, on the mere footing of its own innate nobility;
no matter to what den it might return, to convert it into a temple of the
Muses, by the glorious creations of its fancy, &c., &c. But to go back
daily from the drawing-room and the publisher's to the goose and the
shopboard, was too much for my weakness, even if it had been physically
possible, as, thank Heaven, it was not.

So I became a hack-writer, and sorrowfully, but deliberately, "put my
Pegasus into heavy harness," as my betters had done before me. It was
miserable work, there is no denying it--only not worse than tailoring.
To try and serve God and Mammon too; to make miserable compromises daily
between the two great incompatibilities, what was true, and what would
pay; to speak my mind, in fear and trembling, by hints, and halves, and
quarters; to be daily hauling poor Truth just up to the top of the well,
and then, frightened at my own success, let her plump down again to the
bottom; to sit there trying to teach others, while my mind was in a whirl
of doubt; to feed others' intellects while my own were hungering; to grind
on in the Philistine's mill, or occasionally make sport for them, like some
weary-hearted clown grinning in a pantomime in a "light article," as blind
as Samson, but not, alas! as strong, for indeed my Delilah of the West-end
had clipped my locks, and there seemed little chance of their growing
again. That face and that drawing-room flitted before me from morning till
eve, and enervated and distracted my already over-wearied brain.

I had no time, besides, to concentrate my thoughts sufficiently for poetry;
no time to wait for inspiration. From the moment I had swallowed my
breakfast, I had to sit scribbling off my thoughts anyhow in prose; and
soon my own scanty stock was exhausted, and I was forced to beg, borrow,
and steal notions and facts wherever I could get them. Oh! the misery of
having to read not what I longed to know, but what I thought would pay!
to skip page after page of interesting matter, just to pick out a single
thought or sentence which could be stitched into my patchwork! and then
the still greater misery of seeing the article which I had sent to press
a tolerably healthy and lusty bantling, appear in print next week after
suffering the inquisition tortures of the editorial censorship, all maimed,
and squinting, and one-sided, with the colour rubbed off its poor cheeks,
and generally a villanous hang-dog look of ferocity, so different from its
birth-smile that I often did not know my own child again!--and then, when I
dared to remonstrate, however feebly, to be told, by way of comfort, that
the public taste must be consulted! It gave me a hopeful notion of the said
taste, certainly; and often and often I groaned in spirit over the temper
of my own class, which not only submitted to, but demanded such one-sided
bigotry, prurience, and ferocity, from those who set up as its guides and
teachers.

Mr. O'Flynn, editor of the _Weekly Warwhoop_, whose white slave I now found
myself, was, I am afraid, a pretty faithful specimen of that class, as it
existed before the bitter lesson of the 10th of April brought the Chartist
working men and the Chartist press to their senses. Thereon sprang up a
new race of papers, whose moral tone, whatever may be thought of their
political or doctrinal opinions, was certainly not inferior to that of the
Whig and Tory press. The _Commonwealth_, the _Standard of Freedom_, the
_Plain Speaker_, were reprobates, if to be a Chartist is to be a reprobate:
but none except the most one-sided bigots could deny them the praise of
a stern morality and a lofty earnestness, a hatred of evil and a craving
after good, which would often put to shame many a paper among the oracles
of Belgravia and Exeter Hall. But those were the days of lubricity and
O'Flynn. Not that the man was an unredeemed scoundrel. He was no more
profligate, either in his literary or his private morals, than many a man
who earns his hundreds, sometimes his thousands, a year, by prophesying
smooth things to Mammon, crying in daily leaders "Peace! peace!" when
there is no peace, and daubing the rotten walls of careless luxury and
self-satisfied covetousness with the untempered mortar of party statistics
and garbled foreign news--till "the storm shall fall, and the breaking
thereof cometh suddenly in an instant." Let those of the respectable press
who are without sin, cast the first stone at the unrespectable. Many of
the latter class, who have been branded as traitors and villains, were
single-minded, earnest, valiant men; and, as for even O'Flynn, and those
worse than him, what was really the matter with them was, that they were
too honest--they spoke out too much of their whole minds. Bewildered, like
Lear, amid the social storm, they had determined, like him, to become
"unsophisticated," "to owe the worm no silk, the cat no perfume"--seeing,
indeed, that if they had, they could not have paid for them; so they tore
off, of their own will, the peacock's feathers of gentility, the sheep's
clothing of moderation, even the fig-leaves of decent reticence, and became
just what they really were--just what hundreds more would become, who
now sit in the high places of the earth, if it paid them as well to
be unrespectable as it does to be respectable; if the selfishness and
covetousness, bigotry and ferocity, which are in them, and more or less in
every man, had happened to enlist them against existing evils, instead of
for them. O'Flynn would have been gladly as respectable as they; but, in
the first place, he must have starved; and in the second place, he must
have lied; for he believed in his own radicalism with his whole soul. There
was a ribald sincerity, a frantic courage in the man. He always spoke the
truth when it suited him, and very often when it did not. He did see, which
is more than all do, that oppression is oppression, and humbug, humbug.
He had faced the gallows before now without flinching. He had spouted
rebellion in the Birmingham Bullring, and elsewhere, and taken the
consequences like a man; while his colleagues left their dupes to the
tender mercies of broadswords and bayonets, and decamped in the disguise
of sailors, old women, and dissenting preachers. He had sat three months
in Lancaster Castle, the Bastille of England, one day perhaps to fall like
that Parisian one, for a libel which he never wrote, because he would
not betray his cowardly contributor. He had twice pleaded his own cause,
without help of attorney, and showed himself as practised in every
law-quibble and practical cheat as if he had been a regularly ordained
priest of the blue-bag; and each time, when hunted at last into a corner,
had turned valiantly to bay, with wild witty Irish eloquence, "worthy," as
the press say of poor misguided Mitchell, "of a better cause." Altogether,
a much-enduring Ulysses, unscrupulous, tough-hided, ready to do and suffer
anything fair or foul, for what he honestly believed--if a confused,
virulent positiveness be worthy of the name "belief"--to be the true and
righteous cause.

Those who class all mankind compendiously and comfortably under the two
exhaustive species of saints and villains, may consider such a description
garbled and impossible. I have seen few men, but never yet met I among
those few either perfect saint or perfect villain. I draw men as I have
found them--inconsistent, piece-meal, better than their own actions,
worse than their own opinions, and poor O'Flynn among the rest. Not that
there were no questionable spots in the sun of his fair fame. It was
whispered that he had in old times done dirty work for Dublin Castle
bureaucrats--nay, that he had even, in a very hard season, written court
poetry for the _Morning Post_; but all these little peccadilloes he
carefully veiled in that kindly mist which hung over his youthful years.
He had been a medical student, and got plucked, his foes declared, in his
examination. He had set up a savings-bank, which broke. He had come over
from Ireland, to agitate for "repale" and "rint," and, like a wise man as
he was, had never gone back again. He had set up three or four papers in
his time, and entered into partnership with every leading democrat in turn;
but his papers failed, and he quarrelled with his partners, being addicted
to profane swearing and personalities. And now, at last, after Ulyssean
wanderings, he had found rest in the office of the _Weekly Warwhoop_, if
rest it could be called, that perennial hurricane of plotting, railing,
sneering, and bombast, in which he lived, never writing a line, on
principle, till he had worked himself up into a passion.

I will dwell no more on so distasteful a subject. Such leaders, let us
hope, belong only to the past--to the youthful self-will and licentiousness
of democracy; and as for reviling O'Flynn, or any other of his class, no
man has less right than myself, I fear, to cast stones at such as they.
I fell as low as almost any, beneath the besetting sins of my class; and
shall I take merit to myself, because God has shown me, a little earlier
perhaps than to them, somewhat more of the true duties and destinies of The
Many? Oh, that they could see the depths of my affection to them! Oh, that
they could see the shame and self-abasement with which, in rebuking their
sins, I confess my own! If they are apt to be flippant and bitter, so was
I. If they lust to destroy, without knowing what to build up instead, so
did I. If they make an almighty idol of that Electoral Reform, which ought
to be, and can be, only a preliminary means, and expect final deliverance
from "their twenty-thousandth part of a talker in the national palaver,"
so did I. Unhealthy and noisome as was the literary atmosphere in which I
now found myself, it was one to my taste. The very contrast between the
peaceful, intellectual luxury which I had just witnessed, and the misery of
my class and myself, quickened my delight in it. In bitterness, in sheer
envy, I threw my whole soul into it, and spoke evil, and rejoiced in evil.
It was so easy to find fault! It pampered my own self-conceit, my own
discontent, while it saved me the trouble of inventing remedies. Yes; it
was indeed easy to find fault. "The world was all before me, where to
choose." In such a disorganized, anomalous, grumbling, party-embittered
element as this English society, and its twin pauperism and luxury, I had
but to look straight before me to see my prey.

And thus I became daily more and more cynical, fierce, reckless. My mouth
was filled with cursing--and too often justly. And all the while, like
tens of thousands of my class, I had no man to teach me. Sheep scattered
on the hills, we were, that had no shepherd. What wonder if our bones lay
bleaching among rocks and quagmires, and wolves devoured the heritage of
God?

Mackaye had nothing positive, after all, to advise or propound. His wisdom
was one of apophthegms and maxims, utterly impracticable, too often merely
negative, as was his creed, which, though he refused to be classed with any
sect, was really a somewhat undefined Unitarianism--or rather Islamism. He
could say, with the old Moslem, "God is great--who hath resisted his will?"
And he believed what he said, and lived manful and pure, reverent and
self-denying, by that belief, as the first Moslem did. But that was not
enough.

  "Not enough? Merely negative?"

No--_that_ was positive enough, and mighty; but I repeat it, it was not
enough. He felt it so himself; for he grew daily more and more cynical,
more and more hopeless about the prospects of his class and of all
humanity. Why not? Poor suffering wretches! what is it to them to know that
"God is great," unless you can prove to them God is also merciful? Did he
indeed care for men at all?--was what I longed to know; was all this misery
and misrule around us his will--his stern and necessary law--his lazy
connivance? And were we to free ourselves from it by any frantic means that
came to hand? or had he ever interfered himself? Was there a chance, a
hope, of his interfering now, in our own time, to take the matter into his
own hand, and come out of his place to judge the earth in righteousness?
That was what we wanted to know; and poor Mackaye could give no comfort
there. "God was great--the wicked would be turned into hell." Ay--the few
wilful, triumphant wicked; but the millions of suffering, starving wicked,
the victims of society and circumstance--what hope for them? "God was
great." And for the clergy, our professed and salaried teachers, all I can
say is--and there are tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of workmen who
can re-echo my words--with the exception of the dean and my cousin, and one
who shall be mentioned hereafter, a clergyman never spoke to me in my life.

Why should he? Was I not a Chartist and an Infidel? The truth is, the
clergy are afraid of us. To read the _Dispatch_, is to be excommunicated.
Young men's classes? Honour to them, however few they are--however hampered
by the restrictions of religious bigotry and political cowardice. But the
working men, whether rightly or wrongly, do not trust them; they do not
trust the clergy who set them on foot; they do not expect to be taught at
them the things they long to know--to be taught the whole truth in them
about history, politics, science, the Bible. They suspect them to be mere
tubs to the whale--mere substitutes for education, slowly and late adopted,
in order to stop the mouths of the importunate. They may misjudge the
clergy; but whose fault is it if they do? Clergymen of England!--look at
the history of your Establishment for the last fifty years, and say, what
wonder is it if the artisan mistrust you? Every spiritual reform, since the
time of John Wesley, has had to establish itself in the teeth of insult,
calumny, and persecution. Every ecclesiastical reform comes not from
within, but from without your body. Mr. Horsman, struggling against every
kind of temporizing and trickery, has to do the work which bishops, by
virtue of their seat in the House of Lords, ought to have been doing years
ago. Everywhere we see the clergy, with a few persecuted exceptions (like
Dr. Arnold), proclaiming themselves the advocates of Toryism, the dogged
opponents of our political liberty, living either by the accursed system of
pew-rents, or else by one which depends on the high price of corn; chosen
exclusively from the classes who crush us down; prohibiting all free
discussion on religious points; commanding us to swallow down, with faith
as passive and implicit as that of a Papist, the very creeds from which
their own bad example, and their scandalous neglect, have, in the last
three generations, alienated us; never mixing with the thoughtful working
men, except in the prison, the hospital, or in extreme old age; betraying,
in every tract, in every sermon, an ignorance of the doubts, the feelings,
the very language of the masses, which would be ludicrous, were it not
accursed before God and man. And then will you show us a few tardy
improvements here and there, and ask us, indignantly, why we distrust you?
Oh! gentlemen, if you cannot see for yourselves the causes of our distrust,
it is past our power to show you. We must leave it to God.

       *       *       *       *       *

But to return to my own story. I had, as I said before, to live by my pen;
and in that painful, confused, maimed way, I contrived to scramble on the
long winter through, writing regularly for the _Weekly Warwhoop_, and
sometimes getting an occasional scrap into some other cheap periodical,
often on the very verge of starvation, and glad of a handful of meal from
Sandy's widow's barrel. If I had had more than my share of feasting in the
summer, I made the balance even, during those frosty months, by many a
bitter fast.

And here let me ask you, gentle reader, who are just now considering me
ungentle, virulent, and noisy, did you ever, for one day in your whole
life, literally, involuntarily, and in spite of all your endeavours,
longings, and hungerings, _not get enough to eat_? If you ever have, it
must have taught you several things.

But all this while, it must not be supposed that I had forgotten my
promise to good Farmer Porter, to look for his missing son. And, indeed,
Crossthwaite and I were already engaged in a similar search for a friend
of his--the young tailor, who, as I told Porter, had been lost for
several months. He was the brother of Crossthwaite's wife, a passionate,
kind-hearted Irishman, Mike Kelly by name, reckless and scatter-brained
enough to get himself into every possible scrape, and weak enough of will
never to get himself out of one. For these two, Crossthwaite and I had
searched from one sweater's den to another, and searched in vain. And
though the present interest and exertion kept us both from brooding over
our own difficulties, yet in the long run it tended only to embitter and
infuriate our minds. The frightful scenes of hopeless misery which we
witnessed--the ever widening pit of pauperism and slavery, gaping for fresh
victims day by day, as they dropped out of the fast lessening "honourable
trade," into the ever-increasing miseries of sweating, piece-work, and
starvation prices; the horrible certainty that the same process which was
devouring our trade was slowly, but surely, eating up every other also;
the knowledge that there was no remedy, no salvation for us in man, that
political economists had declared such to be the law and constitution of
society, and that our rulers had believed that message, and were determined
to act upon it;--if all these things did not go far towards maddening us,
we must have been made of sterner stuff than any one who reads this book.

At last, about the middle of January, just as we had given up the search
as hopeless, and poor Katie's eyes were getting red and swelled with daily
weeping, a fresh spur was given to our exertions, by the sudden appearance
of no less a person than the farmer himself. What ensued upon his coming
must be kept for another chapter.




CHAPTER XXI.

THE SWEATER'S DEN.


I was greedily devouring Lane's "Arabian Nights," which had made their
first appearance in the shop that day.

Mackaye sat in his usual place, smoking a clean pipe, and assisting his
meditations by certain mysterious chironomic signs; while opposite to him
was Farmer Porter--a stone or two thinner than when I had seen him last,
but one stone is not much missed out of seventeen. His forehead looked
smaller, and his jaws larger than ever, and his red face was sad, and
furrowed with care.

Evidently, too, he was ill at ease about other matters besides his son. He
was looking out of the corners of his eyes, first at the skinless cast on
the chimney-piece, then at the crucified books hanging over his head, as
if he considered them not altogether safe companions, and rather expected
something "uncanny" to lay hold of him from behind--a process which
involved the most horrible contortions of visage, as he carefully abstained
from stirring a muscle of his neck or body, but sat bolt upright, his
elbows pinned to his sides, and his knees as close together as his stomach
would permit, like a huge corpulent Egyptian Memnon--the most ludicrous
contrast to the little old man opposite, twisted up together in his
Joseph's coat, like some wizard magician in the stories which I was
reading. A curious pair of "poles" the two made; the mesothet whereof, by
no means a _"punctum indifferens,"_ but a true connecting spiritual idea,
stood on the table--in the whisky-bottle.

Farmer Porter was evidently big with some great thought, and had all a true
poet's bashfulness about publishing the fruit of his creative genius. He
looked round again at the skinless man, the caricatures, the books; and,
as his eye wandered from pile to pile, and shelf to shelf, his face
brightened, and he seemed to gain courage.

Solemnly he put his hat on his knees, and began solemnly brushing it with
his cuff. Then he saw me watching him, and stopped. Then he put his pipe
solemnly on the hob, and cleared his throat for action, while I buried my
face in the book.

"Them's a sight o' larned beuks, Muster Mackaye?"

"Humph!"

"Yow maun ha' got a deal o' scholarship among they, noo?"

"Humph!"

"Dee yow think, noo, yow could find out my boy out of un, by any ways o'
conjuring like?"

"By what?"

"Conjuring--to strike a perpendicular, noo, or say the Lord's Prayer
backwards?"

"Wadna ye prefer a meeracle or twa?" asked Sandy, after a long pull at the
whisky-toddy.

"Or a few efreets?" added I.

"Whatsoever you likes, gentlemen. You're best judges, to be sure," answered
Farmer Porter, in an awed and helpless voice.

"Aweel--I'm no that disinclined to believe in the occult sciences. I dinna
haud a'thegither wi' Salverte. There was mair in them than Magia naturalis,
I'm thinking. Mesmerism and magic-lanterns, benj and opium, winna explain
all facts, Alton, laddie. Dootless they were an unco' barbaric an' empiric
method o' expressing the gran' truth o' man's mastery ower matter. But the
interpenetration o' the spiritual an' physical worlds is a gran' truth too;
an' aiblins the Deity might ha' allowed witchcraft, just to teach that
to puir barbarous folk--signs and wonders, laddie, to mak them believe
in somewhat mair than the beasts that perish: an' so ghaists an warlocks
might be a necessary element o' the divine education in dark and carnal
times. But I've no read o' a case in which necromancy, nor geomancy, nor
coskinomancy, nor ony other mancy, was applied to sic a purpose as this.
Unco gude they were, may be, for the discovery o' stolen spunes--but no
that o' stolen tailors."

Farmer Porter had listened to this harangue, with mouth and eyes gradually
expanding between awe and the desire to comprehend; but at the last
sentence his countenance fell.

"So I'm thinking, Mister Porter, that the best witch in siccan a case is
ane that ye may find at the police-office."

"Anan?"

"Thae detective police are gran' necromancers an' canny in their way: an' I
just took the liberty, a week agone, to ha' a crack wi' ane o' 'em. An noo,
gin ye're inclined, we'll leave the whusky awhile, an' gang up to that cave
o' Trophawnius, ca'd by the vulgar Bow-street, an' speir for tidings o' the
twa lost sheep."

So to Bow-street we went, and found our man, to whom the farmer bowed with
obsequiousness most unlike his usual burly independence. He evidently half
suspected him to have dealings with the world of spirits: but whether he
had such or not, they had been utterly unsuccessful; and we walked back
again, with the farmer between us, half-blubbering--

"I tell ye, there's nothing like ganging to a wise 'ooman. Bless ye, I mind
one up to Guy Hall, when I was a barn, that two Irish reapers coom down,
and murthered her for the money--and if you lost aught she'd vind it, so
sure as the church--and a mighty hand to cure burns; and they two villains
coom back, after harvest, seventy mile to do it--and when my vather's cows
was shrew-struck, she made un be draed under a brimble as growed together
at the both ends, she a praying like mad all the time; and they never got
nothing but fourteen shilling and a crooked sixpence; for why, the devil
carried off all the rest of her money; and I seen um both a-hanging in
chains by Wisbeach river, with my own eyes. So when they Irish reapers
comes into the vens, our chaps always says, 'Yow goo to Guy Hall, there's
yor brithren a-waitin' for yow,' and that do make um joost mad loike, it
do. I tell ye there's nowt like a wise 'ooman, for vinding out the likes o'
this."

At this hopeful stage of the argument I left them to go to the Magazine
office. As I passed through Covent Garden, a pretty young woman stopped me
under a gas-lamp. I was pushing on when I saw it was Jemmy Downes's Irish
wife, and saw, too, that she did not recognise me. A sudden instinct made
me stop and hear what she had to say.

"Shure, thin, and ye're a tailor, my young man?"

"Yes," I said, nettled a little that my late loathed profession still
betrayed itself in my gait.

"From the counthry?"

I nodded, though I dared not speak a white lie to that effect. I fancied
that, somehow, through her I might hear of poor Kelly and his friend
Porter.

"Ye'll be wanting work, thin?"

"I have no work."

"Och, thin, it's I can show ye the flower o' work, I can. Bedad, there's a
shop I know of where ye'll earn--bedad, if ye're the ninth part of a man,
let alone a handy young fellow like the looks of you--och, ye'll earn
thirty shillings the week, to the very least--an' beautiful lodgings;
och, thin, just come and see 'em--as chape as mother's milk! Gome along,
thin--och, it's the beauty ye are--just the nate figure for a tailor."

The fancy still possessed me; and I went with her through one dingy back
street after another. She seemed to be purposely taking an indirect road,
to mislead me as to my whereabouts; but after a half-hour's walking,
I knew, as well as she, that we were in one of the most miserable
slop-working nests of the East-end.

She stopped at a house door, and hurried me in, up to the first floor,
and into a dirty, slatternly parlour, smelling infamously of gin; where
the first object I beheld was Jemmy Downes, sitting before the fire,
three-parts drunk, with a couple of dirty, squalling children on the
hearthrug, whom he was kicking and cuffing alternately.

"Och, thin, ye villain, beating the poor darlints whinever I lave ye a
minute." And pouring out a volley of Irish curses, she caught up the
urchins, one under each arm, and kissed and hugged them till they were
nearly choked. "Och, ye plague o' my life--as drunk as a baste; an' I
brought home this darlint of a young gentleman to help ye in the business."

Downes got up, and steadying himself by the table, leered at me with
lacklustre eyes, and attempted a little ceremonious politeness. How this
was to end I did not see; but I was determined to carry it through, on the
chance of success, infinitely small as that might be.

"An' I've told him thirty shillings a week's the least he'll earn; and
charge for board and lodgings only seven shillings."

"Thirty!--she lies; she's always a lying; don't you mind her.
Five-and-forty is the werry lowest figure. Ask my respectable and most
piousest partner, Shemei Solomons. Why, blow me--it's Locke!"

"Yes, it is Locke; and surely you're my old friend Jemmy Downes? Shake
hands. What an unexpected pleasure to meet you again!"

"Werry unexpected pleasure. Tip us your daddle! Delighted--delighted, as I
was a saying, to be of the least use to yer. Take a caulker? Summat heavy,
then? No? 'Tak' a drap o' kindness yet, for auld langsyne?"

"You forget I was always a teetotaller."

"Ay," with a look of unfeigned pity. "An' you're a going to lend us a hand?
Oh, ah! perhaps you'd like to begin? Here's a most beautiful uniform,
now, for a markis in her Majesty's Guards; we don't mention names--tarn't
businesslike. P'r'aps you'd like best to work here to-night, for
company--'for auld langsyne, my boys;' and I'll introduce yer to the gents
up-stairs to-morrow."

"No," I said; "I'll go up at once, if you've no objection."

"Och, thin, but the sheets isn't aired--no--faix; and I'm thinking the
gentleman as is a going isn't gone yet."

But I insisted on going up at once; and, grumbling, she followed me. I
stopped on the landing of the second floor, and asked which way; and seeing
her in no hurry to answer, opened a door, inside which I heard the hum
of many voices, saying in as sprightly a tone as I could muster, that I
supposed that was the workroom.

As I had expected, a fetid, choking den, with just room enough in it for
the seven or eight sallow, starved beings, who, coatless, shoeless, and
ragged, sat stitching, each on his truckle-bed. I glanced round; the man
whom I sought was not there.

My heart fell; why it had ever risen to such a pitch of hope I cannot tell;
and half-cursing myself for a fool, in thus wildly thrusting my head into a
squabble, I turned back and shut the door, saying--

"A very pleasant room, ma'am, but a leetle too crowded."

Before she could answer, the opposite door opened; and a face
appeared--unwashed, unshaven, shrunken to a skeleton. I did not recognise
it at first.

"Blessed Vargen! but that wasn't your voice, Locke?"

"And who are you?"

"Tear and ages! and he don't know Mike Kelly!"

My first impulse was to catch him up in my arms, and run down-stairs with
him. I controlled myself, however, not knowing how far he might be in his
tyrant's power. But his voluble Irish heart burst out at once--

"Oh! blessed saints, take me out o' this! take me out for the love of
Jesus! take me out o' this hell, or I'll go mad intirely! Och! will nobody
have pity on poor sowls in purgatory--here in prison like negur slaves?
We're starved to the bone, we are, and kilt intirely with cowld."

And as he clutched my arm, with his long, skinny, trembling fingers, I
saw that his hands and feet were all chapped and bleeding. Neither shoe
nor stocking did he possess; his only garments were a ragged shirt and
trousers; and--and, and in horrible mockery of his own misery, a grand
new flowered satin vest, which to-morrow was to figure in some gorgeous
shop-window!

"Och! Mother of Heaven!" he went on, wildly, "when will I get out to the
fresh air? For five months I haven't seen the blessed light of sun, nor
spoken to the praste, nor ate a bit o' mate, barring bread-and-butter.
Shure, it's all the blessed Sabbaths and saints' days I've been a working
like a haythen Jew, an niver seen the insides o' the chapel to confess my
sins, and me poor sowl's lost intirely--and they've pawned the relaver
[Footnote: A coat, we understand, which is kept by the coatless wretches in
these sweaters' dungeons, to be used by each of them in turn when they want
to go out.--EDITOR.] this fifteen weeks, and not a boy of us iver sot foot
in the street since."

"Vot's that row?" roared at this juncture Downes's voice from below.

"Och, thin," shrieked the woman, "here's that thief o' the warld, Micky
Kelly, slandhering o' us afore the blessed heaven, and he owing L2. 14s.
1/2d. for his board an' lodging, let alone pawn-tickets, and goin' to
rin away, the black-hearted ongrateful sarpent!" And she began yelling
indiscriminately, "Thieves!" "Murder!" "Blasphemy!" and such other
ejaculations, which (the English ones at least) had not the slightest
reference to the matter in hand.

"I'll come to him!" said Downes, with an oath, and rushed stumbling up
the stairs, while the poor wretch sneaked in again, and slammed the door
to. Downes battered at it, but was met with a volley of curses from the
men inside; while, profiting by the Babel, I blew out the light, ran
down-stairs, and got safe into the street.

In two hours afterwards, Mackaye, Porter, Crossthwaite, and I were at the
door, accompanied by a policeman, and a search-warrant. Porter had insisted
on accompanying us. He had made up his mind that his son was at Downes's;
and all representations of the smallness of his chance were fruitless. He
worked himself up into a state of complete frenzy, and flourished a huge
stick in a way which shocked the policeman's orderly and legal notions.

"That may do very well down in your country, sir; but you arn't a goin' to
use that there weapon here, you know, not by no hact o' Parliament as I
knows on."

"Ow, it's joost a way I ha' wi' me." And the stick was quiet for fifty
yards or so, and then recommenced smashing imaginary skulls.

"You'll do somebody a mischief, sir, with that. You'd much better a lend it
me."

Porter tucked it under his arm for fifty yards more; and so on, till we
reached Downes's house.

The policeman knocked: and the door was opened, cautiously, by an old Jew,
of a most un-"Caucasian" cast of features, however "high-nosed," as Mr.
Disraeli has it.

The policeman asked to see Michael Kelly.

"Michaelsh? I do't know such namesh--" But before the parley could go
farther, the farmer burst past policeman and Jew, and rushed into the
passage, roaring, in a voice which made the very windows rattle,

"Billy Poorter! Billy Poorter! whor be yow? whor be yow?"

We all followed him up-stairs, in time to see him charging valiantly,
with his stick for a bayonet, the small person of a Jew-boy, who stood
at the head of the stairs in a scientific attitude. The young rascal
planted a dozen blows in the huge carcase--he might as well have thumped
the rhinoceros in the Regent's Park; the old man ran right over him,
without stopping, and dashed up the stairs; at the head of which--oh,
joy!--appeared a long, shrunken, red-haired figure, the tears on its dirty
cheeks glittering in the candle-glare. In an instant father and son were in
each other's arms.

"Oh, my barn! my barn! my barn! my barn!" And then the old Hercules held
him off at arm's length, and looked at him with a wistful face, and hugged
him again with "My barn! my barn!" He had nothing else to say. Was it not
enough? And poor Kelly danced frantically around them, hurrahing; his own
sorrows forgotten in his friend's deliverance.

The Jew-boy shook himself, turned, and darted down stairs past us; the
policeman quietly put out his foot, tripped him headlong, and jumping down
after him, extracted from his grasp a heavy pocket-book.

"Ah! my dear mothersh's dying gift! Oh, dear! oh dear! give it back to a
poor orphansh!"

"Didn't I see you take it out o' the old un's pocket, you young villain?"
answered the maintainer of order, as he shoved the book into his bosom, and
stood with one foot on his writhing victim, a complete nineteenth-century
St. Michael.

"Let me hold him," I said, "while you go up-stairs."

"_You_ hold a Jew-boy!--you hold a mad cat!" answered the policeman,
contemptuously--and with justice--for at that moment Downes appeared on the
first-floor landing, cursing and blaspheming.

"He's my 'prentice! he's my servant! I've got a bond, with his own hand to
it, to serve me for three years. I'll have the law of you--I will!"

Then the meaning of the big stick came out. The old man leapt down the
stairs, and seized Downes. "You're the tyrant as has locked my barn up
here!" And a thrashing commenced, which it made my bones ache only to look
at. Downes had no chance; the old man felled him on his face in a couple of
blows, and taking both hands to his stick, hewed away at him as if he had
been a log.

"I waint hit a's head! I waint hit a's head!"--whack, whack. "Let me
be!"--whack, whack-puff. "It does me gude, it does me gude!"--puff,
puff, puff--whack. "I've been a bottling of it up for three years, come
Whitsuntide!"--whack, whack, whack--while Mackaye and Crossthwaite stood
coolly looking on, and the wife shut herself up in the side-room, and
screamed "Murder!"

The unhappy policeman stood at his wits' end, between the prisoner below
and the breach of the peace above, bellowing in vain, in the Queen's name,
to us, and to the grinning tailors on the landing. At last, as Downes's
life seemed in danger, he wavered; the Jew-boy seized the moment, jumped
up, upsetting the constable, dashed like an eel between Crossthwaite and
Mackaye, gave me a back-handed blow in passing, which I felt for a week
after, and vanished through the street-door, which he locked after him.

"Very well!" said the functionary, rising solemnly, and pulling out a
note-book--"Scar under left eye, nose a little twisted to the right, bad
chilblains on the hands. You'll keep till next time, young man. Now,
you fat gentleman up there, have you done a qualifying of yourself for
Newgate?"

The old man had ran up-stairs again, and was hugging his son; but when the
policeman lifted Downes, he rushed back to his victim, and begged, like a
great school-boy, for leave to "bet him joost won bit moor."

"Let me bet un! I'll pay un!--I'll pay all as my son owes un! Marcy me!
where's my pooss?" And so on raged the Babel, till we got the two poor
fellows safe out of the house. We had to break open the door to do it,
thanks to that imp of Israel.

"For God's sake, take us too!" almost screamed five or six other voices.

"They're all in debt--every onesh; they sha'n't go till they paysh, if
there's law in England," whined the old Jew, who had re-appeared.

"I'll pay for 'em--I'll pay every farden, if so be as they treated my boy
well. Here, you, Mr. Locke, there's the ten pounds as I promised you. Why,
whor is my pooss?"

The policeman solemnly handed it to him. He took it, turned it over,
looked at the policeman half frightened, and pointed with his fat thumb at
Mackaye.

"Well, he said as you was a conjuror--and sure he was right."

He paid me the money. I had no mind to keep it in such company; so I got
the poor fellows' pawn-tickets, and Crossthwaite and I took the things
out for them. When we returned, we found them in a group in the passage,
holding the door open, in their fear lest we should be locked up, or
entrapped in some way. Their spirits seemed utterly broken. Some three or
four went off to lodge where they could; the majority went upstairs again
to work. That, even that dungeon, was their only home--their only hope--as
it is of thousands of "free" Englishmen at this moment.

We returned, and found the old man with his new-found prodigal sitting on
his knee, as if he had been a baby. Sandy told me afterwards, that he had
scarcely kept him from carrying the young man all the way home; he was
convinced that the poor fellow was dying of starvation. I think really
he was not far wrong. In the corner sat Kelly, crouched together like a
baboon, blubbering, hurrahing, invoking the saints, cursing the sweaters,
and blessing the present company. We were afraid, for several days, that
his wits were seriously affected.

And, in his old arm-chair, pipe in mouth, sat good Sandy Mackaye, wiping
his eyes with the many-coloured sleeve, and moralizing to himself, _sotto
voce_:

"The auld Romans made slaves o' their debitors; sae did the Anglo-Saxons,
for a' good Major Cartwright has writ to the contrary. But I didna ken
the same Christian practice was part o' the Breetish constitution. Aweel,
aweel--atween Riot Acts, Government by Commissions, and ither little
extravagants and codicils o' Mammon's making, it's no that easy to ken,
the day, what is the Breetish constitution, and what isn't. Tak a drappie,
Billy Porter, lad?"

"Never again so long as I live. I've learnt a lesson and a half about that,
these last few months."

"Aweel, moderation's best, but abstinence better than naething. Nae man
shall deprive me o' my leeberty, but I'll tempt nae man to gie up his." And
he actually put the whisky-bottle by into the cupboard.

The old man and his son went home next day, promising me, if I would but
come to see them, "twa hundert acres o' the best partridge-shooting, and
wild dooks as plenty as sparrows; and to live in clover till I bust, if I
liked." And so, as Bunyan has it, they went on their way, and I saw them no
more.




CHAPTER XXII.

AN EMERSONIAN SERMON.


Certainly, if John Crossthwaite held the victim-of-circumstance doctrine
in theory, he did not allow Mike Kelly to plead it in practice, as
an extenuation of his misdeeds. Very different from his Owenite
"it's-nobody's-fault" harangues in the debating society, or his admiration
for the teacher of whom my readers shall have a glimpse shortly, was his
lecture that evening to the poor Irishmen on "It's all your own fault."
Unhappy Kelly! he sat there like a beaten cur, looking first at one
of us, and then at the other, for mercy, and finding none. As soon
as Crossthwaite's tongue was tired, Mackaye's began, on the sins of
drunkenness, hastiness, improvidence, over-trustfulness, &c., &c., and,
above all, on the cardinal offence of not having signed the protest years
before, and spurned the dishonourable trade, as we had done. Even his most
potent excuse that "a boy must live somehow," Crossthwaite treated as
contemptuously as if he had been a very Leonidas, while Mackaye chimed in
with--

"An' ye a Papist! ye talk o' praying to saints an' martyrs, that died in
torments because they wad na do what they should na do? What ha' ye to
do wi' martyrs?--a meeserable wretch that sells his soul for a mess o'
pottage--four slices per diem o' thin bread-and-butter? Et propter veetam
veevendi perdere causas! Dinna tell me o' your hardships--ye've had your
deserts--your rights were just equivalent to your mights, an' so ye got
them."

"Faix, thin, Misther Mackaye, darlint, an' whin did I desarve to pawn me
own goose an' board, an' sit looking at the spidhers for the want o' them?"

"Pawn his ain goose! Pawn himsel! pawn his needle--gin it had been worth
the pawning, they'd ha' ta'en it. An' yet there's a command in Deuteronomy,
Ye shall na tak the millstone in pledge, for it's a man's life; nor yet
keep his raiment ower night, but gie it the puir body back, that he may
sleep in his ain claes, an' bless ye. O--but pawnbrokers dinna care for
blessings--na marketable value in them, whatsoever."

"And the shopkeeper," said I, "in 'the Arabian Nights,' refuses to take the
fisherman's net in pledge, because he gets his living thereby."

"Ech! but, laddie, they were puir legal Jews, under carnal ordinances, an'
daur na even tak an honest five per cent interest for their money. An' the
baker o' Bagdad, why he was a benighted heathen, ye ken, an' deceivit by
that fause prophet, Mahomet, to his eternal damnation, or he wad never ha'
gone aboot to fancy a fisherman was his brither."

"Faix, an' ain't we all brothers?" asked Kelly.

"Ay, and no," said Sandy, with an expression which would have been a smile,
but for its depths of bitter earnestness; "brethren in Christ, my laddie."

"An' ain't that all over the same?"

"Ask the preachers. Gin they meant brothers, they'd say brothers, be sure;
but because they don't mean brothers at a', they say brethren--ye'll mind,
brethren--to soun' antiquate, an' professional, an' perfunctory-like, for
fear it should be ower real, an' practical, an' startling, an' a' that;
and then jist limit it down wi' a' in Christ,' for fear o' owre wide
applications, and a' that. But

 "For a' that, and a' that.
  It's comin' yet, for a' that,
  When man an' man, the warld owre,
  Shall brothers be, for a' that--

"An' na brithren any mair at a'!"

"An' didn't the blessed Jesus die for all?"

"What? for heretics, Micky?"

"Bedad, thin, an' I forgot that intirely!"

"Of course you did! It's strange, laddie," said he, turning to me, "that
that Name suld be everywhere, fra the thunderers o' Exeter Ha' to this
puir, feckless Paddy, the watchword o' exclusiveness. I'm thinking ye'll no
find the workmen believe in't, till somebody can fin' the plan o' making it
the sign o' universal comprehension. Gin I had na seen in my youth that a
brither in Christ meant less a thousand-fold than a brither out o' him, I
might ha' believit the noo--we'll no say what. I've an owre great organ o'
marvellousness, an' o' veneration too, I'm afeard."

"Ah!" said Crossthwaite, "you should come and hear Mr. Windrush to-night,
about the all-embracing benevolence of the Deity, and the abomination of
limiting it by all those narrow creeds and dogmas."

"An' wha's Meester Windrush, then?"

"Oh, he's an American; he was a Calvinist preacher originally, I believe;
but, as he told us last Sunday evening, he soon cast away the worn-out
vestures of an obsolete faith, which were fast becoming only crippling
fetters."

"An' ran oot sarkless on the public, eh? I'm afeard there's mony a man else
that throws awa' the gude auld plaid o' Scots Puritanism, an' is unco fain
to cover his nakedness wi' ony cast popinjay's feathers he can forgather
wi'. Aweel, aweel--a puir priestless age it is, the noo. We'll e'en gang
hear him the nicht, Alton, laddie; ye ha' na darkened the kirk door this
mony a day--nor I neither, mair by token."

It was too true. I had utterly given up the whole problem of religion as
insoluble. I believed in poetry, science, and democracy--and they were
enough for me then; enough, at least, to leave a mighty hunger in my heart,
I knew not for what. And as for Mackaye, though brought up, as he told me,
a rigid Scotch Presbyterian, he had gradually ceased to attend the church
of his fathers.

"It was no the kirk o' his fathers--the auld God--trusting kirk that
Clavers dragoonit down by burns and muirsides. It was a' gane dead an' dry;
a piece of Auld-Bailey barristration anent soul-saving dodges. What did he
want wi' proofs o' the being o' God, an' o' the doctrine o' original sin?
He could see eneugh o' them ayont the shop-door, ony tide. They made puir
Rabbie Burns an anything-arian, wi' their blethers, an' he was near gaun
the same gate."

And, besides, he absolutely refused to enter any place of worship where
there were pews. "He wadna follow after a multitude to do evil; he wad na
gang before his Maker wi' a lee in his right hand. Nae wonder folks were so
afraid o' the names o' equality an' britherhood, when they'd kicked them
out e'en o' the kirk o' God. Pious folks may ca' me a sinfu' auld Atheist.
They winna gang to a harmless stage play--an' richt they--for fear o'
countenancing the sin that's dune there, an' I winna gang to the kirk, for
fear o' countenancing the sin that's dune there, by putting down my hurdies
on that stool o' antichrist, a haspit pew!"

I was, therefore, altogether surprised at the promptitude with which he
agreed to go and hear Crossthwaite's new-found prophet. His reasons for so
doing may be, I think, gathered from the conversation towards the end of
this chapter.

Well, we went; and I, for my part, was charmed with Mr. Windrush's
eloquence. His style, which was altogether Emersonian, quite astonished me
by its alternate bursts of what I considered brilliant declamation, and
of forcible epigrammatic antithesis. I do not deny that I was a little
startled by some of his doctrines, and suspected that he had not seen much,
either of St. Giles's cellars or tailors' workshops either, when he talked
of sin as "only a lower form of good. Nothing," he informed us, "was
produced in nature without pain and disturbance; and what we had been
taught to call sin was, in fact, nothing but the birth-throes attendant on
the progress of the species.--As for the devil, Novalis, indeed, had gone
so far as to suspect him to be a necessary illusion. Novalis was a mystic,
and tainted by the old creeds. The illusion was not necessary--it was
disappearing before the fast-approaching meridian light of philosophic
religion. Like the myths of Christianity, it had grown up in an age of
superstition, when men, blind to the wondrous order of the universe,
believed that supernatural beings, like the Homeric gods, actually
interfered in the affairs of mortals. Science had revealed the
irrevocability of the laws of nature--was man alone to be exempt from them?
No. The time would come when it would be as obsolete an absurdity to talk
of the temptation of a fiend, as it was now to talk of the wehrwolf, or
the angel of the thunder-cloud. The metaphor might remain, doubtless,
as a metaphor, in the domain of poetry, whose office was to realize,
in objective symbols, the subjective ideas of the human intellect; but
philosophy, and the pure sentiment of religion, which found all things,
even God himself, in the recesses of its own enthusiastic heart, must
abjure such a notion."

       *       *       *       *       *

"What!" he asked again, "shall all nature be a harmonious whole,
reflecting, in every drop of dew which gems the footsteps of the morning,
the infinite love and wisdom of its Maker, and man alone be excluded
from his part in that concordant choir? Yet such is the doctrine of the
advocates of free-will, and of sin--its phantom-bantling. Man disobey his
Maker! disarrange and break the golden wheels and springs of the infinite
machine! The thought were blasphemy!--impossibility! All things fulfil
their destiny; and so does man, in a higher or lower sphere of being. Shall
I punish the robber? Shall I curse the profligate? As soon destroy the
toad, because my partial taste may judge him ugly; or doom to hell, for
his carnivorous appetite, the muscanonge of my native lakes! Toad is not
horrible to toad, or thief to thief. Philanthropists or statesmen may
environ him with more genial circumstances, and so enable his propensities
to work more directly for the good of society; but to punish him--to punish
nature for daring to be nature!--Never! I may thank the Upper Destinies
that they have not made me as other men are--that they have endowed me with
nobler instincts, a more delicate conformation than the thief; but I have
my part to play, and he has his. Why should we wish to be other than the
All-wise has made us?"

"Fine doctrine that," grumbled Sandy; "gin ye've first made up your mind
wi' the Pharisee, that ye _are_ no like ither men."

"Shall I pray, then? For what? I will coax none, natter none--not even the
Supreme! I will not be absurd enough to wish to change that order, by which
sun and stars, saints and sinners, alike fulfil their destinies. There is
one comfort, my friends; coax and flatter as we will, he will not hear us."

"Pleasant, for puir deevils like us!" quoth Mackaye.

"What then remains? Thanks, thanks--not of words, but of actions. Worship
is a life, not a ceremony. He who would honour the Supreme, let him
cheerfully succumb to the destiny which the Supreme has allotted, and,
like the shell or the flower--('Or the pickpocket,' added Mackaye,
almost audibly)--become the happy puppet of the universal impulse. He
who would honour Christ, let him become a Christ himself! Theodore of
Mopsuestia--born, alas! before his time--a prophet for whom as yet no
audience stood ready in the amphitheatre of souls--'Christ!' he was wont
to say; 'I can become Christ myself, if I will.' Become thou Christ, my
brother! He has an idea--the idea of utter submission--abnegation of his
own fancied will before the supreme necessities. Fulfil that idea, and thou
art he! Deny thyself, and then only wilt thou be a reality; for thou hast
no self. If thou hadst a self, thou wouldst but lie in denying it--and
would The Being thank thee for denying what he had given thee? But thou
hast none! God is circumstance, and thou his creature! Be content! Fear
not, strive not, change not, repent not! Thou art nothing! Be nothing, and
thou becomest a part of all things!"

And so Mr. Windrush ended his discourse, which Crossthwaite had been all
the while busily taking down in short-hand, for the edification of the
readers of a certain periodical, and also for those of this my Life.

I plead guilty to having been entirely carried away by what I heard. There
was so much which was true, so much more which seemed true, so much which
it would have been convenient to believe true, and all put so eloquently
and originally, as I then considered, that, in short, I was in raptures,
and so was poor dear Crossthwaite; and as we walked home, we dinned Mr.
Windrush's praises one into each of Mackaye's ears. The old man, however,
paced on silent and meditative. At last--

"A hunder sects or so in the land o' Gret Britain; an' a hunder or so
single preachers, each man a sect of his ain! an' this the last fashion!
Last, indeed! The moon of Calvinism's far gone in the fourth quarter,
when it's come to the like o' that. Truly, the soul-saving business is
a'thegither fa'n to a low ebb, as Master Tummas says somewhere!"

"Well, but," asked Crossthwaite, "was not that man, at least, splendid?"

