E-text prepared by Roy Brown
ALFRED H. MILES
"Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue; but if you mouth it, as many of our players do, I had as lief the town-crier spoke my lines."—Hamlet. SHAKESPEARE.
London: S. H. Bousfield & Co., Ld., Norfolk House, Norfolk Street W.C. London: Printed by H. Virtue And Company, Limited. City Road.
Many things go to the making of a successful recitation.
A clear aim and a simple style are among the first of these: the subtleties which make the charm of much of the best poetry are lost in all but the best platform work. The picturesque and the dramatic are also essential elements; pictures are the pleasures of the eyes, whether physical or mental, and incident is the very soul of interest.
The easiest, and therefore often the most successful, recitations are those which recite themselves; that is, recitations so charged with the picturesque or the dramatic elements that they command attention and excite interest in spite of poor elocution and even bad delivery. The trouble with these is that they are usually soon recognized, and once recognized are soon done to death. There are pieces, too, which, depending upon the charm of novelty, are popular or successful for a time only, but there are also others which, vitalised by more enduring qualities, are things of beauty and a "joy for ever."
But after all it is not the Editor who determines what are and what are not successful recitations. It is time, the Editor of Editors, and the public, our worthy and approved good masters. It is the public that has made the selection which makes up the bulk of this volume, though the Editor has added a large number of new and less known pieces which he confidently offers for public approval. The majority of the pieces in the following pages are successful recitations, the remainder can surely be made so.
THE ROYAL RECITER.
True Patriotism is the outcome of National home-feeling and self-respect.
Home-feeling is born of the loving associations and happy memories which belong to individual and National experience; self-respect is the result of a wise and modest contemplation of personal or National virtues.
The man who does not respect himself is not likely to command the respect of others. And the Nation which takes no pride in its history is not likely to make a history of which it can be proud.
But self-respect involves self-restraint, and no man who wishes to retain his own respect and to merit the respect of others would think of advertising his own virtues or bragging of his own deeds. Nor would any Nation wishing to stand well in its own eyes and in the eyes of the world boast of its own conquests over weaker foes or shout itself hoarse in the exuberance of vainglory.
Patriotism is not to be measured by ostentation any more than truth is to be estimated by volubility.
The history of England is full of incidents in which her children may well take an honest pride, and no one need be debarred from taking a pride in them because there are other incidents which fill them with a sense of shame. As a rule it will be found that the sources of pride belong to the people themselves, and that the sources of shame belong to their rulers. It would be difficult to find words strong enough to condemn the campaign of robbery and murder conducted by the Black Prince against the peaceful inhabitants of Southern France in 1356, but it would be still more difficult to do justice to the magnificent pluck and grit which enabled 8,000 Englishmen at Poitiers to put to flight no less than 60,000 of the chosen chivalry of France. The wire-pullers of state-craft have often worked with ignoble aims, but those who suffer in the working out of political schemes often sanctify the service by their self-sacrifice. There is always Glory at the cannon's mouth.
In these days when the word Patriot is used both as a party badge and as a term of reproach, and when those who measure their patriotism by the standards of good feeling and self-respect are denied the right to the use of the term though they have an equal love for their country and take an equal pride in their country's honourable achievements, it seems necessary to define the word before one applies it to oneself or puts one's name to what may be called patriotic verse.
It is a bad day for any country when false standards of patriotism prevail, and at such times it is clearly the duty of intelligent patriotism to uphold true ones.
ALFRED H. MILES. October, 1901.
John Bull and His Island Alfred H. Miles The Red Rose of War F. Harald Williams England Eliza Cook A Song for Australia W. C. Bennet The Ploughshare of Old England Eliza Cook The Story of Abel Tasman Frances S. Lewin The Groom's Story A. Conan Doyle The Hardest Part I ever Played Re Henry The Story of Mr. King David Christie Murray The Art of Poetry From "Town Topics" The King of Brentford's Testament W. M. Thackeray. "Universally Respected" J. Brunton Stephens The Amenities of Shopping Leopold Wagner Shamus O'Brien J. S. Le Fanu Home, Sweet Home William Thomson The Cane Bottom'd Chair W. M. Thackeray The Alma W. C. Bennet The Mameluke Charge Sir F. H. Doyle My Lady's Leap Campbell Rae-Brown A Song for the end of the Season J. R. Planche The Aged Pilot-man Mark Twain Tim Keyser's Nose Max Adeler The Lost Expression Marshall Steele A Night Scene Robert B. Brough Karl the Martyr Frances Whiteside The Romance of Tenachelle Hercules Ellis Michael Flynn William Thomson A Night with a Stork William G. Wilcox An Unmusical Neighbour William Thomson The Chalice David Christie Murray Livingstone Henry Lloyd In Swanage Bay Mrs. Craik Ballad of Sir John Franklin G. H. Boker Phadrig Crohoore J. S. Le Fanu Cupid's Arrows Eliza Cook The Crocodile's Dinner Party E. Vinton Blake "Two Souls with but a Single Thought" William Thomson A Risky Ride Campbell Rae-Brown On Marriage Josh Billings The Romance of Carrigcleena Hercules Ellis The False Fontanlee W. C. Roscoe The Legend of St. Laura Thomas Love Peacock David Shaw, Hero J. Buckham Brotherhood Alfred H. Miles The Straight Rider H. S. M. Women and Work Alfred H. Miles A Country Story Alfred H. Miles The Beggar Maid Lord Tennyson The Vengeance of Kafur Clinton Scollard The Wishing Well V. W. Cloud The Two Church Builders John G. Saxe The Captain of the Northfleet Gerald Massey The Happiest Land H. W. Longfellow The Pipes of Lucknow J. G. Whittier The Battle of the Baltic Thomas Campbell The Grave Spoilers Hercules Ellis Bow-Meeting Song Reginald Heber The Ballad of Rou Lord Lytton Bingen on the Rhine Hon. Mrs. Norton Deeds, not Words Captain Marryat Old King Cole Alfred H. Miles The Green Domino Anonymous The Legend Beautiful H. W. Longfellow The Bell of Atri H. W. Longfellow The Storm Adelaide A. Proctor The Three Rulers Adelaide A. Proctor The Horn of Egremont Castle William Wordsworth The Miracle of the Roses Robert Southey The Bridal of Malahide Gerald Griffin The Daughter of Meath T. Haynes Bayley Glenara Thomas Campbell A Fable for Musicians Clara D. Bates Onward. A Tale of the S.E.R. Anonymous The Declaration N. P. Willis Love and Age Thomas Love Peacock Half an Hour before Supper Bret Harte He Worried About It S. W. Foss Astronomy made Easy Anonymous Brother Watkins John B. Gough Logic Anonymous The Pride of Battery B F. H. Gassaway The Dandy Fifth F. H. Gassaway Bay Billy F. H. Gassaway The Old Veteran Bayard Taylor Santa Claus Alfred H. Miles
THE ROYAL RECITER
EDITED BY ALFRED H. MILES.
JOHN BULL AND HIS ISLAND.
BY ALFRED H. MILES.
There's a doughty little Island in the ocean,— The dainty little darling of the free; That pulses with the patriots' emotion, And the palpitating music of the sea: She is first in her loyalty to duty; She is first in the annals of the brave; She is first in her chivalry and beauty, And first in the succour of the slave! Then here's to the pride of the ocean! Here's to the pearl of the sea! Here's to the land of the heart and the hand That fight for the right of the free! Here's to the spirit of duty, Bearing her banners along— Peacefully furled in the van of the world Or waving and braving the wrong.
There's an open-hearted fellow in the Island, Who loves the little Island to the full; Who cultivates the lowland and the highland With a lover's loving care—John Bull His look is the welcome of a neighbour; His hand is the offer of a friend; His word is the liberty of labour; His blow the beginning of the end. Then here's to the Lord of the Island; Highland and lowland and lea; And here's to the team—be it horse, be it steam— He drives from the sea to the sea, Here's to his nod for the stranger; Here's to his grip for a friend; And here's to the hand, on the sea, or the land, Ever ready the right to defend.
There's a troop of trusty children from the Island Who've planted Englands up and down the sea; Who cultivate the lowland and the highland And fly the gallant colours of the free: Their hearts are as loyal as their mother's; Their hands are as ready as their sire's Their bond is a union of brothers,— Who fear not a holocaust of fires! Then here's to the Sons of the nation Flying the flag of the free; Holding the farm and the station, Keeping the Gates of the Sea; Handed and banded together, In Arts, and in Arms, and in Song, Father and son, united as one, Bearing her Banners along, Peacefully furled in the van of the world, Or waving and braving the wrong!
THE RED ROSE OF WAR.
BY F. HARALD WILLIAMS.
God hath gone forth in solemn might to shake The peoples of the earth, Through the long shadow and the fires that make New altar and new hearth! And with the besom of red war He sweeps The sin and woe away, To purge with fountains from His ancient deeps The dust of old decay. O not in anger but in Love He speaks From tempest round Him drawn, Unveiling thus the fair white mountain peaks Which tremble into dawn.
