[Note: The Table of Contents was added by the transcriber. Footnotes and Transcriber's notes will be found at the end of the text.]
TABLE OF CONTENTS Page A TOBACCO PLANTATION by PHILIP A. BRUCE. 533
SCENES OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE'S LIFE IN BRUSSELS by THEO. WOLFE. 542
COOKHAM DEAN by MARGARET BERTHA WRIGHT. 549
BIRDS OF A TEXAN WINTER by EDWARD C. BRUCE. 558
THE FERRYMAN'S FEE by MARGARET VANDEGRIFT. 566
"WHAT DO I WISH FOR YOU?" by CARLOTTA PERRY. 580
LETTERS AND REMINISCENCES OF CHARLES READE by KINAHAN CORNWALLIS. 581
IN A SUPPRESSED TUSCAN MONASTERY by KATE JOHNSON MATSON. 591
THE SUBSTITUTE by JAMES PAYN. 601
NEW YORK LIBRARIES by CHARLES BURR TODD. 611
THE DRAMA IN THE NURSERY by NORMAN PEARSON. 623
OUR MONTHLY GOSSIP. "The Man Who Laughs." by C.P.W. 627 Why We Forget Names by XENOS CLARK. 629 A Reminiscence of Harriet Martineau by F.C.M. 631
LITERATURE OF THE DAY. 633 Illustrated Books. 634
A TOBACCO PLANTATION.
In the following article I propose to give some account of a typical tobacco-plantation in Virginia and the life of its negro laborers as I have observed it from day to day and season to season. Although it is restricted to narrow local bounds and runs in the line of exacting routine, that life is yet varied and eventful in its way. The negro stands so much apart to himself, in spite of all transforming influences, that everything relating to him seems unique and almost foreign. Even now, when emancipation has done so much to improve his condition, his social and economic status still presents peculiar and anomalous aspects; and in no part of the South is this more notably the case than in the southern counties of Virginia, which, before the late war, were the principal seat of slavery in the State, and where to-day the blacks far outnumber the whites. This section has always been an important tobacco-region; and this is the explanation of its teeming negro population, for tobacco requires as much and as continuous work as cotton. There were many hundreds of slaves on the large plantations, and their descendants have bred with great rapidity and show little inclination to emigrate from the neighborhoods where they were born. Some few, by hoarding their wages, have been able to buy land; but for the most part the soil is still held by its former owners, who superintend the cultivation of it themselves or rent it out at low rates to tenants. The negroes are still the chief laborers in the fields and artisans in the workshops; and, excepting that they are no longer chattels that can be sold at will, their lives move in the same grooves as under the old order of things. Their occupations and amusements are the same. As yet there has been no increase in the physical comforts of their situation, and but little change in their general character; but this is the first period of transformation, when it is difficult to detect and to follow the modifications that are really taking place.
Every large tobacco-plantation is an important community in itself, and the social and economic condition of the negro can be observed there as freely and studied with as much thoroughness as if a wide area of country were considered for a similar purpose. In the diversity of its soils and crops and in the variety of its population and modes of life it bears almost the same relation to the county in which it lies that the county bears to its section. Indeed, no community could be more complete in itself, or less dependent upon the outside world. In an emergency, the inhabitants of one of these large plantations could supply themselves by their own skill and ingenuity with everything that they now obtain from abroad; and if cut off from all other associations, the society which they themselves form would satisfy their desire for companionship; for not only would its members be numerous and representative of every shade of character and disposition, but they would also be bound together by ties of blood and marriage as well as of interest and mutual affection. Similar tasks and relaxations create in them a similarity of tastes. The social position of all is identical, for there are no classes among them, the only line of social division being drawn upon differences of age; and they are paid the same wages and possess the same small amount of property. They are attached to the soil by like local associations, which vary as much as the plantation varies in surface here and there. Each plantation of any great extent is like that part of the country, both in its general aspect and its leading features, just as the employments and amusements of its population, if numerous, are found reflected in the social life of the whole of the same section.
The particular plantation to which I shall so often allude in this article as the scene of the observations here recorded, like most of the tobacco-plantations in Virginia, covers a broad expanse of land, including in one body many thousand acres, remarkable for many differences of soil and for a varied configuration. It is partly made up of steep hills that roll upon each other in close succession, partly it is high and level upland that sweeps back to the wooded horizon from the open low-grounds contiguous to the river that winds along its southern border. At least one-half of it is in forest, in which oak, cedar, poplar, and hickory grow in abundance and reach a great height and size. The soil of the lowlands is very fertile, for it is enriched every few years by an inundation that leaves behind a heavy deposit; that of the uplands, on the other hand, is comparatively poor, but it is fertilized annually with the droppings of the stables and pens. Patches of new grounds are opened every year in the woods, the timber being cleared away for the purpose of planting tobacco in the mould of the decayed leaves, while many old fields are abandoned to pine and broom-straw or turned into pastures for cattle.
The principal crops are tobacco, wheat, corn, and hay, but the first is by far the most important, both from its quantity and its value. Everything else is really subordinate to it. The soils of the uplands and lowlands are adapted to very different varieties of this staple. That which grows in the rich loam of the bottoms is known as "shipping tobacco," because it is chiefly consumed abroad, as it bears transportation in the rough state without injury to its quality. "Working tobacco" is the name which is given to the variety that flourishes on the hills; and this is used in the manufacture of brands of chewing- and smoking-tobacco to meet the domestic as well as the foreign demand. There is a third variety which grows in small quantities on the plantation,—namely, "yellow tobacco," so called from the golden color of the plant as it approaches ripeness; and this tint is not only retained, but also heightened, when it has been cured, at which time it is as light in weight as so much snuff. This variety is principally used as a wrapper for bundles of the inferior kinds, and is prepared for the market by a very tedious and expensive process; but the trouble thus entailed and the money spent have their compensation in the very high prices which it always brings in the market.
The fields where tobacco has been cultivated during the previous summer are sown in wheat in the autumn, unless they are new grounds, when the rotation of crops is tobacco for two years in succession, followed in the third year by wheat, and in the fourth by tobacco again. The soil is then laid under the same rule of tillage as land that has been worked for many seasons. As a result of this necessity for rotation, much wheat is raised on the plantation, although the threshing of it interferes very seriously with the attention which the tobacco requires at a very critical period of its growth. The greater part of the low-grounds is planted in Indian corn, the return in a good year being very large; and even when there has been a drought, the general average in quantity and quality falls short very little. The soil here is so fertile that tobacco planted in it grows too coarse in its fibre, while the cost of cultivating it is so high that the planter is reluctant to run the risk of an overflow of the river, which destroys a crop at any stage in a few hours. Although corn is very much injured by the same cause, it is not rendered wholly useless, for it can be thrown to stock even when it is unfit to be ground into meal. At a certain season the fields of this grain along the river present a beautiful aspect, the mass of deep green flecked by the white tops of the stalks resembling, at a distance, level, unruffled waters; but sometimes a freshet descends upon it and obliterates it from sight, the whole broad plain being then like a highly-discolored lake, with rafts of planks and uprooted trees floating upon its surface.
The general plantation is divided into three plantations of equal extent, each tract being made up of several thousand acres of land; each has its own overseer, and he has under him a band of laborers who are never called away to work elsewhere, and who have all their possessions around them. Each division has its stables, teams, and implements, and its expenses and profits are entered in a separate account. In short, the different divisions of the general plantation are conducted as if they belonged to several persons instead of to one alone.
It is the duty of the overseer of each division to remain with his laborers, however employed, and to overlook what they are doing. He sees that the teams are well fed, the stock in good condition and in their own bounds, the fences intact, and the implements sheltered from the weather. He must hire additional hands when they are needed, and discharge those guilty of serious delinquencies. His position is one of responsibility, but at the same time of many advantages; for he is given a comfortable house for his private use, with a garden, a smoke-house, a store-room, and a stable,—a horse being furnished him to enable him to get from one locality to another on the plantation under his charge with ease and rapidity; and he is also supplied with rations for himself and family every month. The social class to which he belongs is below the highest,—namely, that of the planter,—and above that of the whites of meanest condition. Formerly one of the three overseers on the plantation which I am now describing was a colored man who had been a slave before the war, a foreman in the field afterward, and was then promoted, in consequence of his efficiency, to the responsible position which I have named. He was a man of unusual intelligence, and gave the highest satisfaction. His mind was almost painfully directed to the performance of his duties, and the only fault that could be found with him was an occasional inclination to be too severe with his own race. Very naturally, he was looked up to by the latter as successful and prosperous, and his influence in consequence was very great. Unlike most of his fellows, he was given to hoarding what he earned, and in a few years was able to buy a plantation of his own; and there he is now engaged in cultivating his own land.
There is a population of about four hundred negroes on the three divisions of the plantation, this number including both sexes and every age and shade of color. All of the older set, with few exceptions, were the slaves of their employer, and did not leave him even in the restless and excited hour of their emancipation. Born on the place, they have spent the whole of their long lives there, and consider it to be as much their home as it is that of its owner. In fact, the negroes here are remote from those influences that lead so many others to migrate. The plantation is eighteen miles from a railroad and forty from a town, and is set down in a very sparsely settled country that has been only partially cleared of its forests. It has a teeming population of its own, which satisfies the social instincts of its inhabitants as much as if they were collected together in a small town. In consequence of all these facts, and in spite of the new state of things which the war produced, there survives in its confines something of that baronial spirit which we observe on a landed estate in England at the present day, where every man, woman, and child is accustomed to think of the landlord as the fountain-head of power and benefits. A similar spirit of loyal subordination prevails particularly among the oldest inhabitants of the plantation, who were once the absolute chattels of its owner, and who look upon that fact as creating an obligation in him to support them in their decrepitude. Being too far in the sere and yellow leaf to work, they are provided every month with enough rations to meet their wants, and in total idleness they calmly await the inevitable hour when their bones will be laid beside those of their fathers. There are few more picturesque figures than are many of these old negroes, who passed the heyday of their strength before they were freed, and who, born in slavery, survived to a new era only to find themselves in the last stages of old age. They are regarded by their race with as much veneration as if they were invested with the authority of prophets and seers. Some of them, in spite of their years, act occasionally as preachers, and are listened to with awe and trepidation as they lift up their trembling voices in exhortation or denunciation. As travellers from a distant past, it is interesting to observe them sitting with bent backs and hands resting on their sticks in the door-ways of their cabins on bright days in summer, or by the warm firesides in winter, while members of younger generations talk around them or play about their knees.