"An' hoo much o' thae gran' objectives an' subjectives did ye comprehen',
then, Johnnie, my man?"

"Quite enough for me," answered John, in a somewhat nettled tone.

"An' sae did I."

"But you ought to hear him often. You can't judge of his system from one
sermon, in this way."

"Seestem! and what's that like?"

"Why, he has a plan for uniting all sects and parties, on the one broad
fundamental ground of the unity of God as revealed by science--"

"Verra like uniting o' men by just pu'ing aff their claes, and telling 'em,
'There, ye're a' brithers noo, on the one broad fundamental principle o'
want o' breeks.'"

"Of course," went on Crossthwaite, without taking notice of this
interruption, "he allows full liberty of conscience. All he wishes for is
the emancipation of intellect. He will allow every one, he says, to realize
that idea to himself, by the representations which suit him best."

"An' so he has no objection to a wee playing at Papistry, gin a man finds
it good to tickle up his soul?"

"Ay, he did speak of that--what did he call it? Oh! 'one of the ways in
which the Christian idea naturally embodied itself in imaginative minds!'
but the higher intellects, of course, would want fewer helps of that kind.
'They would see'--ay, that was it--'the pure white light of truth, without
requiring those coloured refracting media.'"

"That wad depend muckle on whether the light o' truth chose or not, I'm
thinking. But, Johnnie, lad--guide us and save us!--whaur got ye a' these
gran' outlandish words the nicht?"

"Haven't I been taking down every one of these lectures for the press?"

"The press gang to the father o't--and you too, for lending your han' in
the matter--for a mair accursed aristocrat I never heerd, sin' I first ate
haggis. Oh, ye gowk--ye gowk! Dinna ye see what be the upshot o' siccan
doctrin'? That every puir fellow as has no gret brains in his head will
be left to his superstition, an' his ignorance to fulfil the lusts o' his
flesh; while the few that are geniuses, or fancy themselves sae, are to
ha' the monopoly o' this private still o' philosophy--these carbonari,
illuminati, vehmgericht, samothracian mysteries o' bottled moonshine. An'
when that comes to pass, I'll just gang back to my schule and my catechism,
and begin again wi' 'who was born o' the Virgin Mary, suffered oonder
Pontius Pilate!' Hech! lads, there's no subjectives and objectives there,
na beggarly, windy abstractions, but joost a plain fact, that God cam' down
to look for puir bodies, instead o' leaving puir bodies to gang looking for
Him. An' here's a pretty place to be left looking for Him in--between gin
shops and gutters! A pretty Gospel for the publicans an' harlots, to tell
'em that if their bairns are canny eneugh, they may possibly some day be
allowed to believe that there is one God, and not twa! And then, by way of
practical application--'Hech! my dear, starving, simple brothers, ye manna
be sae owre conscientious, and gang fashing yourselves anent being brutes
an' deevils, for the gude God's made ye sae, and He's verra weel content to
see you sae, gin ye be content or no.'"

"Then, do you believe in the old doctrines of Christianity?" I asked.

"Dinna speir what I believe in. I canna tell ye. I've been seventy years
trying to believe in God, and to meet anither man that believed in him. So
I'm just like the Quaker o' the town o' Redcross, that met by himself every
First-day in his ain hoose."

"Well, but," I asked again, "is not complete freedom of thought a glorious
aim--to emancipate man's noblest part--the intellect--from the trammels of
custom and ignorance?"

"Intellect--intellect!" rejoined he, according to his fashion, catching one
up at a word, and playing on that in order to answer, not what one said,
but what one's words led to. "I'm sick o' all the talk anent intellect I
hear noo. An' what's the use o' intellect? 'Aristocracy o' intellect,'
they cry. Curse a' aristocracies--intellectual anes, as well as anes o'
birth, or rank, or money! What! will I ca' a man my superior, because
he's cleverer than mysel?--will I boo down to a bit o' brains, ony mair
than to a stock or a stane? Let a man prove himsel' better than me, my
laddie--honester, humbler, kinder, wi' mair sense o' the duty o' man, an'
the weakness o' man--and that man I'll acknowledge--that man's my king, my
leader, though he war as stupid as Eppe Dalgleish, that could na count five
on her fingers, and yet keepit her drucken father by her ain hands' labour
for twenty-three yeers."

We could not agree to all this, but we made a rule of never contradicting
the old sage in one of his excited moods, for fear of bringing on a week's
silent fit--a state which generally ended in his smoking himself into a
bilious melancholy; but I made up my mind to be henceforth a frequent
auditor of Mr. Windrush's oratory.

"An' sae the deevil's dead!" said Sandy, half to himself, as he sat
crooning and smoking that night over the fire. "Gone at last, puir
fallow!--an' he sae little appreciated, too! Every gowk laying his ain
sins on Nickie's back, puir Nickie!--verra like that much misunderstood
politeecian, Mr. John Cade, as Charles Buller ca'd him in the Hoose o'
Commons--an' he to be dead at last! the warld'll seem quite unco without
his auld-farrant phizog on the streets. Aweel, aweel--aiblins he's but
shammin'.--

 "When pleasant Spring came on apace,
    And showers began to fa',
  John Barleycorn got up again,
    And sore surprised them a'.

"At ony rate, I'd no bury him till he began smell a wee strong like. It's a
grewsome thing, is premature interment, Alton, laddie!"




CHAPTER XXIII.

THE FREEDOM OF THE PRESS.


But all this while, my slavery to Mr. O'Flynn's party-spirit and coarseness
was becoming daily more and more intolerable--an explosion was inevitable;
and an explosion came.

Mr. O'Flynn found out that I had been staying at Cambridge, and at a
cathedral city too; and it was quite a godsend to him to find any one who
knew a word about the institutions at which he had been railing weekly for
years. So nothing would serve him but my writing a set of articles on the
universities, as a prelude to one on the Cathedral Establishments. In
vain I pleaded the shortness of my stay there, and the smallness of my
information.

"Och, were not abuses notorious? And couldn't I get them up out of any
Radical paper--and just put in a little of my own observations, and a
dashing personal cut or two, to spice the thing up, and give it an original
look? and if I did not choose to write that--why," with an enormous oath,
"I should write nothing." So--for I was growing weaker and weaker, and
indeed my hack-writing was breaking down my moral sense, as it does that
of most men--I complied; and burning with vexation, feeling myself almost
guilty of a breach of trust toward those from whom I had received nothing
but kindness, I scribbled off my first number and sent it to the editor--to
see it appear next week, three-parts re-written, and every fact of my own
furnishing twisted and misapplied, till the whole thing was as vulgar and
commonplace a piece of rant as ever disgraced the people's cause. And all
this, in spite of a solemn promise, confirmed by a volley of oaths, that
I "should say what I liked, and speak my whole mind, as one who had seen
things with his own eyes had a right to do."

Furious, I set off to the editor; and not only my pride, but what literary
conscience I had left, was stirred to the bottom by seeing myself made,
whether I would or not, a blackguard and a slanderer.

As it was ordained, Mr. O'Flynn was gone out for an hour or two; and,
unable to settle down to any work till I had fought my battle with
him fairly out, I wandered onward, towards the West End, staring into
print-shop windows, and meditating on many things.

As it was ordained, also, I turned up Regent Street, and into Langham
Place; when, at the door of All-Souls Church, behold a crowd and a long
string of carriages arriving, and all the pomp and glory of a grand
wedding.

I joined the crowd from mere idleness, and somehow found myself in the
first rank, just as the bride was stepping out of the carriage--it was
Miss Staunton; and the old gentleman who handed her out was no other
than the dean. They were, of course, far too deeply engaged to recognise
insignificant little me, so that I could stare as thoroughly to my heart's
content as any of the butcher-boys and nursery-maids around me.

She was closely veiled--but not too closely to prevent my seeing her
magnificent lip and nostril curling with pride, resolve, rich tender
passion. Her glorious black-brown hair--the true "purple locks" which Homer
so often talks of--rolled down beneath her veil in great heavy ringlets;
and with her tall and rounded figure, and step as firm and queenly as
if she were going to a throne, she seemed to me the very ideal of those
magnificent Eastern Zubeydehs and Nourmahals, whom I used to dream of after
reading the "Arabian Nights."

As they entered the doorway, almost touching me, she looked round, as if
for some one. The dean whispered something in his gentle, stately way, and
she answered by one of those looks so intense, and yet so bright, so full
of unutterable depths of meaning and emotion, that, in spite of all my
antipathy, I felt an admiration akin to awe thrill through me, and gazed
after her so intently, that Lillian--Lillian herself--was at my side, and
almost passed me before I was aware of it.

Yes, there she was, the foremost among a bevy of fair girls, "herself the
fairest far," all April smiles and tears, golden curls, snowy rosebuds, and
hovering clouds of lace--a fairy queen;--but yet--but yet--how shallow that
hazel, eye, how empty of meaning those delicate features, compared with the
strength and intellectual richness of the face which had preceded her!

It was too true--I had never remarked it before; but now it flashed
across me like lightning--and like lightning vanished; for Lillian's eye
caught mine, and there was the faintest spark of a smile of recognition,
and pleased surprise, and a nod. I blushed scarlet with delight; some
servant-girl or other, who stood next to me, had seen it too--quick-eyed
that women are--and was looking curiously at me. I turned, I knew not why,
in my delicious shame, and plunged through the crowd to hide I knew not
what.

I walked on--poor fool--in an ecstasy; the whole world was transfigured
in my eyes, and virtue and wisdom beamed from every face I passed. The
omnibus-horses were racers, and the drivers--were they not my brothers of
the people? The very policemen looked sprightly and philanthropic. I shook
hands earnestly with the crossing-sweeper of the Regent Circus, gave him
my last twopence, and rushed on, like a young David, to exterminate that
Philistine O'Flynn.

Ah well! I was a great fool, as others too have been; but yet, that little
chance-meeting did really raise me. It made me sensible that I was made
for better things than low abuse of the higher classes. It gave me courage
to speak out, and act without fear, of consequences, once at least in
that confused facing-both-ways period of my life. O woman! woman! only
true missionary of civilization and brotherhood, and gentle, forgiving
charity; is it in thy power, and perhaps in thine only, to bind up the
broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives? One real lady, who
should dare to stoop, what might she not do with us--with our sisters? If--

There are hundreds, answers the reader, who do stoop. Elizabeth Fry was a
lady, well-born, rich, educated, and she has many scholars.

True, my dear readers, true--and may God bless her and her scholars.
Do you think the working men forget them? But look at St. Giles's, or
Spitalfields, or Shadwell, and say, is not the harvest plentiful, and the
labourers, alas! few? No one asserts that nothing is done; the question is,
is enough done? Does the supply of mercy meet the demand of misery? Walk
into the next court and see!

       *       *       *       *       *

I found Mr. O'Flynn in his sanctum, busy with paste and scissors, in the
act of putting in a string of advertisements--indecent French novels,
Atheistic tracts, quack medicines, and slopsellers' puffs; and commenced
with as much dignity as I could muster:

"What on earth do you mean, sir, by re-writing my article?"

"What--(in the other place)--do you mean by giving me the trouble of
re-writing it? Me head's splitting now with sitting up, cutting out, and
putting in. Poker o' Moses! but ye'd given it an intirely aristocratic
tendency. What did ye mane" (and three or four oaths rattled out) "by
talking about the pious intentions of the original founders, and the
democratic tendencies of monastic establishments?"

"I wrote it because I thought it."

"Is that any reason ye should write it? And there was another bit, too--it
made my hair stand on end when I saw it, to think how near I was sending
the copy to press without looking at it--something about a French
Socialist, and Church Property."

"Oh! you mean, I suppose, the story of the French Socialist, who told me
that church property was just the only property in England which he would
spare, because it was the only one which had definite duties attached
to it, that the real devourers of the people were not the bishops, who,
however rich, were at least bound to work in return for their riches,
but the landlords and millionaires, who refused to confess the duties of
property, while they raved about its rights."

"Bedad, that's it; and pretty doctrine, too!"

"But it's true: it's an entirely new and a very striking notion, and I
consider it my duty to mention it."

"Thrue! What the devil does that matter? There's a time to speak the truth,
and a time not, isn't there? It'll make a grand hit, now, in a leader upon
the Irish Church question, to back the prastes against the landlords. But
if I'd let that in as it stood, bedad, I'd have lost three parts of my
subscribers the next week. Every soul of the Independents, let alone the
Chartists, would have bid me good morning. Now do, like a good boy, give us
something more the right thing next time. Draw it strong.--A good drunken
supper-party and a police-row; if ye haven't seen one, get it up out of
Pater Priggins--or Laver might do, if the other wasn't convanient. That's
Dublin, to be sure, but one university's just like another. And give us a
seduction or two, and a brace of Dons carried home drunk from Barnwell by
the Procthors."

"Really I never saw anything of the kind; and as for profligacy amongst
the Dons, I don't believe it exists. I'll call them idle, and bigoted, and
careless of the morals of the young men, because I know that they are so;
but as for anything more, I believe them to be as sober, respectable a set
of Pharisees as the world ever saw."

Mr. O'Flynn was waxing warm, and the bully-vein began fast to show itself.

"I don't care a curse, sir! My subscribers won't stand it, and they
sha'n't! I am a man of business, sir, and a man of the world, sir, and
faith that's more than you are, and I know what will sell the paper, and by
J----s I'll let no upstart spalpeen dictate to me!"

"Then I'll tell you what, sir," quoth I, waxing warm in my turn, "I don't
know which are the greater rogues, you or your subscribers. You a patriot?
You are a humbug. Look at those advertisements, and deny it if you can.
Crying out for education, and helping to debauch the public mind with
Voltaire's 'Candide,' and Eugene Sue--swearing by Jesus, and puffing
Atheism and blasphemy--yelling at a quack government, quack law,
quack priesthoods, and then dirtying your fingers with half-crowns
for advertising Holloway's ointment and Parr's life pills--shrieking
about slavery of labour to capital, and inserting Moses and Son's
doggerel--ranting about searching investigations and the march of
knowledge, and concealing every fact which cannot be made to pander to the
passions of your dupes--extolling the freedom of the press, and showing
yourself in your own office a tyrant and a censor of the press. You a
patriot? You the people's friend? You are doing everything in your power to
blacken the people's cause in the eyes of their enemies. You are simply a
humbug, a hypocrite, and a scoundrel; and so I bid you good morning."

Mr. O'Flynn had stood, during this harangue, speechless with passion, those
loose lips of his wreathing like a pair of earthworms. It was only when I
stopped that he regained his breath, and with a volley of incoherent oaths,
caught up his chair and hurled it at my head. Luckily, I had seen enough of
his temper already, to keep my hand on the lock of the door for the last
five minutes. I darted out of the room quicker than I ever did out of one
before or since. The chair took effect on the luckless door; and as I threw
a flying glance behind me, I saw one leg sticking through the middle panel,
in a way that augured ill for my skull, had it been in the way of Mr.
O'Flynn's fury.

I ran home to Mackaye in a state of intense self-glorification, and told
him the whole story. He chuckled, he crowed, he hugged me to his bosom.

"Leeze me o' ye! but I kenned ye were o' the true Norse blude after a'!

 "For a' that, an' a' that,
  A man's a man for a' that.

"Oh, but I hae expeckit it this month an' mare! Oh, but I prophesied it,
Johnnie!"

"Then why, in Heaven's name, did you introduce me to such a scoundrel?"

"I sent you to schule, lad, I sent you to schule. Ye wad na be ruled by me.
Ye tuk me for a puir doited auld misanthrope; an' I thocht to gie ye the
meat ye lusted after, an' fill ye wi' the fruit o' your ain desires. An'
noo that ye've gane doon in the fire o' temptation, an' conquered, here's
your reward standin' ready. Special prawvidences!--wha can doot them? I ha'
had mony--miracles I might ca' them, to see how they cam' just when I was
gaun daft wi' despair."

And then he told me that the editor of a popular journal, of the Howitt
and Eliza Cook school, had called on me that morning, and promised me work
enough, and pay enough, to meet all present difficulties.

I did indeed accept the curious coincidence, if not as a reward for an act
of straightforwardness, in which I saw no merit, at least as proof that the
upper powers had not altogether forgotten me. I found both the editor and
his periodical, as I should have wished them, temperate and sunny--somewhat
clap-trap and sentimental, perhaps, and afraid of speaking out, as all
parties are, but still willing to allow my fancy free range in light
fictions, descriptions of foreign countries, scraps of showy rose-pink
morality and such like; which, though they had no more power against the
raging mass of crime, misery, and discontent, around, than a peacock's
feather against a three-decker, still were all genial, graceful, kindly,
humanizing, and soothed my discontented and impatient heart in the work of
composition.




CHAPTER XXIV.

THE TOWNSMAN'S SERMON TO THE GOWNSMAN.


One morning in February, a few days after this explosion, I was on the
point of starting to go to the dean's house about that weary list of
subscribers, which seemed destined never to be filled up, when my cousin
George burst in upon me. He was in the highest good spirits at having just
taken a double first-class at Cambridge; and after my congratulations,
sincere and hearty enough, were over, he offered to accompany me to that
reverend gentleman's house.

He said in an off-hand way, that he had no particular business there, but
he thought it just as well to call on the dean and mention his success, in
case the old fellow should not have heard of it.

"For you see," he said, "I am a sort of _protege_, both on my own account
and on Lord Lynedale's--Ellerton, he is now--you know he is just married to
the dean's niece, Miss Staunton--and Ellerton's a capital fellow--promised
me a living as soon as I'm in priest's orders. So my cue is now," he went
on as we walked down the Strand together, "to get ordained as fast as ever
I can."

"But," I asked, "have you read much for ordination, or seen much of what a
clergyman's work should be?"

"Oh! as for that--you know it isn't one out of ten who's ever entered a
school, or a cottage even, except to light a cigar, before he goes into the
church: and as for the examination, that's all humbug; any man may cram it
all up in a month--and, thanks to King's College, I knew all I wanted to
know before I went to Cambridge. And I shall be three-and-twenty by Trinity
Sunday, and then in I go, neck or nothing. Only the confounded bore is,
that this Bishop of London won't give one a title--won't let any man into
his diocese, who has not been ordained two years; and so I shall be shoved
down into some poking little country-curacy, without a chance of making
play before the world, or getting myself known at all. Horrid bore! isn't
it?"

"I think," I said, "considering what London is just now, the bishop's
regulation seems to be one of the best specimens of episcopal wisdom that
I've heard of for some time."

"Great bore for me, though, all the same: for I must make a name, I
can tell you, if I intend to get on. A person must work like a horse,
now-a-days, to succeed at all; and Lynedale's a desperately particular
fellow, with all sorts of _outre_ notions about people's duties and
vocations and heaven knows what."

"Well," I said, "my dear cousin, and have you no high notions of a
clergyman's vocation? because we--I mean the working men--have. It's just
their high idea of what a clergyman should be, which makes them so furious
at clergymen for being what they are."

"It's a queer way of showing their respect to the priesthood," he answered,
"to do all they can to exterminate it."

"I dare say they are liable, like other men, to confound the thing with its
abuses; but if they hadn't some dim notion that the thing might be made a
good thing in itself, you may depend upon it they would not rave against
those abuses so fiercely." (The reader may see that I had not forgotten my
conversation with Miss Staunton.) "And," thought I to myself, "is it not
you, and such as you, who do so incorporate the abuses into the system,
that one really cannot tell which is which, and longs to shove the whole
thing aside as rotten to the core, and make a trial of something new?"

"Well, but," I said, again returning to the charge, for the subject was
altogether curious and interesting to me, "do you really believe the
doctrines of the Prayer-book, George?"

"Believe them!" he answered, in a tone of astonishment, "why not? I was
brought up a Churchman, whatever my parents were; I was always intended for
the ministry. I'd sign the Thirty-nine Articles now, against any man in
the three kingdoms: and as for all the proofs out of Scripture and Church
History, I've known them ever since I was sixteen--I'll get them all up
again in a week as fresh as ever."

"But," I rejoined, astonished in my turn at my cousin's notion of what
belief was, "have you any personal faith?--you know what I mean--I hate
using cant words--but inward experience of the truth of all these great
ideas, which, true or false, you will have to preach and teach? Would you
live by them, die for them, as a patriot would for his country, now?"

"My dear fellow, I don't know anything about all those Methodistical,
mystical, Calvinistical, inward experiences, and all that. I'm a Churchman,
remember, and a High Churchman, too; and the doctrine of the Church is,
that children are regenerated in holy baptism; and there's not the least
doubt, from the authority both of Scripture and the fathers, that that's
the--"

"For Heaven's sake," I said, "no polemical discussions! Whether you're
right or wrong, that's not what I'm talking about. What I want to know is
this:--you are going to teach people about God and Jesus Christ. Do you
delight in God? Do you love Jesus Christ? Never mind what I do, or think,
or believe. What do you do, George?"

"Well, my dear fellow, if you take things in that way, you know, of
course"--and he dropped his voice into that peculiar tone, by which all
sects seem to think they show their reverence; while to me, as to most
other working men, it never seemed anything but a symbol of the separation
and discrepancy between their daily thoughts and their religious ones--"of
course, we don't any of us think of these things half enough, and I'm sure
I wish I could be more earnest than I am; but I can only hope it will come
in time. The Church holds that there's a grace given in ordination; and
really--really, I do hope and wish to do my duty--indeed, one can't help
doing it; one is so pushed on by the immense competition for preferment; an
idle parson hasn't a chance now-a-days."

"But," I asked again, half-laughing, half-disgusted, "do you know what your
duty is?"

"Bless you, my good fellow, a man can't go wrong there. Carry out the
Church system; that's the thing--all laid down by rule and method. A man
has but to work out that--and it's the only one for the lower classes I'm
convinced."

"Strange," I said, "that they have from the first been so little of that
opinion, that every attempt to enforce it, for the last three hundred
years, has ended either in persecution or revolution."

"Ah! that was all those vile puritans' fault. They wouldn't give the Church
a chance of showing her powers."

"What! not when she had it all her own way, during the whole eighteenth
century?"

"Ah! but things are very different now. The clergy are awakened now to the
real beauty of the Catholic machinery; and you have no notion how much is
doing in church-building and schools, and societies of every sort and kind.
It is quite incredible what is being done now for the lower orders by the
Church."

"I believe," I said, "that the clergy are exceedingly improved; and I
believe, too, that the men to whom they owe all their improvement are the
Wesleys and Whitfields--in short, the very men whom they drove one by one
out of the Church, from persecution or disgust. And I do think it strange,
that if so much is doing for the lower classes, the working men, who form
the mass of the lower classes, are just those who scarcely feel the effects
of it; while the churches seem to be filled with children, and rich and
respectable, to the almost entire exclusion of the adult lower classes. A
strange religion this!" I went on, "and, to judge by its effects, a very
different one from that preached in Judea 1800 years ago, if we are to
believe the Gospel story."

"What on earth do you mean? Is not the Church of England the very purest
form of Apostolic Christianity?"

"It may be--and so may the other sects. But, somehow, in Judea, it was
the publicans and harlots who pressed into the kingdom of heaven; and it
was the common people who heard Christ gladly. Christianity, then, was a
movement in the hearts of the lower order. But now, my dear fellow, you
rich, who used to be told, in St. James's time, to weep and howl, have
turned the tables upon us poor. It is _you_ who are talking, all day long,
of converting _us_. Look at any place of worship you like, orthodox and
heretical.--Who fill the pews?--the outcast and the reprobate? No! the
Pharisees and the covetous, who used to deride Christ, fill His churches,
and say still, 'This people, these masses, who know not the Gospel are
accursed.' And the universal feeling, as far as I can judge, seems to be,
not 'how hardly shall they who have,' but how hardly shall they who have
_not_, 'riches, enter into the kingdom of heaven!'"

"Upon my word," said he, laughing, "I did not give you credit for so much
eloquence: you seem to have studied the Bible to some purpose, too. I
didn't think that so much Radicalism could be squeezed out of a few texts
of Scripture. It's quite a new light to me. I'll just mark that card, and
play it when I get a convenient opportunity. It may be a winning one in
these democratic times."

And he did play it, as I heard hereafter; but at present he seemed to
think that the less that was said further on clerical subjects the better,
and commenced quizzing the people whom we passed, humorously and neatly
enough; while I walked on in silence, and thought of Mr. Bye-Ends, in the
"Pilgrim's Progress." And yet I believe the man was really in earnest. He
was really desirous to do what was right, as far as he knew it; and all
the more desirous, because he saw, in the present state of society, what
was right would pay him. God shall judge him, not I. Who can unravel the
confusion of mingled selfishness and devotion that exists even in his own
heart, much less in that of another?

The dean was not at home that day, having left town on business. George
nodded familiarly to the footman who opened the door.

"You'll mind and send me word the moment your master comes home--mind now!"

The fellow promised obedience, and we walked away.

"You seem to be very intimate here," said I, "with all parties?"

"Oh! footmen are useful animals--a half-sovereign now and then is not
altogether thrown away upon them. But as for the higher powers, it is very
easy to make oneself at home in the dean's study, but not so much so as
to get a footing in the drawing-room above. I suspect he keeps a precious
sharp eye upon the fair Miss Lillian."

"But," I asked, as a jealous pang shot through my heart, "how did you
contrive to get this same footing at all? When I met you at Cambridge, you
seemed already well acquainted with these people."

"How?--how does a hound get a footing on a cold scent? By working and
casting about and about, and drawing on it inch by inch, as I drew on them
for years, my boy; and cold enough the scent was. You recollect that day
at the Dulwich Gallery? I tried to see the arms on the carriage, but there
were none; so that cock wouldn't fight."

"The arms! I should never have thought of such a plan."

"Dare say you wouldn't. Then I harked back to the doorkeeper, while you
were St. Sebastianizing. He didn't know their names, or didn't choose to
show me their ticket, on which it ought to have been; so I went to one of
the fellows whom I knew, and got him to find out. There comes out the value
of money--for money makes acquaintances. Well, I found who they were.--Then
I saw no chance of getting at them. But for the rest of that year at
Cambridge, I beat every bush in the university, to find some one who
knew them; and as fortune favours the brave, at last I hit off this Lord
Lynedale; and he, of course, was the ace of trumps--a fine catch in
himself, and a double catch because he was going to marry the cousin. So I
made a dead set at him; and tight work I had to nab him, I can tell you,
for he was three or four years older than I, and had travelled a good deal,
and seen life. But every man has his weak side; and I found his was a sort
of a High-Church Radicalism, and that suited me well enough, for I was
always a deuce of a radical myself; so I stuck to him like a leech, and
stood all his temper, and his pride, and those unpractical, windy visions
of his, that made a common-sense fellow like me sick to listen to; but I
stood it, and here I am."

"And what on earth induced you to stoop to all this--" meanness I was on
the point of saying. "Surely you are in no want of money--your father could
buy you a good living to-morrow."

"And he will, but not the one I want; and he could not buy me reputation,
power, rank, do you see, Alton, my genius? And what's more, he couldn't buy
me a certain little tit-bit, a jewel, worth a Jew's eye and a half, Alton,
that I set my heart on from the first moment I set my eye on it."

My heart beat fast and fierce, but he ran on--

"Do you think I'd have eaten all this dirt if it hadn't lain in my way to
her? Eat dirt! I'd drink blood, Alton--though I don't often deal in strong
words--if it lay in that road. I never set my heart on a thing yet, that
I didn't get it at last by fair means or foul--and I'll get her! I don't
care for her money, though that's a pretty plum. Upon my life, I don't. I
worship her, limbs and eyes. I worship the very ground she treads on. She's
a duck and a darling," said he, smacking his lips like an Ogre over his
prey, "and I'll have her before I've done, so help me--"

"Whom do you mean?" I stammered out.

"Lillian, you blind beetle."

I dropped his arm--"Never, as I live!"

He started back, and burst into a horse-laugh.

"Hullo! my eye and Betty Martin! You don't mean to say that I have the
honour of finding a rival in my talented cousin?"

I made no answer.

"Come, come, my dear fellow, this is too ridiculous. You and I are very
good friends, and we may help each other, if we choose, like kith and kin
in this here wale. So if you're fool enough to quarrel with me, I warn you
I'm not fool enough to return the compliment. Only" (lowering his voice),
"just bear one little thing in mind--that I am, unfortunately, of a
somewhat determined humour; and if folks will get in my way, why it's not
my fault if I drive over them. You understand? Well, if you intend to be
sulky, I don't. So good morning, till you feel yourself better."

And he turned gaily down a side-street and disappeared, looking taller,
handsomer, manfuller than ever.

I returned home miserable; I now saw in my cousin not merely a rival, but a
tyrant; and I began to hate him with that bitterness which fear alone can
inspire. The eleven pounds still remained unpaid. Between three and four
pounds was the utmost which I had been able to hoard up that autumn, by
dint of scribbling and stinting; there was no chance of profit from my book
for months to come--if indeed it ever got published, which I hardly dare
believe it would; and I knew him too well to doubt that neither pity nor
delicacy would restrain him from using his power over me, if I dared even
to seem an obstacle in his way.

I tried to write, but could not. I found it impossible to direct my
thoughts, even to sit still; a vague spectre of terror and degradation
crushed me. Day after day I sat over the fire, and jumped up and went into
the shop, to find something which I did not want, and peep listlessly into
a dozen books, one after the other, and then wander back again to the
fireside, to sit mooning and moping, starting at that horrible incubus of
debt--a devil which may give mad strength to the strong, but only paralyses
the weak. And I was weak, as every poet is, more or less. There was in me,
as I have somewhere read that there is in all poets, that feminine vein--a
receptive as well as a creative faculty--which kept up in me a continual
thirst after beauty, rest, enjoyment. And here was circumstance after
circumstance goading me onward, as the gadfly did Io, to continual
wanderings, never ceasing exertions; every hour calling on me to do, while
I was only longing to be--to sit and observe, and fancy, and build freely
at my own will. And then--as if this necessity of perpetual petty exertion
was not in itself sufficient torment--to have that accursed debt--that
knowledge that I was in a rival's power, rising up like a black wall before
me, to cripple, and render hopeless, for aught I knew, the very exertions
to which it compelled me! I hated the bustle--the crowds; the ceaseless
roar of the street outside maddened me. I longed in vain for peace--for one
day's freedom--to be one hour a shepherd-boy, and lie looking up at the
blue sky, without a thought beyond the rushes that I was plaiting! "Oh!
that I had wings as a dove!--then would I flee away, and be at rest!"--

And then, more than once or twice either, the thoughts of suicide crossed
me; and I turned it over, and looked at it, and dallied with it, as a last
chance in reserve. And then the thought of Lillian came, and drove away
the fiend. And then the thought of my cousin came, and paralysed me again;
for it told me that one hope was impossible. And then some fresh instance
of misery or oppression forced itself upon me, and made me feel the awful
sacredness of my calling, as a champion of the poor, and the base cowardice
of deserting them for any selfish love of rest. And then I recollected how
I had betrayed my suffering brothers.--How, for the sake of vanity and
patronage, I had consented to hide the truth about their rights--their
wrongs. And so on through weary weeks of moping melancholy--"a
double-minded man, unstable in all his ways?"

At last, Mackaye, who, as I found afterwards, had been watching all along
my altered mood, contrived to worm my secret out of me. I had dreaded, that
whole autumn, having to tell him the truth, because I knew that his first
impulse would be to pay the money instantly out of his own pocket; and my
pride, as well as my sense of justice, revolted at that, and sealed my
lips. But now this fresh discovery--the knowledge that it was not only in
my cousin's power to crush me, but also his interest to do so--had utterly
unmanned me; and after a little innocent and fruitless prevarication, out
came the truth with tears of bitter shame.

The old man pursed up his lips, and, without answering me, opened his table
drawer, and commenced fumbling among accounts and papers.

"No! no! no! best, noblest of friends! I will not burden you with the
fruits of my own vanity and extravagance. I will starve, go to gaol sooner
than take your money. If you offer it me I will leave the house, bag and
baggage, this moment." And I rose to put my threat into execution.

"I havena at present ony sic intention," answered he, deliberately, "seeing
that there's na necessity for paying debits twice owre, when ye ha' the
stampt receipt for them." And he put into my hands, to my astonishment and
rapture, a receipt in full for the money, signed by my cousin.

Not daring to believe my own eyes, I turned it over and over, looked at
it, looked at him--there was nothing but clear, smiling assurance in his
beloved old face, as he twinkled, and winked, and chuckled, and pulled
off his spectacles, and wiped them, and put them on upside-down; and then
relieved himself by rushing at his pipe, and cramming it fiercely with
tobacco till he burst the bowl.

Yes; it was no dream!--the money was paid, and I was free! The sudden
relief was as intolerable as the long burden had been; and, like a prisoner
suddenly loosed from off the rack, my whole spirit seemed suddenly to
collapse, and I sank with my head upon the table to faint even for
gratitude.

       *       *       *       *       *

But who was my benefactor? Mackaye vouchsafed no answer, but that I "suld
ken better than he." But when he found that I was really utterly at a
loss to whom to attribute the mercy, he assured me, by way of comfort,
that he was just as ignorant as myself; and at last, piecemeal, in his
circumlocutory and cautious Scotch method, informed me, that some six weeks
back he had received an anonymous letter, "a'thegither o' a Belgravian cast
o' phizog," containing a bank note for twenty pounds, and setting forth the
writer's suspicions that I owed my cousin money, and their desire that Mr.
Mackaye, "o' whose uprightness and generosity they were pleased to confess
themselves no that ignorant," should write to George, ascertain the sum,
and pay it without my knowledge, handing over the balance, if any, to me,
when he thought fit--"Sae there's the remnant--aucht pounds, sax shillings,
an' saxpence; tippence being deduckit for expense o' twa letters anent the
same transaction."

"But what sort of handwriting was it?" asked I, almost disregarding the
welcome coin.

"Ou, then--aiblins a man's, aiblins a maid's. He was no chirographosophic
himsel--an' he had na curiosity anent ony sic passage o' aristocratic
romance."

"But what was the postmark of the letter?"

"Why for suld I speired? Gin the writers had been minded to be beknown,
they'd ha' sign't their names upon the document. An' gin they didna sae
intend, wad it be coorteous o' me to gang speiring an' peering ower covers
an' seals?"

"But where is the cover?"

"Ou, then," he went on, with the same provoking coolness, "white paper's o'
geyan use, in various operations o' the domestic economy. Sae I just tare
it up--aiblins for pipe-lights--I canna mind at this time."

"And why," asked I, more vexed and disappointed than I liked to
confess--"why did you not tell me before?"

"How wad I ken that you had need o't? An' verily, I thocht it no that bad
a lesson for ye, to let ye experiment a towmond mair on the precious balms
that break the head--whereby I opine the Psalmist was minded to denote the
delights o' spending borrowed siller."

There was nothing more to be extracted from him; so I was fain to set to
work again (a pleasant compulsion truly) with a free heart, eight pounds in
my pocket, and a brainful of conjectures. Was it the dean? Lord Lynedale?
or was it--could it be--Lillian herself? That thought was so delicious
that I made up my mind, as I had free choice among half a dozen equally
improbable fancies, to determine that the most pleasant should be the true
one; and hoarded the money, which I shrunk from spending as much as I
should from selling her miniature or a lock of her beloved golden hair.
They were a gift from her--a pledge--the first fruits of--I dare not
confess to myself what.

Whereat the reader will smile, and say, not without reason, that I was fast
fitting myself for Bedlam; if, indeed, I had not proved my fitness for it
already, by paying the tailors' debts, instead of my own, with the ten
pounds which Farmer Porter had given me. I am not sure that he would not be
correct; but so I did, and so I suffered.




CHAPTER XXV.

A TRUE NOBLEMAN.


At last my list of subscribers was completed, and my poems actually in
the press. Oh! the childish joy with which I fondled my first set of
proofs! And how much finer the words looked in print than they ever
did in manuscript!--One took in the idea of a whole page so charmingly
at a glance, instead of having to feel one's way through line after
line, and sentence after sentence.--There was only one drawback to my
happiness--Mackaye did not seem to sympathize with it. He had never
grumbled at what I considered, and still do consider, my cardinal offence,
the omission of the strong political passages; he seemed, on the contrary,
in his inexplicable waywardness, to be rather pleased at it than otherwise.
It was my publishing at all at which he growled.

"Ech," he said, "owre young to marry, is owre young to write; but it's the
way o' these puir distractit times. Nae chick can find a grain o' corn, but
oot he rins cackling wi' the shell on his head, to tell it to a' the warld,
as if there was never barley grown on the face o' the earth before. I
wonder whether Isaiah began to write before his beard was grown, or Dawvid
either? He had mony a long year o' shepherding an' moss-trooping, an'
rugging an' riving i' the wilderness, I'll warrant, afore he got thae gran'
lyrics o' his oot o' him. Ye might tak example too, gin ye were minded, by
Moses, the man o' God, that was joost forty years at the learning o' the
Egyptians, afore he thocht gude to come forward into public life, an'
then fun' to his gran' surprise, I warrant, that he'd begun forty years
too sune--an' then had forty years mair, after that, o' marching an'
law-giving, an' bearing the burdens o' the people, before he turned poet."

"Poet, sir! I never saw Moses in that light before."

"Then ye'll just read the 90th Psalm--'the prayer o' Moses, the man o'
God'--the grandest piece o' lyric, to my taste, that I ever heard o' on the
face o' God's earth, an' see what a man can write that'll have the patience
to wait a century or twa before he rins to the publisher's. I gie ye up
fra' this moment; the letting out o' ink is like the letting out o' waters,
or the eating o' opium, or the getting up at public meetings.--When a man
begins he canna stop. There's nae mair enslaving lust o' the flesh under
the heaven than that same _furor scribendi_, as the Latins hae it."

But at last my poems were printed, and bound, and actually published, and
I sat staring at a book of my own making, and wondering how it ever got
into being! And what was more, the book "took," and sold, and was reviewed
in People's journals, and in newspapers; and Mackaye himself relaxed
into a grin, when his oracle, the _Spectator_, the only honest paper,
according to him, on the face of the earth, condescended, after asserting
its impartiality by two or three searching sarcasms, to dismiss me,
grimly-benignant, with a paternal pat on the shoulder. Yes--I was a real
live author at last, and signed myself, by special request, in the * * * *
Magazine, as "the author of Songs of the Highways." At last it struck me,
and Mackaye too, who, however he hated flunkeydom, never overlooked an act
of discourtesy, that it would be right for me to call upon the dean, and
thank him formally for all the real kindness he had shown me. So I went to
the handsome house off Harley-street, and was shown into his study, and saw
my own book lying on the table, and was welcomed by the good old man, and
congratulated on my success, and asked if I did not see my own wisdom in
"yielding to more experienced opinions than my own, and submitting to a
censorship which, however severe it might have appeared at first, was, as
the event proved, benignant both in its intentions and effects?"

And then I was asked, even I, to breakfast there the next morning. And I
went, and found no one there but some scientific gentlemen, to whom I was
introduced as "the young man whose poems we were talking of last night."
And Lillian sat at the head of the table, and poured out the coffee and
tea. And between ecstasy at seeing her, and the intense relief of not
finding my dreaded and now hated cousin there, I sat in a delirium of
silent joy, stealing glances at her beauty, and listening with all my ears
to the conversation, which turned upon the new-married couple.

I heard endless praises, to which I could not but assent in silence, of
Lord Ellerton's perfections. His very personal appearance had been enough
to captivate my fancy; and then they went on to talk of his magnificent
philanthropic schemes, and his deep sense, of the high duties of a
landlord; and how, finding himself, at his father's death, the possessor of
two vast but neglected estates, he had sold one in order to be able to do
justice to the other, instead of laying house to house, and field to field,
like most of his compeers, "till he stood alone in the land, and there was
no place left;" and how he had lowered his rents, even though it had forced
him to put down the ancestral pack of hounds, and live in a corner of the
old castle; and how he was draining, claying, breaking up old moorlands,
and building churches, and endowing schools, and improving cottages;
and how he was expelling the old ignorant bankrupt race of farmers, and
advertising everywhere for men of capital, and science, and character, who
would have courage to cultivate flax and silk, and try every species of
experiment; and how he had one scientific farmer after another, staying in
his house as a friend; and how he had numbers of his books rebound in plain
covers, that he might lend them to every one on his estate who wished to
read them; and how he had thrown open his picture gallery, not only to the
inhabitants of the neighbouring town, but what (strange to say) seemed to
strike the party as still more remarkable, to the labourers of his own
village; and how he was at that moment busy transforming an old unoccupied
manor-house into a great associate farm, in which all the labourers were
to live under one roof, with a common kitchen and dining-hall, clerks and
superintendents, whom they were to choose, subject only to his approval,
and all of them, from the least to the greatest, have their own interest
in the farm, and be paid by percentage on the profits; and how he had one
of the first political economists of the day staying with him, in order to
work out for him tables of proportionate remuneration, applicable to such
an agricultural establishment; and how, too, he was giving the spade-labour
system a fair-trial, by laying out small cottage-farms, on rocky knolls and
sides of glens, too steep to be cultivated by the plough; and was locating
on them the most intelligent artisans whom he could draft from the
manufacturing town hard by--

And at that notion, my brain grew giddy with the hope of seeing myself one
day in one of those same cottages, tilling the earth, under God's sky, and
perhaps--. And then a whole cloud-world of love, freedom, fame, simple,
graceful country luxury steamed up across my brain, to end--not, like the
man's in the "Arabian Nights," in my kicking over the tray of China, which
formed the base-point of my inverted pyramid of hope--but in my finding the
contents of my plate deposited in my lap, while I was gazing fixedly at
Lillian.

I must say for myself, though, that such accidents happened seldom; whether
it was bashfulness, or the tact which generally, I believe, accompanies
a weak and nervous body, and an active mind; or whether it was that I
possessed enough relationship to the monkey-tribe to make me a first-rate
mimic, I used to get tolerably well through on these occasions, by acting
on the golden rule of never doing anything which I had not seen some one
else do first--a rule which never brought me into any greater scrape than
swallowing something intolerably hot, sour, and nasty (whereof I never
discovered the name), because I had seen the dean do so a moment before.

But one thing struck me through the whole of this conversation--the way in
which the new-married Lady Ellerton was spoken of, as aiding, encouraging,
originating--a helpmeet, if not an oracular guide, for her husband--in all
these noble plans. She had already acquainted herself with every woman on
the estate; she was the dispenser, not merely of alms--for those seemed a
disagreeable necessity, from which Lord Ellerton was anxious to escape as
soon as possible--but of advice, comfort, and encouragement. She not only
visited the sick, and taught in the schools--avocations which, thank God,
I have reason to believe are matters of course, not only in the families
of clergymen, but those of most squires and noblemen, when they reside on
their estates--but seemed, from the hints which I gathered, to be utterly
devoted, body and soul, to the welfare of the dwellers on her husband's
land.

"I had no notion," I dared at last to remark, humbly enough, "that
Miss--Lady Ellerton cared so much for the people."

"Really! One feels inclined sometimes to wish that she cared for anything
beside them," said Lillian, half to her father and half to me.

This gave a fresh shake to my estimate of that remarkable woman's
character. But still, who could be prouder, more imperious, more abrupt in
manner, harsh, even to the very verge of good-breeding? (for I had learnt
what good-breeding was, from the debating society as well as from the
drawing-room;) and, above all, had she not tried to keep me from Lillian?
But these cloudy thoughts melted rapidly away in that sunny atmosphere of
success and happiness, and I went home as merry as a bird, and wrote all
the morning more gracefully and sportively, as I fancied, than I had ever
yet done.

But my bliss did not end here. In a week or so, behold one morning a
note--written, indeed, by the dean--but directed in Lillian's own hand,
inviting me to come there to tea, that I might see a few, of the literary
characters of the day.

I covered the envelope with kisses, and thrust it next my fluttering heart.
I then proudly showed the note to Mackaye. He looked pleased, yet pensive,
and then broke out with a fresh adaptation of his favourite song,

  --and shovel hats and a' that--
  A man's a man for a' that.

"The auld gentleman is a man and a gentleman; an' has made a verra
courteous, an' weel considerit move, gin ye ha' the sense to profit by it,
an' no turn it to yer ain destruction."

"Destruction?"

"Ay--that's the word, an' nothing less, laddie!"

And he went into the outer shop, and returned with a volume of Bulwer's
"Ernest Maltravers."

"What! are you a novel reader, Mr. Mackaye?"

"How do ye ken what I may ha' thocht gude to read in my time? Yell be
pleased the noo to sit down an' begin at that page--an read, mark, learn,
an' inwardly digest, the history of Castruccio Cesarini--an' the gude God
gie ye grace to lay the same to heart."

I read that fearful story; and my heart sunk, and my eyes were full of
tears, long ere I had finished it. Suddenly I looked up at Mackaye, half
angry at the pointed allusion to my own case.

The old man was watching me intently, with folded hands, and a smile of
solemn interest and affection worthy of Socrates himself. He turned his
head as I looked up, but his lips kept moving. I fancied, I know not why,
that he was praying for me.




CHAPTER XXVI.

THE TRIUMPHANT AUTHOR.


