John Jerome (2)

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CHAPTER V.


"WHERE are you going now?" Katharina said and I answered, "To see Milly."

    "Ah, yes!" she replied.  "That was a strange thing her little girl said when she was dying."

    "Very strange."

    I did go to see Milly.

    Her cottage stands quite alone in a small thick orchard, and I advanced to it through green wheat and meadow-grass.  At six o'clock that morning, when I had first passed this way, the place was all dewy and still, and the woods were full of the whir of wings.  Finches and blackbirds many had made betrayal of their nests by tossing down blue and green eggshells, to land themselves like fruitage among the branches of cow-parsley which fringed the edge of the woods with flowers more ethereal than sea-foam.  It was now noon, and the day ardently hot.  All things swam in the open cloudless light.  We commonly have a few hot days at the end of May.  The air was heavy with scent of hawthorn in blossom, and odour of fresh resin from the spruce plantations.  Rather wasteful farming prevails thereabout, and I was able to keep in shadow most of the way, — first under tall hedges, and next along the side of a spinny.

    The nightingales were so noisy that, as I knew they had been singing all night, I wondered when they took the proverbial "nine winks."  The population of England, if reckoned by nightingales, would be found to have much increased of late.  The same could not be affirmed of any other bird except the starling.  If something is not done to repress the schoolboy and the starling, we shall soon have few small finches left.

    Milly's cottage looked as peaceful as it was secluded; but the cuckoos answering one another were so close at hand, and the apple and plum trees were so full of blackcaps, finches, and other birds, that it was not as silent as is many a country town.

    She had parted with a pretty little girl while I was at Windsor.  The child had been ill only for a few days, and as I had known Milly all my life I went to offer my sympathy.

    "Many a slap have I given her," said the sorrowful mother, wiping away her coursing tears, but yet appearing to take a pleasure in sitting for a few minutes to indulge them.

    The poor who are parents are often pressed hard from morning till night, striving to overtake their work; they have little time for tender thought.

    "Yes, many a slap, for she was the noisiest and the most audacious of all mine.  It fairly goes to my heart now to think of it; but it was all for her good — mother meant it all for her good."

    She said these last words just as she might have done if the child had been present to hear.

    "And it was for her good; you would not be doing your duty by them if you let them run wild," I answered.

    "No, sir; but it hurts my feelings now.  I have a great moil with them at times.  She took her medicine so prettily, dear lamb; and we never thought we were to lose her, till Doctor came and told us.

    And then the poor mother related her sorrow, — the indifference of the child to food, even the best that she could tempt her with, and the deep drowsiness that came on in the intervals of pain.

    She told how she sat by her child all through one day, — and there was a noise.  All her other children were up and down, in and out, and it seemed to disturb little Mary, for often she would knit her brow; so she got their grandmother to take them in and manage for them as best she could, that her dear child might have the chamber to herself, "and die comfortable."

    And so she sat by her another night; and the child would sigh now and then, but she was often in a deep sleep, and could not take nourishment.  The father went to his work just at dawn, and she, overcome with fatigue, dozed a little, for, as she expressed it, "The nightingales had sung their fill, and she had wept her fill, and the child, who had moaned in the dark, was quiet."

    Suddenly she awoke with a start.  The sun had risen, and little Mary was wide-awake, gazing with a wondrous expression of rapture into the corner of the whitewashed chamber with its sloping roof.

    She also looked earnestly, but nothing was there.

    "What dost see, my dear?" she faltered.

    "O look, mother, look," said the dying child, still lost in ecstasy and awe.  "Look at those — be they pigeons?" and it seems that she made a movement as if she would lift herself up and raise her arms toward them; then she fell back and, with eyes wide open and that smile in them yet, she instantly passed away.

    It was to the parson's wife that the mother first told this, appearing to find a certain comfort and awe in it, as if she looked on it as the religious experience of her little Mary.  But the parson's wife was a good deal scandalized.  She felt that there was something grotesque in the narration; and what significance had it?  It was naught; but she kept silence, and presently the mother's comment made her thoughtful.

    "Sweet thing," said the cottage dame; "she was such a babe yet, she'd neither been to church nor to school, and how was she to know what God Almighty's angels were like?  She could not think what those were that she saw.  She'd never been shown so much as a picture of one."

    In those last words lies the sweet strangeness of the story.

    It appears that man is naturally aware of spiritual intelligences; certainly they are neither revealed nor described in the sacred books of our religion, — rather alluded to as already known; but he is generally so dominated by the fashion of his own frame that if they essay to show themselves it must be somewhat in his likeness.  It may be that he cannot behold a creature of higher make than his; or that, beholding, his unacquainted eyes might in the strangeness lose the meaning.  Many seers in their ecstasy have set eyes on creatures that had the gift of wings; otherwise they were but men made mighty and uncorrupt.

    To the simpleness of child-eyes something sweet and awful must have shown itself that morning in the void.  That it was not in the form of humanity may have been because of the child's truer eyesight, — and to her wider gain.

    We are greatly bereft, whom old mediζval painters have fooled.  The angels with which they have endowed our fancy are most of them not above humanity but below it; for we have, as man, the mastery of the world, — as woman, the glory of motherhood; but they have little more than the innocence of our children, — and for the rest, they are equal to the birds.

    Of such angels the old Hebrew writers from first to last have no cognizance.  Sometimes the seer's vision bore no likeness to man; but then it was indescribable, — language would not set it forth.  If it was manlike it always had majesty.  If it had wings it could yet shoot from place to place as independent of them.  More commonly it was mistaken for a man, and only on its withdrawal (that he might not be confounded) showed itself above him and received his homage; then went over the hills and he could not follow, or walked by him in the dusk and then was not there.

    It is the same from first to last.  Neither in the plain Gospels nor the Apocalyptic vision is there any hint of angels childlike or feminine, — from the "young men in white apparel," to the "mighty one" who set his right foot on the earth and his left foot on the sea, and sware by him that liveth forever and ever.

    But if a swallow's flight and tender eyes be all their endowment, what wonder that they should be given over to the little children, to be their solace and admiration!

    There is no reason in the world, however, to suppose that an angel is necessarily known for such.  "A young man" may frequently be among us now and, passing in the street, may be taken for one of ourselves.

    There are stories, both old and new, far more strange if this is not so than if it is.  I took pains to collect some quite recent narratives.  But those which come from the simple-hearted and the homely, and from more unsophisticated days, are without apology and without reserve they read best.

    Here is a typical one.  The scene is in Wales.

    A venerable preacher, Charles by name, after holding a night service, rode home over the lonely mountains.

    Before he set out, a man who had been in the chapel, and knew that he had a sum of money with him, slipped away, and hid himself behind a hedge which skirted the mountain path.

    He was a murderer in will, and hoped to be in deed.

    At midnight he heard the sound of horse's hoofs.  He knew the old pastor was coming; and he rose, bludgeon in hand.

    There was perfect silence, but in the broad moonlight he saw riding beside the pastor another man, — a man on a white horse.

    He dared not attack two men.  The path was long.  He hoped the stranger and the pastor would part; but no, they still kept together, and at last he gave up following them and went his way.

    Some time after, the man fell sick; and, being sure that he should die, he began to think upon his crimes, and longed to confess his intended murder to the old pastor, which he did.  "You had been a dead man," he said, "but for him who rode beside you on the white horse."

    But there had been no man riding beside him!  The old pastor, so far as his own consciousness went, was perfectly sure that he had been quite alone.

    On this narrative I have bestowed no needless words.

    The Border Lands are full of mysterious lights; and the spiritual evil-ones, dwelling in them also, have darkness in their habitations, — a mystical darkness that may be felt.

    I was cogitating thus as I walked through my friend F.'s field.  I shall certainly publish this; therefore I forbear to give his full name.  I found him looking rather flustered.  He was arguing — rod in hand, at the edge of the brook — with a somewhat chubby-cheeked lad, his sister's son, who was to have been brought up for the Church, but who, on coming home from the holidays, had frightened his widowed mother by informing her, with some elation of manner, that his attitude of mind was one of universal scepticism.

    How basely we are treating children.  No generation was ever so badly used before.  Those gracious reserves which used to reverence their inexperience are almost given up.  What is to become of them?  This religion and these writings which have made countless lives honest and noble, countless deaths content and full of hope, — what do we propose to give in lieu of it and of them, that we suffer such talk, and such literature as is continually before our children?

    This mother, after prayers and tears and reproaches, sent the lad to F., who also exhorted and then argued, which was a pity, for the lad was conceited and an egotist, and it elevated him almost to the seventh heaven to have his convictions made of so much consequence.