The negro laborers marry in early life, and the size of their families is often remarkable, the ratio of increase being, perhaps, greater with them than with the families of the white laborers on the same plantation, and the mortality among their children as small, for the latter have an abundance of wholesome food, are well sheltered from cold and dampness, and have good medical attendance. As soon as they are able to walk so far, they are sent to the public school, which is situated on the borders of the plantation, where they have a teacher of their own race to instruct them, and they continue to attend until they are old enough to work in the fields and stables. They are then employed there at fair wages, which, until they come of age or marry, are appropriated by their parents; and in consequence of this many of the young men seek positions on the railroads or in the towns before they reach their majority, in order that they may secure and enjoy the compensation of their own labor. In a few years, however, the greater number wander back and offer themselves as hands, are engaged, and establish homes of their own.
Tobacco being a staple that requires work of some kind throughout the whole of the year, a large force of laborers are hired for that length of time. It is not like wheat, in the cultivation and manipulation of which more energy is put forth at one season than at another, as, for instance, when it is harvested or threshed. A certain number of laborers are engaged on the plantation on the 1st of January, who contract to remain at definite wages during the following twelve months. Whoever leaves without consent violates a distinct agreement, under which he is liable in the courts, if it were worth the time and expense to subject him to the law. He is paid every month by an order on a firm of merchants who rent a store that belongs to the owner of the plantation and is situated on one of its divisions; and this order he can convert into money, merchandise, or groceries, as he chooses, or he gives it up in settlement of debts which he has previously made there in anticipation of his wages. The credit of each man is accurately gauged, and he is allowed to deal freely to a certain amount, but not beyond; and this restriction puts a very wholesome check upon the natural extravagance of his disposition.
On each division of the plantation there is a settlement where the negroes live with their families. The houses of the "quarters," as the settlement is called, are large weather-boarded cabins. In each there is a spacious room below and a cramped garret above, which is used both as a bedroom and a lumber-room, while the apartment on the first floor is chamber, kitchen, and parlor in one, and there most of the inmates, children as well as adults, sleep at night. The furniture is of a very durable but rude character, consisting of a bed, several cots, tables and cupboards, and half a dozen or more rough chairs of domestic manufacture, while a few pictures, cut from illuminated Sunday books or from illustrated papers, adorn the whitewashed walls. The brick fire-place is so wide and open that the fire not only warms the room, but lights it up so well that no candle or lamp is needed. The negroes are always kept supplied with wood, and they use it with extravagance on cold nights, when they often stretch themselves at full length on the hearth-stone and sleep as calmly in the fierce glare as in the summer shade, or nap and nod in their chairs until day, only rising from time to time to throw on another log to revive the declining flames. They like to gossip and relate tales under its comfortable influence, and it is associated in their minds with the most pleasing side of their lives. Those who can read con over the texts of their well-worn Bibles in its light, while those who have a mechanical turn, as, for instance, for weaving willow or white-oak baskets or making fish-traps or chairs, take advantage of its illumination to carry on their work.
Each householder has his garden, either in front or behind his dwelling, according to the greater fertility of the soil, and here he raises every variety of vegetable in profusion: sweet and Irish potatoes, tomatoes, beets, peas, onions, cabbages, and melons grow there in sufficient abundance to supply many tables. Of these, cabbage is most valued, for it can be stored away for consumption in winter, and is as fresh at that season as when it is first cut. Around the houses peach-trees of a very common variety have been planted, and these bear fruit even when the buds of rarer varieties elsewhere have been nipped, both because they are more hardy and because they are near enough to be protected by the cloud of smoke that is always issuing from the chimneys. Every householder is allowed to fatten two hogs of his own, the sty, for fear of thieves, being erected in such close proximity to his dwelling that the odor is most offensive with the wind in a certain quarter, and, one would think, most unwholesome; but his family do not seem to suffer either in health or in comfort. Every cabin has its hen-house, from which an abundant supply of eggs is drawn, which find a ready sale at the plantation store; and in spring the chickens are a source of considerable income to the negroes. Their fare is occasionally varied by an opossum caught in the woods, or a hare trapped in the fields; but they much prefer corn bread and bacon as regular fare to anything else. They dislike wheat bread, as too light and unsatisfying, and they always grumble when flour is measured out to them instead of meal. Coffee is a luxury used only on Sunday. The table is set off by a few china plates and cups, but there are no dishes, the meat being served in the utensil in which it is cooked. On working-days breakfast and dinner are carried to the hands in the fields by a boy who has collected at the different houses the tin buckets containing these meals.
The hands are as busy in winter as during any other part of the year. Much of their time is then taken up in manipulating the tobacco, which has been stored away in one large barn, and preparing it for market, the first step toward which is to strip the leaves from the stalk and then carefully separate those of an inferior from those of a superior quality. Although there are many grades, the negroes are able to distinguish them at a glance and assort them accordingly. They are not engaged in this work of selection continuously from day to day, but at intervals, for they can handle the tobacco only when the weather is damp enough to moisten the leaf, otherwise it is so brittle that it would crack and fall to pieces under their touch. They like this work, for the barn is kept very comfortable by large stoves, they do not have to move from their seats, and they can all sit very sociably together, talking, laughing, and singing. It contrasts very agreeably with other work which they are called upon to do at this season,—namely, the grubbing of new grounds, from which they shrink with unconcealed repugnance, for outside of a mine there is no kind of labor more arduous or exacting. The land cleared is that from which the original forest has been cut, leaving stumps thickly scattered over the surface, from which a heavy scrub-growth springs up. Active, quick, and industrious as the negroes may be in the tobacco-, corn-, or wheat fields, they show here great indolence, and move forward very slowly with their hoes, axes, and picks, piling up, as they advance, masses of roots, saplings, stumps, and brush, which, when dry, are set on fire and consumed. The soil exposed is a rich but thin loam of decayed leaves, in which tobacco grows with luxuriance.
In February or March the laborers prepare the plant-patch, the initial step in the production of a crop that remains on their hands at least twelve months before it is ready for market. They select a spot in the depths of the woods where the soil is very fertile from the accumulated mould, and they then cut away the trees and underbrush until a clean open surface, square in shape and about forty yards from angle to angle, is left, surrounded on all sides by the forest. Having piled up great masses of logs over the whole of this surface, they set them on fire at one end of the patch, and these are allowed to burn until all have been consumed, the object being to get the ash which is deposited, and which is very rich in certain constituents of the tobacco-plant and is especially conducive to its growth. The ploughmen then come and break up the ground, hoers carefully pulverize every clod, and the seed is sown, a mere handful being sufficient for a great extent of soil. The laborers afterward cover the surface of the patch with bushes, and it is left without further protection. In a short time the tobacco-plant springs up in indescribable profusion, and in a few weeks it is in a condition to be transferred to the fields.
Before this is done, however, the seed-corn has begun to sprout in the ground. The first cry of the whippoorwill is the signal for planting this cereal. The grains are dropped from the hand at regular intervals, both men and women joining in this work; and they all move slowly along together, the men bearing the corn in small bags, the women holding it in their aprons. The wide low-grounds at this season expand to the horizon without anything to obstruct the vision, a clear, unbroken sweep of purple ploughed land. The laborers are visible far off, those who drop the grains walking in a line ahead, the hoers following close behind to cover up the seed. Still farther in the rear come the harrows, that level all inequalities in the surface and crush the clods. Flocks of crows wheel in the air above the scene, or stalk at a safe distance on the ploughed ground. Blackbirds, which have now returned from the South, sing in chorus on the adjacent ditch-banks, mingling their harsh notes with the lively songs of myriads of bobolinks, while high overhead whistles the plover. The newly-sprung grass paints the road-side a lush green, the leaves are budding on weed and spray, and over all there hang the exhilarating influences of spring.
As soon as the hands have planted the corn, they begin transplanting the tobacco, which they find a more tedious task, for they can only transfer the slips to the fields when the air is surcharged with moisture and the ground is wet; otherwise the slips will wither on the way or perish in the hill without taking root. But if the weather is favorable they flourish from the hour they are thrust into the ground. It takes the laborers but a short time to plant many acres; and when their work is done the fields look as bare as before. The original leaves soon die, but from the healthy stalk new ones shoot out and expand very rapidly. The soil has been very highly fertilized with guano and very carefully ploughed, so that every condition is favorable to the growth of the plant if there is an abundance of rain. At a later period it passes through a drought very well, being a hardy plant that recovers even after it has wilted; but very frequently in its early stages the laborers are compelled to haul water in casks from the streams to save it from destruction.
The most jovial operation of the year to the hands is the wheat-harvest in June; but the introduction of the mechanical reaper has taken away something of its peculiar character. Much of the grain, however, is still cut down with the cradle. The strongest negro always leads the dozen or more mowers, and thus incites his fellows to keep closely in his wake. As they move along, they sing, and the sound, sonorous and not unmelodious, is echoed far and wide among the hills. Behind them follows a band of men and women, who gather the grain into shocks or tie it in bundles.