So to the party I went, and had the delight of seeing and hearing the men
with whose names I had been long acquainted, as the leaders of scientific
discovery in this wondrous age; and more than one poet, too, over whose
works I had gloated, whom I had worshipped in secret. Intense was the
pleasure of now realizing to myself, as living men, wearing the same flesh
and blood as myself, the names which had been to me mythic ideas. Lillian
was there among them, more exquisite than ever; but even she at first
attracted my eyes and thoughts less than did the truly great men around
her. I hung on every word they spoke, I watched every gesture, as if they
must have some deep significance; the very way in which they drank their
coffee was a matter of interest to me. I was almost disappointed to see
them eat and chat like common men. I expected that pearls and diamonds
would drop from their lips, as they did from those of the girl, in the
fairy-tale, every time they opened their mouths; and certainly, the
conversation that evening was a new world to me--though I could only, of
course, be a listener. Indeed, I wished to be nothing more. I felt that
I was taking my place there among the holy guild of authors--that I too,
however humbly, had a thing to say, and had said it; and I was content to
sit on the lowest step of the literary temple, without envy for those elder
and more practised priests of wisdom, who had earned by long labour the
freedom of the inner shrine. I should have been quite happy enough standing
there, looking and listening--but I was at last forced to come forward.
Lillian was busy chatting with grave, grey-headed men, who seemed as ready
to flirt, and pet and admire the lovely little fairy, as if they had been
as young and gay as herself. It was enough for me to see her appreciated
and admired. I loved them for smiling on her, for handing her from her seat
to the piano with reverent courtesy: gladly would I have taken their place:
I was content, however, to be only a spectator; for it was not my rank, but
my youth, I was glad to fancy, which denied me that blissful honour. But
as she sang, I could not help stealing up to the piano; and, feasting my
greedy eyes with every motion of those delicious lips, listen and listen,
entranced, and living only in that melody.

Suddenly, after singing two or three songs, she began fingering the keys,
and struck into an old air, wild and plaintive, rising and falling like the
swell of an AEolian harp upon a distant breeze.

"Ah! now," she said, "if I could get words for that! What an exquisite
lament somebody might write to it, if they could only thoroughly take in
the feeling and meaning of it."

"Perhaps," I said, humbly, "that is the only way to write songs--to let
some air get possession of ones whole soul, and gradually inspire the words
for itself; as the old Hebrew prophets had music played before them, to
wake up the prophetic spirit within them."

She looked up, just as if she had been unconscious of my presence till that
moment.

"Ah! Mr. Locke!--well, if you understand my meaning so thoroughly, perhaps
you will try and write some words for me."

"I am afraid that I do not enter sufficiently into the meaning of the air."

"Oh! then, listen while I play it over again. I am sure _you_ ought to
appreciate anything so sad and tender."

And she did play it, to my delight, over again, even more gracefully and
carefully than before--making the inarticulate sounds speak a mysterious
train of thoughts and emotions. It is strange how little real intellect, in
women especially, is required for an exquisite appreciation of the beauties
of music--perhaps, because it appeals to the heart and not the head.

She rose and left the piano, saying archly, "Now, don't forget your
promise;" and I, poor fool, my sunlight suddenly withdrawn, began torturing
my brains on the instant to think of a subject.

As it happened, my attention was caught by hearing two gentlemen close to
me discuss a beautiful sketch by Copley Fielding, if I recollect rightly,
which hung on the wall--a wild waste of tidal sands, with here and there a
line of stake-nets fluttering in the wind--a grey shroud of rain sweeping
up from the westward, through which low red cliffs glowed dimly in the rays
of the setting sun--a train of horses and cattle splashing slowly through
shallow desolate pools and creeks, their wet, red, and black hides
glittering in one long line of level light.

They seemed thoroughly conversant with art; and as I listened to their
criticisms, I learnt more in five minutes about the characteristics of
a really true and good picture, and about the perfection to which our
unrivalled English landscape-painters have attained, than I ever did from
all the books and criticisms which I had read. One of them had seen the
spot represented, at the mouth of the Dee, and began telling wild stories
of salmon-fishing, and wildfowl shooting--and then a tale of a girl, who,
in bringing her father's cattle home across the sands, had been caught by
a sudden flow of the tide, and found next day a corpse hanging among the
stake-nets far below. The tragedy, the art of the picture, the simple,
dreary grandeur of the scenery, took possession of me; and I stood gazing
a long time, and fancying myself pacing the sands, and wondering whether
there were shells upon it--I had often longed for once only in my life to
pick up shells--when Lady Ellerton, whom I had not before noticed, woke me
from my reverie.

I took the liberty of asking after Lord Ellerton.

"He is not in town--he has stayed behind for one day to attend a great
meeting of his tenantry--you will see the account in the papers to-morrow
morning--he comes to-morrow." And as she spoke her whole face and figure
seemed to glow and heave, in spite of herself, with pride and affection.

"And now, come with me, Mr. Locke--the * * * ambassador wishes to speak to
you."

"The * * * ambassador!" I said, startled; for let us be as democratic as we
will, there is something in the name of great officers which awes, perhaps
rightly, for the moment, and it requires a strong act of self-possession
to recollect that "a man's a man for a' that." Besides, I knew enough of
the great man in question to stand in awe of him for his own sake, having
lately read a panegyric of him, which perfectly astounded me, by its
description of his piety and virtue, his family affection, and patriarchal
simplicity, the liberality and philanthropy of all his measures, and the
enormous intellectual powers, and stores of learning, which enabled him,
with the affairs of Europe on his shoulders, to write deeply and originally
on the most abstruse questions of theology, history, and science.

Lady Ellerton seemed to guess my thoughts. "You need not be afraid of
meeting an aristocrat, in the vulgar sense of the word. You will see one
who, once perhaps as unknown as yourself, has risen by virtue and wisdom to
guide the destinies of nations--and shall I tell you how? Not by fawning
and yielding to the fancies of the great; not by compromising his own
convictions to suit their prejudices--"

I felt the rebuke, but she went on--

"He owes his greatness to having dared, one evening, to contradict a
crown-prince to his face, and fairly conquer him in argument, and thereby
bind the truly royal heart to him for ever."

"There are few scions of royalty to whose favour that would be a likely
path."

"True; and therefore the greater honour is due to the young student who
could contradict, and the prince who could be contradicted."

By this time we had arrived in the great man's presence; he was sitting
with a little circle round him, in the further drawing-room, and certainly
I never saw a nobler specimen of humanity. I felt myself at once before a
hero--not of war and bloodshed, but of peace and civilization; his portly
and ample figure, fair hair and delicate complexion, and, above all,
the benignant calm of his countenance, told of a character gentle and
genial--at peace with himself and all the world; while the exquisite
proportion of his chiselled and classic features, the lofty and ample
brain, and the keen, thoughtful eye, bespoke, at the first glance,
refinement and wisdom--

  The reason firm, the temperate will--
  Endurance, foresight, strength, and skill.

I am not ashamed to say, Chartist as I am, that I felt inclined to fall
upon my knees, and own a master of God's own making.

He received my beautiful guide with a look of chivalrous affection, which
I observed that she returned with interest; and then spoke in a voice
peculiarly bland and melodious:

"So, my dear lady, this is the _protege_ of whom you have so often spoken?"

So she had often spoken of me! Blind fool that I was, I only took it in as
food for my own self-conceit, that my enemy (for so I actually fancied her)
could not help praising me.

"I have read your little book, sir," he said, in the same soft, benignant
voice, "with very great pleasure. It is another proof, if I required any,
of the under-current of living and healthful thought which exists even in
the less-known ranks of your great nation. I shall send it to some young
friends of mine in Germany, to show them that Englishmen can feel acutely
and speak boldly on the social evils of their country, without indulging
in that frantic and bitter revolutionary spirit, which warps so many young
minds among us. You understand the German language at all?"

I had not that honour.

"Well, you must learn it. We have much to teach you in the sphere of
abstract thought, as you have much to teach us in those of the practical
reason and the knowledge of mankind. I should be glad to see you some
day in a German university. I am anxious to encourage a truly spiritual
fraternization between the two great branches of the Teutonic stock, by
welcoming all brave young English spirits to their ancient fatherland.
Perhaps hereafter your kind friends here will be able to lend you to me.
The means are easy, thank God! You will find in the Germans true brothers,
in ways even more practical than sympathy and affection."

I could not but thank the great man, with many blushes, and went home that
night utterly _"tete montee,"_ as I believe the French phrase is--beside
myself with gratified vanity and love; to lie sleepless under a severe fit
of asthma--sent perhaps as a wholesome chastisement to cool my excited
spirits down to something like a rational pitch. As I lay castle-building,
Lillian's wild air rang still in my ears, and combined itself somehow with
that picture of the Cheshire sands, and the story of the drowned girl,
till it shaped itself into a song, which, as it is yet unpublished, and
as I have hitherto obtruded little or nothing of my own composition on my
readers, I may be excused for inserting it here.

  I.

  "O Mary, go and call the cattle home,
      And call the cattle home,
      And call the cattle home,
    Across the sands o' Dee;"
  The western wind was wild and dank wi' foam,
    And all alone went she.

  II.

  The creeping tide came up along the sand,
      And o'er and o'er the sand,
      And round and round the sand,
    As far as eye could see;
  The blinding mist came down and hid the land--
    And never home came she.

  III.

  "Oh, is it weed, or fish, or floating hair--
      A tress o' golden hair,
      O' drowned maiden's hair,
    Above the nets at sea?
  Was never salmon yet that shone so fair,
    Among the stakes on Dee."

  IV.

  They rowed her in across the rolling foam,
      The cruel crawling foam,
      The cruel hungry foam,
    To her grave beside the sea:
  But still the boatmen hear her call the cattle home,
    Across the sands o' Dee.

There--let it go!--it was meant as an offering for one whom it never
reached.

About mid-day I took my way towards the dean's house, to thank him for
his hospitality--and, I need not say, to present my offering at my idol's
shrine; and as I went, I conned over a dozen complimentary speeches about
Lord Ellerton's wisdom, liberality, eloquence--but behold! the shutters of
the house were closed. What could be the matter? It was full ten minutes
before the door was opened; and then, at last, an old woman, her eyes
red with weeping, made her appearance. My thoughts flew instantly to
Lillian--something must have befallen her. I gasped out her name first, and
then, recollecting myself, asked for the dean.

"They had all left town that morning,"

"Miss--Miss Winnstay--is she ill?"

"No."

"Thank God!" I breathed freely again. What matter what happened to all the
world beside?

"Ay, thank God, indeed; but poor Lord Ellerton was thrown from his horse
last night and brought home dead. A messenger came here by six this
morning, and they're all gone off to * * * *. Her ladyship's raving
mad.--And no wonder." And she burst out crying afresh, and shut the door in
my face.

Lord Ellerton dead! and Lillian gone too! Something whispered that I should
have cause to remember that day. My heart sunk within me. When should I see
her again?

That day was the 1st of June, 1845. On the 10th of April, 1848, I saw
Lillian Winnstay again. Dare I write my history between those two points of
time? Yes, even that must be done, for the sake of the rich who read, and
the poor who suffer.




CHAPTER XXVII.

THE PLUSH BREECHES TRAGEDY.


My triumph had received a cruel check enough when just at its height, and
more were appointed to follow. Behold! some two days after, another--all
the more bitter, because my conscience whispered that it was not altogether
undeserved. The people's press had been hitherto praising and petting me
lovingly enough. I had been classed (and heaven knows that the comparison
was dearer to me than all the applause of the wealthy) with the Corn-Law
Rhymer, and the author of the "Purgatory of Suicides." My class had claimed
my talents as their own--another "voice fresh from the heart of nature,"
another "untutored songster of the wilderness," another "prophet arisen
among the suffering millions,"--when, one day, behold in Mr. O'Flynn's
paper a long and fierce attack on me, my poems, my early history! How he
could have got at some of the facts there mentioned, how he could have
dared to inform his readers that I had broken my mother's heart by my
misconduct, I cannot conceive; unless my worthy brother-in-law, the Baptist
preacher, had been kind enough to furnish him with the materials. But
however that may be, he showed me no mercy. I was suddenly discovered to be
a time-server, a spy, a concealed aristocrat. Such paltry talent as I had,
I had prostituted for the sake of fame. I had deserted The People's Cause
for filthy lucre--an allurement which Mr. O'Flynn had always treated with
withering scorn--_in print_. Nay, more, I would write, and notoriously did
write, in any paper, Whig, Tory, or Radical, where I could earn a shilling
by an enormous gooseberry, or a scrap of private slander. And the working
men were solemnly warned to beware of me and my writings, till the editor
had further investigated certain ugly facts in my history, which he would
in due time report to his patriotic and enlightened readers.

All this stung me in the most sensitive nerve of my whole heart, for I
knew that I could not altogether exculpate myself; and to that miserable
certainty was added the dread of some fresh exposure. Had he actually heard
of the omissions in my poems?--and if he once touched on that subject,
what could I answer? Oh! how bitterly now I felt the force of the critic's
careless lash! The awful responsibility of those written words, which
we bandy about so thoughtlessly! How I recollected now, with shame and
remorse, all the hasty and cruel utterances to which I, too, had given
vent against those who had dared to differ from me; the harsh, one-sided
judgments, the reckless imputations of motive, the bitter sneers,
"rejoicing in evil rather than in the truth." How I, too, had longed to
prove my victims in the wrong, and turned away, not only lazily, but
angrily, from many an exculpatory fact! And here was my Nemesis come at
last. As I had done unto others, so it was done unto me!

It was right that it should be so. However indignant, mad, almost
murderous, I felt at the time, I thank God for it now. It is good to be
punished in kind. It is good to be made to feel what we have made others
feel. It is good--anything is good, however bitter, which shows us that
there is such a law as retribution; that we are not the sport of blind
chance or a triumphant fiend, but that there is a God who judges the
earth--righteous to repay every man according to his works.

But at the moment I had no such ray of comfort--and, full of rage and
shame, I dashed the paper down before Mackaye. "How shall I answer him?
What shall I say?"

The old man read it all through, with a grim saturnine smile.

"Hoolie, hoolie, speech, is o' silver--silence is o' gold says Thomas
Carlyle, anent this an' ither matters. Wha'd be fashed wi' sic blethers?
Ye'll just abide patient, and haud still in the Lord, until this tyranny be
owerpast. Commit your cause to him, said the auld Psalmist, an' he'll mak
your righteousness as clear as the light, an' your just dealing as the
noonday."

"But I must explain; I owe it as a duty to myself; I must refute these
charges; I must justify myself to our friends."

"Can ye do that same, laddie?" asked he, with one of his quaint, searching
looks. Somehow I blushed, and could not altogether meet his eye, while he
went on, "--An' gin ye could, whaur would ye do 't? I ken na periodical
whar the editor will gie ye a clear stage an' no favour to bang him ower
the lugs."

"Then I will try some other paper."

"An' what for then? They that read him, winna read the ither; an' they that
read the ither, winna read him. He has his ain set o' dupes like every
ither editor; an' ye mun let him gang his gate, an' feed his ain kye with
his ain hay. He'll no change it for your bidding."

"What an abominable thing this whole business of the press is then, if each
editor is to be allowed to humbug his readers at his pleasure, without a
possibility of exposing or contradicting him!"

"An' ye've just spoken the truth, laddie. There's na mair accursed
inquisition, than this of thae self-elected popes, the editors. That
puir auld Roman ane, ye can bring him forat when ye list, bad as he
is. 'Faenum habet in cornu;' his name's ower his shop-door. But these
anonymies--priests o' the order of Melchisedec by the deevil's side,
without father or mither, beginning o' years nor end o' days--without a
local habitation or a name-as kittle to baud as a brock in a cairn--"

"What do you mean, Mr. Mackaye?" asked I, for he was getting altogether
unintelligibly Scotch, as was his custom when excited.

"Ou, I forgot; ye're a puir Southern body, an' no sensible to the
gran' metaphoric powers o' the true Dawric. But it's an accursit state
a'thegither, the noo, this, o' the anonymous press--oreeginally devised, ye
ken, by Balaam the son o' Beor, for serving God wi'out the deevil's finding
it out--an' noo, after the way o' human institutions, translated ower
to help folks to serve the deevil without God's finding it out. I'm no'
astonished at the puir expiring religious press for siccan a fa'; but for
the working men to be a' that's bad--it's grewsome to behold. I'll tell ye
what, my bairn, there's na salvation for the workmen, while they defile
themselves this fashion, wi' a' the very idols o' their ain tyrants--wi'
salvation by act o' parliament--irresponsible rights o' property--anonymous
Balaamry--fechtin' that canny auld farrant fiend, Mammon, wi' his ain
weapons--and then a' fleyed, because they get well beaten for their pains.
I'm sair forfaughten this mony a year wi' watching the puir gowks, trying
to do God's wark wi' the deevil's tools. Tak tent o' that."

And I did "tak tent o' it." Still there would have been as little present
consolation as usual in Mackaye's unwelcome truths, even if the matter had
stopped there. But, alas! it did not stop there. O'Flynn seemed determined
to "run a muck" at me. Every week some fresh attack appeared. The very
passages about the universities and church property, which had caused our
quarrel, were paraded against me, with free additions and comments; and, at
last, to my horror, out came the very story which I had all along dreaded,
about the expurgation of my poems, with the coarsest allusions to petticoat
influence--aristocratic kisses--and the Duchess of Devonshire canvassing
draymen for Fox, &c., &c. How he got a clue to the scandal I cannot
conceive. Mackaye and Crossthwaite, I had thought, were the only souls to
whom I had ever breathed the secret, and they denied indignantly the having
ever betrayed my weakness. How it came out, I say again, I cannot conceive;
except because it is a great everlasting law, and sure to fulfil itself
sooner or later, as we may see by the histories of every remarkable, and
many an unremarkable, man--"There is nothing secret, but it shall be made
manifest; and whatsoever ye have spoken in the closet, shall be proclaimed
upon the house-tops."

For some time after that last exposure, I was thoroughly crest-fallen--and
not without reason. I had been giving a few lectures among the working men,
on various literary and social subjects. I found my audience decrease--and
those who remained seemed more inclined to hiss than to applaud me. In
vain I ranted and quoted poetry, often more violently than my own opinions
justified. My words touched no responsive chord in my hearers' hearts; they
had lost faith in me.

At last, in the middle of a lecture on Shelley, I was indulging, and
honestly too, in some very glowing and passionate praise of the true
nobleness of a man, whom neither birth nor education could blind to the
evils of society; who, for the sake of the suffering many, could trample
under foot his hereditary pride, and become an outcast for the People's
Cause.

I heard a whisper close to me, from one whose opinion I valued, and value
still--a scholar and a poet, one who had tasted poverty, and slander, and a
prison, for The Good Cause:

"Fine talk: but it's 'all in his day's work.' Will he dare to say that
to-morrow to the ladies at the West-end?"

No--I should not. I knew it; and at that instant I felt myself a liar,
and stopped short--my tongue clove to the roof of my mouth. I fumbled
at my papers--clutched the water-tumbler--tried to go on--stopped short
again--caught up my hat, and rushed from the room, amid peals of astonished
laughter.

It was some months after this that, fancying the storm blown over, I
summoned up courage enough to attend a political meeting of our party; but
even there my Nemesis met full face. After some sanguinary speech, I really
forgot from whom, and, if I recollected, God forbid that I should tell now,
I dared to controvert, mildly enough, Heaven knows, some especially frantic
assertion or other. But before I could get out three sentences, O'Flynn
flew at me with a coarse invective, hounded on, by-the-by, by one who,
calling himself a gentleman, might have been expected to know better.
But, indeed, he and O'Flynn had the same object in view, which was simply
to sell their paper; and as a means to that great end, to pander to the
fiercest passions of their readers, to bully and silence all moderate and
rational Chartists, and pet and tar on the physical-force men, till the
poor fellows began to take them at their word. Then, when it came to deeds
and not to talk, and people got frightened, and the sale of the paper
decreased a little, a blessed change came over them--and they awoke one
morning meeker than lambs; "ulterior measures" had vanished back into
the barbarous ages, pikes, vitriol-bottles, and all; and the public were
entertained with nothing but homilies on patience and resignation, the
"triumphs of moral justice," the "omnipotence of public opinion," and the
"gentle conquests of fraternal love"--till it was safe to talk treason and
slaughter again.

But just then treason happened to be at a premium. Sedition, which had been
floundering on in a confused, disconsolate, underground way ever since
1842, was supposed by the public to be dead; and for that very reason it
was safe to talk it, or, at least, back up those who chose to do so. And
so I got no quarter--though really, if the truth must be told, I had said
nothing unreasonable.

Home I went disgusted, to toil on at my hack-writing, only praying that I
might be let alone to scribble in peace, and often thinking, sadly, how
little my friends in Harley-street could guess at the painful experience,
the doubts, the struggles, the bitter cares, which went to the making of
the poetry which they admired so much!

I was not, however, left alone to scribble in peace, either by O'Flynn or
by his readers, who formed, alas! just then, only too large a portion of
the thinking artizans; every day brought some fresh slight or annoyance
with it, till I received one afternoon, by the Parcels Delivery Company,
a large unpaid packet, containing, to my infinite disgust, an old pair of
yellow plush breeches, with a recommendation to wear them, whose meaning
could not be mistaken.

Furious, I thrust the unoffending garment into the lire, and held it there
with the tongs, regardless of the horrible smell which accompanied its
martyrdom, till the lady-lodger on the first floor rushed down to inquire
whether the house was on fire.

I answered by hurling a book at her head, and brought down a volley of
abuse, under which I sat in sulky patience, till Mackaye and Crossthwaite
came in, and found her railing in the doorway, and me sitting over the
fire, still intent on the frizzling remains of the breeches.

"Was this insult of your invention, Mr. Crossthwaite?" asked I, in a tone
of lofty indignation, holding up the last scrap of unroasted plush.

Roars of laughter from both of them made me only more frantic, and I broke
out so incoherently, that it was some time before the pair could make out
the cause of my fury.

"Upon my honour, Locke," quoth John, at last, holding his sides, "I
never sent them; though, on the whole--you've made my stomach ache with
laughing. I can't speak. But you must expect a joke or two, after your late
fashionable connexions."

I stood, still and white with rage.

"Really, my good fellow, how can you wonder if our friends suspect you?
Can you deny that you've been off and on lately between flunkeydom and The
Cause, like a donkey between two bundles of hay? Have you not neglected
our meetings? Have you not picked all the spice out of your poems? And can
you expect to eat your cake and keep it too? You must be one thing or the
other; and, though Sandy, here, is too kind-hearted to tell you, you have
disappointed us both miserably--and there's the long and short of it."

I hid my face in my hands, and sat moodily over the fire; my conscience
told me that I had nothing to answer.

"Whisht, Johnnie! Ye're ower sair on the lad. He's a' right at heart still,
an he'll do good service. But the deevil a'ways fechts hardest wi' them
he's maist 'feard of. What's this anent agricultural distress ye had to
tell me the noo?"

"There is a rising down in the country, a friend of mine writes me. The
people are starving, not because bread is dear, but because it's cheap;
and, like sensible men, they're going to have a great meeting, to inquire
the rights and wrong of all that. Now, I want to send a deputation down, to
see how far they are inclined to go, and let them know we up in London are
with them. And then we might get up a corresponding association, you know.
It's a great opening for spreading the principles of the Charter."

"I sair misdoubt, it's just bread they'll be wanting, they labourers, mair
than liberty. Their God is their belly, I'm thinking, and a verra poor
empty idol he is the noo; sma' burnt offerings and fat o' rams he gets to
propitiate him. But ye might send down a canny body, just to spy out the
nakedness o' the land."

"I will go," I said, starting up. "They shall see that I do care for The
Cause. If it's a dangerous mission, so much the better. It will prove my
sincerity. Where is the place?"

"About ten miles from D * * * *."

"D * * * *!" My heart sank. If it had been any other spot in England! But
it was too late to retract. Sandy saw what was the matter, and tried to
turn the subject; but I was peremptory, almost rude with him. I felt I must
keep up my present excitement, or lose my heart, and my caste, for ever;
and as the hour for the committee was at hand, I jumped up and set off
thither with them, whether they would or not. I heard Sandy whisper to
Crossthwaite, and turned quite fiercely on him.

"If you want to speak about me, speak out. If you fancy that I shall let my
connexion with that place" (I could not bring myself to name it) "stand in
the way of my duty, you do not know me."

I announced my intention at the meeting. It was at first received coldly;
but I spoke energetically--perhaps, as some told me afterwards, actually
eloquently. When I got heated, I alluded to my former stay at D * * * *,
and said (while my heart sunk at the bravado which I was uttering) that I
should consider it a glory to retrieve my character with them, and devote
myself to the cause of the oppressed, in the very locality whence had first
arisen their unjust and pardonable suspicions. In short, generous, trusting
hearts as they were, and always are, I talked them round; they shook me by
the hand one by one, bade me God speed, told me that I stood higher than
ever in their eyes, and then set to work to vote money from their funds for
my travelling expenses, which I magnanimously refused, saying that I had a
pound or two left from the sale of my poems, and that I must be allowed, as
an act of repentance and restitution, to devote it to The Cause.

My triumph was complete. Even O'Flynn, who, like all Irishmen, had plenty
of loose good-nature at bottom, and was as sudden and furious in his loves
as in his hostilities, scrambled over the benches, regardless of patriots'
toes, to shake me violently by the hand, and inform me that I was "a broth
of a boy," and that "any little disagreements between us had vanished like
a passing cloud from the sunshine of our fraternity"--when my eye was
caught by a face which there was no mistaking--my cousin's!

Yes, there he sat, watching me like a basilisk, with his dark, glittering,
mesmeric eyes, out of a remote corner of the room--not in contempt or
anger, but there was a quiet, assured, sardonic smile about his lips, which
chilled me to the heart.

The meeting was sufficiently public to allow of his presence, but how had
he found out its existence? Had he come there as a spy on me? Had he been
in the room when my visit to D * * * * was determined on? I trembled at the
thought; and I trembled, too, lest he should be daring enough--and I knew
he could dare anything--to claim acquaintance with me there and then. It
would have ruined my new-restored reputation for ever. But he sat still and
steady: and I had to go through the rest of the evening's business under
the miserable, cramping knowledge that every word and gesture was being
noted down by my most deadly enemy; trembling whenever I was addressed,
lest some chance word of an acquaintance would implicate me still
further--though, indeed, I was deep enough already. The meeting seemed
interminable; and there I fidgeted, with my face scarlet--always seeing
those basilisk eyes upon me--in fancy--for I dared not look again towards
the corner where I knew they were.

At last it was over--the audience went out; and when I had courage to look
round, my cousin had vanished among them. A load was taken off my breast,
and I breathed freely again--for five minutes;--for I had not made ten
steps up the street, when an arm was familiarly thrust through mine, and I
found myself in the clutches of my evil genius.

"How are you, my dear fellow? Expected to meet you there. Why, what an
orator you are! Really, I haven't heard more fluent or passionate English
this month of Sundays. You must give me a lesson in sermon-preaching. I can
tell you, we parsons want a hint or two in that line. So you're going down
to D * * * *, to see after those poor starving labourers? 'Pon my honour,
I've a great mind to go with you."

So, then, he knew all! However, there was nothing for it but to brazen
it out; and, besides, I was in his power, and however hateful to me his
seeming cordiality might be, I dared not offend him at that moment.

"It would be well if you did. If you parsons would show yourselves at such
places as these a little oftener, you would do more to make the people
believe your mission real, than by all the tracts and sermons in the
world."

"But, my dear cousin" (and he began to snuffle and sink his voice), "there
is so much sanguinary language, so much unsanctified impatience, you
frighten away all the meek apostolic men among the priesthood--the very
ones who feel most for the lost sheep of the flock.

"Then the parsons are either great Pharisees or great cowards, or both."

"Very likely. I was in a precious fright myself, I know, when I saw you
recognized me. If I had not felt strengthened, you know, as of course one
ought to be in all trials, by the sense of my holy calling, I think I
should have bolted at once. However, I took the precaution of bringing my
Bowie and revolver with me, in case the worst came to the worst."

"And a very needless precaution it was," said I, half laughing at the
quaint incongruity of the priestly and the lay elements in his speech. "You
don't seem to know much of working men's meetings, or working men's morals.
Why, that place was open to all the world. The proceedings will be in the
newspaper to-morrow. The whole bench of bishops might have been there, if
they had chosen; and a great deal of good it would have done them!"

"I fully agree with you, my dear fellow. No one hates the bishops more than
we true high-churchmen, I can tell you--that's a great point of sympathy
between us and the people. But I must be off. By-the-by, would you like me
to tell our friends at D * * * * that I met you? They often ask after you
in their letters, I assure you."

This was a sting of complicated bitterness. I felt all that it meant at
once. So he was in constant correspondence with them, while I--and that
thought actually drove out of my head the more pressing danger of his
utterly ruining me in their esteem, by telling them, as he had a very good
right to do, that I was going to preach Chartism to discontented mobs.

"Ah! well! perhaps you wouldn't wish it mentioned? As you like, you
know. Or, rather," and he laid an iron grasp on my arm, and dropped his
voice--this time in earnest--"as you behave, my wise and loyal cousin! Good
night."

I went home--the excitement of self-applause, which the meeting had called
up, damped by a strange weight of foreboding. And yet I could not help
laughing, when, just as I was turning into bed, Crossthwaite knocked at
my door, and, on being admitted, handed over to me a bundle wrapped up in
paper.

"There's a pair of breeks for you--not plush ones, this time, old
fellow--but you ought to look as smart as possible. There's so much in a
man's looking dignified, and all that, when he's speechifying. So I've
just brought you down my best black trousers to travel in. We're just of
a size, you know; little and good, like a Welshman's cow. And if you tear
them, why, we're not like poor, miserable, useless aristocrats; tailors
and sailors can mend their own rents." And he vanished, whistling the
"Marseillaise."

I went to bed and tossed about, fancying to myself my journey, my speech,
the faces of the meeting, among which Lillian's would rise, in spite of all
the sermons which I preached to myself on the impossibility of her being
there, of my being known, of any harm happening from the movement; but I
could not shake off the fear. If there were a riot, a rising!--If any harm
were to happen to her! If--Till, mobbed into fatigue by a rabble of such
miserable hypothetic ghosts, I fell asleep, to dream that I was going to be
hanged for sedition, and that the mob were all staring and hooting at me,
and Lillian clapping her hands and setting them on; and I woke in an agony,
to find Sandy Mackaye standing by my bedside with a light.

"Hoolie, laddie! ye need na jump up that way. I'm no' gaun to burke ye the
nicht; but I canna sleep; I'm sair misdoubtful o' the thing. It seems a'
richt, an' I've been praying for us, an' that's mickle for me, to be taught
our way; but I dinna see aught for ye but to gang. If your heart is richt
with God in this matter, then he's o' your side, an' I fear na what men may
do to ye. An' yet, ye're my Joseph, as it were, the son o' my auld age, wi'
a coat o' many colours, plush breeks included; an' gin aught take ye, ye'll
bring down my grey haffets wi' sorrow to the grave!"

The old man gazed at me as be spoke, with a deep, earnest affection I
had never seen in him before; and the tears glistened in his eyes by the
flaring candlelight, as he went on:

"I ha' been reading the Bible the nicht. It's strange how the words o't
rise up, and open themselves whiles, to puir distractit bodies; though,
maybe, no' always in just the orthodox way. An' I fell on that, 'Behold
I send ye forth as lambs in the midst o' wolves. Be ye therefore wise as
serpents an' harmless as doves;' an' that gave me comfort, laddie, for ye.
Mind the warning, dinna gang wud, whatever ye may see an' hear; it's an
ill way o' showing pity, to gang daft anent it. Dinna talk magniloquently;
that's the workman's darling sin. An' mind ye dinna go too deep wi' them.
Ye canna trust them to understand ye; they're puir foolish sheep that ha'
no shepherd--swine that ha' no wash, rather. So cast na your pearls before
swine, laddie, lest they trample them under their feet, an' turn again an'
rend ye."

He went out, and I lay awake tossing till morning, making a thousand good
resolutions--like the rest of mankind.




CHAPTER XXVIII.

THE MEN WHO ARE EATEN.


With many instructions from our friends, and warnings from Mackaye, I
started next day on my journey. When I last caught sight of the old man,
he was gazing fixedly after me, and using his pocket-handkerchief in a
somewhat suspicious way. I had remarked how depressed he seemed, and my own
spirits shared the depression. A presentiment of evil hung over me, which
not even the excitement of the journey--to me a rare enjoyment--could
dispel. I had no heart, somehow, to look at the country scenes around,
which in general excited in me so much interest, and I tried to lose myself
in summing up my stock of information on the question which I expected to
hear discussed by the labourers. I found myself not altogether ignorant.
The horrible disclosures of S.G.O., and the barbarous abominations of
the Andover Workhouse, then fresh in the public mind, had had their due
effect on mine; and, like most thinking artizans, I had acquainted myself
tolerably from books and newspapers with the general condition of the
country labourers.

I arrived in the midst of a dreary, treeless country, whose broad brown and
grey fields were only broken by an occasional line of dark, doleful firs,
at a knot of thatched hovels, all sinking and leaning every way but the
right, the windows patched with paper, the doorways stopped with filth,
which surrounded a beer-shop. That was my destination--unpromising enough
for any one but an agitator. If discontent and misery are preparatives for
liberty--and they are--so strange and unlike ours are the ways of God--I
was likely enough to find them there.

I was welcomed by my intended host, a little pert, snub-nosed shoemaker,
who greeted me as his cousin from London--a relationship which it seemed
prudent to accept.

He took me into his little cabin, and there, with the assistance of a
shrewd, good-natured wife, shared with me the best he had; and after supper
commenced, mysteriously and in trembling, as if the very walls might have
ears, a rambling, bitter diatribe on the wrongs and sufferings of the
labourers; which went on till late in the night, and which I shall spare my
readers: for if they have either brains or hearts, they ought to know more
than I can tell them, from the public prints, and, indeed, from their own
eyes--although, as a wise man says, there is nothing more difficult than to
make people see first the facts which lie under their own nose.

Upon one point, however, which was new to me, he was very fierce--the
customs of landlords letting the cottages with their farms, for the mere
sake of saving themselves trouble; thus giving up all power of protecting
the poor man, and delivering him over, bound hand and foot, even in the
matter of his commonest home comforts, to farmers, too penurious, too
ignorant, and often too poor, to keep the cottages in a state fit for the
habitation of human beings. Thus the poor man's hovel, as well as his
labour, became, he told me, a source of profit to the farmer, out of which
he wrung the last drop of gain. The necessary repairs were always put
off as long as possible--the labourers were robbed of their gardens--the
slightest rebellion lost them not only work, but shelter from the elements;
the slavery under which they groaned penetrated even to the fireside and to
the bedroom.

"And who was the landlord of this parish?"

"Oh! he believed he was a very good sort of man, and uncommon kind to the
people where he lived, but that was fifty miles away in another country;
and he liked that estate better than this, and never came down here, except
for the shooting."

Full of many thoughts, and tired out with my journey, I went up to bed, in
the same loft with the cobbler and his wife, and fell asleep, and dreamt of
Lillian.

       *       *       *       *       *

About eight o'clock the next morning I started forth with my guide, the
shoemaker, over as desolate a country as men can well conceive. Not a house
was to be seen for miles, except the knot of hovels which we had left,
and here and there a great dreary lump of farm-buildings, with its yard
of yellow stacks. Beneath our feet the earth was iron, and the sky iron
above our heads. Dark curdled clouds, "which had built up everywhere an
under-roof of doleful grey," swept on before the bitter northern wind,
which whistled through the low leafless hedges and rotting wattles, and
crisped the dark sodden leaves of the scattered hollies, almost the only
trees in sight.

We trudged on, over wide stubbles, with innumerable weeds; over wide
fallows, in which the deserted ploughs stood frozen fast; then over clover
and grass, burnt black with frost; then over a field of turnips, where we
passed a large fold of hurdles, within which some hundred sheep stood, with
their heads turned from the cutting blast. All was dreary, idle, silent;
no sound or sign of human beings. One wondered where the people lived, who
cultivated so vast a tract of civilized, over-peopled, nineteenth-century
England. As we came up to the fold, two little boys hailed us from the
inside--two little wretches with blue noses and white cheeks, scarecrows of
rags and patches, their feet peeping through bursten shoes twice too big
for them, who seemed to have shared between them a ragged pair of worsted
gloves, and cowered among the sheep, under the shelter of a hurdle, crying
and inarticulate with cold.

"What's the matter, boys?"

"Turmits is froze, and us can't turn the handle of the cutter. Do ye gie us
a turn, please?"

We scrambled over the hurdles, and gave the miserable little creatures the
benefit of ten minutes' labour. They seemed too small for such exertion:
their little hands were purple with chilblains, and they were so sorefooted
they could scarcely limp. I was surprised to find them at least three years
older than their size and looks denoted, and still more surprised, too, to
find that their salary for all this bitter exposure to the elements--such
as I believe I could not have endured two days running--was the vast sum
of one shilling a week each, Sundays included. "They didn't never go to
school, nor to church nether, except just now and then, sometimes--they had
to mind the shop."

I went on, sickened with the contrast between the highly-bred, over-fed,
fat, thick-woolled animals, with their troughs of turnips and malt-dust,
and their racks of rich clover-hay, and their little pent-house of
rock-salt, having nothing to do but to eat and sleep, and eat again, and
the little half-starved shivering animals who were their slaves. Man
the master of the brutes? Bah! As society is now, the brutes are the
masters--the horse, the sheep, the bullock, is the master, and the labourer
is their slave. "Oh! but the brutes are eaten!" Well; the horses at least
are not eaten--they live, like landlords, till they die. And those who are
eaten, are certainly not eaten by their human servants. The sheep they fat,
another kills, to parody Shelley; and, after all, is not the labourer, as
well as the sheep, eaten by you, my dear Society?--devoured body and soul,
not the less really because you are longer about the meal, there being an
old prejudice against cannibalism, and also against murder--except after
the Riot Act has been read.

"What!" shriek the insulted respectabilities, "have we not paid him his
wages weekly, and has he not lived upon them?" Yes; and have you not given
your sheep and horses their daily wages, and have they not lived on them?
You wanted to work them; and they could not work, you know, unless they
were alive. But here lies your iniquity: you gave the labourer nothing but
his daily food--not even his lodgings; the pigs were not stinted of their
wash to pay for their sty-room, the man was; and his wages, thanks to your
competitive system, were beaten down deliberately and conscientiously
(for was it not according to political economy, and the laws thereof?)
to the minimum on which he could or would work, without the hope or the
possibility of saving a farthing. You know how to invest your capital
profitably, dear Society, and to save money over and above your income of
daily comforts; but what has he saved?--what is he profited by all those
years of labour? He has kept body and soul together--perhaps he could
have done that without you or your help. But his wages are used up every
Saturday night. When he stops working, you have in your pocket the whole
real profits of his nearly fifty years' labour, and he has nothing. And
then you say that you have not eaten him! You know, in your heart of
hearts, that you have. Else, why in Heaven's name do you pay him poor's
rates? If, as you say, he has been duly repaid in wages, what is the
meaning of that half-a-crown a week?--you owe him nothing. Oh! but the man
would starve--common humanity forbids? What now, Society? Give him alms, if
you will, on the score of humanity; but do not tax people for his support,
whether they choose or not--that were a mere tyranny and robbery. If the
landlord's feelings will not allow him to see the labourer starve, let
him give, in God's name; but let him not cripple and drain, by compulsory
poor-rates, the farmer who has paid him his "just remuneration" of wages,
and the parson who probably, out of his scanty income, gives away twice as
much in alms as the landlord does out of his superfluous one. No, no; as
long as you retain compulsory poor-laws, you confess that it is not merely
humane, but just, to pay the labourer more than his wages. You confess
yourself in debt to him, over and above an uncertain sum, which it suits
you not to define, because such an investigation would expose ugly gaps and
patches in that same snug competitive and property world of yours; and,
therefore, being the stronger party, you compel your debtor to give up the
claim which you confess, for an annuity of half-a-crown a week--that being
the just-above-starving-point of the economic thermometer. And yet you say
you have not eaten the labourer! You see, we workmen too have our thoughts
about political economy, differing slightly from yours, truly--just as the
man who is being hanged may take a somewhat different view of the process
from the man who is hanging him. Which view is likely to be the more
practical one?

With some such thoughts I walked across the open down, toward a circular
camp, the earthwork, probably, of some old British town. Inside it, some
thousand or so of labouring people were swarming restlessly round a single
large block of stone, some relic of Druid times, on which a tall man stood,
his dark figure thrown out in bold relief against the dreary sky. As we
pushed through the crowd, I was struck with the wan, haggard look of all
faces; their lacklustre eyes and drooping lips, stooping shoulders, heavy,
dragging steps, gave them a crushed, dogged air, which was infinitely
painful, and bespoke a grade of misery more habitual and degrading than
that of the excitable and passionate artisan.

There were many women among them, talking shrilly, and looking even more
pinched and wan than the men.

I remarked, also, that many of the crowd carried heavy sticks, pitchforks,
and other tools which might be used as fearful weapons--an ugly sign, which
I ought to have heeded betimes.

They glared with sullen curiosity at me and my Londoner's clothes, as, with
no small feeling of self-importance, I pushed my way to the foot of the
stone. The man who stood on it seemed to have been speaking some time. His
words, like all I heard that day, were utterly devoid of anything like
eloquence or imagination--a dull string of somewhat incoherent complaints,
which derived their force only from the intense earnestness, which attested
their truthfulness. As far as I can recollect, I will give the substance of
what I heard. But, indeed, I heard nothing but what has been bandied about
from newspaper to newspaper for years--confessed by all parties, deplored
by all parties, but never an attempt made to remedy it.

--"The farmers makes slaves on us. I can't hear no difference between a
Christian and a nigger, except they flogs the niggers and starves the
Christians; and I don't know which I'd choose. I served Farmer * * * *
seven year, off and on, and arter harvest he tells me he's no more work
for me, nor my boy nether, acause he's getting too big for him, so he gets
a little 'un instead, and we does nothing; and my boy lies about, getting
into bad ways, like hundreds more; and then we goes to board, and they bids
us go and look for work; and we goes up next part to London. I couldn't
get none; they'd enough to do, they said, to employ their own; and we
begs our way home, and goes into the Union; and they turns us out again
in two or three days, and promises us work again, and gives us two days'
gravel-picking, and then says they has no more for us; and we was sore
pinched, and laid a-bed all day; then next board-day we goes to 'em and
they gives us one day more--and that threw us off another week, and then
next board-day we goes into the Union again for three days, and gets sent
out again: and so I've been starving one-half of the time, and they putting
us off and on o' purpose like that; and I'll bear it no longer, and that's
what I says."

He came down, and a tall, powerful, well-fed man, evidently in his Sunday
smock-frock and clean yellow leggings, got up and began:

"I hav'n't no complaint to make about myself. I've a good master, and
the parson's a right kind 'un, and that's more than all can say, and the
squire's a real gentleman; and my master, he don't need to lower his wages.
I gets my ten shillings a week all the year round, and harvesting, and a
pig, and a 'lotment--and that's just why I come here. If I can get it, why
can't you?"

"Cause our masters baint like yourn."

"No, by George, there baint no money round here like that, I can tell you."

"And why ain't they?" continued the speaker. "There's the shame on it.
There's my master can grow five quarters where yourn only grows three; and
so he can live and pay like a man; and so he say he don't care for free
trade. You know, as well as I, that there's not half o' the land round here
grows what it ought. They ain't no money to make it grow more, and besides,
they won't employ no hands to keep it clean. I come across more weeds in
one field here, than I've seen for nine year on our farm. Why arn't some of
you a-getting they weeds up? It 'ud pay 'em to farm better--and they knows
that, but they're too lazy; if they can just get a living off the land,
they don't care; and they'd sooner save money out of your wages, than save
it by growing more corn--it's easier for 'em, it is. There's the work to
be done, and they won't let you do it. There's you crying out for work,
and work crying out for you--and neither of you can get to the other. I
say that's a shame, I do. I say a poor man's a slave. He daren't leave his
parish--nobody won't employ him, as can employ his own folk. And if he
stays in his parish, it's just a chance whether he gets a good master or
a bad 'un. He can't choose, and that's a shame, it is. Why should he go
starving because his master don't care to do the best by the land? If they
can't till the land, I say let them get out of it, and let them work it as
can. And I think as we ought all to sign a petition to government, to tell
'em all about it; though I don't see as how they could help us, unless
they'd make a law to force the squires to put in nobody to a farm as hasn't
money to work it fairly."

"I says," said the next speaker, a poor fellow whose sentences were
continually broken by a hacking cough, "just what he said. If they can't
till the land, let them do it as can. But they won't; they won't let us
have a scrap on it, though we'd pay 'em more for it nor ever they'd make
for themselves. But they says it 'ud make us too independent, if we had an
acre or so o' land; and so it 'ud for they. And so I says as he did--they
want to make slaves on us altogether, just to get the flesh and bones off
us at their own price. Look you at this here down.--If I had an acre on it,
to make a garden on, I'd live well with my wages, off and on. Why, if this
here was in garden, it 'ud be worth twenty, forty times o' that it be now.
And last spring I lays out o' work from Christmas till barley-sowing, and
I goes to the farmer and axes for a bit o' land to dig and plant a few
potatoes--and he says, 'You be d--d! If you're minding your garden after
hours, you'll not be fit to do a proper day's work for me in hours--and I
shall want you by-and-by, when the weather breaks'--for it was frost most
bitter, it was. 'And if you gets potatoes you'll be getting a pig--and then
you'll want straw, and meal to fat 'un--and then I'll not trust you in
my barn, I can tell ye;' and so there it was. And if I'd had only one
half-acre of this here very down as we stands on, as isn't worth five
shillings a year--and I'd a given ten shillings for it--my belly wouldn't a
been empty now. Oh, they be dogs in the manger, and the Lord'll reward 'em
therefor! First they says they can't afford to work the land 'emselves, and
then they wain't let us work it ether. Then they says prices is so low they
can't keep us on, and so they lowers our wages; and then when prices goes
up ever so much, our wages don't go up with 'em. So, high prices or low
prices, it's all the same. With the one we can't buy bread, and with the
other we can't get work. I don't mind free trade--not I: to be sure, if
the loaf's cheap, we shall be ruined; but if the loafs dear, we shall be
starved, and for that, we is starved now. Nobody don't care for us; for my
part, I don't much care for myself. A man must die some time or other. Only
I thinks if we could some time or other just see the Queen once, and tell
her all about it, she'd take our part, and not see us put upon like that, I
do."

