Transcribed from the 1907 J. M. Dent Edition by David Price, email firstname.lastname@example.org
THE ROMANY RYE
The Making of the Linch-pin—The Sound Sleeper—Breakfast—The Postillion's Departure.
I awoke at the first break of day, and, leaving the postillion fast asleep, stepped out of the tent. The dingle was dank and dripping. I lighted a fire of coals, and got my forge in readiness. I then ascended to the field, where the chaise was standing as we had left it on the previous evening. After looking at the cloud-stone near it, now cold, and split into three pieces, I set about prying narrowly into the condition of the wheel and axletree—the latter had sustained no damage of any consequence, and the wheel, as far as I was able to judge, was sound, being only slightly injured in the box. The only thing requisite to set the chaise in a travelling condition appeared to be a linch-pin, which I determined to make. Going to the companion wheel, I took out the linch-pin, which I carried down with me to the dingle, to serve as a model.
I found Belle by this time dressed, and seated near the forge: with a slight nod to her like that which a person gives who happens to see an acquaintance when his mind is occupied with important business, I forthwith set about my work. Selecting a piece of iron which I thought would serve my purpose, I placed it in the fire, and plying the bellows in a furious manner, soon made it hot; then seizing it with the tongs, I laid it on my anvil, and began to beat it with my hammer, according to the rules of my art. The dingle resounded with my strokes. Belle sat still, and occasionally smiled, but suddenly started up, and retreated towards her encampment, on a spark which I purposely sent in her direction alighting on her knee. I found the making of a linch-pin no easy matter; it was, however, less difficult than the fabrication of a pony-shoe; my work, indeed, was much facilitated by my having another pin to look at. In about three-quarters of an hour I had succeeded tolerably well, and had produced a linch-pin which I thought would serve. During all this time, notwithstanding the noise which I was making, the postillion never showed his face. His non-appearance at first alarmed me: I was afraid he might be dead, but, on looking into the tent, I found him still buried in the soundest sleep. "He must surely be descended from one of the seven sleepers," said I, as I turned away, and resumed my work. My work finished, I took a little oil, leather, and sand, and polished the pin as well as I could; then, summoning Belle, we both went to the chaise, where, with her assistance, I put on the wheel. The linch- pin which I had made fitted its place very well, and having replaced the other, I gazed at the chaise for some time with my heart full of that satisfaction which results from the consciousness of having achieved a great action; then, after looking at Belle in the hope of obtaining a compliment from her lips, which did not come, I returned to the dingle, without saying a word, followed by her. Belle set about making preparations for breakfast; and I taking the kettle, went and filled it at the spring. Having hung it over the fire, I went to the tent in which the postillion was still sleeping, and called upon him to arise. He awoke with a start, and stared around him at first with the utmost surprise, not unmixed, I could observe, with a certain degree of fear. At last, looking in my face, he appeared to recollect himself. "I had quite forgot," said he, as he got up, "where I was, and all that happened yesterday. However, I remember now the whole affair, thunder-storm, thunder-bolt, frightened horses, and all your kindness. Come, I must see after my coach and horses; I hope we shall be able to repair the damage." "The damage is already quite repaired," said I, "as you will see, if you come to the field above." "You don't say so," said the postillion, coming out of the tent; "well, I am mightily beholden to you. Good morning, young gentle-woman," said he, addressing Belle, who, having finished her preparations, was seated near the fire. "Good morning, young man," said Belle, "I suppose you would be glad of some breakfast; however, you must wait a little, the kettle does not boil." "Come and look at your chaise," said I; "but tell me how it happened that the noise which I have been making did not awake you; for three-quarters of an hour at least I was hammering close at your ear." "I heard you all the time," said the postillion, "but your hammering made me sleep all the sounder; I am used to hear hammering in my morning sleep. There's a forge close by the room where I sleep when I'm at home, at my inn; for we have all kinds of conveniences at my inn—forge, carpenter's shop, and wheel-wright's,—so that when I heard you hammering I thought, no doubt, that it was the old noise, and that I was comfortable in my bed at my own inn." We now ascended to the field, where I showed the postillion his chaise. He looked at the pin attentively, rubbed his hands, and gave a loud laugh. "Is it not well done?" said I. "It will do till I get home," he replied. "And that is all you have to say?" I demanded. "And that's a good deal," said he, "considering who made it. But don't be offended," he added, "I shall prize it all the more for its being made by a gentleman, and no blacksmith; and so will my governor, when I show it to him. I shan't let it remain where it is, but will keep it, as a remembrance of you, as long as I live." He then again rubbed his hands with great glee, and said, "I will now go and see after my horses, and then to breakfast, partner, if you please." Suddenly, however, looking at his hands, he said, "Before sitting down to breakfast I am in the habit of washing my hands and face: I suppose you could not furnish me with a little soap and water." "As much water as you please," said I, "but if you want soap, I must go and trouble the young gentle-woman for some." "By no means," said the postillion, "water will do at a pinch." "Follow me," said I, and leading him to the pond of the frogs and newts, I said, "this is my ewer; you are welcome to part of it—the water is so soft that it is scarcely necessary to add soap to it;" then lying down on the bank, I plunged my head into the water, then scrubbed my hands and face, and afterwards wiped them with some long grass which grew on the margin of the pond. "Bravo," said the postillion, "I see you know how to make a shift:" he then followed my example, declared he never felt more refreshed in his life, and, giving a bound, said, "he would go and look after his horses."
We then went to look after the horses, which we found not much the worse for having spent the night in the open air. My companion again inserted their heads in the corn-bags, and, leaving the animals to discuss their corn, returned with me to the dingle, where we found the kettle boiling. We sat down, and Belle made tea and did the honours of the meal. The postillion was in high spirits, ate heartily, and, to Belle's evident satisfaction, declared that he had never drank better tea in his life, or indeed any half so good. Breakfast over, he said that he must now go and harness his horses, as it was high time for him to return to his inn. Belle gave him her hand and wished him farewell: the postillion shook her hand warmly, and was advancing close up to her—for what purpose I cannot say—whereupon Belle, withdrawing her hand, drew herself up with an air which caused the postillion to retreat a step or two with an exceedingly sheepish look. Recovering himself, however, he made a low bow, and proceeded up the path. I attended him, and helped to harness his horses and put them to the vehicle; he then shook me by the hand, and taking the reins and whip, mounted to his seat; ere he drove away he thus addressed me: "If ever I forget your kindness and that of the young woman below, dash my buttons. If ever either of you should enter my inn you may depend upon a warm welcome, the best that can be set before you, and no expense to either, for I will give both of you the best of characters to the governor, who is the very best fellow upon all the road. As for your linch-pin, I trust it will serve till I get home, when I will take it out and keep it in remembrance of you all the days of my life:" then giving the horses a jerk with his reins, he cracked his whip and drove off.
I returned to the dingle, Belle had removed the breakfast things, and was busy in her own encampment: nothing occurred, worthy of being related, for two hours, at the end of which time Belle departed on a short expedition, and I again found myself alone in the dingle.
The Man in Black—The Emperor of Germany—Nepotism—Donna Olympia—Omnipotence—Camillo Astalli—The Five Propositions.
In the evening I received another visit from the man in black. I had been taking a stroll in the neighbourhood, and was sitting in the dingle in rather a listless manner, scarcely knowing how to employ myself; his coming, therefore, was by no means disagreeable to me. I produced the hollands and glass from my tent, where Isopel Berners had requested me to deposit them, and also some lump sugar, then taking the gotch I fetched water from the spring, and, sitting down, begged the man in black to help himself; he was not slow in complying with my desire, and prepared for himself a glass of hollands and water with a lump of sugar in it. After he had taken two or three sips with evident satisfaction, I, remembering his chuckling exclamation of "Go to Rome for money," when he last left the dingle, took the liberty, after a little conversation, of reminding him of it, whereupon, with a he! he! he! he replied, "Your idea was not quite so original as I supposed. After leaving you the other night, I remembered having read of an Emperor of Germany who conceived the idea of applying to Rome for money, and actually put it into practice.
"Urban the Eighth then occupied the papal chair, of the family of the Barbarini, nicknamed the Mosche, or Flies, from the circumstance of bees being their armorial bearing. The Emperor having exhausted all his money in endeavouring to defend the church against Gustavus Adolphus, the great King of Sweden, who was bent on its destruction, applied in his necessity to the Pope for a loan of money. The Pope, however, and his relations, whose cellars were at that time full of the money of the church, which they had been plundering for years, refused to lend him a scudo; whereupon a pasquinade picture was stuck up at Rome, representing the church lying on a bed, gashed with dreadful wounds, and beset all over with flies, which were sucking her, whilst the Emperor of Germany was kneeling before her with a miserable face, requesting a little money towards carrying on the war against the heretics, to which the poor church was made to say: 'How can I assist you, O my champion, do you not see that the flies have sucked me to the very bones?' Which story," said he, "shows that the idea of going to Rome for money was not quite so original as I imagined the other night, though utterly preposterous.
"This affair," said he, "occurred in what were called the days of nepotism. Certain popes, who wished to make themselves in some degree independent of the cardinals, surrounded themselves with their nephews and the rest of their family, who sucked the church and Christendom as much as they could, none doing so more effectually than the relations of Urban the Eighth, at whose death, according to the book called the 'Nipotismo di Roma,' there were in the Barbarini family two hundred and twenty-seven governments, abbeys and high dignities; and so much hard cash in their possession, that threescore and ten mules were scarcely sufficient to convey the plunder of one of them to Palestrina." He added, however, that it was probable that Christendom fared better whilst the popes were thus independent, as it was less sucked, whereas before and after that period it was sucked by hundreds instead of tens, by the cardinals and all their relations, instead of by the pope and his nephews only.
