Transcribers Note: Title and Table of contents Added.
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THE IDLER MAGAZINE.
AN ILLUSTRATED MONTHLY.
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THE IDLER. AN INGENUE OF THE SIERRAS. BY BRETT HART.
THE MODERN BABYLON. BY CYNICUS.
MY FIRST BOOKS. "UNDERTONES" AND "IDYLLS AND LEGENDS OF INVERBURN."
BALDER'S BALL. BY P. VON SCHOeNTHAN.
LIONS IN THEIR DENS. V.—THE LORD LIEUTENANT AT DUBLIN CASTLE. BY RAYMOND BLATHWAYT.
THE FEAR OF IT. BY ROBERT BARR.
MEMOIRS OF A FEMALE NILIHILIST. BY SOPHIE WASSILIEFF.
MEMOIRS OF A FEMALE NILIHILIST. BY SOPHIE WASSILIEFF.
PEOPLE I HAVE NEVER MET. BY SCOTT RANKIN.
MY SERVANT JOHN. BY ARCHIBALD FORBES.
THE IDLER'S CLUB. THE ARTISTIC TEMPERAMENT.
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AN INGENUE OF THE SIERRAS.
BY BRET HARTE.
ILLUSTRATIONS BY A. S. BOYD.
We all held our breath as the coach rushed through the semi-darkness of Galloper's Ridge. The vehicle itself was only a huge lumbering shadow; its side-lights were carefully extinguished, and Yuba Bill had just politely removed from the lips of an outside passenger even the cigar with which he had been ostentatiously exhibiting his coolness. For it had been rumoured that the Ramon Martinez gang of "road agents" were "laying" for us on the second grade, and would time the passage of our lights across Galloper's in order to intercept us in the "brush" beyond. If we could cross the ridge without being seen, and so get through the brush before they reached it, we were safe. If they followed, it would only be a stern chase with the odds in our favour.
The huge vehicle swayed from side to side, rolled, dipped, and plunged, but Bill kept the track, as if, in the whispered words of the Expressman, he could "feel and smell" the road he could no longer see. We knew that at times we hung perilously over the edge of slopes that eventually dropped a thousand feet sheer to the tops of the sugar-pines below, but we knew that Bill knew it also. The half visible heads of the horses, drawn wedge-wise together by the tightened reins, appeared to cleave the darkness like a ploughshare, held between his rigid hands. Even the hoof-beats of the six horses had fallen into a vague, monotonous, distant roll. Then the ridge was crossed, and we plunged into the still blacker obscurity of the brush. Rather we no longer seemed to move—it was only the phantom night that rushed by us. The horses might have been submerged in some swift Lethean stream; nothing but the top of the coach and the rigid bulk of Yuba Bill arose above them. Yet even in that awful moment our speed was unslackened; it was as if Bill cared no longer to guide but only to drive, or as if the direction of his huge machine was determined by other hands than his. An incautious whisperer hazarded the paralysing suggestion of our "meeting another team." To our great astonishment Bill overheard it; to our greater astonishment he replied. "It 'ud be only a neck and neck race which would get to h—ll first," he said quietly. But we were relieved—for he had spoken! Almost simultaneously the wider turnpike began to glimmer faintly as a visible track before us; the wayside trees fell out of line, opened up and dropped off one after another; we were on the broader tableland, out of danger, and apparently unperceived and unpursued.
Nevertheless in the conversation that broke out again with the relighting of the lamps and the comments, congratulations and reminiscences that were freely exchanged, Yuba Bill preserved a dissatisfied and even resentful silence. The most generous praise of his skill and courage awoke no response. "I reckon the old man waz just spilin' for a fight, and is feelin' disappointed," said a passenger. But those who knew that Bill had the true fighter's scorn for any purely purposeless conflict were more or less concerned and watchful of him. He would drive steadily for four or five minutes with thoughtfully knitted brows, but eyes still keenly observant under his slouched hat, and then, relaxing his strained attitude, would give way to a movement of impatience. "You aint uneasy about anything, Bill, are you?" asked the Expressman confidentially. Bill lifted his eyes with a slightly contemptuous surprise. "Not about anything ter come. It's what hez happened that I don't exackly sabe. I don't see no signs of Ramon's gang ever havin' been out at all, and ef they were out I don't see why they didn't go for us."
"The simple fact is that our ruse was successful," said an outside passenger. "They waited to see our lights on the ridge, and, not seeing them, missed us until we had passed. That's my opinion."
"You aint puttin' any price on that opinion, air ye?" enquired Bill, politely.
"'Cos thar's a comic paper in 'Frisco pays for them things, and I've seen worse things in it."
"Come off! Bill," retorted the passenger, slightly nettled by the tittering of his companions. "Then what did you put out the lights for?"
"Well," returned Bill, grimly, "it mout have been because I didn't keer to hev you chaps blazin' away at the first bush you thought you saw move in your skeer, and bringin' down their fire on us."
The explanation, though unsatisfactory, was by no means an improbable one, and we thought it better to accept it with a laugh. Bill, however, resumed his abstracted manner.
"Who got in at the Summit?" he at last asked abruptly of the Expressman.
"Derrick and Simpson of Cold Spring, and one of the 'Excelsior' boys," responded the Expressman.
"And that Pike County girl from Dow's Flat, with her bundles. Don't forget her," added the outside passenger, ironically.
"Does anybody here know her?" continued Bill, ignoring the irony.
"You'd better ask Judge Thompson; he was mighty attentive to her; gettin' her a seat by the off window, and lookin' after her bundles and things."
"Gettin' her a seat by the window?" repeated Bill.
"Yes, she wanted to see everything, and wasn't afraid of the shooting."
"Yes," broke in a third passenger, "and he was so d——d civil that when she dropped her ring in the straw, he struck a match agin all your rules, you know, and held it for her to find it. And it was just as we were crossin' through the brush, too. I saw the hull thing through the window, for I was hanging over the wheels with my gun ready for action. And it wasn't no fault of Judge Thompson's if his d——d foolishness hadn't shown us up, and got us a shot from the gang."
Bill gave a short grunt—but drove steadily on without further comment or even turning his eyes to the speaker.
We were now not more than a mile from the station at the cross roads where we were to change horses. The lights already glimmered in the distance, and there was a faint suggestion of the coming dawn on the summits of the ridge to the West. We had plunged into a belt of timber, when suddenly a horseman emerged at a sharp canter from a trail that seemed to be parallel with our own. We were all slightly startled; Yuba Bill alone preserving his moody calm.
"Hullo!" he said.
The stranger wheeled to our side as Bill slackened his speed. He seemed to be a "packer" or freight muleteer.
"Ye didn't get 'held up' on the Divide?" continued Bill, cheerfully.
"No," returned the packer, with a laugh; "I don't carry treasure. But I see you're all right, too. I saw you crossin' over Galloper's."
"Saw us?" said Bill, sharply. "We had our lights out."
"Yes, but there was suthin' white—a handkerchief or woman's veil, I reckon—hangin' from the window. It was only a movin' spot agin the hillside, but ez I was lookin' out for ye I knew it was you by that. Good night!"
He cantered away. We tried to look at each other's faces, and at Bill's expression in the darkness, but he neither spoke nor stirred until he threw down the reins when we stopped before the station. The passengers quickly descended from the roof; the Expressman was about to follow, but Bill plucked his sleeve.
"I'm goin' to take a look over this yer stage and these yer passengers with ye, afore we start."
"Why, what's up?"
"Well," said Bill, slowly disengaging himself from one of his enormous gloves, "when we waltzed down into the brush up there I saw a man, ez plain ez I see you, rise up from it. I thought our time had come and the band was goin' to play, when he sorter drew back, made a sign, and we just scooted past him."
"Well," said Bill, "it means that this yer coach was passed through free to-night."
"You don't object to that—surely? I think we were deucedly lucky."
Bill slowly drew off his other glove. "I've been riskin' my everlastin' life on this d——d line three times a week," he said with mock humility, "and I'm allus thankful for small mercies. But," he added grimly, "when it comes down to being passed free by some pal of a hoss thief and thet called a speshal Providence, I aint in it! No, sir, I aint in it!"
It was with mixed emotions that the passengers heard that a delay of fifteen minutes to tighten certain screw-bolts had been ordered by the autocratic Bill. Some were anxious to get their breakfast at Sugar Pine, but others were not averse to linger for the daylight that promised greater safety on the road. The Expressman, knowing the real cause of Bill's delay, was nevertheless at a loss to understand the object of it. The passengers were all well known; any idea of complicity with the road agents was wild and impossible, and, even if there was a confederate of the gang among them, he would have been more likely to precipitate a robbery than to check it. Again, the discovery of such a confederate—to whom they clearly owed their safety—and his arrest would have been quite against the Californian sense of justice, if not actually illegal. It seemed evident that Bill's Quixotic sense of honour was leading him astray.