After the harvest is over, the time of the laborers is given up entirely to the tobacco, which has now grown to a fair size. Their first task is to "sucker" it,—that is, cut away the shoots that spring up at the intersection of each leaf and the stalk, and which if left to grow would absorb half the strength of the plant. They also examine the leaves very carefully, to destroy the eggs and young of the tobacco-fly. Day after day they go over the same fields, finding newly-laid eggs and newly-hatched young where only twelve hours before they brushed their counterparts off to be trampled under foot. As the tobacco ripens, it becomes brittle to the touch and is covered with dark yellow spots, and when this appearance is still further developed the time for cutting has arrived, which generally is in the first month of autumn, and always before frost, which is as fatal to this as to every other weed. The plant is now about three feet in height, with eight or nine large leaves, the stalk having been broken off at the top in the second stage of its growth. On the appointed day a dozen or more men with coarse knives split the stalk of each plant straight down its middle to within half a foot of the ground. They then strike the plant from the hill and lay it on one side. The leaves soon shrink under the rays of the sun and fall. One of the laborers who follow the cutters then takes it up and places it with nine or ten other plants on a stick, which is thrust through the angle formed by the two halves of the plant separated from each other except at one end. It is deposited with the rest in an open ox-cart and transported to the barn. In the barn poles have been arranged in tiers from bottom to top to support the sticks; and when the building is full of tobacco the laborer in charge ignites the logs that fill parallel trenches in the dirt floor, and a high rate of temperature is soon produced, and is maintained for several days, during which a watch is kept to replenish the flames and prevent a conflagration. As soon as the tobacco has changed from a deep green to a light brown, it is removed on a wet day to the general barn. The same process of curing is going on in many barns on the same plantation, and occasionally one is burned down; for the tobacco is very inflammable, a stray spark from below being sufficient to set the whole on fire.
The principal work of the autumn is the gathering of the ripe corn. A band of men go ahead and pull the ears from the stalks and throw them at intervals of thirty yards into loose piles and another band following behind them at a distance pick the ears up and pitch them into the ox-carts, which, when fully loaded, return to the granary, around which the corn is soon massed in long and high rows. When the whole crop has been got in, a moonlight night is selected for stripping off the shucks; and this is a gay occasion with the negroes, for they are allowed as much whiskey as they can carry under their belts. The leading clown among them is deputed to mount the pile and sing, while the rest sit below and work. As he ends each verse, they reply in a chorus that can be heard miles away through the clear, still, frosty air. Their songs are the ancient ditties of the plantation, and are humorous or pathetic in sound rather than in sense. And yet even to an educated ear they have a certain interest, like everything, however trivial, connected with this strange race.
Such, in general outline, are the tasks of the laborers on the plantation during the four seasons of the year. It is beyond question that they do their work thoroughly. It makes no difference how deep the low-ground mud is, or how rough the surface, or how lowering the weather, they go forward with cheerfulness and alacrity. Nothing can repress or dampen their spirits. How often I have heard them as they returned through the dusk, after hoeing or ploughing the whole day, singing in a strain as gay and spontaneous as if they were just going forth in the freshness of a vernal morning! Their sociable disposition is displayed even in the fields, for they like to work in bands, in order that they may converse and joke together. This companionableness is one of the most conspicuous traits of their character. Even the strict patrolling of slavery-times could not prevent them from running together at night; and now that they are free to go where they choose, they will put themselves to much trouble to gratify their love of association with their fellows. One reason why a large plantation is so popular with them is that the number of its inhabitants offers the most varied opportunities of social enjoyment.
Sunday is the principal day on which the negroes exchange visits. There is a settlement, as I have mentioned, on each division of the plantation which I am now describing, and, although these settlements are situated at some distance apart, this is not considered to be a serious inconvenience. At every hour on Sunday, if the day is fair, men and women, in couples or small parties, neatly and becomingly dressed, are seen moving along the chief thoroughfare on their way to call on their friends. The women are decked in gay calicoes, often further adorned with bunches of wild flowers plucked by the road-side; while the men are clothed in suits which they have bought at the "store," and they frequently wear cheap jewelry which they have purchased at the same establishment. The dandies in the younger set flourish canes and assume all the languishing airs that distinguish the callow fops of the white race. Many visitors are received at the most popular houses, and they are observed sitting with the families of their hosts and hostesses under the shade of the trees until a late hour of the afternoon. Some pass from cabin to cabin, not stopping long at any one, but finding a cordial welcome everywhere. Some linger very late, and make their way back by the light of the moon. As they move along the low-ground road their voices can be heard very distinctly from the hills above as they talk and laugh together; and sometimes they vary the monotony of their walk by singing a hymn, the sound of which is borne very far on the bosom of the silence, and is sweet and soft in its cadence, mellowed as it is by the distance and idealized by the nocturnal hour.
There are two church-edifices on the plantation, one of which is used during the week as a public school, but the other was built expressly for religious worship. Both are plain but comfortable structures, the outer and inner walls of which have been whitewashed and the blinds painted a dark green. Around them are wide yards, carefully swept; otherwise their neighborhoods are rather forbidding, on account of the silence and darkness of the forests in which they are situated, the only proof of their connection with the world at large being the roads which run by their doors. The pulpit of one is filled by a white preacher of Northern birth and education, who removed to this section after the war; and the only objection that can be urged against him is that he often holds religious revivals at the time when the tobacco-worm is most active in ravaging the ripening plant. The negroes who have to walk several miles after their work is over to get to his church are kept up till a late hour of night and in a state of high excitement, and are so overcome with fatigue the following day that they dawdle over their tasks. These revivals are also celebrated at the other church, but always in proper season; for the minister there is not only sound and orthodox in his doctrines, but he is also a planter on his own account, and, therefore, able to understand that the interests of religion and tobacco ought not to be brought into conflict.
Many parties are given every year, and they are attended by several hundred negroes of both sexes, who have come from the different "quarters," and even from other plantations in the vicinity. The owner of the plantation always supplies an abundance of provisions—a sheep or beef, flour and meal—for the feast that celebrates the general housing of the crops, which is to the laborers what the harvest-supper is to the peasantry of England. The year, with its varied labors and large results, lies behind them, the wheat, tobacco, and corn have all been gathered in, their hard work is done, and though in a few weeks the old routine will begin again, they are now oblivious of it all. Hour after hour they continue to dance, a new array of fresh performers taking the place of those who are exhausted, and then the regular beating of their feet on the floor can be heard at a considerable distance, with a dull, monotonous sound, varied only by the hum of voices or noise of laughter or the shrill notes of the musical instruments. These are the banjo and accordion, the former being the favorite, perhaps because it is more intimately associated with the social traditions of the negroes. Their best performers play very skilfully on both, and indulge in as much ecstatic by-play as musicians of the most famous schools. They throw themselves into many strange contortions as they touch the strings or keys, swaying from side to side, or rocking their bodies backward and forward till the head almost reaches the floor, or leaning over the instrument and addressing it in caressing terms. They accompany their playing with their voices, but their repertoire is limited to a few songs, which generally consist in mere repetition of a few notes. All their airs have been handed down from remote generations. Their words deal with the ordinary incidents of the negro's life, and embody his narrow hopes and aspirations, but they are rarely connected narratives. As a rule, they are broken lines without relevancy or coherence, while the choruses are so many meaningless syllables. The negroes seem to derive no pleasure from music outside of those songs and airs which they have so often heard at their own hearthstones, and which have come down to them from their ancestors.
The Christmas holidays, extending from the 25th of December to the 2d of January, are a period of entire suspension of labor on the plantation. In anticipation of their arrival, a large quantity of fire-wood is hauled from the forests and piled up around the cabins; but the negroes spend very little of this interval of leisure in their own homes, unless a bad spell of weather has set in and continues. They are either out in the open air or at the "store." This latter serves the purpose of a club, and is a very popular resort. Even at other times of the year it is always packed at night; but during the Christmas holidays it is full to overflowing in the day-time. At this gay season the fires are kept burning very fiercely; the Sunday suits and dresses are worn every day; the tables are covered with more abundant fare of the plainer as well as rarer sort. All visitors are received with increased hospitality, and work of every kind that usually goes on in the precincts of the dwelling is, if possible, deferred until the opening of the new year. Many strange faces are now seen on the plantation, and many faces that were once familiar, but whose owners have removed elsewhere. The negro is as closely bound in affection to the scenes of his childhood as the white man, and he thinks that he has certain rights there of which absence even cannot deprive him, although he may have left for permanent settlement at a distance. When he dies elsewhere he is always anxious in his last hours that his body shall be brought back and buried in the old graveyard of the plantation where he was born and where he grew up to manhood. And when he comes back to the well-known localities for a brief stay, he feels as if he were at home again in the house of his fathers, where he has an absolute and inalienable right to be.
PHILIP A. BRUCE.
SCENES OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE'S LIFE IN BRUSSELS.
We had "done" Brussels after the approved fashion,—had faithfully visited the churches, palaces, museums, theatres, galleries, monuments, and boulevards, had duly admired the beautiful windows and the exquisite wood-carvings of the grand old cathedral of St. Gudule, the tower and tapestry and frescos and facade of the magnificent Hotel-de-Ville, the stately halls and the gilded dome of the immense new Courts of Justice, and the consummate beauty of the Bourse, had diligently sought out the naive boy-fountain, and had made the usual excursion to Waterloo.