Not otherwise would Truth be all our own Unless by flood and flame, When the last word of Destiny is known— God's fresh revealed Name. For thence do windows burst in Heaven and light Breaks on our darkened lands, And sovereign Mercy may fulfil through night The Justice it demands. Ah, not in evil but for endless good He bids the sluices run And death, to mould His blessed Brotherhood Which had not else begun.
For if the great Arch-builder comes to frame Yet broader empires, then He lays the stones in blood and splendid shame With glorious lives of men. He takes our richest and requires the whole Nor is content with less, He cannot rear by a divided dole The walls of Righteousness. And so He forms His grand foundations deep Not on our golden toys, But in the twilight where the mourners weep Of broken hearts and joys.
And He will only have the best or nought, A full and willing price, When the tall towers eternal are upwrought With tears and sacrifice. Our sighs and prayers, the loveliness of loss, The passion and the pain And sharpest nails of every noble cross, Were never borne in vain. That fragrant faith the incense of His courts, Whereon this dim world thrives And hardly gains at length His peaceful ports, Is wrung from bruised lives.
Lo, when grim battle rages and is shed A dreadful crimson dew, God is at work and of the gallant dead He maketh man anew. The hero courage, the endurance stout, The self-renouncing will, The shock of onset and the thunder shout That triumph over ill— All wreak His purpose though at bitter cost And fashion forth His plan, While not a single sob or ache is lost Which in His Breath began.
Each act august, which bravely in despite Of suffering dared to be, Is one with the grand order infinite Which sets the kingdoms free. The pleading wound, the piteous eye that opes Again to nought but pangs, Are jewels and sweet pledges of those hopes On which His empire hangs. But if we travail in the furnace hot And feel its blasting ire, He learns with us the anguish of our lot And walketh in the fire.
He wills no waste, no burden is too much In the most bitter strife; Beneath the direst buffet is His touch, Who holds the pruning knife. We are redeemed through sorrow, and the thorn That pierces is His kiss, As through the grave of grief we are re-born And out of the abyss. The blood of nations is the precious seed Wherewith He plants our gates And from the victory of the virile deed Spring churches and new states.
And they that fall though but a little space Fall only in His hand, And with their lives they pave the fearful place Whereon the pillars stand. God treads no more the winepress of His wrath As once He did alone, He bids us share with Him the perilous path The altar and the throne. When from the iron clash and stormy stress Which mark His wondrous way, Shines forth all haloed round with holiness The rose of perfect day.
BY ELIZA COOK.
My heart is pledg'd in wedded faith to England's "Merrie Isle," I love each low and straggling cot, each famed ancestral pile; I'm happy when my steps are free upon the sunny glade, I'm glad and proud amid the crowd that throng its mart of trade; I gaze upon our open port, where Commerce mounts her throne, Where every flag that comes 'ere now has lower'd to our own. Look round the globe and tell me can ye find more blazon'd names, Among its cities and its streams, than London and the Thames?
My soul is link'd right tenderly to every shady copse, I prize the creeping violets, the tall and fragrant hops; The citron tree or spicy grove for me would never yield, A perfume half so grateful as the lilies of the field. Our songsters too, oh! who shall dare to breathe one slighting word, Their plumage dazzles not—yet say can sweeter strains be heard? Let other feathers vaunt the dyes of deepest rainbow flush, Give me old England's nightingale, its robin, and its thrush.
I'd freely rove through Tempe's vale, or scale the giant Alp, Where roses list the bulbul's late, or snow-wreaths crown the scalp; I'd pause to hear soft Venice streams plash back to boatman's oar, Or hearken to the Western flood in wild and falling roar; I'd tread the vast of mountain range, or spot serene and flower'd, I ne'er could see too many of the wonders God has shower'd; Yet though I stood on fairest earth, beneath the bluest heaven, Could I forget our summer sky, our Windermere and Devon?
I'd own a brother in the good and brave of any land, Nor would I ask his clime or creed before I gave my hand; Let but the deeds be ever such that all the world may know, And little reck "the place of birth," or colour of the brow; Yet though I hail'd a foreign name among the first and best, Our own transcendent stars of fame would rise within my breast; I'd point to hundreds who have done the most 'ere done by man, And cry "There's England's glory scroll," do better if you can!
A SONG FOR AUSTRALIA
GOD BLESS THE DEAR OLD LAND,
BY WILLIAM COX BENNET.
A thousand leagues below the line, 'neath southern stars and skies, 'Mid alien seas, a land that's ours, our own new England lies; From north to south, six thousand miles heave white with ocean foam, Between the dear old land we've left and this our new-found home; Yet what though ocean stretch between—though here this hour we stand! Our hearts, thank God! are English still; God bless the dear old land! "To England!" men, a bumper brim; up, brothers, glass in hand! "England!" I give you "England!" boys; "God bless the dear old land!"
O what a greatness she makes ours? her past is all our own, And such a past as she can boast, and brothers, she alone; Her mighty ones the night of time triumphant shining through, Of them our sons shall proudly say, "They were our fathers too;" For us her living glory shines that has through ages shone; Let's match it with a kindred blaze, through ages to live on; Thank God! her great free tongue is ours; up brothers, glass in hand! Here's "England," freedom's boast and ours; "God bless the dear old land!"
For us, from priests and kings she won rights of such priceless worth As make the races from her sprung the freemen of the earth; Free faith, free thought, free speech, free laws, she won through bitter strife, That we might breathe unfetter'd air and live unshackled life; Her freedom boys, thank God! is ours, and little need she fear, That we'll allow a right she won to die or wither here; Free-born, to her who made us free, up brothers glass in hand! "Hope of the free," here's "England!" boys, "God bless the dear old land!"
They say that dangers cloud her way, that despots lour and threat; What matters that? her mighty arm can smite and conquer yet; Let Europe's tyrants all combine, she'll meet them with a smile; Hers are Trafalgar's broadsides still—the hearts that won the Nile: We are but young; we're growing fast; but with what loving pride, In danger's hour, to front the storm, we'll range us at her side; We'll pay the debt we owe her then; up brothers glass in hand! "May God confound her enemies! God bless the dear old land!"
THE PLOUGHSHARE OF OLD ENGLAND.
BY ELIZA COOK.
The Sailor boasts his stately ship, the bulwark of the Isle; The Soldier loves his sword, and sings of tented plains the while; But we will hang the ploughshare up within our fathers' halls, And guard it as the deity of plenteous festivals:
We'll pluck the brilliant poppies, and the far-famed barley-corn, To wreathe with bursting wheat-ears that outshine the saffron morn; We'll crown it with a glowing heart, and pledge our fertile land, The ploughshare of old England, and her sturdy peasant band!
The work it does is good and blest, and may be proudly told, We see it in the teeming barns, and fields of waving gold: Its metal is unsullied, no blood-stain lingers there; God speed it well, and let it thrive unshackled everywhere.
The bark may rest upon the wave, the spear may gather dust, But never may the prow that cuts the furrow lie and rust. Fill up! fill up! with glowing heart, and pledge our fertile land, The ploughshare of old England, and her sturdy peasant band.
THE STORY OF ABEL TASMAN.
(DISCOVERER OF TASMANIA.)
BY FRANCES S. LEWIN.
Bold and brave, and strong and stalwart, Captain of a ship was he, And his heart was proudly thrilling With the dreams of chivalry. One fair maiden, sweet though stately, Lingered in his every dream, Touching all his hopes of glory With a brighter, nobler gleam.
Daughter of a haughty father, Daughter of an ancient race, Yet her wilful heart surrendered, Conquered by his handsome face; And she spent her days in looking Out across the southern seas, Picturing how his bark was carried Onward by the favouring breeze.
Little wonder that she loved him, Abel Tasman brave and tall; Though the wealthy planters sought her, He was dearer than them all. Dearer still, because her father Said to him, with distant pride, "Darest thou, a simple captain, Seek my daughter for thy bride?"
But at length the gallant seaman Won himself an honoured name; When again he met the maiden, At her feet he laid his fame: Said to her, "My country sends me, Trusted with a high command, With the 'Zeehan' and the 'Heemskirk,' To explore the southern strand."
"I must claim it for my country, Plant her flag upon its shore; But I hope to win you, darling, When the dangerous cruise is o'er." And her haughty sire relenting, Did not care to say him nay: Flushing high with love and valour, Sailed the gallant far away.
And the captain, Abel Tasman, Sailing under southern skies, Mingled with his hopes of glory, Thoughts of one with starlight eyes. Onward sailed he, where the crested White waves broke around his ship, With the lovelight in his true eyes, And the song upon his lip.
Onward sailed he, ever onward, Faithful as the stars above; Many a cape and headland pointing Tells the legend of his love: For he linked their names together, Speeding swiftly o'er the wave— Tasman's Isle and Cape Maria, Still they bear the names he gave.
Toil and tempest soon were over, And he turned him home again, Seeking her who was his guiding Star across the trackless main. Strange it seems the eager captain Thus should hurry from his prize, When a thousand scenes of wonder Stood revealed before his eyes.
But those eyes were always looking, Out toward the Java seas, Where the maid he loved was waiting— Dearer prize to him than these. But his mission was accomplished, And a new and added gem Sparkled with a wondrous lustre In the Dutch king's diadem.
Little did the gallant seaman Think that in the days to be, England's hand should proudly wrest it From his land's supremacy.
THE GROOM'S STORY.
