THE WORLD'S GREATEST BOOKS
ARTHUR MEE Editor and Founder of the Book of Knowledge
J. A. HAMMERTON Editor of Harmsworth's Universal Encyclopaedia
VOL. II FICTION
Table of Contents
BORROW, GEORGE Lavengro Romany Rye
BRADDON, M.E. Lady Audley's Secret
BRADLEY, EDWARD ("COTHBERT BEDE") Adventures of Mr. Verdant Green
BRONTE, CHARLOTTE Jane Eyre Shirley Villette
BRONTE, EMILY Wuthering Heights
BUCHANAN, ROBERT Shadow of the Sword
BUNYAN, JOHN Holy War Pilgrim's Progress
BURNEY, FANNY Evelina
CARLETON, WILLIAM The Black Prophet
CARROLL, LEWIS Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
CERVANTES Don Quixote
CHAMISSO, ADALBERT VON Peter Schlemihl, the Shadowless Man
CHATEAUBRIAND, FRANCOIS RENE DE Atala
CHERBULIEZ, CHARLES VICTOR Samuel Brohl & Co.
COLLINS, WILKIE No Name The Woman in White
CONWAY, HUGH Called Back
COOPER, FENIMORE Last of the Mohicans The Spy
CRAIK, MRS. John Halifax, Gentleman
CROLY, GEORGE Salathiel, or Tarry Thou Till I Come
DANA, RICHARD HENRY Two Years before the Mast
A Complete Index of THE WORLD'S GREATEST BOOKS will be found at the end of Volume XX.
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George Henry Borrow was born at East Dereham, Norfolk, England, July 5, 1803. His father was an army captain, and Borrow's boyhood was spent at military stations in various parts of the kingdom. From his earliest youth he had a taste for roving and fraternising with gipsies and other vagrants. In 1819 he entered a solicitor's office at Norwich. After a long spell of drudgery and literary effort, he went to London in 1824, but left a year later, and for some time afterwards his movements were obscure. For a period of about five years, beginning 1835, he acted as the Bible Society's agent, selling and distributing Bibles in Spain, and in 1842 he published "The Bible in Spain." which appears in another volume of THE WORLD'S GREATEST BOOKS. (See TRAVEL AND ADVENTURE.) "Lavengro," written in 1851, enhanced the fame which Borrow had already secured by his earlier works. The book teems with character sketches drawn from real life in quarters which few could penetrate, and although they are often extremely eccentric, they are never grotesque, and never strike the mind with a sense of merely invented unreality. Here and there occur illuminating outbursts of reflection in philosophic accent which reveal in startling style the working of Borrow's mind. The linguistic lore is phenomenal, as in all his books. But though the wild, passionate scenes make the whole narrative an indescribable phantasmagoria, the diction is always free from turgidity, and from involved periods. Borrow died at Oulton, Suffolk, on July 26, 1881. A mighty athlete, an inveterate wanderer, a philological enthusiast, and a man of large-hearted simplicity mingled with violent prejudices, he was one of the most original and engaging personalities of nineteenth century English literature.
I.—The Scholar, the Gipsy, the Priest
On an evening of July, in the year 18—, at East D———, a beautiful little town in East Anglia, I first saw the light. My father, a Cornishman, after serving many years in the Line, at last entered as captain in a militia regiment. My mother, a strikingly handsome woman, was of the Huguenot race. I was not the only child of my parents, for I had a brother three years older than myself. He was a beautiful boy with much greater mental ability than I possessed, and he, with the greatest affection, indulged me in every possible way. Alas, his was an early and a foreign grave!
I have been a wanderer the greater part of my life, being the son of a soldier, who, unable to afford the support of two homes, was accompanied by his family wherever he went. A lover of books and of retired corners, I was as a child in the habit of fleeing from society. The first book that fascinated me was one of Defoe's. But those early days were stirring times, for England was then engaged in the struggle with Napoleon.
I remember strange sights, such as the scenes at Norman Cross, a station or prison where some six thousand French prisoners were immured. And vividly impressed on my memory is my intercourse with an extraordinary old man, a snake-catcher, who thrilled me with the recitals of his experiences. He declared that the vipers had a king, a terrible creature, which he had encountered, and from which he had managed to escape. After telling me that strange story of the king of the vipers, he gave me a viper which he had tamed, and had rendered harmless by extracting its fangs. I fed it with milk, and frequently carried it abroad with me in my walks.
One day on my rambles I entered a green lane I had never seen before. Seeing an odd-looking low tent or booth, I advanced towards it. Beside it were two light carts, and near by two or three lean ponies cropped the grass. Suddenly the two inmates, a man and a woman, both wild and forbidding figures, rushed out, alarmed at my presence, and commenced abusing me as an intruder. They threatened to fling me into the pond over the hedge.
I defied them to touch me, and, as I did so, made a motion well understood by the viper that lay hid in my bosom. The reptile instantly lifted its head and stared at my enemies with its glittering eyes. The woman, in amazed terror, retreated to the tent, and the man stood like one transfixed. Presently the two commenced talking to each other in what to me sounded like French, and next, in a conciliating tone, they offered me a peculiar sweetmeat, which I accepted. A peaceable conversation ensued, during which they cordially invited me to join their party and to become one of them.
The interview was rudely interrupted. Hoofs were heard, and the next moment a man rode up and addressed words to the gipsies which produced a startling effect. In a few minutes, from different directions, came swarthy men and women. Hastily they harnessed the ponies and took down the tent, and packed the carts, and in a remarkably brief space of time the party rode off with the utmost speed.
Three years passed, during which I increased considerably in stature and strength, and, let us hope, improved in mind. For at school I had learnt the whole of Lilly's "Latin Grammar"; but I was very ignorant of figures. Our regiment was moved to Edinburgh, where the castle was a garrison for soldiers. In that city I and my brother were sent to the high school. Here the scholars were constantly fighting, though no great harm was done. I had seen deaths happen through fights at school in England.
I became a daring cragsman, a character to which an English lad can seldom aspire, for in England there are neither crags nor mountains. The Scots are expert climbers, and I was now a Scot in most things, particularly the language. The castle in which I dwelt stood on a craggy rock, to scale which was my favourite diversion.
In the autumn of 1815, when the war with Napoleon was ended, we were ordered to Ireland, where at school I read Latin and Greek with a nice old clergyman, and of an evening studied French and Italian with a banished priest, Italian being my favourite.
It was in a horse fair I came across Jasper Petulengro, a young gipsy of whom I had caught sight in the gipsy camp I have already alluded to. He was amazed to see me, and in the most effusively friendly way claimed me as a "pal," calling me Sapengro, or "snake-master," in allusion, he said, to the viper incident. He said he was also called Pharaoh, and was the horse-master of the camp.
From this time I had frequent interviews with Jasper. He taught me much Romany, and introduced me to Tawno Chikno, the biggest man of the gipsy nation, and to Mrs. Chikno. These stood to him as parents, for his own were banished. I soon found that in the tents I had become acquainted with a most interesting people. With their language I was fascinated, though at first I had taken it for mere gibberish. My rapid progress astonished and delighted Jasper. "We'll no longer call you Sapengro, brother," said he, "but Lavengro, which in the language of the gorgios meaneth word-master." And Jasper's wife actually proposed that I should marry her sister.
The gipsies departed for England. I was now sixteen, and continued in the house of my parents, passing my time chiefly in philological pursuits. But it was high time that I should adopt some profession. My father would gladly have seen me enter the Church, but feared I was too erratic. So I was put to the law, but while remaining a novice at that pursuit, I became a perfect master of the Welsh language. My father soon began to feel that he had made a mistake in the choice of a profession for me.
My elder brother, who had cultivated a great taste for painting, told me one evening that father had given him L150 and his blessing, and that he was going to London to improve himself in his art.
My father was taken ill with severe attacks of gout, and, in a touching conversation, assured me that his end was approaching. Before that sad event happened, my brother, whom he longed to see, arrived home. My father died with the name of Christ on his lips. The brave old soldier, during intervals between his attacks, had told me more of his life than I had ever learned before, and I was amazed to find how much he knew and had seen. He had talked with King George, and had known Wellington, and was the friend of Townshend, who, when Wolfe fell, led the British grenadiers against the shrinking regiments of Montcalm.
II.—An Adventure with a Publisher
One damp, misty March morning, I dismounted from the top of a coach in the yard of a London inn. Delivering my scanty baggage to a porter, I followed him to a lodging prepared for me by an acquaintance. It consisted of a small room in which I was to sit, and a smaller one still in which I was to sleep.
Having breakfasted comfortably by a good fire, I sallied forth and easily found my way to the place I was in quest of, for it was scarcely ten minutes' walk distant. I was cordially received by the big man to whom some of my productions had been sent by a kind friend, and to whom he had given me a letter of introduction, which was respectfully read. But he informed me that he was selling his publishing business, and so could not make use of my literary help. He gave me counsel, however, especially advising me to write some evangelical tales, in the style of the "Dairyman's Daughter." As I told him I had never heard of that work, he said: "Then, sir, procure it by all means." Much more conversation ensued, during which the publisher told me that he purposed continuing to issue once a month his magazine, the "Oxford Review," and to this he proposed that I should attempt to contribute. As I was going away he invited me to dine with him on the ensuing Sunday.
On Sunday I was punctual to my appointment with the publisher. I found that for twenty years he had taken no animal food and no wine. After some talk he requested me to compile six volumes of Newgate lives and trials, of a thousand pages each, the remuneration to be L50 at the completion of the work. I was also to make myself generally useful to the "Review," and, furthermore, to translate into German a book of philosophy which he had written. Then he dismissed me, saying that, though he never went to church, he spent much of every Sunday afternoon alone, musing on the magnificence of Nature and the moral dignity of man.
I compiled the "Chronicles of Newgate," reviewed books for the "Review," and occasionally tried my best to translate into German portions of the publisher's philosophy. But the "Review" did not prove a successful speculation, and with its decease its corps of writers broke up. I was paid, not in cash, but in bills, one payable at twelve, the other at eighteen months after date. It was a long time before I could turn these bills to any account. At last I found a person willing to cash them at a discount of only thirty per cent.