This delightful task being conscientiously discharged, we proposed to devote our last day in the beautiful Belgian capital to the accomplishment of one of the cherished projects of our lives,—the searching out of the localities associated with Charlotte Bronte's unhappy school-life here, which she has so graphically portrayed. For our purpose no guide was available, or needful, for the topography and local coloring of "Villette" and "The Professor" are as vivid and unmistakable as in the best work of Dickens himself. Proceeding from St. Gudule, by the little street at the back of the cathedral, to the Rue Royale, and a short distance along that grand thoroughfare, we reached the park and a locality familiar to Miss Bronte's readers. Seated in this lovely pleasure-ground, the gift of the empress Maria Theresa, with its cool shade all about us, we noted the long avenues and the paths winding amid stalwart trees and verdant shrubbery, the dark foliage ineffectually veiling the gleaming statuary and the sheen of bright fountains, "the stone basin with its clear depth, the thick-planted trees which framed this tremulous and rippled mirror," the groups of happy people filling the seats in secluded nooks or loitering in the cool mazes and listening to the music,—we noted all this, and felt that Miss Bronte had revealed it to us long ago. It was across this park that Lucy Snowe was piloted from the bureau of the diligence by the chivalrous stranger, Dr. John, on the night when she, despoiled, helpless, and solitary, arrived in Brussels. She found the park deserted and dark, the paths miry, the water "dripping from its trees." "In the double gloom of tree and fog she could not see her guide, and could only follow his tread" in the darkness. We recalled another scene under these same tail trees, on a night when the iron gateway was "spanned by a naming arch of massed stars." The park was a "forest with sparks of purple and ruby and golden fire gemming the foliage," and Lucy, driven from her couch by mental torture, wandered unrecognized amid the gay throng at the midnight concert of the Festival of the Martyrs and looked upon her lover, her friends the Brettons, and the secret junta of her enemies, Madame Beck, Madame Walravens, and Pere Silas.
The sense of familiarity with the vicinage grew as we observed our surroundings. Facing us, at the extremity of the park, was the unpretentious palace of the king, in the small square across the Rue Royale at our right was the statue of General Beliard, and we knew that just behind it we should find the Rue Fossette and Charlotte Bronte's pensionnat, for Crimsworth, "The Professor," standing by the statue, had "looked down a great staircase" to the door-way of the school, and poor Lucy, on that forlorn first night in "Villette," to avoid the insolence of a pair of ruffians, had hastened down a flight of steps from the Rue Royale, and had come, not to the inn she sought, but to the pensionnat of Madame Beck.
From the statue we descended, by a quadruple series of wide stone stairs, into a narrow street, old-fashioned and clean, quiet and secluded in the very heart of the great city,—the Rue d'Isabelle,—and just opposite the foot of the steps we came to the wide door of a spacious, quadrangular, stuccoed old mansion, with a bit of foliage showing over a high wall at one side. A bright plate embellishes the door and bears the inscription,
PENSIONNAT DE DEMOISELLES HEGER-PARENT.
A Latin inscription in the wall of the house shows it to have been given to the Guild of Royal Archers by the Infanta Isabelle early in the seventeenth century. Long before that the garden had been the orchard and herbary of a convent and the Hospital for the Poor.
We were detained at the door long enough to remember Lucy standing there, trembling and anxious, awaiting admission, and then we too were "let in by a bonne in a smart cap,"—apparently a fit successor to the Rosine of forty years ago,—and entered the corridor. This is paved with blocks of black and white marble and has painted walls. It extends through the entire depth of the house, and at its farther extremity an open door afforded us a glimpse of the garden.
We were ushered into the little salon at the left of the passage,—the one often mentioned in "Villette,"—and here we made known our wish to see the garden and class-rooms, and met with a prompt refusal from the neat portresse. We tried diplomacy (also lucre) with her, without avail: it was the grandes vacances, the ladies were out, M. Heger was engaged, we could not be gratified,—unless, indeed, we were patrons of the school. At this juncture a portly, ruddy-faced lady of middle age and most courteous of speech and manner appeared, and, addressing us in faultless English, introduced herself as Mademoiselle Heger, co-directress of the pensionnat, and "wholly at our service." In response to our apologies for the intrusion and explanations of the desire which had prompted it, we received complaisant assurances of welcome; yet the manner of our kind entertainer indicated that she did not appreciate, much less share in, our admiration and enthusiasm for Charlotte Bronte and her books. In the subsequent conversation it appeared that Mademoiselle and her family hold decided opinions upon the subject,—something more than mere lack of admiration. She was familiar with the novels, and thought that, while they exhibit a talent certainly not above mediocrity, they reflect the injustice, the untruthfulness, and the ingratitude of their creator. We were obliged to confess to ourselves that the family have apparent reason for this view, when we reflected that in the books Miss Bronte has assailed their religion and disparaged the school and the character of the teachers and pupils, has depicted Madame Heger in the odious duad of Madame Beck and Mademoiselle Reuter, has represented M. Heger as the scheming and deceitful M. Pelet and the preposterous M. Paul, Lucy Snowe's lover, that this lover was the husband of Madame Heger, and father of the family of children to whom Lucy was at first bonne d'enfants, and that possibly the daughter she has described as the thieving, vicious Desiree—"that tadpole, Desiree Beck"—was this very lady now so politely entertaining us. To all this add the significant fact that "Villette" is an autobiographical novel, which "records the most vivid passages in Miss Bronte's own sad heart's history," not a few of the incidents being "literal transcripts" from the darkest chapter of her own life, and the light which the consideration of this fact throws upon her relations with members of the family will help us to apprehend the stand-point from which the Hegers judge Miss Bronte and her work, and to excuse, if not to justify, a natural resentment against one who has presented them in a decidedly bad light.
How bad we began to realize when, during the ensuing chat, we called to mind just what she had written of them. As Madame Beck, Madame Heger had been represented as lying, deceitful, and shameless, as heartless and unscrupulous, as "watching and spying everywhere, peeping through every keyhole, listening behind every door," as duplicating Lucy's keys and secretly searching her bureau, as meanly abstracting her letters and reading them to others, as immodestly laying herself out to entrap the man to whom she had given her love unsought. In letters to her friend Ellen, Miss Bronte complains that "Madame Heger never came near her" in her loneliness and illness.
It was, obviously, some accession to the existing animosity between herself and Madame Heger which precipitated Miss Bronte's final departure from the pensionnat. Mrs. Gaskell ascribes their mutual dislike to Charlotte's free expression of her aversion to the Catholic Church, of which Madame Heger was a devotee, and hence "wounded in her most cherished opinions;" but a later writer, in the "Westminster Review," plainly intimates that Miss Bronte hated the woman who sat for Madame Beck because marriage had given to her the man whom Miss Bronte loved, and that "Madame Beck had need to be a detective in her own house." The recent death of Madame Heger has rendered the family, who hold her now only as a sacred memory, more keenly sensitive than ever to anything which would seem by implication to disparage her.
For himself it would appear that M. Heger has less cause for resentment, for, although in "Villette" he (or his double) is pictured as "a waspish little despot," as fiery and unreasonable, as "detestably ugly" in his anger, closely resembling "a black and sallow tiger," as having an "overmastering love of authority and public display," as basely playing the spy and reading purloined letters, and in the Bronte epistles Charlotte declares he is choleric and irritable, compels her to make her French translations without a dictionary or grammar, and then has "his eyes almost plucked out of his head" by the occasional English word she is obliged to introduce, etc., yet all this is partially atoned for by the warm praise she subsequently accords him for his goodness to her and his "disinterested friendship," by the poignant regret she expresses at parting with him,—perhaps wholly expiated by the high compliment she pays him of making her heroine, Lucy, fall in love with him, or the higher compliment it is suspected she paid him of falling in love with him herself. One who reads the strange history of passion in "Villette," in conjunction with her letters, "will know more of the truth of her stay in Brussels than if a dozen biographers had undertaken to tell the whole tale."
Still, M. Heger can scarcely be pleased by the ludicrous figure he is so often made to cut in the novels by having members of his school set forth as stupid, animal, and inferior, "their principles rotten to the core, steeped in systematic sensuality," by having his religion styled "besotted papistry, a piece of childish humbug," and the like.
Something of the displeasure of the family was revealed in the course of our conversation with Mademoiselle Heger, but the specific causes were but cursorily touched upon. She could have no personal recollection of the Brontes; her knowledge of them is derived from her parents and the teachers,—presumably the "repulsive old maids" of Charlotte's letters. One of the present teachers in the pensionnat had been a classmate of Charlotte's here. The Brontes had not been popular with the school. Their "heretical" religion had something to do with this; but their manifest avoidance of the other pupils during hours of recreation, Mademoiselle thought, had been a more potent cause,—Emily, in particular, not speaking with her school-mates or teachers except when obliged to do so. The other pupils thought them of outlandish accent and manners and ridiculously old to be at school at all,—being twenty-four and twenty-six, and seeming even older. Their sombre and grotesquely-ugly costumes were fruitful causes of mirth to the gay young Belgian misses. The Brontes were not especially brilliant students, and none of their companions had ever suspected that they were geniuses. Of the two, Emily was considered to be, in most respects, the more talented, but she was obstinate and opinionated. Some of the pupils had been inclined to resist having Charlotte placed over them as teacher, and may have been mutinous. After her return from Haworth she taught English to M. Heger and his brother-in-law. M. Heger gave the sisters private lessons in French without charge, and for some time preserved their compositions, which Mrs. Gaskell copied. Mrs. Gaskell visited the pensionnat in quest of material for her biography of Charlotte, and received all the aid M. Heger could afford: the information thus obtained has, for the most part, we were told, been fairly used. Miss Bronte's letters from Brussels, so freely quoted in Mrs. Gaskell's "Life," were addressed to Miss Ellen Nussy, a familiar friend of Charlotte's, whose signature we saw in the register at Haworth Church as witness to Miss Bronte's marriage. The Hegers had no suspicion that she had been so unhappy with them as these letters indicate, and she had assigned a totally different reason for her sudden return to England. She had been introduced to Madame Heger by Mrs. Jenkins, wife of the then chaplain of the British Embassy at the Court of Belgium; she had frequently visited that lady and other friends in Brussels,—among them Mary and Martha Taylor and their relatives, and the family of a Dr. —— (not Dr. John),—and therefore her life here need not have been so lonely and desolate as it has been made to appear.