    I must say that the discourse, when I joined it, was not dignified.  In fact it was grotesque, for F. was getting irate; and, besides, he knew he was out of his depth.

    "Hang your conscience,"' he was saying.  "Why must it needs be so obstreperous?  Do you think I find it absolutely necessary to deliver my soul of all the fool's fancies that are in me?"

    "That's a bad shot, uncle," answered the lad; but when I found that he really thought we should allow him then and there to lay before us a select few of the arguments which are argument to prove that man has no conscience, and no soul either, I turned on a stream of ridicule that I commonly have at command, and after he had been gently played upon for a few minutes his countenance became a study, — a study, after the old masters, in red and black, the black shown mostly about the brows.

    I then made a short detour after a butterfly, thinking, meanwhile, of how small use was argument, or ridicule either, excepting to set people fast in their own opinions.

    When I came back the chubby-faced boy had recovered his spirits.

    He was saying that three hundred millions of years was the least he could do with for the development of man out of protoplasm.

    F. laughed at him.  The boy was much shocked at this levity.  He appeared to think his new gospel ought to be treated with a reverence that few bestow on the old.  Of course he did not say that to scoff at this would be to risk the welfare of our immortal souls; but, as I remarked to him, he looked at us with a scathing majesty of reproof which nothing but long ages of belief in such risk and such immortality could ever have enabled a human countenance to assume.

    It was, no doubt, a survival.

    He repeated with solemnity that, come what might of revelation, he must have them.  So I said, if he must he must, if he could get them (the three hundred millions of years, to wit); and I added that it would make no difference to me, or to the years either, or to the protoplasm, so far as I could see.

    It was surprising how this indifference to his requirements appeared to bother the lad.  So long as his uncle had been shocked and irritated at his notions he had been as happy as any sucking mastodon in a pre-creation-of-the-world pool.  So I told him, blandly of course; for why should I quarrel with him because of opinions that others had put into his head, and mistakes which were all against himself.

    "You are a mere child," I observed.  "You never earned yourself one day's food or shelter in your life.  It is my faith that a merciful God will not allow one who cannot yet undertake his present, to throw his future away; but you had better look out; you will soon be fully responsible, and then, if you make any wilful mistakes, you will certainly have to rue them some day, somewhere."

    The poor lad was mortified by this remark on his youth.  I should have been much disgusted by it myself at his age.  However, he plucked up spirit to observe that he had already elected for himself the set of scientists that he intended to swear by; and then, oblivious of the contradiction, he again asserted that his frame of mind was essentially sceptical.

    Scepticism is a very rare frame of mind.  Man is essentially credulous.  He can easily change his mind, ten times a day, from believing one thing to believing its opposite, when it is not in nature or possibility that he should believe neither.

    "Some say the king's dead," quoth the Frenchman, "and some say he's living; for my part, I believe neither the one nor the other."

    However, F.'s nephew confesses to a decided belief in table-turning, spirit-rapping, and other "manifestations" of that sort.  F. does not: he contemns them all, root and branch.

    For my part, I firmly believe that many so-called manifestations are simple impostures, got up by those who are perfectly innocent of any dark assistance, and do all their spiriting themselves, as a trade to get their living by.  Just as F.'s nephew would have performed the offices of our religion as an industry by which to put bread in his mouth, but not aware that there was any power in them, so they pretend to dealings with demons, while many of them scoff secretly at the notion that there are any disembodied intelligences at all.

    This is a new thing in the world.  For myself I do not doubt where it comes from.

    The founder of our religion, according to the account he gave of Himself, came, among other beneficent purposes, to cast out and destroy the power of the Evil One.  This power is, by all observation and history, almost nil among Christians, — that is, among real believers in the religion.

    Even the outward sign of the sacramental baptism appears to be a protection (whatever else it may be is not in question here) against the approach of the nether king and his power, unless this is invited and desired.

    Accordingly the next subtle move of the weird Apollyon and his hosts is to make people believe that they are not, — that contempt may enable them to work; or that, being despised and denied, they may be suffered to approach as trumpery or inferior agencies that may be tampered with, — and no harm.

    But it will always be found that the further in one direction go the thoughts of the multitude, the further in an opposite direction will go the thoughts of a few.

    All good Christians are possessed.  This has been the creed of the churches in all ages.

    "I believe in the Holy Ghost" who moves men to righteous deeds.  That is one sort of possession.

    And I believe in the unholy ghosts who move men to all things hateful.  That is the other sort of possession, and both are equally silent and potent.

    Men are certainly not wicked enough by themselves to contrive and compass half the evil that gets done in the world; just as they are not good enough by themselves to do such deeds of mercy and righteousness as many saints have done and yet are doing.

    But to prove that man is not a spiritual creature the materialist must go into many matters in those Border Lands where the soul and the world touch, or the spirit and the senses meet; and, after all, though any man may reason away another's opinion, it is always useless to reason against his experience.


 
CHAPTER VI.


WE were sitting under an oak tree.  F. had gone a little way up the stream, and the chubby-faced boy was bestowing on me more of his second-hand philosophy.  He was enlarging — in a pragmatical fashion which would have been amusing but for the pathetic pity it awoke in me for his absent mother — on the foolish humbleness which makes man (and boy too, I suppose) look outside his own life and nature for objects to reverence, while his true reverence should be for himself; when, with a suddenness that surprised me, he jerked up his legs and began with speed to pull down his trousers, which had been turned up.  After this he hastily settled his collar and, with an air of perturbation indescribable, snatched a little comb from his pocket and, lifting his straw hat, furtively smoothed his stubborn locks.  I looked in the direction of his eyes.

    Katharina!

    Yes, and that reminds me I ought to describe Katharina.

    She had on at that moment a very large hat trimmed with something soft and white, but I think it was not feathers; and she wore a pale pink dress, and she carried a straw basket on her arm.  She was standing close to the brook which just there spread into a pool, and her image in the not perfectly quiet water appeared, though ever there, to be still flowing away.  She had seen us from an upper window of her grandmother's house, and was bringing us some cake, some baked custard, and a bottle of cowslip wine to add to our lunch.

    A hundred yards lower down the brook was a wooden bridge: the lad, as if Katharina had not known of it before he was born, started up hastily to escort her over.

    And now what is Katharina like?

    Most of us have seen a print representing Mary Queen of Scots, wearing a little sort of bonnet, or cap, which dips in the front.  Her face is a short oval, broad at the brows and pointed at the chin, — the shape, in fact, of a guinea-fowl's egg.  Katharina is like that; she is a twilight Mary Queen of Scots.

    She is beautiful, then?  Why, as to that, beauty is a matter of opinion.  She has dusky brown hair, — of a twilight and, so to speak, colourless colour, — dusky brown eyes, and a somewhat dusky complexion, but yet with no appearance of being tanned.

    No, she is not beautiful to my mind, though my eyes approve of her.  She is of a good height and neither slender nor otherwise.  When I saw the chubby-faced boy walking up to Katharina, with complications of attitude not to be described, and a reverential swagger and a deprecatory pride (yes, I declare that all this was manifest), I burst into a laugh of joy and triumph.  My lungs, in short, "did crow like chanticleer."  I experienced a new sensation.  It was this, — I saw Katharina adored.  She was, to the chubby-faced boy, if not exactly as Venus rising from the wave, yet certainly as that same lady walking along by the reeds and rushes, walking along switching them out of the way with her parasol, having on a celestial pink tippet (if that is what you call it), and with a supreme incapacity for understanding that a boy could be anything but a boy.  So she took no notice, while he escorted her among the moon-daisies and forget-me-nots, tilting up his head as one who would fain be taller for her sake.

    Yes, I experienced a new sensation then; and I have long noticed that the novelty in a sensation, to a pleasure seeker, is a greater element of pleasure than is the quality of the sensation itself.

    This is a digression, but the subject fascinates me and I must explain.

    If a man feels dull, or stingy, or nasty in his temper, and dissatisfied with everything, he often thinks he wants a little pleasure; and he chooses out something particularly agreeable and indulges himself in it.

    But I believe there would be far more novelty, and also that more pleasure on the whole might be got out of an experiment of an opposite kind.

    Choose for instance, of days in April, one when a specially vicious east wind is blowing.  Choose of Japanese fans with magenta sunsets in them, two.  Then take of raw green gooseberries half a pint.  Take of cats, three, as cross as possible; tie them into a bag.  Carry the whole to the lee side of a tallow-chandler's yard on boiling-day.  There eat the gooseberries, beat the cats, and look hard at the screens, — considering remorsefully all the time how we have ruined the taste of the Japanese for art, and given them nothing to make up for the loss.