The station consisted of a stable, a waggon shed, and a building containing three rooms. The first was fitted up with "bunks" or sleeping berths for the employes, the second was the kitchen, and the third and larger apartment was dining-room or sitting-room, and was used as general waiting-room for the passengers. It was not a refreshment station, and there was no "bar." But a mysterious command from the omnipotent Bill produced a demi-john of whiskey, with which he hospitably treated the company. The seductive influence of the liquor loosened the tongue of the gallant Judge Thompson. He admitted to having struck a match to enable the fair Pike Countian to find her ring, which, however, proved to have fallen in her lap. She was "a fine, healthy young woman—a type of the Far West, sir; in fact, quite a prairie blossom! yet simple and guileless as a child." She was on her way to Marysville, he believed, "although she expected to meet friends—a friend—in fact, later on." It was her first visit to a large town—in fact, any civilised centre—since she crossed the plains three years ago. Her girlish curiosity was quite touching, and her innocence irresistible. In fact, in a country whose tendency was to produce "frivolity and forwardness in young girls, he found her a most interesting young person." She was even then out in the stable-yard watching the horses being harnessed, "preferring to indulge a pardonable healthy young curiosity than to listen to the empty compliments of the younger passengers."
The figure which Bill saw thus engaged, without being otherwise distinguished, certainly seemed to justify the Judge's opinion. She appeared to be a well-matured country girl, whose frank grey eyes and large laughing mouth expressed a wholesome and abiding gratification in her life and surroundings. She was watching the replacing of luggage in the boot. A little feminine start, as one of her own parcels was thrown somewhat roughly on the roof, gave Bill his opportunity. "Now there," he growled to the helper, "ye aint carting stone! Look out, will yer! Some of your things, miss?" he added, with gruff courtesy, turning to her. "These yer trunks, for instance?"
She smiled a pleasant assent, and Bill, pushing aside the helper, seized a large square trunk in his arms. But from excess of zeal, or some other mischance, his foot slipped, and he came down heavily, striking the corner of the trunk on the ground and loosening its hinges and fastenings. It was a cheap, common-looking affair, but the accident discovered in its yawning lid a quantity of white, lace-edged feminine apparel of an apparently superior quality. The young lady uttered another cry and came quickly forward, but Bill was profuse in his apologies, himself girded the broken box with a strap, and declared his intention of having the company "make it good" to her with a new one. Then he casually accompanied her to the door of the waiting-room, entered, made a place for her before the fire by simply lifting the nearest and most youthful passenger by the coat-collar from the stool that he was occupying, and, having installed the lady in it, displaced another man who was standing before the chimney, and, drawing himself up to his full six feet of height in front of her, glanced down upon his fair passenger as he took his waybill from his pocket.
"Your name is down here as Miss Mullins?" he said.
She looked up, became suddenly aware that she and her questioner were the centre of interest to the whole circle of passengers, and, with a slight rise of colour, returned "Yes."
"Well, Miss Mullins, I've got a question or two to ask ye. I ask it straight out afore this crowd. It's in my rights to take ye aside and ask it—but that aint my style; I'm no detective. I needn't ask it at all, but act as ef I knowed the answer, or I might leave it to be asked by others. Ye needn't answer it ef ye don't like; ye've got a friend over ther—Judge Thompson—who is a friend to ye, right or wrong, jest as any other man here is—as though ye'd packed your own jury. Well, the simple question I've got to ask ye is this—Did you signal to anybody from the coach when we passed Galloper's an hour ago?"
We all thought that Bill's courage and audacity had reached its climax here. To openly and publicly accuse a "lady" before a group of chivalrous Californians, and that lady possessing the further attractions of youth, good looks and innocence, was little short of desperation. There was an evident movement of adhesion towards the fair stranger, a slight muttering broke out on the right, but the very boldness of the act held them in stupefied surprise. Judge Thompson, with a bland propitiatory smile, began: "Really, Bill, I must protest on behalf of this young lady—" when the fair accused, raising her eyes to her accuser, to the consternation of everybody answered with the slight but convincing hesitation of conscientious truthfulness:
"Ahem!" interposed the Judge, hastily, "er—that is—er—you allowed your handkerchief to flutter from the window. I noticed it myself, casually—one might say even playfully—but without any particular significance."
The girl, regarding her apologist with a singular mingling of pride and impatience, returned briefly:
"Who did you signal to?" asked Bill, gravely.
"The young gentleman I'm going to marry."
A start, followed by a slight titter from the younger passengers, was instantly suppressed by a savage glance from Bill.
"What did you signal to him for?" he continued.
"To tell him I was here, and that it was all right," returned the young girl, with a steadily rising pride and colour.
"Wot was all right?" demanded Bill.
"That I wasn't followed, and that he could meet me on the road beyond Cass's Ridge Station." She hesitated a moment, and then, with a still greater pride, in which a youthful defiance was still mingled, said: "I've run away from home to marry him. And I mean to! No one can stop me. Dad didn't like him just because he was poor, and dad's got money. Dad wanted me to marry a man I hate, and got a lot of dresses and things to bribe me."
"And you're taking them in your trunk to the other feller?" said Bill, grimly.
"Yes, he's poor," returned the girl, defiantly.
"Then your father's name is Mullins?" asked Bill.
"It's not Mullins. I—I—took that name," she hesitated, with her first exhibition of self-consciousness.
"Wot is his name?"
A smile of relief and significance went round the circle. The fame of Eli or "Skinner" Hemmings, as a notorious miser and usurer, had passed even beyond Galloper's Ridge.
"The step that you're taking, Miss Mullins, I need not tell you, is one of great gravity," said Judge Thompson, with a certain paternal seriousness of manner, in which, however, we were glad to detect a glaring affectation, "and I trust that you and your affianced have fully weighed it. Far be it from me to interfere with or question the natural affections of two young people, but may I ask you what you know of the—er—young gentleman for whom you are sacrificing so much, and, perhaps, imperilling your whole future? For instance, have you known him long?"
The slightly troubled air of trying to understand—not unlike the vague wonderment of childhood—with which Miss Mullins had received the beginning of this exordium, changed to a relieved smile of comprehension as she said quickly, "Oh, yes, nearly a whole year."
"And," said the Judge, smiling, "has he a vocation—is he in business?"
"Oh, yes," she returned, "he's a collector."
"Yes; he collects bills, you know, money," she went on, with childish eagerness, "not for himself—he never has any money, poor Charley—but for his firm. It's dreadful hard work, too, keeps him out for days and nights, over bad roads and baddest weather. Sometimes, when he's stole over to the ranch just to see me, he's been so bad he could scarcely keep his seat in the saddle, much less stand. And he's got to take mighty big risks, too. Times the folks are cross with him and won't pay; once they shot him in the arm, and he came to me, and I helped do it up for him. But he don't mind. He's real brave, jest as brave as he's good." There was such a wholesome ring of truth in this pretty praise that we were touched in sympathy with the speaker.
"What firm does he collect for?" asked the Judge, gently.
"I don't know exactly—he won't tell me—but I think it's a Spanish firm. You see"—she took us all into her confidence with a sweeping smile of innocent yet half-mischievous artfulness—"I only know because I peeped over a letter he once got from his firm, telling him he must hustle up and be ready for the road the next day—but I think the name was Martinez—yes, Ramon Martinez."
In the dead silence that ensued—a silence so profound that we could hear the horses in the distant stable-yard rattling their harness—one of the younger "Excelsior" boys burst into a hysteric laugh, but the fierce eye of Yuba Bill was down upon him, and seemed to instantly stiffen him into a silent, grinning mask. The young girl, however, took no note of it; following out, with lover-like diffusiveness, the reminiscences thus awakened, she went on:
"Yes, it's mighty hard work, but he says it's all for me, and as soon as we're married he'll quit it. He might have quit it before, but he won't take no money of me, nor what I told him I could get out of dad! That aint his style. He's mighty proud—if he is poor—is Charley. Why thar's all ma's money which she left me in the Savin's Bank that I wanted to draw out—for I had the right—and give it to him, but he wouldn't hear of it! Why, he wouldn't take one of the things I've got with me, if he knew it. And so he goes on ridin' and ridin', here and there and everywhere, and gettin' more and more played out and sad, and thin and pale as a spirit, and always so uneasy about his business, and startin' up at times when we're meetin' out in the South Woods or in the far clearin', and sayin': 'I must be goin' now, Polly,' and yet always tryin' to be chiffle and chipper afore me. Why he must have rid miles and miles to have watched for me thar in the brush at the foot of Galloper's to-night, jest to see if all was safe, and Lordy! I'd have given him the signal and showed a light if I'd died for it the next minit. There! That's what I know of Charley—that's what I'm running away from home for—that's what I'm running to him for, and I don't care who knows it! And I only wish I'd done it afore—and I would—if—if—if—he'd only asked me! There now!" She stopped, panted, and choked. Then one of the sudden transitions of youthful emotion overtook the eager, laughing face; it clouded up with the swift change of childhood, a lightning quiver of expression broke over it—and—then came the rain!