The Hegers usually have a few English pupils in the school, but have never had an American.
Some American tourists had before called to look at the garden, but the family are not pleased by the notoriety with which Miss Bronte has invested it. However, Mademoiselle Heger kindly offered to conduct us over any portion of the establishment we might care to see, and led the way along the corridor, past the class-rooms and the refectoire on the right, to the narrow, high-walled garden. We found it smaller than in the time when Miss Bronte loitered here in weariness and solitude. Mademoiselle Heger explained that, while the width remains the same, the erection of class-rooms for the day-pupils has diminished the length by some yards. Tall houses surround and shut it in on either side, making it close and sombre, and the noises of the great city all about it penetrate here only as a far-away murmur. There is a plat of verdant turf in the centre, bordered by scant flowers and damp gravelled walks, along which shrubs of evergreen and laurel are irregularly disposed. A few seats are placed here and there within the shade, where, as in Miss Bronte's time, the externals eat the luncheon brought with them to the school; and overlooking it all stand the great old pear-trees, whose gnarled and deformed trunks are relics of the time of the hospital and convent. Beyond these and along the gray wall which bounds the farther side of the enclosure is the sheltered walk which was Miss Bronte's favorite retreat,—the "allee defendue" of her novels. It is screened by shrubs and perfumed by flowers, and, being secure from the intrusion of pupils, we could well believe that Charlotte and her heroine found here restful seclusion. The coolness and quiet and—more than all—the throng of vivid associations which fill the place tempted us to linger. The garden is not a spacious nor even a pretty one, and yet it seemed to us singularly pleasing and familiar,—as if we were revisiting it after an absence. Seated upon a rustic bench close at hand, possibly the very one which Lucy Snowe had cleansed and "reclaimed from fungi and mould," how the memories came surging up into our minds! How often in the summer twilight poor Charlotte had lingered here in restful solitude after the day's burdens and trials with "stupid and impertinent" pupils! How often, with weary feet and a dreary heart, she had paced this secluded walk and thought, with longing almost insupportable, of the dear ones in far-away Haworth parsonage! In this sheltered corner her other self—Lucy Snowe—sat and listened to the distant chimes and thought forbidden thoughts and cherished impossible hopes. Here she met and talked with Dr. John. Deep beneath this "Methuselah of a pear-tree," the one nearest the end of the alley, lies the imprisoned dust of the poor young nun who was buried alive ages ago for some sin against her vow, and whose perambulating ghost so disquieted poor Lucy. At the root of this same tree one miserable night Lucy buried her precious letters, and "meant also to bury a grief" and her great affection for Dr. John. Here she had leant her brow against Methuselah's knotty trunk and uttered to herself those brave words of renunciation which must have wrung her heart: "Good-night, Dr. John; you are good, you are beautiful, but you are not mine. Good-night, and God bless you!" Here she held pleasant converse with M. Paul, and with him, spell-bound, saw the ghost of the nun descend from the leafy shadows overhead and, sweeping close past their wondering faces, disappear behind yonder screen of shrubbery into the darkness of the summer night. By that tall tree next the class-rooms the ghost was wont to ascend to meet its material sweetheart, Fanshawe, in the great garret beneath yonder skylight,—the garret where Lucy retired to read Dr. John's letter, and wherein M. Paul confined her to learn her part in the vaudeville for Madame Beck's fete-day. In this nook where we sat, Crimsworth, "The Professor," had walked and talked with and almost made love to Mademoiselle Reuter, and from yonder window overlooking the alley had seen that perfidious fair one in dalliance with his employer, M. Pelet, beneath these pear-trees. From that window M. Paul watched Lucy as she sat or walked in the allee defendue, dogged by Madame Beck; from the same window were thrown the love-letters which fell at Lucy's feet sitting here.
Leaves from the overhanging boughs were plucked for us as souvenirs of the place; then, reverently traversing once more the narrow alley so often traced in weariness by Charlotte Bronte, we turned away. From the garden we entered the long and spacious class-room of the first and second divisions. A movable partition divides it across the middle when the classes are in session; the floor is of bare boards cleanly scoured. There are long ranges of desks and benches upon either side, and a lane through the middle leads up to a raised platform at the end of the room, where the instructor's chair and desk are placed.
How quickly our fancy peopled the place! On these front seats sat the gay and indocile Belgian girls. There, "in the last row, in the quietest corner, sat Emily and Charlotte side by side, so absorbed in their studies as to be insensible to anything about them;" and at the same desk, "in the farthest seat of the farthest row," sat Mademoiselle Henri during Crimsworth's English lessons. Here Lucy's desk was rummaged by M. Paul and the tell-tale odor of cigars left behind. Here, after school-hours, Miss Bronte taught M. Heger English, he taught her French, and M. Paul taught Lucy arithmetic and (incidentally) love. This was the scene of their tete-a-tetes, of his earnest efforts to persuade her into his faith in the Church of Rome, of their ludicrous supper of biscuit and baked apples, and of his final violent outbreak with Madame Beck, when she literally thrust herself between him and his love. From this platform Crimsworth and Lucy Snowe and Charlotte Bronte herself had given instruction to pupils whose insubordination had first to be confronted and overcome. Here M. Paul and M. Heger gave lectures upon literature, and Paul delivered his spiteful tirade against the English on the morning of his fete-day. Upon this desk were heaped his bouquets that morning; from its smooth surface poor Lucy dislodged and fractured his cherished spectacles; and here, now, seated in Paul's chair, at Paul's desk, we saw and were presented to Paul Emanuel himself,—M. Heger.
It was something more than curiosity which made us alert to note the appearance and manner of this man, who has been so nearly associated with Miss Bronte in an intercourse which colored her whole subsequent life and determined her life work, who has been made the hero of her best novels and has even been deemed the hero of her own heart's romance; and yet we were curious to know "what manner of man it is" who has been so much as suspected of being honored with the love and preference of the dainty Charlotte Bronte. During a short conversation with him we had opportunity to observe that in person this "wise, good, and religious" man must, at the time Miss Bronte knew him, have more closely resembled M. Pelet of "The Professor" than any other of her pen-portraits: indeed, after the lapse of more than forty years that delineation still, for the most part, aptly applies to him. He is of middle age, of rather spare habit of body; his face is fair and the features pleasing and regular, the cheeks are thin and the mouth flexible, the eyes—somewhat sunken—are of mild blue and of singularly pleasant expression. We found him elderly, but not infirm; his finely-shaped head is now fringed with white hair, and partial baldness contributes an impressive reverence to his presence and tends to enhance the intellectual effect of his wide brow. In repose his countenance shows a hint of melancholy: as Miss Bronte has said, "his physiognomy is fine et spirituelle;" one would hardly imagine it could ever resemble the "visage of a black and sallow tiger." His voice is low and soft, his bow still "very polite, not theatrical, scarcely French," his manner suave and courteous, his dress scrupulously neat. He accosted us in the language Miss Bronte taught him forty years ago, and his accent and diction do honor to her instruction. He was, at this time, engaged with some patrons of the school, and, as his daughter had hinted that he was averse to speaking of Miss Bronte, we soon took leave of him and were shown through other parts of the school. The other class-rooms, used for less advanced pupils, are smaller. In one of them, the third, Miss Bronte had ruled as monitress after her return from Haworth. The large dormitory of the pensionnat was above the long class-room, and in the time of the Brontes most of the boarders—about twenty in number—slept here. Their cots were arranged along either side, and the position of those occupied by the Brontes was pointed out to us at the extreme end of the long room. It was here that Lucy suffered the horrors of hypochondria, so graphically portrayed in "Villette," and found the discarded costume of the spectral nun lying upon her bed, and here Miss Bronte passed those nights of "dreary, wakeful misery" which Mrs. Gaskell describes.
A long and rather narrow room in front of the class-rooms was shown us as the refectoire, where the Brontes, with the other boarders, took their meals, presided over by M. and Madame Heger, and where, during the evenings, the lessons for the ensuing days were prepared. Here were held the evening prayers, which Charlotte used to avoid by escaping into the garden. This, too, was the scene of M. Paul's whilom readings to teachers and pupils, and of some of his spasms of petulance, which readers of "Villette" will remember. From the refectoire we passed again into the corridor, where we made our adieus to our affable conductress. She gave us her card, and explained that, whereas this establishment had formerly been both a pensionnat and an externat, having about seventy day-pupils and twenty boarders when Miss Bronte was here, it is now, since the death of Madame Heger, used as a day-school only,—the pensionnat being at some little distance, in the Avenue Louise, where Mademoiselle is a co-directress.
The genuine local color Miss Bronte gives in "Villette" enabled us to be sure that we had found the sombre old church where Lucy, arrested in passing by the sound of the bells, knelt upon the stone pavement, passing thence into the confessional of Pere Silas. Certain it is that this old church lies upon the route she would naturally take in the walk from the Rue d'Isabelle to the Protestant cemetery, which she had set out to do that dark afternoon, and the narrow streets of picturesque old houses which lie beyond the church correspond to those in which she was lost. Certain, too, it is said to be that this incident is taken directly from Miss Bronte's own experience. A writer in "Macmillan" says, "During one of the long holidays, when her mind was restless and disturbed, she found sympathy, if not peace, in the counsels of a priest in the confessional, who pitied and soothed her troubled spirit without attempting to enmesh it in the folds of Romanism."