Then, after drinking rather copiously of his hollands, he said that it was certainly no bad idea of the popes to surround themselves with nephews, on whom they bestowed great church dignities, as by so doing they were tolerably safe from poison, whereas a pope, if abandoned to the cardinals, might at any time be made away with by them, provided they thought that he lived too long, or that he seemed disposed to do anything which they disliked; adding, that Ganganelli would never have been poisoned provided he had had nephews about him to take care of his life, and to see that nothing unholy was put into his food, or a bustling stirring brother's wife like Donna Olympia. He then with a he! he! he! asked me if I had ever read the book called the "Nipotismo di Roma"; and on my replying in the negative, he told me that it was a very curious and entertaining book, which he occasionally looked at in an idle hour, and proceeded to relate to me anecdotes out of the "Nipotismo di Roma," about the successor of Urban, Innocent the Tenth, and Donna Olympia, showing how fond he was of her, and how she cooked his food, and kept the cardinals away from it, and how she and her creatures plundered Christendom, with the sanction of the Pope, until Christendom, becoming enraged, insisted that he should put her away, which he did for a time, putting a nephew—one Camillo Astalli—in her place, in which, however, he did not continue long; for the Pope, conceiving a pique against him, banished him from his sight, and recalled Donna Olympia, who took care of his food, and plundered Christendom until Pope Innocent died.
I said that I only wondered that between pope and cardinals the whole system of Rome had not long fallen to the ground, and was told, in reply, that its not having fallen was the strongest proof of its vital power, and the absolute necessity for the existence of the system. That the system, notwithstanding its occasional disorders, went on. Popes and cardinals might prey upon its bowels, and sell its interests, but the system survived. The cutting off of this or that member was not able to cause Rome any vital loss; for, as soon as she lost a member, the loss was supplied by her own inherent vitality; though her popes had been poisoned by cardinals, and her cardinals by popes; and though priests occasionally poisoned popes, cardinals, and each other, after all that had been, and might be, she had still, and would ever have, her priests, cardinals, and pope.
Finding the man in black so communicative and reasonable, I determined to make the best of my opportunity, and learn from him all I could with respect to the papal system, and told him that he would particularly oblige me by telling me who the Pope of Rome was; and received for answer, that he was an old man elected by a majority of cardinals to the papal chair; who, immediately after his election, became omnipotent and equal to God on earth. On my begging him not to talk such nonsense, and asking him how a person could be omnipotent who could not always preserve himself from poison, even when fenced round by nephews, or protected by a bustling woman, he, after taking a long sip of hollands and water, told me that I must not expect too much from omnipotence; for example, that as it would be unreasonable to expect that One above could annihilate the past—for instance, the Seven Years' War, or the French Revolution—though any one who believed in Him would acknowledge Him to be omnipotent, so would it be unreasonable for the faithful to expect that the Pope could always guard himself from poison. Then, after looking at me for a moment stedfastly, and taking another sip, he told me that popes had frequently done impossibilities; for example, Innocent the Tenth had created a nephew; for, not liking particularly any of his real nephews, he had created the said Camillo Astalli his nephew; asking me, with a he! he! "What but omnipotence could make a young man nephew to a person to whom he was not in the slightest degree related?" On my observing that of course no one believed that the young fellow was really the Pope's nephew, though the Pope might have adopted him as such, the man in black replied, "that the reality of the nephewship of Camillo Astalli had hitherto never become a point of faith; let, however, the present pope, or any other pope, proclaim that it is necessary to believe in the reality of the nephewship of Camillo Astalli, and see whether the faithful would not believe in it. Who can doubt that," he added, "seeing that they believe in the reality of the five propositions of Jansenius? The Jesuits, wishing to ruin the Jansenists, induced a pope to declare that such and such damnable opinions, which they called five propositions, were to be found in a book written by Jansen, though, in reality, no such propositions were to be found there; whereupon the existence of these propositions became forthwith a point of faith to the faithful. Do you then think," he demanded, "that there is one of the faithful who would not swallow, if called upon, the nephewship of Camillo Astalli as easily as the five propositions of Jansenius?" "Surely, then," said I, "the faithful must be a pretty pack of simpletons!" Whereupon the man in black exclaimed, "What! a Protestant, and an infringer of the rights of faith! Here's a fellow, who would feel himself insulted if any one were to ask him how he could believe in the miraculous conception, calling people simpletons who swallow the five propositions of Jansenius, and are disposed, if called upon, to swallow the reality of the nephewship of Camillo Astalli."
I was about to speak, when I was interrupted by the arrival of Belle. After unharnessing her donkey, and adjusting her person a little, she came and sat down by us. In the meantime I had helped my companion to some more hollands and water, and had plunged with him into yet deeper discourse.
Necessity of Religion—The Great Indian One—Image-worship—Shakespeare—The Pat Answer—Krishna—Amen.
Having told the man in black that I should like to know all the truth with regard to the Pope and his system, he assured me he should be delighted to give me all the information in his power; that he had come to the dingle, not so much for the sake of the good cheer which I was in the habit of giving him, as in the hope of inducing me to enlist under the banners of Rome, and to fight in her cause; and that he had no doubt that, by speaking out frankly to me, he ran the best chance of winning me over.
He then proceeded to tell me that the experience of countless ages had proved the necessity of religion; the necessity, he would admit, was only for simpletons; but as nine-tenths of the dwellers upon this earth were simpletons, it would never do for sensible people to run counter to their folly, but, on the contrary, it was their wisest course to encourage them in it, always provided that, by so doing, sensible people would derive advantage; that the truly sensible people of this world were the priests, who, without caring a straw for religion for its own sake, made use of it as a cord by which to draw the simpletons after them; that there were many religions in this world, all of which had been turned to excellent account by the priesthood; but that the one the best adapted for the purposes of priestcraft was the popish, which, he said, was the oldest in the world and the best calculated to endure. On my inquiring what he meant by saying the popish religion was the oldest in the world, whereas there could be no doubt that the Greek and Roman religion had existed long before it, to say nothing of the old Indian religion still in existence and vigour; he said, with a nod, after taking a sip at his glass, that, between me and him, the popish religion, that of Greece and Rome, and the old Indian system were, in reality, one and the same.
"You told me that you intended to be frank," said I; "but, however frank you may be, I think you are rather wild."
"We priests of Rome," said the man in black, "even those amongst us who do not go much abroad, know a great deal about church matters, of which you heretics have very little idea. Those of our brethren of the Propaganda, on their return home from distant missions, not unfrequently tell us very strange things relating to our dear mother; for example, our first missionaries to the East were not slow in discovering and telling to their brethren that our religion and the great Indian one were identical, no more difference between them than between Ram and Rome. Priests, convents, beads, prayers, processions, fastings, penances, all the same, not forgetting anchorites and vermin, he! he! The pope they found under the title of the grand lama, a sucking child surrounded by an immense number of priests. Our good brethren, some two hundred years ago, had a hearty laugh, which their successors have often re-echoed; they said that helpless suckling and its priests put them so much in mind of their own old man, surrounded by his cardinals, he! he! Old age is second childhood."
"Did they find Christ?" said I.
"They found him too," said the man in black, "that is, they saw his image; he is considered in India as a pure kind of being, and on that account, perhaps, is kept there rather in the background, even as he is here."
"All this is very mysterious to me," said I.
"Very likely," said the man in black; "but of this I am tolerably sure, and so are most of those of Rome, that modern Rome had its religion from ancient Rome, which had its religion from the East."
"But how?" I demanded.
"It was brought about, I believe, by the wanderings of nations," said the man in black. "A brother of the Propaganda, a very learned man, once told me—I do not mean Mezzofanti, who has not five ideas—this brother once told me that all we of the Old World, from Calcutta to Dublin, are of the same stock, and were originally of the same language, and—"
"All of one religion," I put in.
"All of one religion," said the man in black; "and now follow different modifications of the same religion."
"We Christians are not image-worshippers," said I.
"You heretics are not, you mean," said the man in black; "but you will be put down, just as you have always been, though others may rise up after you; the true religion is image-worship; people may strive against it, but they will only work themselves to an oil; how did it fare with that Greek Emperor, the Iconoclast, what was his name, Leon the Isaurian? Did not his image-breaking cost him Italy, the fairest province of his empire, and did not ten fresh images start up at home for every one which he demolished? Oh! you little know the craving which the soul sometimes feels after a good bodily image."
"I have indeed no conception of it," said I; "I have an abhorrence of idolatry—the idea of bowing before a graven figure!"
"The idea, indeed!" said Belle, who had now joined us.
"Did you never bow before that of Shakespeare?" said the man in black, addressing himself to me, after a low bow to Belle.
"I don't remember that I ever did," said I, "but even suppose I did?"
"Suppose you did," said the man in black; "shame on you, Mr. Hater of Idolatry; why, the very supposition brings you to the ground; you must make figures of Shakespeare, must you? then why not of St. Antonio, or Ignacio, or of a greater personage still! I know what you are going to say," he cried, interrupting me, as I was about to speak. "You don't make his image in order to pay it divine honours, but only to look at it, and think of Shakespeare; but this looking at a thing in order to think of a person is the very basis of idolatry. Shakespeare's works are not sufficient for you; no more are the Bible or the legend of Saint Anthony or Saint Ignacio for us, that is for those of us who believe in them; I tell you, Zingara, that no religion can exist long which rejects a good bodily image."