"Gentlemen!" cried my guide, the shoemaker, in a somewhat conceited and
dictatorial tone, as he skipped up by the speaker's side, and gently
shouldered him down--"it ain't like the ancient times, as I've read off,
when any poor man as had a petition could come promiscuously to the King's
royal presence, and put it direct into his own hand, and be treated like a
gentleman. Don't you know as how they locks up the Queen now-a-days, and
never lets a poor soul come a-near her, lest she should hear the truth
of all their iniquities? Why they never lets her stir without a lot o'
dragoons with drawn swords riding all around her; and if you dared to go
up to her to ax mercy, whoot! they'd chop your head off before you could
say, 'Please your Majesty.' And then the hypocrites say as it's to keep her
from being frightened--and that's true--for it's frightened she'd be, with
a vengeance, if she knowed all that they grand folks make poor labourers
suffer, to keep themselves in power and great glory. I tell ye, 'tarn't
per-practicable at all, to ax the Queen for anything; she's afeard of
her life on 'em. You just take my advice, and sign a round-robin to the
squires--you tell 'em as you're willing to till the land for 'em, if
they'll let you. There's draining and digging enough to be done as 'ud keep
ye all in work, arn't there?"

"Ay, ay; there's lots o' work to be done, if so be we could get at it.
Everybody knows that."

"Well, you tell 'em that. Tell 'em here's hundreds, and hundreds of ye
starving, and willing to work; and then tell 'em, if they won't find ye
work, they shall find ye meat. There's lots o' victuals in their larders
now; haven't you as good a right to it as their jackanapes o' footmen? The
squires is at the bottom of it all. What do you stupid fellows go grumbling
at the farmers for? Don't they squires tax the land twenty or thirty
shillings an acre; and what do they do for that? The best of 'em, if he
gets five thousand a year out o' the land, don't give back five hundred in
charity, or schools, or poor-rates--and what's that to speak of? And the
main of 'em--curse 'em!--they drains the money out o' the land, and takes
it up to London, or into foreign parts, to spend on fine clothes and fine
dinners; or throws it away at elections, to make folks beastly drunk, and
sell their souls for money--and we gets no good on it. I'll tell you what
it's come to, my men--that we can't afford no more landlords. We can't
afford 'em, and that's the truth of it!"

The crowd growled a dubious assent.

"Oh, yes, you can grumble at the farmers, acause you deals with them
first-hand; but you be too stupid to do aught but hunt by sight. I be an
old dog, and I hunts cunning. I sees farther than my nose, I does, I larnt
politics to London when I was a prentice; and I ain't forgotten the plans
of it. Look you here. The farmers, they say they can't live unless they can
make four rents, one for labour, and one for stock, and one for rent, and
one for themselves; ain't that about right? Very well; just now they can't
make four rents--in course they can't. Now, who's to suffer for that?--the
farmer as works, or the labourer as works, or the landlord as does nothing?
But he takes care on himself. He won't give up his rent--not he. Perhaps
he might give back ten per cent, and what's that?--two shillings an acre,
maybe. What's that, if corn falls two pound a load, and more? Then the
farmer gets a stinting; and he can't stint hisself, he's bad enough off
already; he's forty shillings out o' pocket on every load of wheat--that's
eight shillings, maybe, on every acre of his land on a four-course
shift--and where's the eight shillings to come from, for the landlord's
only given him back two on it? He can't stint hisself, he daren't stint
his stock, and so he stints the labourers; and so it's you as pays the
landlord's rent--you, my boys, out o' your flesh and bones, you do--and you
can't afford it any longer, by the look of you--so just tell 'em so!"

This advice seemed to me as sadly unpractical as the rest. In short, there
seemed to be no hope, no purpose among them--and they felt it; and I could
hear, from the running comment of murmurs, that they were getting every
moment more fierce and desperate at the contemplation of their own
helplessness--a mood which the next speech was not likely to soften.

A pale, thin woman scrambled up on the stone, and stood there, her scanty
and patched garments fluttering in the bitter breeze, as, with face
sharpened with want, and eyes fierce with misery, she began, in a
querulous, 'scornful falsetto:

"I am an honest woman. I brought up seven children decently; and never axed
the parish for a farden, till my husband died. Then they tells me I can
support myself and mine--and so I does. Early and late I hoed turmits, and
early and late I rep, and left the children at home to mind each other; and
one on 'em fell into the fire, and is gone to heaven, blessed angel! and
two more it pleased the Lord to take in the fever; and the next, I hope,
will soon be out o' this miserable sinful world. But look you here: three
weeks agone, I goes to the board. I had no work. They say they could not
relieve me for the first week, because I had money yet to take.--The
hypocrites! they knowing as I couldn't but owe it all, and a lot more
beside. Next week they sends the officer to inquire. That was ten days
gone, and we starving. Then, on board-day, they gives me two loaves. Then,
next week, they takes it off again. And when I goes over (five miles) to
the board to ax why--they'd find me work--and they never did; so we goes
on starving for another week--for no one wouldn't trust us; how could they
when we was in debt already a whole lot?--you're all in debt!"

"That we are."

"There's some here as never made ten shillings a week in their lives, as
owes twenty pounds at the shop!"

"Ay, and more--and how's a man ever to pay that?"

"So this week, when I comes, they offers me the house. Would I go into
the house? They'd be glad to have me, acause I'm strong and hearty and a
good nurse. But would I, that am an honest woman, go to live with they
offscourings--they"--(she used a strong word)--"would I be parted from my
children? Would I let them hear the talk, and keep the company as they will
there, and learn all sorts o' sins that they never heard on, blessed be
God! I'll starve first, and see them starve too--though, Lord knows, it's
hard.--Oh! it's hard," she said, bursting into tears, "to leave them as I
did this morning, crying after their breakfasts, and I none to give 'em.
I've got no bread--where should I? I've got no fire--how can I give one
shilling and sixpence a hundred for coals? And if I did, who'd fetch 'em
home? And if I dared break a hedge for a knitch o' wood, they'd put me in
prison, they would, with the worst. What be I to do? What be you going to
do? That's what I came here for. What be ye going to do for us women--us
that starve and stint, and wear our hands off for you men and your
children, and get hard words, and hard blows from you? Oh! if I was a man,
I know what I'd do, I do! But I don't think you be men three parts o' you,
or you'd not see the widow and the orphan starve as you do, and sit quiet
and grumble, as long as you can keep your own bodies and souls together.
Eh! ye cowards!"

What more she would have said in her excitement, which had risen to an
absolute scream, I cannot tell; but some prudent friend pulled her down off
the stone, to be succeeded by a speaker more painful, if possible; an aged
blind man, the worn-out melancholy of whose slow, feeble voice made my
heart sink, and hushed the murmuring crowd into silent awe.

Slowly he turned his grey, sightless head from side to side, as if feeling
for the faces below him--and then began:

"I heard you was all to be here--and I suppose you are; and I said I would
come--though I suppose they'll take off my pay, if they hear of it. But I
knows the reason of it, and the bad times and all. The Lord revealed it to
me as clear as day, four years agone come Easter-tide. It's all along of
our sins, and our wickedness--because we forgot Him--it is. I mind the old
war times, what times they was, when there was smuggled brandy up and down
in every public, and work more than hands could do. And then, how we all
forgot the Lord, and went after our own lusts and pleasures--squires and
parsons, and farmers and labouring folk, all alike. They oughted to
ha' knowed better--and we oughted too. Many's the Sunday I spent in
skittle-playing and cock-fighting, and the pound I spent in beer, as might
ha' been keeping me now. We was an evil and perverse generation--and so one
o' my sons went for a sodger, and was shot at Waterloo, and the other fell
into evil ways, and got sent across seas--and I be left alone for my
sins. But the Lord was very gracious to me and showed me how it was all a
judgment on my sins, he did. He has turned his face from us, and that's why
we're troubled. And so I don't see no use in this meeting. It won't do no
good; nothing won't do us no good, unless we all repent of our wicked ways,
our drinking, and our dirt, and our love-children, and our picking and
stealing, and gets the Lord to turn our hearts, and to come back again, and
have mercy on us, and take us away speedily out of this wretched world,
where there's nothing but misery and sorrow, into His everlasting glory,
Amen! Folks say as the day of judgment's a coming soon--and I partly think
so myself. I wish it was all over, and we in heaven above; and that's all I
have to say."

It seemed a not unnatural revulsion, when a tall, fierce man, with a
forbidding squint, sprung jauntily on the stone, and setting his arms
a-kimbo, broke out:

"Here be I, Blinkey, and I has as good a right to speak as ere a one.
You're all blamed fools, you are. So's that old blind buffer there. You
sticks like pigs in a gate, hollering and squeeking, and never helping
yourselves. Why can't you do like me? I never does no work--darned if I'll
work to please the farmers. The rich folks robs me, and I robs them,
and that's fair and equal. You only turn poachers--you only go stealing
turmits, and fire-ud, and all as you can find--and then you'll not need to
work. Arn't it yourn? The game's no one's, is it now?--you know that. And
if you takes turmits or corn, they're yourn--you helped to grow 'em. And
if you're put to prison, I tell ye, it's a darned deal warmer, and better
victuals too, than ever a one of you gets at home, let alone the Union.
Now I knows the dodge. Whenever my wife's ready for her trouble, I gets
cotched; then I lives like a prince in gaol, and she goes to the workus;
and when it's all over, start fair again. Oh, you blockheads'--to stand
here shivering with empty bellies.--You just go down to the farm and burn
they stacks over the old rascal's head; and then they that let you starve
now, will be forced to keep you then. If you can't get your share of the
poor-rates, try the county-rates, my bucks--you can get fat on them at the
Queen's expense--and that's more than you'll do in ever a Union as I hear
on. Who'll come down and pull the farm about the folks' ears? Warn't he as
turned five on yer off last week? and ain't he more corn there than 'ud
feed you all round this day, and won't sell it, just because he's
waiting till folks are starved enough, and prices rise? Curse the old
villain!--who'll help to disappoint him 'o that? Come along!"

A confused murmur arose, and a movement in the crowd. I felt that now or
never was the time to speak. If once the spirit of mad aimless riot broke
loose, I had not only no chance of a hearing, but every likelihood of
being implicated in deeds which I abhorred; and I sprung on the stone and
entreated a few minutes' attention, telling them that I was a deputation
from one of the London Chartist committees. This seemed to turn the stream
of their thoughts, and they gaped in stupid wonder at me as I began hardly
less excited than themselves.

I assured them of the sympathy of the London working men, made a comment
on their own speeches--which the reader ought to be able to make for
himself--and told them that I had come to entreat their assistance towards
obtaining such a parliamentary representation as would secure them their
rights. I explained the idea of the Charter, and begged for their help in
carrying it out.

To all which they answered surlily, that they did not know anything about
politics--that what they wanted was bread.

I went on, more vehement than ever, to show them how all their misery
sprung (as I then fancied) from being unrepresented--how the laws were made
by the rich for the poor, and not by all for all--how the taxes bit deep
into the necessaries of the labourer, and only nibbled at the luxuries of
the rich--how the criminal code exclusively attacked the crimes to which
the poor were prone, while it dared not interfere with the subtler
iniquities of the high-born and wealthy--how poor-rates, as I have just
said, were a confession on the part of society that the labourer was not
fully remunerated. I tried to make them see that their interest, as much as
common justice, demanded that they should have a voice in the councils of
the nation, such as would truly proclaim their wants, their rights, their
wrongs; and I have seen no reason since then to unsay my words.

To all which they answered, that their stomachs were empty, and they wanted
bread. "And bread we will have!"

"Go, then," I cried, losing my self-possession between disappointment and
the maddening desire of influence--and, indeed, who could hear their story,
or even look upon their faces, and not feel some indignation stir in him.
unless self-interest had drugged his heart and conscience--"go," I cried,
"and get bread! After all, you have a right to it. No man is bound to
starve. There are rights above all laws, and the right to live is one. Laws
were made for man, not man for laws. If you had made the laws yourselves,
they might bind you even in this extremity; but they were made in spite of
you--against you. They rob you, crash you; even now they deny you bread.
God has made the earth free to all, like the air and sunshine, and you are
shut out from off it. The earth is yours, for you till it. Without you it
would be a desert. Go and demand your share of that corn, the fruit of your
own industry. What matter, if your tyrants imprison, murder you?--they can
but kill your bodies at once, instead of killing them piecemeal, as they do
now; and your blood will cry against them from the ground:--Ay, Woe!"--I
went on, carried away by feelings for which I shall make no apology; for,
however confused, there was, and is, and ever will be, a God's truth in
them, as this generation will find out at the moment when its own serene
self-satisfaction crumbles underneath it--"Woe unto those that grind the
faces of the poor! Woe unto those who add house to house, and field to
field, till they stand alone in the land, and there is no room left for the
poor man! The wages of their reapers, which they have held back by fraud,
cry out against them; and their cry has entered into the ears of the God of
heaven--"

But I had no time to finish. The murmur swelled into a roar for "Bread!
Bread!" My hearers had taken me at my word. I had raised the spirit; could
I command him, now he was abroad?

"Go to Jennings's farm!"

"No! he ain't no corn, he sold un' all last week."

"There's plenty at the Hall farm! Rouse out the old steward!"

And, amid yells and execrations, the whole mass poured down the hill,
sweeping me away with them. I was shocked and terrified at their threats.
I tried again and again to stop and harangue them. I shouted myself hoarse
about the duty of honesty; warned them against pillage and violence;
entreated them to take nothing but the corn which they actually needed;
but my voice was drowned in the uproar. Still I felt myself in a measure
responsible for their conduct; I had helped to excite them, and dare not,
in honour, desert them; and trembling, I went on, prepared to see the
worst; following, as a flag of distress, a mouldy crust, brandished on the
point of a pitchfork.

Bursting through the rotting and half-fallen palings, we entered a wide,
rushy, neglected park, and along an old gravel road, now green with grass,
we opened on a sheet of frozen water, and, on the opposite bank, the huge
square corpse of a hall, the close-shuttered windows of which gave it a
dead and ghastly look, except where here and there a single one showed, as
through a black empty eye-socket, the dark unfurnished rooms within. On the
right, beneath us, lay, amid tall elms, a large mass of farm-buildings,
into the yard of which the whole mob rushed tumultuously--just in time to
see an old man on horseback dart out and gallop hatless up the park, amid
the yells of the mob.

"The old rascal's gone! and he'll call up the yeomanry. We must be quick,
boys!" shouted one, and the first signs of plunder showed themselves in an
indiscriminate chase after various screaming geese and turkeys; while a
few of the more steady went up to the house-door, and knocking, demanded
sternly the granary keys.

A fat virago planted herself in the doorway, and commenced railing at them,
with the cowardly courage which the fancied immunity of their sex gives
to coarse women; but she was hastily shoved aside, and took shelter in an
upper room, where she stood screaming and cursing at the window.

The invaders returned, cramming their mouths with bread, and chopping
asunder flitches of bacon. The granary doors were broken open, and the
contents scrambled for, amid immense waste, by the starving wretches. It
was a sad sight. Here was a poor shivering woman, hiding scraps of food
under her cloak, and hurrying out of the yard to the children she had
left at home. There was a tall man, leaning against the palings, gnawing
ravenously at the same loaf as a little boy, who had scrambled up behind
him. Then a huge blackguard came whistling up to me, with a can of ale.
"Drink, my beauty! you're dry with hollering by now!"

"The ale is neither yours nor mine; I won't touch it."

"Darn your buttons! You said the wheat was ourn, acause we growed it--and
thereby so's the beer--for we growed the barley too."

And so thought the rest; for the yard was getting full of drunkards, a
woman or two among them, reeling knee-deep in the loose straw among the
pigs.

"Thresh out they ricks!" roared another.

"Get out the threshing-machine!"

"You harness the horses!"

"No! there bain't no time. Yeomanry'll be here. You mun leave the ricks."

"Darned if we do. Old Woods shan't get naught by they."

"Fire 'em, then, and go on to Slater's farm!"

"As well be hung for a sheep as for a lamb," hiccuped Blinkey, as he rushed
through the yard with a lighted brand. I tried to stop him, but fell on my
face in the deep straw, and got round the barns to the rick-yard just in
time to here a crackle--there was no mistaking it; the windward stack was
in a blaze of fire.

I stood awe-struck--I cannot tell how long--watching how the live
flame-snakes crept and hissed, and leapt and roared, and rushed in long
horizontal jets from stack to stack before the howling wind, and fastened
their fiery talons on the barn-eaves, and swept over the peaked roofs, and
hurled themselves in fiery flakes into the yard beyond--the food of man,
the labour of years, devoured in aimless ruin!--Was it my doing? Was it
not?

At last I recollected myself, and ran round again into the straw-yard,
where the fire was now falling fast. The only thing which saved the house
was the weltering mass of bullocks, pigs, and human beings drunk and sober,
which, trampled out unwittingly the flames as fast as they caught.

The fire had seized the roofs of the cart-stables, when a great lubberly
boy blubbered out:--

"Git my horses out! git my horses out o' the fire! I be so fond o' mun!"

"Well, they ain't done no harm, poor beasts!" And a dozen men ran in to
save them; but the poor wretches, screaming with terror, refused to stir. I
never knew what became of them-but their shrieks still haunt my dreams....

The yard now became a pandemonium. The more ruffianly part of the mob--and
alas! there were but too many of them--hurled the furniture out of the
windows, or ran off with anything that they could carry. In vain I
expostulated, threatened; I was answered by laughter, curses, frantic
dances, and brandished plunder. Then I first found out how large a portion
of rascality shelters itself under the wing of every crowd; and at the
moment, I almost excused the rich for overlooking the real sufferers, in
indignation at the rascals. But even the really starving majority, whose
faces proclaimed the grim fact of their misery, seemed gone mad for the
moment. The old crust of sullen, dogged patience had broken up, and their
whole souls had exploded into reckless fury and brutal revenge--and yet
there was no hint of violence against the red fat woman, who, surrounded
with her blubbering children, stood screaming and cursing at the
first-floor window, getting redder and fatter at every scream. The worst
personality she heard was a roar of laughter, in which, such is poor
humanity, I could not but join, as her little starved drab of a
maid-of-all-work ran out of the door, with a bundle of stolen finery under
her arm, and high above the roaring of the flames, and the shouts of the
rioters, rose her mistress's yell.

"O Betsy! Betsy! you little awdacious unremorseful hussy!--a running away
with my best bonnet and shawl!"

The laughter soon, however, subsided, when a man rushed breathless into the
yard, shouting, "The yeomanry!"

At that sound; to my astonishment, a general panic ensued. The miserable
wretches never stopped to enquire how many, or how far off, they were--but
scrambled to every outlet of the yard, trampling each other down in their
hurry. I leaped up on the wall, and saw, galloping down the park, a mighty
armament of some fifteen men, with a tall officer at their head, mounted on
a splendid horse.

"There they be! there they be! all the varmers, and young Squire Clayton
wi' mun, on his grey hunter! O Lord! O Lord! and all their swords drawn!"

I thought of the old story in Herodotus--how the Scythian masters returned
from war to the rebel slaves who had taken possession of their lands and
wives, and brought them down on their knees with terror, at the mere sight
of the old dreaded dog-whips.

I did not care to run. I was utterly disgusted, disappointed with
myself--the people. I longed, for the moment, to die and leave it all; and
left almost alone, sat down on a stone, buried my head between my hands,
and tried vainly to shut out from my ears the roaring of the fire.

At that moment "Blinkey" staggered out past me and against me, a
writing-desk in his hands, shouting, in his drunken glory, "I've vound ut
at last! I've got the old fellow's money! Hush! What a vule I be, hollering
like that!"--And he was going to sneak off, with a face of drunken cunning,
when I sprung up and seized him by the throat.

"Rascal! robber! lay that down! Have you not done mischief enough already?"

"I wain't have no sharing. What? Do you want un yourself, eh? Then we'll
see who's the stronger!"

And in an instant he shook me from him, and dealt me a blow with the corner
of the desk, that laid me on the ground....

I just recollect the tramp of the yeomanry horses, and the gleam and jingle
of their arms, as they galloped into the yard. I caught a glimpse of the
tall young officer, as his great grey horse swept through the air, over
the high yard-pales--a feat to me utterly astonishing. Half a dozen long
strides--the wretched ruffian, staggering across the field with his booty,
was caught up.--The clear blade gleamed in the air--and then a fearful
yell--and after that I recollect nothing.

       *       *       *       *       *

Slowly I recovered my consciousness. I was lying on a truckle-bed--stone
walls and a grated window! A man stood over me with a large bunch of
keys in his hand. He had been wrapping my head with wet towels. I knew,
instinctively, where I was.

"Well, young man," said he, in a not unkindly tone--"and a nice job you've
made of it! Do you know where you are?".

"Yes," answered I, quietly; "in D * * * * gaol."

"Exactly so!"




CHAPTER XXIX.

THE TRIAL.


The day was come--quickly, thank Heaven; and I stood at the bar, with four
or five miserable, haggard labourers, to take my trial for sedition, riot,
and arson.

I had passed the intervening weeks half stupified with the despair of
utter disappointment; disappointment at myself and my own loss of
self-possession, which had caused all my misfortune,--perhaps, too, and the
thought was dreadful, that of my wretched fellow-sufferers:--disappointment
with the labourers, with The Cause; and when the thought came over me, in
addition, that I was irreparably disgraced in the eyes of my late patrons,
parted for ever from Lillian by my own folly, I laid down my head and
longed to die.

Then, again, I would recover awhile, and pluck up heart. I would plead my
cause myself--I would testify against the tyrants to their face--I would
say no longer to their besotted slaves, but to the men themselves, "Go to,
ye rich men, weep and howl! The hire of your labourers who have reaped down
your fields, which is by you kept back by fraud, crieth; and the cries of
them that have reaped hath entered into the ears of the Lord God of Hosts."
I would brave my fate--I would die protesting, and glory in my martyrdom.
But--

"Martyrdom?" said Mackaye, who had come down to D * * * *, and was busy
night and day about my trial. "Ye'll just leave alone the martyr dodge, my
puir bairn. Ye're na martyr at a', ye'll understand, but a vera foolish
callant, that lost his temper, an' cast his pearls before swine--an' very
questionable pearls they, too, to judge by the price they fetch i' the
market."

And then my heart sank again. And a few days before the trial a letter
came, evidently in my cousin's handwriting, though only signed with his
initials:

"SIR,--You are in a very great scrape--you will not deny that. How you
will get out of it depends on your own common sense. You probably won't be
hanged--for nobody believes that you had a hand in burning the farm; but,
unless you take care, you will be transported. Call yourself John Nokes;
entrust your case to a clever lawyer, and keep in the background. I warn
you, as a friend--if you try to speechify, and play the martyr, and let out
who you are, the respectable people who have been patronizing you will find
it necessary for their own sakes to clap a stopper on you for good and all,
to make you out an impostor and a swindler, and get you out of the way for
life: while, if you are quiet, it will suit them to be quiet too, and say
nothing about you, if you say nothing about them; and then there will be a
chance that they, as well as your own family, will do everything in their
power to hush the matter up. So, again, don't let out your real name; and
instruct your lawyers to know nothing about the W.'s; and then, perhaps,
the Queen's counsel will know nothing about them either. Mind--you are
warned, and woe to you if you are fool enough not to take the warning.

"G.L."

Plead in a false name! Never, so help me Heaven! To go into court with a
lie in my mouth--to make myself an impostor--probably a detected one--it
seemed the most cunning scheme for ruining me, which my evil genius could
have suggested, whether or not it might serve his own selfish ends. But as
for the other hints, they seemed not unreasonable, and promised to save me
trouble; while the continued pressure of anxiety and responsibility was
getting intolerable to my over-wearied brain. So I showed the letter to
Mackaye, who then told me that he had taken it for granted that I should
come to my right mind, and had therefore already engaged an old compatriot
as attorney, and the best counsel which money could procure.

"But where did you get the money? You have not surely been spending your
own savings on me?"

"I canna say that I wadna ha' so dune, in case o' need. But the men in town
just subscribit; puir honest fellows."

"What! is my folly to be the cause of robbing them of their slender
earnings? Never, Mackaye! Besides, they cannot have subscribed enough to
pay the barrister whom you just mentioned. Tell me the whole truth, or,
positively, I will plead my cause myself."

"Aweel, then, there was a bit bank-note or twa cam' to hand--I canna say
whaur fra'. But they that sent it direckit it to be expendit in the defence
o' the sax prisoners--whereof ye make ane."

Again a world of fruitless conjecture. It must be the same unknown friend
who had paid my debt to my cousin--Lillian?

       *       *       *       *       *

And so the day was come. I am not going to make a long picturesque
description of my trial--trials have become lately quite hackneyed
subjects, stock properties for the fiction-mongers--neither, indeed,
could I do so, if I would. I recollect nothing of that day, but
fragments--flashes of waking existence, scattered up and down in what
seemed to me a whole life of heavy, confused, painful dreams, with the
glare of all those faces concentrated on me--those countless eyes which
I could not, could not meet--stony, careless, unsympathizing--not even
angry--only curious. If they had but frowned on me, insulted me, gnashed
their teeth on me, I could have glared back defiance; as it was, I stood
cowed and stupified, a craven by the side of cravens.

Let me see--what can I recollect? Those faces--faces--everywhere faces--a
faint, sickly smell of flowers--a perpetual whispering and rustling of
dresses--and all through it, the voice of some one talking, talking--I
seldom knew what, or whether it was counsel, witness, judge, or prisoner,
that was speaking. I was like one asleep at a foolish lecture, who hears in
dreams, and only wakes when the prosing stops. Was it not prosing? What
was it to me what they said? They could not understand me--my motives--my
excuses; the whole pleading, on my side as well as the crown's, seemed one
huge fallacy--beside the matter altogether--never touching the real point
at issue, the eternal moral equity of my deeds or misdeeds. I had no doubt
that it would all be conducted quite properly, and fairly, and according to
the forms of law; but what was law to me--I wanted justice. And so I let
them go on their own way, conscious of but one thought--was Lillian in the
court?

I dared not look and see. I dared not lift up my eyes toward the gaudy
rows of ladies who had crowded to the "interesting trial of the D * * * *
rioters." The torture of anxiety was less than that of certainty might be,
and I kept my eyes down, and wondered how on earth the attorneys had found
in so simple a case enough to stuff those great blue bags.

When, however, anything did seem likely to touch on a reality, I woke up
forthwith, in spite of myself. I recollect well, for instance, a squabble
about challenging the jurymen; and my counsel's voice of pious indignation,
as he asked, "Do you call these agricultural gentlemen, and farmers,
however excellent and respectable--on which point Heaven forbid that I,
&c., &c.--the prisoner's 'pares,' peers, equals, or likes? What single
interest, opinion, or motive, have they in common, but the universal one
of self-interest, which, in this case, happens to pull in exactly opposite
directions? Your Lordship has often animadverted fully and boldly on the
practice of allowing a bench of squires to sit in judgment on a poacher;
surely it is quite as unjust that agricultural rioters should be tried by a
jury of the very class against whom they are accused of rebelling."

"Perhaps my learned brother would like a jury of rioters?" suggested some
Queen's counsel.

"Upon my word, then, it would be much the fairer plan."

I wondered whether he would have dared to say as much in the street
outside--and relapsed into indifference. I believe there was some long
delay, and wrangling about law-quibbles, which seemed likely at one time to
quash the whole prosecution, but I was rather glad than sorry to find
that it had been overruled. It was all a play, a game of bowls--the
bowls happening to be human heads--got up between the lawyers, for the
edification of society; and it would have been a pity not to play it out,
according to the rules and regulations thereof.

As for the evidence, its tenor may be easily supposed from my story.
There were those who could swear to my language at the camp. I was seen
accompanying the mob to the farm, and haranguing them. The noise was too
great for the witnesses to hear all I said, but they were certain I talked
about the sacred name of liberty. The farmer's wife had seen me run round
to the stacks when they were fired--whether just before or just after, she
never mentioned. She had seen me running up and down in front of the house,
talking loudly, and gesticulating violently; she saw me, too, struggling
with another rioter for her husband's desk;--and the rest of the witnesses,
some of whom I am certain I had seen, busy plundering, though they were
ready to swear that they had been merely accidental passers-by, seemed
to think that they proved their own innocence, and testified their pious
indignation, by avoiding carefully any fact which could excuse me. But,
somehow, my counsel thought differently; and cross-examined, and bullied,
and tormented, and misstated--as he was bound to do; and so one witness
after another, clumsy and cowardly enough already, was driven by his
engines of torture, as if by a pitiless spell, to deny half that he had
deposed truly, and confess a great deal that was utterly false--till
confusion became worse confounded, and there seemed no truth anywhere,
and no falsehood either, and "naught was everything, and everything was
naught;" till I began to have doubts whether the riot had ever occurred
at all--and, indeed, doubts of my own identity also, when I had heard the
counsel for the crown impute to me personally, as in duty bound, every
seditious atrocity which, had been committed either in England or France
since 1793. To him, certainly, I did listen tolerably; it was "as good as a
play." Atheism, blasphemy, vitriol-throwing, and community of women, were
among my lighter offences--for had I not actually been engaged in a plot
for the destruction of property? How did the court know that I had not
spent the night before the riot, as "the doctor" and his friends did before
the riots of 1839, in drawing lots for the estates of the surrounding
gentlemen, with my deluded dupes and victims?--for of course I, and not
want of work, had deluded them into rioting; at least, they never would
have known that they were starving, if I had not stirred up their evil
passions by daring to inform them of that otherwise impalpable fact. I, the
only Chartist there? Might there not have been dozens of them?--emissaries
from London, dressed up as starving labourers, and rheumatic old women?
There were actually traces of a plan for seizing all the ladies in the
country, and setting up a seraglio of them in D * * * * Cathedral. How did
the court know that there was not one?

Ay, how indeed? and how did I know either? I really began to question
whether the man might not be right after all. The whole theory seemed
so horribly coherent--possible, natural. I might have done it, under
possession of the devil, and forgotten it in excitement--I might--perhaps
I did. And if there, why not elsewhere? Perhaps I had helped Jourdan
Coupe-tete at Lyons, and been king of the Munster Anabaptists--why not?
What matter? When would this eternity of wigs, and bonnets, and glaring
windows, and ear-grinding prate and jargon, as of a diabolic universe of
street organs, end--end--end--and I get quietly hanged, and done with it
all for ever?

Oh, the horrible length of that day! It seemed to me as if I had been
always on my trial, ever since I was born. I wondered at times how
many years ago it had all begun. I felt what a far stronger and more
single-hearted patriot than I, poor Somerville, says of himself under the
torture of the sergeant's cat, in a passage, whose horrible simplicity and
unconscious pathos have haunted me ever since I read it; how, when only
fifty out of his hundred lashes had fallen on the bleeding back, "_The time
since they began was like a long period of life: I felt as if I had lived
all the time of my real life in torture, and, that the days when existence
had a pleasure, in it were a dream long, long gone by._"

The reader may begin to suspect that I was fast going mad; and I believe I
was. If he has followed my story with a human heart, he may excuse me of
any extreme weakness, if I did at moments totter on the verge of that
abyss.

What saved me, I believe now, was the keen, bright look of love and
confidence which flashed on me from Crossthwaite's glittering eyes, when he
was called forward as a witness to my character. He spoke out like a man,
I hear, that day. But the counsel for the crown tried to silence him
triumphantly, by calling on him to confess himself a Chartist; as if a man
must needs be a liar and a villain because he holds certain opinions about
the franchise! However that was, I heard, the general opinion of the court.
And then Crossthwaite lost his temper and called the Queen's counsel a
hired bully, and so went down; having done, as I was told afterwards, no
good to me.

And then there followed a passage of tongue fence between Mackaye and some
barrister, and great laughter at the barrister's expense; and then. I heard
the old man's voice rise thin and clear:

"Let him that is without sin amang ye, cast the first stane!"

And as he went down he looked at me--a look full of despair. I never had
had a ray of hope from the beginning; but now I began to think whether men
suffered much when they were hung, and whether one woke at once into the
next life, or had to wait till the body had returned to the dust, and watch
the ugly process of one's own decay. I was not afraid of death--I never
experienced that sensation. I am not physically brave. I am as thoroughly
afraid of pain as any child can be; but that next world has never offered
any prospect to me, save boundless food for my insatiable curiosity.

       *       *       *       *       *

But at that moment my attorney thrust into my hand a little dirty scrap of
paper. "Do you know this man?" I read it.

"SIR,--I wull tell all truthe. Mr. Locke is a murdered man if he be hanged.
Lev me spek out, for love of the Lord.

"J. DAVIS."

No. I never had heard of him; and I let the paper fall.

A murdered man? I had known that all along. Had not the Queen's counsel
been trying all day to murder me, as was their duty, seeing that they got
their living thereby?

A few moments after, a labouring man was in the witness-box; and to my
astonishment, telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the
truth.

I will not trouble the reader with his details, for they were simply
and exactly what I have already stated. He was badgered, bullied,
cross-examined, but nothing could shake him. With that dogged honesty, and
laconic dignity, which is the good side of the English peasant's character,
he stood manfully to his assertion--that I had done everything that words
or actions could do to prevent violence, even to the danger of my own
personal safety. He swore to the words which I used when trying to wrest
the desk from the man who had stolen it; and when the Queen's counsel asked
him, tauntingly, who had set him on bringing his new story there at the
eleventh hour, he answered, equally to the astonishment of his questioner,
and of me,

"Muster Locke, hisself."

"What! the prisoner?" almost screamed the counsellor, who fancied, I
suppose, that he had stumbled on a confession of unblushing bribery.

"Yes, he; he there. As he went up over hill to meeting he met my two boys
a shep-minding; and, because the cutter was froze, he stop and turn the
handle for 'em for a matter of ten minutes; and I was coming up over field,
and says I, I'll hear what that chap's got to say--there can't be no harm
in going up arter the likes of he; for, says I to myself, a man can't have
got any great wickedness a plotting in he's head, when he'll stop a ten
minutes to help two boys as he never sot eyes on afore in his life; and I
think their honours'll say the same."

Whether my reader will agree or not with the worthy fellow, my counsel, I
need not say, did, and made full use of his hint. All the previous evidence
was now discovered to have corroborated the last witness, except where
it had been notoriously overthrown. I was extolled as a miracle of calm
benevolence; and black became grey, and grey became spotless white, and the
whole feeling of the court seemed changed in my favour; till the little
attorney popped up his head and whispered to me:

"By George! that last witness has saved your life."

To which I answered, "Very well"--and turned stupidly back upon that
nightmare thought--was Lillian in the court?

       *       *       *       *       *

At last, a voice, the judge's I believe, for it was grave, gentle, almost
compassionate, asked us one by one whether we had anything to say in our
own defence. I recollect an indistinct murmur from one after another of the
poor semi-brutes on my left; and then my attorney looking up to me, made
me aware that I was expected to speak. On the moment, somehow, my whole
courage returned to me. I felt that I must unburden my heart, now or never.
With a sudden effort I roused myself, and looking fixedly and proudly at
the reverend face opposite, began:

"The utmost offence which has been proved against me is a few bold words,
producing consequences as unexpected as illogical. If the stupid ferocity
with which my words were misunderstood, as by a horde of savages rather
than Englishmen;--if the moral and physical condition of these prisoners at
my side;--of those witnesses who have borne testimony against me, miserable
white slaves, miscalled free labourers;--ay, if a single walk through the
farms and cottages on which this mischief was bred, affords no excuse for
one indignant sentence--"

There she was! There she had been all the time--right opposite to me, close
to the judge--cold, bright, curious--smiling! And as our eyes met, she
turned away, and whispered gaily something to a young man who sat beside
her.

Every drop of blood in my body rushed into my forehead; the court, the
windows, and the faces, whirled round and round, and I fell senseless on
the floor of the dock.

       *       *       *       *       *

I next recollect some room or other in the gaol, Mackaye with both my hands
in his; and the rough kindly voice of the gaoler congratulating me on
having "only got three years."

"But you didn't show half a good pluck," said some one. "There's two on 'em
transported, took it as bold as brass, and thanked the judge for getting
'em out 'o this starving place 'free gracious for nothing," says they."

"Ah!" quoth the little attorney, rubbing his hands, "you should have seen
* * * * and * * * * after the row in '42! They were the boys for the Bull
Ring! Gave a barrister as good as he brought, eh, Mr. Mackaye? My small
services, you remember, were of no use, really no use at all--quite ashamed
to send in my little account. Managed the case themselves, like two
patriotic parties as they were, with a degree of forensic acuteness,
inspired by the consciousness of a noble cause--Ahem! You remember, friend
M.? Grand triumphs those, eh?"

"Ay," said Sandy, "I mind them unco weel--they cost me a' my few savings,
mair by token; an' mony a braw fallow paid for ither folks' sins that tide.
But my puir laddie here's no made o' that stuff. He's ower thin-skinned for
a patriot."

"Ah, well--this little taste of British justice will thicken his hide for
him, eh?" And the attorney chuckled and winked. "He'll come out again as
tough as a bull dog, and as surly too. Eh, Mr. Mackaye?--eh?"

"'Deed, then, I'm unco sair afeard that your opeenion is no a'thegither
that improbable," answered Sandy with a drawl of unusual solemnity.




CHAPTER XXX.

PRISON THOUGHTS.


I was alone in my cell.

Three years' imprisonment! Thirty-six months!--one thousand and ninety-five
days--and twenty-four whole hours in each of them! Well--I should sleep
half the time: one-third at least. Perhaps I should not be able to sleep!
To lie awake, and think--there! the thought was horrible--it was all
horrible. To have three whole years cut out of my life, instead of having
before me, as I had always as yet had, a mysterious Eldorado of new schemes
and hopes, possible developments, possible triumphs, possible bliss--to
have nothing, nothing before me but blank and stagnation, dead loss and
waste: and then to go out again, and start once more where I had left off
yesterday!

It should not be! I would not lose these years! I would show myself a man;
they should feel my strength just when they fancied they had crushed me
utterly! They might bury me, but I should rise again!--I should rise again
more glorious, perhaps to be henceforth immortal, and live upon the lips
of men. I would educate myself; I would read--what would I not read? These
three years should be a time of sacred retirement and contemplation, as of
Thebaid Anchorite, or Mahomet in his Arabian cave. I would write pamphlets
that should thunder through the land, and make tyrants tremble on their
thrones! All England--at least all crushed and suffering hearts--should
break forth at my fiery words into one roar of indignant sympathy. No--I
would write a poem; I would concentrate all my experience, my aspirations,
all the hopes, and wrongs, and sorrows of the poor, into one garland of
thorns--one immortal epic of suffering. What should I call it? And I set to
work deliberately--such a thing is man--to think of a title.

I looked up, and my eye caught the close bars of the little window;
and then came over me, for the first time, the full meaning of that
word--Prison; that word which the rich use so lightly, knowing well that
there is no chance, in these days, of there ever finding themselves in one;
for the higher classes never break the laws--seeing that they have made
them to fit themselves. Ay, I was in prison. I could not go out or come in
at will. I was watched, commanded at every turn. I was a brute animal, a
puppet, a doll, that children put away in a cupboard, and there it lies.
And yet my whole soul was as wide, fierce, roving, struggling as ever.
Horrible contradiction! The dreadful sense of helplessness, the crushing
weight of necessity, seemed to choke me. The smooth white walls, the
smooth white ceiling, seemed squeezing in closer and closer on me, and yet
dilating into vast inane infinities, just as the merest knot of mould
will transform itself, as one watches it, and nothing else, into enormous
cliffs, long slopes of moor, and spurs of mountain-range. Oh, those smooth
white walls and ceilings! If there had but been a print--a stain of dirt--a
cobweb, to fleck their unbroken ghastliness! They stared at me, like grim,
impassive, featureless formless fiends; all the more dreadful for their
sleek, hypocritic cleanliness--purity as of a saint-inquisitor watching
with spotless conscience the victim on the rack. They choked me--I gasped
for breath, stretched out my arms, rolled shrieking on the floor--the
narrow chequered glimpse of free blue sky, seen through the window, seemed
to fade dimmer and dimmer, farther and farther off. I sprang up, as if to
follow it--rushed to the bars, shook and wrenched at them with my thin,
puny arms--and stood spell-bound, as I caught sight of the cathedral
towers, standing out in grand repose against the horizontal fiery bars of
sunset, like great angels at the gates of Paradise, watching in stately
sorrow all the wailing and the wrong below. And beneath, beneath--the
well-known roofs--Lillian's home, and all its proud and happy memories! It
was but a corner of a gable, a scrap of garden, that I could see beyond
intervening roofs and trees--but could I mistake them? There was the very
cedar-tree; I knew its dark pyramid but too well! There I had walked by
her; there, just behind that envious group of chestnuts, she was now. The
light was fading; it must be six o'clock; she must be in her room now,
dressing herself for dinner, looking so beautiful! And as I gazed, and
gazed, all the intervening objects became transparent and vanished before
the intensity of my imagination. Were my poems in her room still? Perhaps
she had thrown them away--the condemned rioter's poems! Was she thinking of
me? Yes--with horror and contempt. Well, at least she was thinking of me.
And she would understand me at last--she must. Some day she would know
all I had borne for love of her--the depth, the might, the purity of my
adoration. She would see the world honouring me, in the day of my triumph,
when I was appreciated at last; when I stood before the eyes of admiring
men, a people's singer, a king of human spirits, great with the rank which
genius gives, then she would find out what a man had loved her: then she
would know the honour, the privilege of a poet's worship.

--But that trial scene.

Ay--that trial scene. That cold unmoved smile!--when she knew me, must have
known me, not to be the wretch which those hired slanderers had called me.
If she had cared for me--if she had a woman's heart in her at all, any
pity, any justice, would she not have spoken? Would she not have called on
others to speak, and clear me of the calumny? Nonsense! Impossible! She--so
frail, tender, retiring--how could she speak? How did I know that she had
not felt for me? It was woman's nature--duty, to conceal her feelings;
perhaps that after all was the true explanation of that smile. Perhaps,
too, she might have spoken--might be even now pleading for me in secret;
not that I wished to be pardoned--not I--but it would be so delicious to
have her, her, pleading for me! Perhaps--perhaps I might hear of her--from
her! Surely she could not leave me here so close, without some token! And I
actually listened, I know not how long, expecting the door to open, and a
message to arrive; till, with my eyes riveted on that bit of gable, and my
ears listening behind me like a hare's in her form, to catch every sound in
the ward outside, I fell fast asleep, and forgot all in the heavy dreamless
torpor of utter mental and bodily exhaustion.

I was awakened by the opening of my cell door and the appearance of the
turnkey.

"Well, young man, all right again? You've had a long nap; and no wonder,
you've had a hard time of it lately; and a good lesson, to you, too."

"How long have I slept? I do not recollect going to bed. And how came I to
lie down without undressing?"

"I found you, at lock-up hours, asleep there kneeling on the chair, with
your head on the window-sill; and a mercy you hadn't tumbled off and broke
your back. Now, look here.--You seems a civil sort of chap; and civil gets
as civil gives with me. Only don't you talk no politics. They ain't no good
to nobody, except the big 'uns, wot gets their living thereby; and I should
think you'd had dose enough on 'em to last for a month of Sundays. So just
get yourself tidy, there's a lad, and come along with me to chapel."

I obeyed him, in that and other things; and I never received from him, or,
indeed, from any one else there, aught but kindness. I have no complaint to
make--but prison is prison. As for talking politics, I never, during those
three years, exchanged as many sentences with any of my fellow-prisoners.
What had I to say to them? Poachers and petty thieves--the scum of misery,
ignorance, and rascality throughout the country. If my heart yearned toward
them at times, it was generally shut close by the exclusive pride of
superior intellect and knowledge. I considered it, as it was, a degradation
to be classed with such; never asking myself how far I had brought that
degradation on myself; and I loved to show my sense of injustice by
walking, moody and silent, up and down a lonely corner of the yard; and at
last contrived, under the plea of ill health (and, truly, I never was ten
minutes without coughing), to confine myself entirely to my cell, and
escape altogether the company of a class whom I despised, almost hated, as
my betrayers, before whom I had cast away my pearls--questionable though
they were according to Mackaye. Oh! there is in the intellectual
workman's heart, as in all others, the root of Pharisaism--the lust after
self-glorifying superiority, on the ground of "genius." We too are men;
frail, selfish, proud as others. The days are past, thank God, when the
"gentlemen button-makers," used to insist on a separate tap-room from the
mere "button-makers," on the ground of earning a few more shillings per
week. But we are not yet thorough democrats, my brothers; we do not yet
utterly believe our own loud doctrine of equality; nor shall we till--But I
must not anticipate the stages of my own experience.