Our way to the Protestant cemetery, a spot sadly familiar to Miss Bronte, and the usual termination of her walks, lay past the site of the Porte de Louvain and out to the hills a mile or so beyond the old city limits. From our path we saw more than one tree-surrounded farm-house which might have been the place of M. Paul's breakfast with his school, and at least one old-fashioned manor-house, with green-tufted and terraced lawns, which might have served Miss Bronte as the model for "La Terrasse," the suburban home of the Brettons, and probably the temporary abode of the Taylor sisters whom she visited here. From the cemetery are beautiful vistas of farther lines of hills, of intervening valleys, of farms and villas, and of the great city lying below. Miss Bronte has well described this place: "Here, on pages of stone, of marble, and of brass, are written names, dates, last tributes of pomp or love, in English, French, German, and Latin." There are stone crosses all about, and great thickets of roses and yew-trees,—"cypresses that stand straight and mute, and willows that hang low and still;" and there are "dim garlands of everlasting flowers."
Here "The Professor" found his long-sought sweetheart kneeling at a new-made grave, under these overhanging trees. And here we found the shrine of poor Charlotte Bronte's many weary pilgrimages hither,—the burial-place of her friend and schoolmate Martha Taylor, the Jessy Yorke of "Shirley," the spot where, under "green sod and a gray marble headstone, cold, coffined, solitary, Jessy sleeps below."
For a long time "the Dean" had had a certain familiarity for us. We heard it continually spoken of among our artist friends, and had even come to recognize many of its picturesque features as we came across them in our usual studio-haunts and in the exhibitions. We seemed to know those green, billowy swells at sight, as well as the thatched and tiled roofs and old-fashioned gardens, the swinging barred gates and stagnant, goose-tormented pools,—even the coarse-limbed rustics in weather-beaten "store-clothes," picturesque only in mellow fadedness.
We knew all this; yet, when we set eyes and feet upon Cookham Dean for the first time, behold, the half had not been told us! We had directed many a letter to Cookham Dean, and knew them to have been duly delivered by a bucolic postman on a tricycle. But a hundred canvases, and almost as many tongues, had failed to tell us of the sunny slopes and shadowy glades, the sylvan lanes and ribbon-like roads, the old stone inn with open porch and sign swinging from lofty post set across the way, as Italian campanile stand away from their churches, all coming under the name of "Cookham Dean," although that "Dean," properly speaking, is only their geographical and artistic centre.
Long before we reached Ye Hutte from Cookham station—Ye Hutte set amid bushy and climbing roses upon a prominent knoll of the many-knolled Dean—we ceased to wonder that our picturesque imaginings of the region we were passing through had been so various. Artists were before us, artists behind us, artists on every side of us, two sketching-umbrellas glinting like great tropical flowers in a corn-field, another like a huge daisy in the dim vista of a long lane.
"C—— lodges in that red cottage, B—— in the next one, H—— in this tumble-down farm-house, the L——s in that row of laborers' cottages, the D——s in the inn," said Mona, tripping lightly over well-known names, whose most accustomed place is in the exhibition catalogues.
Through the open windows of a hideous brick row, built to hold as many laborers' families all the year round and as many Bohemian summer artists as can crowd therein, we caught glimpses of tapestries worth their weight in gold. One well-known artist has taken possession of the end of this uncomely row, intended for a supply-shop to the neighborhood. This shop is his studio, which he has filled with treasures of Japanese art. As a Cookhamite assured us, "Mr. C—— goes in for the Japanesque;" and he screens the large display-windows intended for cheese, raisins, and potted meats with smiling mandarins and narrow-eyed houris under octopus-like trees.
At the rear of the same "Row" we recognized a broad-hatted figure once familiar to us in the Quartier Latin and the artistic auberges of the Forest of Fontainebleau. The very personification of insouciance and laissez-aller, he whose tiny bedroom-studio up-stairs ran riot with color caught among California mountains, in cool gray France and ochreous England, was bending the whole force of his mind to sketching a pouter pigeon preening itself upon a barrel.
Still another of the ugly cottages, cursed by artists but inhabited by them, was hired at ten pounds a year by two young landscapists. A charwoman came every morning to quell the mad riots in which the household gods (or demons) diurnally engaged, but at all other times the landscapists manoeuvred for themselves. That the domestic manoeuvring of young landscapists is not always toute rose we saw reason later to believe. For not once, twice, nor yet so seldom as a dozen times, have we seen these young manoeuvrers begin to dine at four, when shadows were growing too long upon field, thicket, and stream, only to finish we knew not when, so late into darkness was that "finish" projected. We could see one of the diners passing along the road from the public house, an eighth of a mile away, at four, with the piece de resistance of the meal in an ample dish enveloped in a towel. Ten minutes later the other rushes by, contrariwise of direction, in pursuit of beer and the forgotten bread. A little later, and a scudding white dust-cloud in the road informs us that one of the dining 'scapists flees breathlessly vinegar- or salt-ward. Still another five minutes, and the other diner hies him in chase of the white scud, calling vigorously to it that there is no butter for the rice, no sugar for the fruit.
We saw at once that this Berkshire corner abounds more in dulcet and sylvan landscape bits than in picturesque motifs for those who paint genre. The peasants have a certain inchoate picturesqueness, as of beings roughly evolved from the life of this fair material nature, and sometimes, in silhouette against dun-gray skies and amid rugged fields, give one vague feeling of Millet's pathos of peasant life and labor. The yokel himself, however,—and particularly herself,—seems determined to deny all poetic and picturesque relations, by clothing himself—and herself—in coarse, shop-made rubbish, in battered, demode town-hats and flounced gowns from Petticoat Lane.
From certain points of the "Dean" the distances are dreamy and wide, with high horizon-lines touching wooded hills and shutting the Thames into a middle distance toward which a hundred little hills either descend abruptly or decline gently upon broad green meadows. Nature here smiles, not with pure pagan blitheness, but with a tenderer grace, as of a soul grown human and fraught with countless memories of man's smiles and tears, his hard, bitter labor, his sins, sorrows, and longings. But it is very tender, and not even the wildest storm-effects raise the landscape to any expression of tragic grandeur, but only suede its fair hues and soft outlines to the wan pathos peculiar to English moorlands.
Ye Hutte is a misnomer for the extraordinary establishment, studio and domicile combined, at which we dismounted. It is not a hut, and neither in architectural motive nor the artistic proclivities of its inmates has it aught to do with the centuries when our English tongue was otherwise written or spoken than it is to-day. Ye Hutte is a vast, barn-like building, plain and bare save for an inviting vine-grown porch vaguely Gothic in reminiscence, although nondescript in fact. It was erected by some dissenting society for public worship: hence its interior is one immense vaulted room, with cathedral-like windows and choir-gallery across one end. "The body of the house," to speak ecclesiastically, is cumbered with easels and the usual chaotic impedimenta of painters. The choir, ascended by a ladder, holds three tiny cot-beds, while beneath the choir and concealed by beautiful draperies are stored the domestic and culinary paraphernalia,—pots, pans, brushes, dishes, and, above all, the multiplicity of petroleum- and spirit-stoves in which the Bohemian artistic soul delights. Ye Hutte is an artist's studio, and its name may be found in all the exhibition catalogues, for several generations of painters drift through it every year. As one inmate rushes off to the Continent, the sea-shore, or the mountains, another takes his place. Yet Ye Hutte holds scant place in its real owner's esteem compared with that larger studio owned by all the Dean artists in common, where all their summer's work is done, and which is parquetted with grain-field gold and meadow emerald, walled with rainbow horizons, and roofed with azure festooned with spun silk. Ye Hutte is better appreciated as evening rendezvous for the palette-bearing hosts, both male and female, who, sunbrowned and tired, partake there of restful social converse as well as of the hospitable cup that cheers. Evening after evening, by twos and threes, they sit in the moonlight under the silver-touched vines and dewy blossoms of the porch, listening to the far-away cry of night-birds, the murmur of drowsy bells upon cattle stirring in sleep, or of human voices idealized by remoteness into faint haunting music, while before them white light touches the wooded heights of Cliefden,—distant heights full of picturesque mystery and passionate history,—touches and idealizes into a semblance of poetic realism the sham ruins of Hedsor, and spreads a pearly sheen over the unseen Valley of the Shadow of Light through which winds the quiet Thames.
To the usual artistic circle of Ye Hutte is often added a not uncongenial element from the outside world, sometimes even from within the borders of Philistia. Story-tellers, moved by the subtile magnetism of the artistic creative faculty, whether of brush, chisel, or pen, come up sometimes from London, bringing with them an atmosphere of publishers' offices, of romance in high and low life, of professional gossip and criticism. Often a stalwart bicyclist rolls up from the capital, bringing with him such a breeze from the world of newspapers, theatres, and crack restaurants that Ye Hutte straightway determines to order some weekly journal, waxes ardent for flesh-pots other than of Cookham, and resolves upon having a Lyceum twice a week when the Dean shall be swept by the blasts and St. John's Wood studios swallow us up for the winter.
The Dean is little favored of the ordinary fashionable visitor, for whom artistic accommodations are quite too scantily luxurious. Now and then, for the sake of the river, a rustic cot is taken for a few weeks by a party of boating-people. Then the quaint, old-fashioned gardens blossom with a sudden luxuriance of striped tents and flaming umbrellas, while bright women in many-hued boating-costumes flit among cabbages and onions like curious tropical birds and butterflies. As a rule, however, the Dean is abandoned to its usual rustic population and to artists, numbers of the latter remaining all winter in the haunts whence the majority of their kind have flown.