    When you have set your teeth on edge with the gooseberries, and are chilled to the bone with the east wind, and have breathed in the odours of the tallow, and listened to the discord of the cats, release them, and return home.  Let this be just at luncheon time.

    On entering your modest mansion, and sitting down to a comfortable hot lunch, you will experience a keen sensation of pleasure.  All about you will seem warm, sweet, tasteful, harmonious; and I maintain that while you hug yourself, to think how you are enjoying things in general, you are experiencing far more pleasure in degree than anything but contrast could possibly have given you.  And novelty must be added; if you often try such an experiment it may fail.

    The last time* I tried it, which was the first time, it answered beautifully, and yet I only ate half the gooseberries.


[* Note to the conscientious reader. —Dear Sir, I hope you will not feel bound to believe this statement if it seems to you improbable.  You are at liberty to take it for what it is worth.]


    Now what did I relate this experience for?  It has nothing at all to do with the matter in hand.

    I believe it was because I had given it as my opinion that Katharina was not beautiful; and I did not wish to withdraw the opinion, and knew not how to justify it.  It seems so unmannerly, — let me slide away from the particular remark by making a few on beauty in general.

    But first I may relate that F. came up, and she shook hands with him and treated him with pretty deference.  As we met, sat down on the grass, and began to eat our luncheon, I noticed more than ever how exactly Katharina was like that print of Mary Queen of Scots.  The man who painted the said Mary no doubt idealized her face, for it cannot be denied that painters and sculptors in general represent what they and their generation admire.

    The Greeks, therefore, must have admired large feet.  The feet in proportion to the head, as seen in their art, are much larger not only than those we admire but than those we walk upon.

    In early mediaeval art, such specimens of it as remain to us in missals and statues represent the cranium as abnormally small and low, while the nose is high and large, and the face long.  The expression almost always produced, and therefore doubtless admired, is acute, with a small dark eye.  There is no such thing as a large soft eye or a languid expression.  A century later finds the Venetians representing women with impossibly high foreheads.  The hair is evidently shaved away to increase the seeming height of the forehead, which reaches to the crown of the head; while at the same time they delighted in a small flat chest, a very long neck, and fingers so long and slender as to be almost a deformity.

    In the days of our Henry the Eighth, very small features were probably admired.  A collection of Holbein's pictures, for instance, shows features (the eyes included), out of all proportion to the fair wide expanse of the countenance.

    In Vandyck's day dark hair and eyes were manifestly the rage.  He idealized even his English beauties till they glow with the dark sun-dyes of the South.  Later on, a long pillar-like neck was all the fashion.

    But perhaps flattery reached its acme early in the present century, when a woman was complimented, by the painter, with eyes comparable for size to those of an ox, while at the same time he gave her feet so small that they could not have sustained her weight.

    Photography has cured us of this; but some of the miniature-painters carried it to such a pitch that, if their portraits had been enlarged to life-size, the eye would have been nearly three inches long.

    It is now the fashion among a few to admire a hungry and despairing face, with a lean lanky figure and what our grandmothers called gooseberry eyes.  Luckily, few poor creatures in real life are as ugly or as sickly as these appear to most of us in their portraits.  They are idealized the wrong way.

    When I see foreigners at an exhibition, looking with pity and wonder at such figures, particularly when they appear to be about eight feet in height, I feel inclined to draw near and whisper: "Don't believe a word of this; it is a parable, a revolt against the worship of beauty.  They find such women to paint, with great difficulty, and intend to show that no woman is so ugly that a man will decline to paint or to love her."  I never carry out this inclination.  I know it would be wrong.  In fact, it would be lying.

    After all, I do not see how Katharina could be changed for the better.  Should I like to give her the double chin so much coveted in the days of Mrs. Delany, or the slip shoulder they all longed for a little later on?

    Certainly not.  She not only looks charming as she is; but, now I consider her face, its short full oval is all that I could wish.  Is beauty all taste?  I cannot be sure; but I will say that Katharina has always suited my taste, — and so end.

    As I sat, a little apart from the group, I observed that Katharina gave it completeness.  She had a plantain leaf in her lap, and she ate becomingly.  F., on the contrary, struggled with a baked custard in a fashion to make one pity him.  I am afraid his nephew did not get half enough to eat.  (The hunger of the young is affecting.)  F.'s cook had put up a whole fowl and a loaf, but no knife and fork.  We should soon have got the better of that fowl, but for the presence of Katharina.  F. presently began to nick square blocks out of it with his penknife, and I looked on; but I soon fell into thought, for I do not mind making the admission that I think occasionally.

    It was to this place that I used to be drawn in my wheel-chair, after a terrible illness and accident that I had when I was a good deal younger than F.'s nephew now is.  I never see a moon-daisy or a foxglove just beginning to shoot up, but I recover some of that ecstasy, — such a rapture of peace to sit there in the shade, with the hard-featured "skilled nurse" on the grass.

    I had been long in pain.

    Life and death contended for me, seated one on either side of my bed; but I gave my own unsolicited interest to life, and when death found it was two to one, he withdrew — to a milk shop.

    I employed my first happy days in making many mothers desolate.

    It was a shame!

    I paid a little urchin, a good deal younger than myself, to tear out all the nests he could get at, and I made a fine collection of eggs.  My conscience was sweetly at ease; I thought not of the action as other than laudable.  My nurse baked the nests for me, and helped me to blow the eggs.  I liked that woman; she had a delicate hand and broke none of them.  In fact, I never knew her to break anything — but her word.

    That was only four-and-twenty years ago: and yet this woman, skilled as she was in nursing, could not write otherwise than in what we call printing hand.

    It is extremely pleasant to observe the advance of education, and to note the preposterously hard words with which all sorts of people can now lay about them, bringing these out smoothly, as if they loved them, and fitting them into the sentence with competent ease.  My friend F. ringing his bell to complain to a housemaid that the knife he was using was rusty, she looked at it with attention and keenness, then said, "In my opinion this is not rust, sir."

    That the knife was eaten into by rust was most evident.

    "If it is not rust," he answered rather hotly, "perhaps you will kindly tell me what it is?"

    "No sir," she answered with bland politeness, "that I cannot undertake to accomplish.  I was not engaged to answer any such philosophical questions."

    Pretty of her, wasn't it? and quite true.

    Well, I was recalled from these thoughts by F., who, handing me a block of fowl on his penknife, and a broken piece of bread, asked me if I was hungry.  I was.  I took the prog and, recalled to the present scene, heard F.'s nephew discoursing at large to Katharina.  I heard him refer to the works of Plutarch, Esquire, and say that there was an appreciable difference between his mode of treating subjects and that of a modern; so I, who love to be of use, here struck in, and said: "There's an appreciable difference, too, between a buffer and a duffer; but the careless world seldom defines it."

    "Don't, Jack," said Katharina.  So I disposed myself, instead of mingling in the talk, to listen with refined civility, for I cherish good manners; and it was pretty to see how good Katharina was, and how grave she looked, till the youngster, speaking of some yew trees in sight, and lamenting that their leaders had been docked, said sadly, "But this piece of mischief was done by one who went to his grave many years ago, out of mere perversity."

    I laughed then; but mine was not the bitter laugh of jealousy, and you will the more easily believe me when I remark: first, that I have already declined the honour of Katharina's hand and heart; secondly, that I am sure her chubby-faced adorer has not the remotest chance of either; and thirdly, that she has been for five years, with my full approval, engaged to Another.

    Perhaps at this point I had better explain.  When I was about fourteen years of age I met with, as I have said, an accident.  I will tell of it here, for I shall do so in fewer words than Katharina would.

    It was on a frosty winter afternoon.  The world was all white and the western sky was one flush of scarlet.  As I came over the brow of a hill, through the spinney, I saw, between the trunks of the last trees, this pool, the very pool we have been speaking of; and there was a boy about my own age on it, and then there were two girls, both younger.

    I knew the ice would not bear.

    I dashed forward and, once clear of the wood, stood an instant and shouted to them with all my might.

    They all turned.  In half a minute, while I rushed down the hill, I saw the boy, who had skated close to the brink, up to his neck in water, and crashing his way out with vast splashings and commotion.  In another instant the fountain of spray fell.  The middle of the pool could be seen again.  It was heaving, and it was a blank.

    I tore a great ragged stake from the hedge and sped to the pool.  I never have known how the matter was managed, but I was creeping on my stomach, over the cracked and creaking ice, with the long stake at my side, when I got hold of the elder girl by her hair; and she helped herself, for the stake was about nine feet long and she held by it.  And I remember that, as she rose through the hole, I saw the little one's red cloak, only a foot or two farther on, under the transparent ice.  That I yelled, and tore at the ice and burrowed under it, I remember; and then that the child was out, and that the stake which had partly supported us was broken.  It broke under my ankle, for it was rotten in consequence of a rusty nail that was in it.