I think this simple act completed our utter demoralisation! We smiled feebly at each other with that assumption of masculine superiority which is miserably conscious of its own helplessness at such moments. We looked out of the window, blew our noses, said: "Eh—what?" and "I say," vaguely to each other, and were greatly relieved and yet apparently astonished when Yuba Bill, who had turned his back upon the fair speaker, and was kicking the logs in the fireplace, suddenly swept down upon us and bundled us all into the road, leaving Miss Mullins alone. Then he walked aside with Judge Thompson for a few moments; returned to us, autocratically demanded of the party a complete reticence towards Miss Mullins on the subject matter under discussion, re-entered the station, re-appeared with the young lady, suppressed a faint idiotic cheer which broke from us at the spectacle of her innocent face once more cleared and rosy, climbed the box, and in another moment we were under way.
"Then she don't know what her lover is yet?" asked the Expressman, eagerly.
"Are you certain it's one of the gang?"
"Can't say for sure. It mout be a young chap from Yolo who bucked agin the tiger  at Sacramento, got regularly cleaned out and busted, and joined the gang for a flier. They say thar was a new hand in that job over at Keeley's—and a mighty game one, too—and ez there was some buckshot onloaded that trip, he might hev got his share, and that would tally with what the girl said about his arm. See! Ef that's the man, I've heered he was the son of some big preacher in the States, and a college sharp to boot, who ran wild in 'Frisco, and played himself for all he was worth. They're the wust kind to kick when they once get a foot over the traces. For stiddy, comf'ble kempany," added Bill reflectively, "give me the son of a man that was hanged!"
"But what are you going to do about this?"
"That depends upon the feller who comes to meet her."
"But you aint going to try to take him? That would be playing it pretty low down on them both."
"Keep your hair on, Jimmy! The Judge and me are only going to rastle with the sperrit of that gay young galoot, when he drops down for his girl—and exhort him pow'ful! Ef he allows he's convicted of sin and will find the Lord, we'll marry him and the gal offhand at the next station, and the Judge will officiate himself for nothin'. We're goin' to have this yer elopement done on the square—and our waybill clean—you bet!"
"But you don't suppose he'll trust himself in your hands?"
"Polly will signal to him that it's all square."
"Ah!" said the Expressman. Nevertheless in those few moments the men seemed to have exchanged dispositions. The Expressman looked doubtfully, critically, and even cynically before him. Bill's face had relaxed, and something like a bland smile beamed across it, as he drove confidently and unhesitatingly forward.
Day, meantime, although full blown and radiant on the mountain summits around us, was yet nebulous and uncertain in the valleys into which we were plunging. Lights still glimmered in the cabins and few ranch buildings which began to indicate the thicker settlements. And the shadows were heaviest in a little copse, where a note from Judge Thompson in the coach was handed up to Yuba Bill, who at once slowly began to draw up his horses. The coach stopped finally near the junction of a small cross road. At the same moment Miss Mullins slipped down from the vehicle, and, with a parting wave of her hand to the Judge who had assisted her from the steps, tripped down the cross road, and disappeared in its semi-obscurity. To our surprise the stage waited, Bill holding the reins listlessly in his hands. Five minutes passed—an eternity of expectation, and—as there was that in Yuba Bill's face which forbade idle questioning—an aching void of silence also! This was at last broken by a strange voice from the road:
"Go on—we'll follow."
The coach started forward. Presently we heard the sound of other wheels behind us. We all craned our necks backward to get a view of the unknown, but by the growing light we could only see that we were followed at a distance by a buggy with two figures in it. Evidently Polly Mullins and her lover! We hoped that they would pass us. But the vehicle, although drawn by a fast horse, preserved its distance always, and it was plain that its driver had no desire to satisfy our curiosity. The Expressman had recourse to Bill.
"Is it the man you thought of?" he asked, eagerly.
"I reckon," said Bill, briefly.
"But," continued the Expressman, returning to his former scepticism, "what's to keep them both from levanting together now?"
Bill jerked his hand towards the boot with a grim smile.
"Oh!" said the Expressman.
"Yes," continued Bill. "We'll hang on to that gal's little frills and fixin's until this yer job's settled, and the ceremony's over, jest as ef we waz her own father. And, what's more, young man," he added, suddenly turning to the Expressman, "you'll express them trunks of hers through to Sacramento with your kempany's labels, and hand her the receipts and cheques for them, so she can get 'em there. That'll keep him outer temptation and the reach o' the gang, until they get away among white men and civilisation again. When your hoary-headed ole grandfather—or, to speak plainer, that partikler old whiskey-soaker known as Yuba Bill, wot sits on this box," he continued, with a diabolical wink at the Expressman—"waltzes in to pervide for a young couple jest startin' in life, thar's nothin' mean about his style, you bet. He fills the bill every time! Speshul Providences take a back seat when he's around."
When the station hotel and straggling settlement of Sugar Pine, now distinct and clear in the growing light, at last rose within rifleshot on the plateau, the buggy suddenly darted swiftly by us—so swiftly that the faces of the two occupants were barely distinguishable as they passed—and, keeping the lead by a dozen lengths, reached the door of the hotel. The young girl and her companion leaped down and vanished within as we drew up. They had evidently determined to elude our curiosity, and were successful.
But the material appetites of the passengers, sharpened by the keen mountain air, were more potent than their curiosity, and, as the breakfast-bell rang out at the moment the stage stopped, a majority of them rushed into the dining-room and scrambled for places without giving much heed to the vanished couple or to the Judge and Yuba Bill, who had disappeared also. The through coach to Marysville and Sacramento was likewise waiting, for Sugar Pine was the limit of Bill's ministration, and the coach which we had just left went no further. In the course of twenty minutes, however, there was a slight and somewhat ceremonious bustling in the hall and on the verandah, and Yuba Bill and the Judge re-appeared. The latter was leading, with some elaboration of manner and detail, the shapely figure of Miss Mullins, and Yuba Bill was accompanying her companion to the buggy. We all rushed to the windows to get a good view of the mysterious stranger and probable ex-brigand whose life was now linked with our fair fellow-passenger. I am afraid, however, that we all participated in a certain impression of disappointment and doubt. Handsome and even cultivated-looking, he assuredly was—young and vigorous in appearance. But there was a certain half-shamed, half-defiant suggestion in his expression, yet coupled with a watchful lurking uneasiness which was not pleasant and hardly becoming in a bridegroom—and the possessor of such a bride. But the frank, joyous, innocent face of Polly Mullins, resplendent with a simple, happy confidence, melted our hearts again, and condoned the fellow's shortcomings. We waved our hands; I think we would have given three rousing cheers as they drove away if the omnipotent eye of Yuba Bill had not been upon us. It was well, for the next moment we were summoned to the presence of that soft-hearted autocrat.
We found him alone with the Judge in a private sitting-room, standing before a table on which there was a decanter and glasses. As we filed expectantly into the room and the door closed behind us, he cast a glance of hesitating tolerance over the group.
"Gentlemen," he said slowly, "you was all present at the beginnin' of a little game this mornin', and the Judge thar thinks that you oughter be let in at the finish. I don't see that it's any of your d——d business—so to speak—but ez the Judge here allows you're all in the secret, I've called you in to take a partin' drink to the health of Mr. and Mrs. Charley Byng—ez is now comf'ably off on their bridal tower. What you know or what you suspects of the young galoot that's married the gal aint worth shucks to anybody, and I wouldn't give it to a yaller pup to play with, but the Judge thinks you ought all to promise right here that you'll keep it dark. That's his opinion. Ez far as my opinion goes, gen'lmen," continued Bill, with greater blandness and apparent cordiality, "I wanter simply remark, in a keerless, offhand gin'ral way, that ef I ketch any God-forsaken, lop-eared, chuckle-headed blatherin' idjet airin' his opinion——"
"One moment, Bill," interposed Judge Thompson with a grave smile—"let me explain. You understand, gentlemen," he said, turning to us, "the singular, and I may say affecting, situation which our good-hearted friend here has done so much to bring to what we hope will be a happy termination. I want to give here, as my professional opinion, that there is nothing in his request which, in your capacity as good citizens and law-abiding men, you may not grant. I want to tell you, also, that you are condoning no offence against the statutes; that there is not a particle of legal evidence before us of the criminal antecedents of Mr. Charles Byng, except that which has been told you by the innocent lips of his betrothed, which the law of the land has now sealed for ever in the mouth of his wife, and that our own actual experience of his acts have been in the main exculpatory of any previous irregularity—if not incompatible with it. Briefly, no judge would charge, no jury convict, on such evidence. When I add that the young girl is of legal age, that there is no evidence of any previous undue influence, but rather of the reverse, on the part of the bridegroom, and that I was content, as a magistrate, to perform the ceremony, I think you will be satisfied to give your promise, for the sake of the bride, and drink a happy life to them both."
I need not say that we did this cheerfully, and even extorted from Bill a grunt of satisfaction. The majority of the company, however, who were going with the through coach to Sacramento, then took their leave, and, as we accompanied them to the verandah, we could see that Miss Polly Mullins's trunks were already transferred to the other vehicle under the protecting seals and labels of the all-potent Express Company. Then the whip cracked, the coach rolled away, and the last traces of the adventurous young couple disappeared in the hanging red dust of its wheels.