       *       *       *       *       *

I complain of no one, again I say--neither of judge, jury, gaolers, or
chaplain. True, imprisonment was the worst possible remedy for my disease
that could have been devised, if, as the new doctrine is, punishments are
inflicted only to reform the criminal. What could prison do for me, but
embitter and confirm all my prejudices? But I do not see what else they
could have done with me while law is what it is, and perhaps ever will be;
dealing with the overt acts of the poor, and never touching the subtler
and more spiritual iniquities of the rich respectable. When shall we see a
nation ruled, not by the law, by the Gospel; not in the letter which kills,
but in the spirit which is love, forgiveness, life? When? God knows! And
God does know.

       *       *       *       *       *

But I did work, during those three years, for months at a time, steadily
and severely; and with little profit, alas! to my temper of mind. I gorged
my intellect, for I could do nothing else. The political questions which
I longed to solve in some way or other, were tabooed by the well-meaning
chaplain. He even forbid me a standard English work on political economy,
which I had written to Mackaye to borrow for me; he was not so careful, it
will be seen hereafter, with foreign books. He meant, of course, to keep my
mind from what he considered at once useless and polluting; but the only
effect of his method was, that all the doubts and questions remained,
rankling and fierce, imperiously demanding my attention, and had to be
solved by my own moody and soured meditations, warped and coloured by the
strong sense of universal wrong.

Then he deluged me with tracts, weak and well-meaning, which informed
me that "Christians," being "not of this world," had nothing to do with
politics; and preached to me the divine right of kings, passive obedience
to the powers--or impotences--that be, &c., &c., with such success as may
be imagined. I opened them each, read a few sentences, and laid them by.
"They were written by good men, no doubt; but men who had an interest in
keeping up the present system;" at all events by men who knew nothing of
my temptations, my creed, my unbelief; who saw all heaven and earth from a
station antipodal to my own; I had simply nothing to do with them.

And yet, excellent man! pious, benignant, compassionate! God forbid that I
should, in writing these words, allow myself a desire so base as that of
disparaging thee! However thy words failed of their purpose, that bright,
gentle, earnest face never appeared without bringing balm to the wounded
spirit. Hadst thou not recalled me to humanity, those three years would
have made a savage and madman of me. May God reward thee hereafter! Thou
hast thy reward on earth in the gratitude of many a broken heart bound up,
of drunkards sobered, thieves reclaimed, and outcasts taught to look for a
paternal home denied them here on earth! While such thy deeds, what matter
thine opinions?

But alas! (for the truth must be told, as a warning to those who have to
face the educated working men,) his opinions did matter to himself. The
good man laboured under the delusion, common enough, of choosing his
favourite weapons from his weakest faculty; and the very inferiority of his
intellect prevented him from seeing where his true strength lay. He _would_
argue; he would try and convert me from scepticism by what seemed to him
reasoning, the common figure of which was, what logicians, I believe, call
begging the question; and the common method, what they call _ignoratio
elenchi_--shooting at pigeons, while crows are the game desired. He always
started by demanding my assent to the very question which lay at the bottom
of my doubts. He would wrangle and wrestle blindly up and down, with tears
of earnestness in his eyes, till he had lost his temper, as far as it was
possible for one so angel-guarded as he seemed to be; and then, when he
found himself confused, contradicting his own words, making concessions at
which he shuddered, for the sake of gaining from me assents which he found
out the next moment I understood in quite a different sense from his, he
would suddenly shift his ground, and try to knock me down authoritatively
with a single text of Scripture; when all the while I wanted proof that
Scripture had any authority at all.

He carefully confined himself, too, throughout, to the dogmatic phraseology
of the pulpit; while I either did not understand, or required justification
for, the strange, far-fetched, technical meanings, which he attached to his
expressions. If he would only have talked English!--if clergymen would only
preach in English!--and then they wonder that their sermons have no effect!
Their notion seems to be, as my good chaplain's was, that the teacher is
not to condescend to the scholar, much less to become all things to all
men, if by any means he may save some; but that he has a right to demand
that the scholar shall ascend to him before he is taught; that he shall
raise himself up of his own strength into the teacher's region of thought
as well as feeling; to do for himself, in short, under penalty of being
called an unbeliever, just what the preacher professes to do for him.

At last, he seemed dimly to discover that I could not acquiesce in his
conclusions, while I denied his premises; and so he lent me, in an
ill-starred moment, "Paley's Evidences," and some tracts of the last
generation against Deism. I read them, and remained, as hundreds more have
done, just where I was before.

"Was Paley," I asked, "a really good and pious man?"

The really good and pious man hemmed and hawed.

"Because, if he was not, I can't trust a page of his special pleading, let
it look as clever as the whole Old Bailey in one."

Besides, I never denied the existence of Jesus of Nazareth, or his
apostles. I doubted the myths and doctrines, which I believed to have been
gradually built up round the true story. The fact was, he was, like most of
his class, "attacking extinct Satans," fighting manfully against Voltaire,
Volney, and Tom Paine; while I was fighting for Strauss, Hennell, and
Emerson. And, at last, he gave me up for some weeks as a hopeless infidel,
without ever having touched the points on which I disbelieved. He had never
read Strauss--hardly even heard of him; and, till clergymen make up their
minds to do that, and to answer Strauss also, they will, as he did, leave
the heretic artisan just where they found him.

The bad effect which all this had on my mind may easily be conceived. I
felt myself his intellectual superior. I tripped him up, played with him,
made him expose his weaknesses, till I really began to despise him. May
Heaven forgive me for it! But it was not till long afterwards that I began,
on looking back, to see how worthless was any superior cleverness of mine
before his superior moral and spiritual excellence. That was just what
he would not let me see at the time. I was worshipping intellect, mere
intellect; and thence arose my doubts; and he tried to conquer them by
exciting the very faculty which had begotten them. When will the clergy
learn that their strength is in action, and not in argument? If they are
to reconvert the masses, it must be by noble deeds, as Carlyle says; "not
by noisy theoretic laudation of _a_ Church, but by silent practical
demonstration of _the_ Church."

       *       *       *       *       *

But, the reader may ask, where was your Bible all this time?

Yes--there was a Bible in my cell--and the chaplain read to me, both
privately and in chapel, such portions of it as he thought suited my case,
or rather his utterly-mistaken view thereof. But, to tell the truth, I
cared not to read or listen. Was it not the book of the aristocrats--of
kings and priests, passive obedience, and the slavery of the intellect?
Had I been thrown under the influence of the more educated Independents
in former years, I might have thought differently. They, at least, have
contrived, with what logical consistence I know not, to reconcile orthodox
Christianity with unflinching democratic opinions. But such was not my lot.
My mother, as I said in my first chapter, had become a Baptist; because
she believed that sect, and as I think rightly, to be the only one which
logically and consistently carries out the Calvinistic theory; and now I
looked back upon her delight in Gideon and Barak, Samson and Jehu, only as
the mystic application of rare exceptions to the fanaticism of a chosen
few--the elect--the saints, who, as the fifth-monarchy men held, were
one day to rule the world with a rod of iron. And so I fell--willingly,
alas!--into the vulgar belief about the politics of Scripture, common
alike--strange unanimity!--to Infidel and Churchman. The great idea that
the Bible is the history of mankind's deliverance from all tyranny, outward
as well as inward; of the Jews, as the one free constitutional people among
a world of slaves and tyrants; of their ruin, as the righteous fruit of a
voluntary return to despotism; of the New Testament, as the good news that
freedom, brotherhood, and equality, once confided only to Judaea and to
Greece, and dimly seen even there, was henceforth to be the right of all
mankind, the law of all society--who was there to tell me that? Who is
there now to go forth and tell it to the millions who have suffered, and
doubted, and despaired like me, and turn the hearts of the disobedient to
the wisdom of the just, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come?
Again I ask--who will go forth and preach that Gospel, and save his native
land?

But, as I said before, I read, and steadily. In the first place, I, for the
first time in my life, studied Shakspeare throughout; and found out now the
treasure which I had overlooked. I assure my readers I am not going to give
a lecture on him here, as I was minded to have done. Only, as I am asking
questions, who will write us a "People's Commentary on Shakspeare"?

Then I waded, making copious notes and extracts, through the whole of Hume,
and Hallam's "Middle Ages," and "Constitutional History," and found them
barren to my soul. When (to ask a third and last question) will some
man, of the spirit of Carlyle--one who is not ashamed to acknowledge the
intervention of a God, a Providence, even of a devil, in the affairs of
men--arise, and write a "People's History of England"?

Then I laboured long months at learning French, for the mere purpose of
reading French political economy after my liberation. But at last, in my
impatience, I wrote to Sandy to send me Proudhon and Louis Blanc, on the
chance of their passing the good chaplain's censorship--and behold, they
passed! He had never heard their names! He was, I suspect, utterly ignorant
of French, and afraid of exposing his ignorance by venturing to criticise.
As it was, I was allowed peaceable possession of them till within a few
months of my liberation, with such consequences as may be imagined:
and then, to his unfeigned terror and horror, he discovered, in some
periodical, that he had been leaving in my hands books which advocated "the
destruction of property," and therefore, in his eyes, of all which is moral
or sacred in earth or heaven! I gave them up without a struggle, so really
painful was the good soul's concern and the reproaches which he heaped, not
on me--he never reproached me in his life--but on himself, for having so
neglected his duty.

Then I read hard for a few months at physical science--at Zoology and
Botany, and threw it aside again in bitterness of heart. It was too bitter
to be tantalized with the description of Nature's wondrous forms, and I
there a prisoner between those four white walls.

Then I set to work to write an autobiography--at least to commit to paper
in regular order the most striking incidents and conversations which I
could recollect, and which I had noted down as they occurred in my diary.
From that source I have drawn nearly the whole of my history up to this
point. For the rest I must trust to memory--and, indeed, the strange deeds
and sufferings, and yet stranger revelations, of the last few months, have
branded themselves deep enough upon my brain. I need not hope, or fear,
that aught of them should slip my memory.

       *       *       *       *       *

So went the weary time. Week after week, month after month, summer after
summer, I scored the days off, like a lonely school boy, on the pages of a
calendar; and day by day I went to my window, and knelt there, gazing at
the gable and the cedar-tree. That was my only recreation. Sometimes, at
first, my eyes used to wander over the wide prospect of rich lowlands, and
farms, and hamlets, and I used to amuse myself with conjectures about the
people who lived in them, and walked where they liked on God's earth: but
soon I hated to look at the country; its perpetual change and progress
mocked the dreary sameness of my dungeon. It was bitter, maddening, to see
the grey boughs grow green with leaves, and the green fade to autumnal
yellow, and the grey boughs reappear again, and I still there! The dark
sleeping fallows bloomed with emerald blades of corn, and then the corn
grew deep and crisp, and blackened before the summer breeze, in "waves of
shadow," as Mr. Tennyson says in one of his most exquisite lyrics; and then
the fields grew white to harvest day by day, and I saw the rows of sheaves
rise one by one, and the carts crawling homeward under their load. I could
almost hear the merry voices of the children round them--children that
could go into the woods, and pick wild flowers, and I still there! No--I
would look at nothing but the gable and the cedar-tree, and the tall
cathedral towers; there was no change in them--they did not laugh at me.

But she who lived beneath them? Months and seasons crawled along, and yet
no sign or hint of her! I was forgotten, forsaken! And yet I gazed, and
gazed. I could not forget her; I could not forget what she had been to me.
Eden was still there, though I was shut out from it for ever: and so, like
a widower over the grave of her he loves, morning and evening I watched the
gable and the cedar-tree.

And my cousin? Ah, that was the thought, the only thought, which made
my life intolerable! What might he not be doing in the meantime? I knew
his purpose, I knew his power. True, I had never seen a hint, a glance,
which could have given him hope; but he had three whole years to win her
in--three whole years, and I fettered, helpless, absent! "Fool! could I
have won her if I had been free? At least, I would have tried: we would
have fought it fairly out, on even ground; we would have seen which was the
strongest, respectability and cunning, or the simplicity of genius. But
now!"--And I tore at the bars of the window, and threw myself on the floor
of my cell, and longed to die.




CHAPTER XXXI.

THE NEW CHURCH.


In a poor suburb of the city, which I could see well enough from my little
window, a new Gothic church was building. When I first took up my abode
in the cell, it was just begun--the walls had hardly risen above the
neighbouring sheds and garden-fences. But month after month I had watched
it growing; I had seen one window after another filled with tracery, one
buttress after another finished off with its carved pinnacle; then I had
watched the skeleton of the roof gradually clothed in tiling; and then the
glazing of the windows--some of them painted, I could see, from the iron
network which was placed outside them the same day. Then the doors were put
up--were they going to finish that handsome tower? No: it was left with its
wooden cap, I suppose for further funds. But the nave, and the deep chancel
behind it, were all finished, and surmounted by a cross,--and beautifully
enough the little sanctuary looked, in the virgin-purity of its spotless
freestone. For eighteen months I watched it grow before my eyes--and I was
still in my cell!

And then there was a grand procession of surplices and lawn sleeves; and
among them I fancied I distinguished the old dean's stately figure, and
turned my head away, and looked again, and fancied I distinguished another
figure--it must have been mere imagination--the distance was far too
great for me to identify any one; but I could not get out of my head the
fancy--say rather, the instinct--that it was my cousin's; and that it was
my cousin whom I saw daily after that, coming out and going in--when the
bell rang to morning and evening prayers--for there were daily services
there, and saint's day services, and Lent services, and three services on a
Sunday, and six or seven on Good Friday and Easter-day. The little musical
bell above the chancel-arch seemed always ringing: and still that figure
haunted me like a nightmare, ever coming in and going out about its
priestly calling--and I still in my cell! If it should be he!--so close to
her! I shuddered at the thought; and, just because it was so intolerable,
it clung to me, and tormented me, and kept me awake at nights, till I
became utterly unable to study quietly, and spent hours at the narrow
window, watching for the very figure I loathed to see.

And then a Gothic school-house rose at the churchyard end, and troops of
children poured in and out, and women came daily for alms; and when the
frosts came on, every morning I saw a crowd, and soup carried away in
pitchers, and clothes and blankets given away; the giving seemed endless,
boundless; and I thought of the times of the Roman Empire and the
"sportula," when the poor had got to live upon the alms of the rich, more
and more, year by year--till they devoured their own devourers, and the end
came; and I shuddered. And yet it was a pleasant sight, as every new church
is to the healthy-minded man, let his religious opinions be what they
may. A fresh centre of civilization, mercy, comfort for weary hearts,
relief from frost and hunger; a fresh centre of instruction, humanizing,
disciplining, however meagre in my eyes, to hundreds of little savage
spirits; altogether a pleasant sight, even to me there in my cell. And
I used to wonder at the wasted power of the Church--her almost entire
monopoly of the pulpits, the schools, the alms of England; and then thank
Heaven, somewhat prematurely, that she knew and used so little her vast
latent power for the destruction of liberty.

Or for its realization?

Ay, that is the question! We shall not see it solved--at least, I never
shall.

But still that figure haunted me; all through that winter I saw it,
chatting with old women, patting children's heads, walking to the church
with ladies; sometimes with a tiny, tripping figure.--I did not dare to let
myself fancy who that might be.

       *       *       *       *       *

December passed, and January came. I had now only two months more before my
deliverance. One day I seemed to myself to have passed a whole life in that
narrow room; and the next, the years and months seemed short and blank as a
night's sleep on waking; and there was no salient point in all my memory,
since that last sight of Lillian's smile, and the faces and the window
whirling round me as I fell.

At last a letter came from Mackaye. "Ye speired for news o' your
cousin--an' I find he's a neebour o' yours; ca'd to a new kirk i' the city
o' your captivity--an' na stickit minister he makes, forbye he's ane o'
these new Puseyite sectarians, to judge by your uncle's report. I met
the auld bailie-bodie on the street, and was gaun to pass him by, but he
was sae fou o' good news he could na but stop an' ha' a crack wi' me on
politics; for we ha' helpit thegither in certain municipal clamjamfries o'
late. An' he told me your cousin wins honour fast, an' maun surely die a
bishop--puir bairn! An' besides that he's gaun to be married the spring.
I dinna mind the leddy's name; but there's tocher wi' lass o' his I'll
warrant. He's na laird o' Cockpen, for a penniless lass wi' a long
pedigree."

As I sat meditating over this news--which made the torment of suspicion and
suspense more intolerable than ever--behold a postscript added some two
days after.

"Oh! Oh! Sic news! gran news! news to make baith the ears o' him that
heareth it to tingle. God is God, an' no the deevil after a'! Louis
Philippe is doun!--doun, doun, like a dog, and the republic's proclaimed,
an' the auld villain here in England, they say, a wanderer an' a beggar. I
ha' sent ye the paper o' the day. Ps.--73, 37, 12. Oh, the Psalms are full
o't! Never say the Bible's no true, mair. I've been unco faithless mysel',
God forgive me! I got grieving to see the wicked in sic prosperity. I did
na gang into the sanctuary eneugh, an' therefore I could na see the end of
these men--how He does take them up suddenly after all, an' cast them doun:
vanish they do, perish, an' come to a fearful end. Yea, like as a dream
when one awaketh, so shalt thou make their image to vanish out of the city.
Oh, but it's a day o' God! An' yet I'm sair afraid for they puir feckless
French. I ha' na faith, ye ken, in the Celtic blude, an' its spirit o'
lees. The Saxon spirit o' covetize is a grewsome house-fiend, and sae's our
Norse speerit o' shifts an' dodges; but the spirit o' lees is warse. Puir
lustful Reubens that they are!--unstable as water, they shall not excel.
Well, well--after all, there is a God that judgeth the earth; an' when a
man kens that, he's learnt eneugh to last him till he dies."




CHAPTER XXXII.

THE TOWER OF BABEL.


  A glorious people vibrated again
    The lightning of the nations; Liberty
  From heart to heart, from tower to tower, o'er France,
    Scattering contagious fire into the sky,
  Gleamed. My soul spurned the chains of its dismay;
    And in the rapid plumes of song
    Clothed itself sublime and strong.

Sublime and strong? Alas! not so. An outcast, heartless, faithless, and
embittered, I went forth from my prison.--But yet Louis Philippe had
fallen! And as I whirled back to Babylon and want, discontent and discord,
my heart was light, my breath came thick and fierce.--The incubus of France
had fallen! and from land to land, like the Beacon-fire which leaped from
peak to peak proclaiming Troy's downfall, passed on the glare of burning
idols, the crash of falling anarchies. Was I mad, sinful? Both--and yet
neither. Was I mad and sinful, if on my return to my old haunts, amid the
grasp of loving hands and the caresses of those who called me in their
honest flattery a martyr and a hero--what things, as Carlyle says, men will
fall down and worship in their extreme need!--was I mad and sinful, if
daring hopes arose, and desperate words were spoken, and wild eyes read in
wild eyes the thoughts they dare not utter? "Liberty has risen from the
dead, and we too will be free!"

Yes, mad and sinful; therefore are we as we are. Yet God has forgiven
us--perhaps so have those men whose forgiveness is alone worth having.

Liberty? And is that word a dream, a lie, the watchword only of rebellious
fiends, as bigots say even now? Our forefathers spoke not so--

  The shadow of her coming fell
  On Saxon Alfred's olive-tinctured brow.

Had not freedom, progressive, expanding, descending, been the glory and the
strength of England? Were Magna Charta and the Habeas Corpus Act, Hampden's
resistance to ship-money, and the calm, righteous might of 1688--were they
all futilities and fallacies? Ever downwards, for seven hundred years,
welling from the heaven-watered mountain peaks of wisdom, had spread the
stream of liberty. The nobles had gained their charter from John; the
middle classes from William of Orange: was not the time at hand, when from
a queen, more gentle, charitable, upright, spotless, than had ever sat on
the throne of England, the working masses in their turn should gain their
Charter?

If it was given, the gift was hers: if it was demanded to the uttermost,
the demand would be made, not on her, but on those into whose hands her
power had passed, the avowed representatives neither of the Crown nor of
the people, but of the very commercial class which was devouring us.

Such was our dream. Insane and wicked were the passions which accompanied
it; insane and wicked were the means we chose; and God in his mercy to us,
rather than to Mammon, triumphant in his iniquity, fattening his heart
even now for a spiritual day of slaughter more fearful than any physical
slaughter which we in our folly had prepared for him--God frustrated them.

We confess our sins. Shall the Chartist alone be excluded from the promise,
"If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins,
and cleanse us from all unrighteousness"?

And yet, were there no excuses for us? I do not say for myself--and yet
three years of prison might be some excuse for a soured and harshened
spirit--but I will not avail myself of the excuse; for there were men,
stancher Chartists than ever I had been--men who had suffered not only
imprisonment, but loss of health and loss of fortune; men whose influence
with the workmen was far wider than my own, and whose temptations were
therefore all the greater, who manfully and righteously kept themselves
aloof from all those frantic schemes, and now reap their reward, in being
acknowledged as the true leaders of the artizans, while the mere preachers
of sedition are scattered to the winds.

But were there no excuses for the mass? Was there no excuse in the spirit
with which the English upper classes regarded the continental revolutions?
No excuse in the undisguised dislike, fear, contempt, which they expressed
for that very sacred name of Liberty, which had been for ages the pride of
England and her laws--

  The old laws of England, they
  Whose reverend heads with age are grey--
  Children of a wiser day--
  And whose solemn voice must be
  Thine own echo, Liberty!

for which, according to the latest improvements, is now substituted a
bureaucracy of despotic commissions? Shame upon those who sneered at the
very name of her to whom they owed the wealth they idolize! who cry down
liberty because God has given it to them in such priceless abundance,
boundless as the sunshine and the air of heaven, that they are become
unconscious of it as of the elements by which they live! Woe to those who
despise the gift of God! Woe to those who have turned His grace into a
cloak for tyranny; who, like the Jews of old, have trampled under foot His
covenant at the very moment that they were asserting their exclusive right
to it, and denying his all-embracing love!

And were there no excuses, too, in the very arguments which
nineteen-twentieths of the public press used to deter us from following the
example of the Continent? If there had been one word of sympathy with the
deep wrongs of France, Germany, Italy, Hungary--one attempt to discriminate
the righteous and God-inspired desire of freedom, from man's furious and
self-willed perversion of it, we would have listened to them. But, instead,
what was the first, last, cardinal, crowning argument?--"The cost of
sedition!" "Revolutions interfered with trade!" and therefore they were
damnable! Interfere with the food and labour of the millions? The millions
would take the responsibility of that upon themselves. If the party of
order cares so much for the millions, why had they left them what they
are? No: it was with the profits of the few that revolutions interfered;
with the Divine right, not so much of kings, but of money-making. They
hampered Mammon, the very fiend who is devouring the masses. The one end
and aim of existence was, the maintenance of order--of peace and room to
make money in. And therefore Louis' spies might make France one great
inquisition-hell; German princelets might sell their country piecemeal to
French or Russian! the Hungarian constitution, almost the counterpart of
our own, might be sacrificed at the will of an idiot or villain; Papal
misgovernment might continue to render Rome a worse den of thieves than
even Papal superstition could have made it without the addition of tyranny;
but Order must be maintained, for how else could the few make money out of
the labour of the many? These were their own arguments. Whether they were
likely to conciliate the workman to the powers that be, by informing him
that those powers were avowedly the priests of the very system which was
crushing him, let the reader judge.

The maintenance of order--of the order of disorder--that was to be the new
God before whom the working classes were to bow in spell-bound awe; an idol
more despicable and empty than even that old divine right of tyrants, newly
applied by some well-meaning but illogical personages, not merely as of old
to hereditary sovereigns, but to Louis Philippes, usurers, upstarts--why
not hereafter to demagogues? Blindfold and desperate bigots! who would
actually thus, in the imbecility of terror, deify that very right of the
physically strongest and cunningest, which, if anything, is antichrist
itself. That argument against sedition, the workmen heard; and,
recollecting 1688, went on their way, such as it was, unheeding.

One word more, even at the risk of offending many whom I should be very
sorry to offend, and I leave this hateful discussion. Let it ever be
remembered that the working classes considered themselves deceived,
cajoled, by the passers of the Reform Bill; that they cherished--whether
rightly or wrongly it is now too late to ask--a deep-rooted grudge
against those who had, as they thought, made their hopes and passions a
stepping-stone towards their own selfish ends. They were told to support
the Reform Bill, not only on account of its intrinsic righteousness--which
God forbid that I should deny--but because it was the first of a glorious
line of steps towards their enfranchisement; and now the very men who told
them this, talked peremptorily of "finality," showed themselves the most
dogged and careless of conservatives, and pooh-poohed away every attempt at
further enlargement of the suffrage. They were told to support it as the
remedy for their own social miseries; and behold those miseries were year
by year becoming deeper, more wide-spread, more hopeless; their entreaties
for help and mercy, in 1842, and at other times, had been lazily laid by
unanswered; and almost the only practical efforts for their deliverance had
been made by a Tory nobleman, the honoured and beloved Lord Ashley. They
found that they had, in helping to pass the Reform Bill, only helped to
give power to the two very classes who crushed them--the great labour
kings, and the small shopkeepers; that they had blindly armed their
oppressors with the additional weapon of an ever-increasing political
majority. They had been told, too (let that never be forgotten), that in
order to carry the Reform Bill, sedition itself was lawful; they had seen
the master-manufacturers themselves give the signal for the plug-riots by
stopping their mills. Their vanity, ferocity, sense of latent and fettered
power, pride of numbers, and physical strength, had been nattered and
pampered by those who now only talked of grape-shot and bayonets. They had
heard the Reform Bill carried by the threats of men of rank and power,
that "Manchester should march upon London." Were their masters, then, to
have a monopoly in sedition, as in everything else? What had been fair in
order to compel the Reform Bill, must surely be fairer still to compel
the fulfilment of Reform Bill pledges? And so, imitating the example of
those whom they fancied had first used and then deserted them, they, in
their madness, concocted a rebellion, not primarily against the laws and
constitution of their land, but against Mammon--against that accursed
system of competition, slavery of labour, absorption of the small
capitalists by the large ones, and of the workman by all, which is, and
was, and ever will be, their internecine foe. Silly and sanguinary enough
were their schemes, God knows! and bootless enough had they succeeded;
for nothing nourishes in the revolutionary atmosphere but that lowest
embodiment of Mammon, "the black pool of Agio," and its money-gamblers. But
the battle remains still to be fought; the struggle is internecine; only no
more with weapons of flesh and blood, but with a mightier weapon--with that
association which is the true bane of Mammon--the embodiment of brotherhood
and love.

We should have known that before the tenth of April? Most true, reader--but
wrath is blindness. You too surely have read more wisdom than you have
practised yet; seeing that you have your Bible, and perhaps, too, Mill's
"Political Economy." Have you perused therein the priceless Chapter "On
the Probable Futurity of the Labouring Classes"? If not, let me give you
the reference--vol. ii, p. 315, of the Second Edition. Read it, thou
self-satisfied Mammon, and perpend; for it is both a prophecy and a doom!

       *       *       *       *       *

But, the reader may ask, how did you, with your experience of the reason,
honesty, moderation, to be expected of mobs, join in a plan which, if it
had succeeded, must have let loose on those "who had" in London, the whole
flood of those "who had not"?

The reader shall hear. My story may be instructive, as a type of the
feelings of thousands beside me.

It was the night after I had returned from D * * * *; sitting in
Crossthwaite's little room, I had heard with mingled anxiety and delight
the plans of my friends. They were about to present a monster petition in
favour of the Charter; to accompany it _en masse_ to the door of the House
of Commons; and if it was refused admittance--why, then, ulterior measures
were the only hope. "And they will refuse it," said Crossthwaite; "they're
going, I hear, to revive some old law or other, that forbids processions
within such and such a distance of the House of Commons. Let them forbid!
To carry arms, to go in public procession, to present petitions openly,
instead of having them made a humbug of by being laid on the table unopened
by some careless member--they're our rights, and we'll have them. There's
no use mincing the matter: it's just like the old fable of the farmer and
his wheat--if we want it reaped, we must reap it ourselves. Public opinion,
and the pressure from without, are the only things which have carried any
measure in England for the last twenty years. Neither Whigs nor Tories deny
it: the governed govern their governors--that's the 'ordre du jour' just
now--and we'll have our turn at it! We'll give those House of Commons
oligarchs--those tools of the squires and shopkeepers--we'll give them a
taste of pleasure from without, as shall make the bar of the house crack
again. And then to be under arms, day and night, till the Charter's
granted."

"And if it is refused?"

"Fight! that's the word, and no other. There's no other hope. No
Charter,--No social reforms! We must give them ourselves, for no one else
will. Look there, and judge for yourself!"

He pulled a letter out from among his papers, and threw it across to me.

"What's this?"

"That came while you were in gaol. There don't want many words about it.
We sent up a memorial to government about the army and police clothing. We
told 'em how it was the lowest, most tyrannous, most ill-paid of all the
branches of slop-making; how men took to it only when they were starved
out of everything else. We entreated them to have mercy on us--entreated
them to interfere between the merciless contractors and the poor wretches
on whose flesh and blood contractors, sweaters, and colonels, were all
fattening: and there's the answer we got. Look at it; read it! Again and
again I've been minded to placard it on the walls, that all the world
might see the might and the mercies of the government. Read it! 'Sorry
to say that it is utterly out of the power of her Majesty's * * * *s to
interfere--as the question of wages rests entirely between the contractor
and the workmen.'"

"He lies!" I said. "If it did, the workmen might put a pistol to the
contractor's head, and say--'You shall not tempt the poor, needy, greedy,
starving workers to their own destruction, and the destruction of their
class; you shall not offer these murderous, poisonous prices. If we saw
you offering our neighbour a glass of laudanum, we would stop you at all
risks--and we will stop you now.' No! no! John, the question don't
lie between workman and contractor, but between workman and
contractor-plus-grape-and-bayonets!"

"Look again. There's worse comes after that. 'If government did interfere,
it would not benefit the workman, as his rate of wages depends entirely
on the amount of competition between the workmen themselves.' Yes, my
dear children, you must eat each other; we are far too fond parents to
interfere with so delightful an amusement! Curse them--sleek, hard-hearted,
impotent do-nothings! They confess themselves powerless against
competition--powerless against the very devil that is destroying us, faster
and faster every year! They can't help us on a single point. They can't
check population; and if they could, they can't get rid of the population
which exists. They daren't give us a comprehensive emigration scheme. They
daren't lift a finger to prevent gluts in the labour market. They daren't
interfere between slave and slave, between slave and tyrant. They are
cowards, and like cowards they shall fall!"

"Ay--like cowards they shall fall!" I answered; and from that moment I was
a rebel and a conspirator.

"And will the country join us?"

"The cities will; never mind the country. They are too weak to resist their
own tyrants--and they are too weak to resist us. The country's always
drivelling in the background. A country-party's sure to be a party of
imbecile bigots. Nobody minds them."

I laughed. "It always was so, John. When Christianity first spread, it was
in the cities--till a pagan, a villager, got to mean a heathen for ever and
ever."

"And so it was in the French revolution; when Popery had died out of all
the rest of France, the priests and the aristocrats still found their dupes
in the remote provinces."

"The sign of a dying system that, to be sure. Woe to Toryism and the
Church of England, and everything else, when it gets to boasting that its
stronghold is still the hearts of the agricultural poor. It is the cities,
John, the cities, where the light dawns first--where man meets man, and
spirit quickens spirit, and intercourse breeds knowledge, and knowledge
sympathy, and sympathy enthusiasm, combination, power irresistible; while
the agriculturists remain ignorant, selfish, weak, because they are
isolated from each other. Let the country go. The towns shall win the
Charter for England! And then for social reform, sanitary reform, aedile
reform, cheap food, interchange of free labour, liberty, equality, and
brotherhood for ever!"

Such was our Babel-tower, whose top should reach to heaven. To understand
the allurement of that dream, you must have lain, like us, for years in
darkness and the pit. You must have struggled for bread, for lodging, for
cleanliness, for water, for education--all that makes life worth living
for--and found them becoming, year by year, more hopelessly impossible, if
not to yourself, yet still to the millions less gifted than yourself; you
must have sat in darkness and the shadow of death, till you are ready to
welcome any ray of light, even though it should be the glare of a volcano.




CHAPTER XXXIII.

A PATRIOT'S REWARD.


I never shall forget one evening's walk, as Crossthwaite and I strode
back together from the Convention. We had walked on some way arm in arm
in silence, under the crushing and embittering sense of having something
to conceal--something, which if those who passed us so carelessly in
the street had known--! It makes a villain and a savage of a man, that
consciousness of a dark, hateful secret. And it was a hateful one!--a
dark and desperate necessity, which we tried to call by noble names, that
faltered on our lips as we pronounced them; for the spirit of God was not
in us; and instead of bright hope, and the clear fixed lodestar of duty,
weltered in our imaginations a wild possible future of tumult, and flame,
and blood.

"It must be done!--it shall be done!--it will be done!" burst out John, at
last, in that positive, excited tone, which indicated a half disbelief of
his own words. "I've been reading Macerone on street-warfare; and I see the
way as clear as day."

I felt nothing but the dogged determination of despair. "It must be tried,
if the worst comes to the worst--but I have no hope. I read Somerville's
answer to that Colonel Macerone. Ten years ago he showed it was impossible.
We cannot stand against artillery; we have no arms."

"I'll tell you where to buy plenty. There's a man, Power, or Bower, he's
sold hundreds in the last few days; and he understands the matter. He tells
us we're certain, safe. There are hundreds of young men in the government
offices ready to join, if we do but succeed at first. It all depends on
that. The first hour settles the fate of a revolution."

"If we succeed, yes--the cowardly world will always side with the
conquering party; and we shall have every pickpocket and ruffian in our
wake, plundering in the name of liberty and order."

"Then we'll shoot them like dogs, as the French did! 'Mort aux voleurs'
shall be the word!"

"Unless they shoot us. The French had a national guard, who had property
to lose, and took care of it. The shopkeepers here will be all against us;
they'll all be sworn in special constables, to a man; and between them and
the soldiers, we shall have three to one upon us."

"Oh! that Power assures me the soldiers will fraternize. He says there are
three regiments at least have promised solemnly to shoot their officers,
and give up their arms to the mob."

"Very important, if true--and very scoundrelly, too, I'd sooner be shot
myself by fair fighting, than see officers shot by cowardly treason."

"Well, it's ugly. I like fair play as well as any man. But it can't be
done. There must be a surprise, a _coup de main_, as the French say" (poor
Crossthwaite was always quoting French in those days). "Once show our
strength--burst upon the tyrants like a thunderclap; and then!--

  "Men of England, heirs of glory,
  Heroes of unwritten story,
  Rise, shake off the chains like dew
  Which in sleep have fallen on you!
  Ye are many, they are few!"

"That's just what I am afraid they are not. Let's go and find out this man
Power, and hear his authority for the soldier-story. Who knows him?"

"Why, Mike Kelly and he had been a deal together of late, Kelly's a true
heart now--a true Irishman ready for anything. Those Irish are the boys,
after all--though I don't deny they do bluster and have their way a little
too much in the Convention. But still Ireland's wrongs are England's. We
have the same oppressors. We must make common cause against the tyrants."

"I wish to Heaven they would just have stayed at home, and ranted on the
other side of the water; they had their own way there, and no Mammonite
middle-class to keep them down; and yet they never did an atom of good.
Their eloquence is all bombast, and what's more, Crossthwaite, though there
are some fine fellows among them, nine-tenths are liars--liars in grain,
and you know it--"

Crossthwaite turned angrily to me. "Why, you are getting as reactionary as
old Mackaye himself!"

"I am not--and he is not. I am ready to die on a barricade to-morrow, if
it comes to that. I haven't six months' lease of life--I am going into
consumption; and a bullet is as easy a death as spitting up my lungs
piecemeal. But I despise these Irish, because I can't trust them--they
can't trust each other--they can't trust themselves. You know as well as I
that you can't get common justice done in Ireland, because you can depend
upon no man's oath. You know as well as I, that in Parliament or out, nine
out of ten of them will stick at no lie, even if it has been exposed and
refuted fifty times over, provided it serves the purpose of the moment; and
I often think that, after all, Mackaye's right, and what's the matter with
Ireland is just that and nothing else--that from the nobleman in his
castle to the beggar on his dunghill, they are a nation of liars, John
Crossthwaite!"

"Sandy's a prejudiced old Scotchman."

"Sandy's a wiser man than you or I, and you know it."

"Oh, I don't deny that; but he's getting old, and I think he has been
failing in his mind of late."

"I'm afraid he's failing in his health; he has never been the same man
since they hooted him down in John Street. But he hasn't altered in his
opinions one jot; and I'll tell you what--I believe he's right. I'll die in
this matter like a man, because it's the cause of liberty; but I've fearful
misgivings about it, just because Irishmen are at the head of it."

"Of course they are--they have the deepest wrongs; and that makes them
most earnest in the cause of right. The sympathy of suffering, as they say
themselves, has bound them to the English working man against the same
oppressors."

"Then let them fight those oppressors at home, and we'll do the same:
that's the true way to show sympathy. Charity begins at home. They are
always crying 'Ireland for the Irish'; why can't they leave England for the
English?"

"You're envious of O'Connor's power!"

"Say that again, John Crossthwaite, and we part for ever!" And I threw off
his arm indignantly.

"No--but--don't let's quarrel, my dear old fellow--now, that perhaps,
perhaps we may never meet again--but I can't bear to hear the Irish abused.
They're noble, enthusiastic, generous fellows. If we English had half as
warm hearts, we shouldn't be as we are now; and O'Connor's a glorious
man, I tell you. Just think of him, the descendant of the ancient kings,
throwing away his rank, his name, all he had in the world, for the cause of
the suffering millions!"

"That's a most aristocratic speech, John," said I, smiling, in spite of my
gloom. "So you keep a leader because he's descended from ancient kings, do
you? I should prefer him just because he was not--just because he was a
working man, and come of workmen's blood. We shall see whether he's stanch
after all. To my mind, little Cuffy's worth a great deal more, as far as
earnestness goes."

"Oh! Cuffy's a low-bred, uneducated fellow."

"Aristocrat again, John!" said I, as we went up-stairs to Kelly's room. And
Crossthwaite did not answer.

There was so great a hubbub inside Kelly's room, of English, French, and
Irish, all talking at once, that we knocked at intervals for full five
minutes, unheard by the noisy crew; and I, in despair, was trying the
handle, which was fast, when, to my astonishment, a heavy blow was struck
on the panel from the inside, and the point of a sharp instrument driven
right through, close to my knees, with the exclamation--

"What do you think o' that, now, in a policeman's bread-basket?"

"I think," answered I, as loud as I dare, and as near the dangerous door,
"if I intended really to use it, I wouldn't make such a fool's noise about
it."

There was a dead silence; the door was hastily opened, and Kelly's nose
poked out; while we, in spite of the horribleness of the whole thing, could
not help laughing at his face of terror. Seeing who we were he welcomed
us in at once, into a miserable apartment, full of pikes and daggers,
brandished by some dozen miserable, ragged, half-starved artizans.
Three-fourths, I saw at once, were slop-working tailors. There was a
bloused and bearded Frenchman or two; but the majority were, as was to have
been expected, the oppressed, the starved, the untaught, the despairing,
the insane; "the dangerous classes," which society creates, and then
shrinks in horror, like Frankenstein, from the monster her own clumsy
ambition has created. Thou Frankenstein Mammon! hast thou not had warnings
enough, either to make thy machines like men, or stop thy bungling, and let
God make them for Himself?

I will not repeat what I heard there. There is many a frantic ruffian
of that night now sitting "in his right mind"--though not yet
"clothed"--waiting for God's deliverance, rather than his own.

We got Kelly out of the room into the street, and began inquiring of
him the whereabouts of this said Bower or Power. "He didn't know,"--the
feather-headed Irishman that he was!--"Faix, by-the-by, he'd forgotten--an'
he went to look for him at the place he tould him, and they didn't know
sich a one there--"

"Oh, oh! Mr. Power has an _alibi_, then? Perhaps an _alias_ too?"

"He didn't know his name rightly. Some said it was Brown; but he was a
broth of a boy--a thrue people's man. Bedad, he gov' away arms afthen and
afthen to them that couldn't buy 'em. An' he's as free-spoken--och, but
he's put me into the confidence! Come down the street a bit, and I'll tell
yees--I'll be Lord-Lieutenant o' Dublin Castle meself, if it succades, as
shure as there's no snakes in ould Ireland, an' revenge her wrongs ankle
deep in the bhlood o' the Saxon! Whirroo! for the marthyred memory o' the
three hundred thousint vargens o' Wexford!"

"Hold your tongue, you ass!" said Crossthwaite, as he clapped his hand over
his mouth, expecting every moment to find us all three in the Rhadamanthine
grasp of a policeman; while I stood laughing, as people will, for mere
disgust at the ridiculous, which almost always intermingles with the
horrible.

At last, out it came--

"Bedad! we're going to do it! London's to be set o' fire in seventeen
places at the same moment, an' I'm to light two of them to me own self, and
make a holycrust--ay, that's the word--o' Ireland's scorpions, to sting
themselves to death in circling flame--"

"You would not do such a villanous thing?" cried we, both at once.

"Bedad! but I won't harm a hair o' their heads! Shure, we'll save the women
and childer alive, and run for the fire-ingins our blessed selves, and then
out with the pikes, and seize the Bank and the Tower--

 "An' av' I lives, I lives victhorious,
  An' av' I dies, my soul in glory is;
          Love fa--a--are--well!"

I was getting desperate: the whole thing seemed at once so horrible and so
impossible. There must be some villanous trap at the bottom of it.

"If you don't tell me more about this fellow Power, Mike," said I, "I'll
blow your brains out on the spot: either you or he are villains." And I
valiantly pulled out my only weapon, the door key, and put it to his head.

"Och! are you mad, thin? He's a broth of a boy; and I'll tell ye. Shure he
knows all about the red-coats, case he's an arthillery man himself, and
that's the way he's found out his gran' combustible."

"An artilleryman?" said John. "He told me he was a writer for the press."

"Bedad, thin, he's mistaken himself intirely; for he tould me with his own
mouth. And I'll show you the thing he sowld me as is to do it. Shure, it'll
set fire to the stones o' the street, av' you pour a bit vitriol on it."

"Set fire to the stones? I must see that before I believe it."

"Shure an' ye shall then. Where'll I buy a bit? Sorra a shop is there open
this time o' night; an' troth I forgot the name o' it intirely! Poker o'
Moses, but here's a bit in my pocket!"

And out of his tattered coat-tail he lugged a flask of powder and a lump
of some cheap chemical salt, whose name I have, I am ashamed to say,
forgotten.

"You're a pretty fellow to keep such things in the same pocket with
gunpowder!"

"Come along to Mackaye's," said Crossthwaite. "I'll see to the bottom
of this. Be hanged, but I think the fellow's a cursed _mouchard_--some
government spy!"

"Spy is he, thin? Och, the thief o' the world! I'll stab him! I'll murther
him! an' burn the town afterwards, all the same."

"Unless," said I, "just as you've got your precious combustible to blaze
off, up he comes from behind the corner and gives you in charge to a
policeman. It's a villanous trap, you miserable fool, as sure as the moon's
in heaven."

"Upon my word, I am afraid it is--and I'm trapped too."

"Blood and turf! thin, it's he that I'll trap, thin. There's two million
free and inlightened Irishmen in London, to avenge my marthyrdom wi' pikes
and baggonets like raving salviges, and blood for blood!"

"Like savages, indeed!" said I to Crossthwaite, "And pretty savage company
we are keeping. Liberty, like poverty, makes a man acquainted with strange
companions!"

"And who's made 'em savages? Who has left them savages? That the greatest
nation of the earth has had Ireland in her hands three hundred years--and
her people still to be savages!--if that don't justify a revolution, what
does? Why, it's just because these poor brutes are what they are, that
rebellion becomes a sacred duty. It's for them--for such fools, brutes, as
that there, and the millions more like him, and likely to remain like him,
and I've made up my mind to do or die to-morrow!"

There was a grand half-truth, distorted, miscoloured in the words, that
silenced me for the time.

We entered Mackaye's door; strangely enough at that time of night, it stood
wide open. What could be the matter? I heard loud voices in the inner room,
and ran forward calling his name, when, to my astonishment, out past me
rushed a tall man, followed by a steaming kettle, which, missing him, took
full effect on Kelly's chest as he stood in the entry, filling his shoes
with boiling water, and producing a roar that might have been heard at
Temple Bar.

"What's the matter?"

"Have I hit him?" said the old man, in a state of unusual excitement.

"Bedad! it was the man Power! the cursed spy! An' just as I was going to
slate the villain nately, came the kittle, and kilt me all over!"

"Power? He's as many names as a pickpocket, and as many callings, too, I'll
warrant. He came sneaking in to tell me the sogers were a' ready to gie up
their arms if I'd come forward to them to-morrow. So I tauld him, sin' he
was so sure o't, he'd better gang and tak the arms himsel; an' then he let
out he'd been a policeman--"

"A policeman!" said both Crossthwaite and Kelly, with strong expletives.

"A policeman doon in Manchester; I thought I kenned his face fra the first.
And when the rascal saw he'd let out too much, he wanted to make out that
he'd been a' along a spy for the Chartists, while he was makin' believe to
be a spy o' the goovernment's. Sae when he came that far, I just up wi' the
het water, and bleezed awa at him; an' noo I maun gang and het some mair
for my drap toddy."

Sandy had a little vitriol in the house, so we took the combustible down
into the cellar, and tried it. It blazed up: but burnt the stone as much as
the reader may expect. We next tried it on a lump of wood. It just scorched
the place where it lay, and then went out; leaving poor Kelly perfectly
frantic with rage, terror, and disappointment. He dashed up-stairs, and out
into the street, on a wild-goose chase after the rascal, and we saw no more
of him that night.