    The splinters, and indeed the end of the stake, ran into my ankle, but I knew nothing of that just then; and people who had seen us, by that time had run together and flung hurdles to us.  In short, we all got to the edge alive; but I was only just alive, and what with one of my ankle bones being broken, and the nail having made intimate acquaintance with my sinews, I had, as an American would say, rather a serious time of it.  I had a rheumatic fever, too, and have been somewhat lame ever since.  The worst of it was that for several years, at intervals, I had bouts of the same pains and penalties in the before mentioned ankle, and while they lasted I had to go about on a rat of a pony, or to use a crutch.

    But as regards the offer.

    I was now nineteen years of age, and Katharina nine; and I was sitting disconsolate at the bottom of my aunt's garden, with my crutch at my side.

    This crutch, I am thankful to say, has been discarded for many years; and I can walk as far, I do not say as gracefully, as most men.  At that time I entirely depended on it.

    It was at the edge of a small lawn, retired, and generally used as a play place.  Three large trees had been felled and were lying across it.  I, lost in moody thought, was seated on one.  Katharina, a dancing sprite in a white frock, sprang upon another and contemplated me.

    "Jack," she presently said, "shall you ever want anybody to marry you?"  At that stage of my career I regarded the notion of matrimony with disfavour, and did not vouchsafe her any answer.

    "Fanny says," she continued (Fanny was her nurse), "that nobody would marry a man with a crutch.  I said that was a story."

    Here she sprang down from the tree-trunk.

    "I said that was a story," she repeated, "because, my beautiful Jack, I mean to marry you, — at least if you'll let me.  Don't you think you will?"

    I replied that I thought I would not.  I said she was not big enough, and besides, I could not have a wife who did her French verbs so badly; but the more I insisted, the more Katharina insisted, and the next day she brought me a letter in printing hand which ran thus:


"MY DEAR JACK, — Grandmamma says I shall soon be a big girl.  If you teached me I could feed your birds, and get the weeds and things you want out of the hedgers and woods.  So don't you think you will marry me?

Your loving little cousin,
                   "K
ATHERINA."


    Now for the rest of it.

    The reader has already jumped to a conclusion.  Through reading many books he is sure that the child whom I saw under the ice and risked my life for was Katharina; hence her childish wish to devote her life to me.  But he considers, in his wisdom, she is engaged to Another; no matter, that engagement will be broken off and she will marry our hero in the end.

    I am sorry to disappoint you, my dear reader, but the fact is the child with the red cape was not Katharina.

    No?

    The boy was her brother; the girls were both her sisters, and have been married some time.  The elder is the mother of some of the most troublesome children I ever had anything to do with.  Her husband, — so different is real life from fiction, — her husband has never shown the slightest jealousy of me, or the least tendency to think that her life must be blighted because I did not ask her to be mine.

    As to the little one, we were in general good friends, though we often quarrelled.  I helped her in her love affair, and I also gave her away.  She never thought and I never thought that anything more was to be expected of either of us; and I put it to the candid reader, whether, because I had been so unfortunate as to lame myself on her account, it behooved me also to endow her with all my worldly goods, as well as to promise solemnly to love and cherish her till death did us part?

    This is a necessary digression and I shall therefore not offer any apology, but take up the thread of my narrative and say that, luncheon being over, I retired from the lady and the two fishers, fetching a wide compass in order that I might give a look to my little plantation — little plantation of ai — No, Katharina, I promised that I would not mention the "tree of heaven" any more; but if my back did not ache before I had done watering some trees which we will call chestnuts, and which I consider to be of the greatest consequence, — I had better break off here, or I shall offend again.

    It is not to be annulled, as my Malay boy would say, — meaning, as I suppose, it is not to be expected, — that any man, even for the best of cousins once removed, should stay indoors to write a book in butterfly weather.

    I have rambled to the British Museum, since writing the above, to see Captain Howland Roberts's present of fifty-seven lepidoptera from Candahar, — also to feast my eyes on the rare and strange specimens of the hunting-spider, given by Mr. Rye.

    As I returned, some people in the railway carriage remarked that the whole country was like a vast garden.  How I hate the race of gardeners.  No, that would be wrong; I mean how difficult I find it to love the race of gardeners.

    They have spoilt most of, and injured all, the country gardens that I know of.  It is a pity we do not peg down Turkey rugs and Persian carpets on our lawns.  They would look just as well as do some of their more elaborate ribbon and stripe beds.

    I have all sorts of aspirations concerning gardeners.  Sometimes I hope they will forthwith strike for double wages, for most of us are poor at this time and could not pay.  At other times I wish their wives would immediately insist on our visiting them; or I desire to see them develop a craving for county society, and, because they cannot have it, make the gardeners emigrate.

    Why, they will be weeding our woods next, if we do not look out, and planting neat rows of Tom Thumb geraniums along the brinks of our brooks.

    No, I rejoice to testify that the country is not at all like a garden.

    I went out at five o'clock this morning, before the dew was off, and walked to the edge of my friend F.'s spinney to delight myself with the sight of a delicate reach of wood-mellick, a grass of surpassing beauty.

    There was no wind.  The air only just moved enough to make it tremble slightly, as if some ecstasy had overtaken it and was moving it to part with a diamond drop here and there from its purple panicles to the lush green of its leaves.  It was all shot in and out with sunshine, and had an effect as of a bloom hanging over low green leaves which stood up swordlike and still; or rather as of a mirage or a mist, adorned here and there with butterflies newly waked.  I could have gazed on it longer, but the wild hemlock, growing breast-high and crowned with a milky-way of flowers, tempted me farther on.

    These composite blossoms confound the mind, each uncountable unit of the multitude is so perfect, and on each one has been bestowed such a delicacy of elaboration.

    They say that Herschel turned his telescope one night on the Milky Way; and having counted sixty thousand stars passing over its field in an hour, he was tired, and ceased.

    There must be as many little white stars here in these fair flower clusters as in all the Milky Way together; for the bed, with a gracious preference for shade, follows the winding outline of the spinney, and for an acre edges it as with costly froth, — fairer than anything the greenhouse holds, or than the wary gardener has pinched back with his thumb.

    F. will have a show of pelargoniums shortly, but I do not gather that he means to show his wild-hemlock.


 
CHAPTER VII.


THE fall of woman, commonly called the fall of man, — the two sexes together standing for humanity, — was a greater fall by far for one than for the other.  It brought that sex to the top which was not meant to be there; and, as related to the Hebrews in the book of Genesis, is, to my mind, the most surprising story ever told.

    Moses was a brave man.

    Those to whom he told it would be much confirmed in their conviction of his divine authority and inspiration, by their probable belief that no man in his senses would have invented anything so strange, so undesirable, and so invidious as the putting of woman so exceeding high and man so distinctly down.

    Adam, as he there appears, was not much of a man; but he had been put at the head, and whether he kept there by rising above woman, or by pulling her down below his own level, is fair matter for speculation.  At any rate, his descendants had got on when Moses dared them with this story; they had their women well in hand, almost under their feet.  Very probably they did not let them know about this matter for it was a man's world then, and a man's world it continues to this day, — man's only.

    I have the deepest respect for womanhood.  My mother was a woman, and I have heard that my maternal grandmother was also; but as she died some time before my birth, what I know concerning her is all on the testimony of others.

    A man's world, but woman bides her time.  "The mills of God grind slowly, but they grind exceeding small."  As a man, I have my forebodings.  I think we shall catch it soon, when they find out, when they combine and put us into our original places again, — when, in short, their Maker turns again their captivity, and removes the veil which hangs before their eyes.

    It may be partly on this account that I never omit a chance of being obliging and helpful to a woman.

    I hope this will be remembered in my favour when her time comes.

    It was for this purpose that — shortly after eating that luncheon, and taking a six weeks' tour on the Continent, during which time I ceased from my literary labours — I went down on the twentieth of July, in the year of grace 18—, to Portsmouth, and found myself in Her Majesty's dockyard, on a distractingly fine day, with a baby on one arm who was old enough to pull my nose, a big basket under the other, a tin bath and several bandboxes set at my feet and left in my charge.  I had come down to escort and to help the wife of an officer, a very good friend and cousin of mine, she being also a cousin, — in short, Katharina's elder sister.

    She was to sail for India that very day, with her husband and her baby.

    The vast troop-ship, with her "distinguishing stripe," spread out her milk-white bulk along side. O my friends and enemies (let me not exclude any who may be indifferent to me) what a sight she was!  What a beautiful, pathetic, cruel, soul-stirring sight it all was!