"Do you think," said I, "that Shakespeare's works would not exist without his image?"
"I believe," said the man in black, "that Shakespeare's image is looked at more than his works, and will be looked at, and perhaps adored, when they are forgotten. I am surprised that they have not been forgotten long ago; I am no admirer of them."
"But I can't imagine," said I, "how you will put aside the authority of Moses. If Moses strove against image-worship, should not his doing so be conclusive as to the impropriety of the practice; what higher authority can you have than that of Moses?"
"The practice of the great majority of the human race," said the man in black, "and the recurrence to image-worship where image-worship has been abolished. Do you know that Moses is considered by the church as no better than a heretic, and though, for particular reasons, it has been obliged to adopt his writings, the adoption was merely a sham one, as it never paid the slightest attention to them? No, no, the church was never led by Moses, nor by one mightier than he, whose doctrine it has equally nullified—I allude to Krishna in his second avatar; the church, it is true, governs in his name, but not unfrequently gives him the lie, if he happens to have said anything which it dislikes. Did you never hear the reply which Padre Paolo Segani made to the French Protestant Jean Anthoine Guerin, who had asked him whether it was easier for Christ to have been mistaken in his Gospel, than for the Pope to be mistaken in his decrees?"
"I never heard their names before," said I.
"The answer was pat," said the man in black, "though he who made it was confessedly the most ignorant fellow of the very ignorant order to which he belonged, the Augustine. 'Christ might err as a man,' said he, 'but the Pope can never err, being God.' The whole story is related in the Nipotismo."
"I wonder you should ever have troubled yourself with Christ at all," said I.
"What was to be done?" said the man in black; "the power of that name suddenly came over Europe, like the power of a mighty wind; it was said to have come from Judea, and from Judea it probably came when it first began to agitate minds in these parts; but it seems to have been known in the remote East, more or less, for thousands of years previously. It filled people's minds with madness; it was followed by books which were never much regarded, as they contained little of insanity; but the name! what fury that breathed into people! the books were about peace and gentleness, but the name was the most horrible of war-cries—those who wished to uphold old names at first strove to oppose it, but their efforts were feeble, and they had no good war-cry; what was Mars as a war- cry compared with the name of . . . ? It was said that they persecuted terribly, but who said so? The Christians. The Christians could have given them a lesson in the art of persecution, and eventually did so. None but Christians have ever been good persecutors; well, the old religion succumbed, Christianity prevailed, for the ferocious is sure to prevail over the gentle."
"I thought," said I, "you stated a little time ago that the Popish religion and the ancient Roman are the same?"
"In every point but that name, that Krishna and the fury and love of persecution which it inspired," said the man in black. "A hot blast came from the East, sounding Krishna; it absolutely maddened people's minds, and the people would call themselves his children; we will not belong to Jupiter any longer, we will belong to Krishna, and they did belong to Krishna; that is in name, but in nothing else; for who ever cared for Krishna in the Christian world, or who ever regarded the words attributed to him, or put them in practice?"
"Why, we Protestants regard his words, and endeavour to practise what they enjoin as much as possible."
"But you reject his image," said the man in black; "better reject his words than his image: no religion can exist long which rejects a good bodily image. Why, the very negro barbarians of High Barbary could give you a lesson on that point; they have their fetish images, to which they look for help in their afflictions; they have likewise a high priest, whom they call—"
"Mumbo Jumbo," said I; "I know all about him already."
"How came you to know anything about him?" said the man in black, with a look of some surprise.
"Some of us poor Protestants tinkers," said I, "though we live in dingles, are also acquainted with a thing or two."
"I really believe you are," said the man in black, staring at me; "but, in connection with this Mumbo Jumbo, I could relate to you a comical story about a fellow, an English servant, I once met at Rome."
"It would be quite unnecessary," said I; "I would much sooner hear you talk about Krishna, his words and image."
"Spoken like a true heretic," said the man in black; "one of the faithful would have placed his image before his words; for what are all the words in the world compared with a good bodily image!"
"I believe you occasionally quote his words?" said I.
"He! he!" said the man in black; "occasionally."
"For example," said I, "upon this rock I will found my church."
"He! he!" said the man in black; "you must really become one of us."
"Yet you must have had some difficulty in getting the rock to Rome?"
"None whatever," said the man in black; "faith can remove mountains, to say nothing of rocks—ho! ho!"
"But I cannot imagine," said I, "what advantage you could derive from perverting those words of Scripture in which the Saviour talks about eating his body."
"I do not know, indeed, why we troubled our heads about the matter at all," said the man in black; "but when you talk about perverting the meaning of the text, you speak ignorantly, Mr. Tinker; when he whom you call the Saviour gave his followers the sop, and bade them eat it, telling them it was his body, he delicately alluded to what it was incumbent upon them to do after his death, namely, to eat his body."
"You do not mean to say that he intended they should actually eat his body?"
"Then you suppose ignorantly," said the man in black; "eating the bodies of the dead was a heathenish custom, practised by the heirs and legatees of people who left property; and this custom is alluded to in the text."
"But what has the New Testament to do with heathen customs," said I, "except to destroy them?"
"More than you suppose," said the man in black. "We priests of Rome, who have long lived at Rome, know much better what the New Testament is made of than the heretics and their theologians, not forgetting their Tinkers; though I confess some of the latter have occasionally surprised us—for example, Bunyan. The New Testament is crowded with allusions to heathen customs, and with words connected with pagan sorcery. Now, with respect to words, I would fain have you, who pretend to be a philologist, tell me the meaning of Amen."
I made no answer.
"We of Rome," said the man in black, "know two or three things of which the heretics are quite ignorant; for example, there are those amongst us—those, too, who do not pretend to be philologists—who know what Amen is, and, moreover, how we got it. We got it from our ancestors, the priests of ancient Rome; and they got the word from their ancestors of the East, the priests of Buddh and Brahma."
"And what is the meaning of the word?" I demanded.
"Amen," said the man in black, "is a modification of the old Hindoo formula, Omani batsikhom, by the almost ceaseless repetition of which the Indians hope to be received finally to the rest or state of forgetfulness of Buddh or Brahma; a foolish practice you will say, but are you heretics much wiser, who are continually sticking Amen to the end of your prayers, little knowing when you do so, that you are consigning yourselves to the repose of Buddh! Oh, what hearty laughs our missionaries have had when comparing the eternally-sounding Eastern gibberish of Omani batsikhom, Omani batsikhom, and the Ave Maria and Amen Jesus of our own idiotical devotees."
"I have nothing to say about the Ave Marias and Amens of your superstitious devotees," said I; "I dare say that they use them nonsensically enough, but in putting Amen to the end of a prayer, we merely intend to express, 'So let it be.'"
"It means nothing of the kind," said the man in black; "and the Hindoos might just as well put your national oath at the end of their prayers, as perhaps they will after a great many thousand years, when English is forgotten, and only a few words of it remembered by dim tradition without being understood. How strange if, after the lapse of four thousand years, the Hindoos should damn themselves to the blindness so dear to their present masters, even as their masters at present consign themselves to the forgetfulness so dear to the Hindoos; but my glass has been empty for a considerable time; perhaps, Bellissima Biondina," said he, addressing Belle, "you will deign to replenish it?"
"I shall do no such thing," said Belle, "you have drunk quite enough, and talked more than enough, and to tell you the truth I wish you would leave us alone."
"Shame on you, Belle," said I; "consider the obligations of hospitality."
"I am sick of that word," said Belle, "you are so frequently misusing it; were this place not Mumpers' Dingle, and consequently as free to the fellow as ourselves, I would lead him out of it."
"Pray be quiet, Belle," said I. "You had better help yourself," said I, addressing myself to the man in black, "the lady is angry with you."
"I am sorry for it," said the man in black; "if she is angry with me, I am not so with her, and shall be always proud to wait upon her; in the meantime, I will wait upon myself."
The Proposal—The Scotch Novel—Latitude—Miracles—Pestilent Heretics—Old Fraser—Wonderful Texts—No Armenian.
The man in black having helped himself to some more of his favourite beverage, and tasted it, I thus addressed him: "The evening is getting rather advanced, and I can see that this lady," pointing to Belle, "is anxious for her tea, which she prefers to take cosily and comfortably with me in the dingle: the place, it is true, is as free to you as to ourselves, nevertheless, as we are located here by necessity, whilst you merely come as a visitor, I must take the liberty of telling you that we shall be glad to be alone, as soon as you have said what you have to say, and have finished the glass of refreshment at present in your hand. I think you said some time ago that one of your motives for coming hither was to induce me to enlist under the banner of Rome. I wish to know whether that was really the case?"
"Decidedly so," said the man in black; "I come here principally in the hope of enlisting you in our regiment, in which I have no doubt you could do us excellent service."
"Would you enlist my companion as well?" I demanded.
"We should be only too proud to have her among us, whether she comes with you or alone," said the man in black, with a polite bow to Belle.
"Before we give you an answer," I replied, "I would fain know more about you; perhaps you will declare your name?"
"That I will never do," said the man in black; "no one in England knows it but myself, and I will not declare it, even in a dingle; as for the rest, Sono un Prete Cattolico Appostolico—that is all that many a one of us can say for himself, and it assuredly means a great deal."
"We will now proceed to business," said I. "You must be aware that we English are generally considered a self-interested people."