By the month of October I had accomplished about two-thirds of the compilation of the Newgate lives, and had also made some progress with the German translation. But about this time I had begun to see very clearly that it was impossible that our connection would be of long duration; yet, in the event of my leaving the big man, what had I to offer another publisher? I returned to my labour, finished the German translation, got paid in the usual style, and left that employer.
III.—The Spirit of Stonehenge
One morning I discovered that my whole worldly wealth was reduced to a single half-crown, and throughout that day I walked about in considerable distress of mind. By a most singular chance I again came across my friend Petulengro in a fair into which I happened to wander when walking by the side of the river beyond London. My gipsy friend was seated with several men, carousing beside a small cask. He sprang up, greeting me cordially, and we chatted in Romany as we walked about together. Questioning me closely, he soon discovered that by that time I had only eighteen pence in my pocket.
Said Jasper: "I, too, have been in the big city; but I have not been writing books. I have fought in the ring. I have fifty pounds in my pocket, and I have much more in the world. Brother, there is considerable difference between us." But he could not prevail on me to accept or to borrow money, for I said that if I could not earn, I would starve. "Come and stay with us," said he. "Our tents and horses are on the other side of yonder wooded hill. We shall all be glad of your company, especially myself and my wife, Pakomovna."
I declined the kind invitation and walked on. Returning to the great city, I suddenly found myself outside the shop of a publisher to whom I had vainly applied some time before, in the hope of selling some of my writings. As I looked listlessly at the window, I observed a paper affixed to the glass, on which was written in a fair round hand, "A Novel or Tale is much wanted." I at once resolved to go to work to produce what was thus solicited. But what should the tale be about? After cogitating at my lodging, with bread and water before me, I concluded that I would write an entirely fictitious narrative called "The Life and Adventures of Joseph Sell, the Great Traveller." This Joseph Sell was an imaginary personage who had come into my head.
I seized pen and paper, but soon gave up the task of outlining the story, for the scenes flitted in bewildering fashion before my imagination. Yet, before morning, as I lay long awake, I had sketched the whole work on the tablets of my mind. Next day I partook of bread and water, and before night had completed pages of Joseph Sell, and added pages in varying quantity day by day, until my enterprise was finished.
"To-morrow for the bookseller! Oh, me!" I exclaimed, as I lay down to rest.
On arriving at the shop, I saw to my delight that the paper was still in the window. As I entered, a ladylike woman of about thirty came from the back parlour to ask my business. After my explanation, she requested me, as her husband was out, to leave the MS. with her, and to call again the next day at eleven. At that hour I duly appeared, and was greeted with a cordial reception. "I think your book will do," said the bookseller. After some negotiation, I was paid L20 on the spot, and departed with a light heart. Reader, amidst life's difficulties, should you ever be tempted to despair, call to mind these experiences of Lavengro. There are few positions, however difficult, from which dogged resolution and perseverance will not liberate you.
I had long determined to leave London, as my health had become much impaired. My preparations were soon made, and I set out to travel on foot. In about two hours I had cleared the great city, and was in a broad and excellent road, leading I knew not whither. In the evening, feeling weary, I thought of putting up at an inn, but was induced to take a seat in a coach, paying sixteen shillings for the fare. At dawn of day I was roused from a broken slumber and bidden to alight, and found myself close to a moorland. Walking on and on, I at length reached a circle of colossal stones.
The spirit of Stonehenge was upon me. As I reclined under the great transverse stone, in the middle of the gateway of giants, I heard the tinkling of bells, and presently a large flock of sheep came browsing along, and several entered the circle. Soon a man also came up. In a friendly talk, the young shepherd told me that the people of the plain believed that thousands of men had brought the stones from Ireland, to make a temple in which to worship God.
"But," said I, "our forefathers slaughtered the men who raised the stones, and left not one stone on another."
"Yes, they did," said the shepherd, looking aloft at the great transverse stone.
"And it is well that they did," answered I, "for whenever that stone, which English hands never raised, is by English hands thrown down, woe to the English race. Spare it, English. Hengist spared it."
We parted, and I wandered off to Salisbury, the city of the spire. There I stayed two days, spending my time as best I could, and then walked forth for several days, during which nothing happened worthy of notice, but the weather was brilliant, and my health had greatly improved.
Coming one day to a small countryside cottage, I saw scrawled over the door, "Good beer sold here." Being overcome with thirst, I went in to taste the beverage. Along the wall opposite where I sat in the well-sanded kitchen was the most disconsolate family I had ever seen, consisting of a tinker, his wife, a pretty-looking woman, who had evidently been crying, and a ragged boy and girl. I treated them to a large measure of beer, and in a few minutes the tinker was telling me his history. That conversation ended very curiously, for I purchased for five pounds ten shillings the man's whole equipment. It included his stock-in-trade, and his pony and cart. Of the landlady I purchased sundry provisions, and also a waggoner's frock, gave the horse a little feed of corn, and departed.
IV.—The Flaming Tinman
At three hours past noon I thus started to travel as a tinker. I was absolutely indifferent as to the direction of my journey. Coming to no hostelry, I pitched my little tent after nightfall in a waste land amongst some bushes, and kindled a fire in a convenient spot with sticks which I gathered. For a few days I practiced my new craft by trying to mend two kettles and a frying-pan, remaining in my little camp. Few folk passed by. But soon some exciting incidents happened. My quarters were one morning suddenly invaded by a young Romany girl, who advanced towards me, after closely scanning me, singing a gipsy song:
The Romany chi And the Romany chal Shall jaw tasaulor To drab the bawlor, And dook the gry Of the farming rye.
A very pretty song, thought I, falling hard to work again on my kettle; a very pretty song, which bodes the farmers much good. Let them look to their cattle.
"All alone here, brother?" said a voice close to me, in sharp, but not disagreeable tones.
A talk ensued, in which the girl discovered that I knew how to speak Romany, and it ended in my presenting her with the kettle.
"Parraco tute—that is, I thank you, brother. The rikkeni kekaubi is now mine. O, rare, I thank you kindly, brother!"
Presently she came towards me, stared me full in the face, saying to herself, "Grey, tall, and talks Romany!" In her countenance there was an expression I had not seen before, which struck me as being composed of fear, curiosity, and deepest hate. It was only momentary, and was succeeded by one smiling, frank, and open. "Good-bye, tall brother," said she, and she departed, singing the same song.
On the evening of the next day, after I had been with my pony and cart strolling through several villages, and had succeeded in collecting several kettles which I was to mend, I returned to my little camp, lit my fire, and ate my frugal meal. Then, after looking for some time at the stars, I entered my tent, lay down on my pallet, and went to sleep. Two more days passed without momentous incidents, but on the third evening the girl reappeared, bringing me two cakes, one of which she offered to eat herself, if I would eat the other. They were the gift to me of her grandmother, as a token of friendship. Incautiously I ate a portion to please the maiden. She eagerly watched as I did so. But I paid dearly indeed for my simplicity. I was in a short time seized with the most painful sensations, and was speedily prostrate in helpless agonies.
While I was in this alarming condition the grandmother appeared, and began to taunt me with the utmost malignity. She was Mrs. Herne, "the hairy one," who had conceived inveterate spite against me at the time when Petulengro had proposed that I should marry his wife's sister. This poison had been administered to inflict on me the vengeance she had not ceased to meditate.
My life was in real peril, but I was fortunately delivered by a timely and providential interposition. The malignant old gipsy woman and her granddaughter were scared as they watched my sufferings by hearing the sound of travellers approaching. Two wayfarers came along, one of whom happened to be a kind and skillful doctor. He saved my life by drastic remedies.
The next that I heard of Mrs. Herne was, as Petulengro told me when we again met, that she had hanged herself, the girl finding her suspended from a tree. That announcement was accompanied by an unexpected challenge from my friend Jasper to fight him. He declared that as she was his relative, and I had been the cause of her destruction, there was no escape from the necessity of fighting. My plea that there was no inclination on my part for such a combat was of no avail. Accordingly we fought for half an hour, when suddenly Petulengro exclaimed: "Brother, there is much blood on your face; I think enough has been done in the affair of the old woman."
So the struggle ended, and my Romany friend once more pressed me to join his tribe in their camp and in their life. I declined the offer, for I had resolved to practice yet another calling, the trade of a blacksmith. I could do so, for amongst the stock-in-trade I had purchased from the tinker was a small forge, with an anvil and hammers.
It has always struck me that there is something poetical about a forge. I believe that the life of any blacksmith, especially a rural one, would afford material for a highly poetical treatise. But a rude stop was put to my dream. One morning, a brutal-looking ruffian, whom I had met before and recognised as a character known as the Flaming Tinman, appeared on the scene, accusing me with fearful oaths of trespassing on his ground. After volleys of abuse, he attacked me, and a fearful fight ensued, in which he was not the victor, for in one of his terrific lunges he slipped, and a blow which I was aiming happened to strike him behind the ear. He fell senseless. Two women were with him, one, a vulgar, coarse creature, his wife; the other a tall, fine young woman, who travelled with them for company, doing business of her own with a donkey and cart, selling merchandise.
While I was bringing water from a spring in order to seek to revive the Flaming Tinman, his wife and the young woman violently quarrelled, for the latter took my part vehemently. When at length my enemy recovered sufficiently to look about him, and then to stand up, I found that his wife had put an open knife in his hand. But his intention could not be carried out, for his right hand was injured in the fight, and was for the time useless, as he quickly realised.
The couple presently departed, cursing me and the young woman, who remained behind in the little camp, and, as I was in an exhausted state, offered to make tea by the camp fire. While we were taking the repast, she told me the story of her life. Her name was Isopel Berners, and though she believed that she had come of a good stock, she was born in a workhouse. When old enough, she had entered the service of a kind widow, who travelled with small merchandise. After the death of her mistress, Isopel carried on the same avocation. Being friendless, and falling in with the Flaming Tinman and his wife, she had associated with them, yet acknowledged that she had found them to be bad people.