    Poor sword and sash bearer; thy better half must stay behind to bring up, or to tug up, thy boys!  Poor redcoat; thy rib, sparerib though she may be, is not to go!  No room for her.

    I went on board.  Comely mothers of all ranks had brought young girls to take leave of their engaged lovers; and these, with husband and wife, mother and son, melted there in public and did not mind.  Nobody minded.  I did not mind.  I should have liked to imitate some of those officers, and take the dear creatures in my arms.

    But I controlled myself.  Besides, I had already the baby and the bath, and now a deck-chair, to hold.  Yes, I repeat it; what a man's world this is!  A ship of war shows this as well as most articles.

    Sweet things!  It was sad for them all, saddest for the young; but these would have been sweeter yet, if cold separation had not come between them and their sobbing heroes.  A girl and a guinea are both alike.  You never know how good they are till you ring them.

    I consider that the classical females of renown, if we could meet them now, would look rather dowdy, and perhaps clumsy, among our modern beauties and graces.  They stalked about with a certain swing (I allude more particularly to Minerva, Juno, Hebe, and that set), so that, what with their large feet and large waists, and their wearing no gloves, it wouldn't do.

    The girls I saw this morning, as they entered the dockyard, were so finished in all their appointments, — so complete.  They moved more gracefully than a sailing sloop; and what can one say more?

    Their feet, methought, were overmuch tilted forward on little props like black cotton-reels; but who could forbear to display insteps of such convincing shape, which so small a boot enshrined in fashion so distracting?  As to their gowns, I remember some more to my mind, — robes which, when the wearer walked, fell into gracious if not majestical folds.

    These had a sort of valance hanging below the knees, which seemed to tie them up with causeless severity; but this may be prejudice.  I wish to look on all feminine gear as setting off that loveliness which, as we are informed, is destined to elevate the coarser sex.

    It is only good manners so to look at it.  Good manners is the valet of good sense.

    If an angel, in this present year of grace, came down to teach a day-school, what would probably be two of the first things in which he would give his lessons?  I think they would be reverence and good manners; we want both hugely.

    I can stand a good deal of crying from women; but I hate to see a man cry, and did not desire to be a crying man.

    I heard the distant band draw near.  I saw all the redcoats march on board, including the drummers (poor little fellows!) and their goat, — a certain silky-haired arrogant personage, who appeared to think that the show was got up entirely for his glorification.

    Defiant martial music is all very well, excepting on occasions which have in them a natural and convincing pathos.  When the mourning-women of the East are howling and wailing, flinging their arms about, and making as if they tore their hair, one can look on and be critical.  They are paid to chant; and sometimes the dead is some old scoundrel, well out of the way.  This was different.  Sorrow, thus defied to show itself, sits bleeding, and cries at the heart.

    So, before it was needful, I took leave of my friends; and, having done all I could for them, stepped ashore and — ran away.

    I went to the nearest hotel and had a tolerably good luncheon, during which I moralized much.  Then, having nothing to do, I crossed Southsea Common again, and had just reached the shingly shore, when, behold! she came, — the troop-ship came.

    A crowd, chiefly of women and boys, ran along the shore, sobbing and cheering, and being answered by faint cheers from the ship.  For a little while they kept up with her, while like a white daylight ghost she moved majestically and skimming along the coast in a deep calm, over the pale blue sea, — the ghost of glory; but glory is a sham and she was a reality.

    A thousand soldiers, standing looking over her side, made a long red line on her upper deck; but their faces were not distinguishable.  How many will come back again from the east? and what will they be like when they do?

    I walked on, past Southsea Castle, and left the group of soldiers' friends and wives and sweethearts behind me.  As soon as I was out of hearing I turned and apostrophized it: "O woman, woman! you are in this transgression.  I am sick of hearing of Woman's Rights, while her faults are so many and her foolishness is so great.  Your star is already in the ascendant, and man is a minority.  How long will it be before you take heart and perceive that, if you would but combine, nothing in the world could be done 'without the leave of you'"?

    Woman is not merely the female man.  She is from him a strangely different creature.  Nothing that breathes is such a contrast as the man is to his mate.  Culture makes this only more evident.

    There is nothing in Eastern life, or in the life of the Hebrews, that does not stand in sharp contrast to the account given by Moses of the first state of life as led by our first parents.  He was looking for companionship among the beasts, when she came and straightway desired for both that they "should be as gods."

    Now God does not make the best first.  When the highest comes down, it has the greatest fall.

    The lord of the earth is earthly; his passions have dominion over him; and it is only among some of the Christian nations that woman is his true helpmeet now, — elevates him and teaches him to feel and to aspire, as she was meant to do at first.

    After all the centuries of ignorance, degradation, slavery, woman is still the higher creature in some — and those the higher — things.

    That which can give up best, does give up most, has in fact the fairest theory and practice of self-sacrifice, must come to rule in the end, though it should wait for its realm many thousands of years.

    The Founder of our faith moved the world to restore woman; and ever since, the sexes have been weighed in a balance.  One day they will be equally poised, — and then the balance will begin to turn.

    I hate a great deal of the common cant about Woman's Rights, because its aim is so low; it keeps so completely on the surface.  I look to the direction of which my heart prophesies, — the direction from which the right, the true right, is to come.

    Man makes woman his slave, by his might or by his law: by the first where he is lawless; by the second where he is a lawgiver, for he frames all his laws so as to keep this precious chattel powerless, — to have a right to her, all she does and all she has.

    Woman should not therefore sigh for rights so much in the line of politics, trade, or property, but rather, and first, — for that is higher, — her rights in man.


O wasteful woman! She who may
    On her sweet self set her own price,
Knowing he cannot choose but pay,—
    How hath she cheapened Paradise!


    That word "may" should be changed into "might" — might if she would, and all is told.

    "Because thou hast done this, thy desire shall be to thy husband and he shall rule over thee."  Yes! and to have her under his feet has been as great a misfortune to him as to her; it has been to lose his own best chance of rising.

    Woman, in the new dispensation, has the right and the power to be free; but she is slow to learn, or love, or take her freedom.  It is only in the more enlightened of Christian countries that any woman has any real right in any one man, — that is, by a lawful marriage.

    What is the ideal world, then?

    What sort of a world would this be for peace, plenty, health, and industry, if a lawful marriage was the only way in which a man could obtain possession of any one woman?

    What stands in the way of such a state of things?

    First, besides her love of luxury, stands woman's want of willingness to combine; and last, her want of power to organize.

    These are her two greatest defects.  She does not love her own, she loves the more selfish sex.  If she can be prevailed on to combine it must first be shown her that this would be even more for man's advantage than for her own; and if she can be taught to organize, it must be by man himself.

    There are trade-unions, clubs, corporations, societies, armies, without end.  They all belong to men.  Why should not the women of the Christian nations bind themselves also into vast sisterhoods, the rich helping the poor and the poor trusting the rich, — all agreed, and encouraging one another to declare that nothing but marriage will do for them?  Moreover, that a good character shall count as much in a man's case as it does in a woman's?

    Such a notion as that would be enough to cover the women with ridicule, but only at first.  If a decree once came into operation, — but that is a parlous if; and yet, if such a sisterhood were once formed, it would begin, even before they had done laughing at it, to make men behave themselves.

    It has never been shown yet that women like better to be slaves and vagabonds than to be married wives and courted maidens.  If they do, there is no more to say.

    If not, their destiny is in their own power, when they can only consent as to what it shall be.

    Woman has already the larger share as well as the harder part of life, for she does the serving and man does the ruling. It is far easier to rule well than to serve well.  She must undertake more, and show man how to rule while yet she continues to serve.

    She has a good many advantages already, which would greatly help her if she would take her place.

    The first to be considered is, that a vast majority of the women in this country earn their own bread, whether they are married or single.

    They are much more economical than men.

    And they are more numerous.

    Some of them are rich and independent.  None of these matters are in dispute.

    One may add to them that there is a vast deal of human nature in a man, and in a woman a vast deal of human art. Human nature is but Commensurate with human life; and life is short, but art is long.

    Generation after generation of men come up, and for the most part they succumb to human nature.  They are fighting animals.  None restrain them; they fight.  Women let them.  They come back minus an arm, a leg, an eye, and the fair fools cry over them, and even like them all the better.

    They are sensual animals.  Many of them waste their youth, ruin their health, and sin against woman.  While they thus act, modest women pretend not to see, and afterwards marry them.

    Then, are men worse than women?