But Yuba Bill's grim satisfaction at the happy issue of the episode seemed to suffer no abatement. He even exceeded his usual deliberately regulated potations, and, standing comfortably with his back to the centre of the now deserted bar-room, was more than usually loquacious with the Expressman. "You see," he said, in bland reminiscence, "when your old Uncle Bill takes hold of a job like this, he puts it straight through without changin' hosses. Yet thar was a moment, young feller, when I thought I was stompt! It was when we'd made up our mind to make that chap tell the gal fust all what he was! Ef she'd rared or kicked in the traces, or hung back only ez much ez that, we'd hev given him jest five minits' law to get up and get and leave her, and we'd hev toted that gal and her fixin's back to her dad again! But she jest gave a little scream and start, and then went off inter hysterics, right on his buzzum, laughing and cryin' and sayin' that nothin' should part 'em. Gosh! if I didn't think he woz more cut up than she about it—a minit it looked as ef he didn't allow to marry her arter all, but that passed, and they was married hard and fast—you bet! I reckon he's had enough of stayin' out o' nights to last him, and ef the valley settlements hevn't got hold of a very shining member, at least the foothills hev got shut of one more of the Ramon Martinez gang."
"What's that about the Ramon Martinez gang?" said a quiet potential voice.
Bill turned quickly. It was the voice of the Divisional Superintendent of the Express Company—a man of eccentric determination of character, and one of the few whom the autocratic Bill recognised as an equal—who had just entered the bar-room. His dusty pongee cloak and soft hat indicated that he had that morning arrived on a round of inspection.
"Don't care if I do, Bill," he continued, in response to Bill's invitatory gesture, walking to the bar. "It's a little raw out on the road. Well, what were you saying about Ramon Martinez gang? You haven't come across one of 'em, have you?"
"No," said Bill, with a slight blinking of his eye, as he ostentatiously lifted his glass to the light.
"And you won't," added the Superintendent, leisurely sipping his liquor. "For the fact is, the gang is about played out. Not from want of a job now and then, but from the difficulty of disposing of the results of their work. Since the new instructions to the agents to identify and trace all dust and bullion offered to them went into force, you see, they can't get rid of their swag. All the gang are spotted at the offices, and it costs too much for them to pay a fence or a middleman of any standing. Why, all that flaky river gold they took from the Excelsior Company can be identified as easy as if it was stamped with the company's mark. They can't melt it down themselves; they can't get others to do it for them; they can't ship it to the Mint or Assay Offices in Marysville and 'Frisco, for they won't take it without our certificate and seals, and we don't take any undeclared freight within the lines that we've drawn around their beat, except from people and agents known. Why, you know that well enough, Jim," he said, suddenly appealing to the Expressman, "don't you?"
Possibly the suddenness of the appeal caused the Expressman to swallow his liquor the wrong way, for he was overtaken with a fit of coughing, and stammered hastily as he laid down his glass, "Yes—of course—certainly."
"No, sir," resumed the Superintendent cheerfully, "they're pretty well played out. And the best proof of it is that they've lately been robbing ordinary passengers' trunks. There was a freight waggon 'held up' near Dow's Flat the other day, and a lot of baggage gone through. I had to go down there to look into it. Darned if they hadn't lifted a lot o' woman's wedding things from that rich couple who got married the other day out at Marysville. Looks as if they were playing it rather low down, don't it? Coming down to hard pan and the bed rock—eh?"
The Expressman's face was turned anxiously towards Bill, who, after a hurried gulp of his remaining liquor, still stood staring at the window. Then he slowly drew on one of his large gloves. "Ye didn't," he said, with a slow, drawling, but perfectly distinct, articulation, "happen to know old 'Skinner' Hemmings when you were over there?"
"And his daughter?"
"He hasn't got any."
"A sort o' mild, innocent, guileless child of nature?" persisted Bill, with a yellow face, a deadly calm and Satanic deliberation.
"No. I tell you he hasn't any daughter. Old man Hemmings is a confirmed old bachelor. He's too mean to support more than one."
"And you didn't happen to know any o' that gang, did ye?" continued Bill, with infinite protraction.
"Yes. Knew 'em all. There was French Pete, Cherokee Bob, Kanaka Joe, One-eyed Stillson, Softy Brown, Spanish Jack, and two or three Greasers."
"And ye didn't know a man by the name of Charley Byng?"
"No," returned the Superintendent, with a slight suggestion of weariness and a distraught glance towards the door.
"A dark, stylish chap, with shifty black eyes and a curled up merstache?" continued Bill, with dry, colourless persistence.
"No. Look here, Bill, I'm in a little bit of a hurry—but I suppose you must have your little joke before we part. Now, what is your little game?"
"Wot you mean?" demanded Bill, with sudden brusqueness.
"Mean? Well, old man, you know as well as I do. You're giving me the very description of Ramon Martinez himself, ha! ha! No—Bill! you didn't play me this time. You're mighty spry and clever, but you didn't catch on just then."
He nodded and moved away with a light laugh. Bill turned a stony face to the Expressman. Suddenly a gleam of mirth came into his gloomy eyes. He bent over the young man, and said in a hoarse, chuckling whisper:
"But I got even after all!"
"He's tied up to that lying little she-devil, hard and fast!"
THE MODERN BABYLON.
The day is done for honest thriving Through Speculation's reckless driving.
Your distance Madam, for you see You dare not, unless I agree
MY FIRST BOOKS.
"UNDERTONES" AND "IDYLS AND LEGENDS OF INVERBURN."
BY ROBERT BUCHANAN.
ILLUSTRATIONS BY GEORGE HUTCHINSON.
(PHOTOGRAPHS BY MESSRS. FRADELLE AND YOUNG.)
My first serious effort in Literature was what I may call a double-barrelled one; in other words, I was seriously engaged upon Two Books at the same time, and it was by the merest accident that they did not appear simultaneously. As it was, only a few months divided one from the other, and they are always, in my own mind, inseparable, or Siamese, twins. The book of poems called Undertones was the one; the book of poems called Idyls and Legends of Inverburn was the other. They were published nearly thirty years ago, when I was still a boy, and as they happened to bring me into connection, more or less intimately, with some of the leading spirits of the age, a few notes concerning them may be of interest.
A word, first, as to my literary beginnings. I can scarcely remember the time when the idea of winning fame as an author had not occurred to me, and so I determined very early to adopt the literary profession, a determination which I unfortunately carried out, to my own life-long discomfort, and the annoyance of a large portion of the reading public. When a boy in Glasgow, I made the acquaintance of David Gray, who was fired with a similar ambition to fly incontinently to London—
The terrible City whose neglect is Death, Whose smile is Fame!
and to take it by storm. It seemed so easy! "Westminster Abbey," wrote my friend to a correspondent; "if I live, I shall be buried there—so help me God!" "I mean, after Tennyson's death," I myself wrote to Philip Hamerton, "to be Poet-laureate!" From these samples of our callow speech, the modesty of our ambition may be inferred. Well, it all happened just as we planned, only otherwise! Through some blunder of arrangement we two started for London on the same day, but from different railway stations, and, until some weeks afterwards, one knew nothing of the other's exodus. I arrived at King's Cross Railway Station with the conventional half-crown in my pocket; literally and absolutely, half-a-crown; I wandered about the Great City till I was weary, fell in with a Thief and Good Samaritan who sheltered me, starved and struggled with abundant happiness, and finally found myself located at 66, Stamford Street, Waterloo Bridge, in a top room, for which I paid, when I had the money, seven shillings a week. Here I lived royally, with Duke Humphrey, for many a day; and hither, one sad morning, I brought my poor friend Gray, whom I had discovered languishing somewhere in the Borough, and who was already death-struck through "sleeping out" one night in Hyde Park. "Westminster Abbey—if I live, I shall be buried there!" Poor country singing-bird, the great Dismal Cage of the Dead was not for him, thank God! He lies under the open Heaven, close to the little river which he immortalised in song. After a brief sojourn in the "dear old ghastly bankrupt garret at No. 66," he fluttered home to die.
To that old garret, in these days, came living men of letters who were of large and important interest to us poor cheepers from the North: Richard Monckton Milnes, Laurence Oliphant, Sydney Dobell, among others, who took a kindly interest in my dying comrade. But afterwards, when I was left to fight the battle alone, the place was solitary. Ever reserved and independent, not to say "dour" and opinionated, I made no friends, and cared for none. I had found a little work on the newspapers and magazines, just enough to keep body and soul alive, and while occupied with this I was busy on the literary Twins to which I referred at the opening of this paper. What did my isolation matter, when I had all the gods of Greece for company, to say nothing of the fays and trolls of Scottish Fairyland? Pallas and Aphrodite haunted that old garret; out on Waterloo Bridge, night after night, I saw Selene and all her nymphs; and when my heart sank low, the Fairies of Scotland sang me lullabies! It was a happy time. Sometimes, for a fortnight together, I never had a dinner—save, perhaps, on Sunday, when a good-natured Hebe would bring me covertly a slice from the landlord's joint. My favourite place of refreshment was the Caledonian Coffee House in Covent Garden. Here, for a few coppers, I could feast on coffee and muffins—muffins saturated with butter, and worthy of the gods! Then, issuing forth, full-fed, glowing, oleaginous, I would light my pipe, and wander out into the lighted streets.