BY A. CONAN DOYLE.
Ten mile in twenty minutes! 'E done it, sir. That's true. The big bay 'orse in the further stall—the one wot's next to you. I've seen some better 'orses; I've seldom seen a wuss, But 'e 'olds the bloomin' record, an' that's good enough for us.
We knew as it was in 'im. 'E's thoroughbred, three part, We bought 'im for to race 'im, but we found 'e 'ad no 'eart; For 'e was sad and thoughtful, and amazin' dignified, It seemed a kind o' liberty to drive 'im or to ride;
For 'e never seemed a-thinkin' of what 'e 'ad to do. But 'is thoughts was set on 'igher things, admirin' of the view. 'E looked a puffect pictur, and a pictur 'e would stay, 'E wouldn't even switch 'is tail to drive the flies away.
And yet we knew 'twas in 'im; we knew as 'e could fly; But what we couldn't get at was 'ow to make 'im try. We'd almost turned the job up, until at last one day, We got the last yard out of 'm in a most amazin' way.
It was all along o' master; which master 'as the name Of a reg'lar true blue sportsman, an' always acts the same; But we all 'as weaker moments, which master 'e 'ad one, An' 'e went and bought a motor-car when motor-cars begun.
I seed it in the stable yard—it fairly turned me sick— A greasy, wheezy, engine as can neither buck nor kick. You've a screw to drive it forard, and a screw to make it stop, For it was foaled in a smithy stove an' bred in a blacksmith's shop.
It didn't want no stable, it didn't ask no groom, It didn't need no nothin' but a bit o' standin' room. Just fill it up with paraffin an' it would go all day, Which the same should be agin the law if I could 'ave my way.
Well, master took 'is motor-car, an' moted 'ere an' there, A frightenin' the 'orses an' a poisenin' the air. 'E wore a bloomin' yachtin' cap, but Lor!—what did 'e know, Excep' that if you turn a screw the thing would stop or go?
An' then one day it wouldn't go. 'E screwed and screwed again But somethin' jammed, an' there 'e stuck in the mud of a country lane. It 'urt 'is pride most cruel, but what was 'e to do? So at last 'e bade me fetch a 'orse to pull the motor through.
This was the 'orse we fetched 'im; an' when we reached the car, We braced 'im tight and proper to the middle of the bar, And buckled up 'is traces and lashed them to each side, While 'e 'eld 'is 'ead so 'aughtily, an' looked most dignified.
Not bad tempered, mind you, but kind of pained and vexed, And 'e seemed to say, "Well, bli' me! wot will they ask me next? I've put up with some liberties, but this caps all by far, To be assistant engine to a crocky motor car!"
Well, master, 'e was in the car, a-fiddlin' with the gear, An' the 'orse was meditatin', an' I was standin' near, When master 'e touched somethin'—what it was we'll never know— But it sort o' spurred the boiler up and made the engine go.
"'Old 'ard, old gal!" says master, and "Gently then!" says I, But an engine wont 'eed coaxin' an' it ain't no use to try; So first 'e pulled a lever, an' then 'e turned a screw, But the thing kept crawlin' forrard spite of all that 'e could do.
And first it went quite slowly, and the 'orse went also slow, But 'e 'ad to buck up faster when the wheels began to go; For the car kept crowdin' on 'im and buttin' 'im along, An' in less than 'alf a minute, sir, that 'orse was goin' strong.
At first 'e walked quite dignified, an' then 'e had to trot, And then 'e tried to canter when the pace became too 'ot. 'E looked 'is very 'aughtiest, as if 'e didn't mind, And all the time the motor-car was pushin' 'im be'ind.
Now, master lost 'is 'ead when 'e found 'e couldn't stop, And 'e pulled a valve or somethin' an' somethin' else went pop, An' somethin' else went fizzywig, an' in a flash or less, That blessed car was goin' like a limited express.
Master 'eld the steerin' gear, an' kept the road all right, And away they whizzed and clattered—my aunt! it was a sight. 'E seemed the finest draught 'orse as ever lived by far, For all the country Juggins thought 'twas 'im wot pulled the car.
'E was stretchin' like a grey'ound, 'e was goin' all 'e knew, But it bumped an' shoved be'ind 'im, for all that 'e could do; It butted 'im and boosted 'im an' spanked 'im on a'ead, Till 'e broke the ten-mile record, same as I already said.
Ten mile in twenty minutes! 'E done it, sir. That's true. The only time we ever found what that 'ere 'orse could do. Some say it wasn't 'ardly fair, and the papers made a fuss, But 'e broke the ten-mile record, and that's good enough for us.
You see that 'orse's tail, sir? You don't! no more do we, Which really ain't surprisin', for 'e 'as no tail to see; That engine wore it off 'im before master made it stop, And all the road was litter'd like a bloomin' barber's shop.
And master? Well, it cured 'im. 'E altered from that day, And come back to 'is 'orses in the good old-fashioned way. And if you wants to git the sack, the quickest way by far, Is to 'int as 'ow you think 'e ought to keep a motorcar.
THE HARDEST PART I EVER PLAYED.
BY RE HENRY.
I come of an acting family. We all took to the stage as young ducks take to the water; and though we are none of us geniuses,—yet we got on.
My three brothers are at the present time starring, either in the provinces or in America; my two elder sisters, having strutted and fretted their hour upon the stage, are married to respectable City men; I, Sybil Gascoigne, have acted almost as long as I can remember; the little ones, Kate and Dick, are still at school, but when they leave the first thing they do will be to look out for an engagement.
I do not think we were ever any of us very much in love with the profession. We took things easily. Of course there were some parts we liked better than others, but we played everything that came in our way—Comedy, Farce, Melodrama. My elder sisters quitted the stage before they had much time to distinguish themselves. They were each in turn, on their marriage, honoured with a paragraph in the principal dramatic papers, but no one said the stage had sustained an irreparable loss, or that the profession was robbed of one of its brightest ornaments.
I was following very much in my sisters' footsteps. The critics always spoke well of me. I never got a slating in my life, but then before the criticism was in print I could almost have repeated word for word the phrases that would be used.
"Miss Gascoigne was painstaking and intelligent as usual."
"The part was safe in the hands of that promising young actress, Sybil Gascoigne."
With opinions such as these I was well content. My salary was regularly paid, I could always reckon on a good engagement, and even if my profession failed me there was Jack to fall back upon, and Jack was substantial enough to fall back upon with no risk of hurting oneself. He was six feet two, with broad, square shoulders, and arms—well, when Jack's arms were round you you felt as if you did not want anything else in the world. At least, that is how I felt. Jack ought to have been in the Life Guards, and he would have been only a wealthy uncle offered to do something for him, and of course such an offer was not to be refused, and the "something" turned out to be a clerkship in the uncle's business "with a view to a partnership" as the advertisements say. Now the business was not a pretty or a romantic one—it had something to do with leather—but it was extremely profitable, and as I looked forward to one day sharing all Jack's worldly goods I did not grumble at the leather. Not that Jack had ever yet said a word to me which I could construe into a downright offer. He had looked, certainly, but then with eyes like his there is no knowing what they may imply. They were dark blue eyes, and his hair was bright brown, with a touch of yellow in it, and his moustache was tawny, and his skin was sunburnt to a healthy red. We had been introduced in quite the orthodox way. We had not fallen in love across the footlights. He seldom came to see me act, but sometimes he would drop in to supper, perhaps on his way from a dinner or to a dance, and if I could make him stay with us until it was too late to go to that dance, what a happy girl I used to be!
My mother, with the circumspection that belongs to mothers, told me that he was only flirting, and that I had better turn my attention to somebody else. Somebody else! As if any one were worth even looking at after Jack Curtis. I pitied every girl who was not engaged to him. How could my sisters be happy? Resigned, content, they might be; but to be married and done for, and afterwards to meet Jack—well, imagination failed me to depict the awfulness of such a calamity.
It was quite time he spoke—there can be no doubt of that; although Jack Curtis was too charming to be bound by the rules which govern ordinary mortals. Still, I could not help feeling uneasy and apprehensive. How could I tell how he carried on at those gay and festive scenes in which I was not included? A proud earl's lovely daughter might be yearning to bestow her hand upon him. A duchess might have marked him for her own. Possibly my jealous fears exaggerated the importance of the society in which he moved, but it seemed to me that if Jack had been bidden to a friendly dinner at Buckingham Palace it was only what might be expected.
Well, there came a night when we expected Jack to supper and he appeared not. Only, in his place, a few lines to say that he was going to start at once for his holiday. A friend had just invited him to join him on his yacht. He added in a postscript: "I will write later." He did not write. Hours, days, weeks passed, and not a word did we hear. "It is a break-off," said my mother consolingly. "He had got tired of us all, and he thought this the easiest way of letting us know. I told you there was an understanding between him and Isabel Chisholm—any one could see that with half an eye."
I turned away shuddering.
"Terrible gales," said my father, rustling the newspaper comfortably in his easy chair. "Great disasters among the shipping. I shouldn't wonder if the yacht young what's-his-name went out in were come to grief."
I grew pale, and thin, and dispirited. I knew the ladies of our company made nasty remarks about me. One day I overheard two of them talking.