Time passed on. Isopel and I lived still in the dingle, occupying our separate tents. She went to and fro on her business, and I went on short excursions. Her company, when she happened to be in camp, was very entertaining, for she had wandered in all parts of England and Wales. For recreation, I taught her a great deal of Armenian, much of which was like the gipsy tongue. She had a kind heart, and was an upright character. She often asked me questions about America, for she had an idea she would like to go there. But as I had never crossed the sea to that country, I could only tell her what I had heard about it.
* * * * *
The Romany Rye
In this work, published in two volumes in 1857, George Borrow continued the "kind of biography in the Robinson Crusoe style" which he had begun in the three volumes of "Lavengro," issued six years earlier. "Romany Rye" is described as a sequel to "Lavengro," and takes up that story with the author and his friend Isopel Berners encamped side by side in the Mumpers' Dingle, whither the gipsies, Mr. and Mrs. Petulengro and their relations, shortly afterwards arrive. The book consists of a succession of episodes, without plot, the sole connecting thread being Borrow's personality as figuring in them. Much of the "Romany Rye" was written at Oulton Broad, where, after his marriage in 1840, Borrow lived until he removed to Hereford Square, Brompton. At Oulton, it is worthy of record, gipsies were allowed to pitch their tents, the author of "Romany Rye" and "Lavengro" mingling freely with them. As a novel, the "Romany Rye" is preferred by many readers to any of Borrow's other works.
I.—The Roving Life
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. Near the mouth of the dingle—Mumpers' Dingle, near Wittenhall, Staffordshire—where my friend Isopel Berners and I, the travelling tinker, were encamped side by side, a rather numerous body of my ancient friends and allies occupied the ground. About five yards on the right, Mr. Petulengro was 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. With the sharp end of this he was making holes in the earth at about twenty inches distance from each other, into which he inserted certain long rods with a considerable bend towards the top, which constituted the timbers 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.
"Here we are, brother," said Mr. Petulengro. "Here we are, and plenty of us."
"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 am come on an errand," said I. "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 lives 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. "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. I always allows him an agreeable latitude to go where he pleases. 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."
II.—The Parting of the Ways
Belle was sitting before the fire, at which the kettle was boiling.
"Were you waiting for me?" I inquired.
"Yes," said Belle.
"That was very kind," said I.
"Not half so kind," said she, "as it was of you to get everything ready for me in the dead of last night."
After tea, we resumed our study of Armenian. "First of all, tell me," said Belle, "what a verb is?"
"A part of speech," said I, "which, according to the dictionary, signifies some action or passion. For example: I command you, or I hate you."
"I have given you no cause to hate me," said Belle, looking me sorrowfully in the face.
"I was merely giving two examples," said I. "In Armenian, there are four conjugations of verbs; the first ends in al, the second in yel, the third in oul, and the fourth in il. Now, have you understood me?"
"I am afraid, indeed, it will all end ill," said Belle.
"Let us have no unprofitable interruptions," said I. "Come, we will begin with the verb hntal, a verb of the first conjugation, which signifies rejoice. Come along. Hntam, I rejoice; hntas, thou rejoicest. Why don't you follow, Belle?"
"I'm sure I don't rejoice, whatever you may do," said Belle.
"The chief difficulty, Belle," said I, "that I find in teaching you the Armenian grammar proceeds from your applying to yourself and me every example I give."
"I can't bear this much longer," said Belle.
"Keep yourself quiet," said I. "We will skip hntal and proceed to the second conjugation. Belle, I will now select for you to conjugate the prettiest verb in Armenian—the verb siriel. Here is the present tense: siriem, siries, sire, siriemk, sirek, sirien. Come on, Belle, and say 'siriem.'"
Belle hesitated. "You must admit, Belle, it is much softer than hntam."
"It is so," said Belle, "and to oblige you, I will say 'siriem.'"
"Very well indeed, Belle," said I. "And now, to show you how verbs act upon pronouns, I will say 'siriem zkiez.' Please to repeat 'siriem zkiez.'"
"'Siriem zkiez!'" said Belle. "That last word is very hard to say."
"Sorry that you think so, Belle," said I. "Now please to say 'siria zis.'" Belle did so.
"Now say 'yerani the sireir zis,'" said I.
"'Yerani the sireir zis,'" said Belle.
"Capital!" said I. "You have now said, 'I love you—love me—ah! would that you would love me!'"
"And I have said all these things?"
"You have said them in Armenian," said I.
"I would have said them in no language that I understood; and it was very wrong of you to take advantage of my ignorance and make me say such things."
"Why so?" said I. "If you said them, I said them, too."
"You did so," said Belle; "but I believe you were merely bantering and jeering."
"As I told you before, Belle," said I, "the chief difficulty which I find in teaching you Armenian proceeds from your persisting in applying to yourself and me every example I give."
"Then you meant nothing, after all?" said Belle, raising her voice.
"Let us proceed: sirietsi, I loved."
"You never loved anyone but yourself," said Belle; "and what's more——"
"Sirietsits, I will love," said I; "sirietsies, thou wilt love."
"Never one so thoroughly heartless."
"I tell you what, Belle—you are becoming intolerable. But we will change the verb. You would hardly believe, Belle," said I, "that the Armenian is in some respects closely connected with the Irish, but so it is. For example: that word parghatsoutsaniem is evidently derived from the same root as fear-gaim, which, in Irish, is as much as to say, 'I vex.'"
"You do, indeed," said Belle, sobbing.
"But how do you account for it?"
"Oh, man, man!" cried Belle, bursting into tears, "for what purpose do you ask a poor ignorant girl such a question, unless it be to vex and irritate her? If you wish to display your learning, do so to the wise and instructed, and not to me, who can scarcely read or write."
"I am sorry to see you take on so, dear Belle," said I. "I had no idea of making you cry. Come, I beg your pardon; what more can I do? Come, cheer up, Belle. You were talking of parting; don't let us part, but depart, and that together."
"Our ways lie different," said Belle.
"I don't see why they should," said I. "Come, let us be off to America together."
"To America together?" said Belle.
"Yes," said I; "where we will settle down in some forest, and conjugate the verb siriel conjugally."
"Conjugally?" said Belle.
"Yes; as man and wife in America."
"You are jesting, as usual," said Belle.
"Not I, indeed. Come, Belle, make up your mind, and let us be off to America."
"I don't think you are jesting," said Belle; "but I can hardly entertain your offers; however, young man, I thank you. I will say nothing more at present. I must have time to consider."
Next day, when I got up to go with Mr. Petulengro to the fair, on leaving my tent I observed Belle, entirely dressed, standing close to her own little encampment.
"Dear me," said I. "I little expected to find you up so early."
"I merely lay down in my things," said Belle; "I wished to be in readiness to bid you farewell when you departed."
"Well, God bless you, Belle!" said I. "I shall be home to-night; by which time I expect you will have made up your mind."
On arriving at the extremity of the plain, I looked towards the dingle. Isopel Berners stood at the mouth, the beams of the early morning sun shone full on her noble face and figure. I waved my hand towards her. She slowly lifted up her right arm. I turned away, and never saw Isopel Berners again.
The fourth morning afterwards I received from her a letter in which she sent me a lock of her hair and told me she was just embarking for a distant country, never expecting to see her own again. She concluded with this piece of advice: "Fear God, and take your own part. Fear God, young man, and never give in! The world can bully, and is fond, if it sees a man in a kind of difficulty, of getting about him, calling him coarse names; but no sooner sees the man taking off his coat and offering to fight, than it scatters, and is always civil to him afterwards."
III.—Horse-Keeping and Horse-Dealing
After thus losing Isopel, I decided to leave the dingle, and having, by Mr. Petulengro's kind advice, become the possessor of a fine horse, I gave my pony and tinker's outfit to the gipsies, and set out on the road, whereupon I was to meet with strange adventures.
At length, awaiting the time when I could take my horse to Horncastle Fair and sell him, I settled at a busy inn on the high-road, where, in return for board and lodging for myself and horse, I had to supervise the distribution of hay and corn in the stables, and to keep an account thereof. The old ostler, with whom I was soon on excellent terms, was a regular character—a Yorkshireman by birth, who had seen a great deal of life in the vicinity of London. He had served as ostler at a small inn at Hounslow, much frequented by highway men. Jerry Abershaw and Richard Ferguson, generally called Galloping Dick, were capital customers then, he told me, and he had frequently drunk with them in the corn-room. No man could desire jollier companions over a glass of "summut"; but on the road they were terrible, cursing and swearing, and thrusting the muzzles of their pistols into people's mouths.
From the old ostler I picked up many valuable hints about horses.
"When you are a gentleman," said he, "should you ever wish to take a journey on a horse of your own, follow my advice. Before you start, merely give your horse a couple of handfuls of corn, and a little water—somewhat under a quart. Then you may walk and trot for about ten miles till you come to some nice inn, where you see your horse led into a nice stall, telling the ostler not to feed him till you come. If the ostler happens to have a dog, say what a nice one it is; if he hasn't, ask him how he's getting on, and whether he ever knew worse times; when your back's turned, he'll say what a nice gentleman you are, and how he thinks he has seen you before.
"Then go and sit down to breakfast, and before you have finished, get up and go and give your horse a feed of corn; chat with the ostler two or three minutes till your horse has taken the shine out of his corn, which will prevent the ostler taking any of it away when your back's turned. Then go and finish your breakfast, and when you have finished your breakfast, when you have called for the newspaper, go and water your horse, letting him have about one pailful; then give him another feed of corn, and enter into discourse with the ostler about bull-baiting, the prime minister, and the like; and when your horse has once more taken the shine out of his corn, go back to your room and your newspaper. Then pull the bell-rope and order in your bill, which you will pay without counting it up—supposing you to be a gentleman. Give the waiter sixpence, and order out your horse, and when your horse is out, pay for the corn, and give the ostler a shilling, then mount your horse and walk him gently for five miles.
"See to your horse at night, and have him well rubbed down. Next day, you may ride your horse forty miles just as you please, and those will bring you to your journey's end, unless it's a plaguey long one. If so, never ride your horse more than five-and-thirty miles a day, always seeing him well fed, and taking more care of him than yourself, seeing as how he is the best animal of the two."