Criticisms for the Athenaeum, then edited by Hepworth Dixon, brought me ten-and-sixpence a column. I used to go to the old office in Wellington Street and have my contributions measured off on the current number with a foot-rule, by good old John Francis, the publisher. I wrote, too, for the Literary Gazette, where the pay was less princely—seven-and-sixpence a column, I think, but with all extracts deducted! The Gazette was then edited by John Morley, who came to the office daily with a big dog. "I well remember the time when you, a boy, came to me, a boy, in Catherine Street," wrote honest John to me years afterwards. But the neighbourhood of Covent Garden had greater wonders! Two or three times a week, walking, black bag in hand, from Charing Cross Station to the office of All the Year Round in Wellington Street, came the good, the only Dickens! From that good Genie the poor straggler from Fairyland got solid help and sympathy. Few can realise now what Dickens was then to London. His humour filled its literature like broad sunlight; the Gospel of Plum-pudding warmed every poor devil in Bohemia.
At this time, I was (save the mark!) terribly in earnest, with a dogged determination to bow down to no graven literary Idol, but to judge men of all ranks on their personal merits. I never had much reverence for Gods of any sort; if the Superior Persons could not win me by love, I remained heretical. So it was a long time before I came close to any living souls, and all that time I was working away at my poems. Then, a little later, I used to go o' Sundays to the open house of Westland Marston, which was then a great haunt of literary Bohemians. Here I first met Dinah Muloch, the author of John Halifax, who took a great fancy to me, used to carry me off to her little nest on Hampstead Heath, and lend me all her books. At Hampstead, too, I foregathered with Sydney Dobell, a strangely beautiful soul, with (what seemed to me then) very effeminate manners. Dobell's mouth was ever full of very pretty Latinity, for the most part Virgilian. He was fond of quoting, as an example of perfect expression, sound conveying absolute sense of the thing described, the doggrel lines—
"Down the stairs the young missises ran To have a look at Miss Kate's young man!"
The sibilants in the first line, he thought, admirably suggested the idea of the young ladies slipping along the banisters and peeping into the hall!
But I had other friends, more helpful to me in preparing my first twin-offering to the Muses: the faces under the gas, the painted women on the Bridge (how many a night have I walked up and down by their sides, and talked to them for hours together), the actors in the theatres, the ragged groups at the stage doors, London to me, then, was still Fairyland! Even in the Haymarket, with its babbles of Nymph and Satyr, there was wonderful life from midnight to dawn—deep sympathy with which told me that I was a born Pagan, and could never be really comfortable in any modern Temple of the Proprieties. On other points connected with that old life on the borders of Bohemia, I need not touch; it has all been so well done already by Murger, in the Vie de Boheme, and it will not bear translation into contemporary English. There were cakes and ale, pipes and beer, and ginger was hot in the mouth too! Et ego fui in Bohemia! There were inky fellows and bouncing girls, then; now there are only fine ladies, and respectable, God-fearing men of letters.
It was while the Twins were fashioning, that I went down in summer time to live at Chertsey on the Thames, chiefly in order to be near to one I had long admired, Thomas Love Peacock, the friend of Shelley and the author of Headling Hall—"Greekey Peekey," as they called him, on account of his prodigious knowledge of things and books Hellenic. I soon grew to love the dear old man, and sat at his feet, like an obedient pupil, in his green old-fashioned garden at Lower Halliford. To him I first read some of my Undertones, getting many a rap over the knuckles for my sacrilegious tampering with Divine Myths. What mercy could I expect from one who had never forgiven "Johnny" Keats for his frightful perversion of the sacred mystery of Endymion and Selene? and who was horrified at the base "modernism" of Shelley's "Prometheus Unbound?" But to think of it! He had known Shelley, and all the rest of the demigods, and his speech was golden with memories of them all! Dear old Pagan, wonderful in his death as in his life. When, shortly before he died, his house caught fire, and the mild curate of the parish begged him to withdraw from the library of books he loved so well, he flatly refused to listen, and cried roundly, in a line of vehement blank verse, "By the immortal gods, I will not stir!" 
Under such auspices, and with all the ardour of youth to help, my Book, or Books, progressed. Meantime, I was breaking out into poetry in the magazines, and writing "criticism" by the yard. At last the time came when I remembered another friend with whom I had corresponded, and whose advice I thought I might now ask with some confidence. This was George Henry Lewes, to whom, when I was a boy in Glasgow, I had sent a bundle of manuscript, with the blunt question, "Am I, or am I not, a Poet?" To my delight he had replied to me with a qualified affirmative, saying that in the productions he had "discerned a real faculty, and perhaps a future poet. I say perhaps," he added, "because I do not know your age, and because there are so many poetical blossoms which never come to fruit." He had, furthermore, advised me "to write as much as I felt impelled to write, but to publish nothing"—at any rate, for a couple of years. Three years had passed, and I had neither published anything—that is to say, in book form—nor had I had any further communication with my kind correspondent. To Lewes, then, I wrote, reminding him of our correspondence, telling him that I had waited, not two years, but three, and that I now felt inclined to face the public. I soon received an answer, the result of which was that I went, on Lewes's invitation, to the Priory, North Bank, Regent's Park, and met my friend and his partner, better known as "George Eliot."
But, as the novelists say, I am anticipating. Sick to death, David Gray had returned to the cottage of his father, the hand-loom weaver, at Kirkintilloch, and there had peacefully passed away, leaving as his legacy to the world the volume of beautiful poems published under the auspices of Lord Houghton. I knew of his death the hour he died; awaking in my bed, I was certain of my loss, and spoke of it (long before the formal news reached me) to a temporary companion. This by the way; but what is more to the purpose is that my first grief for a beloved comrade had expressed itself in the words which were to form the "proem" of my first book—
Poet gentle hearted, Are you then departed, And have you ceased to dream the dream we loved of old so well? Has the deeply-cherish'd Aspiration perished, And are you happy, David, in that heaven where you dwell? Have you found the secret We, so wildly, sought for, And is your soul enswath'd at last in the singing robes you fought for?
Full of my dead friend, I spoke of him to Lewes and George Eliot, telling them the piteous story of his life and death. Both were deeply touched, and Lewes cried, "Tell that story to the public"; which I did, immediately afterwards, in the Cornhill Magazine. By this time I had my Twins ready, and had discovered a publisher for one of them, Undertones. The other, Idyls and Legends of Inverburn, was a ruggeder bantling, containing almost the first blank verse poems ever written in Scottish dialect. I selected one of the poems, "Willie Baird," and showed it to Lewes. He expressed himself delighted, and asked for more. I then showed him the "Two Babes." "Better and better!" he wrote; "publish a volume of such poems and your position is assured." More than this, he at once found me a publisher, Mr. George Smith, of Messrs. Smith and Elder, who offered me a good round sum (such it seemed to me then) for the copyright. Eventually, however, after "Willie Baird" had been published in the Cornhill, I withdrew the manuscript from Messrs. Smith and Elder, and transferred it to Mr. Alexander Strahan, who offered me both more liberal terms and more enthusiastic appreciation.
It was just after the appearance of my story of David Gray in the Cornhill that I first met, at the Priory, North Bank, with Robert Browning. It was an odd and representative gathering of men, only one lady being present, the hostess, George Eliot. I was never much of a hero-worshipper; but I had long been a sympathetic Browningite, and I well remember George Eliot taking me aside after my first tete-a-tete with the poet, and saying, "Well, what do you think of him? Does he come up to your ideal?" He didn't quite, I must confess, but I afterwards learned to know him well and to understand him better. He was delighted with my statement that one of Gray's wild ideas was to rush over to Florence and "throw himself on the sympathy of Robert Browning."
Phantoms of these first books of mine, how they begin to rise around me! Faces of friends and counsellors that have flown for ever; the sibylline Marian Evans with her long, weird, dreamy face; Lewes, with his big brow and keen thoughtful eyes; Browning, pale and spruce, his eye like a skipper's cocked-up at the weather; Peacock, with his round, mellifluous speech of the old Greeks; David Gray, great-eyed and beautiful, like Shelley's ghost; Lord Houghton, with his warm worldly smile and easy-fitting enthusiasm. Where are they all now? Where are the roses of last summer, the snows of yester year? I passed by the Priory to-day, and it looked like a great lonely Tomb. In those days, the house where I live now was not built; all up here Hampstead-ways was grass and fields. It was over these fields that Herbert Spencer and George Eliot used to walk on their way to Hampstead Heath. The Sibyl has gone, but the great Philosopher still remains, to brighten the sunshine. It was not my luck to know him then—would it had been!—but he is my friend and neighbour in these latter days, and, thanks to him, I still get glimpses of the manners of the old gods.