"She never was much of an actress, and now she merely walks through her part. They never had any feeling for art, not one of those Gascoigne girls."
No feeling for art! What a low, mean, spiteful, wicked thing to say. And the worst of it was that it was so true.
I resolved at once that I would do something desperate. The last piece brought out at our theatre had been a "frost." It had dragged along until the advertisements were able to announce "Fifteenth Night of the Great Realistic Drama." And various scathing paragraphs from the papers were pruned down and weeded till they seemed unstinted praise. Thus: "It was not the fault of the management that the new play was so far from being a triumphant success," was cut down to one modest sentence, "A triumphant success." "A few enthusiastic cheers from personal friends alone broke the ominous silence when the curtain fell," became briefly "Enthusiastic cheers."
But nobody was deceived. One week the public were informed that they could book their seats a month in advance; the next that the successful drama had to be withdrawn at the height of its popularity, owing to other arrangements. What the other arrangements were to be our manager was at his wit's end to decide. There only wanted three weeks to the close of the season. Fired with a wild ambition born of suspense and disappointment, I suggested that Shakespeare should fill the breach. "Romeo and Juliet," with me, Sybil Gascoigne, as the heroine.
"Pshaw!" said our good-humoured manager, "you do not know what you are talking about. Juliet! You have not the depth, the temperament, the experience for a Juliet. She had more knowledge of life at thirteen than most of our English maids have at thirty. To represent Juliet correctly an actress must have the face and figure of a young girl, with the heart and mind of a woman, and of a woman who has suffered."
"And have I not suffered? Do you think because you see me tripping through some foolish, insipid role that I am capable of nothing better? Give me a chance and see what I can do."
"Oh! bid me leap, rather than marry Paris,"
I began, and declaimed the speech with such despairing vigour that our manager was impressed.
Well, the end of it was that he yielded to my suggestion.
It seemed a prosperous time to float a new Juliet. At a neighbouring theatre a lovely foreign actress was playing the part nightly to crowded houses. We might get some of the overflow, or the public would come for the sake of comparing native with imported talent. Oh! the faces of my traducers, who had said, "Those Gascoigne girls have no feeling for art," when it was known that they were out of the bill, and that Sybil Gascoigne was to play Shakespeare. I absolutely forgot Jack for one moment. But the next, my grief, my desolation, were present with me with more acuteness than ever. And I was glad that it was so. Such agony as I was enduring would surely make me play Juliet as it had never been played before.
At rehearsals I could see I created a sensation. I felt that I was grand in my hapless love, my desperate grief. I should make myself a name. If Jack were dead or had forsaken me, my art should be all in all.
The morning before the all important evening dawned, I had lain awake nearly an hour, as my custom was of nights how, thinking of Jack, wondering if ever woman had so much cause to grieve as I. Then I rose, practised taking the friar's potion, and throwing myself upon the bed, until my mother came up and told me to go to sleep, or my eyes would be red and hollow in the morning. But I told my mother that hollow eyes and pale cheeks were necessary to me now—that my career depended upon the depths of my despair.
"To-morrow, mother, let no one disturb me on any account. Keep away letters, newspapers, everything. Tomorrow I am Juliet or nothing."
My mother promised, and I got some hours of undisturbed slumber.
Rehearsal was over—the last rehearsal. I had gone through my part thinking of my woes. I had swallowed the draught as if it had indeed been a potion to put me out of all remembrance of my misery. I had snatched the dagger and stabbed myself with great satisfaction, and I felt I should at least have the comfort of confounding my enemies and triumphing over them.
I was passing Charing Cross Station, delayed by the streams of vehicles issuing forth, when in a hansom at a little distance I saw a form—a face—which made me start and tremble, and turn hot and cold, and red and white, all at the same time. It could not be Jack. It ought not, must not, should not be Jack. Had I not to act in suffering and despair to-night? Well, even if he had returned in safety from his cruise it was without a thought of me in his heart. He was engaged—married—for aught I knew. It was possible, nay, certain, that I should never see him again.
And yet I ran all the way home. And yet I told the servant breathlessly—"If any visitors call I do not wish to be disturbed." And yet I made my mother repeat the promise she had given me the previous night. Then I flew to my den at the top of the house; bolted myself in, and set a chair against the door as if I were afraid of anyone making a forcible entry. I stuffed my fingers in my ears, and went over my part with vigour, with more noise even than was absolutely necessary. Still, how strangely I seemed to hear every sound. A hansom passing—no, a hansom drawing up at our house. I went as far from the window as possible. I wedged myself up between the sofa and the wall, and I shut my eyes firmly. Surely there were unaccustomed sounds about, talking and laughing, as if something pleasant had happened. Presently heavy footsteps came bounding up, two steps at a time. Oh! should I have the courage not to answer if it should be Jack?
But it was not. Kitty's voice shouted—
"Sybil, Sybil, come down. Here's——"
"Kitty, be quiet," I called out furiously. "If you do not hold your tongue, if you do not go away from the door immediately, I'll—I'll shoot you."
She went away, and I heard her telling them downstairs that she believed Sybil had gone mad.
I waited a little longer,—then I stole to the window.
Surely Juliet would not be spoiled by the sight of a visitor leaving the house. But there was no one leaving. Indeed, I saw the prospect of a fresh arrival—Isabel Chisholm was coming up the street in a brand new costume and hat to match. Her fringe was curled to perfection. A tiny veil was arranged coquettishly just above her nose. Flesh and blood could not stand this. Downstairs I darted, without even waiting for a look in the glass. Into the drawing-room I bounced, and there, in his six feet two of comely manliness, stood Jack, my Jack, more bronzed and handsome and loveable than ever. He whom I had been mourning for by turns as dead and faithless, but whom I now knew was neither; for he came towards me with both hands outstretched, and he held mine in such a loving clasp, and he looked at me with eyes which I knew were reading just such another tale as that written on his own face.
Then when the knock sounded which heralded Miss Chisholm, he said:—
"Come into another room, Sybil; I have so much to say to you."
And in that other room he told me of his adventures and perils, and how through them all he had thought of me and wondered, if he never came back alive, whether I should be sorry, and, if he did come back, whether I would promise to be his darling little wife, very, very soon.
But all this, though far more beautiful than poet ever wrote, was not Shakespeare, and I was to act Juliet at night—Juliet the wretched, the heartbroken—while my own spirits were dancing, and my pulses bounding with joy and delight unutterable.
Well, I need hardly tell you my Juliet was not a success. I was conscious of tripping about the stage in an airy, elated way, which was allowable only during the earlier scenes; but when I should have been tragic and desperate, I was still brimming over with new found joy. All through Juliet's grand monologue, where she swallows the poison, ran the refrain—"Jack has come home, I am going to marry Jack." I had an awful fear once that I mixed two names a little, and called on Jackimo when I should have said Romeo, and when my speech was over and I lay motionless on the bed, I gave myself up to such delightful thoughts that Capulet or the Friar, I forget which, bending over the couch to assure himself that I was really dead, whispered—
"Keep quiet, you're grinning."
I was very glad when the play was over. We often read the reverse side of the picture—of how the clown cracks jokes while his heart is breaking; perhaps his only mother-in-law passing away without his arms to support her. But no one has ever written of the Juliet who goes through terror, suffering, and despair, to the tune of "Jack's returned, I'm going to marry Jack."
THE STORY OF MR. KING.
BY DAVID CHRISTIE MURRAY.
This is the story of Mr. King, American citizen—Phineas K., Whom I met in Orkhanie, far away From freshening cocktail and genial sling. A little man with twinkling eyes, And a nose like a hawk's, and lips drawn thin, And a little imperial stuck on his chin, And about him always a cheerful grin, Dashed with a comic and quaint surprise.
That very night a loot of wine Made correspondents and doctors glad, And the little man, unask'd to dine, Sat down and shar'd in all we had. For none said nay, this ready hand Reach'd after pillau, and fowl, and drink, And he toss'd off his liquor without a wink, And wielded a knife like a warrior's brand. With a buccaneering, swaggering look He sang his song, and he crack'd his jest, And he bullied the waiter and curs'd the cook With a charming self-approving zest.
We wanted doctors: he was a doctor; Had we wanted a prince it had been the same. Admiral, general, cobbler, proctor— A man may be anything. What's in a name? The wounded were dying, the dead lay thick In the hospital beds beside the quick. Any man with a steady nerve And a ready hand, who knew how to obey, In those stern times might well deserve His fifty piastres daily pay.
So Mr. King, as assistant surgeon, Bandaged, and dosed, and nursed, and dressed, And worked, as he ate and drank, with zest, Until he began to blossom and burgeon To redness of features and fulness of cheek, And his starven hands grew plump and sleek. But for all sign of wealth he wore He swaggered neither less nor more. He talked the stuff he talked before, And bragged as he had bragged of yore, With his Yankee chaff and his Yankee slang, And his Yankee bounce and his Yankee twang. And, to tell the truth, we all held clear Of the impudent little adventurer; And any man with an eye might see That, though he bore it merrily, He recognised the tacit scorn Which dwelt about him night and morn.