    I write, remembering that you will read this, Katharina.  The wickedness of the world is not "print" to you.  How good man is to the purer portion of your sex!  How he respects your innocence!

    Now let me answer: No!

    No?

    Woman, in the great accusation, is worse than man; and the accusation includes even you.

    For generation after generation of women comes up, and they succumb to their love of luxury.  For them mainly are the gorgeous pageants, — are the costly clothes, the gold lace, the carpets of velvet pile, the diamonds and the splendours of life.  The pride of life is in their souls, and mainly for them.

    It is luxury that stands in the way of the civilized world, so that men cannot marry young and be happy.

    For the earth does not produce unbounded riches for a few while yet the many can have enough.

    Equality among men is a word without meaning or possibility; but notwithstanding, squalor and destitution might be things outside our experience, as should be luxury and waste.

    Here I seem to hear Katharinq say: But women cannot possibly be expected to give up luxury.

    No; but the world grows better by the unexpected and the impossible.

    Women are not angels.

    No, but they are — women.  What has not woman done already? what has she not forborne?

    She must rise by voluntary descent.  "Ye shall be as gods," were the words that tempted her; and still this pride of life has dominion.  Let her lay it down that she may be as men.

    At present she is not "as men," for she fell, and men trampled on her; and she has the vices of a slave.  She desires a short-lived passion and admiration, where she ought to command a lifelong love, honour, and esteem.

    She flatters where she ought to encourage, and she condones most where she ought to be most severe.

    I adore the unexpected.  It is what I expect, and not without reason.  What we have no business to expect crops up from time to time and refreshes the world.

    As for the impossible, I revel in it; for I was born in Utopia, where the impossible was born.

    It was quite impossible that slavery should be put down.  Could you expect people to pay millions of money to put down what, as individuals, was no fault of theirs?

    Everybody said it was not to be expected, it was impossible; and then that same everybody helped to do it.

    Since then it has been done again at a cost of far better stuff than gold.

    We are beginning to have a great tussle with drink now.  Woman woke up during that last war, — woke up for good and all, and began to bestir herself.

    How ridiculous she has made herself!  How ridiculous she is making men make themselves, it rejoices my heart to perceive; for nothing that can live through ridicule can ever be put to death by anything else.  Make yourselves into vast secret societies, my liege ladies, and the world will be yours.  Man is ordained to love and admire you.  If you should decree that you will spend less time and money in your adornment, do you think that will make any difference?  Not at all; you may do it with impunity.

    Have you not experimented to the utmost already, and found that whether you trail a gown yards after you in the dust, or hang hoops about you till you abide in a cage, or draw your sashes round with merciless tightness, or assume the bed-curtains, arraying yourselves in patterns like peonies and melons for bigness, he admires you just the same?

    But woman has another advantage over man she is more religious.  Our religion suits her well, for it was founded in self-sacrifice and voluntary descent.

    She is the lesser creature, the inferior animal of the two; her passions, her strength, her intellect are less; but also she is less of an animal and more of a spirit.


 
CHAPTER VIII.


"LOOK out, you duffers!  If you don't want to be tossed, the Pope's bull and the lawyer's calf are not more to be avoided than the Solent.  What tubs!  One might as well go to sea in a cradle or a coffin."

    I was looking across the Solent when I said this aloud to Myself, who answered: "I am afraid, sir, you would be quite at sea in either."

    This little dialogue took place the following morn.  I had slept at Southsea, after going out to dinner; some fellows, to whom I had innocently given a dinner on a previous occasion, having ungratefully insisted that I should dine with them on board Her Majesty's ship — Whatever-you-like-to-call-her.

    Talk of a beast of burden, what is his yoke compared with that of a man of burden? and who is he but one made continually to go out to dinner against his will?

    The Solent had lost all its yesterday's calm.

    I took a canoe and went after a party whom I saw in one of the tubs apostrophized above.

    They had written to insist that I should come to a lawn-tennis party that afternoon.  I felt that I would rather fly the place than submit to the tyrannous hospitality which was blowing up like a storm to pelt me with invitations.

    I drew up to them.

    "O Jack," they cried when I was within hail, "we 're so dull!  The fish won't bite!  Make us laugh; haul us out a handful of jokes."

    "What," said I, "do you think the fish would rise at that bait?  No, my lads, fish never take a joke.  I never knew one yet that could."

    They had two sweet little cockney girls with them.  One was making piteous pretence of being happy; the other looked very white about the mouth.  "O Mr. Jerome," she said, "would you mind taking me ashore in your canoe — because  —  the sun is so hot on my back?

    In my canoe!

    I was obliged to make her observe that this was impossible; but in her interest I said there would certainly be no fish caught that morning, and I advised them to give up their fishing party.  Then I told them I could not accept their kind invitation, because I was going home that very afternoon.

    So we parted.  The sea rose every moment.

    As I went back I passed as near as was safe to a schooner that looked, in the long swell, like an ungainly beast wallowing about, creaking, and slipping down as fast as she rose on the wave.  Then I passed astern of a steam-tug, rolling about in an absurd fashion.

    There is something very ridiculous in the appearance of a tug — a short thick one — standing across the waves, waiting for a signal to bring some ship in, — and being rolled about by the water while she first backs her engines, then makes them go, trying to keep in one place.  She looks as if she must be sea-sick.

    So I went home, — went to see Katharina and her grandmother, to report concerning the sailing of the troop-ship.

    Katharina was unusually silent and grave, and so she had been the last time I had seen her.

    I did not think it was all because her elder sister had sailed.  I agreed with F., who had also seen her, and who said to me that he thought she must have had a letter from Another.

    "Another," as we all agree, is a remarkable man, — as true as steel but not demonstrative.  When first he went to the East, Katharina was uneasy at his short epistles and at the spaces between them; but as time went on, and every letter, when it came, showed that he was as far from changing, himself, as he was from deeming it possible that she could change, she learned to mock at her fears, and I helped her.

    It is extraordinary what difficulty some men find in writing letters.

    Well, Another made a small fortune, and was almost deciding to come home, marry her, and take her out, when he lost it and had to begin again.  I think Katharina found my counsel, my sympathy, and perhaps my belief that all would come right, a comfort to her at that time; but she is a cunning creature.  She did not tell Another that her limping cousin was kind, for Another, be it known, had been jealous of me, and had once been heard to say, with a touch of bitterness, that I "did not limp worth mentioning."  Now when that was repeated to me I felt that I owed him a good turn.  I was pleased, too, for this was the testimony of an enemy (a friendly enemy of course); and I have felt ever since that if my enemies consider my limp not worth mentioning, it may be to my friends (if they shut their eyes) not visible at all.

    But what do you think?  Katharina's gravity had nothing to do with Another; for the next day she came to see me, mounted into my loft where I was stuffing a bird, and, after seating herself on the one chair, took out her handkerchief and began to cry with all her heart.

    "O Jack," she exclaimed, "I am so miserable!"

    "It must be that fellow Another!" I exclaimed.  "He has written and asked you to come out and marry him, and you do not like the parting with your grandmother.  Well, but you know you have long promised that you would do this as soon as he could send for you; and I have promised to escort you.  He could not have chosen a more inconvenient time of year, though, for me, — no, not if he had hurried his own affairs on purpose to do it."

    "You need not be so cross," said Katharina, "it is nothing of the kind.  I have not heard from him; and nobody is ill, and I have not heard any bad news."  Here she sobbed again and said, "But I wish you would come downstairs."

    "Cannot you cry just as comfortably here?" I answered, for I was much relieved by her last speech and wanted to go on with my work.

    "The birds look so nasty with cotton-wool for eyes," she answered.  "O Jack, I have not seen Anna for two years."

    "Oh, that's it," was my reply; "and I must say it is a great shame.  Turn your chair round, that you may not see the cotton-wool, and let us talk this over.  You never see Anna now?"

    So she sat with her back to me.  It is not at all unbecoming to women to cry.  Katharina cried a little, and said Anna had invited her to come and stay in the tents, pitched just now on a lovely heath in Westmoreland; and she cried again, and said her grandmother would not hear of it.  Here I put in, "Of course not;" and she said, "I thought you were going to talk it over."

    "I shall not talk your grandmother over."

    "But if you would go and look, and see what sort of a place they are in?  If there is a village near, grandmother might be persuaded to take lodgings in it, and take me with her, — I do so want to see Anna."

    "Godfrey and your grandmother cannot bear one another; they would certainly quarrel."

    "But I should see Anna!"

    "Anna is very happy with him at present.  She might be set against him by one or both of you."

    "But he is so odd!"

    "Yes, it seems as if nature turned out some men by the dozen or by the score; but he is of his own kind, and the only specimen extant."