"And with considerable justice," said the man in black, drinking. "Well, you are a person of acute perception, and I will presently make it evident to you that it would be to your interest to join with us. You are at present, evidently, in very needy circumstances, and are lost, not only to yourself, but to the world; but should you enlist with us, I could find you an occupation not only agreeable, but one in which your talents would have free scope. I would introduce you in the various grand houses here in England, to which I have myself admission, as a surprising young gentleman of infinite learning, who by dint of study has discovered that the Roman is the only true faith. I tell you confidently that our popish females would make a saint, nay, a God of you; they are fools enough for anything. There is one person in particular with whom I would wish to make you acquainted, in the hope that you would be able to help me to perform good service to the holy see. He is a gouty old fellow, of some learning, residing in an old hall, near the great western seaport, and is one of the very few amongst the English Catholics possessing a grain of sense. I think you could help us to govern him, for he is not unfrequently disposed to be restive, asks us strange questions—occasionally threatens us with his crutch; and behaves so that we are often afraid that we shall lose him, or, rather, his property, which he has bequeathed to us, and which is enormous. I am sure that you could help us to deal with him; sometimes with your humour, sometimes with your learning, and perhaps occasionally with your fists."
"And in what manner would you provide for my companion?" said I.
"We would place her at once," said the man in black, "in the house of two highly respectable Catholic ladies in this neighbourhood, where she would be treated with every care and consideration till her conversion should be accomplished in a regular manner; we would then remove her to a female monastic establishment, where, after undergoing a year's probation, during which time she would be instructed in every elegant accomplishment, she should take the veil. Her advancement would speedily follow, for, with such a face and figure, she would make a capital lady abbess, especially in Italy, to which country she would probably be sent; ladies of her hair and complexion—to say nothing of her height—being a curiosity in the south. With a little care and management she could soon obtain a vast reputation for sanctity; and who knows but after her death she might become a glorified saint—he! he! Sister Maria Theresa, for that is the name I propose you should bear. Holy Mother Maria Theresa—glorified and celestial saint, I have the honour of drinking to your health," and the man in black drank.
"Well, Belle," said I, "what have you to say to the gentleman's proposal?"
"That if he goes on in this way I will break his glass against his mouth."
"You have heard the lady's answer," said I.
"I have," said the man in black, "and shall not press the matter. I can't help, however, repeating that she would make a capital lady abbess; she would keep the nuns in order, I warrant her; no easy matter! Break the glass against my mouth—he! he! How she would send the holy utensils flying at the nuns' heads occasionally, and just the person to wring the nose of Satan, should he venture to appear one night in her cell in the shape of a handsome black man. No offence, madam, no offence, pray retain your seat," said he, observing that Belle had started up; "I mean no offence. Well, if you will not consent to be an abbess, perhaps you will consent to follow this young Zingaro, and to co-operate with him and us. I am a priest, madam, and can join you both in an instant, connubio stabili, as I suppose the knot has not been tied already."
"Hold your mumping gibberish," said Belle, "and leave the dingle this moment, for though 'tis free to every one, you have no right to insult me in it."
"Pray be pacified," said I to Belle, getting up, and placing myself between her and the man in black, "he will presently leave, take my word for it—there, sit down again," said I, as I led her to her seat; then, resuming my own, I said to the man in black: "I advise you to leave the dingle as soon as possible."
"I should wish to have your answer to my proposal first," said he.
"Well, then, here you shall have it: I will not entertain your proposal; I detest your schemes: they are both wicked and foolish."
"Wicked," said the man in black, "have they not—he! he!—the furtherance of religion in view?"
"A religion," said I, "in which you yourself do not believe, and which you contemn."
"Whether I believe in it or not," said the man in black, "it is adapted for the generality of the human race; so I will forward it, and advise you to do the same. It was nearly extirpated in these regions, but it is springing up again, owing to circumstances. Radicalism is a good friend to us; all the liberals laud up our system out of hatred to the Established Church, though our system is ten times less liberal than the Church of England. Some of them have really come over to us. I myself confess a baronet who presided over the first radical meeting ever held in England—he was an atheist when he came over to us, in the hope of mortifying his own church—but he is now—ho! ho!—a real Catholic devotee—quite afraid of my threats; I make him frequently scourge himself before me. Well, Radicalism does us good service, especially amongst the lower classes, for Radicalism chiefly flourishes amongst them; for though a baronet or two may be found amongst the radicals, and perhaps as many lords—fellows who have been discarded by their own order for clownishness, or something they have done—it incontestably flourishes best among the lower orders. Then the love of what is foreign is a great friend to us; this love is chiefly confined to the middle and upper classes. Some admire the French, and imitate them; others must needs be Spaniards, dress themselves up in a zamarra, stick a cigar in their mouth, and say, 'Carajo.' Others would pass for Germans; he! he! the idea of any one wishing to pass for a German! but what has done us more service than anything else in these regions—I mean amidst the middle classes—has been the novel, the Scotch novel. The good folks, since they have read the novels, have become Jacobites; and, because all the Jacobs were Papists, the good folks must become Papists also, or, at least, papistically inclined. The very Scotch Presbyterians, since they have read the novels, are become all but Papists; I speak advisedly, having lately been amongst them. There's a trumpery bit of a half papist sect, called the Scotch Episcopalian Church, which lay dormant and nearly forgotten for upwards of a hundred years, which has of late got wonderfully into fashion in Scotland, because, forsooth, some of the long- haired gentry of the novels were said to belong to it, such as Montrose and Dundee; and to this the Presbyterians are going over in throngs, traducing and vilifying their own forefathers, or denying them altogether, and calling themselves descendants of—ho! ho! ho!—Scottish Cavaliers!!! I have heard them myself repeating snatches of Jacobite ditties about 'Bonnie Dundee,' and—
"'Come, fill up my cup, and fill up my can, And saddle my horse, and call up my man.'
There's stuff for you! Not that I object to the first part of the ditty. It is natural enough that a Scotchman should cry, 'Come, fill up my cup!' more especially if he's drinking at another person's expense—all Scotchmen being fond of liquor at free cost: but 'Saddle his horse!!!'—for what purpose, I would ask? Where is the use of saddling a horse, unless you can ride him? and where was there ever a Scotchman who could ride?"
"Of course you have not a drop of Scotch blood in your veins," said I, "otherwise you would never have uttered that last sentence."
"Don't be too sure of that," said the man in black; "you know little of Popery if you imagine that it cannot extinguish love of country, even in a Scotchman. A thorough-going Papist—and who more thorough-going than myself?—cares nothing for his country; and why should he? he belongs to a system, and not to a country."
"One thing," said I, "connected with you, I cannot understand; you call yourself a thorough-going Papist, yet are continually saying the most pungent things against Popery, and turning to unbounded ridicule those who show any inclination to embrace it."
"Rome is a very sensible old body," said the man in black, "and little cares what her children say, provided they do her bidding. She knows several things, and amongst others, that no servants work so hard and faithfully as those who curse their masters at every stroke they do. She was not fool enough to be angry with the Miquelets of Alba, who renounced her, and called her 'puta' all the time they were cutting the throats of the Netherlanders. Now, if she allowed her faithful soldiers the latitude of renouncing her, and calling her 'puta' in the market-place, think not she is so unreasonable as to object to her faithful priests occasionally calling her 'puta' in the dingle."
"But," said I, "suppose some one were to tell the world some of the disorderly things which her priests say in the dingle?"
"He would have the fate of Cassandra," said the man in black; "no one would believe him—yes, the priests would: but they would make no sign of belief. They believe in the Alcoran des Cordeliers—that is, those who have read it; but they make no sign."
"A pretty system," said I, "which extinguishes love of country and of everything noble, and brings the minds of its ministers to a parity with those of devils, who delight in nothing but mischief."
"The system," said the man in black, "is a grand one, with unbounded vitality. Compare it with your Protestantism, and you will see the difference. Popery is ever at work, whilst Protestantism is supine. A pretty church, indeed, the Protestant! Why, it can't even work a miracle."
"Can your church work miracles?" I demanded.
"That was the very question," said the man in black, "which the ancient British clergy asked of Austin Monk, after they had been fools enough to acknowledge their own inability. 'We don't pretend to work miracles; do you?' 'Oh! dear me, yes,' said Austin; 'we find no difficulty in the matter. We can raise the dead, we can make the blind see; and to convince you, I will give sight to the blind. Here is this blind Saxon, whom you cannot cure, but on whose eyes I will manifest my power, in order to show the difference between the true and the false church;' and forthwith, with the assistance of a handkerchief and a little hot water, he opened the eyes of the barbarian. So we manage matters! A pretty church, that old British church, which could not work miracles—quite as helpless as the modern one. The fools! was birdlime so scarce a thing amongst them?—and were the properties of warm water so unknown to them, that they could not close a pair of eyes and open them?"
"It's a pity," said I, "that the British clergy at that interview with Austin, did not bring forward a blind Welshman, and ask the monk to operate upon him."
"Clearly," said the man in black; "that's what they ought to have done; but they were fools without a single resource." Here he took a sip at his glass.
"But they did not believe in the miracle?" said I.
"And what did their not believing avail them?" said the man in black. "Austin remained master of the field, and they went away holding their heads down, and muttering to themselves. What a fine subject for a painting would be Austin's opening the eyes of the Saxon barbarian, and the discomfiture of the British clergy! I wonder it has not been painted!—he! he!"
"I suppose your church still performs miracles occasionally!" said I.