The Turks fought well, as most men fight For life and faith, and hearth and home. But, from Teliche and Etrepol, left and right, The Muscov swirled, like the swirling foam On the rack of a tempest driven sea. And foot by foot staunch Mehemit Ali Was driven along the Lojan valley, Till he sat his battered forces down Just northward of the little town, And waited on war's destiny.
War's destiny came, and line by line His forces broke and fled. And for three days in Orkhanie town The arabas went up and down With loads of dying and dead; Till at last in a rush of panic fear, The hardest bitten warriors there Turn'd with the cowardly Bazouk And the vile Tchircasse and forsook The final fort, in headlong flight, For near Kamirli's sheltering height; While through the darkness of the night The cannon belched their hate Against the flying crowd; and far And near the soldiers of the Tsar Pour'd onward towards the spoil of war In haste precipitate.
And the little adventurer sat in a shed With one woman dying, and one woman dead. Nothing he knew of the late defeat, Nothing of Mehemit's enforced retreat; For he spoke no word of the Turkish tongue, And had seen no Englishman all day long. So he sat there, calm, with a flask of rum, And a cigarette 'twixt finger and thumb, Tranquilly smoking, and watching the smoke, And probably hatching some stupid joke, When in at the door, without a word, Burst a Circassian, hand on sword. And the sword leapt out of its sheath, as a flame Breaks from the coals when the fire is stirred. And Mr. King, with a "What's your game?" Faced the Tchircasse with the wild-beast eyes. "Naow, what do you want?" said Mr. King. Quoth the savage, in English, "The woman dies!" "Waat," said the impostor, "you'll take your fling, At least in the first case, along of a son Of Columbia, daughter of Albion."
The Tchircasse moved to the side of the bed. A distaff was leaning against the wall, And Mr. King, with arms at length, Gave it a swing, with all his strength, And crashed it full at the villain's head, And dropped him, pistols and daggers and all. Then sword in hand, he raged through the door, And there were three hundred savages more, All hungry for murder, and loot, and worse!
Mr. King bore down with an oath and a curse, Bore down on the chief with the slain man's sword He saw at a glance the state of the case; He knew without need of a single word That the Turk had flown and the Russ was near, And the Tchircasse held his midday revel; So he laid himself out to curse and swear, And he raged like an eloquent devil.
They listen'd, in a mute surprise, Amaz'd that any single man should dare Harangue an armed crowd with such an air, And such commanding anger in his eyes; Till, thinking him at least an English lord, The Tchircasse leader lower'd his sword, Spoke a few words in his own tongue, and bow'd, And slowly rode away with all his men. Then Mr. King turn'd to his task again: Sought a rough araba with bullocks twain; Haled up the unwilling brutes with might and main, Laid the poor wounded woman gently down, And calmly drove her from the rescued town!
And Mr. King, when we heard the story, Was a little abash'd by the hero's glory; And, "Look you here, you boys; you may laff But I ain't the man to start at chaff. I know without any jaw from you, 'Twas a darned nonsensical thing to do; But I tell you plain—and I mean it, too— For all it was such a ridiculous thing, I should do it again!" said Mr. King.
THE ART OF "POETRY."
FROM "TOWN TOPICS."
I ask not much! but let th' "dank wynd" moan, "Shimmer th' woold" and "rive the wanton surge;" I ask not much; grant but an "eery drone," Some "wilding frondage" and a "bosky dirge;" Grant me but these, and add a regal flush Of "sundered hearts upreared upon a byre;" Throw in some yearnings and a "darksome hush," And—asking nothing more—I'll smite th' lyre.
Yea, I will smite th' falt'ring, quiv'ring strings, And magazines shall buy my murky stunts; Too long I've held my hand to honest things, Too long I've borne rejections and affronts; Now will I be profound and recondite, Yea, working all th' symbols and th' "props;" Now will I write of "morn" and "yesternight;" Now will I gush great gobs of soulful slops.
Yea, I will smite! Grant me but "swerveless wynd," And I will pipe a cadence rife with thrills; With "nearness" and "foreverness" I'll bind A "downflung sheaf" of outslants, paeans and trills; Pass me th' "quenchless gleam of Titian hair," And eke th' "oozing forest's woozy clumps;" Now will I go upon a metric tear And smite th' lyre with great resounding thumps.
THE KING OF BRENTFORD'S TESTAMENT.
W. M. THACKERAY.
The noble King of Brentford Was old and very sick, He summon'd his physicians To wait upon him quick: They stepp'd into their coaches And brought their best physick.
They cramm'd their gracious master With potion and with pill; They drenched him and they bled him: They could not cure his ill. "Go fetch," says he, "my lawyer; I'd better make my will."
The monarch's Royal mandate The lawyer did obey; The thought of six-and-eightpence Did make his heart full gay. "What is't," says he, "your Majesty Would wish of me to-day?"
"The doctors have belabour'd me With potion and with pill: My hours of life are counted, O man of tape and quill! Sit down and mend a pen or two; I want to make my will.
"O'er all the land of Brentford I'm lord, and eke of Kew: I've three-per-cents and five-per-cents; My debts are but a few; And to inherit after me I have but children two.
"Prince Thomas is my eldest son; A sober prince is he, And from the day we breech'd him Till now—he's twenty-three— He never caused disquiet To his poor mamma or me.
"At school they never flogg'd him; At college, though not fast, Yet his little-go and great-go He creditably pass'd, And made his year's allowance For eighteen months to last.
"He never owed a shilling, Went never drunk to bed, He has not two ideas Within his honest head— In all respects he differs From my second son, Prince Ned.
"When Tom has half his income Laid by at the year's end, Poor Ned has ne'er a stiver That rightly he may spend, But sponges on a tradesman, Or borrows from a friend.
"While Tom his legal studies Most soberly pursues, Poor Ned must pass his mornings A-dawdling with the Muse: While Tom frequents his banker, Young Ned frequents the Jews.
"Ned drives about in buggies, Tom sometimes takes a 'bus; Ah, cruel fate, why made you My children differ thus? Why make of Tom a dullard, And Ned a genius?'
"You'll cut him with a shilling," Exclaimed the man of writs: "I'll leave my wealth," said Brentford, "Sir Lawyer, as befits, And portion both their fortunes Unto their several wits."
"Your Grace knows best," the lawyer said; "On your commands I wait." "Be silent, sir," says Brentford, "A plague upon your prate! Come take your pen and paper, And write as I dictate."
The will as Brentford spoke it Was writ and signed and closed; He bade the lawyer leave him, And turn'd him round and dozed; And next week in the churchyard The good old King reposed.
Tom, dressed in crape and hatband, Of mourners was the chief; In bitter self-upbraidings Poor Edward showed his grief: Tom hid his fat white countenance In his pocket-handkerchief.
Ned's eyes were full of weeping, He falter'd in his walk; Tom never shed a tear, But onwards he did stalk, As pompous, black, and solemn As any catafalque.
And when the bones of Brentford— That gentle King and just— With bell and book and candle Were duly laid in dust, "Now, gentlemen," says Thomas, "Let business be discussed.
"When late our sire beloved Was taken deadly ill, Sir Lawyer, you attended him (I mean to tax your bill); And, as you signed and wrote it, I prithee read the will"
The lawyer wiped his spectacles, And drew the parchment out; And all the Brentford family Sat eager round about: Poor Ned was somewhat anxious, But Tom had ne'er a doubt.
"My son, as I make ready To seek my last long home, Some cares I have for Neddy, But none for thee, my Tom: Sobriety and order You ne'er departed from.
"Ned hath a brilliant genius, And thou a plodding brain; On thee I think with pleasure, On him with doubt and pain." ("You see, good Ned," says Thomas, "What he thought about us twain.")
"Though small was your allowance, You saved a little store; And those who save a little Shall get a plenty more." As the lawyer read this compliment, Tom's eyes were running o'er.
"The tortoise and the hare, Tom, Set out at each his pace; The hare it was the fleeter, The tortoise won the race; And since the world's beginning This ever was the case.
"Ned's genius, blithe and singing, Steps gaily o'er the ground; As steadily you trudge it, He clears it with a bound; But dulness has stout legs, Tom, And wind that's wondrous sound.
"O'er fruit and flowers alike, Tom, You pass with plodding feet; You heed not one nor t'other, But onwards go your beat; While genius stops to loiter With all that he may meet;
"And ever as he wanders, Will have a pretext fine For sleeping in the morning, Or loitering to dine, Or dozing in the shade, Or basking in the shine.
"Your little steady eyes, Tom, Though not so bright as those That restless round about him His flashing genius throws, Are excellently suited To look before your nose.
"Thank Heaven, then, for the blinkers It placed before your eyes; The stupidest are strongest, The witty are not wise; Oh, bless your good stupidity! It is your dearest prize.
"And though my lands are wide, And plenty is my gold, Still better gifts from Nature, My Thomas, do you hold— A brain that's thick and heavy, A heart that's dull and cold.
"Too dull to feel depression, Too hard to heed distress, Too cold to yield to passion Or silly tenderness. March on—your road is open To wealth, Tom, and success.
"Ned sinneth in extravagance, And you in greedy lust." ("I' faith," says Ned, "our father Is less polite than just.") "In you, son Tom, I've confidence, But Ned I cannot trust.