I relate a simple fact. I am afraid--perhaps, for the poor workmen's sake,
I should say I am glad, that it was not an unique one. Villains of this
kind, both in April and in June, mixed among the working men, excited
their worst passions by bloodthirsty declamations and extravagant promises
of success, sold them arms; and then, like the shameless wretch on whose
evidence Cuffy and Jones were principally convicted, bore witness against
their own victims, unblushingly declaring themselves to have been all
along the tools of the government. I entreat all those who disbelieve this
apparently prodigious assertion, to read the evidence given on the trial of
the John Street conspirators, and judge for themselves.

       *       *       *       *       *

"The petition's filling faster than ever!" said Crossthwaite, as that
evening we returned to Mackaye's little back room.

"Dirt's plenty," grumbled the old man, who had settled himself again to his
pipe, with his feet on the fender, and his head half way up the chimney.

"Now, or never!" went on Crossthwaite, without minding him; "now, or never!
The manufacturing districts seem more firm than ever."

"An' words cheap," commented Mackaye, _sotto voce_.

"Well," I said, "Heaven keep us from the necessity of ulterior measures!
But what must be, must."

"The government expect it, I can tell you. They're in a pitiable funk, I
hear. One regiment is ordered to Uxbridge already, because they daren't
trust it. They'll find soldiers are men, I do believe, after all."

"Men they are," said Sandy; "an' therefore they'll no be fools eneugh to
stan' by an' see ye pu' down a' that is, to build up ye yourselves dinna
yet rightly ken what. Men? Ay, an' wi' mair common sense in them than some
that had mair opportunities."

"I think I've settled everything," went on Crossthwaite, who seemed not to
have heard the last speech--"settled everything--for poor Katie, I mean.
If anything happens to me, she has friends at Cork--she thinks so at
least--and they'd get her out to service somewhere--God knows!" And his
face worked fearfully a minute.

"Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori!" said I.

"There are twa methods o' fulfilling that saw, I'm thinkin'. Impreemis, to
shoot your neebour; in secundis, to hang yoursel."

"What do you mean by grumbling at the whole thing in this way, Mr. Mackaye?
Are you, too, going to shrink back from The Cause, now that liberty is at
the very doors?"

"Ou, then, I'm stanch eneuch. I ha' laid in my ain stock o' weapons for the
fecht at Armageddon."

"You don't mean it? What have you got?"

"A braw new halter, an' a muckle nail. There's a gran' tough beam here
ayont the ingle, will haud me a' crouse and cantie, when the time comes."

"What on earth do you mean?" asked we both together.

"Ha' ye looked into the monster-petition?"

"Of course we have, and signed it too!"

"Monster? Ay, ferlie! Monstrum horrendum, informe, ingens, cui lumen
ademptum. Desinit in piscem mulier formosa superne. Leeberty, the bonnie
lassie, wi' a sealgh's fud to her! I'll no sign it. I dinna consort wi'
shoplifters, an' idiots, an' suckin' bairns--wi' long nose, an' short nose,
an' pug nose, an' seventeen Deuks o' Wellington, let alone a baker's dizen
o' Queens. It's no company, that, for a puir auld patriot!"

"Why, my dear Mackaye," said I, "you know the Reform Bill petitions were
just as bad."

"And the Anti-Corn-law ones, too, for that matter," said Crossthwaite. "You
know we can't help accidents; the petition will never be looked through."

"It's always been the plan with Whigs and Tories, too!"

"I ken that better than ye, I guess."

"And isn't everything fair in a good cause?" said Crossthwaite.

"Desperate men really can't be so dainty."

"How lang ha' ye learnit that deil's lee, Johnnie? Ye were no o' that mind
five years agone, lad. Ha' ye been to Exeter Hall the while? A's fair in
the cause o' Mammon; in the cause o' cheap bread, that means cheap wages;
but in the cause o' God--wae's me, that ever I suld see this day ower
again! ower again! Like the dog to his vomit--just as it was ten, twenty,
fifty year agone. I'll just ha' a petition a' alane to mysel--I, an' a twa
or three honest men. Besides, ye're just eight days ower time wi' it."

"What do you mean?"

"Suld ha' sent it in the 1st of April, an' no the 10th; a' fool's day wud
ha' suited wi' it ferlie!"

"Mr. Mackaye," said Crossthwaite, in a passion, "I shall certainly inform
the Convention of your extraordinary language!"

"Do, laddie! do, then! An' tell 'em this, too"--and, as he rose, his whole
face and figure assumed a dignity, an awfulness, which I had never seen
before in him--"tell them that ha' driven out * * * * and * * * *, an'
every one that daur speak a word o' common sense, or common humanity--them
that stone the prophets, an' quench the Spirit o' God, and love a lie, an'
them that mak the same--them that think to bring about the reign o' love
an' britherhood wi' pikes an' vitriol bottles, murther an' blasphemy--tell
'em that ane o' fourscore years and mair--ane that has grawn grey in the
people's cause--that sat at the feet o' Cartwright, an' knelt by the
death-bed o' Rabbie Burns--ane that cheerit Burdett as he went to the
Touer, an' spent his wee earnings for Hunt an' Cobbett--ane that beheld the
shaking o' the nations in the Ninety-three, and heard the birth-shriek o'
a newborn world--ane that while he was yet a callant saw Liberty afar off,
an' seeing her was glad, as for a bonny bride, an' followed her through the
wilderness for threescore weary waeful years--sends them the last message
that e'er he'll send on airth: tell 'em that they're the slaves o' warse
than priests and kings--the slaves o' their ain lusts an' passions--the
slaves o' every loud-tongued knave an' mountebank that'll pamper them in
their self-conceit; and that the gude God'll smite 'em down, and bring 'em
to nought, and scatter 'em abroad, till they repent, an' get clean hearts
and a richt speerit within them, and learn His lesson that he's been trying
to teach 'em this threescore years--that the cause o' the people is the
cause o' Him that made the people; an' wae to them that tak' the deevil's
tools to do his wark wi'! Gude guide us!--What was yon, Alton, laddie?"

"What?"

"But I saw a spunk o' fire fa' into your bosom! I've na faith in siccan
heathen omens; but auld carlins wud say it's a sign o' death within the
year--save ye from it, my puir misguidit bairn! Aiblins a fire-flaught o'
my een, it might be--I've had them unco often, the day--"

And he stooped down to the fire, and began to light his pipe, muttering to
himself--

"Saxty years o' madness! saxty years o' madness! How lang, O Lord, before
thou bring these puir daft bodies to their richt mind again?"

We stood watching him, and interchanging looks--expecting something, we
knew not what.

Suddenly he sank forward on his knees, with his hands on the bars of the
grate; we rushed forward, and caught him up. He turned his eyes up to me,
speechless, with a ghastly expression; one side of his face was all drawn
aside--and helpless as a child, he let us lift him to his bed, and there he
lay staring at the ceiling.

       *       *       *       *       *

Four weary days passed by--it was the night of the ninth of April. In the
evening of that day his speech returned to him on a sudden--he seemed
uneasy about something, and several times asked Katie the day of the month.

"Before the tenth--ay, we maun pray for that. I doubt but I'm ower hearty
yet--I canna bide to see the shame o' that day--

       *       *       *       *       *

"Na--I'll tak no potions nor pills--gin it were na for scruples o'
conscience, I'd apocartereeze a'thegither, after the manner o' the ancient
philosophers. But it's no' lawful, I misdoubt, to starve onesel."

"Here is the doctor," said Katie.

"Doctor? Wha ca'd for doctors? Canst thou administer to a mind diseased?
Can ye tak long nose, an' short nose, an' snub nose, an' seventeen Deuks
o' Wellington out o' my puddins? Will your castor oil, an' your calomel,
an' your croton, do that? D'ye ken a medicamentum that'll put brains into
workmen--? Non tribus Anti-cyrus! Tons o' hellebore--acres o' strait
waistcoats--a hall police-force o' head-doctors, winna do it. Juvat
insanire--this their way is their folly, as auld Benjamin o' Tudela
saith of the heathen. Heigho! 'Forty years lang was he grevit wi' this
generation, an' swore in his wrath that they suldna enter into his rest.'
Pulse? tongue? ay, shak your lugs, an' tak your fee, an' dinna keep auld
folk out o' their graves. Can ye sing?"

The doctor meekly confessed his inability.

"That's pity--or I'd gar ye sing Auld-lang-syne,--

  "We twa hae paidlit in the burn--

"Aweel, aweel, aweel--"

       *       *       *       *       *

Weary and solemn was that long night, as we sat there, with the crushing
weight of the morrow on our mind, watching by that death-bed, listening
hour after hour to the rambling soliloquies of the old man, as "he babbled
of green fields"; yet I verily believe that to all of us, especially to
poor little Katie, the active present interest of tending him kept us from
going all but mad with anxiety and excitement. But it was weary work:--and
yet, too, strangely interesting, as at times there came scraps of old
Scotch love-poetry, contrasting sadly with the grim withered lips that
uttered them--hints to me of some sorrow long since suffered, but never
healed. I had never heard him allude to such an event before but once, on
the first day of our acquaintance.

 "I went to the kirk,
  My luve sat afore me;
  I trow my twa een
  Tauld him a sweet story.

 "Aye wakin o'--
  Wakin aye and weary--
  I thocht a' the kirk
  Saw me and my deary.

"'Aye wakin o'!'--Do ye think, noo, we sall ha' knowledge in the next warld
o' them we loved on earth? I askit that same o' Rab Burns ance; an' he
said, puir chiel, he 'didna ken ower well, we maun bide and see';--bide and
see--that's the gran' philosophy o' life, after a'. Aiblins folk'll ken
their true freens there; an' there'll be na mair luve coft and sauld for
siller--

 "Gear and tocher is needit nane
  I' the country whaur my luve is gane.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Gin I had a true freen the noo! to gang down the wynd, an' find if it war
but an auld Abraham o' a blue-gown, wi' a bit crowd, or a fizzle-pipe, to
play me the Bush aboon Traquair! Na, na, na; it's singing the Lord's song
in a strange land, that wad be; an' I hope the application's no irreverent,
for ane that was rearit amang the hills o' God, an' the trees o' the forest
which he hath planted.

 "Oh the broom, and the bonny yellow broom,
  The broom o' the Cowden-knowes.

"Hech, but she wud lilt that bonnily!

       *       *       *       *       *

"Did ye ever gang listering saumons by nicht? Ou, but it's braw sport, wi'
the scars an' the birks a' glowering out blude-red i' the torchlight, and
the bonnie hizzies skelping an' skirling on the bank--

       *       *       *       *       *

"There was a gran' leddy, a bonny leddy, came in and talked like an angel o'
God to puir auld Sandy, anent the salvation o' his soul. But I tauld her
no' to fash hersel. It's no my view o' human life, that a man's sent into
the warld just to save his soul, an' creep out again. An' I said I wad
leave the savin' o' my soul to Him that made my soul; it was in richt gude
keepin' there, I'd warrant. An' then she was unco fleyed when she found I
didna haud wi' the Athanasian creed. An' I tauld her, na; if He that died
on cross was sic a ane as she and I teuk him to be, there was na that pride
nor spite in him, be sure, to send a puir auld sinful, guideless body to
eternal fire, because he didna a'thegither understand the honour due to his
name."

"Who was this lady?"

He did not seem to know; and Katie had never heard of her before--"some
district visitor" or other.

       *       *       *       *       *

"I sair misdoubt but the auld creeds are in the right anent Him, after a'.
I'd gie muckle to think it--there's na comfort as it is. Aiblins there
might be a wee comfort in that, for a poor auld worn-out patriot. But it's
ower late to change. I tauld her that, too, ance. It's ower late to put new
wine into auld bottles. I was unco drawn to the high doctrines ance, when
I was a bit laddie, an' sat in the wee kirk by my minnie an' my daddie--a
richt stern auld Cameronian sort o' body he was, too; but as I grew, and
grew, the bed was ower short for a man to stretch himsel thereon, an' the
plaidie ower strait for a man to fauld himself therein; and so I had to
gang my gate a' naked in the matter o' formulae, as Maister Tummas has it."

"Ah! do send for a priest, or a clergyman!" said Katie, who partly
understood his meaning.

"Parson? He canna pit new skin on auld scars. Na bit stickit curate-laddie
for me, to gang argumentin' wi' ane that's auld enough to be his
gran'father. When the parsons will hear me anent God's people, then I'll
hear them anent God.

 "--Sae I'm wearing awa, Jean,
  To the land o' the leal--

"Gin I ever get thither. Katie, here, hauds wi' purgatory, ye ken! where
souls are burnt clean again--like baccy pipes--

 "When Bazor-brigg is ower and past,
    Every night and alle;
  To Whinny Muir thou comest at last,
    And God receive thy sawle.

 "Gin hosen an' shoon thou gavest nane
    Every night and alle;
  The whins shall pike thee intil the bane,
    And God receive thy sawle.

"Amen. There's mair things aboon, as well as below, than are dreamt o'
in our philosophy. At least, where'er I go, I'll meet no long nose, nor
short nose, nor snub nose patriots there; nor puir gowks stealing the
deil's tools to do God's wark wi'. Out among the eternities an' the
realities--it's no that dreary outlook, after a', to find truth an'
fact--naught but truth an' fact--e'en beside the worm that dieth not, and
the fire that is not quenched!"

"God forbid!" said Katie.

"God do whatsoever shall please Him, Katie--an' that's aye gude like
Himsel'. Shall no the Judge of all the earth do right--right--right?"

And murmuring that word of words to himself, over and over, more and more
faintly, he turned slowly over, and seemed to slumber--

Some half hour passed before we tried to stir him. He was dead.

And the candles waned grey, and the great light streamed in through every
crack and cranny, and the sun had risen on the Tenth of April. What would
be done before the sun had set?

What would be done? Just what we had the might to do; and therefore,
according to the formula on which we were about to act, that mights are
rights, just what we had a right to do--nothing. Futility, absurdity,
vanity, and vexation of spirit. I shall make my next a short chapter. It is
a day to be forgotten--and forgiven.




CHAPTER XXXIV.

THE TENTH OF APRIL.


And he was gone at last! Kind women, whom his unknown charities had saved
from shame, laid him out duly, and closed his eyes, and bound up that face
that never would beam again with genial humour, those lips that would
never again speak courage and counsel to the sinful, the oppressed, the
forgotten. And there he lay, the old warrior, dead upon his shield; worn
out by long years of manful toil in The People's Cause; and, saddest
thought of all, by disappointment in those for whom he spent his soul.
True, he was aged; no one knew how old. He had said, more than eighty
years; but we had shortened his life, and we knew it. He would never see
that deliverance for which he had been toiling ever since the days when as
a boy he had listened to Tooke and Cartwright, and the patriarchs of the
people's freedom. Bitter, bitter were our thoughts, and bitter were our
tears, as Crossthwaite and I stood watching that beloved face, now in death
refined to a grandeur, to a youthful simplicity and delicacy, which we had
never seen on it before--calm and strong--the square jaws set firm even
in death--the lower lip still clenched above the upper, as if in a divine
indignation and everlasting protest, even in the grave, against the
devourers of the earth. Yes, he was gone--the old lion, worn out with many
wounds, dead in his cage. Where could we replace him? There were gallant
men amongst us, eloquent, well-read, earnest--men whose names will ring
through this land ere long--men who had boon taught wisdom, even as he, by
the sinfulness, the apathy, the ingratitude, as well as by the sufferings
of their fellows. But where should we two find again the learning, the
moderation, the long experience, above all the more than women's tenderness
of him whom we had lost? And at that time, too, of all others! Alas! we had
despised his counsel: wayward and fierce we would have none of his reproof;
and now God has withdrawn him from us; the righteous was taken away from
the evil to come. For we knew that evil was coming. We felt all along that
we should _not_ succeed. But we were desperate; and his death made us more
desperate; still at the moment it drew us nearer to each other. Yes--we
were rudderless upon a roaring sea, and all before us blank with lurid
blinding mist: but still we were together, to live and die; and as we
looked into each other's eyes, and clasped each other's hands above the
dead man's face, we felt that there was love between us, as of Jonathan and
David, passing the love of woman.

Few words passed. Even our passionate artizan-nature, so sensitive
and voluble in general, in comparison with the cold reserve of the
field-labourer and the gentleman, was hushed in silent awe between the
thought of the past and the thought of the future. We felt ourselves
trembling between two worlds. We felt that to-morrow must decide our
destiny--and we felt rightly, though little we guessed what that destiny
would be!

But it was time to go. We had to prepare for the meeting, We must be at
Kennington Common within three hours at furthest; and Crossthwaite hurried
away, leaving Katie and me to watch the dead.

And then came across me the thought of another deathbed--my mother's--How
she had lain and lain, while I was far away--And then I wondered whether
she had suffered much, or faded away at last in a peaceful sleep, as he
had--And then I wondered how her corpse had looked; and pictured it to
myself, lying in the little old room day after day, till they screwed the
coffin down--before I came!--Cruel! Did she look as calm, as grand in death
as he who lay there? And as I watched the old man's features, I seemed
to trace in them the strangest likeness to my mother's. The strangest
likeness! I could not shake it off. It became intense--miraculous. Was it
she, or was it he, who lay there? I shook myself and rose. My loins ached,
my limbs were heavy; my brain and eyes swam round. I must be over fatigued
by excitement and sleeplessness. I would go down stairs into the fresh air,
and shake it off.

As I came down the passage, a woman, dressed in black, was standing at the
door, speaking to one of the lodgers. "And he is dead! Oh, if I had but
known sooner that he was even ill!"

That voice--that figure-surely, I knew them!--them, at least, there was
no mistaking! Or, was it another phantom of my disordered brain! I pushed
forward to the door, and as I did so, she turned and our eyes met full. It
was she--Lady Ellerton! sad, worn, transformed by widow's weeds, but that
face was like no other's still. Why did I drop my eyes and draw back at the
first glance like a guilty coward? She beckoned me towards her, went out
into the street, and herself began the conversation, from which I shrank, I
know not why.

"When did he die?"

"Just at sunrise this morning. But how came you here to visit him? Were you
the lady who, as he said, came to him a few days since?"

She did not answer my question. "At sunrise this morning?--A fitting time
for him to die, before he sees the ruin and disgrace of those for whom he
laboured. And you, too, I hear, are taking your share in this projected
madness and iniquity?"

"What right have you," I asked, bristling up at a sudden suspicion that
crossed me, "to use such words about me?"

"Recollect," she answered, mildly but firmly, "your conduct, three years
ago, at D * * * *."

"What," I said, "was it not proved upon my trial, that I exerted all my
powers, endangered my very life, to prevent outrage in that case?"

"It was proved upon your trial," she replied, in a marked tone; "but we
were informed, and alas! from authority only too good, namely, from that of
an ear-witness, of the sanguinary and ferocious language which you were not
afraid to use at the meeting in London, only two nights before the riot."

I turned white with rage and indignation.

"Tell me," I said--"tell me, if you have any honour, who dared to forge
such an atrocious calumny! No! you need not tell me. I see well enough now.
He should have told you that I exposed myself that night to insult, not by
advocating, but by opposing violence, as I have always done--as I would
now, were not I desperate--hopeless of any other path to liberty. And as
for this coming struggle, have I not written to my cousin, humiliating as
it was to me, to beg him to warn you all from me, lest--"

I could not finish the sentence.

"You wrote? He has warned us, but he never mentioned your name. He spoke of
his knowledge as having been picked up by himself at personal risk to his
clerical character."

"The risk, I presume, of being known to have actually received a letter
from a Chartist; but I wrote--on my honour I wrote--a week ago; and
received no word of answer!"

"Is this true?" she asked.

"A man is not likely to deal in useless falsehoods, who knows not whether
he shall live to see the set of sun!"

"Then you are implicated in this expected insurrection?"

"I am implicated," I answered, "with the people; what they do I shall do.
Those who once called themselves the patrons of the tailor-poet, left
the mistaken enthusiast to languish for three years in prison, without a
sign, a hint of mercy, pity, remembrance. Society has cast me off; and,
in casting me off, it has sent me off to my own people, where I should
have stayed from the beginning. Now I am at my post, because I am among my
class. If they triumph peacefully, I triumph with them. If they need blood
to gain their rights, be it so. Let the blood be upon the head of those who
refuse, not those who demand. At least, I shall be with my own people. And
if I die, what better thing on earth can happen to me?"

"But the law?" she said.

"Do not talk to me of law! I know it too well in practice to be moved by
any theories about it. Laws are no law, but tyranny, when the few make
them, in order to oppress the many by them."

"Oh!" she said, in a voice of passionate earnestness, which I had never
heard from her before, "stop--for God's sake, stop! You know not what you
are saying--what you are doing. Oh! that I had met you before--that I
had had more time to speak to poor Mackaye! Oh! wait, wait--there is a
deliverance for you! but never in this path--never. And just while I, and
nobler far than I, are longing and struggling to find the means of telling
you your deliverance, you, in the madness of your haste, are making it
impossible!"

There was a wild sincerity in her words--an almost imploring tenderness in
her tone.

"So young!" said she; "so young to be lost thus!"

I was intensely moved. I felt, I knew, that she had a message for me. I
felt that hers was the only intellect in the world to which I would have
submitted mine; and, for one moment, all the angel and all the devil in me
wrestled for the mastery. If I could but have trusted her one moment....
No! all the pride, the spite, the suspicion, the prejudice of years, rolled
back upon me. "An aristocrat! and she, too, the one who has kept me from
Lillian!" And in my bitterness, not daring to speak the real thought within
me, I answered with a flippant sneer--

"Yes, madam! like Cordelia, so young, yet so untender!--Thanks to the
mercies of the upper classes!"

Did she turn away in indignation? No, by Heaven! there was nothing upon her
face but the intensest yearning pity. If she had spoken again she would
have conquered; but before those perfect lips could open, the thought of
thoughts flashed across me.

"Tell me one thing! Is my cousin George to be married to ----" and I
stopped.

"He is."

"And yet," I said, "you wish to turn me back from dying on a barricade!"
And without waiting for a reply, I hurried down the street in all the fury
of despair.

       *       *       *       *       *

I have promised to say little about the Tenth of April, for indeed I have
no heart to do so. Every one of Mackaye's predictions came true. We had
arrayed against us, by our own folly, the very physical force to which we
had appealed. The dread of general plunder and outrage by the savages of
London, the national hatred of that French and Irish interference of which
we had boasted, armed against us thousands of special constables, who had
in the abstract little or no objection to our political opinions. The
practical common sense of England, whatever discontent it might feel with
the existing system, refused to let it be hurled rudely down, on the mere
chance of building up on its ruins something as yet untried, and even
undefined. Above all, the people would not rise. Whatever sympathy they had
with us, they did not care to show it. And then futility after futility
exposed itself. The meeting which was to have been counted by hundreds of
thousands, numbered hardly its tens of thousands; and of them a frightful
proportion were of those very rascal classes, against whom we ourselves had
offered to be sworn in as special constables. O'Connor's courage failed him
after all. He contrived to be called away, at the critical moment, by some
problematical superintendent of police. Poor Cuffy, the honestest, if not
the wisest, speaker there, leapt off the waggon, exclaiming that we were
all "humbugged and betrayed"; and the meeting broke up pitiably piecemeal,
drenched and cowed, body and soul, by pouring rain on its way home--for
the very heavens mercifully helped to quench our folly--while the
monster-petition crawled ludicrously away in a hack cab, to be dragged to
the floor of the House of Commons amid roars of laughter--"inextinguishable
laughter," as of Tennyson's Epicurean Gods--

  Careless of mankind.
  For they lie beside their nectar, and their bolts are hurled
  Far below them in the valleys, and the clouds are lightly curled
  Round their golden houses, girdled with the gleaming world.
  There they smile in secret, looking over wasted lands,
  Blight and famine, plague and earthquake, roaring deeps and fiery sands,
  Clanging fights, and flaming towns, and sinking ships, _and praying hands.
  But they smile, they find a music, centred in a doleful song,
  Steaming up, a lamentation, and an ancient tale of wrong,
  Like a tale of little meaning, though the words are strong_
  Chanted by an ill-used race of men that cleave the soil,
  Sow the seed and reap the harvest with enduring toil,
  Storing little yearly dues of wheat, and wine, and oil;
  Till they perish, and they suffer--some, 'tis whispered, down in hell
  Suffer endless anguish!--

Truly--truly, great poets' words are vaster than the singers themselves
suppose!




CHAPTER XXXV.

THE LOWEST DEEP.


Sullen, disappointed, desperate, I strode along the streets that evening,
careless whither I went. The People's Cause was lost--the Charter a
laughing-stock. That the party which monopolizes wealth, rank, and, as it
is fancied, education and intelligence, should have been driven, degraded,
to appeal to brute force for self-defence--that thought gave me a savage
joy; but that it should have conquered by that last, lowest resource!--That
the few should be still stronger than the many, or the many still too
cold-hearted and coward to face the few--that sickened me. I hated the
well-born young special constables whom I passed, because they would have
fought. I hated the gent and shop-keeper special constables, because they
would have run away. I hated my own party, because they had gone too
far--because they had not gone far enough. I hated myself, because I had
not produced some marvellous effect--though what that was to have been I
could not tell--and hated myself all the more for that ignorance.

A group of effeminate shop-keepers passed me, shouting, "God save the
Queen!" "Hypocrites!" I cried in my heart--"they mean 'God save our shops!'
Liars! They keep up willingly the useful calumny, that their slaves and
victims are disloyal as well as miserable!"

I was utterly abased--no, not utterly; for my self-contempt still vented
itself--not in forgiveness, but in universal hatred and defiance. Suddenly
I perceived my cousin, laughing and jesting with a party of fashionable
young specials: I shrank from him; and yet, I know not why, drew as near
him as I could, unobserved--near enough to catch the words.

"Upon my honour, Locke, I believe you are a Chartist yourself at heart."

"At least I am no Communist," said he, in a significant tone. "There is one
little bit of real property which I have no intention of sharing with my
neighbours."

"What, the little beauty somewhere near Cavendish Square?"

"That's my business."

"Whereby you mean that you are on your way to her now? Well, I am invited
to the wedding, remember."

He pushed on laughingly, without answering. I followed him fast--"near
Cavendish Square!"--the very part of the town where Lillian lived! I had
had, as yet, a horror of going near it; but now an intolerable suspicion
scourged me forward, and I dogged his steps, hiding behind pillars, and at
the corners of streets, and then running on, till I got sight of him again.
He went through Cavendish Square, up Harley Street--was it possible? I
gnashed my teeth at the thought. But it must be so. He stopped at the
dean's house, knocked, and entered without parley.

In a minute I was breathless on the door-step, and knocked. I had no plan,
no object, except the wild wish to see my own despair. I never thought
of the chances of being recognized by the servants, or of anything else,
except of Lillian by my cousin's side.

The footman came out smiling, "What did I want?"

"I--I--Mr. Locke."

"Well you needn't be in such a hurry!" (with a significant grin). "Mr.
Locke's likely to be busy for a few minutes yet, I expect."

Evidently the man did not know me.

"Tell him that--that a person wishes to speak to him on particular
business." Though I had no more notion what that business was than the man
himself.

"Sit down in the hall."

And I heard the fellow, a moment afterwards, gossiping and laughing with
the maids below about the "young couple."

To sit down was impossible; my only thought was--where was Lillian?

Voices in an adjoining room caught my ear. His! yes--and hers too--soft
and low. What devil prompted me to turn eavesdropper? to run headlong
into temptation? I was close to the dining-room door, but they were not
there--evidently they were in the back room, which, as I knew, opened into
it with folding-doors. I--I must confess all.--Noiselessly, with craft like
a madman's, I turned the handle, slipped in as stealthily as a cat--the
folding-doors were slightly open. I had a view of all that passed within.
A horrible fascination seemed to keep my eyes fixed on them, in spite of
myself. Honour, shame, despair, bade me turn away, but in vain.

I saw them.--How can I write it? Yet I will.--I saw them sitting together
on the sofa. Their arms were round each other. Her head lay upon his
breast; he bent over her with an intense gaze, as of a basilisk, I thought;
how do I know that it was not the fierceness of his love? Who could have
helped loving her?

Suddenly she raised her head, and looked up in his face--her eyes brimming
with tenderness, her cheeks burning with mingled delight and modesty--their
lips met, and clung together.... It seemed a life--an eternity--before they
parted again. Then the spell was broken, and I rushed from the room.

Faint, giddy, and blind, I just recollect leaning against the wall of the
staircase. He came hastily out, and started as he saw me. My face told all.

"What? Eavesdropping?" he said, in a tone of unutterable scorn. I answered
nothing, but looked stupidly and fixedly in his face, while he glared at me
with that keen, burning, intolerable eye. I longed to spring at his throat,
but that eye held me as the snake's holds the deer. At last I found words.

"Traitor! everywhere--in everything--tricking me--supplanting me--in my
friends--in my love!"

"Your love? Yours?" And the fixed eye still glared upon me. "Listen, cousin
Alton! The strong and the weak have been matched for the same prize: and
what wonder, if the strong man conquers? Go and ask Lillian how she likes
the thought of being a Communist's love!"

As when, in a nightmare, we try by a desperate effort to break the spell, I
sprang forward, and struck at him, he put my hand by carelessly, and felled
me bleeding to the ground. I recollect hardly anything more, till I found
myself thrust into the street by sneering footmen, and heard them call
after me "Chartist" and "Communist" as I rushed along the pavement,
careless where I went.

I strode and staggered on through street after street, running blindly
against passengers, dashing under horses' heads, heedless of warnings and
execrations, till I found myself, I know not how, on Waterloo Bridge. I had
meant to go there when I left the door. I knew that at least--and now I was
there.

I buried myself in a recess of the bridge, and stared around and up and
down.

I was alone--deserted even by myself. Mother, sister, friends, love, the
idol of my life, were all gone. I could have borne that. But to be shamed,
and know that I deserved it; to be deserted by my own honour, self-respect,
strength of will--who can bear that?

I could have borne it, had one thing been left--faith in my own
destiny--the inner hope that God had called me to do a work for him.

"What drives the Frenchman to suicide?" I asked myself, arguing ever even
in the face of death and hell--"His faith in nothing but his own lusts and
pleasures; and when they are gone, then comes the pan of charcoal--and all
is over. What drives the German? His faith in nothing but his own brain. He
has fallen down and worshipped that miserable 'Ich' of his, and made that,
and not God's will, the centre and root of his philosophy, his poetry, and
his self-idolizing aesthetics; and when it fails him, then for prussic acid,
and nonentity. Those old Romans, too--why, they are the very experimentum
crucis of suicide! As long as they fancied that they had a calling to serve
the state, they could live on and suffer. But when they found no more work
left for them, then they could die--as Porcia died--as Cato--as I ought.
What is there left for me to do? outcast, disgraced, useless, decrepit--"

I looked out over the bridge into the desolate night. Below me the dark
moaning river-eddies hurried downward. The wild west-wind howled past me,
and leapt over the parapet downward. The huge reflexion of Saint Paul's,
the great tap-roots of light from lamp and window that shone upon the lurid
stream, pointed down--down--down. A black wherry shot through the arch
beneath me, still and smoothly downward. My brain began to whirl madly--I
sprang upon the step.--A man rushed past me, clambered on the parapet, and
threw up his arms wildly.--A moment more, and he would have leapt into the
stream. The sight recalled me to my senses--say, rather, it reawoke in me
the spirit of manhood. I seized him by the arm, tore him down upon the
pavement, and held him, in spite of his frantic struggles. It was Jemmy
Downes! Gaunt, ragged, sodden, blear-eyed, drivelling, the worn-out
gin-drinker stood, his momentary paroxysm of strength gone, trembling and
staggering.

"Why won't you let a cove die? Why won't you let a cove die? They're all
dead--drunk, and poisoned, and dead! What is there left?"--he burst out
suddenly in his old ranting style--"what is there left on earth to live
for? The prayers of liberty are answered by the laughter of tyrants; her
sun is sunk beneath the ocean wave, and her pipe put out by the raging
billows of aristocracy! Those starving millions of Kennington Common--where
are they? Where? I axes you," he cried fiercely, raising his voice to a
womanish scream--"where are they?"

"Gone home to bed, like sensible people; and you had better go too."

"Bed! I sold ours a month ago; but we'll go. Come along, and I'll show you
my wife and family; and we'll have a tea-party--Jacob's Island tea. Come
along!

 "Flea, flea, unfortunate flea!
  Bereft of his wife and his small family!"

He clutched my arm, and dragging me off towards the Surrey side, turned
down Stamford Street.

I followed half perforce; and the man seemed quite demented--whether with
gin or sorrow I could not tell. As he strode along the pavement, he kept
continually looking back, with a perplexed terrified air, as if expecting
some fearful object.

"The rats!--the rats! don't you see 'em coming out of the gullyholes,
atween the area railings--dozens and dozens?"

"No; I saw none."

"You lie; I hear their tails whisking; there's their shiny hats a
glistening, and every one on 'em with peelers' staves! Quick! quick! or
they'll have me to the station-house."

"Nonsense!" I said; "we are free men! What are the policemen to us?"

"You lie!" cried he, with a fearful oath, and a wrench at my arm which
almost threw me down. "Do you call a sweater's man a free man?"

"You a sweater's man?"

"Ay!" with another oath. "My men ran away--folks said I drank, too; but
here I am; and I, that sweated others, I'm sweated myself--and I'm a slave!
I'm a slave--a negro slave, I am, you aristocrat villain!"

"Mind me, Downes; if you will go quietly, I will go with you; but if you do
not let go of my arm, I give you in charge to the first policeman I meet."

"Oh, don't, don't!" whined the miserable wretch, as he almost fell on
his knees, gin-drinkers' tears running down his face, "or I shall be too
late.--And then, the rats'll get in at the roof, and up through the floor,
and eat 'em all up, and my work too--the grand new three-pound coat that
I've been stitching at this ten days, for the sum of one half-crown
sterling--and don't I wish I may see the money? Come on, quick; there
are the rats, close behind!" And he dashed across the broad roaring
thoroughfare of Bridge Street, and hurrying almost at a run down Tooley
Street, plunged into the wilderness of Bermondsey.

He stopped at the end of a miserable blind alley, where a dirty gas-lamp
just served to make darkness visible, and show the patched windows and
rickety doorways of the crazy houses, whose upper stories were lost in a
brooding cloud of fog; and the pools of stagnant water at our feet; and the
huge heap of cinders which filled up the waste end of the alley--a dreary,
black, formless mound, on which two or three spectral dogs prowled up and
down after the offal, appearing and vanishing like dark imps in and out of
the black misty chaos beyond.

The neighbourhood was undergoing, as it seemed, "improvements" of that
peculiar metropolitan species which consists in pulling down the dwellings
of the poor, and building up rich men's houses instead; and great
buildings, within high temporary palings, had already eaten up half the
little houses; as the great fish, and the great estates, and the great
shopkeepers, eat up the little ones of their species--by the law of
competition, lately discovered to be the true creator and preserver of the
universe. There they loomed up, the tall bullies, against the dreary sky,
looking down, with their grim, proud, stony visages, on the misery which
they were driving out of one corner, only to accumulate and intensify it in
another.

The house at which we stopped was the last in the row; all its companions
had been pulled down; and there it stood, leaning out with one naked ugly
side into the gap, and stretching out long props, like feeble arms and
crutches, to resist the work of demolition.

A group of slatternly people were in the entry, talking loudly, and as
Downes pushed by them, a woman seized him by the arm.

"Oh! you unnatural villain!--To go away after your drink, and leave all
them poor dear dead corpses locked up, without even letting a body go in to
stretch them out!"

"And breeding the fever, too, to poison the whole house!" growled one.

"The relieving officer's been here, my cove," said another, "and he's gone
for a peeler and a search warrant to break open the door, I can tell you!"

But Downes pushed past unheeding, unlocked a door at the end of the
passage, thrust me in, locked it again, and then rushed across the room in
chase of two or three rats, who vanished into cracks and holes.

And what a room! A low lean-to with wooden walls, without a single article
of furniture; and through the broad chinks of the floor shone up as it
were ugly glaring eyes, staring at us. They were the reflexions of the
rushlight in the sewer below. The stench was frightful--the air heavy with
pestilence. The first breath I drew made my heart sink, and my stomach
turn. But I forgot everything in the object which lay before me, as Downes
tore a half-finished coat off three corpses laid side by side on the bare
floor.

There was his little Irish wife:--dead--and naked; the wasted white limbs
gleamed in the lurid light; the unclosed eyes stared, as if reproachfully,
at the husband whose drunkenness had brought her there to kill her with
the pestilence; and on each side of her a little, shrivelled, impish,
child-corpse,--the wretched man had laid their arms round the dead mother's
neck--and there they slept, their hungering and wailing over at last for
ever; the rats had been busy already with them--but what matter to them
now?

"Look!" he cried; "I watched 'em dying! Day after day I saw the devils come
up through the cracks, like little maggots and beetles, and all manner of
ugly things, creeping down their throats; and I asked 'em, and they said
they were the fever devils."

It was too true; the poisonous exhalations had killed them. The wretched
man's delirium tremens had given that horrible substantiality to the
poisonous fever gases.

Suddenly Downes turned on me, almost menacingly. "Money! money! I want some
gin!"

I was thoroughly terrified--and there was no shame in feeling fear, locked
up with a madman far my superior in size and strength, in so ghastly a
place. But the shame and the folly too, would have been in giving way to my
fear; and with a boldness half assumed, half the real fruit of excitement
and indignation at the horrors I beheld, I answered--

"If I had money, I would give you none. What do you want with gin? Look
at the fruits of your accursed tippling. If you had taken my advice,
my poor fellow," I went on, gaining courage as I spoke, "and become a
water-drinker, like me--"

"Curse you and your water-drinking! If you had had no water to drink
or wash with for two years but that--that," pointing to the foul ditch
below--"if you had emptied the slops in there with one hand, and filled
your kettle with the other--"

"Do you actually mean that that sewer is your only drinking water?"

"Where else can we get any? Everybody drinks it; and you shall, too--you
shall!" he cried, with a fearful oath, "and then see if you don't run off
to the gin-shop, to take the taste of it out of your mouth. Drink? and who
can help drinking, with his stomach turned with such hell-broth as that--or
such a hell's blast as this air is here, ready to vomit from morning till
night with the smells? I'll show you. You shall drink a bucket full of it,
as sure as you live, you shall."

And he ran out of the back door, upon a little balcony, which hung over the
ditch.

I tried the door, but the key was gone, and the handle too. I beat
furiously on it, and called for help. Two gruff authoritative voices were
heard in the passage.

"Let us in; I'm the policeman!"

"Let me out, or mischief will happen!"

The policeman made a vigorous thrust at the crazy door; and just as it
burst open, and the light of his lantern streamed into the horrible den, a
heavy splash was heard outside.

"He has fallen into the ditch!"

"He'll be drowned, then, as sure as he's a born man," shouted one of the
crowd behind.

We rushed out on the balcony. The light of the policeman's lantern glared
over the ghastly scene--along the double row of miserable house-backs,
which lined the sides of the open tidal ditch--over strange rambling
jetties, and balconies, and sleeping-sheds, which hung on rotting piles
over the black waters, with phosphorescent scraps of rotten fish gleaming
and twinkling out of the dark hollows, like devilish grave-lights--over
bubbles of poisonous gas, and bloated carcases of dogs, and lumps of offal,
floating on the stagnant olive-green hell-broth--over the slow sullen rows
of oily ripple which were dying away into the darkness far beyond, sending
up, as they stirred, hot breaths of miasma--the only sign that a spark of
humanity, after years of foul life, had quenched itself at last in that
foul death. I almost fancied that I could see the haggard face staring up
at me through the slimy water; but no, it was as opaque as stone.

I shuddered and went in again, to see slatternly gin-smelling women
stripping off their clothes--true women even there--to cover the poor naked
corpses; and pointing to the bruises which told a tale of long tyranny
and cruelty; and mingling their lamentations with stories of shrieks and
beating, and children locked up for hours to starve; and the men looked on
sullenly, as if they too were guilty, or rushed out to relieve themselves
by helping to find the drowned body. Ugh! it was the very mouth of hell,
that room. And in the midst of all the rout, the relieving officer stood
impassive, jotting down scraps of information, and warning us to appear the
next day, to state what we knew before the magistrates. Needless hypocrisy
of law! Too careless to save the woman and children from brutal tyranny,
nakedness, starvation!--Too superstitious to offend its idol of vested
interests, by protecting the poor man against his tyrants, the house-owning
shopkeepers under whose greed the dwellings of the poor become nests of
filth and pestilence, drunkenness and degradation. Careless, superstitious,
imbecile law!--leaving the victims to die unhelped, and then, when the
fever and the tyranny has done its work, in thy sanctimonious prudishness,
drugging thy respectable conscience by a "searching inquiry" as to how it
all happened--lest, forsooth, there should have been "foul play!" Is the
knife or the bludgeon, then, the only foul play, and not the cesspool and
the curse of Rabshakeh? Go through Bermondsey or Spitalfields, St. Giles's
or Lambeth, and see if _there_ is not foul play enough already--to be tried
hereafter at a more awful coroner's inquest than thou thinkest of!




CHAPTER XXXVI.

DREAMLAND.


It must have been two o'clock in the morning before I reached my lodgings.
Too much exhausted to think, I hurried to my bed. I remember now that I
reeled strangely as I went up-stairs. I lay down, and was asleep in an
instant.

How long I had slept I know not, when I awoke with a strange confusion and
whirling in my brain, and an intolerable weight and pain about my back and
loins. By the light of the gas-lamp I saw a figure standing at the foot of
my bed. I could not discern the face, but I knew instinctively that it was
my mother. I called to her again and again, but she did not answer. She
moved slowly away, and passed out through the wall of the room.

I tried to follow her, but could not. An enormous, unutterable weight
seemed to lie upon me. The bedclothes grew and grew before me, and upon
me, into a vast mountain, millions of miles in height. Then it seemed all
glowing red, like the cone of a volcano. I heard the roaring of the fires
within, the rattling of the cinders down the heaving slope. A river ran
from its summit; and up that river-bed it seemed I was doomed to climb
and climb for ever, millions and millions of miles upwards, against the
rushing stream. The thought was intolerable, and I shrieked aloud. A raging
thirst had seized me. I tried to drink the river-water: but it was boiling
hot--sulphurous--reeking of putrefaction. Suddenly I fancied that I could
pass round the foot of the mountain; and jumbling, as madmen will, the
sublime and the ridiculous, I sprang up to go round the foot of my bed,
which was the mountain.

I recollect lying on the floor. I recollect the people of the house, who
had been awoke by my shriek and my fall, rushing in and calling to me. I
could not rise or answer. I recollect a doctor; and talk about brain fever
and delirium. It was true. I was in a raging fever. And my fancy, long
pent-up and crushed by circumstances, burst out in uncontrollable wildness,
and swept my other faculties with it helpless away over all heaven and
earth, presenting to me, as in a vast kaleidoscope, fantastic symbols of
all I had ever thought, or read, or felt.

That fancy of the mountain returned; but I had climbed it now. I was
wandering along the lower ridge of the Himalaya. On my right the line of
snow peaks showed like a rosy saw against the clear blue morning sky.
Raspberries and cyclamens were peeping through the snow around me. As I
looked down the abysses, I could see far below, through the thin veils of
blue mist that wandered in the glens, the silver spires of giant deodars,
and huge rhododendrons glowing like trees of flame. The longing of my
life to behold that cradle of mankind was satisfied. My eyes revelled in
vastness, as they swept over the broad flat jungle at the mountain foot,
a desolate sheet of dark gigantic grasses, furrowed with the paths of the
buffalo and rhinoceros, with barren sandy water-courses, desolate pools,
and here and there a single tree, stunted with malaria, shattered by
mountain floods; and far beyond, the vast plains of Hindostan, enlaced with
myriad silver rivers and canals, tanks and rice-fields, cities with their
mosques and minarets, gleaming among the stately palm-groves along the
boundless horizon. Above me was a Hindoo temple, cut out of the yellow
sandstone. I climbed up to the higher tier of pillars among monstrous
shapes of gods and fiends, that mouthed and writhed and mocked at me,
struggling to free themselves from their bed of rock. The bull Nundi rose
and tried to gore me; hundred-handed gods brandished quoits and sabres
round my head; and Kali dropped the skull from her gore-dripping jaws, to
clutch me for her prey. Then my mother came, and seizing the pillars of the
portico, bent them like reeds: an earthquake shook the hills--great sheets
of woodland slid roaring and crashing into the valleys--a tornado swept
through the temple halls, which rocked and tossed like a vessel in a storm:
a crash--a cloud of yellow dust which filled the air--choked me--blinded
me--buried me--

       *       *       *       *       *

And Eleanor came by, and took my soul in the palm of her hand, as the
angels did Faust's, and carried it to a cavern by the seaside, and dropped
it in; and I fell and fell for ages. And all the velvet mosses, rock
flowers, and sparkling spars and ores, fell with me, round me, in showers
of diamonds, whirlwinds of emerald and ruby, and pattered into the sea that
moaned below, and were quenched; and the light lessened above me to one
small spark, and vanished; and I was in darkness, and turned again to my
dust.

       *       *       *       *       *

And I was at the lowest point of created life; a madrepore rooted to the
rock, fathoms below the tide-mark; and worst of all, my individuality was
gone. I was not one thing, but many things--a crowd of innumerable polypi;
and I grew and grew, and the more I grew the more I divided, and multiplied
thousand and ten thousandfold. If I could have thought, I should have gone
mad at it; but I could only feel.