The social and artistic peculiarities of the Dean are, of course, too many to be specified. In a collection of various nationalities, many of whose number have drifted like thistledown hither and yon over the fair earth, how could it well be otherwise? It may be observed, however, that here, as everywhere else in this right little tight little isle, where habit is the very antithesis of the airy license of "Abroad," it is not, as it is in the artistic haunts of the Continent, en regle to vaunt one's self on the paucity of one's shekels or to acknowledge acquaintance with the Medici's pills in their modern form of the Three Golden Balls.
Once upon a time, in a Barbizon auberge, a certain famous artist and incorrigible Bohemian brought down the table by describing an incident of his releasing a friend's valuables from durance.
"The moment I turned in at the Mont de Piete," he said, "my watch took fright, and stopped ticking on the spot."
That same Bohemian, after years of the Latin Quarter and Mont de Piete, found himself one summer on the Dean. One evening at the porch of Ye Hutte he met a lively group of painters and paintresses, just returned from corn-field and meadow.
During the short halt the Bohemian's watch was so largely and frequently en evidence as to attract attention.
"Yes," he said, with colossal, adamantine impudence, "I've just got it back from a two-years' visit to 'my uncle'."
Only a few evenings later the same party met again in the same spot.
"What time is it, Mr. S——?" asked Sophia Primrose, amiably disposed to resuscitate a forlorn joke.
A mammoth blush submerged the luckless Bohemian. For Dean propriety was already becoming engrafted upon Continental habit, and he crimsoned at having to confess what once he would have proclaimed upon the house-top,—that his watch was again with his "uncle."
Probably nine-tenths of the Continental artists who are not entirely beyond the dread of yet eating "mad cow" travel third-class. But Dean artists, however they may travel when out of England, generally slip quietly away from the sight of their acquaintances when their tickets are other than at least second. Our Bohemian was once presented with a second-class ticket to London. As he scrambled in upon the unwonted luxury of cushioned seats, he saw familiar faces blushing furiously.
"The first time we ever travelled second-class in our lives," murmured Materfamilias.
"I too," responded the cheeky Bohemian.
Another difference between Dean Bohemianism and Continental is characteristic of the whole race whose land this is. Whereas artists in France, Italy, and Germany are of gregarious habit and gather for their summers in rural inns, where they form a community by themselves, the Dean artist sets up his own vine and fig-tree and has a temporary home, if ever so small and mean. The farm-houses and cottages of the Dean are filled with lodgers, all dining at separate tables and living as aloof from each other as the true Briton always lives. There are advantages in this aloofness, but it certainly lacks the camaraderie, the jolly good-fellowship, of those picturesque auberges and osterie where twenty or thirty of one calling are gathered together under one roof, meeting daily at table, where artistic criticism is pungent and free, artistic assistance ungrudging, tales of artistic experience and adventure racy, the atmosphere stimulative to the spreading out of every artistic theory possible to the sane and insane mind.
In one of these Continental auberges rough boards a foot in width ran in one unbroken line round the four sides of the salle-a-manger. These boards were perhaps hazily intended for seats, but their real office was to hold all the artistic rubbish—smashed color-tubes, broken stretchers, ragged canvases, discarded palettes, disreputable paint-rags and oil-tubes—the auberge possessed. But every sunset, as the stream of artists set in from forest and field, the boards came into other service. All the work of the day was ranged upon them along the wall, and while the painters sat at meat comment and criticism grew rampant, every canvas coming in for its share. That many good lessons were given and taken in this wise va sans dire. That also artistic progress was punctuated not unseldom with "betise," "imbecile," "nom du chien," "you're a goose," and "you're another," goes equally without saying to all who know the unrestraint of artistic Bohemia and the usual attitude of the human mind under criticism.
The walls of this salle-a-manger were—and are—arranged with panels, in which messieurs les artistes exercised their skill. It is a marked peculiarity of these artistic communities that no branch of art is so popular as caricature. Sometimes these caricatures are amiable, sometimes the reverse. Thus, when a certain blithe widow was represented colossally upon the wall with a little man in her eye, the likenesses were so good and the truth of the caricature so palpable that the widow herself was moved to as quick laughter as the others. But when American Palmer worked all day upon a panel to create a sunny sea laughing radiantly back at a sunny sky, while fantastic lateen-sailed craft floated like bits of jewelled color between, it was mean, to say the least, of Scotch Willie to take advantage of the American's departure and paint out those fairy boats, filling their places with horrible bloated corpses, floating upon the bright water like a nightmare upon innocent sleep.
It was in this same auberge that our landlady made this piteous supplication: "Caricature each other on the walls, messieurs et mesdames, si vous voulez; make portrait busts of the bread and figurines of the potatoes, and decorate the plates in whatever style of art you please; but don't, je vous en supplie, don't blacken the table-cloths before they are three days old."
Alas! this was eloquence lost; for, at that very dinner, conversation chancing to turn upon the subtile malignity of Fanny Matilda's smiles, Fanny Matilda being there present, in less time than it takes to tell it twenty crayon smiles writhed and wriggled upon the spick-span cloth.
"Mon Dieu! mon Dieu!" moaned Madame. "And only yesterday every handkerchief upon the line came in bearing the noses of messieurs et mesdames!"
Aloofly though the Deanite lives, he is not altogether an unsocial being. Neither are his domestic habits always as invisible to the finite eye as he perhaps intends them to be. Tent-life has scant privacy, and the circumscribed accommodation of the Dean leads to frequent "slopping over" into cloth annexes.
Opposite our windows a certain painter spent no inconsiderable time in the peak-roofed tent upon the grass-plot. There the young foreign-looking wife, in scarlet birette and jaunty petticoats just touching high boot-tops, with long, flowing hair, as bright and effective as any pictured vivandiere, made tea and coffee over a petroleum-stove, laid the table, sat at her sewing, posed for her husband, received her callers, as charming a gypsy picture as ever brightened canvas.
For the very best of reasons, we were not 'cyclists, although in a country set with 'cycles as the fields with flowers or the sky with stars.
For reasons equally good, we were not boatists, although the watery way from Oxford to the sea flowed so near our door, and our village was one of the gayest head-quarters not only of the fresh-water navy, whose arms are flashing oars and whose oaths are of the universities, but equally that of regiments of painters, whose arms are sketching-umbrellas and easels and who swear not at all,—or at least not to feminine hearing.
Our lodgings were among the artists in the region farther back from the river than that monopolized by the boating-people. We were back among the sunny slopes and smiling meadows, the red-tiled farm-houses and dusky lanes, of the still primitive natives of the region, while the navy covered the shining river by day and overran the river-side hostelries by night.
Our lodgings were not picturesque, if truth must be told, although surrounded by picturesqueness as by a garment,—a circular cloak of it, so to say. We had the chief rooms of a staring new and square brick cottage, glaring with white walls inside, shutterless outside, majestic with a bow-window too high to look from except upon one's legs, owned by my Lady H——'s gardener, and elegantly named "Ethel Cottage," as a stucco plaque in its frieze bore witness. We should have preferred accommodations in any of the ivy-grown, steep-roofed cots about us, or in the old stone inn, with its peaked porch, where honest yokels quaffed nutty ale and a sign-board creaked and groaned from its gibbet across the road. But we had come too late in the painting-season for any other than Hobson's choice: the tidbits of grime and squalor were all taken, and we must e'en content ourselves to be mocked and reviled for the philistinism of our domestic establishing, or else hie us hence where artists were not and Ethel Cottages as yet unknown.
But where, tell me where, are not artists in England? And where, tell me where, do artists gather in squads that Ethel Cottages do not spring up like the tents of an army with banners? For even painters must eat and be lodged, the aboriginal habitations are not of elastic capacity, the inns are of feeble digestion, and the third summer of an artistic invasion is sure to find "Ethels" and "Mabels" in red brick and stunning whitewash, and, like our row of laborers' cottages, cursed by artists, but inhabited by them.
It was a soulagement of our aesthetic discomfort that so long as we remained hidden within it we never realized our own hideousness. Now and then we saw the ugly squareness of our afternoon shadow upon our aristocratically-gravelled front yard, but ordinarily we saw only dreamy distances melting into piny duskiness against the far-off sky, the serpent-like windings of the tranquil river, upon which its navy looked like dust-motes, fair fields of golden grain, and the farm-houses and cottages which looked upon our blank brickness with admiration and wondered why we were despised of our less beautifully housed kind, when our forks were four-pronged and of silvery seeming and our floors carpeted to our sybaritic feet. It was only when we returned to our Ethel after long tramps over the country-side, from a four-miles-distant Norman tower or a ten-miles-away pre-Reformation abbey, now stable or granary, that we figuratively beat our breasts and tore our hair because Fate had not made us real tramps, privileged to sleep in pre-Reformation stables or 'neath pre-Reformation stars, rather than the imitation tramps we were, wedded to the habits but loathing the aspect of red-faced, staring Ethels.
What would we not have given for an invitation to pass a time, as Miss Muloch was, in one of those Thames monsters concerning which she wrote her fascinating pages, "A Week in a House-Boat"! We could scarce catch a glimpse of the river upon our tramps—and it was our constant silvery accompaniment, as the treble to a part-song—without coming across these ungraceful, unwieldy creatures, seeming like bloated denizens of depths below come to bask upon the surface. Hundreds of them dot the river between Teddington and Oxford: once we counted ten between Ethel and the wooded island whither we rowed every Sunday to dine from ponderous hampers upon a huge tree-stump. Many of them are owned and occupied by artists, who have them towed by horses up and down the river every week or two, or moor them for months in one place while painting river-scenery. Some are inhabited by maniacal fishermen, who sit day after day all day long at the end of poles protruding from front or back doors or bedroom windows. Some are inhabited by Londoners in whom primeval instincts for air, space, sunshine, and liberty break out every summer from under the thick crust of modern habits and conventions and cause them to breathe, as we did, not angelical aspirations, but "I want to be a gypsy."