"It does," said the man in black. "The Rev. —- has lately been performing miracles in Ireland, destroying devils that had got possession of people; he has been eminently successful. In two instances he not only destroyed the devils, but the lives of the people possessed—he! he! Oh! there is so much energy in our system; we are always at work, whilst Protestantism is supine."
"You must not imagine," said I, "that all Protestants are supine; some of them appear to be filled with unbounded zeal. They deal, it is true, not in lying miracles, but they propagate God's Word. I remember only a few months ago, having occasion for a Bible, going to an establishment, the object of which was to send Bibles all over the world. The supporters of that establishment could have no self-interested views; for I was supplied by them with a noble-sized Bible at a price so small as to preclude the idea that it could bring any profit to the vendors."
The countenance of the man in black slightly fell. "I know the people to whom you allude," said he; "indeed, unknown to them, I have frequently been to see them, and observed their ways. I tell you frankly that there is not a set of people in this kingdom who have caused our church so much trouble and uneasiness. I should rather say that they alone cause us any; for as for the rest, what with their drowsiness, their plethora, their folly and their vanity, they are doing us anything but mischief. These fellows are a pestilent set of heretics, whom we would gladly see burnt; they are, with the most untiring perseverance, and in spite of divers minatory declarations of the holy father, scattering their books abroad through all Europe, and have caused many people in Catholic countries to think that hitherto their priesthood have endeavoured, as much as possible, to keep them blinded. There is one fellow amongst them for whom we entertain a particular aversion; a big, burly parson, with the face of a lion, the voice of a buffalo, and a fist like a sledge-hammer. The last time I was there, I observed that his eye was upon me, and I did not like the glance he gave me at all; I observed him clench his fist, and I took my departure as fast as I conveniently could. Whether he suspected who I was, I know not; but I did not like his look at all, and do not intend to go again."
"Well, then," said I, "you confess that you have redoubtable enemies to your plans in these regions, and that even amongst the ecclesiastics there are some widely different from those of the plethoric and Platitude schools?"
"It is but too true," said the man in black; "and if the rest of your church were like them we should quickly bid adieu to all hope of converting these regions, but we are thankful to be able to say that such folks are not numerous; there are, moreover, causes at work quite sufficient to undermine even their zeal. Their sons return at the vacations, from Oxford and Cambridge, puppies, full of the nonsense which they have imbibed from Platitude professors; and this nonsense they retail at home, where it fails not to make some impression, whilst the daughters scream—I beg their pardons—warble about Scotland's Montrose, and Bonny Dundee, and all the Jacobs; so we have no doubt that their papas' zeal about the propagation of such a vulgar book as the Bible will in a very little time be terribly diminished. Old Rome will win, so you had better join her."
And the man in black drained the last drop in his glass.
"Never," said I, "will I become the slave of Rome."
"She will allow you latitude," said the man in black; "do but serve her, and she will allow you to call her 'puta' at a decent time and place, her popes occasionally call her 'puta.' A pope has been known to start from his bed at midnight and rush out into the corridor, and call out 'puta' three times in a voice which pierced the Vatican; that pope was—"
"Alexander the Sixth, I dare say," said I; "the greatest monster that ever existed, though the worthiest head which the pope system ever had—so his conscience was not always still. I thought it had been seared with a brand of iron."
"I did not allude to him, but to a much more modern pope," said the man in black; "it is true he brought the word, which is Spanish, from Spain, his native country, to Rome. He was very fond of calling the church by that name, and other popes have taken it up. She will allow you to call her by it, if you belong to her."
"I shall call her so," said I, "without belonging to her, or asking her permission."
"She will allow you to treat her as such, if you belong to her," said the man in black; "there is a chapel in Rome, where there is a wondrously fair statue—the son of a cardinal—I mean his nephew—once—Well, she did not cut off his head, but slightly boxed his cheek and bade him go."
"I have read all about that in 'Keysler's Travels,'" said I; "do you tell her that I would not touch her with a pair of tongs, unless to seize her nose."
"She is fond of lucre," said the man in black; "but does not grudge a faithful priest a little private perquisite," and he took out a very handsome gold repeater.
"Are you not afraid," said I, "to flash that watch before the eyes of a poor tinker in a dingle?"
"Not before the eyes of one like you," said the man in black.
"It is getting late," said I; "I care not for perquisites."
"So you will not join us?" said the man in black.
"You have had my answer," said I.
"If I belong to Rome," said the man in black, "why should not you?"
"I may be a poor tinker," said I; "but I may never have undergone what you have. You remember, perhaps, the fable of the fox who had lost his tail?"
The man in black winced, but almost immediately recovering himself, he said, "Well, we can do without you, we are sure of winning."
"It is not the part of wise people," said I, "to make sure of the battle before it is fought: there's the landlord of the public-house, who made sure that his cocks would win, yet the cocks lost the main, and the landlord is little better than a bankrupt."
"People very different from the landlord," said the man in black, "both in intellect and station, think we shall surely win; there are clever machinators among us who have no doubt of our success."
"Well," said I, "I will set the landlord aside, and will adduce one who was in every point a very different person from the landlord, both in understanding and station; he was very fond of laying schemes, and, indeed, many of them turned out successful. His last and darling one, however, miscarried, notwithstanding that by his calculations he had persuaded himself that there was no possibility of its failing—the person that I allude to was old Fraser—"
"Who?" said the man in black, giving a start, and letting his glass fall.
"Old Fraser, of Lovat," said I, "the prince of all conspirators and machinators; he made sure of placing the Pretender on the throne of these realms. 'I can bring into the field so many men,' said he; 'my son-in- law Cluny, so many, and likewise my cousin, and my good friend;' then speaking of those on whom the government reckoned for support, he would say, 'So and so are lukewarm, this person is ruled by his wife, who is with us, the clergy are anything but hostile to us, and as for the soldiers and sailors, half are disaffected to King George, and the rest cowards.' Yet when things came to a trial, this person whom he had calculated upon to join the Pretender did not stir from his home, another joined the hostile ranks, the presumed cowards turned out heroes, and those whom he thought heroes ran away like lusty fellows at Culloden; in a word, he found himself utterly mistaken, and in nothing more than in himself; he thought he was a hero, and proved himself nothing more than an old fox; he got up a hollow tree, didn't he, just like a fox?
"'L'opere sue non furon leonine, ma di volpe.'"
The man in black sat silent for a considerable time, and at length answered in rather a faltering voice, "I was not prepared for this; you have frequently surprised me by your knowledge of things which I should never have expected any person of your appearance to be acquainted with, but that you should be aware of my name is a circumstance utterly incomprehensible to me. I had imagined that no person in England was acquainted with it; indeed, I don't see how any person should be, I have revealed it to no one, not being particularly proud of it. Yes, I acknowledge that my name is Fraser, and that I am of the blood of that family or clan, of which the rector of our college once said, that he was firmly of opinion that every individual member was either rogue or fool. I was born at Madrid, of pure, oime, Fraser blood. My parents, at an early age, took me to —-, where they shortly died, not, however, before they had placed me in the service of a cardinal, with whom I continued for some years, and who, when he had no further occasion for me, sent me to the college, in the left-hand cloister of which, as you enter, rest the bones of Sir John —-; there, in studying logic and humane letters, I lost whatever of humanity I had retained when discarded by the cardinal. Let me not, however, forget two points,—I am a Fraser, it is true, but not a Flannagan; I may bear the vilest name of Britain, but not of Ireland; I was bred up at the English house, and there is at—a house for the education of bogtrotters; I was not bred up at that; beneath the lowest gulf, there is one yet lower; whatever my blood may be, it is at least not Irish; whatever my education may have been, I was not bred at the Irish seminary—on those accounts I am thankful—yes, per dio! I am thankful. After some years at college—but why should I tell you my history? you know it already perfectly well, probably much better than myself. I am now a missionary priest, labouring in heretic England, like Parsons and Garnet of old, save and except that, unlike them, I run no danger, for the times are changed. As I told you before, I shall cleave to Rome—I must; no hay remedio, as they say at Madrid, and I will do my best to further her holy plans—he! he!—but I confess I begin to doubt of their being successful here—you put me out; old Fraser, of Lovat! I have heard my father talk of him; he had a gold-headed cane, with which he once knocked my grandfather down—he was an astute one, but, as you say, mistaken, particularly in himself. I have read his life by Arbuthnot, it is in the library of our college. Farewell! I shall come no more to this dingle—to come would be of no utility; I shall go and labour elsewhere, though—how you came to know my name, is a fact quite inexplicable—farewell! to you both."
He then arose; and without further salutation departed from the dingle, in which I never saw him again. "How, in the name of wonder, came you to know that man's name?" said Belle, after he had been gone some time.
"I, Belle? I knew nothing of the fellow's name, I assure you."
"But you mentioned his name."
"If I did, it was merely casually, by way of illustration. I was saying how frequently cunning people were mistaken in their calculations, and I adduced the case of old Fraser, of Lovat, as one in point; I brought forward his name, because I was well acquainted with his history, from having compiled and inserted it in a wonderful work, which I edited some months ago, entitled 'Newgate Lives and Trials,' but without the slightest idea that it was the name of him who was sitting with us; he, however, thought that I was aware of his name. Belle! Belle! for a long time I doubted the truth of Scripture, owing to certain conceited individuals, but now I begin to believe firmly; what wonderful texts are in Scripture, Belle; 'The wicked trembleth where—where—'"
"'They were afraid where no fear was; thou hast put them to confusion, because God hath despised them,'" said Belle; "I have frequently read it before the clergyman in the great house of Long Melford. But if you did not know the man's name, why let him go away supposing that you did?"