And I heard Eleanor and Lillian talking, as they floated past me through
the deep, for they were two angels; and Lillian said, "When will he be one
again?"

And Eleanor said, "He who falls from the golden ladder must climb through
ages to its top. He who tears himself in pieces by his lusts, ages only can
make him one again. The madrepore shall become a shell, and the shell a
fish, and the fish a bird, and the bird a beast; and then he shall become a
man again, and see the glory of the latter days."

       *       *       *       *       *

And I was a soft crab, under a stone on the sea-shore. With infinite
starvation, and struggling, and kicking, I had got rid of my armour, shield
by shield, and joint by joint, and cowered, naked and pitiable, in the
dark, among dead shells and ooze. Suddenly the stone was turned up; and
there was my cousin's hated face laughing at me, and pointing me out
to Lillian. She laughed too, as I looked up, sneaking, ashamed, and
defenceless, and squared up at him with my soft useless claws. Why should
she not laugh? Are not crabs, and toads, and monkeys, and a hundred other
strange forms of animal life, jests of nature--embodiments of a divine
humour, at which men are meant to laugh and be merry? But, alas! my cousin,
as he turned away, thrust the stone back with his foot, and squelched me
flat.

       *       *       *       *       *

And I was a remora, weak and helpless, till I could attach myself to some
living thing; and then I had power to stop the largest ship. And Lillian
was a flying fish, and skimmed over the crests of the waves on gauzy wings.
And my cousin was a huge shark, rushing after her, greedy and open-mouthed;
and I saw her danger, and clung to him, and held him back; and just as I
had stopped him, she turned and swam back into his open jaws.

       *       *       *       *       *

Sand--sand--nothing but sand! The air was full of sand drifting over
granite temples, and painted kings and triumphs, and the skulls of a former
world; and I was an ostrich, flying madly before the simoon wind, and the
giant sand pillars, which stalked across the plains, hunting me down. And
Lillian was an Amazon queen, beautiful, and cold, and cruel; and she rode
upon a charmed horse, and carried behind her on her saddle a spotted ounce,
which, was my cousin; and, when I came near her, she made him leap down
and course me. And we ran for miles and for days through the interminable
sand, till he sprung on me, and dragged me down. And as I lay quivering
and dying, she reined in her horse above me, and looked down at me with
beautiful, pitiless eyes; and a wild Arab tore the plumes from my wings,
and she took them and wreathed them in her golden hair. The broad and
blood-red sun sank down beneath the sand, and the horse and the Amazon and
the ostrich plumes shone blood-red in his lurid rays.

       *       *       *       *       *

I was a mylodon among South American forests--a vast sleepy mass, my
elephantine limbs and yard-long talons contrasting strangely with the
little meek rabbit's head, furnished with a poor dozen of clumsy grinders,
and a very small kernel of brains, whose highest consciousness was the
enjoyment of muscular strength. Where I had picked up the sensation which
my dreams realized for me, I know not: my waking life, alas! had never
given me experience of it. Has the mind power of creating sensations for
itself? Surely it does so, in those delicious dreams about flying which
haunt us poor wingless mortals, which would seem to give my namesake's
philosophy the lie. However that may be, intense and new was the animal
delight, to plant my hinder claws at some tree-foot deep into the black
rotting vegetable-mould which steamed rich gases up wherever it was
pierced, and clasp my huge arms round the stem of some palm or tree-fern;
and then slowly bring my enormous weight and muscle to bear upon it, till
the stem bent like a withe, and the laced bark cracked, and the fibres
groaned and shrieked, and the roots sprung up out of the soil; and then,
with a slow circular wrench, the whole tree was twisted bodily out of the
ground, and the maddening tension of my muscles suddenly relaxed, and I
sank sleepily down upon the turf, to browse upon the crisp tart foliage,
and fall asleep in the glare of sunshine which streamed through the new
gap in the green forest roof. Much as I had envied the strong, I had never
before suspected the delight of mere physical exertion. I now understood
the wild gambols of the dog, and the madness which makes the horse gallop
and strain onwards till he drops and dies. They fulfil their nature, as I
was doing, and in that is always happiness.

But I did more--whether from mere animal destructiveness, or from the
spark of humanity which was slowly rekindling in me, I began to delight in
tearing up trees for its own sake. I tried my strength daily on thicker and
thicker boles. I crawled up to the high palm-tops, and bowed them down by
my weight. My path through the forest was marked, like that of a tornado,
by snapped and prostrate stems and withering branches. Had I been a few
degrees more human, I might have expected a retribution for my sin. I had
fractured my own skull three or four times already. I used often to pass
the carcases of my race, killed, as geologists now find them, by the fall
of the trees they had overthrown; but still I went on, more and more
reckless, a slave, like many a so-called man, to the mere sense of power.

One day I wandered to the margin of the woods, and climbing a tree,
surveyed a prospect new to me. For miles and miles, away to the white
line of the smoking Cordillera, stretched a low rolling plain; one vast
thistle-bed, the down of which flew in grey gauzy clouds before a soft
fitful breeze; innumerable finches fluttered and pecked above it, and bent
the countless flower-heads. Far away, one tall tree rose above the level
thistle-ocean. A strange longing seized me to go and tear it down. The
forest leaves seemed tasteless; my stomach sickened at them; nothing but
that tree would satisfy me; and descending, I slowly brushed my way, with
half-shut eyes, through the tall thistles which buried even my bulk.

At last, after days of painful crawling, I dragged my unwieldiness to the
tree-foot. Around it the plain was bare, and scored by burrows and heaps
of earth, among which gold, some in dust, some in great knots and ingots,
sparkled everywhere in the sun, in fearful contrast to the skulls and bones
which lay bleaching round. Some were human, some were those of vast and
monstrous beasts. I knew (one knows everything in dreams) that they had
been slain by the winged ants, as large as panthers, who snuffed and
watched around over the magic treasure. Of them I felt no fear; and they
seemed not to perceive me, as I crawled, with greedy, hunger-sharpened
eyes, up to the foot of the tree. It seemed miles in height. Its stem was
bare and polished like a palm's, and above a vast feathery crown of dark
green velvet slept in the still sunlight. But wonders of wonders! from
among the branches hung great sea-green lilies, and, nestled in the heart
of each of them, the bust of a beautiful girl. Their white bosoms and
shoulders gleamed rosy-white against the emerald petals, like conch-shells
half-hidden among sea-weeds, while their delicate waists melted
mysteriously into the central sanctuary of the flower. Their long arms
and golden tresses waved languishingly downward in the breeze; their eyes
glittered like diamonds; their breaths perfumed the air. A blind ecstasy
seized me--I awoke again to humanity, and fiercely clasping the tree,
shook and tore at it, in the blind hope of bringing nearer to me the magic
beauties above: for I knew that I was in the famous land of Wak-Wak, from
which the Eastern merchants used to pluck those flower-born beauties, and
bring them home to fill the harems of the Indian kings. Suddenly I heard
a rustling in the thistles behind me, and looking round saw again that
dreaded face--my cousin!

He was dressed--strange jumble that dreams are!--like an American
backwoodsman. He carried the same revolver and bowie-knife which he had
showed me the fatal night that he intruded on the Chartist club. I shook
with terror; but he, too, did not see me. He threw himself on his knees,
and began fiercely digging and scraping for the gold.

The winged ants rushed on him, but he looked up, and "held them with his
glittering eye," and they shrank back abashed into the thistle covert;
while I strained and tugged on, and the faces of the dryads above grew
sadder and older, and their tears fell on me like a fragrant rain.

Suddenly the tree-bole cracked--it was tottering. I looked round, and saw
that my cousin knelt directly in the path of its fall. I tried to call
to him to move; but how could a poor edentate like myself articulate a
word? I tried to catch his attention by signs--he would not see. I tried,
convulsively, to hold the tree up, but it was too late; a sudden gust of
air swept by, and down it rushed, with a roar like a whirlwind, and leaving
my cousin untouched, struck me full across the loins, broke my backbone,
and pinned me to the ground in mortal agony. I heard one wild shriek rise
from the flower fairies, as they fell each from the lily cup, no longer of
full human size, but withered, shrivelled, diminished a thousand-fold, and
lay on the bare sand, like little rosy humming-birds' eggs, all crushed and
dead.

The great blue heaven above me spoke, and cried, "Selfish and sense-bound!
thou hast murdered beauty!"

The sighing thistle-ocean answered, and murmured, "Discontented! thou hast
murdered beauty!"

One flower fairy alone lifted up her tiny cheek from the gold-strewn sand,
and cried, "Presumptuous! thou hast murdered beauty!"

It was Lillian's face--Lillian's voice! My cousin heard it too, and turned
eagerly; and as my eyes closed in the last death-shiver, I saw him coolly
pick up the little beautiful figure, which looked like a fragment of some
exquisite cameo, and deliberately put it away in his cigar-case, as he said
to himself, "A charming tit-bit for me, when I return from the diggings"!

       *       *       *       *       *

When I awoke again, I was a baby-ape in Bornean forests, perched among
fragrant trailers and fantastic orchis flowers; and as I looked down,
beneath the green roof, into the clear waters paved with unknown
water-lilies on which the sun had never shone, I saw my face reflected
in the pool--a melancholy, thoughtful countenance, with large projecting
brow--it might have been a negro child's. And I felt stirring in me, germs
of a new and higher consciousness--yearnings of love towards the mother
ape, who fed me and carried me from tree to tree. But I grew and grew; and
then the weight of my destiny fell upon me. I saw year by year my brow
recede, my neck enlarge, my jaw protrude; my teeth became tusks; skinny
wattles grew from my cheeks--the animal faculties in me were swallowing
up the intellectual. I watched in myself, with stupid self-disgust, the
fearful degradation which goes on from youth to age in all the monkey
race, especially in those which approach nearest to the human form. Long
melancholy mopings, fruitless stragglings to think, were periodically
succeeded by wild frenzies, agonies of lust and aimless ferocity. I flew
upon my brother apes, and was driven off with wounds. I rushed howling down
into the village gardens, destroying everything I met. I caught the birds
and insects, and tore them to pieces with savage glee. One day, as I sat
among the boughs, I saw Lillian coming along a flowery path--decked as Eve
might have been, the day she turned from Paradise. The skins of gorgeous
birds were round her waist; her hair was wreathed with fragrant tropic
flowers. On her bosom lay a baby--it was my cousin's. I knew her, and
hated her. The madness came upon me. I longed to leap from the bough and
tear her limb from limb; but brutal terror, the dread of man which is the
doom of beasts, kept me rooted to my place. Then my cousin came--a hunter
missionary; and I heard him talk to her with pride of the new world of
civilization and Christianity which he was organizing in that tropic
wilderness. I listened with a dim jealous understanding--not of the words,
but of the facts. I saw them instinctively, as in a dream. She pointed up
to me in terror and disgust, as I sat gnashing and gibbering overhead. He
threw up the muzzle of his rifle carelessly, and fired--I fell dead, but
conscious still. I knew that my carcase was carried to the settlement; and
I watched while a smirking, chuckling surgeon dissected me, bone by bone,
and nerve by nerve. And as he was fingering at my heart, and discoursing
sneeringly about Van Helmont's dreams of the Archaeus, and the animal
spirit which dwells within the solar plexus, Eleanor glided by again, like
an angel, and drew my soul out of the knot of nerves, with one velvet
finger-tip.

       *       *       *       *       *

Child-dreams--more vague and fragmentary than my animal ones; and yet more
calm, and simple, and gradually, as they led me onward through a new life,
ripening into detail, coherence, and reflection. Dreams of a hut among
the valleys of Thibet--the young of forest animals, wild cats, and dogs,
and fowls, brought home to be my playmates, and grow up tame around me.
Snow-peaks which glittered white against the nightly sky, barring in the
horizon of the narrow valley, and yet seeming to beckon upwards, outwards.
Strange unspoken aspirations; instincts which pointed to unfulfilled
powers, a mighty destiny. A sense, awful and yet cheering, of a wonder
and a majesty, a presence and a voice around, in the cliffs and the pine
forests, and the great blue rainless heaven. The music of loving voices,
the sacred names of child and father, mother, brother, sister, first of all
inspirations.--Had we not an All-Father, whose eyes looked down upon us
from among those stars above; whose hand upheld the mountain roots below
us? Did He not love us, too, even as we loved each other?

       *       *       *       *       *

The noise of wheels crushing slowly through meadows of tall marigolds and
asters, orchises and fragrant lilies. I lay, a child, upon a woman's bosom.
Was she my mother, or Eleanor, or Lillian? Or was she neither, and yet
all--some ideal of the great Arian tribe, containing in herself all future
types of European women? So I slept and woke, and slept again, day after
day, week after week, in the lazy bullock-waggon, among herds of grey
cattle, guarded by huge lop-eared mastiffs; among shaggy white horses,
heavy-horned sheep, and silky goats; among tall, bare-limbed men, with
stone axes on their shoulders, and horn bows at their backs. Westward,
through the boundless steppes, whither or why we knew not; but that the
All-Father had sent us forth. And behind us the rosy snow-peaks died into
ghastly grey, lower and lower as every evening came; and before us the
plains spread infinite, with gleaming salt-lakes, and ever fresh tribes
of gaudy flowers. Behind us dark lines of living beings streamed down
the mountain slopes; around us dark lines crawled along the plains--all
westward, westward ever.--The tribes of the Holy Mountain poured out like
water to replenish the earth and subdue it--lava-streams from the crater
of that great soul-volcano--Titan babies, dumb angels of God, bearing with
them in their unconscious pregnancy the law, the freedom, the science, the
poetry, the Christianity of Europe and the world.

Westward ever--who could stand against us? We met the wild asses on the
steppe, and tamed them, and made them our slaves. We slew the bison herds,
and swam broad rivers on their skins. The Python snake lay across our
path; the wolves and the wild dogs snarled at us out of their coverts;
we slew them and went on. The forest rose in black tangled barriers: we
hewed our way through them and went on. Strange giant tribes met us, and
eagle-visaged hordes, fierce and foolish; we smote them hip and thigh, and
went on, westward ever. Days and weeks and months rolled on, and our wheels
rolled on with them. New alps rose up before us; we climbed and climbed
them, till, in lonely glens, the mountain walls stood up, and barred our
path.

Then one arose and said, "Rocks are strong, but the All-Father is stronger.
Let us pray to Him to send the earthquakes, and blast the mountains
asunder."

So we sat down and prayed, but the earthquake did not come.

Then another arose and said, "Rocks are strong, but the All-Father is
stronger. If we are the children of the All-Father, we, too, are stronger
than the rocks. Let us portion out the valley, to every man an equal plot
of ground; and bring out the sacred seeds, and sow, and build, and come up
with me and bore the mountain."

And all said, "It is the voice of God. We will go up with thee, and bore
the mountain; and thou shalt be our king, for thou art wisest, and the
spirit of the All-Father is on thee; and whosoever will not go up with thee
shall die as a coward and an idler."

So we went up; and in the morning we bored the mountain, and at night we
came down and tilled the ground, and sowed wheat and barley, and planted
orchards. And in the upper glens we met the mining dwarfs, and saw their
tools of iron and copper, and their rock-houses and forges, and envied
them. But they would give us none of them: then our king said--

"The All-Father has given all things and all wisdom. Woe to him who keeps
them to himself: we will teach you to sow the sacred seeds; and do you
teach us your smith-work or you die."

Then the dwarf's taught us smith-work; and we loved them, for they were
wise; and they married our sons and daughters; and we went on boring the
mountain.

Then some of us arose and said, "We are stronger than our brethren, and
can till more ground than they. Give us a greater portion of land, to each
according to his power."

But the king said, "Wherefore? that ye may eat and drink more than your
brethren? Have you larger stomachs, as well as stronger arms? As much as
a man needs for himself, that he may do for himself. The rest is the gift
of the All-Father, and we must do His work therewith. For the sake of the
women and the children, for the sake of the sick and the aged, let him that
is stronger go up and work the harder at the mountain." And all men said,
"It is well spoken."

So we were all equal--for none took more than he needed; and we were all
free, because we loved to obey the king by whom the spirit spoke; and
we were all brothers, because we had one work, and one hope, and one
All-Father.

But I grew up to be a man; and twenty years were past, and the mountain
was not bored through; and the king grew old, and men began to love their
flocks and herds better than quarrying, and they gave up boring through the
mountain. And the strong and the cunning said, "What can we do with all
this might of ours?" So, because they had no other way of employing it,
they turned it against each other, and swallowed up the heritage of the
weak: and a few grew rich, and many poor; and the valley was filled with
sorrow, for the land became too narrow for them.

Then I arose and said, "How is this?" And they said, "We must make
provision for our children."

And I answered, "The All-Father meant neither you nor your children to
devour your brethren. Why do you not break up more waste ground? Why do you
not try to grow more corn in your fields?"

And they answered, "We till the ground as our forefathers did: we will keep
to the old traditions."

And I answered, "Oh ye hypocrites! have ye not forgotten the old
traditions, that each man should have his equal share of ground, and that
we should go on working at the mountain, for the sake of the weak and the
children, the fatherless and the widow?"

And they answered nought for a while.

Then one said, "Are we not better off as we are? We buy the poor man's
ground for a price, and we pay him his wages for tilling it for us--and we
know better how to manage it than he."

And I said, "Oh ye hypocrites! See how your lie works! Those who were free
are now slaves. Those who had peace of mind are now anxious from day to day
for their daily bread. And the multitude gets poorer and poorer, while ye
grow fatter and fatter. If ye had gone on boring the mountain, ye would
have had no time to eat up your brethren."

Then they laughed and said, "Thou art a singer of songs, and a dreamer of
dreams. Let those who want to get through the mountain go up and bore it;
we are well enough here. Come now, sing us pleasant songs, and talk no more
foolish dreams, and we will reward thee."

Then they brought out a veiled maiden, and said, "Look! her feet are like
ivory, and her hair like threads of gold; and she is the sweetest singer
in the whole valley. And she shall be thine, if thou wilt be like other
people, and prophesy smooth things unto us, and torment us no more with
talk about liberty, equality, and brotherhood; for they never were, and
never will be, on this earth. Living is too hard work to give in to such
fancies."

And when the maiden's veil was lifted, it was Lillian. And she clasped me
round the neck, and cried, "Come! I will be your bride, and you shall be
rich and powerful; and all men shall speak well of you, and you shall write
songs; and we will sing them together, and feast and play from dawn to
dawn."

And I wept; and turned me about, and cried, "Wife and child, song and
wealth, are pleasant; but blessed is the work which the All-Father has
given the people to do. Let the maimed and the halt and the blind, the
needy and the fatherless, come up after me, and we will bore the mountain."

But the rich drove me out, and drove back those who would have followed me.
So I went up by myself, and bored the mountain seven years, weeping; and
every year Lillian came to me, and said, "Come, and be my husband, for
my beauty is fading, and youth passes fast away." But I set my heart
steadfastly to the work.

And when seven years were over, the poor were so multiplied, that the rich
had not wherewith to pay their labour. And there came a famine in the land,
and many of the poor died. Then the rich said, "If we let these men starve,
they will turn on us, and kill us, for hunger has no conscience, and they
are all but like the beasts that perish." So they all brought, one a
bullock, another a sack of meal, each according to his substance, and fed
the poor therewith; and said to them, "Behold our love and mercy towards
you!" But the more they gave, the less they had wherewithal to pay their
labourers; and the more they gave, the less the poor liked to work; so that
at last they had not wherewithal to pay for tilling the ground, and each
man had to go and till his own, and knew not how; so the land lay waste,
and there was great perplexity.

Then I went down to them and said, "If you had hearkened to me, and not
robbed your brethren of their land, you would never have come into this
strait; for by this time the mountain would have been bored through."

Then they cursed the mountain, and me, and Him who made them, and came down
to my cottage at night, and cried, "One-sided and left-handed! father of
confusion, and disciple of dead donkeys, see to what thou hast brought the
land, with thy blasphemous doctrines! Here we are starving, and not only
we, but the poor misguided victims of thy abominable notions!"

"You have become wondrous pitiful to the poor," said I, "since you found
that they would not starve that you might wanton."

Then once more Lillian came to me, thin and pale, and worn. "See, I, too,
am starving! and you have been the cause of it; but I will forgive all if
you will help us but this once."

"How shall I help you?"

"You are a poet and an orator, and win over all hearts with your talk and
your songs. Go down to the tribes of the plain, and persuade them to send
us up warriors, that we may put down these riotous and idle wretches; and
you shall be king of all the land, and I will be your slave, by day and
night."

But I went out, and quarried steadfastly at the mountain.

And when I came back the next evening, the poor had risen against the rich,
one and all, crying, "As you have done to us, so will we do to you;" and
they hunted them down like wild beasts, and slew many of them, and threw
their carcases on the dunghill, and took possession of their land and
houses, and cried, "We will be all free and equal as our forefathers were,
and live here, and eat and drink, and take our pleasure."

Then I ran out, and cried to them, "Fools I will you do as these rich did,
and neglect the work of God? If you do to them as they have done to you,
you will sin as they sinned, and devour each other at the last, as they
devoured you. The old paths are best. Let each man, rich or poor, have his
equal share of the land, as it was at first, and go up and dig through the
mountain, and possess the good land beyond, where no man need jostle his
neighbour, or rob him, when the land becomes too small for you. Were the
rich only in fault? Did not you, too, neglect the work which the All-Father
had given you, and run every man after his own comfort? So you entered into
a lie, and by your own sin raised up the rich man to be your punishment.
For the last time, who will go up with me to the mountain?"

Then they all cried with one voice, "We have sinned! We will go up and
pierce the mountain, and fulfil the work which God set to our forefathers."

We went up, and the first stroke that I struck a crag fell out; and behold,
the light of day! and far below us the good land and large, stretching away
boundless towards the western sun.

       *       *       *       *       *

I sat by the cave's mouth at the dawning of the day. Past me the tribe
poured down, young and old, with their waggons, and their cattle, their
seeds, and their arms, as of old--yet not as of old--wiser and stronger,
taught by long labour and sore affliction. Downward they streamed from
the cave's mouth into the glens, following the guidance of the silver
water-courses; and as they passed me, each kissed my hands and feet, and
cried, "Thou hast saved us--thou hast given up all for us. Come and be our
king!"

"Nay," I said, "I have been your king this many a year; for I have been the
servant of you all."

I went down with them into the plain, and called them round me. Many times
they besought me to go with them and lead them.

"No," I said, "I am old and grey-headed, and I am not as I have been.
Choose out the wisest and most righteous among you, and let him lead you.
But bind him to yourselves with an oath, that whenever he shall say to you,
'Stay here, and let us sit down and build, and dwell here for ever,' you
shall cast him out of his office, and make him a hewer of wood and a drawer
of water, and choose one who will lead you forwards in the spirit of God."

The crowd opened, and a woman came forward into the circle. Her face was
veiled, but we all knew her for a prophetess. Slowly she stepped into
the midst, chanting a mystic song. Whether it spoke of past, present, or
future, we knew not; but it sank deep into all our hearts.

  "True freedom stands in meekness--
  True strength in utter weakness--
  Justice in forgiveness lies--
  Riches in self-sacrifice--
  Own no rank but God's own spirit--
  Wisdom rule!--and worth inherit!
  Work for all, and all employ--
  Share with all, and all enjoy--
  God alike to all has given,
  Heaven as Earth, and Earth as Heaven,
  When the laud shall find her king again,
  And the reign of God is come."

We all listened, awe-struck. She turned to us and continued:

"Hearken to me, children of Japhet, the unresting!

"On the holy mountain of Paradise, in the Asgard of the Hindoo-Koh, in
the cup of the four rivers, in the womb of the mother of nations, in
brotherhood, equality, and freedom, the sons of men were begotten, at the
wedding of the heaven and the earth. Mighty infants, you did the right
you knew not of, and sinned not, because there was no temptation. By
selfishness you fell, and became beasts of prey. Each man coveted the
universe for his own lusts, and not that he might fulfil in it God's
command to people and subdue it. Long have you wandered--and long will you
wander still. For here you have no abiding city. You shall build cities,
and they shall crumble; you shall invent forms of society and religion, and
they shall fail in the hour of need. You shall call the lands by your own
names, and fresh waves of men shall sweep you forth, westward, westward
ever, till you have travelled round the path of the sun, to the place from
whence you came. For out of Paradise you went, and unto Paradise you shall
return; you shall become once more as little children, and renew your youth
like the eagle's. Feature by feature, and limb by limb, ye shall renew
it; age after age, gradually and painfully, by hunger and pestilence, by
superstitions and tyrannies, by need and blank despair, shall you be driven
back to the All-Father's home, till you become as you were before you fell,
and left the likeness of your father for the likeness of the beasts. Out of
Paradise you came, from liberty, equality, and brotherhood, and unto them
you shall return again. You went forth in unconscious infancy--you shall
return in thoughtful manhood.--You went forth in ignorance and need--you
shall return in science and wealth, philosophy and art. You went forth with
the world a wilderness before you--you shall return when it is a garden
behind you. You went forth selfish-savages--you shall return as the
brothers of the Son of God.

"And for you," she said, looking on me, "your penance is accomplished. You
have learned what it is to be a man. You have lost your life and saved it.
He that gives up house, or land, or wife, or child, for God's sake, it
shall be repaid him an hundred-fold. Awake!"

Surely I knew that voice. She lifted her veil. The face was Lillian's?
No!--Eleanor's!

Gently she touched my hand--I sank down into soft, weary happy sleep.

The spell was snapped. My fever and my dreams faded away together, and I
woke to the twittering of the sparrows, and the scent of the poplar leaves,
and the sights and sounds of childhood, and found Eleanor and her uncle
sitting by my bed, and with them Crossthwaite's little wife.

I would have spoken, but Eleanor laid her finger on her lips, and taking
her uncle's arm, glided from the room. Katie kept stubbornly a smiling
silence, and I was fain to obey my new-found guardian angels.

What need of many words? Slowly, and with relapses into insensibility,
I passed, like one who recovers from drowning, through the painful gate
of birth into another life. The fury of passion had been replaced by a
delicious weakness. The thunder-clouds had passed roaring down the wind,
and the calm bright holy evening was come. My heart, like a fretful child,
had stamped and wept itself to sleep. I was past even gratitude; infinite
submission and humility, feelings too long forgotten, absorbed my whole
being. Only I never dared meet Eleanor's eye. Her voice was like an angel's
when she spoke to me--friend, mother, sister, all in one. But I had a dim
recollection of being unjust to her--of some bar between us.

Katie and Crossthwaite, as they sat by me, tender and careful nurses both,
told me, in time, that to Eleanor I owed all my comforts. I could not thank
her--the debt was infinite, inexplicable. I felt as if I must speak all my
heart or none; and I watched her lavish kindness with a sort of sleepy,
passive wonder, like a new-born babe.

At last, one day, my kind nurses allowed me to speak a little. I broached
to Crossthwaite the subject which filled my thoughts. "How came I here? How
came you here? and Lady Ellerton? What is the meaning of it all?"

"The meaning is, that Lady Ellerton, as they call her, is an angel out of
heaven. Ah, Alton! she was your true friend, after all, if you had but
known it, and not that other one at all."

I turned my head away.

"Whisht--howld then, Johnny darlint! and don't go tormenting the poor dear
sowl, just when he's comin' round again."

"No, no! tell me all. I must--I ought--I deserve to bear it. How did she
come here?"

"Why then, it's my belief, she had her eye on you ever since you came out
of that Bastille, and before that, too; and she found you out at Mackaye's,
and me with you, for I was there looking after you. If it hadn't been for
your illness, I'd have been in Texas now, with our friends, for all's up
with the Charter, and the country's too hot, at least for me. I'm sick of
the whole thing together, patriots, aristocrats, and everybody else, except
this blessed angel. And I've got a couple of hundred to emigrate with; and
what's more, so have you."

"How's that?"

"Why, when poor dear old Mackaye's will was read, and you raving mad in the
next room, he had left all his stock-in-trade, that was, the books, to some
of our friends, to form a workmen's library with, and L400 he'd saved, to
be parted between you and me, on condition that we'd G.T.T., and cool down
across the Atlantic, for seven years come the tenth of April."

So, then, by the lasting love of my adopted father, I was at present at
least out of the reach of want! My heart was ready to overflow at my eyes;
but I could not rest till I had heard more of Lady Ellerton. What brought
her here, to nurse me as if she had been a sister?

"Why, then, she lives not far off by. When her husband died, his cousin got
the estate and title, and so she came, Katie tells me, and lived for one
year down somewhere in the East-end among the needlewomen; and spent her
whole fortune on the poor, and never kept a servant, so they say, but made
her own bed and cooked her own dinner, and got her bread with her own
needle, to see what it was really like. And she learnt a lesson there, I
can tell you, and God bless her for it. For now she's got a large house
here by, with fifty or more in it, all at work together, sharing the
earnings among themselves, and putting into their own pockets the profits
which would have gone to their tyrants; and she keeps the accounts for
them, and gets the goods sold, and manages everything, and reads to them
while they work, and teaches them every day."

"And takes her victuals with them," said Katie, "share and share alike. She
that was so grand a lady, to demane herself to the poor unfortunate young
things! She's as blessed a saint as any a one in the Calendar, if they'll
forgive me for saying so."

"Ay! demeaning, indeed! for the best of it is, they're not the respectable
ones only, though she spends hundreds on them--"

"And sure, haven't I seen it with my own eyes, when I've been there
charing?"

"Ay, but those she lives with are the fallen and the lost ones--those that
the rich would not set up in business, or help them to emigrate, or lift
them out of the gutter with a pair of tongs, for fear they should stain
their own whitewash in handling them."

"And sure they're as dacent as meself now, the poor darlints! It was misery
druv 'em to it, every one; perhaps it might hav' druv me the same way, if
I'd a lot o' childer, and Johnny gone to glory--and the blessed saints save
him from that same at all at all!"

"What! from going to glory?" said John.

"Och, thin, and wouldn't I just go mad if ever such ill luck happened to
yees as to be taken to heaven in the prime of your days, asthore?"

And she began sobbing and hugging and kissing the little man; and then
suddenly recollecting herself, scolded him heartily for making such a
"whillybaloo," and thrust him out of my room, to recommence kissing him in
the next, leaving me to many meditations.




CHAPTER XXXVII.

THE TRUE DEMAGOGUE.


I used to try to arrange my thoughts, but could not; the past seemed
swept away and buried, like the wreck of some drowned land after a flood.
Ploughed by affliction to the core, my heart lay fallow for every seed that
fell. Eleanor understood me, and gently and gradually, beneath her skilful
hand, the chaos began again to bloom with verdure. She and Crossthwaite
used to sit and read to me--from the Bible, from poets, from every book
which could suggest soothing, graceful, or hopeful fancies. Now out of the
stillness of the darkened chamber, one or two priceless sentences of a
Kempis, or a spirit-stirring Hebrew psalm, would fall upon my ear: and then
there was silence again; and I was left to brood over the words in vacancy,
till they became a fibre of my own soul's core. Again and again the stories
of Lazarus and the Magdalene alternated with Milton's Penseroso, or with
Wordsworth's tenderest and most solemn strains. Exquisite prints from the
history of our Lord's life and death were hung one by one, each for a
few days, opposite my bed, where they might catch my eye the moment that
I woke, the moment before I fell asleep. I heard one day the good dean
remonstrating with her on the "sentimentalism" of her mode of treatment.

"Poor drowned butterfly!" she answered, smiling, "he must be fed with
honey-dew. Have I not surely had practice enough already?"

"Yes, angel that you are!" answered the old man. "You have indeed had
practice enough!" And lifting her hand reverentially to his lips, he turned
and left the room.

She sat down by me as I lay, and began to read from Tennyson's
Lotus-Eaters. But it was not reading--it was rather a soft dreamy chant,
which rose and fell like the waves of sound on an AEolian harp.

 "There is sweet music here that softer falls
  Than petals from blown roses on the grass,
  Or night dews on still waters between wails
  Of shadowy granite, in a gleaming pass;
  Music that gentler on the spirit lies
  Than tired eyelids upon tired eyes;
  Music that brings sweet sleep down from the blissful skies.
  Here are cool mosses deep,
  And through the moss the ivies creep,
  And in the stream the long-leaved flowers weep,
  And from the craggy ledge the poppy hangs in sleep.

 "Why are we weigh'd upon with heaviness,
  And utterly consumed with sharp distress,
  While all things else have rest from weariness?
  All things have rest: why should we toil alone?
  We only toil, who are the first of things,
  And make perpetual moan,
  Still from one sorrow to another thrown:
  Nor ever fold our wings.
  And cease from wanderings;
  Nor steep our brows in slumber's holy balm,
  Nor hearken what the inner spirit sings,
  'There is no joy but calm!'
  Why should we only toil, the roof and crown of things?"

She paused--

  My soul was an enchanted boat
  Which, like a sleeping swan, did float
  Upon the silver waves of her sweet singing.

Half-unconscious, I looked up. Before me hung a copy of Raffaelle's cartoon
of the Miraculous Draught of Fishes. As my eye wandered over it, it seemed
to blend into harmony with the feelings which the poem had stirred. I
seemed to float upon the glassy lake. I watched the vista of the waters
and mountains, receding into the dreamy infinite of the still summer sky.
Softly from distant shores came the hum of eager multitudes; towers and
palaces slept quietly beneath the eastern sun. In front, fantastic fishes,
and the birds of the mountain and the lake, confessed His power, who sat
there in His calm godlike beauty, His eye ranging over all that still
infinity of His own works, over all that wondrous line of figures, which
seemed to express every gradation of spiritual consciousness, from the
dark self-condemned dislike of Judas's averted and wily face, through mere
animal greediness to the first dawnings of surprise, and on to the manly
awe and gratitude of Andrew's majestic figure, and the self-abhorrent
humility of Peter, as he shrank down into the bottom of the skiff, and with
convulsive palms and bursting brow seemed to press out from his inmost
heart the words, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!" Truly,
pictures are the books of the unlearned, and of the mis-learned too.
Glorious Raffaelle! Shakspeare of the South! Mighty preacher, to whose
blessed intuition it was given to know all human hearts, to embody in form
and colour all spiritual truths, common alike to Protestant and Papist, to
workman and to sage--oh that I may meet thee before the throne of God, if
it be but to thank thee for that one picture, in which thou didst reveal to
me, in a single glance, every step of my own spiritual history!

She seemed to follow my eyes, and guess from them the workings of my heart;
for now, in a low, half-abstracted voice, as Diotima may have talked of
old, she began to speak of rest and labour, of death and life; of a labour
which is perfect rest--of a daily death, which is but daily birth--of
weakness, which is the strength of God; and so she wandered on in her
speech to Him who died for us. And gradually she turned to me. She laid one
finger solemnly on my listless palm, as her words and voice became more
intense, more personal. She talked of Him, as Mary may have talked just
risen from His feet. She spoke of Him as I had never heard Him spoken
of before--with a tender passionate loyalty, kept down and softened by
the deepest awe. The sense of her intense belief, shining out in every
lineament of her face, carried conviction to my heart more than ten
thousand arguments could do. It must be true!--Was not the power of it
around her like a glory? She spoke of Him as near us--watching us--in
words of such vivid eloquence that I turned half-startled to her, as if I
expected to see Him standing by her side.

She spoke of Him as the great Reformer; and yet as the true conservative;
the inspirer of all new truths, revealing in His Bible to every age abysses
of new wisdom, as the times require; and yet the vindicator of all which
is ancient and eternal--the justifier of His own dealings with man from
the beginning. She spoke of Him as the true demagogue--the champion of the
poor; and yet as the true King, above and below all earthly rank; on whose
will alone all real superiority of man to man, all the time-justified and
time-honoured usages of the family, the society, the nation, stand and
shall stand for ever.

       *       *       *       *       *

And then she changed her tone; and in a voice of infinite tenderness she
spoke of Him as the Creator, the Word, the Inspirer, the only perfect
Artist, the Fountain of all Genius.

She made me feel--would that His ministers had made me feel it before,
since they say that they believe it--that He had passed victorious through
my vilest temptations, that He sympathized with my every struggle.

She told me how He, in the first dawn of manhood, full of the dim
consciousness of His own power, full of strange yearning presentiments
about His own sad and glorious destiny, went up into the wilderness, as
every youth, above all every genius, must, there to be tempted of the
devil. She told how alone with the wild beasts, and the brute powers of
nature, He saw into the open secret--the mystery of man's twofold life, His
kingship over earth, His sonship under God: and conquered in the might of
His knowledge. How He was tempted, like every genius, to use His creative
powers for selfish ends--to yield to the lust of display and singularity,
and break through those laws which He came to reveal and to fulfil--to do
one little act of evil, that He might secure thereby the harvest of good
which was the object of His life: and how He had conquered in the faith
that He was the Son of God. She told me how He had borne the sorrows of
genius; how the slightest pang that I had ever felt was but a dim faint
pattern of His; how He, above all men, had felt the agony of calumny,
misconception, misinterpretation; how He had fought with bigotry and
stupidity, casting His pearls before swine, knowing full well what it was
to speak to the deaf and the blind; how He had wept over Jerusalem, in the
bitterness of disappointed patriotism, when He had tried in vain to awaken
within a nation of slavish and yet rebellious bigots the consciousness of
their glorious calling....

It was too much--I hid my face in the coverlet, and burst out into long,
low, and yet most happy weeping. She rose and went to the window, and
beckoned Katie from the room within.

"I am afraid," she said, "my conversation has been too much for him."

"Showers sweeten the air," said Katie; and truly enough, as my own
lightened brain told me.

Eleanor--for so I must call her now--stood watching me for a few minutes,
and then glided back to the bedside, and sat down again.

"You find the room quiet?"

"Wonderfully quiet. The roar of the city outside is almost soothing, and
the noise of every carriage seems to cease suddenly just as it becomes
painfully near."

"We have had straw laid down," she answered, "all along this part of the
street."

This last drop of kindness filled the cup to overflowing: a veil fell from
before my eyes--it was she who had been my friend, my guardian angel, from
the beginning!

"You--you--idiot that I have been! I see it all now. It was you who laid
that paper to catch my eye on that first evening at D * * *!--you paid my
debt to my cousin!--you visited Mackaye in his last illness!"

She made a sign of assent.

"You saw from the beginning my danger, my weakness!--you tried to turn
me from my frantic and fruitless passion!--you tried to save me from
the very gulf into which I forced myself!--and I--I have hated you in
return--cherished suspicions too ridiculous to confess, only equalled by
the absurdity of that other dream!"

"Would that other dream have ever given you peace, even if it had ever
become reality?"

She spoke gently, slowly, seriously; waiting between each question for the
answer which I dared not give.

"What was it that you adored? a soul or a face? The inward reality or the
outward symbol, which is only valuable as a sacrament of the loveliness
within?"

"Ay!" thought I, "and was that loveliness within? What was that beauty but
a hollow mask?" How barren, borrowed, trivial, every thought and word of
hers seemed now, as I looked back upon them, in comparison with the rich
luxuriance, the startling originality, of thought, and deed, and sympathy,
in her who now sat by me, wan and faded, beautiful no more as men call
beauty, but with the spirit of an archangel gazing from those clear, fiery
eyes! And as I looked at her, an emotion utterly new to me arose; utter
trust, delight, submission, gratitude, awe--if it was love, it was love as
of a dog towards his master....

"Ay," I murmured, half unconscious that I spoke aloud, "her I loved, and
love no longer; but you, you I worship, and for ever!"

"Worship God," she answered. "If it shall please you hereafter to call
me friend, I shall refuse neither the name nor its duties. But remember
always, that whatsoever interest I feel in you, and, indeed, have felt from
the first time I saw your poems, I cannot give or accept friendship upon
any ground so shallow and changeable as personal preference. The time was
when I thought it a mark of superior intellect and refinement to be as
exclusive in my friendships as in my theories. Now I have learnt that that
is most spiritual and noble which is also most universal. If we are to call
each other friends, it must be for a reason which equally includes the
outcast and the profligate, the felon, and the slave."

"What do you mean?" I asked, half disappointed.

"Only for the sake of Him who died for all alike."

Why did she rise and call Crossthwaite from the next room where he was
writing? Was it from the womanly tact and delicacy which feared lest my
excited feelings might lead me on to some too daring expression, and give
me the pain of a rebuff, however gentle; or was it that she wished him, as
well as me, to hear the memorable words which followed, to which she seemed
to have been all along alluring me, and calling up in my mind, one by one,
the very questions to which she had prepared the answers?

"That name!" I answered. "Alas! has it not been in every age the watchword,
not of an all-embracing charity, but of self-conceit and bigotry,
excommunication and persecution?"

"That is what men have made it; not God, or He who bears it, the Son
of God. Yes, men have separated from each other, slandered each other,
murdered each other in that name, and blasphemed it by that very act. But
when did they unite in any name but that? Look all history through--from
the early churches, unconscious and infantile ideas of God's kingdom,
as Eden was of the human race, when love alone was law, and none said
that aught that he possessed was his own, but they had all things in
common--Whose name was the, bond of unity for that brotherhood, such as
the earth had never seen--when the Roman lady and the Negro slave partook
together at the table of the same bread and wine, and sat together at the
feet of the Syrian tent-maker?--'One is our Master, even Christ, who sits
at the right hand of God, and in Him we are all brothers.' Not self-chosen
preference for His precepts, but the overwhelming faith in His presence,
His rule, His love, bound those rich hearts together. Look onward, too,
at the first followers of St. Bennet and St. Francis, at the Cameronians
among their Scottish hills, or the little persecuted flock who in a dark
and godless time gathered around Wesley by pit mouths and on Cornish
cliffs--Look, too, at the great societies of our own days, which, however
imperfectly, still lovingly and earnestly do their measure of God's work
at home and abroad; and say, when was there ever real union, co-operation,
philanthropy, equality, brotherhood, among men, save in loyalty to
Him--Jesus, who died upon the cross?"

And she bowed her head reverently before that unseen Majesty; and then
looked up at us again--Those eyes, now brimming full of earnest tears,
would have melted stonier hearts than ours that day.

"Do you not believe me? Then I must quote against you one of your own
prophets--a ruined angel--even as you might have been.

"When Camille Desmoulins, the revolutionary, about to die, as is the fate
of such, by the hands of revolutionaries, was asked his age, he answered,
they say, that it was the same as that of the 'bon sans-culotte Jesus.'
I do not blame those who shrink from that speech as blasphemous. I, too,
have spoken hasty words and hard, and prided myself on breaking the bruised
reed, and quenching the smoking flax. Time was when I should have been the
loudest in denouncing poor Camille; but I have long since seemed to see
in those words the distortion of an almighty truth--a truth that shall
shake thrones, and principalities, and powers, and fill the earth with its
sound, as with the trump of God; a prophecy like Balaam's of old--'I shall
see Him, but not nigh; I shall behold Him, but not near.'... Take all
the heroes, prophets, poets, philosophers--where will you find the true
demagogue--the speaker to man simply as man--the friend of publicans and
sinners, the stern foe of the scribe and the Pharisee--with whom was no
respect of persons--where is he? Socrates and Plato were noble; Zerdusht
and Confutzee, for aught we know, were nobler still; but what were they but
the exclusive mystagogues of an enlightened few, like our own Emersons and
Strausses, to compare great with small? What gospel have they, or Strauss,
or Emerson, for the poor, the suffering, the oppressed? The People's
Friend? Where will you find him, but in Jesus of Nazareth?"

"We feel that; I assure you, we feel that," said Crossthwaite. "There are
thousands of us who delight in His moral teaching, as the perfection of
human excellence."

"And what gospel is there in a moral teaching? What good news is it to the
savage of St. Giles, to the artizan, crushed by the competition of others
and his own evil habits, to tell him that he can be free--if he can make
himself free?--That all men are his equals--if he can rise to their level,
or pull them down to his?--All men his brothers--if he can only stop them
from devouring him, or making it necessary for him to devour them? Liberty,
equality, and brotherhood? Let the history of every nation, of every
revolution--let your own sad experience speak--have they been aught as yet
but delusive phantoms--angels that turned to fiends the moment you seemed
about to clasp them? Remember the tenth of April, and the plots thereof,
and answer your own hearts!"

Crossthwaite buried his face in his hands.

"What!" I answered, passionately, "will you rob us poor creatures of our
only faith, our only hope on earth? Let us be deceived, and deceived again,
yet we will believe! We will hope on in spite of hope. We may die, but the
idea lives for ever. Liberty, equality, and fraternity must come. We know,
we know, that they must come; and woe to those who seek to rob us of our
faith!"

"Keep, keep your faith," she cried; "for it is not yours, but God's, who
gave it! But do not seek to realize that idea for yourselves."

"Why, then, in the name of reason and mercy?"

"Because it is realized already for you. You are free; God has made you
free. You are equals--you are brothers; for He is your king who is no
respecter of persons. He is your king, who has bought for you the rights
of sons of God. He is your king, to whom all power is given in heaven and
earth; who reigns, and will reign, till He has put all enemies under His
feet. That was Luther's charter,--with that alone he freed half Europe.
That is your charter, and mine; the everlasting ground of our rights,
our mights, our duties, of ever-gathering storm for the oppressor,
of ever-brightening sunshine for the oppressed. Own no other. Claim
your investiture as free men from none but God. His will, His love,
is a stronger ground, surely, than abstract rights and ethnological
opinions. Abstract rights? What ground, what root have they, but the
ever-changing opinions of men, born anew and dying anew with each fresh
generation?--while the word of God stands sure--'You are mine, and I am
yours, bound to you in an everlasting covenant.'