With the publication of my two first books, I was fairly launched, I may say, on the stormy waters of literature. When the Athenaeum told its readers that "this was poetry, and of a noble kind," and when Lewes vowed in the Fortnightly Review that even if I "never wrote another line, my place among the pastoral poets would be undisputed," I suppose I felt happy enough—far more happy than any praise could make me now. Poor little pigmy in a cockle-boat, I thought Creation was ringing with my name! I think I must have seemed rather conceited and "bounceable," for I have a vivid remembrance of a Fortnightly dinner at the Star and Garter, Richmond, when Anthony Trollope, angry with me for expressing a doubt about the poetical greatness of Horace, wanted to fling a decanter at my head! It was about this time that an omniscient publisher, after an interview with me, exclaimed (the circumstance is historical), "I don't like that young man; he talked to me as if he was God Almighty, or Lord Byron!" But in sober truth, I never had the sort of conceit with which men credited me; I merely lacked gullibility, and saw, at the first glance, the whole unmistakable humbug and insincerity of the Literary Life. I think still that, as a rule, the profession of letters narrows the sympathy and warps the intelligence. When I saw the importance which a great man or woman could attach to a piece of perfunctory criticism, when I saw the care with which this Eminent Person "humoured his reputation," and the anxiety with which that Eminent Person concealed his true character, I found my young illusions very rapidly fading. On one occasion, when George Eliot was very much pestered by an unknown lady, an insignificant individual, who had thrust herself somewhat pertinaciously upon her, she turned to me and asked, with a smile, for my opinion? I gave it, rudely enough, to the effect that it was good for "distinguished people" to be reminded occasionally of how very small consequence they really were, in the mighty life of the World!
From that time until the present I have pursued the vocation into which fatal Fortune, during boyhood, incontinently thrust me, and have subsisted, ill sometimes, well sometimes, by a busy pen. I may, therefore, with a certain experience, if with little authority, imitate those who have preceded me in giving reminiscences of their first literary beginnings, and offer a few words of advice to my younger brethren—to those persons, I mean, who are entering the profession of Literature. To begin with, I entirely agree with Mr. Grant Allen in his recent avowal that Literature is the poorest and least satisfactory of all professions; I will go even further, and affirm that it is one of the least ennobling. With a fairly extensive knowledge of the writers of my own period, I can honestly say that I have scarcely met one individual who has not deteriorated morally by the pursuit of literary Fame. For complete literary success among contemporaries, it is imperative that a man should either have no real opinions, or be able to conceal such as he possesses, that he should have one eye on the market and the other on the public journals, that he should humbug himself into the delusion that book-writing is the highest work in the Universe, and that he should regulate his likes and dislikes by one law, that of expediency. If his nature is in arms against anything that is rotten in Society or in Literature itself, he must be silent. Above all, he must lay this solemn truth to heart, that when the World speaks well of him the World will demand the price of praise, and that price will possibly be his living Soul. He may tinker, he may trim, he may succeed, he may be buried in Westminster Abbey, he may hear before he dies all the people saying, "How good and great he is! how perfect is his art! how gloriously he embodies the Tendencies of his Time!" but he will know all the same that the price has been paid, and that his living Soul has gone, to furnish that whitewashed Sepulchre, a Blameless Reputation.
For one other thing, also, the Neophyte in Literature had better be prepared. He will never be able to subsist by creative writing unless it so happens that the form of expression he chooses is popular in form (fiction, for example), and even in that case, the work he does, if he is to live by it, must be in harmony with the social and artistic status quo. Revolt of any kind is always disagreeable. Three-fourths of the success of Lord Tennyson (to take an example) was due to the fact that this fine poet regarded Life and all its phenomena from the standpoint of the English public school, that he ethically and artistically embodied the sentiments of our excellent middle-class education. His great American contemporary, Whitman, in some respects the most commanding spirit of this generation, gained only a few disciples, and was entirely misunderstood and neglected by contemporary criticism. Another prosperous writer, to whom I have already alluded, George Eliot, enjoyed enormous popularity in her lifetime, while the most strenuous and passionate novelist of her period, Charles Reade, was entirely distanced by her in the immediate race for Fame. In Literature, as in all things, manners and costume are most important; the hall-mark of contemporary success is perfect Respectability. It is not respectable to be too candid on any subject, religious, moral, or political. It is very respectable to say, or imply, that this country is the best of all possible countries, that War is a noble institution, that the Protestant Religion is grandly liberal, and that social evils are only diversified forms of social good. Above all, to be respectable, one must have "beautiful ideas." "Beautiful ideas" are the very best stock-in-trade a young writer can begin with. They are indispensable to every complete literary outfit. Without them, the short cut to Parnassus will never be discovered, even though one starts from Rugby.
BY P. VON SCHOeNTHAN.
ILLUSTRATED BY J. GUeLICH.
Balder had begged me to give him a bed for the night. He was going to a ball that evening, and had business early the following morning in Berlin. He lived in such an out-of-the-way suburb that it would be quite impossible for him to go home to sleep. I was only too delighted to be of service to him. Although I could not offer him a bed, it would be easy to improvise a shakedown on which he could have a few hours' rest. I set to work at once, and did the best I could for him, using a bundle of rags for the pillows, and my old dressing-gown for the mattress. When Balder saw it, he declared that nothing could be more to his taste.
It was long past midnight, when I was awakened from a refreshing sleep by somebody fumbling with a key at the lock of my door. Several bungling attempts were made before the key was fitted into the lock successfully. At last, Balder walked into my room. He presented rather a comical appearance, with his crush-hat on one side of his head like the leaning tower of Pisa, and a short overcoat, with his long tail-coat peeping beneath. His face was flushed, partly with excitement, and he appeared possessed of a burning desire to relate his adventures to somebody. I had been looking at him with one eye; the other, nearest him, I kept tight shut, and did not move, for I had no desire to enter into conversation with him. But my friend was not so easily shaken in his purpose; he came close to my bedside, stepping on my boot-jack, so that it fell over with a terrible noise, and held the lighted candle within a few inches of my nose. It was impossible for even the most shameless shammer of sleep to hold out any longer. I opened my eyes, and said in the sleepiest tone I could assume:
"Famously, my dear fellow," answered Balder, seating himself on the side of my bed, although I forestalled his intention, and left hardly an inch for him to sit on. Then he entered into a long and not very lucid rigmarole on souls which are destined to come together. The story was rendered all the more difficult to understand from the fact that I kept falling asleep, and dreaming between his rhapsodies; but I gathered that Balder had met with a young Spanish lady at the mask ball, who apparently possessed the soul which he was fated to meet, and that she was the only person on earth who could make him happy. He had spent the whole evening with her, and she had promised to meet him at the next ball. At his request she had lifted her veil for one instant, revealing a face of Madonna-like beauty. It was a simple story, but when a man's brain is fired with love he lingers over it. The words grace, Southern colouring, eyes like a gazelle, etc., must have been repeated very often, for I dreamed later on that I was repeating them to myself.
I bore it all patiently, for hospitality is a sacred duty, and, besides, the state which Balder's mind was in demanded and deserved consideration.
As he went on with his story, he raised his voice, perhaps to rouse my flagging attention. Suddenly, somebody coughed in the next room. It was not a natural cough, but an artificial one, evidently intended by my landlady to serve as a gentle reminder that at two o'clock in the morning all respectable people should be in bed and quiet. My room was only separated from the apartment in which my landlady and her daughter slept by a door, which was hidden on either side by a high wardrobe, through which, in spite of this precaution, voices could be heard very distinctly. I informed Balder of this fact, but, unfortunately, he utterly refused to take my advice and go quietly to bed. He said he could not sleep, and, unhappily, catching sight of my coffee-machine, he added that he would like some coffee.
"Sleep if you can," he said; "I can manage it all for myself." He then removed his coat, dressed himself in the dressing-gown which acted as his mattress, and started to get some water from the kitchen, knocking things down on the way, and opening and shutting all the wrong doors. I became resigned, and made up my mind not to waste my breath on any fresh warnings. Somebody else coughed. It was Fraeulein Lieschen this time, my landlady's daughter. At any other time, Balder himself would have shown more consideration.
Most extraordinary noises proceeded from the water-tap in the kitchen. At last the kitchen door banged, and Balder re-appeared again. I expressed my regret that I had no methylated spirit, but he said it did not matter, and catching hold of a bottle of my expensive brandy, poured a lot into the lamp. Then he sat gazing into the blue flame without blinking.
Crash! went the glass globe, and the boiling water poured all over the table and put out the fire. I sprang out of my bed. "Good gracious!" I exclaimed, "the whole thing will explode." He said nothing, but began to pick up the hot pieces of glass patiently. The coughing in the next room became louder than ever.