"Wherefore my lease and copyholds, My lands and tenements, My parks, my farms, and orchards, My houses and my rents, My Dutch stock and my Spanish stock, My five and three per cents,
"I leave to you, my Thomas"— ("What, all?" poor Edward said, "Well, well, I should have spent them, And Tom's a prudent head ")— "I leave to you, my Thomas,— To you IN TRUST for Ned."
The wrath and consternation What poet e'er could trace That at this fatal passage Came o'er Prince Tom his face; The wonder of the company, And honest Ned's amaze?
"'Tis surely some mistake," Good-naturedly cries Ned; The lawyer answered gravely, "'Tis even as I said; 'Twas thus his gracious Majesty Ordain'd on his death-bed.
"See, here the will is witness'd And here's his autograph." "In truth, our father's writing," Says Edward with a laugh; "But thou shalt not be a loser, Tom; We'll share it half and half."
"Alas! my kind young gentleman, This sharing cannot be; 'Tis written in the testament That Brentford spoke to me, 'I do forbid Prince Ned to give Prince Tom a halfpenny.
"'He hath a store of money, But ne'er was known to lend it; He never helped his brother; The poor he ne'er befriended; He hath no need of property Who knows not how to spend it.
"'Poor Edward knows but how to spend, And thrifty Tom to hoard; Let Thomas be the steward then, And Edward be the lord; And as the honest labourer Is worthy his reward,
"'I pray Prince Ned, my second son, And my successor dear, To pay to his intendant Five hundred pounds a year; And to think of his old father, And live and make good cheer.'"
Such was old Brentford's honest testament. He did devise his moneys for the best, And lies in Brentford church in peaceful rest. Prince Edward lived, and money made and spent; But his good sire was wrong, it is confess'd, To say his son, young Thomas, never lent. He did. Young Thomas lent at interest, And nobly took his twenty-five per cent.
Long time the famous reign of Ned endured O'er Chiswick, Fulham, Brentford, Putney, Kew, But of extravagance he ne'er was cured. And when both died, as mortal men will do, 'Twas commonly reported that the steward Was very much the richer of the two.
BY J. BRUNTON STEPHENS.
Biggs was missing: Biggs had vanished; all the town was in a ferment; For if ever man was looked to for an edifying end, With due mortuary outfit, and a popular interment, It was Biggs, the universal guide, philosopher, and friend.
But the man had simply vanished; speculation wove no tissue That would hold a drop of water; each new theory fell flat. It was most unsatisfactory, and hanging on the issue Were a thousand wagers ranging from a pony to a hat.
Not a trace could search discover in the township or without it, And the river had been dragged from morn till night with no avail. His continuity had ceased, and that was all about it, And there wasn't ev'n a grease-spot left behind to tell the tale.
That so staid a man as Biggs was should be swallowed up in mystery Lent an increment to wonder—he who trod no doubtful paths, But stood square to his surroundings, with no cloud upon his history, As the much-respected lessee of the Corporation Baths.
His affairs were all in order; since the year the alligator With a startled river bather made attempt to coalesce, The resulting wave of decency had greater grown and greater, And the Corporation Baths had been a marvellous success.
Nor could trouble in the household solve the riddle of his clearance, For his bride was now in heaven, and the issue of the match Was a patient drudge whose virtues were as plain as her appearance— Just the sort whereto no scandal could conceivably attach.
So the Whither and the Why alike mysterious were counted; And as Faith steps in to aid where baffled Reason must retire, There were those averred so good a man as Biggs might well have mounted Up to glory like Elijah in a chariot of fire!
For indeed he was a good man; when he sat beside the portal Of the Bath-house at his pigeon-hole, a saint within a frame, We used to think his face was as the face of an immortal, As he handed us our tickets, and took payment for the same.
And, Oh, the sweet advice with which he made of such occasion A duplicate detergent for our morals and our limbs— For he taught us that decorum was the essence of salvation, And that cleanliness and godliness were merely synonyms;
But that open-air ablution in the river was a treason To the purer instincts, fit for dogs and aborigines, And that wrath at such misconduct was the providential reason For the jaws of alligators and the tails of stingarees.
But, alas, our friend was gone, our guide, philosopher, and tutor, And we doubled our potations, just to clear the inner view; But we only saw the darklier through the bottom of the pewter, And the mystery seemed likewise to be multiplied by two.
And the worst was that our failure to unriddle the enigma In the "rags" of rival towns was made a byword and a scoff, Till each soul in the community felt branded with the stigma Of the unexplained suspicion of poor Biggs's taking off.
So a dozen of us rose and swore this thing should be no longer: Though the means that Nature furnished had been tried without result, There were forces supersensual that higher were and stronger, And with consentaneous clamour we pronounced for the occult.
Then Joe Thomson slung a tenner, and Jack Robinson a tanner, And each according to his means respectively disbursed; And a letter in your humble servant's most seductive manner Was despatched to Sludge the Medium, recently of Darlinghurst.
"I am Biggs," the spirit said ('twas through the medium's lips he said it; But the voice that spoke, the accent, too, were Biggs's very own, Be it, therefore, not set down to our unmerited discredit, That collectively we sickened as we recognised the tone).
"From a saurian interior, Christian friends, I now address you"— (And "Oh heaven!" or its correlative, groaned shuddering we)— "While there yet remains a scrap of my identity, for, bless you, This ungodly alligator's fast assimilating me.
"For although through nine abysmal days I've fought with his digestion, Being hostile to his processes and loth to pulpify, It is rapidly becoming a most complicated question How much of me is crocodile, how much of him is I.
"And, Oh, my friends, 'tis sorrow's crown of sorrow to remember That this sacrilegious reptile owed me nought but gratitude, For I bought him from a showman twenty years since come November, And I dropped him in the river for his own and others' good.
"It had grieved me that the spouses of our townsmen, and their daughters, Should be shocked by river bathers and their indecorous ways, So I cast my bread, that is, my alligator, on the waters, And I found it, in a credit balance, after many days.
"Years I waited, but at last there came the rumour long-expected, And the out-of-door ablutionists forsook their wicked paths, And the issues of my handiwork divinely were directed In a constant flow of custom to the Corporation Baths.
"'Twas a weakling when I bought it; 'twas so young that you could pet it; But with all its disadvantages I reckoned it would do; And it did: Oh, lay the moral well to heart and don't forget it— Put decorum first, and all things shall be added unto you.
"Lies! all lies! I've done with virtue. Why should I be interested In the cause of moral progress that I served so long in vain, When the fifteen hundred odd I've so judiciously invested Will but go to pay the debts of some young rip who marries Jane?
"But the reptile overcomes me; my identity is sinking; Let me hasten to the finish; let my words be few and fit. I was walking by the river in the starry silence, thinking Of what Providence had done for me, and I had done for it;
"I had reached the saurian's rumoured haunt, where oft in fatal folly I had dropped garotted dogs to keep his carnal craving up" (Said Joe Thomson, in a whisper, "That explains my Highland colley!" Said Bob Williams, sotto voce, "That explains my Dandy pup!").
"I had passed to moral questions, and found comfort in the notion That fools are none the worse for things not being what they seem, When, behold, a seeming log became instinct with life and motion, And with sudden curvature of tail upset me in the stream.
"Then my leg, as in a vice"—but here the revelation faltered, And the medium rose and shook himself, remarking with a smile That the requisite conditions were irrevocably altered, For the personality of Biggs was lost in crocodile.
Now, whether Sludge's story would succeed in holding water Is more, perhaps, than one has any business to suspect; But I know that on the strength of it I married Biggs's daughter, And I found a certain portion of the narrative correct.
THE AMENITIES OF SHOPPING.
BY LEOPOLD WAGNER.
If there is one thing I do dislike, it is to go into a draper's shop. To my mind, it is not a man's business at all; it is one essentially feminine. I have never been able to reconcile, myself to the troublesome formalities one has to go through in these marts of female finery; there seems to be no such thing as to pop inside for a trifling article, lay down your money for it, and get away again. No; the system of trade pursued at such establishments is undoubtedly to get you to sit down, with leisure to look about you, and coax you into buying things you don't want.
Years ago, when I was living in lonely lodgings, I had occasion one Saturday night to slip into the nearest draper's shop for some pins. "I only want a farthing's worth of pins," I observed, apologetically, to the bald-headed shopwalker who pounced down upon me. "Please to step this way." To my astonishment he marched me to the extreme end of the shop, thence through an opening in the side wall, past another long double row of dames and damsels of all sorts and sizes making purchases, and finally referred me to a young lady whose special function in life seemed to consist in selling pins to adventurous young gentlemen like myself. She was an extremely good looking young lady too, and I felt considerably embarrassed at the insignificance of my purchase. "And the next thing, please?" she asked, during the wrapping-up process. I informed her, as politely as I could, that I did not require anything more.
"Gloves, handkerchiefs, collars, shirts, neckties—?"
"No thank you," I returned, "I only came in for the pins." But I was not to be let off so easily.