The stage-coachmen of that time—low fellows, but masters of driving— were made so much fuss of by sprigs of nobility and others that their brutality and rapacious insolence had reached a climax. One, who frequented our inn, and who was called the "bang-up coachman," was a swaggering bully, who not only lashed his horses unmercifully, but in one or two instances had beaten in a barbarous manner individuals who had quarrelled with him. One day an inoffensive old fellow of sixty, who refused him a tip for his insolence, was lighting his pipe, when the coachman struck it out of his mouth.
The elderly individual, without manifesting much surprise, said: "I thank you; and if you will wait a minute I'll give you a receipt for that favour." Then, gathering up his pipe, and taking off his coat and hat, he advanced towards the coachman, holding his hands crossed very near his face.
The coachman, who expected anything but such a movement, pointed at him derisively with his finger. The next moment, however, the other had struck aside the hand with his left fist, and given him a severe blow on the nose with his right, which he immediately followed by a left-hand blow in the eye. The coachman endeavoured to close, but his foe was not to be closed with; he did not shift or dodge about, but warded off the blows of his opponent with the greatest sangfroid, always using the same guard, and putting in short, chopping blows with the quickness of lightning. In a very few minutes the coachman was literally cut to pieces. He did not appear on the box again for a week, and never held up his head afterwards.
Reaching Horncastle at last, I managed to get quarters for myself and horse, and, by making friends with the ostlers and others, picked up more hints.
"There a'n't a better horse in the fair," said one companion to me, "and as you are one of us, and appear to be all right, I'll give you a piece of advice—don't take less than a hundred and fifty for him."
"Well," said I, "thank you for your advice; and, if successful, I will give you 'summut' handsome."
"Thank you," said the ostler; "and now let me ask whether you are up to all the ways of this here place?"
"I've never been here before," said I.
Thereupon he gave me half a dozen cautions, one of which was not to stop and listen to what any chance customer might have to say; and another, by no manner of means to permit a Yorkshireman to get up into the saddle. "For," said he, "if you do, it is three to one that he rides off with the horse; he can't help it. Trust a cat amongst cream, but never trust a Yorkshireman on the saddle of a good horse."
"A fine horse! A capital horse!" said several of the connoisseurs. "What do you ask for him?"
"A hundred and fifty pounds," said I.
"Why, I thought you would have asked double that amount! You do yourself injustice, young man."
"Perhaps I do," said I; "but that's my affair. I do not choose to take more."
"I wish you would let me get into the saddle," said the man. "The horse knows you, and therefore shows to more advantage; but I should like to see how he would move under me, who am a stranger. Will you let me get into the saddle, young man?"
"No," said I.
"Why not?" said the man.
"Lest you should be a Yorkshireman," said I, "and should run away with the horse."
"Yorkshire?" said the man. "I am from Suffolk—silly Suffolk—so you need not be afraid of my running away with him."
"Oh, if that's the case," said I, "I should be afraid that the horse would run away with you!"
Threading my way as well as I could through the press, I returned to the yard of the inn, where, dismounting, I stood still, holding the horse by the bridle. A jockey, who had already bargained with me, entered, accompanied by another individual.
"Here is my lord come to look at the horse, young man," said the jockey. My lord was a tall figure of about five-and-thirty. He had on his head a hat somewhat rusty, and on his back a surtout of blue rather worse for wear. His forehead, if not high, was exceedingly narrow; his eyes were brown, with a rat-like glare in them. He had scarcely glanced at the horse when, drawing in his cheeks, he thrust out his lips like a baboon to a piece of sugar.
"Is this horse yours?" said he.
"It's my horse," said I. "Are you the person who wishes to make an honest penny by it?" alluding to a phrase of the jockey's.
"How?" said he, drawing up his head with a very consequential look, and speaking with a very haughty tone. "What do you mean?" We looked at each other full in the face. "My agent here informs me that you ask one hundred and fifty pounds, which I cannot think of giving. The horse is a showy horse. But look, my dear sir, he has a defect here, and in his near foreleg I observe something which looks very much like a splint! Yes, upon my credit, he has a splint, or something which will end in one! A hundred and fifty pounds, sir! What could have induced you to ask anything like that for this animal? I protest—Who are you, sir? I am in treaty for this horse," said he, turning to a man who had come up whilst he was talking, and was now looking into the horse's mouth.
"Who am I?" said the man, still looking into the horse's mouth. "Who am I? his lordship asks me. Ah, I see, close on five," said he, releasing the horse's jaws.
Close beside him stood a tall youth in a handsome riding dress, and wearing a singular green hat with a high peak.
"What do you ask for him?" said the man.
"A hundred and fifty," said I.
"I shouldn't mind giving it to you," said he.
"You will do no such thing," said his lordship. "Sir," said he to me, "I must give you what you ask."
"No," said I; "had you come forward in a manly and gentlemanly manner to purchase the horse I should have been happy to sell him to you; but after all the fault you have found with him I would not sell him to you at any price."
His lordship, after a contemptuous look at me and a scowl at the jockey, stalked out.
"And now," said the other, "I suppose I may consider myself as the purchaser of this here animal for this young gentleman?"
"By no means," said I. "I am utterly unacquainted with either of you."
"Oh, I have plenty of vouchers for my respectability!" said he. And, thrusting his hand into his bosom, he drew out a bundle of notes. "These are the kind of things which vouch best for a man's respectability."
"Not always," said I; "sometimes these kind of things need vouchers for themselves." The man looked at me with a peculiar look. "Do you mean to say that these notes are not sufficient notes?" said he; "because, if you do, I shall take the liberty of thinking that you are not over civil; and when I thinks a person is not over and above civil I sometimes takes off my coat; and when my coat is off——"
"You sometimes knock people down," I added. "Well, whether you knock me down or not, I beg leave to tell you that I am a stranger in this fair, and shall part with the horse to nobody who has no better guarantee for his respectability than a roll of bank-notes, which may be good or not for what I know, who am not a judge of such things."
"Oh, if you are a stranger here," said the man, "you are quite right to be cautious, queer things being done in this fair. But I suppose if the landlord of the house vouches for me and my notes you will have no objection to part with the horse to me?"
"None whatever," said I.
Thereupon I delivered the horse to my friend the ostler. The landlord informed me that my new acquaintance was a respectable horse-dealer and an intimate friend of his, whereupon the purchase was soon brought to a satisfactory conclusion.
IV.—A Recruiting Sergeant
Leaving Horncastle the next day, I bent my steps eastward, and on the following day I reached a large town situated on a river. At the end of the town I was accosted by a fiery-faced individual dressed as a recruiting sergeant.
"Young man, you are just the kind of person to serve the Honourable East India Company."
"I had rather the Honourable Company should serve me," said I.
"Of course, young man. Take this shilling; 'tis service money. The Honourable Company engages to serve you, and you the Honourable Company."
"And what must I do for the Company?"
"Only go to India—the finest country in the world. Rivers bigger than the Ouse. Hills higher than anything near Spalding. Trees—you never saw such trees! Fruits—you never saw such fruits!"
"And the people—what kind are they?"
"Pah! Kauloes—blacks—a set of rascals! And they calls us lolloes, which, in their beastly gibberish, means reds. Why do you stare so?"
"Why," said I, "this is the very language of Mr. Petulengro."
"I say, young fellow, I don't like your way of speaking; you are mad, sir. You won't do for the Honourable Company. Good-day to you!"
"I shouldn't wonder," said I, as I proceeded rapidly eastward, "if Mr. Petulengro came from India. I think I'll go there."
* * * * *
M. E. BRADDON
Lady Audley's Secret
Mary Elizabeth Maxwell, youngest daughter of Henry Braddon, solicitor, and widow of John Maxwell, publisher, was born in London in 1837. Early in life she had literary aspirations, and, as a girl of twenty-three, wrote her first novel, "The Trail of the Serpent," which first appeared in serial form. "Lady Audley's Secret" was published in 1862, and Miss Braddon immediately sprang into fame as an authoress, combining a graphic style with keen analysis of character, and exceptional ingenuity in the construction of a plot of tantalising complexities and DRAMATIC DENOUEMENT. The book passed through many editions, and there was an immediate demand for other stories by the gifted authoress. That demand was met with an industry and resource rarely equalled. Every year since, Miss Braddon, who throughout retained her maiden as her pen-name, furnished the reading public with one, and for a long period two romances of absorbing interest.
I.—The Second Lady Audley
SIR MICHAEL AUDLEY was fifty-six years of age, and had married a second wife nine months before. For seventeen years he had been a widower with an only child—Alicia, now eighteen. Lady Audley had come into the neighbourhood from London, in response to an advertisement in the "Times," as a governess in the family of Mr. Dawson, the village surgeon. Her accomplishments were brilliant and numerous. Everyone, high and low, loved, admired, and praised her, and united in declaring that Lucy Graham was the sweetest girl that ever lived. Sir Michael Audley expressed a strong desire to be acquainted with her. A meeting was arranged at the surgeon's house, and that day Sir Michael's fate was sealed. One misty June evening Sir Michael, sitting opposite Lucy Graham at the window of the surgeon's little drawing-room, spoke to her on the subject nearest his heart.
"I scarcely think," he said, "there is a greater sin, Lucy, than that of a woman who marries a man she does not love. You are so precious to me that, deeply as my heart is set on this, and bitter as the mere thought of disappointment is to me, I would not have you commit such a sin for any happiness of mine. Nothing but misery can result from a marriage dictated by any motive but truth and love."
Lucy for some moments was quite silent. Then, turning to him with a sudden passion in her manner that lighted up her face with a new and wonderful beauty, she fell on her knees at his feet. Clutching at a black ribbon about her throat, she exclaimed:
"How good, how noble, how generous you are! But you ask too much of me. Only remember what my life has been! From babyhood I have never seen anything but poverty. My father was a gentleman, but poor; my mother— but don't let me speak of her. You can never guess what is endured by genteel paupers. I cannot be disinterested; I cannot be blind to the advantages of such a marriage. I do not dislike you—no, no; and I do not love anyone in the world," she added, with a laugh, when asked if there was anyone else.