    "Then you will not go, Jack?"

    "Then, — I will!  But I would have you to know that there are many advantages in oddness.  In my opinion there used some time ago to be too many odd people in the world, and now there are too few.  The advantages of having odd people among us are, first and foremost, that they set us thinking."

    Katharina had started up and dried her eyes.  She said joyfully: "You really mean it; you really will go?"

    "I was about to discourse with you on the advantages of oddness, a subject which I have long been considering.  I see I may spare my pains!  Yes, I really will go."

    "O Jack, what a dear fellow you are!"

    "I have long suspected it!  If I find that there really is a village close to Godfrey's tents, I may go and stay there myself, and invite your grandmother and you to be my guests.  I shall take the cob and my little carriage down to drive you backward and forward."

    "O Jack!"

    "Provided always that you are extremely careful not to offend the odd man!"  So presently Katharina departed; and perhaps I was not altogether sorry, for I like to have my say out when I am inclined to talk; and I went straight on, when she had descended, not doubting that if there had been auditors they would have been respectful.

    The advantages of having odd people among us, as I was remarking, are, first and foremost, that they set us thinking.

    In this country, for instance, we live in houses, and we take for granted that it is the right thing — in fact, the only thing to do; unless we fall in with people who, having a town house and a shooting-box, deliberately go forth from both, that they may enjoy themselves during the summer, — and that in a tent.

    I have tried this trick myself twice, so I know there is something to be said for it.

    Then, unless we have any special reason to do otherwise, we may all be said to breakfast about nine o'clock in the morning and go to bed about eleven, summer and winter; but if we, or one of us, — or, to speak plainly, if I, Myself, -- walking up to a suburban villa at nine O'clock on a summer evening, find a footman "sitting on a chair in the front garden, who desires me to ring lest I should disturb his master and mistress and the other servants, who are gone to bed, because at that time of year they rise at four o'clock in the morning, while the air is sweet and free from smoke, and have their breakfast in the back garden, — why, it is apt to cause thought.  It may even raise a doubt as to whether the common plan is the best.

    Then, as a rule, I think it may be said that we all desire to get on in the world, if not to get up.  Having been born respectable, we do not wish to die in a ditch.  None of us regard with complacency what we call coming down in the world.

    We exist, as it were, in layers.  The layers lie one above the other; and we like to move and work and visit in our own layer or the one above it.

    Voluntary descent which is quite distinct from self-sacrifice — is an uncommon notion to us if presented in the light of an advantage.

    If a man, the younger son of a baronet, is well educated and has a good income (though no land), how can he make experiments to ascertain whether he or a common carrier on a country road, he or the master of a parish school, he or an itinerant vender of tin-ware, is in the happier position?

    These things, by common consent, have been decided long ago.

    Yet the man Godfrey, one with whom I have a keen feeling of fellowship and friendship, has tried all these experiments; and why shouldn't he if he likes?  When he had tried them I asked for his opinion.  "Which of these states of life," said I, "is the happiest?"  He answered that he did not know, for that in trying them he had not been able to divest himself of all that he had felt and learned and seen.  He had certain prejudices concerning food and sleeping accommodations that he could not overcome, so that the experiment had not been fairly tried "which," said he, "is a pity."

    "Why a pity?" was my reply.  "You would not divest yourself, would you, of the results of culture, reading, and travel?  You must allow that these are advantages."

    "I allow nothing that I cannot prove," he answered; "I take nothing for granted."

    He is such a good fellow!  But to hear his relations talk of him you might suppose he was a reprobate; for of course he has ruined his prospects.  "So long as thou doest well for thyself," says the wise man, "men will speak well of thee."  He might have added, "and no longer."

    Well, but the advantages of oddness to other people?

    The second is, that the odd are never cowards; they have the moral courage to dare surprise, disapproval, ridicule.  Now courage is a virtue that spreads.  We catch it of one another.

    And thirdly, the odd people, by choosing to be glad, contented, happy, or even unhappy, in a way that is not our way, make the tyranny of custom more bearable, so far as we must bear it, and make us more willing to rebel against it when we know this is our wisdom, and to our advantage or our peace.

    The misery that such as are not odd suffer from the tyranny of custom, no tongue can tell.

    Now that cousin of mine, whose red cape I pulled out from under the ice, with her curly head beneath it

    "Yes?" cries the reader.

    She was Katharina's sister.

    "So you said before."

    I helped her with her love affair; and she married the said Godfrey. He is — the — very oddest — man — I ever met with.

    "Oh!"

    I am much attached to him.  I call him a poet, partly because he never writes verses.

    Writing verses is such a common trick!  Anybody can do it; I can.  If your poet likes to do it too, now and then, so be it.  But a real poet is a very uncommon man.  A poet, for instance, is always one who can see things, — not merely one who can feel things and twaddle about them.

    I have no idea of defining a poet here; but I consider that he ought to be a man wholly alive at all points, — keen, and awake with stirring consciousness, and aware of, as living among, the lives overhead, alongside, and beneath him.

    As for this Godfrey, he breathes in the air of all the ages, and nothing is so old that he cannot work it up into the web of his own being.  What is future to the race is not all future to him; and, as there is nothing so new that he has not yet felt it, there is nothing so remote that it never drew near and looked him in the face.

    He has a very reverent mind toward the heavenly, but there is nothing on earth that he does not question and hold in doubt.

    However, as I said, he is odd all through, not mind being called odd.  He had made a decree that he would marry at eight and twenty, and that is how I came to be akin to him; for his Love, on purpose to get away from him, went, without giving him any warning, and married a curate, — she being utterly frightened, — not at his strange notions but, at the sudden discovery that he meant to carry them into action.

    "I shall marry just the same," he said to me when I went to condole.

    "Why, who is to be the lady?" I exclaimed; for I knew it was within three weeks of the proposed time.

    "I don't know," he answered thoughtfully, and with his usual air of earnest candour.

    Well, I had a sudden inspiration.  I said, "Why not Anna?" and it came to pass.

    He said afterward, with pleasure, that the thing had been arranged with wonderfully little fuss.  Fuss was a thing that he hated; and as, very soon after they were married, Anna told him that she had loved him all her life (which I had suspected), there is no harm in my telling it.

    He had a theory that there ought to be men of culture and property who were willing to live on little more than a tinker's earnings or a day-labourer's wages, — to lead a useful simple life, and prove whether it is not as fruitful in happiness and good as the more common style, — and so charm envy out of the hearts of the labouring people.

    He had means, he said, and if any young fellows liked to try that kind of thing he would set them up in tents and tools.  Two young Cantabs came forward at once; but one of them got the earache, and the other had rheumatic fever.  Then he had a following of six, who adored him, but they found Great Britain a restricted sphere.  The various handicrafts are well represented already, — several tinkers and basket-makers offered to fight them for the custom of the road, — and there are, besides, very few open places left where a man is allowed to pitch a tent; so these went off to a less sham rusticity, — they emigrated.

    Godfrey had two or three fights forced on him, to the intense terror of his wife, before he was allowed to take his place among other tramps.

    The first time I saw them after their marriage they were encamped in a secluded part of Cannock Chase.  I did no more than spend the day, and at night I slept at an inn called the Shrewsbury Arms in the town of Rugeley.  When I first caught sight of them Godfrey, sitting in the opening of the tent, was weaving a basket.  Anna, dressed in a green satin gown, was kneeling beside a brook, washing the breakfast china that they had used that morning.

    She answered my glance.

    "Yes, I was determined to have my best china with me.  I knew, if the house was to be let furnished, some of it would be broken; so I thought if it must be broken, I should prefer to break it myself."

    She looked the picture of health and careless happiness, but I did not tell her so.  Health and happiness, to be real, should be unconscious; we may easily haggle ourselves out of them.  To catch the precious things and then take no notice of them is, if you want to keep them, the best part of the trick.  Never go up to a wren's nest and put your finger in to feel if the eggs are warm.  If you do, I know of no bird so likely to desert and let them grow cold.

    I glanced at Anna's little brown hands.  She laughed and said, "This is much better than sitting on a sofa, doing art needle-work."  And then I glanced at her gown.  "It does look rather droll here, no doubt," she observed; "but Godfrey says I had better wear out the gowns I have before I buy new ones.  He thinks, too, that one gown is just as good as another."

    I had been informed, by a friend who had seen them, that, Anna being rigged in all her wedding finery, he had handed her out of a donkey-cart, and attended the church service with her, attired in a blouse.  He had no notion of consistency.  In the front of his necktie he wore a diamond pin.  It had belonged to his grandfather, to whose memory he was much attached.  He did not choose to lay the pin aside just because people said it looked ridiculous when worn with his blouse.