Utterly ignoring the humble penny that I had laid down on the counter, she showed me samples of almost everything in the shop suitable for male wear. Blushing to the roots of my hair, I implored her to spare herself further trouble, as my wardrobe was already extensive. Then she showed me a sample silk umbrella. I was unwilling to rush away abruptly from the presence of such a charming young lady, but she provoked me to it; indeed, I was only prevented from carrying out my design by my failure to discern the hole in the wall through which I had been inveigled into that department. "If you would be so good as to give me my change," I stammered out, feeling heartily ashamed at the thought of wanting the change at all. "Certainly sir." Then she proceeded to make out the bill. "Oh, never mind about the bill," I said, "I'm rather in a hurry." Of this appeal she took no notice. "Sign, please," she said to the young lady at her elbow. "Pins, one farthing," she added to my utter confusion. The second young lady made a wild flourish over the bill with her pencil and turned away. My fair tormentor slowly wrapped my penny in the bill, screwed up the whole inside a large wooden ball, jerked a dangling cord at her elbow, then stood looking me straight in the face as the ball went rolling along a set of tramway lines over our heads to the other end of the shop. That was the most melancholy game at skittles I ever took part in. It seemed an age before the ball came back to us, whereupon the young lady took out the bill and my change—a halfpenny. "We haven't a farthing in the place," she said innocently, "What else will you take for it?" "Oh, it doesn't matter at all," I returned, anxious only to rush away from the spot—which I did. It was a good quarter-of-an-hour before I gained the street. During that interval, I strayed into the carpet department, upset an old lady, fell sprawling over a chair, rushed into the arms of the shopwalker, knocked down a huge stack of flannels, trod on some unfortunate young fellow's corn, making him howl with pain, and last, not least, ran foul of a perambulator laden with a baby and the usual Saturday night's marketing in the doorway.
I entered that shop full of hope and promise; I left it a melancholy man.
Though not quite so exciting as the foregoing, there is an intimate connection between that incident and the one I shall now dwell upon. Let me tell the tale as I told it to my wife. The other day I brought home a neat little Japanese basket—a mere knick-knack, costing only twopence. "Oh, how pretty!" exclaimed my wife. "Wherever did you get this?" "I bought it at a large shop in Regent Street," I answered, "but it cost me a great deal of trouble to get it." Pressed for particulars, I continued:
"I was amusing myself by looking at the shops, when I saw a lot of these little Japanese baskets in the corner of a large window, plainly marked twopence each. So I stepped inside to buy one. The door was promptly opened for me by a black boy, resplendent in gold-faced livery. He made me a profound salaam, as a gentleman of aristocratic bearing came forward to meet me. 'And what may I have the pleasure of showing you?' he inquired. 'Oh!' I returned, not without some misgivings, 'I only want one of those little Japanese baskets which you have in one corner of the window, marked, I believe, twopence each.' 'Certainly, sir. Will you be so kind as to step into this department?' he said.
"Meekly I followed him through long avenues of silks, damasks, brocades, and other costly examples of Oriental luxury in all the tints of the rainbow. I was beginning to feel uncomfortable at the thought of causing him so much trouble, when he paused at the entrance to another department, and called out, 'Japanese baskets, please.' Then turning to me, he said, 'If you will be good enough to step forward, they will be most happy to serve you.' I did so, and found myself on the threshold of an Eastern bazaar. Another nobleman now took me in hand. 'And what may I have the pleasure——' he began, making a courteous bow. 'I only want one of those little Japanese baskets which you have in a corner of your window, marked, I believe, twopence each—or, possibly, they may be two shillings?' I said in a shaky voice. 'No, sir, quite right—they are twopence each,' he replied, to my great relief; for I had begun to suspect they might be two guineas. 'Will you do me the favour to step this way?' While following at his side, I asked myself whether, at the end of my travels, I should ever be able to find my way back again; so bewildering were the ramifications through which we passed. Presently he handed me over to another nobleman, who, having learned my pleasure (which by this time had developed rather painful tendencies), graciously escorted me to the further end of a long counter, and begged me to take a chair. A stylishly-dressed young lady sailed towards us behind the counter. 'I shall feel extremely obliged,' said the nobleman to her, 'If you will be so good as to request Miss Doubleyou to step down, and serve this gentleman. 'Yes, sir,' answered the young lady, as she vanished somewhere behind me; for my eyes were now following the retreating figure of the nobleman. After a little while I heard a pattering of feet, and, looking round, beheld some tokens of a young lady descending a spiral staircase. She was behind the counter the next moment and then I made a discovery. It was the same young lady who had served me with the farthing's worth of pins years before! I recognised her at once, and I suspect the recognition was mutual. But, of course, she never betrayed the least emotion.'And what article may I have the pleasure to serve you with?' she asked, m the still small voice of a duchess. There was a gulping sensation in my throat as I answered, 'You have, I believe, in one corner of one of your windows a number of little Japanese baskets, marked, if my eyes did not deceive me, twopence each. (The graceful nod of her head was reassuring.) I should be very glad to become the possessor of one of those articles.' 'Certainly, sir, I'll bring it to you,' she answered. 'Oh, thank you!' I returned, delighted at the prospect; and so she departed on her errand of mercy.
"Whether, by the rules of the establishment, it was necessary for her to obtain a written permission from each of those three noblemen to pass over their territory and invade the shop window, or whether she lost herself in the numerous windings and turnings through which I had been conducted in perfect safety, I cannot say; I only know that she was gone a very long time. But when at last she made her reappearance with one of those little Japanese baskets in her hand, and beaming with smiles, I felt I owed her an everlasting debt of gratitude. She did not ask me if there was any other article she could have the pleasure of showing me; she had asked me that before and she remembered that I was proof against her persuasiveness! The fair creature simply made a movement towards the spiral staircase, as I thought, to fetch down a witness to the important transaction, until my eyes rested on some tissue paper. 'Pray don't stay to wrap it up,' I exclaimed, 'my pockets are ample,' and my thanks were profuse. Seizing the coveted treasure, I laid my twopence down on the counter and walked straight forward in a contrary direction to that by which I had entered, gladdened by the prospect that I was making direct for the street. If anyone had arrested my progress for the sake of further formalities, I should unquestionably have knocked them down. But everyone must have seen the glare of defiant desperation flashing from my restless eyes and no one dared to bar my egress. As I emerged from that shop into Regent Street, I felt as exhausted as if I had just bought a grand piano or a suite of furniture. 'Really,' I said to my wife in conclusion, 'if I could have foreseen all the trouble in store for me over buying this little Japanese basket, price twopence, it would have been still reposing with its companions in the corner of that magnificent shop window in Regent Street.'"
She promised to prize it all the more on that account. And now, when I look at that little Japanese basket, my mind wanders back to the farthing's worth of pins I purchased in my old bachelor days.
SHAMUS O'BRIEN: A TALE OF '98.
BY J. SHERIDAN LE FANU.
Jist afther the war, in the year '98, As soon as the boys wor all scattered and bate, 'Twas the custom, whenever a pisant was got, To hang him by thrial—barrin' sich as was shot.— There was trial by jury goin' on in the light, And martial-law hangin' the lavins by night It's them was hard times for an honest gossoon: If he got past the judges—he'd meet a dragoon; An' whether the sodgers or judges gev sintance, The divil an hour they gev for repintance. An' it's many's the boy that was then on his keepin', Wid small share iv restin', or atin', or sleepin'; An' because they loved Erin, an' scorned for to sell it, A prey for the bloodhound, a mark for the bullet— Unsheltered by night, and unrested by day, With the heath for their barrack, revenge for their pay.
The bravest an' hardiest boy iv them all, Was Shamus O'Brien, o' the town iv Glingall. His limbs were well-set, an' his body was light, An' the keen-fanged hound had not teeth half so white. But his face was as pale as the face of the dead, And his cheeks never warmed with the blush of the red; But for all that he wasn't an ugly young bye, For the divil himself couldn't blaze with his eye, So droll an' so wicked, so dark and so bright, Like a fire-flash crossing the depth of the night; He was the best mower that ever was seen, The handsomest hurler that ever has been. An' his dancin' was sich that the men used to stare, An' the women turn crazy, he done it so quare; Be gorra, the whole world gev in to him there.
An' it's he was the boy that was hard to be caught, An' it's often he run, an' it's often he fought, An' it's many the one can remember right well The quare things he done: an' it's often heerd tell How he lathered the yeomen, himself agin' four, An' stretched the two strongest on old Galtimore.—
But the fox must sleep sometimes, the wild deer must rest, An' treachery play on the blood iv the best.— Afther many brave actions of power and pride, An' many a hard night on the bleak mountain's side, An' a thousand great dangers and toils overpast, In the darkness of night he was taken at last.
Now, Shamus, look back on the beautiful moon, For the door of the prison must close on you soon, An' take your last look on her dim lovely light, That falls on the mountain and valley this night;— One look at the village, one look at the flood, An' one at the sheltering, far-distant wood. Farewell to the forest, farewell to the hill, An' farewell to the friends that will think of you still; Farewell to the pathern, the hurlin' an' wake, And farewell to the girl that would die for your sake.—
An' twelve sodgers brought him to Maryborough jail, An' the turnkey resaved him, refusin' all bail; The fleet limbs wor chained, an' the sthrong hands wor bound, An' he laid down his length on the cowld prison ground. An' the dreams of his childhood kem over him there, As gentle an' soft as the sweet summer air; An' happy rememberances crowding on ever, As fast as the foam-flakes dhrift down on the river, Bringing fresh to his heart merry days long gone by, Till the tears gathered heavy and thick in his eye. But the tears didn't fall, for the pride of his heart Would not suffer one drop down his pale cheek to start; Then he sprang to his feet in the dark prison cave, An' he swore with the fierceness that misery gave, By the hopes of the good, an' the cause of the brave, That when he was mouldering low in the grave His enemies never should have it to boast His scorn of their vengeance one moment was lost; His bosom might bleed, but his cheek should be dhry, For, undaunted he lived, and undaunted he'd die.