Sir Michael was silent for a few moments, and then, with a kind of effort, said: "Well, Lucy, I will not ask too much of you; but I see no reason why we should not make a very happy couple."
When Lucy went to her own room she sat down on the edge of the bed, and murmured: "No more dependence, no more drudgery, no more humiliations! Every trace of the old life melted away, every clue to identity buried and forgotten except this"—and she drew from her bosom a black ribbon and locket, and the object attached to it. It was a ring wrapped in an oblong piece of crumpled paper, partly written and partly printed.
II.—The Return of the Gold-Seeker
A tall, powerfully-built young man of twenty-five, his face bronzed by exposure, brown eyes, bushy black beard, moustache, and hair, was pacing impatiently the deck of the Australian liner Argus, bound from Melbourne to Liverpool. His name was George Talboys. He was joined in his promenade by a shipboard-friend, who had been attracted by the feverish ardour and freshness of the young man, and was made the confidant of his story.
"Do you know, Miss Morley," he said, "that I left my little girl asleep, with her baby in her arms, and with nothing but a few blotted lines to tell her why her adoring husband had deserted her."
"Deserted her!" cried Miss Morley.
"Yes. I was a cornet in a cavalry regiment when I first met my darling. We were quartered in a stupid seaport town, where my pet lived with her shabby old father—a half-pay naval man. It was a case of love at first sight on both sides, and my darling and I made a match of it. My father is a rich man, but no sooner did he hear that I was married to a penniless girl than he wrote a furious letter telling me that he would never again hold any communication with me, and that my yearly allowance was stopped.
"I sold out my commission, thinking that before the money I got for it was exhausted I should be sure to drop into something. I took my darling to Italy, lived in splendid style, and then, when there was nothing left but a couple of hundred pounds, we came back to England and boarded with my wretched father-in-law, who fleeced us finely. I went to London and tried in vain to get employment; and on my return, my little girl burst into a storm of lamentations, blaming me for the cruel wrong of marrying her if I could give her nothing but poverty and misery. Her tears and reproaches drove me almost mad. I ran out of the house, rushed down to the pier, intending, after dark, to drop quietly into the water and end all.
"While I sat smoking two men came along, and began to talk of the Australian gold-diggings and the great fortunes that were to be made there in a short time. I got into conversation with them, and learned that a ship sailed from Liverpool for Melbourne in three days. The thought flashed on me that that was better than the water. I returned home, crept upstairs, and wrote a few hurried lines which told her that I never loved her better than now when I seemed to desert her; that I was going to try my fortune in a new world; that if I succeeded I should come back to bring her plenty and happiness, but if I failed I should never look upon her face again. I kissed her hand and the baby once, and slipped out of the room. Three nights after I was out at sea, bound for Melbourne, a steerage passenger with a digger's tools for my baggage, and seven shillings in my pocket. After three and a half years of hard and bitter struggles on the goldfields, at last I struck it rich, realised twenty thousand pounds, and a fortnight later I took my passage for England. All this time I had never communicated with my wife, but the moment fortune came, I wrote, telling her I should be in England almost as soon as my letter, and giving her an address at a coffee-house in London."
That same evening Phoebe Marks, maid to Lady Audley, invited her cousin and sweetheart, Luke Marks, a farm labourer with ambitions to own a public-house, to survey the wonders of Audley Court, including my lady's private apartments and her jewel-box. During the inspection, by accident, a knob in the framework of the jewel-box was pushed, and a secret drawer sprang out There were neither gold nor gems in it. Only a baby's little worsted shoe, rolled in a piece of paper, and a tiny lock of silky yellow hair, evidently taken from a baby's head. Phoebe's eyes dilated as she examined the little packet.
"So this is what my lady hides in the secret drawer," she said, putting the little packet in her pocket.
"Why, Phoebe, you're never going to be such a fool as to take that?" cried Luke.
"I'd rather have this than the diamond bracelet you would have liked to take," she said, her lips curving into a curious smile. "You shall have the public-house, Luke."
III.—Robert Audley Comes on the Scene
Robert Audley was supposed to be a barrister, and had chambers in Fig Tree Court, Temple. He was a handsome, lazy, care-for-nothing fellow of seven-and-twenty, the only son of the younger brother of Sir Michael Audley, who had left him a moderate competency.
One morning, Robert Audley strolled out of the Temple, Blackfriarswards. At the corner of a court in St. Paul's Churchyard he was almost knocked down by a man of his own age dashing headlong into the narrow opening. Robert remonstrated; the stranger stopped suddenly, looked very hard at the speaker, and cried, in a tone of intense astonishment:
"Bob! I only touched British ground after dark last night, and to think I should meet you this morning!"
George Talboys, for the stranger was the late passenger on board the Argus, had been from boyhood the inseparable chum of Robert Audley. The tale of Talboys' marriage, his expedition to Australia, and his return with a fortune, was briefly told. The pair took a hansom to the Westminster coffee-house where Talboys had written to his wife to forward letters. There was no letter, and the young man showed very bitter disappointment. By and by George mechanically picked up a "Times" newspaper of a day or two before, and stared vacantly at the first page. He turned a sickly colour, and pointed to a line which ran: "On the 24th inst., at Ventnor-Isle of Wight, Helen Talboys, aged 22." He knew no more until he opened his eyes in a room in his friend's chambers in the Temple.
Next day he and Robert Audley journeyed by express to Ventnor, learned on inquiry at the principal hotel that a Captain Maldon, whose daughter was lately dead, was staying at Lansdowne Cottage; and thither they proceeded. The captain and his little grandson, Georgey, were out.
George Talboys and his friend visited the churchyard where his wife was buried, commissioned a mason to erect a headstone on the grave, and then went to the beach to seek Captain Maldon and the little boy.
The captain, when he saw his son-in-law, coloured violently with something of a frightened look. He told Talboys that only a few months after his departure he and Helen came to live at Southampton, where she had obtained a few pupils for the piano; but her health failed, and she fell into a decline, of which she died. Broken-hearted, Talboys started for Liverpool to take ship for Australia, but failed to catch the steamer; returned to London, and accompanied Robert Audley on a long visit to Russia.
A year passed, and Robert proposed to take his friend to Audley Court, but had a letter from his cousin Alicia, saying that her stepmother had taken into her head that she was too ill to entertain, though in reality there was nothing the matter with her.
"My lady's airs and graces shan't keep us out of Essex, for all that," said Robert Audley. "We will go to a comfortable old inn in the village of Audley."
Thither they went; but Lady Audley, who had casually seen him, although he was unaware of it, continued on one excuse or another to avoid meeting George Talboys. The two young men strolled up to the Court in the absence of Sir Michael and Lady Audley, where they met Alicia Audley, who showed them the lime walk and the old well.
Robert was anxious to see the portrait of his new aunt; but Lady Audley's picture was in her private apartments, the door of which was locked. Alicia remembered there was, unknown to Lady Audley, access to these by means of a secret passage. In a spirit of fun the young men explored the passage and reached the portrait. George Talboys sat before it without uttering a word, only staring blankly.
"We managed it capitally; but I don't like the portrait," said Robert, when they had crept back. "There is something odd about it."
"There is," answered Alicia. "We never have seen my lady look as she does in that picture; but I think she could look so."
Next day Talboys and Robert went fishing. George pretended to fish; Robert slept on the river-bank. The servants were at dinner at the Court; Alicia had gone riding. Lady Audley sauntered out, book in hand, to the shady lime walk. George Talboys came up to the hall, rang the bell, was told that her ladyship was walking in the lime avenue. He looked disappointed at the intelligence, and walked away. A full hour and a half later, Lady Audley returned to the house, not coming from the lime avenue, but from the opposite direction. In her own room she confronted her maid, Phoebe. The eyes of the two women met.
"Phoebe Marks," said my lady presently, "you are a good girl; and while I live and am prosperous, you shall not want a firm friend and a twenty-pound note."
IV.—The Search and the Counter Check
Robert Audley awoke from his nap to find George Talboys gone. He searched in the grounds and in the inn for him in vain. At the railway-station he heard that a man who, from the description given, might be Talboys, had gone by the afternoon train to London. In the evening he went up to the Court to dinner. Lady Audley was gay and fascinating; but gave a little nervous shudder when Robert, feeling uneasy about his friend, said so.
Again, when Lady Audley was at the piano he observed a bruise on her arm. She said that it was caused by tying a piece of ribbon too tightly round her arm two or three days before. But Robert saw that the bruise was recent, and that it had been made by the four fingers, one of which had a ring, of a powerful hand.
Suspicion began to be aroused in the mind of Robert Audley, first as to the real identity of Lady Audley; and second, as to the fate of his friend. He brought into play all the keenness of his intellect, and abandoned his lazy habits. He went to Southampton, saw Captain Maldon, who told him that George Talboys had arrived the morning before at one o'clock to have a look at his boy before sailing for Australia. On inquiry at Liverpool, this proved to be false.
He sought the assistance of George's father, Squire Talboys, at Grange Heath, Dorsetshire, to discover the murderer; but the squire resolutely refused to accept that his son was dead. He was only hiding, hoping for forgiveness, which would never be given.
The beautiful sister of George Talboys followed Robert when he left the mansion and besought him passionately to avenge her brother's murder, in which she implicitly believed, and this he promised to do.
Then he learned that Phoebe, Lady Audley's maid, had married her cousin Luke Marks, who, under veiled threats, had obtained one hundred pounds from her ladyship to enable him to lease the Castle Inn. And having visited the place, and held conversation with the half-drunken landlord, he felt assured that Luke Marks and his wife had by some means obtained a sinister power over Lady Audley.
Robert thereafter traced the life history of Helen Maldon from her marriage to George Talboys at Wildernsea, Yorkshire, her secret departure from there after her husband's desertion, her appearance the following day as a teacher in a girl's school at Brompton under the name of Lucy Graham; her arrival as a governess in Essex, and finally her marriage to Sir Michael Audley.