Some of these house-boats are miracles of microscopic luxury, doll-like bedrooms and dining-rooms for pygmies. In some, also, marvels of culinary skill are evolved in pocket-space by French chefs who spend their days creating the banquets to which the boaters invite their convives at evening, when the cold river-mists have driven the navy into harbor for the night. Others are much simpler in construction and furnishing, and the inhabitants live largely upon tinned and potted viands and such light cooking as comes within the possibilities of oil-stoves and fires of fagots on the banks. Still others—and we often saw their lordly and corpulent owners reading the "Times" upon the handkerchief space which serves for porch or piazza before their front doors—move up and down the river from crack hotel to cracker, taking no note of picturesque "bits" or of mooring-places where Paradise seems come down to lodge between Berks and Bucks, caring naught that at this point four exquisite churches and two interesting manor-houses are within tramping-distance, at that a feudal castle and the fairest inland picture that England and nature can offer their lovers, caring only that at the "King" the trout are the best cooked on the whole river, at the "Queen" the chops are divine, while at the "Prince" the perdrix aux truffes are worth mooring there a week for. These house-boaters are generally accompanied by garish wives and daughters, who spend their time in the streets of the town where they chance to be moored,—and they seldom are moored elsewhere than at the larger towns,—exchanging greetings and chatting with such acquaintances as they there meet, or idling up and down the river in the luxurious small boats of their river-made friends. This type of house-boater himself is generally spoken of in brisk naval asides as a "duffer," the kitchen of his boat is a wine-closet, and, to look at him poring for hours over his paper, one may well believe that time is heavy on his hands and that he arrives during every summer vacation at depths of mortal ennui where "nothing new is, and nothing true is, and no matter!"
Americans personally unacquainted with England can form little idea of the extent to which physical culture is carried here, and the universal summer madness for athletic sports and out-of-door amusements. The equable climate, never too hot, never too cold, for river-pull or cricket, is Albion's advantage in this respect over almost all the rest of the world, and particularly over our fervid and freezing clime. Even although this is pious England, where the gin-shops cannot open after the noon of Sunday until the bells ring for the evening service and "Pub" and church spring open and alight simultaneously, even in pious England Sunday is the day of all the week on which the river takes on its merriest aspect, and from the multitudes of familiar faces and frequency of friendly greetings reminds one of Regent Street and the Parks. All prosperous and proper London—the amusement is too costly for 'Arry—seems to float itself upon Thames water that day, coming up forty land-miles from the metropolis to do so. Boats are furiously in demand, every picnic nook is pre-empted from earliest morning, the river-side tea-gardens are thronged, the inns are depleted of men and women in yachting-costumes, and the locks are jammed as full as they can be of highly-draped boats, gayly-dressed women, and circus-costumed men, the whole scene gayer, brighter, more fantastic than any Venetian carnival since the days of the most sumptuous of the Adriatic doges.
One or two real Venetian gondolas are kept at that river-reach where we spent our summer. The owner of the principal one is an English nobleman who lived long in Italy and whose twelve daughters were born there. It is a sight to see those twelve beautiful sisters, from six years of age to twenty-four, poled down the river to church every Sunday morning by a swarthy and veritable Venetian gondolier. Whether or not that hearse-like craft has sacred associations in the minds of the twelve maidens all in a row, or whether its grimness and want of swiftness seem out of place amid the carnival brilliancy of Sunday afternoon, it is certain that it is never used except for church-going, and the maidens appear later in the day each in her own swift little canoe, or two or three sisters together in a larger one, darting to and fro, hither and yon, with almost incredible swiftness, almost more like winged thoughts than like even swallows on the wing. The gabled and ivy-wreathed Elizabethan manor-house which is the summer home of the maidens stands but a few rods from the river's bank. Here, amidst decorous shrubbery, upon smooth shaven and rolled turf, where marble vases overflow with gorgeous flowers, sit Pater and Mater among their dozens of guests. Some of the gentlemen are in correct morning dress, some in boating-costumes, and some in that last stage of unclothedness or first of clothedness which is the English bathing-dress. In their striped tights on land these last look exactly like saw-dust and rope ring clowns, but when they dive into the water from that well-bred lawn and dart in wild pursuit of the maidens, who beat them off with oars from climbing into the canoes, amid shouts of aquatic and terrestrial laughter, one would almost swear they were neither the clowns they looked a moment ago, nor yet the English gentlemen they really are, but fantastic mermen bent upon carrying earth-brides back with them into their cool native depths beneath the bright water.
That is what it looks like. But a single glimpse into those cool dappled depths, where the sunny water is shoal enough to show bottom, reveals, alas! how little mermaiden and romantic those depths are. For London does not disport itself every Sunday on the Thames without leaving ample traces of that disporting. We see those traces gleaming and glooming there,—empty beer- and wine-bottles, devitalized sardine-boxes, osseous remains of fish, flesh, and fowl, scooped cheese-rinds, egg-shells, the buttons of defrauded raiment, and the parted rims of much-snatched-at and vigorously-squabbled-for straw hats.
A favorite boating-trip is from Teddington up to Oxford, or vice versa, spending a week or two on the way, and stopping at river-side inns at night. In the season these inns are full to overflowing, and the roughest and smallest of water-side hamlets holds its accommodations at lofty premiums. A number of public pleasure-steamers and many private steam-launches ply up and down, making the whole trip in two or three days, drawing up at night at towns, and by day provoking curses both loud and deep by the swash of their tidal waves against the liliputian navy. Many of the merry boating-parties of men and women seek only sleeping-accommodations at the inns, and do their own cooking upon bosky islands, on the wooded or sunny banks of the river, by means of kerosene- or charcoal-stoves and tiny tents. How appetizingly we have thus smelt the broiling steak and grilled chop done to a turn even in a camp frying-pan, as we tramped along the river heights and looked down upon chatting groups below! How like airs of Araby the Blest the odors of steaming coffee! how more stimulating than breath of fair Spice Isles the pungent incense of hissing onions!
As a consequence of this return of Nature's children to Nature's breast, the genii loci, the sylvan sprites, are all frightened inland from the borders of the beautiful river. Except here and there where huge boards threaten trespassers and announce that landing is forbidden upon this Private Property, wild flowers will not grow, the grass looks trampled and dim, the soft summer zephyrs play among empty paper bags and relics of grocers' parcels, with sound and sentiment vastly unlike their natural music among green, waving leaves. The river is spoiled for the poet and the dreamer, and even the artist must choose his bits with care. Hyde Park and Piccadilly have come up to the Thames; and what does Hyde Park care for the poetry of dreaming nature, or what the river-madmen for aught else than glorious expansion of muscle and strengthening of sinew and the godlike sense of largeness and lightness which comes with that strengthening and expanding?
Gliding up and down the river, one would suppose all London had taken to boats. But we as trampists came to other conclusions as we pegged along the white Berkshire highways, smooth and even as parquetted floors, day after day. There the bicycle holds its own, and more too, being largely adopted not only by genuine 'cyclists, but by others as well whose only interest is to cover the ground as quickly as possible,—amateur photographers lashed all over with apparatus, artists shapelessly ditto, and pastoral postmen square-backed with letter-pouches. Women tricyclists are only less numerous, and the dignity and modesty must be crude indeed that find objections to this manner of feminine peregrination. The costume is simple and plain,—close-fitting upper garments, without fuss of furbelow, and plain close skirts, met at the ankles by high buttoned boots. A lady's seat upon a tricycle is far less conspicuous than upon a horse, her bodily motion is less, and the movement of her feet scarcely more than is necessary to run a sewing-machine. She sits at her ease in a perfectly lady-like manner, and flies over the ground like a courser of the desert, if she pleases, or rolls quietly and smoothly along, chatting easily with the pedestrians who amble at her side.
Lady tricyclists attract no attention whatever in Oxford Street. Imagine one flying down Broadway!
As trampists our femininely-encumbered party in those delicious English days considered fourteen quotidian miles not discreditable to us, particularly when taking into consideration the bleats and baas and whimpering laggardness with which we returned from three-mile excursions during the first few days we were in the tramping-line. By degrees we thus explored the whole country within a radius of seven miles of Ethel. With this we were content, yea, even proud; for did not many of our boating women-neighbors grumble even at their walk to the river and declare they would rather row five miles than walk one? We were proud, for we knew every church, every picturesque cottage and ruin, within our radius, while our aquatic friends knew only those bordering the river. We were proud—until, ah me! until that desolate day when a merrily, merrily flying squad swooped down upon us and declared they had 'cycled every inch of the twenty-mile periphery of which Ethel's neighboring church tower was the centre!
That cutting down of our pedal pride resulted in our subscribing to a daily paper. Every morning before stretching out to our regular day's tramp we had been wont to trot through dewy lanes, over stiles, and across subtly-colored turnip- and cabbage-fields, to purchase in the town of M—— a luxury not to be had in our own hamlet,—the "Daily News." Rain or shine, that trot must be trotted, for there were those among us who would have tramped sulkily all day and sniffed the sniff of wrath at ivied church and thatched cottage were the acid of their natures not made frothy and light by the alkali of their morning paper. It had never occurred to us, not even when we camped beneath wayside shade around our sandwiches and ale or in some stiff and dim inn-parlor and listened to the reading of the "News," that in reality the town of M——, and not the brickhood of Ethel, was thus the centre of all our ambulatory circumferences. It had never before dawned upon us that we thus added three uncounted miles to our fourteen diurnally counted ones. What astonishment at our own pedometric weakness of calculation! What disgust to find our periphery thus three whole miles smaller than it need have been!