Well, as soon as a few weeks was over and gone, The terrible day iv the thrial kem on; There was sich a crowd there was scarce room to stand, The sodgers on guard, the dhragoons sword-in-hand. An' the court-house so full that the people were bothered. Attorneys an' criers were just upon smothered; An' counsellers almost gev over for dead. The jury sat up in their box overhead; An' the judge on the bench so detarmined an' big, With his gown on his back, and an illigent wig; Then silence was called, and the minute 'twas said The court was as still as the heart of the dead, An' they heard but the turn of a key in a lock,— An' Shamus O'Brien kem into the dock.—
For a minute he turned his eye round on the throng, An' he looked at the irons, so firm and so strong, An' he saw that he had not a hope nor a friend, A chance of escape, nor a word to defend; Then he folded his arms as he stood there alone, As calm and as cold as a statue of stone; And they read a big writin', a yard long at laste, An' Jim didn't hear it, nor mind it a taste, An' the judge took a big pinch iv snuff, and he says, "Are you guilty or not, Jim O'Brien, av you plase?" An' all held their breath in the silence of dhread As Shamus O'Brien made answer and said:
"My lord, if you ask me, if ever a time I have thought any treason, or done any crime That should call to my cheek, as I stand alone here, The hot blush of shame, or the coldness of fear, Though I stood by the grave to receive my death-blow, Before God and the world I would answer you, No!' But—if you would ask me, as I think it like, If in the rebellion I carried a pike, An' fought for me counthry from op'ning to close, An' shed the heart's blood of her bitterest foes, I answer you, Yes; and I tell you again, Though I stand here to perish, I glory that then In her cause I was willing my veins should run dhry, An' that now for her sake I am ready to die."
Then the silence was great, and the jury smiled bright, An' the judge wasn't sorry the job was made light; By my sowl, it's himself was a crabbed ould chap! In a twinklin' he pulled on his ugly black cap. Then Shamus' mother in the crowd standin' by, Called out to the judge with a pitiful cry: "O, judge! darlin', don't, O, O, don't say the word! The crathur is young, O, have mercy, my lord; He was foolish, he didn't know what he was doin';— You don't know him, my lord—don't give him to ruin!— He's the kindliest crathur, the tendherest-hearted;— Don't part us for ever, that's been so long parted. Judge, mavourneen, forgive him, forgive him, my lord, An' God will forgive you—O, don't say the word!"
That was the first minute O'Brien was shaken, When he saw he was not quite forgot or forsaken; An' down his pale cheeks, at the word of his mother, The big tears kem runnin' one afther th' other; An' two or three times he endeavoured to spake, But the sthrong manly voice seem'd to falther and break; But at last, by the strength of his high-mounting pride, He conquered and masthered his griefs swelling tide, "An'," says he, "mother, darlin', don't break your poor heart For, sooner or later, the dearest must part; And God knows it's betther than wandering in fear On the bleak, trackless mountain, among the wild deer, To lie in the grave, where the head, heart, and breast From labour, and sorrow, for ever shall rest. Then, mother, my darlin', don't cry any more, Don't make me seem broken, in this, my last hour; For I wish, when my head's lyin' undher the raven, No thrue man can say that I died like a craven!" Then facin' the judge Shamus bent down his head, An' that minute the solemn death-sintance was said.
The mornin' was bright, an' the mists rose on high, An' the lark whistled merrily in the clear sky;— But why are the men standin' idle so late? An' why do the crowds gather fast in the street? What come they to talk of? what come they to see? An' why does the long rope hang from the cross-tree?— O, Shamus O'Brien! pray fervent and fast, May the saints take your soul, for this day is your last; Pray fast, an' pray sthrong, for the moment is nigh, When, sthrong, proud, an' great as you are, you must die.— An' fasther an' fasther, the crowd gathered there, Boys, horses, and gingerbread, just like a fair; An' whisky was sellin', an' cussamuck too, An' the men and the women enjoying the view. An' ould Tim Mulvany, he med the remark, There was no sich a sight since the time of Noah's ark; An' be gorra, 'twas thrue too, for never sich scruge, Sich divarshin and crowds, was known since the deluge. For thousands were gathered there, if there was one, All waitin' such time as the hangin' kem on.
At last they threw open the big prison-gate, An' out came the sheriffs an' sodgers in state, An' a cart in the middle, an' Shamus was in it, Not paler, but prouder than ever, that minute, An' as soon as the people saw Shamus O'Brien, Wid prayin' an' blessin', and all the girls cryin', The wild wailin' sound it kem on by degrees, Like the sound of the lonesome wind blowin' through trees. On, on to the gallows the sheriffs are gone, An' the cart an' the sodgers go steadily on; At every side swellin' around of the cart, A sorrowful sound, that id open your heart.
Now under the gallows the cart takes its stand, An' the hangman gets up with the rope in his hand; An' the priest, havin' blest him, goes down on the ground, An' Shamus O'Brien throws one look around. Then the hangman dhrew near, an' the people grew still, Young faces turned sickly, and warm hearts turn chill, An' the rope bein' ready, his neck was made bare, For the gripe iv the life-strangling cord to prepare; An' the good priest has left him, havin' said his last prayer.
But the priest has done more, for his hands he unbound, And with one daring spring Jim has leaped to the ground; Bang! bang! go the carbines, and clash goes the sabres; He's not down! he's alive still! now stand to him, neighbours. Through the smoke and the horses he's into the crowd,— By heaven he's free!—than thunder more loud, By one shout from the people the heavens were shaken— One shout that the dead of the world might awaken. Your swords they may glitter, your carbines go bang, But if you want hangin', it's yourself you must hang; To-night he'll be sleeping in Atherloe Glin, An' the divil's in the dice if you catch him ag'in.— The sodgers ran this way, the sheriffs ran that, An' Father Malone lost his new Sunday hat; An' the sheriffs were both of them punished severely, An' fined like the divil for bein' done fairly.
HOME, SWEET HOME.
BY WILLIAM THOMSON.
Sawtan i' the law court Wis once, sae I've heard tell— "Oh! but hame is hamely!" Quo' Sawtan to himsel.'
THE CANE-BOTTOM'D CHAIR.
BY W.M. THACKERAY.
In tattered old slippers that toast at the bars, And a ragged old jacket perfumed with cigars, Away from the world and its toils and its cares, I've a snug little kingdom up four pairs of stairs.
To mount to this realm is a toil, to be sure, But the fire there is bright and the air rather pure; And the view I behold on a sunshiny day Is grand through the chimney-pots over the way.
This snug little chamber is cramm'd in all nooks With worthless old knicknacks and silly old books, And foolish old odds and foolish old ends, Crack'd bargains from brokers, cheap keepsakes from friends.
Old armour, prints, pictures, pipes, china (all crack'd), Old rickety tables, and chairs broken-backed; A twopenny treasury, wondrous to see; What matter? 'tis pleasant to you, friend, and me.
No better divan need the Sultan require, Than the creaking old sofa, that basks by the fire; And 'tis wonderful, surely, what music you get From the rickety, ramshackle, wheezy spinet.
That praying-rug came from a Turcoman's camp; By Tiber once twinkled that brazen old lamp; A Mameluke fierce yonder dagger has drawn: 'Tis a murderous knife to toast muffins upon.
Long, long through the hours, and the night, and the chimes, Here we talk of old books, and old friends, and old times; As we sit in a fog made of rich Latakie This chamber is pleasant to you, friend, and me.
But of all the cheap treasures that garnish my nest, There's one that I love and I cherish the best: For the finest of couches that's padded with hair I never would change thee, my cane-bottom'd chair.
Tis a bandy-legg'd, high-shoulder'd, worm-eaten seat, With a creaking old back, and twisted old feet; But since the fair morning when Fanny sat there, I bless thee and love thee, old cane-bottom'd chair.
If chairs have but feeling, in holding such charms, A thrill must have pass'd through your wither'd old arms! I look'd and I long'd, and I wish'd in despair; I wish'd myself turn'd to a cane-bottom'd chair.
It was but a moment she sat in this place, She'd a scarf on her neck, and a smile on her face! A smile on her face, and a rose in her hair, And she sat there, and bloom'd in my cane-bottom'd chair.
And so I have valued my chair ever since, Like the shrine of a saint, or the throne of a prince; Saint Fanny, my patroness sweet I declare, The queen of my heart and my cane-bottom'd chair.
When the candles burn low, and the company's gone, In the silence of night as I sit here alone— I sit here, alone, but we yet are a pair— My Fanny I see in my cane-bottom'd chair.
She comes from the past and revisits my room; She looks as she then did, all beauty and bloom So smiling and tender, so fresh and so fair, And yonder she sits in my cane-bottom'd chair.