"For heaven's sake!" I went on, "try to be quiet if you can. The people in the next room want to go to sleep. Don't you hear them coughing?"
"Well! I never heard of such impudence! That coughing has disturbed me for some time. Anybody would think you'd got into an almshouse for old women—Where is the sugar?"
"Up there, in the cigar-box. But don't knock that rapier down."
Balder climbed up on a cane chair. It gave way. Klirr! The rapier fell on the floor, and Balder with it.
"Confound you, do take care. Didn't I warn you?" An energetic knocking at the door of communication interrupted me.
"Herr Reif, I must really beg you to be quiet," called my landlady's daughter, not by any means in her sweetest tones. "We've been kept awake for the last hour."
"That's nothing to us," said Balder from the floor, where he was groping for the rapier that had rolled under the wardrobe.
"Do be quiet! That is my landlady's daughter, a very respectable girl—"
"Well, is nobody respectable except her? What do you pay rent for?" His face grew red with rage, and, placing his mouth close to the door, he called out, "What do you want with Reif? He's in bed. I only wanted to reach down the sugar, and the old rapier fell on my head—a thing that might happen to anybody! Just lie down quietly and go to sleep. Such a fuss about nothing! Are we in a hospital?"
"Do be quiet, Balder!" I begged, and my pleading at least had the effect of silencing whatever else was on his tongue. He thought no more of the sugar, but sat at the table and drank his self-brewed coffee without it. When he had finished it he lighted a cigarette, at which he puffed away till the room was full of smoke. As I lay and looked at him, I fell into that peaceful state in which dreaming and reality are so much mixed that it is hard to distinguish between them. And then Balder disappeared in clouds of smoke, and I heard and saw no more. I was awakened again by a light being held near my face. Balder was standing at my bedside with the candle in his hand. "Ah! I'm glad you've been asleep again!" he said, as I half-opened my eyes and looked at him. "I want to make a poem to my Spaniard. Have you got a rhyming dictionary anywhere about?"
"There, on the lowest shelf of the bookcase, but do be quiet."
He got the book without knocking anything down; refilled his coffee-cup, and leant back in his chair, and murmured—
"Where shall I meet thee? On the Guadelquiver? "On the Sequara? On the fair Zucar? "Or any other far-off Spanish river....."
Sleep again overpowered me, and I knew nothing till I was awakened by a noisy discussion taking place close to me. Balder stood with his face to the door, engaged in a hot dispute with my neighbours.
"The devil himself couldn't collect his thoughts with that coughing going on," he was saying as I woke up.
"I was coughing to make you quiet, that endless murmuring made me so nervous!" cried Fraeulein Lieschen, her voice trembling with annoyance.
"I'm writing a poem, I tell you, and when one is composing a poem one must murmur. If you can't sleep through it, you can't be healthy. You must have eaten too much supper, or something. You can congratulate yourself that you've got such a lodger as Reif. Do you understand me? If you had me I'd teach you——"
Again and again, in as persuasive a voice as I could assume, I begged the orator at the wardrobe to put an end to the speech he was delivering on his views of a landlady's duties towards her tenants. At length my patience gave way, and, sitting up in bed, I commanded him in a voice of authority to give, over his poetry and recitation, and to blow out the light and get into bed. Balder at length seemed to realise that he was trespassing on my hospitality, and that a certain amount of respect was due to my wishes as his host. He became silent; put his manuscript carefully into my dressing-gown pocket; cast one last fiery glance at the door, and retired to bed.
I do not know if he saw the daughter of sunny Spain, with her gazelle-like eyes in his dreams, but I do know that he snored as if he were dreaming of a saw-mill.
About three hours later, the winter daylight struggled into the room. Balder got up and dressed himself as quietly as a mouse. He seemed as though he was trying to make up for the disturbance he had made in the night, or, rather, in the morning. He excused himself most politely for waking me up, but said that he felt that he could not leave without saying good-bye, and thanking me for my kind hospitality. Then he left the room, closing the door softly behind him. At the same moment, I heard the door of my landlady's room open. Half a minute's dead silence followed, and then Balder fell back into my room like one stunned.
"Who is that girl that came out of the next room?" he asked breathlessly.
"Fraeulein Lieschen, of course, the daughter of my landlady, to whom you were kind enough to deliver a lecture in the middle of the night——"
"She is my Spanish girl!" he gasped, grinding his teeth, and shaking his head disconsolately. He took a long time to recover himself. He sat down again on the side of my bed, as he had done on his return from the ball. But in what a different mood! He made me swear to him that I would never reveal his name to Fraeulein Lieschen, but that I would excuse him without giving any clue to his identity, for the disturbance he had caused in the night. This duty I willingly undertook.
Fraeulein Lieschen, who was a good-natured girl, looked at the matter from the comical side, and readily accepted my unknown friend's apology; and whenever we met on the stairs after that, she would say jokingly, "Please remember me to your funny friend!"
"LIONS IN THEIR DENS."
V.—THE LORD LIEUTENANT AT DUBLIN CASTLE.
BY RAYMOND BLATHWAYT.
(PHOTOGRAPHS AND ILLUSTRATIONS BY LAFAYETTE, OF DUBLIN, AND BYRNE, OF RICHMOND.)
The Lord Lieutenant's sister, Mrs. Arthur Henniker, who is helping him to do the honours of the Castle, and whom I had known in London, Mr. Fulke Greville, and I, were wandering round the curious old-fashioned buildings and courtyards that constitute the domain of Dublin Castle one bright breezy day in early spring. A military band was playing opposite the principal entrance, whilst the guard was being mounted in precisely the same manner as at the guard mounting at St. James's. The scene was brilliant and inspiriting in the extreme. As we passed through an archway we came somewhat suddenly upon the massive Round Tower, from the top of which floated the Union Jack, and which dates back to a period not later than that of King John. Close to the Round Tower, which bears so curious a resemblance to the still more magnificent tower of the same name at Windsor, is the Chapel Royal. Here we found the guardian, a quaint, and garrulous and most obliging old person, waiting to show us over the handsome, albeit somewhat gloomy, building. Very exact and particular was our cicerone in pointing out to us the old fourteenth century painted windows, the special pews reserved for His Excellency, and the ladies and gentlemen of the court; the coats of arms belonging to the various Governors of Ireland, extending over a period of many hundreds of years—all these, I say, he carefully pointed out, drawing especial attention to one over which, at the moment, a thin ray of golden sunlight was falling, and which, he informed me, was the coat of arms of the Earl of Rochester—poor Rochester, the gay, the witty, the wicked, and the repentant. On quitting the chapel we began to ascend, under the auspices of another guide, a tremendously steep staircase, which is cut inside the fifteen-feet stone wall which leads to the chamber in the Round Tower wherein the Ulster King-at-Arms preserves the ancient records of the Castle. On our pilgrimage up this weary flight of stairs the guide drew our attention to a gloomy little dungeon, cut out of the thickness of the wall, in which there is but little light, and wherein the musty smell of ages is plainly discernible. "This," whispered Mr. Greville in my ear, "reminds me of Mark Twain's 'Innocents Abroad.'" After a glance at the record chamber, which was crammed with documents, we passed, with a sense of relief, into the bright sunny air and the large courtyard, round which are built the handsome lofty stables in which the Castle horses—of which there are an immense number—are kept, and which stables, Colonel Forster, the Master of the Horse, told me, are upwards of two hundred years old.
"And now, Mr. Blathwayt," said Mrs. Henniker, as we passed the two sentries on guard at the entrance to the great hall, and proceeded up a staircase lined with rifles and through long sunlit corridors, "you must come with me to my own special sanctum, and rest yourself, after the object lessons in history which we have been giving you this morning." Here, in a lofty, white-panelled room, with long windows looking down upon the private gardens of the Castle in which His Excellency and Captain Streatfield, one of the A.D.C.'s, were walking up and down, Mrs. Henniker and I sat talking of the past almost more than we did of the actual present. For, though my hostess is quite a young woman, yet as a daughter of the celebrated Richard Monckton Milnes, the first Lord Houghton, she cannot fail to have the most delightful reminiscences of the many celebrities with whom her father was so fond of filling his house.
"But," said she, "proud as I am of my father, I am quite as proud of my grandfather, Richard Pemberton Milnes, for he was only twenty-two years of age when he refused the choice of a seat in the Cabinet, either as Chancellor of the Exchequer or Secretary at War. My grandmother, Mrs. Pemberton Milnes, in her diary for 1809, says that one morning, while we were at breakfast, a king's messenger drove up in a post-chaise and four with a despatch from Mr. Perceval, offering my husband the choice of a seat in the Cabinet. Mr. Milnes immediately said, 'Oh, no, I will not accept either; with my temperament I should be dead in a year.' And nothing could induce him to do so either," continued Mrs. Henniker, "nor could he be induced to accept the Peerage which was offered him by Lord Palmerston in 1856."
"But your father was not so rigid in his views as your grandfather, was he, Mrs. Henniker?" said I.