Once more he returned to the Court, where his uncle was lying ill, attended by Lady Audley. He demanded a private audience of my lady, at which he told her he had discovered the whole of the conspiracy concocted by an artful woman who had speculated upon the chance of her husband's death, and had secured a splendid position at the risk of committing a crime.
"My friend, George Talboys," said Robert, "was last seen entering these gardens, and was never seen to leave them. I will have such a search made as shall level that house to the earth, and root up every tree rather than I will fail in finding the grave of my murdered friend."
"You shall never live to do this," she said. "I will kill you first!"
That evening Lady Audley gave to her husband a gloss of what his nephew had said, and boldly accused him of being mad. "You would," she said, "never let anyone influence you against me, would you, darling?"
"No, my love; they had better not try it."
Lady Audley laughed aloud, with a gay, triumphant peal as she tripped out of the room; but as she sat in her own chamber, brooding, she muttered: "Dare I defy him? Will anything stop him but—death?"
Just then Phoebe Marks arrived to warn Lady Audley that Robert had appeared at the Castle Inn. She also explained that a bailiff was in the house, as the rent was due, and she wanted money to pay him out. Lady Audley, insisted to Phoebe's astonishment, that she herself would bring the money. She did so; and, unknown to Phoebe, cunningly set fire to the inn, hoping that Robert Audley would meet his death. She and her maid then left the inn to make the long tramp back to the Court. Half the distance had been covered, when Phoebe looked back and saw a red glare in the sky. She stopped, suddenly fell on her knees, and cried: "Oh, my God! Say it's not true! It's too horrible!"
"What's too horrible?" said Lady Audley.
"The thought that is in my mind."
"I will tell you nothing except that you are a mad woman; and go home." Lady Audley walked away in the darkness.
V.—My Lady Tells the Truth
Lady Audley next day was under the dominion of a terrible restlessness. Towards the dinner hour she walked in the quadrangle. In the dusk she lost all self-control when a figure approached. Her knees sank under her and she dropped to the ground. It was Robert Audley who helped her to rise and then led her into the library. In a pitiless voice he called her the incendiary of the fire at the inn. Fortunately, he had changed his room, and escaped being burnt to death, saving, at the same time, Luke Marks. The day was now past, he insisted, for mercy, after last night's deed of horror; and she should no longer pollute the Court with her presence.
"Bring Sir Michael," she cried, "and I will confess everything!"
And so the confession was made. Briefly stated, it was that as a little child, in a Hampshire coast village, when she asked where her mother was, the answer always was that that was a secret. In a fit of passion the foster-mother told her that her own mother was a madwoman in an asylum many miles away. Afterwards, she learned that the madness was a hereditary disease, and she was instructed to keep the secret because it might affect her injuriously in after life. Then she detailed the story of her life until her marriage with Sir Michael Audley, justifying that on the ground that she had a right to believe her first husband was dead. In the sunshine of love at Audley Court she felt, for the first time in her life, the miseries of others, and took pleasure in acts of kindness.
In an Essex paper she read of the return of her first husband to England. Knowing his character, she thought that unless he could be induced to believe she was dead, he would never abandon his search for her. Again she became mad. In collusion with her father she induced a Mrs. Plowson in Southampton, who had a daughter in the last stage of consumption, to pass off that daughter as Mrs. George Talboys, and removed her to Ventnor, Isle of Wight, with her own little boy schooled to call her "mamma." There she died in a fortnight, was buried as Mrs. George Talboys, and the advertisement of the death was inserted in the "Times" two days before her husband's arrival in England.
Sir Michael could hear no more. He and his daughter Alicia departed that evening for the Continent. Next day, Dr. Mosgrave, a mental specialist, arrived from London. He was fully informed of the history of Lady Audley, examined her, and finally reported to Robert: "The lady is not mad, but she has a hereditary taint in her blood. She has the cunning of madness, with the prudence of intelligence. She is dangerous." He gave Robert a letter addressed to Monsieur Val, Villebrumeuse, Belgium, who, he said, was the proprietor and medical superintendent of an excellent maison de sante, and would, no doubt, willingly receive Lady Audley into his establishment, and charge himself with the full responsibility of her future life.
Robert escorted Lady Audley to Villebrumeuse, where she was presented to Monsieur Val as Madame Taylor. When Monsieur Val retired from the reception room, at my lady's request, she turned to Robert, and said: "You have brought me to a living grave; you have used your power basely and cruelly."
"I have done that which I thought was just to others, and merciful to you," replied Robert. "Live here and repent."
"I cannot," cried my lady. "I would defy you and kill myself if I dared. Do you know what I am thinking of? It is of the day upon which George Talboys—disappeared! The body of George Talboys lies at the bottom of the old well in the shrubbery beyond the lime walk. He came to me there, goaded me beyond endurance, and I called him a madman and a liar. I was going to leave him when he seized me by the wrist and sought to detain me by force. You yourself saw the bruises. I became mad, and drew the loose iron spindle from the shrunken wood of the windlass. My first husband sank with one horrible cry into the black mouth of the well!"
VI.—The Mystery Cleared Up
On arrival in London, Robert Audley received a letter from Clara Talboys saying that Luke Marks, the man whom he had saved in the fire at the Castle Inn, was lying at his mother's cottage at Audley, and expressed a very earnest wish to see him. Robert took train at once to Audley.
The dying man confessed that on the night of George Talboys's disappearance, when going home to his mother's cottage, he heard groans come from the laurel bushes in the shrubbery near the old well. On search, he found Talboys covered with slime, and with a broken arm. He carried the crippled man to his mother's cottage, washed, fed, and nursed him.
Next day Talboys gave him a five-pound note to accompany him to the town of Brentwood, where he called on a surgeon to have his broken arm set and dressed. That done, Talboys wrote two notes in pencil with his left hand, and gave them to Luke to deliver—one with a cross to be handed to Lady Audley, and the other to the nephew of Sir Michael, and then took train to London in a second-class carriage.
Phoebe, who had seen from her window Lady Audley pushing George Talboys into the well, said that my lady was in their power, and that she would do anything for them to keep her secret. So the letters were not delivered.
He hid them away; not a creature had seen them. The old mother, who had been present throughout the confession, took the papers from a drawer and handed them to Robert Audley.
The note to Robert said that something had happened to the writer, he could not tell what, which drove him from England, a broken-hearted man, to seek some corner of the earth where he might live and die unknown and forgotten. He left his son in his friend's hands, knowing that he could leave him to no truer guardian. The second note was addressed "Helen," saying, "May God pity and forgive you for that which you have done to-day, as truly as I do. Rest in peace. You shall never hear from me again. I leave England, never to return.—G. T."
Luke Marks died that afternoon. Robert Audley wrote a long letter the same evening, addressed to Madame Taylor, in which he told the story related by Marks; and as soon as possible he went down to Dorsetshire to inform George Talboys's father that his son was alive. He stayed five weeks at Grange Heath, and the love which had come to him at first sight of Clara Talboys rapidly ripened.
Consent to the marriage was given, with a blessing by the old Roman-minded squire, and the pair agreed to go on their honeymoon trip to Australia to look for the son and brother. Robert returned for the last time to his bachelor chambers in the Temple. He was told that a visitor was waiting for him. The visitor was George Talboys, and he opened his arms to his lost friend with a cry of delight and surprise. The tale was soon told. When George fell into the well he was stunned and bruised, and his arm broken. After infinite pains and difficulties he climbed to the top and hid in a clump of laurel bushes till the arrival of Luke Marks. He had not been to Australia after all, but had exchanged his berth on board the Victoria Regia for another in a ship bound for New York. There he remained for a time till he yearned for the strong clasp of the hand which guided him through the darkest passage of his life.
Two years passed. In a fairy cottage on the banks of the Thames, between Teddington Lock and Hampton Bridge, George Talboys lives with his sister and brother-in-law, the latter having now obtained success at the Bar. Georgey pays occasional visits from Eton to play with a pretty baby cousin. It is a year since a black-edged letter came to Robert Audley, announcing that Madame Taylor had died after a long illness, which Monsieur Val described as maladie de longueur. Sir Michael Audley lives in London with Alicia, who is very shortly to become the wife of Sir Harry Towers, a sporting Herts baronet.
* * * * *
EDWARD BRADLEY ("CUTHBERT BEDE")
The Adventures of Mr. Verdant Green
Edward Bradley is one of few English humorists of the mid-Victorian era who produced any work that is likely to survive the wear of time and change of taste. "The Adventures of Mr. Verdant Green," his earliest and best story, is, in its way, a masterpiece. Never has the lighter and gayer side of Oxford life been depicted with so much humour and fidelity; and what makes this achievement still more remarkable is the fact that Cuthbert Bede (to give Bradley the name which he adopted for literary purposes and made famous) was not an Oxford man. He was born at Kidderminster in 1827, and educated at Durham University, with the idea of becoming a clergyman. But not being old enough to take orders, he stayed for a year at Oxford, without, however, matriculating there. At the age of twenty he began to write for "Punch," and "The Adventures of Verdant Green" was composed in 1853, when he was still on the staff of that paper. The book, on its publication, had an immense vogue, and though twenty-six other books followed from his pen, it is still the most popular. He died on December 11, 1889.
I.—A Very Quiet Party
As Mr. Verdant Green was sitting, sad and lonely, in his rooms overlooking the picturesque, mediaeval quadrangle of Brazenface College, Oxford, a German band began to play "Home, Sweet Home," with that truth and delicacy of expression which the wandering minstrels of Germany seem to acquire intuitively. The sweet melancholy of the air, as it came subdued into softer tones by distance, would probably have moved any lad who had just been torn from the shelter of his family to fight, all inexperienced, the battle of life. On Mr. Verdant Green it had such an overwhelming effect that when his scout, Filcher, entered the room he found his master looking very red about the eyes, and furiously wiping the large spectacles from which his nick-name, "Gig-lamps," was derived.
The fact was that Mr. Verdant Green was a freshman of the freshest kind. It was his first day in Oxford. He had been brought up entirely by his mother and a maiden aunt. Happily, Mr. Larkyns, the rector of Manor Green, the charming Warwickshire village of which the Greens had been squires from time immemorial, convinced his mother that Verdant needed the society of young men of his own age. Mr. Larkyn's own son, a manly young fellow named Charles, had already been sent up to Brazenface College, where he was rapidly distinguishing himself; and after many tears and arguments, Mrs. Green had consented to her boy also going up to Oxford.