"Oh, if he was fool enough to make such a mistake, I was not going to undeceive him—no, no! Let the enemies of old England make the most of all their blunders and mistakes, they will have no help from me; but enough of the fellow, Belle; let us now have tea, and after that—"
"No Armenian," said Belle; "but I want to ask a question: pray are all people of that man's name either rogues or fools?"
"It is impossible for me to say, Belle, this person being the only one of the name I have ever personally known. I suppose there are good and bad, clever and foolish, amongst them, as amongst all large bodies of people; however, after the tribe had been governed for upwards of thirty years, by such a person as old Fraser, it were no wonder if the greater part had become either rogues or fools: he was a ruthless tyrant, Belle, over his own people, and by his cruelty and rapaciousness must either have stunned them into an apathy approaching to idiotcy, or made them artful knaves in their own defence. The qualities of parents are generally transmitted to their descendants—the progeny of trained pointers are almost sure to point, even without being taught: if, therefore, all Frasers are either rogues or fools, as this person seems to insinuate, it is little to be wondered at, their parents or grandparents having been in the training- school of old Fraser! But enough of the old tyrant and his slaves. Belle, prepare tea this moment, or dread my anger. I have not a gold- headed cane like old Fraser of Lovat, but I have, what some people would dread much more, an Armenian rune-stick."
Fresh Arrivals—Pitching the Tent—Certificated Wife—High-flying Notions.
On the following morning, as I was about to leave my tent, I heard the voice of Belle at the door, exclaiming, "Sleepest thou, or wakest thou?" "I was never more awake in my life," said I, going out. "What is the matter?" "He of the horse-shoe," said she, "Jasper, of whom I have heard you talk, is above there on the field with all his people; I went out about a quarter of an hour ago to fill the kettle at the spring, and saw them arriving." "It is well," said I; "have you any objection to asking him and his wife to breakfast?" "You can do as you please," said she; "I have cups enough, and have no objection to their company." "We are the first occupiers of the ground," said I, "and, being so, should consider ourselves in the light of hosts, and do our best to practise the duties of hospitality." "How fond you are of using that word," said Belle; "if you wish to invite the man and his wife, do so, without more ado; remember, however, that I have not cups enough, nor indeed tea enough, for the whole company." Thereupon hurrying up the ascent, I presently found myself outside the dingle. It was as usual a brilliant morning, the dewy blades of the rye-grass which covered the plain sparkled brightly in the beams of the sun, which had probably been about two hours above the horizon. A rather numerous body of my ancient friends and allies occupied the ground in the vicinity of the mouth of the dingle. About five yards on the right I perceived Mr. Petulengro busily employed in erecting his tent; he held in his hand an iron bar, sharp at the bottom, with a kind of arm projecting from the top for the purpose of supporting a kettle or cauldron over the fire, and which is called in the Romanian language "Kekauviskoe saster." With the sharp end of this Mr. Petulengro was making holes in the earth, at about twenty inches distant from each other, into which he inserted certain long rods with a considerable bend towards the top, which constituted no less than the timber of the tent, and the supporters of the canvas. Mrs. Petulengro, and a female with a crutch in her hand, whom I recognised as Mrs. Chikno, sat near him on the ground, whilst two or three children, from six to ten years old, who composed the young family of Mr. and Mrs. Petulengro, were playing about.
"Here we are, brother," said Mr. Petulengro, as he drove the sharp end of the bar into the ground; "here we are, and plenty of us—Bute dosta Romany chals."
"I am glad to see you all," said I; "and particularly you, madam," said I, making a bow to Mrs. Petulengro; "and you also, madam," taking off my hat to Mrs. Chikno.
"Good-day to you, sir," said Mrs. Petulengro; "you look, as usual, charmingly, and speak so, too; you have not forgot your manners."
"It is not all gold that glitters," said Mrs. Chikno. "However, good- morrow to you, young rye."
"I do not see Tawno," said I, looking around; "where is he?"
"Where, indeed!" said Mrs. Chikno; "I don't know; he who countenances him in the roving line can best answer."
"He will be here anon," said Mr. Petulengro; "he has merely ridden down a by-road to show a farmer a two-year-old colt; she heard me give him directions, but she can't be satisfied."
"I can't indeed," said Mrs. Chikno.
"And why not, sister?"
"Because I place no confidence in your words, brother; as I said before, you countenances him."
"Well," said I, "I know nothing of your private concerns; I am come on an errand. Isopel Berners, down in the dell there, requests the pleasure of Mr. and Mrs. Petulengro's company at breakfast. She will be happy also to see you, madam," said I, addressing Mrs. Chikno.
"Is that young female your wife, young man?" said Mrs. Chikno.
"My wife?" said I.
"Yes, young man; your wife, your lawful certificated wife?"
"No," said I; "she is not my wife."
"Then I will not visit with her," said Mrs. Chikno; "I countenance nothing in the roving line."
"What do you mean by the roving line?" I demanded.
"What do I mean by the roving line? Why, by it I mean such conduct as is not tatcheno. When ryes and rawnies live together in dingles, without being certificated, I call such behaviour being tolerably deep in the roving line, everything savouring of which I am determined not to sanctify. I have suffered too much by my own certificated husband's outbreaks in that line to afford anything of the kind the slightest shadow of countenance."
"It is hard that people may not live in dingles together without being suspected of doing wrong," said I.
"So it is," said Mrs. Petulengro, interposing; "and, to tell you the truth, I am altogether surprised at the illiberality of my sister's remarks. I have often heard say, that it is in good company—and I have kept good company in my time—that suspicion is king's evidence of a narrow and uncultivated mind; on which account I am suspicious of nobody, not even of my own husband, whom some people would think I have a right to be suspicious of, seeing that on his account I once refused a lord; but ask him whether I am suspicious of him, and whether I seek to keep him close tied to my apron-string; he will tell you nothing of the kind; but that, on the contrary, I always allows him an agreeable latitude, permitting him to go where he pleases, and to converse with any one to whose manner of speaking he may take a fancy. But I have had the advantage of keeping good company, and therefore—"
"Meklis," said Mrs. Chikno, "pray drop all that, sister; I believe I have kept as good company as yourself; and with respect to that offer with which you frequently fatigue those who keeps company with you, I believe, after all, it was something in the roving and uncertificated line."
"In whatever line it was," said Mrs. Petulengro, "the offer was a good one. The young duke—for he was not only a lord, but a duke too—offered to keep me a fine carriage, and to make me his second wife; for it is true that he had another who was old and stout, though mighty rich, and highly good-natured; so much so, indeed, that the young lord assured me that she would have no manner of objection to the arrangement; more especially if I would consent to live in the same house with her, being fond of young and cheerful society. So you see—"
"Yes, yes," said Mrs. Chikno, "I see, what I before thought, that it was altogether in the uncertificated line."
"Meklis," said Mrs. Petulengro; "I use your own word, madam, which is Romany: for my own part, I am not fond of using Romany words, unless I can hope to pass them off for French, which I cannot in the present company. I heartily wish that there was no such language, and do my best to keep it away from my children, lest the frequent use of it should altogether confirm them in low and vulgar habits. I have four children, madam, but—"
"I suppose by talking of your four children you wish to check me for having none," said Mrs. Chikno, bursting into tears; "if I have no children, sister, it is no fault of mine, it is—but why do I call you sister?" said she, angrily; "you are no sister of mine, you are a grasni, a regular mare—a pretty sister, indeed, ashamed of your own language. I remember well that by your high-flying notions you drove your own mother—"
"We will drop it," said Mrs. Petulengro; "I do not wish to raise my voice, and to make myself ridiculous. Young gentleman," said she, "pray present my compliments to Miss Isopel Berners, and inform her that I am very sorry that I cannot accept her polite invitation. I am just arrived, and have some slight domestic matters to see to—amongst others, to wash my children's faces; but that in the course of the forenoon, when I have attended to what I have to do, and have dressed myself, I hope to do myself the honour of paying her a regular visit; you will tell her that, with my compliments. With respect to my husband he can answer for himself, as I, not being of a jealous disposition, never interferes with his matters."
"And tell Miss Berners," said Mr. Petulengro, "that I shall be happy to wait upon her in company with my wife as soon as we are regularly settled: at present I have much on my hands, having not only to pitch my own tent, but this here jealous woman's, whose husband is absent on my business."
Thereupon I returned to the dingle, and, without saying anything about Mrs. Chikno's observations, communicated to Isopel the messages of Mr. and Mrs. Petulengro; Isopel made no other reply than by replacing in her coffer two additional cups and saucers, which, in expectation of company, she had placed upon the board. The kettle was by this time boiling. We sat down, and, as we breakfasted, I gave Isopel Berners another lesson in the Armenian language.
The Promised Visit—Roman Fashion—Wizard and Witch—Catching at Words—The Two Females—Dressing of Hair—The New Roads—Belle's Altered Appearance—Herself Again.