    Well, time had gone on.  Those sisters had been very loving friends till Godfrey and Another had come on the scene, and the last had quarrelled so violently with the first that intercourse was misery.  So the poor girls kissed and parted.  The marriage had answered very well so far as Godfrey's own happiness was concerned, but Anna naturally wanted to see her relatives, and to say that they all detested and scorned him would be to put the matter mildly; so poor Anna, when she came to visit her grandmother, heard many righteous judgments delivered against him.  I was the only person who took his part.  I did not see why he might not be happy in his own way.

    I often saw Godfrey and Anna from time to time, and meant to bring about a meeting for all if possible.

    But how to do it?

    Godfrey bore no malice, and frequently invited Katharina to come and stay with her sister; but in the winter they travelled abroad, and in the summer they were either living in a barge and slowly going up and down canals, or they were in that tent, or they were sleeping in a van.

    However, according to my promise, I set forth to look them up.  Really, if one likes to think so, there was no harm in his proceedings.

    They were on a long upland heath in Cumberland.

    The nearest house was about two miles off.  There I could have accommodation.

    It was a drawback that Godfrey often had certain followers about him.  These were, among others, a tinker (whom I remembered of old, and often saw), his daughter, sometimes his wife (who washed and cooked for Anna on the sly, and took care of her children), and the village choir-master and his wife.

    The tinker does errands and attends to Godfrey's donkey.  If he and his daughter are not their servants, what are they?  Godfrey says the tinker's mind is full of fresh and interesting thought, and he encourages him to talk.

    I do not want to hurt his feelings, but I believe, for my part, he enjoys their society because, whatever he says and does in that tent, his equals are not there to criticise.

    He reminds me of some snug little king of an out-of-the-way country that nobody takes any notice of, and who collects his taxes, does his beheadings, and what not, with a cheerful mind, as not afraid of interference.

    They were in the enjoyment of delightful weather.  We generally have about three weeks of that same when once it sets in.  I wrote in haste to my aunt, setting things in the best light, telling her I had taken rooms in a farmhouse, and sent for my Malay boy to bring up the little cob and the phaeton; said I felt what a Christian act it would be on her part to come and stay with me in the said rooms.  So it would be — a most Christian act, for she was wholly in the wrong in that quarrel; and everybody knows how hard it is for the party that has been wrong to forgive the one that was right.

    A Sunday came in, and I strolled out in the evening about seven o'clock to the heath.  Oh the balm of that air; no such elixir ever enters a house, however widely you may open the windows.

    It was still hot enough to make the shadow of the tents pleasant.  They were all sitting outside, grouped near a basket-table that stood about a foot high.

    I have often noticed how delicious is the taste of tea when taken out of doors.  There were boiled eggs and there were cold sausages, — also gooseberries (these from the choir-master's garden); and there was plenty of bread and butter.  This worthy pair was present.  As for the tinker and his daughter, their presence was a matter of course.

    I joined them and sat on the grass.  They all looked solemn.  Godfrey had been talking of the soul, and was now sitting silent, as if lost in thought.  They all had an air of edifying solemnity, as if to discourse about the soul must needs be of the very essence of religion.

    Then the choir-master, after sighing, exclaimed, "If I could put my hand in my bowsom and take out this beautiful soul, I wonder what it would be like."

    "You might not be able to put it back agin," said the tinker, "and then where would you be?"

    The force of the literal could, methought, no further go; but his daughter broke in with, "Whenever I think about my soul, it always seems to me as if it was summat like a crab."

    "It's an unreasonable thing," quoth the tinker, "for to wish to see it at all."

    Yes, I thought it was! almost as unreasonable as the wish of the little girl who, having seen a Lord Mayor's show, wished to order another for the very next day, and declared she could pay for it with her sixpence.

    "Because," he continued with pragmatical gravity, "it ain't matter at all, it's sperit."

    Anna glanced at me with the least little guarded flash of amusement in her eyes, for Godfrey would have been hurt if he had thought us capable of laughing at these sincere expressions of human thought.  One man's thought was just as interesting as another's, he always said.

    "But there's no harm surely, father," persisted the maiden, "in wishing to know how big it is."

    "And it's natural, too," observed the choirmaster's wife.

    This was appealing to my friend on his most tender point.  He can always sympathize if you say a thing is natural.  He turned on the woman a look of sincere approval, and it made her countenance shine; for she was warm already, and her tea made her more so.  She was in her Sunday-best, and had a handkerchief spread over her knees, and was blowing her tea so naturally.

    It is natural to wish to be cool.  To indulge this wish Godfrey had taken his coat off.  His shirt sleeves were rolled up above his elbows, and his trousers were detained above the calves with leather straps.

    He could not have appeared in such guise in the simplest rectory drawing-room; but the choir-master's wife and the tinker's daughter, as modest women as ever breathed, were not particular as to the sort or amount of covering a man had on his arms and legs.

    Was he a little fond of preaching?  Yes, I think he was.  He discoursed that evening rather strangely; not that I have not heard such things said in the pulpit, but then the preacher was properly arrayed, and stuck up for us all to gaze at.  Besides, you could not interrupt him under pain of being taken up for "brawling;" whereas, when we interrupted Godfrey, he listened to whomsoever it might be with equal respect, — he did so much desire to be impartial.

    I pointed out the advent of the first star whereupon the choir-master's wife, wishing to say something appreciative concerning those bodies, remarked: "Some people say the stars are like diamonds; but to tell you the truth I think they are much handsomer than any I ever set eyes on."  She paused as if for reflection, then added: "And a vast sight larger, by all accounts; at least, so our rector says."

    "Rector," grumbled the tinker, "he's not much of a rector, he's got hardly anything to rect.  Howsoever, I like for to hear him speak out bold, and lay about him like a man; for, though I be called a fool, I can find out soon enough when folks try to smooth things away."

    "I agree with you, tinker," said Godfrey, that smoothing away arises from fear of or distaste for the truth, and an attempt, as if for the sake of God, to smother or ignore it.  There is a singular partiality in the subjects we choose for religious thought and investigation.  Others we shirk, as almost ashamed of them."

    "Right you are, Godfrey," answered the tinker; "but I don't hold with what that gentleman said this blessed day in the morning."  He pointed at me.

    "Well," said Godfrey, "but the smoothing away you spoke of is often very noticeable as regards the existence and power of evil spirits."

    "Ay, sir; but the gentleman made out it were almost as much consequence we should believe in Satan as in the Almighty.  Said he, 'our religion drops to pieces without the Evil One.'"

    "So it does," said I.  "Natural religion does not, but ours is the Christian religion.  What does it all mean?  What can you make of it without the Evil One?"

    "Well, sir, I can make out a good lot in the Bible."

    "You can make out almost anything you please, if you pick and choose."

    "The Bible is a very extraordinary book," said the tinker, as if his own independent investigations had led him to this conclusion; "and I believe, for my part, and always did, that it is the Word of God."

    "Then let it speak for itself.  God was our Father, it tells us, and we were naturally good.  The Evil One, tempting us, stole us away from God, making us evil too.  Our religion, therefore, is our faith in God's plan of warfare with him.  The Bible is mainly an account of the means by which we, and the whole creation which groans and travails together with us, are won back again.  In these writings man is not treated like a child.  He is exhorted to believe many hard sayings.  Many strange and unexpected things are asserted, — things that he never can hope to understand in this life, — and others, that in these days he always wishes to shirk; but on the other hand God frequently implies that man knows certain things by nature.  He, knowing what is implanted in us, alludes to them

    "This is one of His habits.  He not only has great and truly awful reservations with men, but also He takes things for granted.  That is, which God takes for granted; and what He alludes to as within our knowledge, we know.

    "It is taken for granted that man knows there are evil spirits, and it is asserted and taught that he is not to have dealings with them.  It is taken for granted that he knows the nature of sacrifice.  It is asserted and taught that he is not to sacrifice as the heathen do.

    "It is taken for granted that he knows of such a thing as possession by evil spirits of human and animal bodies.  He is taught that he need no longer fear this, for that Christ came to destroy the works of the Evil One; and he is comforted by being taught of another kind of possession, — that by a Holy Spirit to be given to all who ask for it."

    By this time several rustics and their sweethearts, strolling that way, had paused to take a look at the tents.  Even an Englishman cannot make a castle of his tent.  Anna was accustomed to this kind of thing.  She produced some hymn-books, and proposed that the now enlarged party should sing some hymns.

    The new comers seated themselves.  Oh how sweetly, with the choir-master and his wife to lead, they sent up their somewhat rustic praise!



[Chapter VIII.]

 


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