As we have said, Mr. Verdant Green felt very tearful and lonely as his scout entered his rooms. But the appearance of Filcher reminded him that he was now an Oxford man, and he resolved to begin his career by calling upon Mr. Charles Larkyns.
He found Mr. Larkyns lolling on a couch, in dressing-gown and slippers. Opposite to him was a gentleman whose face was partly hidden by a pewter pot, out of which he was draining the last draught. Mr. Larkyns turned his head, and saw dimly through the clouds of tobacco smoke that filled his room a tall, thin, spectacled figure, with a hat in one hand, and an envelope in the other.
"It's no use," he said, "stealing a march on me in this way. I don't owe you anything; and if I did it is not convenient to pay it. Hang you Oxford tradesmen! You really make a man thoroughly bill-ious. Tell your master that I can't get any money out of my governor till I've got my degree. Now make yourself scarce! You know where the door lies!"
Mr. Verdant Green was so confounded at this unusual reception that he lost the power of motion and speech. But as Mr. Larkyns advanced towards him in a threatening attitude, he managed to gasp out: "Why, Charles Larkyns, don't you remember me, Verdant Green?"
"'Pon my word, old fellow," said his friend, "I thought you were a dun. There are so many wretched tradesmen in this place who labour under the impression that because a man buys a thing he means to pay for it, that my life is mostly spent in dodging their messengers. Allow me," he added, "to introduce you to Mr. Smalls. You will find him very useful in helping you in your studies. He himself reads so hard that he is called a fast man."
Mr. Smalls put down his pewter pot, and said that he had much pleasure in forming the acquaintance of a freshman like Mr. Verdant Green; which was undoubtedly true. And he then showed his absorbing interest in literary studies by neglecting the society of Mr. Verdant Green and immersing himself in the perusal of one of those vivid accounts of "a rattling set-to between Nobby Buffer and Hammer Sykes" which make "Bell's Life" the favourite reading of many Oxford scholars.
"I heard from my governor," said Mr. Larkyns, "that you were coming up, and in the course of the morning I should have come to look you up. Have a cigar, old chap?"
"Er—er—thank you very much," said Verdant, in a frightened way; "but I have never smoked."
"Never smoked!" exclaimed Mr. Smalls, holding up "Bell's Life," and making private signals to Mr. Larkyns. "You'll soon get the better of that weakness! As you are a freshman, let me give you a little advice. You know what deep readers the Germans are. That is because they smoke more than we do. I should advise you to go at once to the vice-chancellor and ask him for a box of good cigars. He will be delighted to find you are beginning to set to work so soon."
Mr. Verdant Green thanked Mr. Smalls for his kind advice, and said that he would go without delay to the vice-chancellor. And Mr. Smalls was so delighted with the joke, for the vice-chancellor took severe steps to prevent undergraduates from indulging in the fragrant weed, that he invited Verdant to wine with him that evening.
"Just a small quiet party of hard-working men," said Mr. Smalls. "I hope you don't object to a very quiet party."
"Oh, dear, no! I much prefer a quiet party," said Mr. Verdant Green; "indeed, I have always been used to quiet parties; and I shall be very glad to come."
In order to while away the time between then and evening, Mr. Charles Larkyns offered to take Mr. Verdant Green over Oxford, and put him up to a thing or two, and show him some of the freshman's sights. Naturally, he got a considerable amount of fun out of his young and very credulous friend. For some weeks afterwards, Mr. Verdant Green never met any of the gorgeously robed beadles of the university without taking his hat off and making them a profound bow. For, according to his information, one of them was the vice-chancellor, and the rest were various dignitaries and famous men.
By the time the inventive powers of Mr. Larkyns were exhausted, it was necessary to dress for the very quiet party. Some hours afterwards, Mr. Verdant Green was standing in a room filled with smoke and noise, leaning rather heavily against the table. His friends had first tempted him with a cigar; then, as his first smoke produced the strange effects common in these cases, they had induced him to take a little strong punch as a remedy. He was now leaning against the table in answer to the call of "Mr. Gig-lamps for a song." Having decided upon one of those vocal efforts which in the bosom of his family met with great applause, he began to sing in low and plaintive tones, "'I dre-eamt that I dwelt in Mar-ar-ble Halls, with'"—and then, alarmed by hearing the sound of his own voice, he stopped.
"Try back, Verdant," shouted Mr. Larkyns.
Mr. Verdant Green tried back, but with an increased confusion of ideas, resulting from the mixture of milk-punch and strong cigars. "'I dre-eamt that I dwe-elt in Mar-arble Halls, with vassals and serfs at my si-hi-hide; and—'—I beg your pardon, gentlemen, I really forget——oh, I know—'And I also dre-eamt, which ple-eased me most—' No, that's not it."
And, smiling very amiably, he sank down on the carpet, and went to sleep under the table. Some time afterwards, two men were seen carrying an inert body across the quad; they took it upstairs and put it on a bed. And late the next morning, Mr. Verdant Green woke up with a splitting headache, and wished that he had never been born.
As time went on, all the well-known practical jokes were played upon him; and gradually—and sometimes painfully—he learnt the wisdom that is not taught in books, nor acquired from maiden aunts.
II.—Mr. Verdant Green Does as He Has Been Done By
One morning, Mr. Green and one of his friends, little Mr. Bouncer, were lounging in the gateway of Brazenface, when a modest-looking young man came towards them. He seemed so ill at ease in his frock coat and high collar that he looked as if he were wearing these articles for the first time.
"I'll bet you a bottle of blacking, Gig-lamps," said Mr. Bouncer, "that we have here an intending freshman. Let us take a rise out of him."
"Can you direct me to Brazenface College, please, sir?" said the youthful stranger, flushing like a girl.
"This is Brazenface College," said Mr. Bouncer, looking very important. "And, pray, what is your business here and your name?"
"If you please," said the stranger, "I am James Pucker. I came to enter, sir, for my matriculation examination, and I wish to see the gentleman who will examine me."
"Then you've come to the proper quarter, young man," said Mr. Bouncer. "Here is Mr. Pluckem," turning to Mr. Verdant Green, "the junior examiner."
Mr. Verdant Green took his cue with astonishing aptitude and glared through his glasses at the trembling, blushing Mr. Pucker.
"And here," continued Mr. Bouncer, pointing to Mr. Fosbrooke, who was coming up the street, "is the gentleman who will assist Mr. Pluckem in examining you."
"It will be extremely inconvenient to me to examine you now," said Mr. Fosbrooke; "but, as you probably wish to return home as soon as possible, I will endeavour to conclude the business at once. Mr. Bouncer, will you have the goodness to bring this young gentleman to my rooms?"
Leaving Mr. Pucker to express his thanks for this great kindness to Mr. Bouncer, who whiled away the time by telling him terrible stories about the matriculation ordeal, Mr. Verdant Green and Fosbrooke ran upstairs, and spread a newspaper over a heap of pipes and pewter pots and bottles of ale, and prepared a table with pen, ink, and scribble-paper. Soon afterwards, Mr. Bouncer led in the unsuspecting victim.
"Take a seat, sir," said Mr. Fosbrooke, gravely. And Mr. Pucker put his hat on the ground, and sat down at the table in a state of blushing nervousness. "Have you been at a public school?"
"Yes, sir," stammered the victim; "a very public one, sir. It was a boarding school, sir. I was a day boy, sir, and in the first class."
"First class of an uncommon slow train!" muttered Mr. Bouncer.
"Now, sir," continued Mr. Fosbrooke, "let us see what your Latin writing is like. Have the goodness to turn what I have written into Latin; and be very careful," added Mr. Fosbrooke sternly, "be very careful that it is good Latin!" And he handed Mr. Pucker a sheet of paper, on which he had scribbled the following:
"To be turned into Latin after the Manner of the Animals of Tacitus: She went into the garden to cut a cabbage to make an apple-pie. Just then a great she-bear, coming down the street, poked its nose into the shop window. 'What! No soap? Bosh!' So he died, and she (very imprudently) married the barber. And there were present at the wedding the Joblillies, and the Piccannies, and the Gobelites, and the great Panjandrum himself, with the little button on top. So they all set to playing catch-who-catch-can, till the gunpowder ran out at the heels of their boots."
It was well for the purposes of the hoaxers that Mr. Pucker's trepidation prevented him from making a calm perusal of the paper; he was nervously doing his best to turn the nonsensical English word by word into equally nonsensical Latin, when his limited powers of Latin writing were brought to a full stop by the untranslatable word "bosh." As he could make nothing of this, he gazed appealingly at the benignant features of Mr. Verdant Green. The appealing gaze was answered by our hero ordering Mr. Pucker to hand in his paper, and reply to the questions on history and Euclid. Mr. Pucker took the two papers of questions, and read as follows:
"1. Show the strong presumption there is, that Nox was the god of battles.
"2. In what way were the shades on the banks of the Styx supplied with spirits?
"3. Give a brief account of the Roman emperors who visited the United States, and state what they did there.
"1. Show the fallacy of defining an angle, as a worm at one end and a fool at the other.
"2. If a freshman A have any mouth x and a bottle of wine y, show how many applications of x to y will place y+y before A.
"3. Find the value of a 'bob,' a 'tanner,' a 'joey,' a 'tizzy,' a 'poney,' and a 'monkey.'
"4. If seven horses eat twenty-five acres of grass in three days, what will be their condition on the fourth day? Prove this by practice."
Mr. Pucker did not know what to make of such extraordinary and unexpected questions. He blushed, tried to write, fingered his curls, and then gave himself over to despair; whereupon Mr. Bouncer was seized with an immoderate fit of laughter, which brought the farce almost to an end.
"I'm afraid, young gentleman," said Mr. Bouncer, "that your learning is not yet up to the Brazenface standard. But we will give you one more chance to retrieve yourself. We will try a little viva voce, Mr. Pucker. If a coach-wheel 6 inches in diameter and 5 inches in circumference makes 240 revolutions in a second, how many men will it take to do the same piece of work in ten days?"