About mid-day Mr. and Mrs. Petulengro came to the dingle to pay the promised visit. Belle, at the time of their arrival, was in her tent, but I was at the fire-place, engaged in hammering part of the outer-tire, or defence, which had come off from one of the wheels of my vehicle. On perceiving them I forthwith went to receive them. Mr. Petulengro was dressed in Roman fashion, with a somewhat smartly-cut sporting-coat, the buttons of which were half-crowns—and a waistcoat, scarlet and black, the buttons of which were spaded half-guineas; his breeches were of a stuff half velveteen, half corduroy, the cords exceedingly broad. He had leggings of buff cloth, furred at the bottom; and upon his feet were highlows. Under his left arm was a long black whalebone riding-whip, with a red lash, and an immense silver knob. Upon his head was a hat with a high peak, somewhat of the kind which the Spaniards call calane, so much in favour with the bravos of Seville and Madrid. Now, when I have added that Mr. Petulengro had on a very fine white holland shirt, I think I have described his array. Mrs. Petulengro—I beg pardon for not having spoken of her first—was also arrayed very much in the Roman fashion. Her hair, which was exceedingly black and lustrous, fell in braids on either side of her head. In her ears were rings, with long drops of gold. Round her neck was a string of what seemed very much like very large pearls, somewhat tarnished, however, and apparently of considerable antiquity. "Here we are, brother," said Mr. Petulengro; "here we are, come to see you—wizard and witch, witch and wizard:—
"'There's a chovahanee, and a chovahano, The nav se len is Petulengro.'"
"Hold your tongue, sir," said Mrs. Petulengro; "you make me ashamed of you with your vulgar ditties. We are come a visiting now, and everything low should be left behind."
"True," said Mr. Petulengro; "why bring what's low to the dingle, which is low enough already?"
"What, are you a catcher at words?" said I. "I thought that catching at words had been confined to the pothouse farmers and village witty bodies."
"All fools," said Mrs. Petulengro, "catch at words, and very naturally, as by so doing they hope to prevent the possibility of rational conversation. Catching at words confined to pothouse farmers, and village witty bodies! No, not to Jasper Petulengro. Listen for an hour or two to the discourse of a set they call newspaper editors, and if you don't go out and eat grass, as a dog does when he is sick, I am no female woman. The young lord whose hand I refused when I took up with wise Jasper, once brought two of them to my mother's tan, when hankering after my company; they did nothing but carp at each other's words, and a pretty hand they made of it. Ill-favoured dogs they were; and their attempts at what they called wit almost as unfortunate as their countenances."
"Well," said I, "madam, we will drop all catchings and carpings for the present. Pray take your seat on this stool, whilst I go and announce to Miss Isopel Berners your arrival."
Thereupon I went to Belle's habitation, and informed her that Mr. and Mrs. Petulengro had paid us a visit of ceremony, and were awaiting her at the fire-place. "Pray go and tell them that I am busy," said Belle, who was engaged with her needle. "I do not feel disposed to take part in any such nonsense." "I shall do no such thing," said I; "and I insist upon your coming forthwith, and showing proper courtesy to your visitors. If you do not, their feelings will be hurt, and you are aware that I cannot bear that people's feelings should be outraged. Come this moment, or—" "Or what?" said Belle, half smiling. "I was about to say something in Armenian," said I. "Well," said Belle, laying down her work, "I will come." "Stay," said I; "your hair is hanging about your ears, and your dress is in disorder; you had better stay a minute or two to prepare yourself to appear before your visitors, who have come in their very best attire." "No," said Belle, "I will make no alteration in my appearance; you told me to come this moment, and you shall be obeyed." So Belle and I advanced towards our guests. As we drew nigh Mr. Petulengro took off his hat, and made a profound obeisance to Belle, whilst Mrs. Petulengro rose from the stool, and made a profound curtsey. Belle, who had flung her hair back over her shoulders, returned their salutations by bending her head, and after slightly glancing at Mr. Petulengro, fixed her large blue eyes full upon his wife. Both these females were very handsome—but how unlike! Belle fair, with blue eyes and flaxen hair; Mrs. Petulengro with olive complexion, eyes black, and hair dark—as dark as could be. Belle, in demeanour calm and proud; the gypsy graceful, but full of movement and agitation. And then how different were those two in stature! The head of the Romany rawnie scarcely ascended to the breast of Isopel Berners. I could see that Mrs. Petulengro gazed on Belle with unmixed admiration; so did her husband. "Well," said the latter, "one thing I will say, which is, that there is only one on earth worthy to stand up in front of this she, and that is the beauty of the world, as far as man flesh is concerned, Tawno Chikno; what a pity he did not come down!"
"Tawno Chikno," said Mrs. Petulengro, flaring up; "a pretty fellow he to stand up in front of this gentlewoman, a pity he didn't come, quotha? not at all, the fellow is a sneak, afraid of his wife. He stand up against this rawnie! why, the look she has given me would knock the fellow down."
"It is easier to knock him down with a look than with a fist," said Mr. Petulengro; "that is, if the look comes from a woman: not that I am disposed to doubt that this female gentlewoman is able to knock him down either one way or the other. I have heard of her often enough, and have seen her once or twice, though not so near as now. Well, ma'am, my wife and I are come to pay our respects to you; we are both glad to find that you have left off keeping company with Flaming Bosville, and have taken up with my pal; he is not very handsome, but a better—"
"I take up with your pal, as you call him! you had better mind what you say," said Isopel Berners, "I take up with nobody."
"I merely mean taking up your quarters with him," said Mr. Petulengro; "and I was only about to say a better fellow-lodger you cannot have, or a more instructive, especially if you have a desire to be inoculated with tongues, as he calls them. I wonder whether you and he have had any tongue-work already."
"Have you and your wife anything particular to say? if you have nothing but this kind of conversation I must leave you, as I am going to make a journey this afternoon, and should be getting ready."
"You must excuse my husband, madam," said Mrs. Petulengro, "he is not overburdened with understanding, and has said but one word of sense since he has been here, which was that we came to pay our respects to you. We have dressed ourselves in our best Roman way, in order to do honour to you; perhaps you do not like it; if so, I am sorry. I have no French clothes, madam; if I had any, madam, I would have come in them, in order to do you more honour."
"I like to see you much better as you are," said Belle; "people should keep to their own fashions, and yours is very pretty."
"I am glad you are pleased to think it so, madam; it has been admired in the great city; it created what they call a sensation; and some of the great ladies, the court ladies, imitated it, else I should not appear in it so often as I am accustomed; for I am not very fond of what is Roman, having an imagination that what is Roman is ungenteel; in fact, I once heard the wife of a rich citizen say that gypsies were vulgar creatures. I should have taken her saying very much to heart, but for her improper pronunciation; she could not pronounce her words, madam, which we gypsies, as they call us, usually can, so I thought she was no very high purchase. You are very beautiful, madam, though you are not dressed as I could wish to see you, and your hair is hanging down in sad confusion; allow me to assist you in arranging your hair, madam; I will dress it for you in our fashion; I would fain see how your hair would look in our poor gypsy fashion; pray allow me, madam?" and she took Belle by the hand.
"I really can do no such thing," said Belle, withdrawing her hand; "I thank you for coming to see me, but—"
"Do allow me to officiate upon your hair, madam," said Mrs. Petulengro. "I should esteem your allowing me a great mark of condescension. You are very beautiful, madam, and I think you doubly so, because you are so fair; I have a great esteem for persons with fair complexions and hair; I have a less regard for people with dark hair and complexions, madam."
"Then why did you turn off the lord, and take up with me?" said Mr. Petulengro; "that same lord was fair enough all about him."
"People do when they are young and silly what they sometimes repent of when they are of riper years and understandings. I sometimes think that had I not been something of a simpleton, I might at this time be a great court lady. Now, madam," said she, again taking Belle by the hand, "do oblige me by allowing me to plait your hair a little?"
"I have really a good mind to be angry with you," said Belle, giving Mrs. Petulengro a peculiar glance.
"Do allow her to arrange your hair," said I; "she means no harm, and wishes to do you honour; do oblige her and me too, for I should like to see how your hair would look dressed in her fashion."
"You hear what the young rye says?" said Mrs. Petulengro. "I am sure you will oblige the young rye, if not myself. Many people would be willing to oblige the young rye, if he would but ask them; but he is not in the habit of asking favours. He has a nose of his own, which he keeps tolerably exalted; he does not think small-beer of himself, madam; and all the time I have been with him, I never heard him ask a favour before; therefore, madam, I am sure you will oblige him. My sister Ursula would be very willing to oblige him in many things, but he will not ask for anything, except for such a favour as a word, which is a poor favour after all. I don't mean for her word; perhaps he will some day ask you for your word. If so—"
"Why, here you are, after railing at me for catching at words, catching at a word yourself," said Mr. Petulengro.
"Hold your tongue, sir," said Mrs. Petulengro. "Don't interrupt me in my discourse; if I caught at a word now, I am not in the habit of doing so. I am no conceited body; no newspaper Neddy; no pothouse witty person. I was about to say, madam, that if the young rye asks you at any time for your word, you will do as you deem convenient; but I am sure you will oblige him by allowing me to braid your hair."
"I shall not do it to oblige him," said Belle; "the young rye, as you call him, is nothing to me."
"Well, then, to oblige me," said Mrs. Petulengro; "do allow me to become your poor tire-woman."
"It is great nonsense," said Belle, reddening; "however, as you came to see me, and ask the matter as a particular favour to yourself—"
"Thank you, madam," said Mrs. Petulengro, leading Belle to the stool; "please to sit down here. Thank you; your hair is very beautiful, madam," she continued, as she proceeded to braid Belle's hair; "so is your countenance. Should you ever go to the great city, among the grand folks, you would make a sensation, madam. I have made one myself, who am dark; the chi she is kauley, which last word signifies black, which I am not, though rather dark. There is no colour like white, madam; it's so lasting, so genteel. Gentility will carry the day, madam, even with the young rye. He will ask words of the black lass, but beg the word of the fair."