"Abstract rights? They are sure to end, in practice, only in the tyranny of
their father--opinion. In favoured England here, the notions of abstract
right among the many are not so incorrect, thanks to three centuries of
Protestant civilization; but only because the right notions suit the many
at this moment. But in America, even now, the same ideas of abstract right
do not interfere with the tyranny of the white man over the black. Why
should they? The white man is handsomer, stronger, cunninger, worthier than
the black. The black is more like an ape than the white man--he is--the
fact is there; and no notions of an abstract right will put that down:
nothing but another fact--a mightier, more universal fact--Jesus of
Nazareth died for the negro as well as for the white. Looked at apart from
Him, each race, each individual of mankind, stands separate and alone,
owing no more brotherhood to each other than wolf to wolf, or pike to
pike--himself a mightier beast of prey--even as he has proved himself in
every age. Looked at as he is, as joined into one family in Christ, his
archetype and head, even the most frantic declamations of the French
democrat, about the majesty of the people, the divinity of mankind,
become rational, reverent, and literal. God's grace outrivals all man's
boasting--'I have said, ye are gods, and ye are all the children of the
Most Highest:'--'children of God, members of Christ, of His body, of His
flesh, and of His bones,'--'kings and priests to God,'--free inheritors of
the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of prudence and courage,
of reverence and love, the spirit of Him who has said, 'Behold, the days
come, when I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh, and no one shall teach
his brother, saying, Know the Lord, for all shall know Him, from the least
even unto the greatest. Ay, even on the slaves and on the handmaidens in
those days will I pour out my spirit, saith the Lord!'"

"And that is really in the Bible?" asked Crossthwaite.

"Ay"--she went on, her figure dilating, and her eyes flashing, like an
inspired prophetess--"that is in the Bible! What would you more than that?
That is your charter; the only ground of all charters. You, like all
mankind, have had dim inspirations, confused yearnings after your future
destiny, and, like all the world from the beginning, you have tried to
realize, by self-willed methods of your own, what you can only do by God's
inspiration, by God's method. Like the builders of Babel in old time, you
have said, 'Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top shall
reach to heaven'--And God has confounded you as he did them. By mistrust,
division, passion, and folly, you are scattered abroad. Even in these last
few days, the last dregs of your late plot have exploded miserably and
ludicrously--your late companions are in prison, and the name of Chartist
is a laughing-stock as well as an abomination."

"Good Heavens! Is this true?" asked I, looking at Crossthwaite for
confirmation.

"Too true, dear boy, too true: and if it had not been for these two angels
here, I should have been in Newgate now!"

"Yes," she went on. "The Charter seems dead, and liberty further off than
ever."

"That seems true enough, indeed," said I, bitterly.

"Yes. But it is because Liberty is God's beloved child, that He will not
have her purity sullied by the touch of the profane. Because He loves the
people, He will allow none but Himself to lead the people. Because He loves
the people, He will teach the people by afflictions. And even now, while
all this madness has been destroying itself, He has been hiding you in His
secret place from the strife of tongues, that you may have to look for a
state founded on better things than acts of parliament, social contracts,
and abstract rights--a city whose foundations are in the eternal promises,
whose builder and maker is God."

She paused.--"Go on, go on," cried Crossthwaite and I in the same breath.

"That state, that city, Jesus said, was come--was now within us, had we
eyes to see. And it is come. Call it the church, the gospel, civilization,
freedom, democracy, association, what you will--I shall call it by the name
by which my Master spoke of it--the name which includes all these, and more
than these--the kingdom of God. 'Without observation,' as he promised,
secretly, but mightily, it has been growing, spreading, since that first
Whitsuntide; civilizing, humanizing, uniting this distracted earth. Men
have fancied they found it in this system or in that, and in them only.
They have cursed it in its own name, when they found it too wide for their
own narrow notions. They have cried, 'Lo here!' and 'Lo there!' 'To this
communion!' or 'To that set of opinions.' But it has gone its way--the way
of Him who made all things, and redeemed all things to Himself. In every
age it has been a gospel to the poor, In every age it has, sooner or later,
claimed the steps of civilization, the discoveries of science, as God's
inspirations, not man's inventions. In every age, it has taught men to do
that by God which they had failed in doing without Him. It is now ready,
if we may judge by the signs of the times, once again to penetrate, to
convert, to reorganize, the political and social life of England, perhaps
of the world; to vindicate democracy as the will and gift of God. Take
it for the ground of your rights. If, henceforth, you claim political
enfranchisement, claim it not as mere men, who may be villains, savages,
animals, slaves of their own prejudices and passions; but as members of
Christ, children of God, inheritors of the kingdom of heaven, and therefore
bound to realize it on earth. All other rights are mere mights--mere
selfish demands to become tyrants in your turn. If you wish to justify your
Charter, do it on that ground. Claim your share in national life, only
because the nation is a spiritual body, whose king is the Son of God; whose
work, whose national character and powers, are allotted to it by the Spirit
of Christ. Claim universal suffrage, only on the ground of the universal
redemption of mankind--the universal priesthood of Christians. That
argument will conquer, when all have failed; for God will make it conquer.
Claim the disenfranchisement of every man, rich or poor, who breaks
the laws of God and man, not merely because he is an obstacle to you,
but because he is a traitor to your common King in heaven, and to the
spiritual kingdom of which he is a citizen. Denounce the effete idol
of property-qualification, not because it happens to strengthen class
interests against you, but because, as your mystic dream reminded you, and,
therefore, as you knew long ago, there is no real rank, no real power, but
worth; and worth consists not in property, but in the grace of God. Claim,
if you will, annual parliaments, as a means of enforcing the responsibility
of rulers to the Christian community, of which they are to be, not the
lords, but the ministers--the servants of all. But claim these, and all
else for which you long, not from man, but from God, the King of men. And
therefore, before you attempt to obtain them, make yourselves worthy of
them--perhaps by that process you will find some of them have become less
needful. At all events, do not ask, do not hope, that He will give them to
you before you are able to profit by them. Believe that he has kept them
from you hitherto, because they would have been curses, and not blessings.
Oh! look back, look back, at the history of English Radicalism for the last
half century, and judge by your own deeds, your own words; were you fit for
those privileges which you so frantically demanded? Do not answer me, that
those who had them were equally unfit; but thank God, if the case be indeed
so, that your incapacity was not added to theirs, to make confusion worse
confounded! Learn a new lesson. Believe at last that you are in Christ, and
become new creatures. With those miserable, awful farce tragedies of April
and June, let old things pass away, and all things become new. Believe
that your kingdom is not of this world, but of One whose servants must not
fight. He that believeth, as the prophet says, will not make haste. Beloved
suffering brothers! are not your times in the hand of One who loved you to
the death, who conquered, as you must do, not by wrath, but by martyrdom?
Try no more to meet Mammon with his own weapons, but commit your cause to
Him who judges righteously, who is even now coming out of His place to
judge the earth, and to help the fatherless and poor unto their right, that
the man of the world may be no more exalted against them--the poor man of
Nazareth, crucified for you!"

She ceased, and there was silence for a few moments, as if angels were
waiting, hushed, to carry our repentance to the throne of Him we had
forgotten.

Crossthwaite had kept his face fast buried in his hands; now he looked up
with brimming eyes--

"I see it--I see it all now. Oh, my God! my God! what infidels we have
been!"




CHAPTER XXXVIII.

MIRACLES AND SCIENCE.


Sunrise, they say, often at first draws up and deepens the very mists
which it is about to scatter: and even so, as the excitement of my first
conviction cooled, dark doubts arose to dim the new-born light of hope and
trust within me. The question of miracles had been ever since I had read
Strauss my greatest stumbling-block--perhaps not unwillingly, for my doubts
pampered my sense of intellectual acuteness and scientific knowledge; and
"a little knowledge is a dangerous thing." But now that they interfered
with nobler, more important, more immediately practical ideas, I longed
to have them removed--I longed even to swallow them down on trust--to
take the miracles "into the bargain" as it were, for the sake of that
mighty gospel of deliverance for the people which accompanied them. Mean
subterfuge! which would not, could not, satisfy me. The thing was too
precious, too all-important, to take one tittle of it on trust. I could
not bear the consciousness of one hollow spot--the nether fires of doubt
glaring through, even at one little crevice. I took my doubts to Lady
Ellerton--Eleanor, as I must now call her, for she never allowed herself
to be addressed by her title--and she referred me to her uncle--

"I could say somewhat on that point myself. But since your doubts are
scientific ones, I had rather that you should discuss them with one whose
knowledge of such subjects you, and all England with you, must revere."

"Ah, but--pardon me; he is a clergyman."

"And therefore bound to prove, whether he believes in his own proof or not.
Unworthy suspicion!" she cried, with a touch of her old manner. "If you had
known that man's literary history for the last thirty years, you would not
suspect him, at least, of sacrificing truth and conscience to interest, or
to fear of the world's insults."

I was rebuked; and not without hope and confidence, I broached the question
to the good dean when he came in--as he happened to do that very day.

"I hardly like to state my difficulties," I began--"for I am afraid that I
must hurt myself in your eyes by offending your--prejudices, if you will
pardon so plain-spoken an expression."

"If," he replied, in his bland courtly way, "I am so unfortunate as to have
any prejudices left, you cannot do me a greater kindness than by offending
them--or by any other means, however severe--to make me conscious of the
locality of such a secret canker."

"But I am afraid that your own teaching has created, or at least
corroborated, these doubts of mine."

"How so?"

"You first taught me to revere science. You first taught me to admire and
trust the immutable order, the perfect harmony of the laws of Nature."

"Ah! I comprehend now!" he answered, in a somewhat mournful tone--"How much
we have to answer for! How often, in our carelessness, we offend those
little ones, whose souls are precious in the sight of God! I have thought
long and earnestly on the very subject which now distresses you; perhaps
every doubt which has passed through your mind, has exercised my own;
and, strange to say, you first set me on that new path of thought. A
conversation which passed between us years ago at D * * * * on the
antithesis of natural and revealed religion--perhaps you recollect it?"

Yes, I recollected it better than he fancied, and recollected too--I thrust
the thought behind me--it was even yet intolerable.

"That conversation first awoke in me the sense of an hitherto unconscious
inconsistency--a desire to reconcile two lines of thought--which I had
hitherto considered as parallel, and impossible to unite. To you, and to my
beloved niece here, I owe gratitude for that evening's talk; and you are
freely welcome to all my conclusions, for you have been, indirectly, the
originator of them all."

"Then, I must confess, that miracles seem to me impossible, just because
they break the laws of Nature. Pardon me--but there seems something
blasphemous in supposing that God can mar His own order: His power I do not
call in question, but the very thought of His so doing is abhorrent to me."

"It is as abhorrent to me as it can be to you, to Goethe, or to Strauss;
and yet I believe firmly in our Lord's miracles."

"How so, if they break the laws of Nature?"

"Who told you, my dear young friend, that to break the customs of Nature,
is to break her laws? A phenomenon, an appearance, whether it be a miracle
or a comet, need not contradict them because it is rare, because it is as
yet not referable to them. Nature's deepest laws, her only true laws, are
her invisible ones. All analyses (I think you know enough to understand
my terms), whether of appearances, of causes, or of elements, only lead
us down to fresh appearances--we cannot see a law, let the power of our
lens be ever so immense. The true causes remain just as impalpable,
as unfathomable as ever, eluding equally our microscope and our
induction--ever tending towards some great primal law, as Mr. Grove has
well shown lately in his most valuable pamphlet--some great primal law, I
say, manifesting itself, according to circumstances, in countless diverse
and unexpected forms--till all that the philosopher as well as the divine
can say, is--the Spirit of Life, impalpable, transcendental, direct from
God, is the only real cause. 'It bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest
the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, or whither it
goeth.' What, if miracles should be the orderly result of some such deep,
most orderly, and yet most spiritual law?"

"I feel the force of your argument, but--"

"But you will confess, at least, that you, after the fashion of the crowd,
have begun your argument by begging the very question in dispute, and may
have, after all, created the very difficulty which torments you."

"I confess it; but I cannot see how the miracles of Jesus--of our
Lord--have anything of order in them."

"Tell me, then--to try the Socratic method--is disease, or health, the
order and law of Nature?"

"Health, surely; we all confess that by calling diseases disorders."

"Then, would one who healed diseases be a restorer, or a breaker of order?"

"A restorer, doubtless; but--"

"Like a patient scholar, and a scholarly patient, allow me to 'exhibit'
my own medicines according to my own notion of the various crises of your
distemper. I assure you I will not play you false, or entrap you by quips
and special pleading. You are aware that our Lord's miracles were almost
exclusively miracles of healing--restorations of that order of health which
disease was breaking--that when the Scribes and Pharisees, superstitious
and sense-bound, asked him for a sign from heaven, a contra-natural
prodigy, he refused them as peremptorily as he did the fiend's 'Command
these stones that they be made bread.' You will quote against me the water
turned into wine, as an exception to this rule. St. Augustine answered that
objection centuries ago, by the same argument as I am now using. Allow
Jesus to have been the Lord of Creation, and what was he doing then, but
what he does in the maturing of every grape--transformed from air and
water even as that wine in Cana? Goethe, himself, unwittingly, has made
Mephistopheles even say as much as that--

 "Wine is sap, and grapes are wood,
  The wooden board yields wine as good."

"But the time?--so infinitely shorter than that which Nature usually
occupies in the process?"

"Time and space are no Gods, as a wise German says; and as the electric
telegraph ought already to have taught you. They are customs, but who has
proved them to be laws of Nature? No; analyse these miracles one by one,
fairly, carefully, scientifically, and you will find that if you want
prodigies really blasphemous and absurd, infractions of the laws of Nature,
amputated limbs growing again, and dead men walking away with their heads
under their arms, you must go to the Popish legends, but not to the
miracles of the Gospels. And now for your 'but'--"

"The raising of the dead to life? Surely death is the appointed end of
every animal--ay, of every species, and of man among the rest."

"Who denies it? But is premature death?--the death of Jairus's daughter, of
the widow's son at Nain, the death of Jesus himself, in the prime of youth
and vigour--or rather that gradual decay of ripe old age, through which I
now, thank God, so fast am travelling? What nobler restoration of order,
what clearer vindication of the laws of Nature from the disorder of
diseases, than to recall the dead to their natural and normal period of
life?"

I was silent a few moments, having nothing to answer; then--

"After all, these may have been restorations of the law of Nature. But why
was the law broken in order to restore it? The Tenth of April has taught
me, at least, that disorder cannot cast disorder out."

"Again I ask, why do you assume the very point in question? Again I ask,
who knows what really are the laws of Nature? You have heard Bacon's golden
rule--'Nature is conquered by obeying her?'"

"I have."

"Then who more likely, who more certain, to fulfil that law to hitherto
unattained perfection, than He who came to obey, not outward nature merely,
but, as Bacon meant, the inner ideas, the spirit of Nature, which is the
will of God?--He who came to do utterly, not His own will, but the will
of the Father who sent Him? Who is so presumptuous as to limit the future
triumphs of science? Surely no one who has watched her giant strides during
the last century. Shall Stephenson and Faraday, and the inventors of the
calculating machine, and the electric telegraph, have fulfilled such
wonders by their weak and partial obedience to the 'Will of God expressed
in things'--and He who obeyed, even unto the death, have possessed no
higher power than theirs?"

"Indeed," I said, "your words stagger me. But there is another old
objection which they have reawakened in my mind. You will say I am shifting
my ground sadly. But you must pardon me"

"Let us hear. They need not be irrelevant. The unconscious logic of
association is often deeper and truer than any syllogism."

"These modern discoveries in medicine seem to show that Christ's miracles
may be attributed to natural causes."

"And thereby justify them. For what else have I been arguing. The
difficulty lies only in the rationalist's shallow and sensuous view of
Nature, and in his ambiguous, slip-slop trick of using the word natural
to mean, in one sentence, 'material,' and in the next, as I use it, only
'normal and orderly.' Every new wonder in medicine which this great age
discovers--what does it prove, but that Christ need have broken no natural
laws to do that of old, which can be done now without breaking them--if you
will but believe that these gifts of healing are all inspired and revealed
by Him who is the Great Physician, the Life, the Lord of that vital energy
by whom all cures are wrought.

"The surgeons of St. George's make the boy walk who has been lame from his
mother's womb. But have they given life to a single bone or muscle of his
limbs? They have only put them into that position--those circumstances in
which the God-given life in them can have its free and normal play, and
produce the cure which they only assist. I claim that miracle of science,
as I do all future ones, as the inspiration of Him who made the lame
to walk in Judea, not by producing new organs, but by His creative
will--quickening and liberating those which already existed.

"The mesmerist, again, says that he can cure a spirit of infirmity, an
hysteric or paralytic patient, by shedding forth on them his own vital
energy; and, therefore he will have it, that Christ's miracles were but
mesmeric feats. I grant, for the sake of argument, that he possesses
the power which he claims; though I may think his facts too new, too
undigested, often too exaggerated, to claim my certain assent. But, I say,
I take you on your own ground; and, indeed, if man be the image of God, his
vital energy may, for aught I know, be able, like God's, to communicate
some spark of life--But then, what must have been the vital energy of Him
who was the life itself; who was filled without measure with the spirit,
not only of humanity, but with that of God the Lord and Giver of life? Do
but let the Bible tell its own story; grant, for the sake of argument,
the truth of the dogmas which it asserts throughout, and it becomes
a consistent whole. When a man begins, as Strauss does, by assuming
the falsity of its conclusions, no wonder if he finds its premises a
fragmentary chaos of contradictions."

"And what else?" asked Eleanor, passionately--"what else is the meaning
of that highest human honour, the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, but a
perennial token that the same life-giving spirit is the free right of all?"

And thereon followed happy, peaceful, hopeful words, which the reader, if
he call himself a Christian, ought to be able to imagine for himself. I am
afraid that writing from memory, I should do as little justice to them as
I have to the dean's arguments in this chapter. Of the consequences which
they produced in me, I will speak anon.




CHAPTER XXXIX.

NEMESIS.


It was a month or more before I summoned courage to ask after my cousin.

Eleanor looked solemnly at me.

"Did you not know it? He is dead."

"Dead!" I was almost stunned by the announcement.

"Of typhus fever. He died three weeks ago; and not only he, but the servant
who brushed his clothes, and the shopman, who had a few days before,
brought him a new coat home."

"How did you learn all this?"

"From Mr. Crossthwaite. But the strangest part of the sad story is to come.
Crossthwaite's suspicions were aroused by some incidental circumstance, and
knowing of Downes's death, and the fact that you most probably caught your
fever in that miserable being's house, he made such inquiries as satisfied
him that it was no other than your cousin's coat--"

"Which covered the corpses in that fearful chamber?"

"It was indeed."

Just, awful God. And this was the consistent Nemesis of all poor
George's thrift and cunning, of his determination to carry the
buy-cheap-and-sell-dear commercialism, in which he had been brought up,
into every act of life! Did I rejoice? No; all revenge, all spite had been
scourged out of me. I mourned for him as for a brother, till the thought
flashed across me--Lillian was free. Half unconscious, I stammered her name
inquiringly.

"Judge for yourself," answered Eleanor, mildly, yet with a deep, severe
meaning in her tone.

I was silent.

       *       *       *       *       *

The tempest in my heart was ready to burst forth again; but she, my
guardian angel, soothed it for me.

"She is much changed; sorrow and sickness--for she, too, has had the fever,
and, alas! less resignation or peace within, than those who love her
would have wished to see--have worn her down. Little remains now of that
loveliness--"

"Which I idolized in my folly!"

"Thank God, thank God! that you see that at last: I knew it all along. I
knew that there was nothing there for your heart to rest upon--nothing
to satisfy your intellect--and, therefore, I tried to turn you from your
dream. I did it harshly, angrily, too sharply, yet not explicitly enough. I
ought to have made allowances for you. I should have known how enchanting,
intoxicating, mere outward perfections must have been to one of your
perceptions, shut out so long as you had been from the beautiful in art and
nature. But I was cruel. Alas! I had not then learnt to sympathize; and I
have often since felt with terror that I, too, may have many of your sins
to answer for; that I, even I, helped to drive you on to bitterness and
despair."

"Oh, do not say so! You have done to me, meant to me, nothing but good."

"Be not too sure of that. You little know me. You little know the pride
which I have fostered--even the mean anger against you, for being the
protege of any one but myself. That exclusiveness, and shyness, and proud
reserve, is the bane of our English character--it has been the bane of
mine--daily I strive to root it out. Come--I will do so now. You wonder why
I am here. You shall hear somewhat of my story; and do not fancy that I am
showing you a peculiar mark of honour or confidence. If the history of my
life can be of use to the meanest, they are welcome to the secrets of my
inmost heart.

"I was my parents' only child, an heiress, highly born, and highly
educated. Every circumstance of humanity which could pamper pride was mine,
and I battened on the poison. I painted, I sang, I wrote in prose and
verse--they told me, not without success. Men said that I was beautiful--I
knew that myself, and revelled and gloried in the thought. Accustomed to
see myself the centre of all my parents' hopes and fears, to be surrounded
by flatterers, to indulge in secret the still more fatal triumph of
contempt for those I thought less gifted than myself, self became the
centre of my thoughts. Pleasure was all I thought of. But not what the
vulgar call pleasure. That I disdained, while, like you, I worshipped all
that was pleasurable to the intellect and the taste. The beautiful was my
God. I lived, in deliberate intoxication, on poetry, music, painting, and
every anti-type of them which I could find in the world around. At last I
met with--one whom you once saw. He first awoke in me the sense of the vast
duties and responsibilities of my station--his example first taught me to
care for the many rather than for the few. It was a blessed lesson: yet
even that I turned to poison, by making self, still self, the object of my
very benevolence. To be a philanthropist, a philosopher, a feudal queen,
amid the blessings and the praise of dependent hundreds--that was my new
ideal; for that I turned the whole force of my intellect to the study
of history, of social and economic questions. From Bentham and Malthus
to Fourier and Proudhon, I read them all. I made them all fit into that
idol-temple of self which I was rearing, and fancied that I did my duty, by
becoming one of the great ones of the earth. My ideal was not the crucified
Nazarene, but some Hairoun Alraschid, in luxurious splendour, pampering
his pride by bestowing as a favour those mercies which God commands as
the right of all. I thought to serve God, forsooth, by serving Mammon and
myself. Fool that I was! I could not see God's handwriting on the wall
against me. 'How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom
of heaven!'...

"You gave me, unintentionally, a warning hint. The capabilities which I
saw in you made me suspect that those below might be more nearly my equals
than I had yet fancied. Your vivid descriptions of the misery among whole
classes of workmen--misery caused and ever increased by the very system of
society itself--gave a momentary shock to my fairy palace. They drove me
back upon the simple old question, which has been asked by every honest
heart, age after age, 'What right have I to revel in luxury while thousands
are starving? Why do I pride myself on doling out to them small fractions
of that wealth, which, if sacrificed utterly and at once, might help
to raise hundreds to a civilization as high as my own?' I could not
face the thought; and angry with you for having awakened it, however
unintentionally, I shrank back behind the pitiable, worn-out fallacy, that
luxury was necessary to give employment. I knew that it was a fallacy; I
knew that the labour spent in producing unnecessary things for one rich man
may just as well have gone in producing necessaries for a hundred poor, or
employ the architect and the painter for public bodies as well as private
individuals. That even for the production of luxuries, the monopolizing
demand of the rich was not required--that the appliances of real
civilization, the landscapes, gardens, stately rooms, baths, books,
pictures, works of art, collections of curiosities, which now went to
pamper me alone--me, one single human soul--might be helping, in an
associate society, to civilize a hundred families, now debarred from them
by isolated poverty, without robbing me of an atom of the real enjoyment or
benefit of them. I knew it, I say, to be a fallacy, and yet I hid behind it
from the eye of God. Besides, 'it always had been so--the few rich, and the
many poor. I was but one more among millions.'"

She paused a moment as if to gather strength, and then continued:

"The blow came. My idol--for he, too, was an idol--To please him I had
begun--To please myself in pleasing him, I was trying to become great--and
with him went from me that sphere of labour which was to witness the
triumph of my pride. I saw the estate pass into other hands; a mighty
change passed over me, as impossible, perhaps, as unfitting, for me
to analyse. I was considered mad. Perhaps I was so: there is a divine
insanity, a celestial folly, which conquers worlds. At least, when that
period was past, I had done, and suffered so strangely, that nothing
henceforth could seem strange to me. I had broken the yoke of custom and
opinion. My only ground was now the bare realities of human life and duty.
In poverty and loneliness I thought out the problems of society, and seemed
to myself to have found the one solution--self-sacrifice. Following my
first impulse, I had given largely to every charitable institution I could
hear of--God forbid that I should regret those gifts--yet the money, I
soon found, might have been better spent. One by one, every institution
disappointed me; they seemed, after all, only means for keeping the poor
in their degradation, by making it just not intolerable to them--means for
enabling Mammon to draw fresh victims into his den, by taking off his
hands those whom he had already worn out into uselessness. Then I tried
association among my own sex--among the most miserable and degraded of
them. I simply tried to put them into a position in which they might work
for each other, and not for a single tyrant; in which that tyrant's profits
might be divided among the slaves themselves. Experienced men warned me
that I should fail; that such a plan would be destroyed by the innate
selfishness and rivalry of human nature; that it demanded what was
impossible to find, good faith, fraternal love, overruling moral influence.
I answered, that I knew that already; that nothing but Christianity alone
could supply that want, but that it could and should supply it; that I
would teach them to live as sisters, by living with them as their sister
myself. To become the teacher, the minister, the slave of those whom I was
trying to rescue, was now my one idea; to lead them on, not by machinery,
but by precept, by example, by the influence of every gift and talent which
God had bestowed upon me; to devote to them my enthusiasm, my eloquence, my
poetry, my art, my science; to tell them who had bestowed their gifts on
me, and would bestow, to each according to her measure, the same on them;
to make my workrooms, in one word, not a machinery, but a family. And
I have succeeded--as others will succeed, long after my name, my small
endeavours, are forgotten amid the great new world--new Church I should
have said--of enfranchised and fraternal labour."

And this was the suspected aristocrat! Oh, my brothers, my brothers! little
you know how many a noble soul, among those ranks which you consider only
as your foes, is yearning to love, to help, to live and die for you, did
they but know the way! Is it their fault if God has placed them where they
are? Is it their fault, if they refuse to part with their wealth, before
they are sure that such a sacrifice would really be a mercy to you? Show
yourselves worthy of association. Show that you can do justly, love mercy,
and walk humbly with your God, as brothers before one Father, subjects of
one crucified King--and see then whether the spirit of self-sacrifice is
dead among the rich! See whether there are not left in England yet seven
thousand who have not bowed the knee to Mammon, who will not fear to "give
their substance to the free," if they find that the Son has made you
free--free from your own sins, as well as from the sins of others!




CHAPTER XL.

PRIESTS AND PEOPLE.


"But after all," I said one day, "the great practical objection still
remains unanswered--the clergy? Are we to throw ourselves into their
hands after all? Are we, who have been declaiming all our lives against
priestcraft, voluntarily to forge again the chains of our slavery to a
class whom we neither trust nor honour?"

She smiled. "If you will examine the Prayer-Book, you will not find, as
far as I am aware, anything which binds a man to become the slave of
the priesthood, voluntarily or otherwise. Whether the people become
priest-ridden or not, hereafter, will depend, as it always has done,
utterly on themselves. As long as the people act upon their spiritual
liberty, and live with eyes undimmed by superstitious fear, fixed in loving
boldness on their Father in heaven, and their King, the first-born among
many brethren, the priesthood will remain, as God intended them, only the
interpreters and witnesses of His will and His kingdom. But let them turn
their eyes from Him to aught in earth or heaven beside, and there will be
no lack of priestcraft, of veils to hide Him from them, tyrants to keep
them from Him, idols to ape His likeness. A sinful people will be sure to
be a priest-ridden people; in reality, though not in name; by journalists
and demagogues, if not by class-leaders and popes: and of the two, I
confess I should prefer a Hildebrand to an O'Flynn."

"But," I replied, "we do not love, we do not trust, we do not respect the
clergy. Has their conduct to the masses for the last century deserved that
we should do so? Will you ask us to obey the men whom we despise?"

"God forbid!" she answered. "But you must surely be aware of the
miraculous, ever-increasing improvement in the clergy."

"In morals," I said, "and in industry, doubtless; but not upon those points
which are to us just now dearer than their morals or their industry,
because they involve the very existence of our own industry and our own
morals--I mean, social and political subjects. On them the clergy seem to
me as ignorant, as bigoted, as aristocratic as ever."

"But, suppose that there were a rapidly-increasing class among the clergy,
who were willing to help you to the uttermost--and you must feel that their
help would be worth having--towards the attainment of social reform, if you
would waive for a time merely political reform?"

"What?" I said, "give up the very ideas for which we have struggled, and
sinned, and all but died? and will struggle, and, if need be, die for
still, or confess ourselves traitors to the common weal?"

"The Charter, like its supporters, must die to itself before it lives to
God. Is it not even now farther off than ever?"

"It seems so indeed--but what do you mean?"

"You regarded the Charter as an absolute end. You made a selfish and a
self-willed idol of it. And therefore God's blessing did not rest on it or
you."

"We want it as a means as well as an end--as a means for the highest and
widest social reform, as well as a right dependent on eternal justice."

"Let the working classes prove that, then," she replied, "in their actions
now. If it be true, as I would fain believe it to be, let them show that
they are willing to give up their will to God's will; to compass those
social reforms by the means which God puts in their way, and wait for His
own good time to give them, or not to give them, those means which they in
their own minds prefer. This is what I meant by saying that Chartism must
die to itself before it has a chance of living to God. You must feel, too,
that Chartism has sinned--has defiled itself in the eyes of the wise, the
good, the gentle. Your only way now to soften the prejudice against it is
to show that you can live like men and brothers and Christians without it.
You cannot wonder if the clergy shall object awhile to help you towards
that Charter, which the majority of you demanded for the express purpose of
destroying the creed which the clergy do believe, however badly they may
have acted upon it."

"It is all true enough--bitterly true. But yet, why do we need the help of
the clergy?"

"Because you need the help of the whole nation; because there are other
classes to be considered beside yourselves; because the nation is neither
the few nor the many, but the all; because it is only by the co-operation
of all the members of a body, that any one member can fulfil its calling in
health and freedom; because, as long as you stand aloof from the clergy, or
from any other class, through pride, self-interest, or wilful ignorance,
you are keeping up those very class distinctions of which you and I too
complain, as 'hateful equally to God and to his enemies;' and, finally,
because the clergy are the class which God has appointed to unite all
others; which, in as far as it fulfils its calling, and is indeed a
priesthood, is above and below all rank, and knows no man after the flesh,
but only on the ground of his spiritual worth, and his birthright in that
kingdom which is the heritage of all."

"Truly," I answered, "the idea is a noble one--But look at the reality! Has
not priestly pandering to tyrants made the Church, in every age, a scoff
and a byword among free men?"

"May it ever do so," she replied, "whenever such a sin exists! But yet,
look at the other side of the picture. Did not the priesthood, in the
first ages, glory not in the name, but, what is better, in the office, of
democrats? Did not the Roman tyrants hunt them down as wild beasts, because
they were democrats, proclaiming to the slave and to the barbarian a
spiritual freedom and a heavenly citizenship, before which the Roman well
knew his power must vanish into naught? Who, during the invasion of the
barbarians, protected the poor against their conquerors? Who, in the middle
age, stood between the baron and his serfs? Who, in their monasteries,
realized spiritual democracy,--the nothingness of rank and wealth, the
practical might of co-operation and self-sacrifice? Who delivered England
from the Pope? Who spread throughout every cottage in the land the Bible
and Protestantism, the book and the religion which declares that a man's
soul is free in the sight of God? Who, at the martyr's stake in Oxford,
'lighted the candle in England that shall never be put out?' Who, by
suffering, and not by rebellion, drove the last perjured Stuart from his
throne, and united every sect and class in one of the noblest steps in
England's progress? You will say these are the exceptions; I say nay; they
are rather a few great and striking manifestations of an influence
which has been, unseen though not unfelt, at work for ages, converting,
consecrating, organizing, every fresh invention of mankind, and which is
now on the eve of christianizing democracy, as it did Mediaeval Feudalism,
Tudor Nationalism, Whig Constitutionalism; and which will succeed in
christianizing it, and so alone making it rational, human, possible;
because the priesthood alone, of all human institutions, testifies of
Christ the King of men, the Lord of all things, the inspirer of all
discoveries; who reigns, and will reign, till He has put all things under
His feet, and the kingdoms of the world have become the kingdoms of God and
of His Christ. Be sure, as it always has been, so will it be now. Without
the priesthood there is no freedom for the people. Statesmen know it; and,
therefore, those who would keep the people fettered, find it necessary
to keep the priesthood fettered also. The people never can be themselves
without co-operation with the priesthood; and the priesthood never can be
themselves without co-operation with the people. They may help to make a
sect-Church for the rich, as they have been doing, or a sect-Church for
paupers (which is also the most subtle form of a sect-Church for the rich),
as a party in England are trying now to do--as I once gladly would have
done myself: but if they would be truly priests of God, and priests of
the Universal Church, they must be priests of the people, priests of the
masses, priests after the likeness of Him who died on the cross."

"And are there any men," I said, "who believe this? and, what is more, have
courage to act upon it, now in the very hour of Mammon's triumph?"

"There are those who are willing, who are determined, whatever it may cost
them, to fraternize with those whom they take shame to themselves for
having neglected; to preach and to organize, in concert with them, a Holy
War against the social abuses which are England's shame; and, first
and foremost, against the fiend of competition. They do not want to be
dictators to the working men. They know that they have a message to the
artizan, but they know, too, that the artizan has a message to them; and
they are not afraid to hear it. They do not wish to make him a puppet for
any system of their own; they only are willing, if he will take the hand
they offer him, to devote themselves, body and soul, to the great end of
enabling the artizan to govern himself; to produce in the capacity of
a free man, and not of a slave; to eat the food he earns, and wear the
clothes he makes. Will your working brothers co-operate with these men?
Are they, do you think, such bigots as to let political differences stand
between them and those who fain would treat them as their brothers; or will
they fight manfully side by side with them in the battle against Mammon,
trusting to God, that if in anything they are otherwise minded, He will, in
His own good time, reveal even that unto them? Do you think, to take one
instance, the men of your own trade would heartily join a handful of these
men in an experiment of associate labour, even though there should be a
clergyman or two among them?"

"Join them?" I said. "Can you ask the question? I, for one, would devote
myself, body and soul, to any enterprise so noble. Crossthwaite would ask
for nothing higher, than to be a hewer of wood and a drawer of water to an
establishment of associate workmen. But, alas! his fate is fixed for the
New World; and mine, I verily believe, for sickness and the grave. And yet
I will answer for it, that, in the hopes of helping such a project, he
would give up Mackaye's bequest, for the mere sake of remaining in England;
and for me, if I have but a month of life, it is at the service of such men
as you describe."

"Oh!" she said, musingly, "if poor Mackaye had but had somewhat more faith
in the future, that fatal condition would perhaps never have been attached
to his bequest. And yet, perhaps, it is better as it is. Crossthwaite's
mind may want quite, as much as yours does, a few years of a simpler and
brighter atmosphere to soften and refresh it again. Besides, your health is
too weak, your life, I know, too valuable to your class, for us to trust
you on such a voyage alone. He must go with you."

"With me?" I said. "You must be misinformed; I have no thought of leaving
England."

"You know the opinion of the physicians?"

"I know that my life is not likely to be a long one; that immediate removal
to a southern, if possible to a tropical climate, is considered the only
means of preserving it. For the former I care little; _non est tanti
vivere_. And, indeed, the latter, even if it would succeed, is impossible.
Crossthwaite will live and thrive by the labour of his hands; while, for
such a helpless invalid as I to travel, would be to dissipate the little
capital which Mackaye has left me.

"The day will come, when society will find it profitable, as well as just,
to put the means of preserving life by travel within the reach of the
poorest. But individuals must always begin by setting the examples, which
the state too slowly, though surely (for the world is God's world after
all), will learn to copy. All is arranged for you. Crossthwaite, you know,
would have sailed ere now, had it not been for your fever. Next week
you start with him for Texas, No; make no objections. All expenses are
defrayed--no matter by whom."

"By you! By you! Who else?"

"Do you think that I monopolize the generosity of England? Do you think
warm hearts beat only in the breasts of working men? But, if it were I,
would not that be only another reason for submitting? You must go. You will
have, for the next three years, such an allowance as will support you in
comfort, whether you choose to remain stationary, or, as I hope, to travel
southward into Mexico. Your passage-money is already paid."

Why should I attempt to describe my feelings? I gasped for breath, and
looked stupidly at her for a minute or two.--The second darling hope of my
life within my reach, just as the first had been snatched from me! At last
I found words.

"No, no, noble lady! Do not tempt me! Who am I, the slave of impulse,
useless, worn out in mind and body, that you should waste such generosity
upon me? I do not refuse from the honest pride of independence; I have not
man enough left in me even for that. But will you, of all people, ask me
to desert the starving suffering thousands, to whom my heart, my honour
are engaged; to give up the purpose of my life, and pamper my fancy in a
luxurious paradise, while they are slaving here?"

"What? Cannot God find champions for them when you are gone? Has he not
found them already? Believe me, that Tenth of April, which you fancied the
death-day of liberty, has awakened a spirit in high as well as in low life,
which children yet unborn will bless."

"Oh, do not mistake me! Have I not confessed my own weakness? But if I have
one healthy nerve left in me, soul or body, it will retain its strength
only as long as it thrills with devotion to the people's cause. If I live,
I must live among them, for them. If I die, I must die at my post. I could
not rest, except in labour. I dare not fly, like Jonah, from the call of
God. In the deepest shade of the virgin forests, on the loneliest peak of
the Cordilleras, He would find me out; and I should hear His still small
voice reproving me, as it reproved the fugitive patriot-seer of old--What
doest thou here, Elijah?"

I was excited, and spoke, I am afraid, after my custom, somewhat too
magniloquently. But she answered only with a quiet smile:

"So you are a Chartist still?"

"If by a Chartist you mean one who fancies that a change in mere political
circumstances will bring about a millennium, I am no longer one. That dream
is gone--with others. But if to be a Chartist is to love my brothers with
every faculty of my soul--to wish to live and die struggling for their
rights, endeavouring to make them, not electors merely, but fit to be
electors, senators, kings, and priests to God and to His Christ--if that
be the Chartism of the future, then am I sevenfold a Chartist, and ready
to confess it before men, though I were thrust forth from every door in
England."

She was silent a moment.

"'The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner.'
Surely the old English spirit has cast its madness, and begins to speak
once more as it spoke in Naseby fights and Smithfield fires!"

"And yet you would quench it in me amid the enervating climate of the
tropics."

"Need it be quenched there? Was it quenched in Drake, in Hawkins, in the
conquerors of Hindostan? Weakness, like strength, is from within, of the
spirit, and not of sunshine. I would send you thither, that you may gain
new strength, new knowledge to carry out your dream and mine. Do not refuse
me the honour of preserving you. Do not forbid me to employ my wealth in
the only way which reconciles my conscience to the possession of it. I have
saved many a woman already; and this one thing remained--the highest of all
my hopes and longings--that God would allow me, ere I die, to save a man.
I have longed to find some noble soul, as Carlyle says, fallen down by the
wayside, and lift it up, and heal its wounds, and teach it the secret of
its heavenly birthright, and consecrate it to its King in heaven. I have
longed to find a man of the people, whom I could train to be the poet of
the people."

"Me, at least, you have saved, have taught, have trained! Oh that your care
had been bestowed on some more worthy object!"

"Let me, at least, then, perfect my own work. You do not--it is a sign
of your humility that you do not--appreciate the value of this rest. You
underrate at once your own powers, and the shock which they have received."

"If I must go, then, why so far? Why put you to so great expense? If you
must be generous, send me to some place nearer home--to Italy, to the coast
of Devon, or the Isle of Wight, where invalids like me are said to find all
the advantages which are so often, perhaps too hastily, sought in foreign
lands."

"No," she said, smiling; "you are my servant now, by the laws of chivalry,
and you must fulfil my quest. I have long hoped for a tropic poet; one
who should leave the routine imagery of European civilization, its meagre
scenery, and physically decrepit races, for the grandeur, the luxuriance,
the infinite and strongly-marked variety of tropic nature, the paradisiac
beauty and simplicity of tropic humanity. I am tired of the old images; of
the barren alternations between Italy and the Highlands. I had once dreamt
of going to the tropics myself; but my work lay elsewhere. Go for me, and
for the people. See if you cannot help to infuse some new blood into the
aged veins of English literature; see if you cannot, by observing man in
his mere simple and primeval state, bring home fresh conceptions of beauty,
fresh spiritual and physical laws of his existence, that you may realize
them here at home--(how, I see as yet but dimly; but He who teaches the
facts will surely teach their application)--in the cottages, in the
play-grounds, the reading-rooms, the churches of working men."

"But I know so little--I have seen so little!"

"That very fact, I flatter myself, gives you an especial vocation for my
scheme. Your ignorance of cultivated English scenery, and of Italian art,
will enable you to approach with a more reverend, simple, and unprejudiced
eye the primeval forms of beauty--God's work, not man's. Sin you will
see there, and anarchy, and tyranny, but I do not send you to look for
society, but for nature. I do not send you to become a barbarian settler,
but to bring home to the realms of civilization those ideas of physical
perfection, which as yet, alas! barbarism, rather than civilization, has
preserved. Do not despise your old love for the beautiful. Do not fancy
that because you have let it become an idol and a tyrant, it was not
therefore the gift of God. Cherish it, develop it to the last; steep your
whole soul in beauty; watch it in its most vast and complex harmonies,
and not less in its most faint and fragmentary traces. Only, hitherto you
have blindly worshipped it; now you must learn to comprehend, to master,
to embody it; to show it forth to men as the sacrament of Heaven, the
finger-mark of God!"

Who could resist such pleading from those lips? I at least could not.




CHAPTER XLI.

FREEDOM, EQUALITY, AND BROTHERHOOD.


Before the same Father, the same King, crucified for all alike, we had
partaken of the same bread and wine, we had prayed for the same spirit.
Side by side, around the chair on which I lay propped up with pillows,
coughing my span of life away, had knelt the high-born countess, the
cultivated philosopher, the repentant rebel, the wild Irish girl, her
slavish and exclusive creed exchanged for one more free and all-embracing;
and that no extremest type of human condition might be wanting, the
reclaimed Magdalene was there--two pale worn girls from Eleanor's asylum,
in whom I recognized the needlewomen to whom Mackaye had taken me, on
a memorable night, seven years before. Thus--and how better?--had God
rewarded their loving care of that poor dying fellow-slave.

Yes--we had knelt together: and I had felt that we were one--that there was
a bond between us, real, eternal, independent of ourselves, knit not by
man, but God; and the peace of God, which passes understanding, came over
me like the clear sunshine after weary rain.

One by one they shook me by the hand, and quitted the room; and Eleanor and
I were left alone.

"See!" she said, "Freedom, Equality, and Brotherhood are come; but not as
you expected."

Blissful, repentant tears blinded my eyes, as I replied, not to her, but to
Him who spoke by her--

"Lord! not as I will, but as thou wilt!"

"Yes," she continued, "Freedom, Equality, and Brotherhood are here. Realize
them in thine own self, and so alone thou helpest to make them realities
for all. Not from without, from Charters and Republics, but from within,
from the Spirit working in each; not by wrath and haste, but by patience
made perfect through suffering, canst thou proclaim their good news to
the groaning masses, and deliver them, as thy Master did before thee,
by the cross, and not the sword. Divine paradox!--Folly to the rich and
mighty--the watchword of the weak, in whose weakness is God's strength made
perfect. 'In your patience possess ye your souls, for the coming of the
Lord draweth nigh.' Yes--He came then, and the Babel-tyranny of Rome fell,
even as the more fearful, more subtle, and more diabolic tyranny of Mammon
shall fall ere long--suicidal, even now crumbling by its innate decay.
Yes--Babylon the Great--the commercial world of selfish competition,
drunken with the blood of God's people, whose merchandise is the bodies
and souls of men--her doom is gone forth. And then--then--when they, the
tyrants of the earth, who lived delicately with her, rejoicing in her sins,
the plutocrats and bureaucrats, the money-changers and devourers of labour,
are crying to the rocks to hide them, and to the hills to cover them, from
the wrath of Him that sitteth on the throne--then labour shall be free at
last, and the poor shall eat and be satisfied, with things that eye hath
not seen nor ear heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man to
conceive, but which God has prepared for those who love Him. Then the
earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the
sea, and mankind at last shall own their King--Him. in whom they are all
redeemed into the glorious liberty of the Sons of God, and He shall reign
indeed on earth, and none but His saints shall rule beside Him. And then
shall this sacrament be an everlasting sign to all the nations of the
world, as it has been to you this day, of freedom, equality, brotherhood,
of Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and good-will toward
men. Do you believe?"

Again I answered, not her, but Him who sent her--

"Lord, I believe! Help thou mine unbelief!"

"And now farewell. I shall not see you again before you start--and ere you
return--My health has been fast declining lately."

I started--I had not dared to confess to myself how thin her features had
become of late. I had tried not to hear the dry and hectic cough, or see
the burning spot on either cheek--but it was too true; and with a broken
voice I cried:

"Oh that I might die, and join you!"

"Not so--I trust that you have still a work to do. But if not, promise me
that, whatever be the event of your voyage, you will publish, in good time,
an honest history of your life; extenuating nothing, exaggerating nothing,
ashamed to confess or t