Mr. Pucker grew redder and hotter than before, and gasped like a fish out of water.
"I see you will not do for us yet awhile," said his tormentor, "and we are therefore under the painful necessity of rejecting you. I should advise you to read hard for another twelve months, and try to master those subjects in which you have now failed."
Disregarding poor Mr. Pucker's entreaties to matriculate him this once for the sake of his mother, when he would read very hard—indeed he would—Mr. Fosbrooke turned to Mr. Bouncer and gave him some private instructions, and Mr. Verdant Green immediately disappeared in search of his scout, Filcher. Five minutes afterwards, as the dejected Mr. Pucker was crawling out of the quad, Filcher came and led him back to the rooms of Mr. Slowcoach, the real examining tutor.
"But I have been examined," Mr. Pucker kept on saying dejectedly. "I have been examined, and they rejected me."
"I think it was an 'oax, sir," said Filcher.
"A what!" stammered Mr. Pucker.
"A 'oax—a sell," said the scout. "Those two gents has been 'aving a little game with you, sir. They often does it with fresh parties like you, sir, that seem fresh and hinnocent like."
Mr. Pucker was immensely relieved at this news, and at once went to Mr. Slowcoach, who, after an examination of twenty minutes, passed him. But Filcher was alarmed at the joyful way in which he rushed out of the tutor's room.
"You didn't tell 'im about the 'oax, sir, did yer?" asked the scout anxiously.
"Not a word," said the radiant Mr. Pucker.
"Then you're a trump, sir!" said Filcher. "And Mr. Verdant Green's compliments to yer, sir, and will you come up to his rooms and take a glass of wine with him, sir?"
It need hardly be said that the blushing Mr. Pucker passed a very pleasant evening with his new friends, and that Mr. Verdant Green was very proud of having got so far out of the freshman's stage of existence as to take part in one of the most successful hoaxes in the history of Oxford.
III.—Town and Gown
Mr. Verdant Green, Mr. Charles Larkyns, and a throng of their acquaintances were sitting in Mr. Bouncer's rooms, on the evening of November 5, when a knock at the oak was heard; and as Mr. Bouncer roared out, "Come in!" the knocker entered. Opening the door, and striking into an attitude, he exclaimed in a theatrical tone and manner:
"Scene, Mr. Bouncer's rooms in Brazenface; in the centre a table, at which a party are drinking log-juice, and smoking cabbage leaves. Door, left, third entrance. Enter the Putney Pet. Slow music; lights half down."
Even Mr. Verdant Green did not require to be told the profession of the Putney Pet. His thick-set frame, his hard-featured, battered, hang-dog face proclaimed him a prize-fighter.
"Now for a toast, gentlemen," said Mr. Bouncer. "May the Gown give the Town a jolly good hiding!"
This was received with great applause, and the Putney Pet was dressed out in a gown and mortar-board, and the whole party then sallied out to battle. From time immemorial it has been the custom at Oxford for the town-people and the scholars to engage, at least once a year, in a wild scrimmage, and the pitched battle was now due. No doubt it was not quite fair for the men of Brazenface to bring the Putney Pet up from London for the occasion; but for some years Gown had been defeated by Town, and they were resolved to have their revenge.
When Mr. Bouncer's party turned the corner of Saint Mary's, they found that the Town, as usual, had taken the initiative, and in a dense body had swept the High Street and driven all the gownsmen before them. A small knot of 'varsity men were manfully struggling against superior numbers by St. Mary's Hall.
"Gown to the rescue!" shouted Mr. Bouncer, as he dashed across the street. "Come on, Pet! Here we are in the thick of it, just in the nick of time!"
Poor Mr. Verdant Green had never learnt to box. He was a lover of peace and quietness, and would have preferred to have watched the battle from a college window; but he had been drawn in the fray against his will by Mr. Bouncer. He now rushed into the scrimmage with no idea of fighting, and a valiant bargee singled him out as an easy prey, and aimed a heavy blow at him. Instinctively doubling his fists, Mr. Verdant Green found that necessity was indeed the mother of invention; and, with a passing thought of what would be his mother's and his maiden aunt's feelings could they see him fighting with a common bargeman, he managed to guard off the blow. But he was not so fortunate in the second round, for the bargee knocked him down, but was happily knocked down in turn by the Putney Pet. The language of this gentle and refined scholar had become very peculiar.
"There's a squelcher for you, my kivey," he said to the bargee, as he sent him sprawling. Then, turning round, he asked a townsman: "What do you charge for a pint of Dutch pink?" following up the question by striking him on the nose.
Unused to being questioned in this violent way, the town party at last turned and fled, and the gownsmen went in search of other foes to conquer. Even Mr. Verdant Green felt desperately courageous when the town took to their heels and vanished.
At Exeter College another town-and-gown fight was raging furiously. The town mob had come across the Senior Proctor, the Rev. Thomas Tozer; and while Old Towzer, as he was called, was trying to assert his proctorial authority over them, they had jeered him, and torn his clothes, and bespattered him with mud. A small group of gownsmen rushed to his rescue.
"Oh, this is painful," said the Rev. Thomas Tozer, putting the handkerchief to his bleeding nose. "This is painful! This is exceedingly painful, gentlemen!"
He was at once surrounded by sympathising undergraduates, who begged him to allow them to charge the town at once. But the Town far outnumbered the Gown, and, in spite of the assistance of the reverend proctor, the fight was going against them. The Rev. Thomas Tozer had just been knocked down for the first time in his life, and the cry of "Gown to the rescue!" fell very pleasantly on his ears. Mr. Verdant Green helped him to rise, while the Putney Pet stepped before him and struck out right and left. Ten minutes of scientific pugilism, and the fate of the battle was decided. The Town fled every way, and the Rev. Thomas Tozer was at last able to look calmly about him. He at once resumed his proctorial duties.
"Why have you not on your gown, sir?" he said to the Putney Pet.
"I ax yer pardon, guv'nor," said the Pet deferentially. "I couldn't get on in it, nohow. So I pocketed it; but some cove has gone and prigged it."
"I am unable to comprehend the nature of your language, sir," said the Rev. Thomas Tozer angrily, thinking it was an impudent undergraduate. "I don't understand you, sir; but I desire at once to know your name and college."
Mr. Bouncer, however, succeeded in explaining matters to the proctor, who then congratulated the Pet on having displayed pugilistic powers worthy of the Xystics of the noblest days of Ancient Rome. Both the Pet and the undergraduates wondered what a Xystic was, but instead of inquiring further into the matter, they went to the Roebuck, where, after a supper of grilled bones and welsh-rabbits, Mr. Verdant Green gave, "by particular request," his now celebrated song, "The Mar-arble Halls."
The forehead of the singer was decorated with a patch of brown paper, from which arose a strong smell of vinegar. But he was not ashamed of it; indeed, he wore it all the next day, and was sorry when he had to take it off—for was it not, in a way, a badge of courage?
From this time Mr. Verdant Green began to despise mere reading-men who never went in for sports. He resolved at once to go in for them all. He took to rowing, and was rescued from a watery grave by Mr. Bouncer. Then, defeated but undaunted, he took to riding, and was thrown off. But what did it matter? Before the term ended, he grew more accustomed to the management of Oxford tubs and Oxford hacks.
It is true that the unfeeling man who reported the Torpid races for "Bell's Life" had the unkindness to state in cold print; "Worcester succeeded in making the bump at the Cherwell, in consequence of No. 3 of the Brazenface boat suffering from fatigue." And on the copy of the journal sent to Mrs. Green of Manor Green, her son sadly drew a pencil line under "No. 3," and wrote: "This was me." But both Mrs. Green and Miss Virginia Green were more than consoled when their beloved boy returned home about midsummer with a slip of paper on which was written and printed:
GREEN, VERDANT, E. Coll. AEn. Fac. Quiaestionibus Magistrorum Scholarum in Parviso pro forma respondit.
Ita testamur (GULIELMUS SMITH. (ROBERTUS JONES.
In other words, Mr. Verdant Green had got through his Smalls. But, sad to say, poor Mr. Bouncer had been plucked.
Mr. Verdant Green smiled to himself. It was the sheerest bit of good luck that he had managed to get through. Still, he had learned more at Oxford than was taught in books—he had learned to be a manly fellow in spite of his gig-lamps.
* * * * *
Charlotte Bronte was born at Thornton, Yorkshire, England, on the 21st of April, 1816, of Irish and Cornish stock. By reason of her father's manner of living, she was utterly deprived of all companions of her own age. She therefore lived in a little world of her own, and by the time she was thirteen years of age, it had become her constant habit, and one of her few pleasures, to weave imaginary tales, idealising her favorite historical heroes, and setting forth in narrative form her own thoughts and feelings. Both Charlotte and her sisters Emily and Anne early found refuge in their habits of composition, and about 1845 made their first literary venture—a small volume of poems. This was not successful, but the authors were encouraged to make a further trial, and each began to prepare a prose tale. "Jane Eyre," perhaps the most poignant love-story in the English tongue, was published on October 16, 1847. Its title ran: "Jane Eyre: an Autobiography. Edited by Currer Bell." The romantic story of its acceptance by the publishers has been told in our condensation of Mrs. Gaskell's "Life of Charlotte Bronte." (See LIVES AND LETTERS, Vol. IX.) Written secretly under the pressure of incessant domestic anxiety, as if with the very life-blood of its author, the wonderful intensity of the story kindled the imagination of the reading public in an extraordinary degree, and the popularity at once attained has never flagged. Though the experiences of Jane Eyre were not, except in comparatively unimportant episodes, the experiences of the authoress, Jane Eyre is Charlotte Bronte. One of the most striking features of the book—a feature preserved in the following summary—is the haunting suggestion of sympathy between nature and human emotion. The publication of "Jane Eyre" removed its authoress from almost straitened circumstances and a narrow round of life to material comfort and congenial society. In reality it endowed at once the most diffident of women with lasting fame. After a brief period of married life, Charlotte Bronte died on March 31, 1855.