In the meantime Mr. Petulengro and myself entered into conversation. "Any news stirring, Mr. Petulengro?" said I. "Have you heard anything of the great religious movements?"
"Plenty," said Mr. Petulengro; "all the religious people, more especially the Evangelicals—those that go about distributing tracts—are very angry about the fight between Gentleman Cooper and White-headed Bob, which they say ought not to have been permitted to take place; and then they are trying all they can to prevent the fight between the lion and the dogs, which they say is a disgrace to a Christian country. Now I can't say that I have any quarrel with the religious party and the Evangelicals; they are always civil to me and mine, and frequently give us tracts, as they call them, which neither I nor mine can read; but I cannot say that I approve of any movements, religious or not, which have in aim to put down all life and manly sport in this here country."
"Anything else?" said I.
"People are becoming vastly sharp," said Mr. Petulengro; "and I am told that all the old-fashioned good-tempered constables are going to be set aside, and a paid body of men to be established, who are not to permit a tramper or vagabond on the roads of England;—and talking of roads, puts me in mind of a strange story I heard two nights ago, whilst drinking some beer at a public-house in company with my cousin Sylvester. I had asked Tawno to go, but his wife would not let him. Just opposite me, smoking their pipes, were a couple of men, something like engineers, and they were talking of a wonderful invention which was to make a wonderful alteration in England; inasmuch as it would set aside all the old roads, which in a little time would be ploughed up, and sowed with corn, and cause all England to be laid down with iron roads, on which people would go thundering along in vehicles, pushed forward by fire and smoke. Now, brother, when I heard this, I did not feel very comfortable; for I thought to myself, what a queer place such a road would be to pitch one's tent upon, and how impossible it would be for one's cattle to find a bite of grass upon it; and I thought likewise of the danger to which one's family would be exposed in being run over and severely scorched by these same flying fiery vehicles; so I made bold to say, that I hoped such an invention would never be countenanced, because it was likely to do a great deal of harm. Whereupon, one of the men, giving me a glance, said, without taking the pipe out of his mouth, that for his part, he sincerely hoped that it would take effect; and if it did no other good than stopping the rambles of gypsies, and other like scamps, it ought to be encouraged. Well, brother, feeling myself insulted, I put my hand into my pocket, in order to pull out money, intending to challenge him to fight for a five-shilling stake, but merely found sixpence, having left all my other money at the tent; which sixpence was just sufficient to pay for the beer which Sylvester and myself were drinking, of whom I couldn't hope to borrow anything—'poor as Sylvester' being a by-word amongst us. So, not being able to back myself, I held my peace, and let the Gorgio have it all his own way, who, after turning up his nose at me, went on discoursing about the said invention, saying what a fund of profit it would be to those who knew how to make use of it, and should have the laying down of the new roads, and the shoeing of England with iron. And after he had said this, and much more of the same kind, which I cannot remember, he and his companion got up and walked away; and presently I and Sylvester got up and walked to our camp; and there I lay down in my tent by the side of my wife, where I had an ugly dream of having camped upon an iron road; my tent being overturned by a flying vehicle; my wife's leg injured; and all my affairs put into great confusion."
"Now, madam," said Mrs. Petulengro, "I have braided your hair in our fashion: you look very beautiful, madam; more beautiful, if possible, than before." Belle now rose, and came forward with her tire-woman. Mr. Petulengro was loud in his applause, but I said nothing, for I did not think Belle was improved in appearance by having submitted to the ministry of Mrs. Petulengro's hand. Nature never intended Belle to appear as a gypsy; she had made her too proud and serious. A more proper part for her was that of a heroine, a queenly heroine,—that of Theresa of Hungary, for example; or, better still, that of Brynhilda the Valkyrie, the beloved of Sigurd, the serpent-killer, who incurred the curse of Odin, because, in the tumult of spears, she sided with the young king, and doomed the old warrior to die, to whom Odin had promised victory.
Belle looked at me for a moment in silence; then turning to Mrs. Petulengro, she said, "You have had your will with me; are you satisfied?" "Quite so, madam," said Mrs. Petulengro, "and I hope you will be so too, as soon as you have looked in the glass." "I have looked in one already," said Belle; "and the glass does not flatter." "You mean the face of the young rye," said Mrs. Petulengro; "never mind him, madam; the young rye, though he knows a thing or two, is not a university, nor a person of universal wisdom. I assure you, that you never looked so well before; and I hope that, from this moment, you will wear your hair in this way." "And who is to braid it in this way?" said Belle, smiling. "I, madam," said Mrs. Petulengro; "I will braid it for you every morning, if you will but be persuaded to join us. Do so, madam, and I think, if you did, the young rye would do so too." "The young rye is nothing to me, nor I to him," said Belle; "we have stayed some time together; but our paths will soon be apart. Now, farewell, for I am about to take a journey." "And you will go out with your hair as I have braided it," said Mrs. Petulengro; "if you do, everybody will be in love with you." "No," said Belle; "hitherto I have allowed you to do what you please, but henceforth I shall have my own way. Come, come," said she, observing that the gypsy was about to speak, "we have had enough of nonsense; whenever I leave this hollow, it will be wearing my hair in my own fashion." "Come, wife," said Mr. Petulengro; "we will no longer intrude upon the rye and rawnie; there is such a thing as being troublesome." Thereupon Mr. Petulengro and his wife took their leave, with many salutations. "Then you are going?" said I, when Belle and I were left alone. "Yes," said Belle; "I am going on a journey; my affairs compel me." "But you will return again?" said I. "Yes," said Belle, "I shall return once more." "Once more," said I; "what do you mean by once more? The Petulengros will soon be gone, and will you abandon me in this place?" "You were alone here," said Belle, "before I came, and I suppose, found it agreeable, or you would not have stayed in it." "Yes," said I, "that was before I knew you; but having lived with you here, I should be very loth to live here without you." "Indeed," said Belle; "I did not know that I was of so much consequence to you. Well, the day is wearing away—I must go and harness Traveller to the cart." "I will do that," said I, "or anything else you may wish me. Go and prepare yourself; I will see after Traveller and the cart." Belle departed to her tent, and I set about performing the task I had undertaken. In about half-an-hour Belle again made her appearance—she was dressed neatly and plainly. Her hair was no longer in the Roman fashion, in which Pakomovna had plaited it, but was secured by a comb; she held a bonnet in her hand. "Is there anything else I can do for you?" I demanded. "There are two or three bundles by my tent, which you can put into the cart," said Belle. I put the bundles into the cart, and then led Traveller and the cart up the winding path to the mouth of the dingle, near which was Mr. Petulengro's encampment. Belle followed. At the top, I delivered the reins into her hands; we looked at each other stedfastly for some time. Belle then departed, and I returned to the dingle, where, seating myself on my stone, I remained for upwards of an hour in thought.
The Festival—The Gypsy Song—Piramus of Rome—The Scotchman—Gypsy Names.
On the following day there was much feasting amongst the Romany chals of Mr. Petulengro's party. Throughout the forenoon the Romany chies did scarcely anything but cook flesh, and the flesh which they cooked was swine's flesh. About two o'clock, the chals dividing themselves into various parties, sat down and partook of the fare, which was partly roasted, partly sodden. I dined that day with Mr. Petulengro and his wife and family, Ursula, Mr. and Mrs. Chikno, and Sylvester and his two children. Sylvester, it will be as well to say, was a widower, and had consequently no one to cook his victuals for him, supposing he had any, which was not always the case, Sylvester's affairs being seldom in a prosperous state. He was noted for his bad success in trafficking, notwithstanding the many hints which he received from Jasper, under whose protection he had placed himself, even as Tawno Chikno had done, who himself, as the reader has heard on a former occasion, was anything but a wealthy subject, though he was at all times better off than Sylvester, the Lazarus of the Romany tribe.
All our party ate with a good appetite, except myself, who, feeling rather melancholy that day, had little desire to eat. I did not, like the others, partake of the pork, but got my dinner entirely off the body of a squirrel which had been shot the day before by a chal of the name of Piramus, who, besides being a good shot, was celebrated for his skill in playing on the fiddle. During the dinner a horn filled with ale passed frequently around; I drank of it more than once, and felt inspirited by the draughts. The repast concluded, Sylvester and his children departed to their tent, and Mr. Petulengro, Tawno, and myself, getting up, went and lay down under a shady hedge, where Mr. Petulengro, lighting his pipe, began to smoke, and where Tawno presently fell asleep. I was about to fall asleep also, when I heard the sound of music and song. Piramus was playing on the fiddle, whilst Mrs. Chikno, who had a voice of her own, was singing in tones sharp enough, but of great power, a gypsy song:—
POISONING THE PORKER BY MRS. CHIKNO
To mande shoon ye Romany chals Who besh in the pus about the yag, I'll pen how we drab the baulo, I'll pen how we drab the baulo.
We jaws to the drab-engro ker, Trin horsworth there of drab we lels, And when to the swety back we wels We pens we'll drab the baulo, We'll have a drab at a baulo.
And then we kairs the drab opre, And then we jaws to the farming ker, To mang a beti habben, A beti poggado habben.
A rinkeno baulo there we dick, And then we pens in Romano jib; Wust lis odoi opre ye chick, And the baulo he will lel lis, The baulo he will lel lis.
Coliko, coliko saulo we Apopli to the farming ker Will wel and mang him mullo, Will wel and mang his truppo.
And so we kairs, and so we kairs; The baulo in the rarde mers; We mang him on the saulo, And rig to the tan the baulo.