"No," she replied, "certainly he was not, although I don't think that he quitted the House of Commons, which he always loved, without a pang of real regret. Amongst the many kind congratulations he received—for no man ever had more friends—was a very pretty one from his old friend, Mrs. Proctor, in which she said:
"'He enters from the common air Into that temple dim; He learns among those ermined Peers The diplomatic hymn. His Peers? Alas! when will they learn To grow up Peers to him?'"
"You must have met many interesting people at your father's house?" I observed, during the course of our conversation.
"Why, yes," replied she, with an amused smile, "don't you know the ridiculous story that Mr. Wemyss Reid, in his charming biography of my father, tells, and which, indeed, I believe was first told by Sir Henry Taylor, in his autobiography? I will tell it you. You know my father was acquainted with everybody, and his greatest pleasure in life was to introduce the notoriety of the moment to the leading members of English Society. On the particular occasion on which this story was told, it is alleged that somebody asked whether a certain murderer—it was Courvoisier, I think, the valet who killed his master—had been hanged that morning, and my aunt immediately answered, 'I hope so, or Richard will have him to his breakfast party next Thursday.' But this story, Mr. Blathwayt, is really absolutely without foundation. I have here," continued Mrs. Henniker, "a very interesting book of autographs, which I have kept for as far back as I can remember, and in which everybody who came to our house had to write their names," and as she spoke she placed in my hands a large volume, on every page of which was a photograph and an autograph. There was Lecky, the historian; and Trench, the late Archbishop of Dublin; Sir Richard Burton, the traveller; and Owen Meredith, the poet. There was a portrait of Swinburne when quite a young man, together with his autograph. "I have known Mr. Swinburne all my life," remarked Mrs. Henniker. "I used to play croquet with him when I was quite a little girl, and laugh at him because he used to get in such a passion when I won the game." There was John Bright's signature, there was that of Philippe d'Orleans and General Chanzy, and last, but not least, there was that of Charles Dickens.
"My father," explained Mrs. Henniker, "was a very old friend of Dickens, and, curiously enough, his grandmother was a housekeeper at Crewe Hall, where my mother was born, and I have often heard her say that the greatest treat that could be given her and her brother and sister was an afternoon in the housekeeper's room at Crewe, for Mrs. Dickens was a splendid story-teller, and used to love to gather the children round her and tell them fairy stories. And so it was only natural that my mother should feel a special interest in Charles Dickens, when she came to know him in after life. I believe that the very last time that he ever dined out was at my father's house, when a dinner was specially arranged to enable the Prince of Wales and the King of the Belgians to make his acquaintance. Even at that time, poor man, he was suffering so much from rheumatic gout that he had to remain in the dining room until the guests had assembled, so that he was introduced to the Prince at the dinner table. I might mention that Dean Stanley wrote to my father, asking him to be one of those who should place before him the proposal that Charles Dickens should be buried in the Abbey."
Amongst the many interesting letters and papers that Mrs. Henniker showed me was one from Mr. Gladstone to herself congratulating her on her first novel "Sir George," for Mrs. Henniker, notwithstanding the rather unfortunate fact that she has many social duties to attend to, which must necessarily hinder her in what would otherwise be a brilliant literary career, is a remarkably fine writer of a certain class of fiction, and notably of what may be termed the Society novel. But almost better than her novels, of which she has produced some two or three within the last few years, are her short stories, of which she published one, a singularly able study of lower middle-class life, in an early number of the "Speaker," and which many of the readers of that journal will remember under the title of a "Bank Holiday." With reference to "Sir George," Mr. Gladstone, who is a very old friend of her family, wrote: "My dear Mrs. Henniker,—It is, I admit, with fear and trembling that I commonly open a novel which is presented to me." He then goes on to speak in strong terms of eulogy of the book which she had sent to him. The letter was not without a special interest as giving one a glimpse into the mind of the G.O.M. on what must be one of the most arduous duties of his hardworking life. Referring to the publication of her most recent novel, "Foiled," which is a depiction of Society life as it actually is, and not, as is so frequently the case, of the writer's imagination as to what Society is or should be, I asked Mrs. Henniker if she wrote her stories from life.
"Well," she replied, "of course there is a general idea in my stories which is taken from the life I see around me, but, as a rule, I draw from my own imagination. I am a very quick writer, and I wrote 'Sir George' in one summer holiday. Mr. T. P. O'Connor wanted me to write a novel to start the new edition of his Sunday paper with, but, unfortunately, I had none ready. I find myself that, for character sketching, next to studying people from life, the best thing is to carefully go through the writings of such people as Alfred de Musset, whose little caprices are so delicate. I think that the best Society novelists at present, who write with a real knowledge of the people they are describing, are W. E. Norris, Julian Sturgis, and Rhoda Broughton." We continued in conversation for some time longer, until the time came for afternoon tea, when Mrs. Henniker suggested that we should join the rest of the party in the drawing room.
Here we found a number of the A.D.C.'s engaged in merry conversation; most of them are quite young men, immensely popular in the Dublin Society and on the hunting field, where even in that great sporting country they are usually to be found well in the first flight. We sat talking for a few minutes, when the door suddenly opened, and a tall, singularly handsome, well-groomed young man, in morning dress, entered the room. Upon his appearance, Mrs. Henniker and her sister, Lady Fitzgerald, and the remaining ladies and gentlemen present, rose to their feet, for this was His Excellency the Viceroy of Ireland. It will interest my American readers to learn that, not only do Mrs. Henniker and Lady Fitzgerald always rise upon their brother's entrance into the room, but it is further their custom, as it is the bounden duty of every lady, to curtsey to him profoundly on leaving the luncheon or dinner table. His Excellency at once joined in our conversation. We were discussing parodies at the moment, and somebody had stated—indeed I think it was myself—that a certain parody which had been quoted, and over which we had been laughing very heartily, was by the well-known Cambridge lyrist, C. C. Calverley.
"No," said Lord Houghton, "it is not by Calverley, it is by——. But," said he, "the funniest thing I ever heard was this," and he repeated, with immense humour, and with wonderful vivacity, a set of lines which threw us all into fits of laughter. I regret I am unable to recall them. The conversation drifting to memories of some of his father's celebrated friends, His Excellency told me a delightful story of Carlyle. It appeared that the grim old Chelsea hermit had once, when a child, saved in a teacup three bright halfpence. But a poor old Shetland beggar with a bad arm came to the door one day. Carlyle gave him all his treasure at once. In after life, in referring to the incident, he used to say: "The feeling of happiness was most intense; I would give L100 now to have that feeling for one moment back again."
Mrs. Henniker and the Lord Lieutenant and myself drifted into quiet conversation, whilst the general talk buzzed around us. She had told me that her brother had written a prize poem at Harrow, and that his recent publications, "Stray Verses," had all been done in a year.
"His verses are curiously unlike those of my father," she said. "He is very catholic in his tastes; my father's were more poems of reflection—they were full of the sentiment of his day. He was much influenced by Mathew Arnold and his school. My brother's are much more lyrical.
"It is a curious thing," continued Mrs. Henniker, "that one or two of my father's poems, which were thought least of at the time, have really become the most popular and the best known. There is a story concerning one of them which he often used to tell. He was visiting some friends here in Ireland, and the beat of the horses' feet upon the road as he drove to the house seemed to hammer out in his head certain rhythmical ideas which quickly formed themselves into rhyme. As soon as he got to the house he went to his room and wrote the words straight out. It was the well-known song beginning—
"'I wandered by the brookside,'
And having the refrain—
"'But the beating of my own heart Was all the sound I heard.'
"When he came down to dinner he showed these verses to his friends. They all declared that they were unworthy of him, and advised him to throw them into the fire. However, he did not take their advice; the moment they were published, they caught the ear of the public, they were set to music, and they were to be heard wherever one went. Indeed, a friend of his who was sailing down a river in the Southern States of North America, about a year afterwards, heard the slaves, as they hoed in the plantations, keeping time by singing a parody of the lines which had by then become universally familiar. And one day, in later years, my father was walking in London with a friend; they were passing the end of a street when they heard a man singing—he stopped and listened, and then rushed after the man. He came back a few moments afterwards, bearing a roughly printed paper in his hands."
"'I knew it was my song that he was singing,' he said, and he was perfectly right. He was much delighted.
"'It's a curious fact,' observed the Lord Lieutenant to me, 'and one which Wemyss Reid specially notes in his biography, that my father produced the greater part of his poetry between 1830 and 1840, just when he was going most into Society.'"
"And you've gone in a good deal for writing verses yourself, following in your father's footsteps, have you not, Mrs. Henniker?" said I. "Oh," she replied, "I began writing verses very early in my life, and the most amusing part of it is that, though I was a perfect little imp, I began with writing hymns. In fact," said she, as she showed me a letter which her father had written to a friend when she was seven years of age, "my father had to check my early attempts in that direction." I read with some amusement what Lord Houghton had written about his little daughter, and I transcribe his words the more readily that they appear to me to give a glimpse into the mind of the poet and of his ideas on the origin and making of poetry. He writes: