(Continued from p. 217.)
I ARRIVE AT THE SCENE OF
I COULD not sleep
that night, so I turned out and went up on deck. We had left Civita
Vecchia late in the afternoon; the next morning we should enter the
Bay of Naples. It was a lovely night, the moon was shining full upon
the Mediterranean; the paddle-wheels lashed the quiet water into
phosphorescent waves; we left a bright shining track behind us. On
our left lay the dark outline of the Italian coast.
That night others were afflicted with the same restlessness. The hot
breath of the revolution had reached us; the Garibaldi fever had got
into our veins as we approached the scene of his last triumphs. Numbers of the British legion were on board—young men of good
families, with splendid new red frock-coat uniforms and silver
buttons, and such swords! I soon joined a little group on the upper
deck. We had all been very merry together during the voyage from
Genoa; a young volunteer English officer, who had never seen a blow
struck in war, was entertaining his hearers with accounts of his
own prodigious valour in various civil encounters in which he had
displayed his acquaintance with the noble art of self-defence to the
disadvantage of bargees and blacklegs of various grades. His
aspirations, I may say, were bloodthirsty: to listen to him one
would have thought Bomba was his personal enemy, and the Neapolitan
soldiers so many demons preparing to devastate the halls of his
ancestors. We walked up and down, discussing the prospects of the
war, and bringing out, each in his turn, some anecdote of personal
adventure, in which, of course, number one figured at the expense of
every other number; and so the night wore away.
I snatched an hour's sleep before daybreak, and at six o'clock came
up on deck again. We were steaming into the Bay of Naples. The sun
was glittering through the mists, and smiting the ships, the quays,
the water, everything. I experienced a sense of indescribable
freshness, like the blowing of a spring wind: every one seemed in
the highest state of exhilaration. The French and English fleets
were lying a little off the shore in that splendid and commodious harbour. We threaded our way through a wilderness of
floating and densely-populated vessels, rafts, and boats of all
kinds. As we approached the quay, numbers more put off. Even at that
early hour several steamers were getting up steam or letting it off. Every one in Italy seemed to have come to Naples that morning, and
every one seemed to be in the same state of excitement. "Garibaldi"
you heard echoed from mouth to mouth; you caught little broken
bits of anecdote about the recent battle of the Volturno as you
passed this or that boat. "They said he was wounded;" "A bullet
went right through his hat;" "You should have seen him rally the
troops!" "Diavolo! he went at them like a lion," and so forth.
There seemed no particular order when we landed; no one wanted our
passports. The Neapolitan gendarmes still wore the old government
but seemed to have come over in a body and now served under the
Dictator but they didn't seem to know what to do. Crowds flocked
into the customhouse as a matter of form, and flocked out again; the
Neapolitan officials stood behind their desks as they had stood
under the sleepy old government, but seemed quite bewildered with
the crowds. Every now and then some trunk was seized and examined;
but the traveller was usually greeted with a solemn sort of wink, a
hopeless kind of "give-it-up" nod, and the "lascia passare" of
For about a fortnight after the general's arrival, Naples was
governed almost by his word of mouth—the general forbids
assassination, the general will have no more robberies, the general
will not suffer the mules and horses to be ill-treated, no one must
be refused access to the general. Nothing was more extraordinary
than the way in which Garibaldi impressed himself upon the people of
Naples, until the masses of degraded and ignorant criminals which
formed the lower strata of its population actually began to reflect
something of his humanity and love of right. He came upon them like
a revelation. He infected them with the divine contagion of his own
pure and lofty instincts, and I was assured on good authority that
whilst he was in Naples as the visible governor not an act of crime
or violence had to be recorded. What such a fact meant, those only
can judge who, like myself, were living in Naples under the
government of Türr, but during the Dictator's temporary absence
Robbery was a light thing, and murder on the quays or in the streets
of daily occurrence. The courts were so disorganized and the police
so inadequate that the offenders could seldom be brought to justice.
I was sitting at dinner in the Toledo one afternoon when a man
rushed down the street flourishing a bloody rapier—he had slain his
man, and was making his escape; the crowd parted, none dared to
stop him. The cab-drivers all had clasp-knives or stilettos. One
confessed to me that he had killed three men with the knife he
showed me, and told me the tale of each murder; he did not seem to
think it wrong.
Travellers were not unfrequently stabbed on the quays if they
refused to pay exorbitant prices for the boats. I often thought what
a thread my life was hanging on as I not unfrequently found
myself alone between two of these rascals, whilst they rowed me off
at night to dine on board the Admiral's flag-ship Hannibal, which
lay half a mile or more out at sea.
"Milord!" they would say: "for two you will pay double."
"I will tell you all about that," said I; "but get on quick to the
Admiral's ship, or I promise you you shall get but half."
It was not safe to walk a mile out of Naples in any direction
unarmed. At night, with my brother, I frequently returned from
dining at a villa up above Naples, through those charming woods
which separate the town from the Camaldoli heights; the moon was
usually very bright, but the place was infested with robbers, and
the very last night I passed through the wood unharmed some less
fortunate adventurers were robbed and mutilated. Knowing that your
driver kept a knife, it was not safe to get into a fiacre without a
revolver or dirk of some sort, as I once found to my cost. One day,
when I had forgotten to take mine, I was very tired, and chartered a
cab to bring me home. The horse was wretched, I thought we should
never get back. At the end the man demanded double. I pretended not
to hear, and walking briskly into the open passage tried to gain the
stairs; he followed me, and seizing my arm attempted to stop me; I
shook him off and tried to push by, but he got between me and the
stairs and, hemming me in against the wall, drew his knife. My retreat was thus cut off, I had not much time for reflection: I
was unarmed, unhappily I am not a pugilist. The reader would
probably have knocked the man down at once—I didn't—I paid the
THE SIEGE OF CAPUA—1860.
Accompanied by my brother, who wore the uniform of her Majesty's
navy, and was thus a valuable companion on such expeditions, I set
out one fine autumn morning for the scene of war. We swept out of
Naples at a shambling gallop in a rickety two-wheeler driven by a
villainous-looking fellow who sat on the shafts; but being two to
one, and having nothing valuable about us, we felt quite easy. The
road bore traces of the wild times in which we were living. The
artillery waggons had left their heavy ruts all along the way—a hat,
a torn coat lying on the road, told of an assault and robbery here;
a little pool of dark blood bore witness to an assassination, and
the body might not unfrequently be found in the ditch hard by. Horses fallen and expiring beneath the weight of baggage and the
sun's heat, and abandoned to their fate, lined, at intervals, most
of the high roads; whilst every now and then we came across a small
band of ruffians who eyed our poor vehicle and its contents, but let
us pass unmolested. And now as we approached the little town of
Santa Maria, enclosed in the Garibaldian camp, the booming of the
cannon from Capua grew louder and louder. Nothing can describe the
mad desire I felt to hasten to the spot; my brother, who had often
been under fire at Palermo, took things more coolly. Presently we
entered Santa Maria: I never before witnessed such a state of
confusion, not even in Naples—soldiers in every possible costume
down to mere rags—vehicles of every possible description down to
trucks drawn by donkeys—women, some of them high-born Italian
ladies, wearing the Garibaldian colours and mounted on fine
chargers, and others with more patriotism than virtue—the caffès
crowded with men bawling in tongues of all nations, and a
Pandemonium of sound, above which rose, like thunder in a
hail-storm, the heavy boom of cannon from Capua, now about two miles
We were obliged to proceed on foot, but we had no passes, and the
general's orders were strict that none could be admitted within the
Garibaldian lines without. I went straight to General Bixio's
head-quarters and demanded a pass, which was politely refused. We
then made our way out of the town, guided by the sound of the
cannon, determined either to persuade or outwit the sentries and
penetrate into the camp. A man in a brown coat was walking before
us. I walked up to him and touched his arm, he appeared frightened,
and getting out his pocket-book, showed us his pass, supposing we
had some authority to stop him. I nodded, as much as to say, "We are
satisfied," and attempted to converse; however, we couldn't
understand each other much. I offered him some brandy, and a cordial
understanding was soon established. We approached the first sentry
picket—my brother, I, and the individual in brown. Brown showed his
pass, we drew up together, and each taking one of his arms, we
walked through with him, nodding to the sentinel in a careless
manner, as who should say, "We are friends of the general and old
hands at this sort of thing." The man was completely taken in, and
At the second lines we met an officer who asked us our business.
"Inglesi," replied I; "from the English admiral's ship
He took off his hat, and we took off ours and passed into the very
heart of the camp. We had not gone far along the white, blinding,
hot road before we were stopped by a round shot fired across our
bow. We could see the walls of Capua, now about a mile distant, and
the little white clouds like wool, from the batteries. Then with a
whizz, the round shot, or with a hiss, the bomb-shell, would strike
close by, or burst in the air above us. Three of us black spots on a
white road were doubtless good marks. The Neapolitans were evidently
practising at us. The individual in brown did not like it, and
turned back. We reflected that a moving mark fired at a mile off was
not easily hit, and so we advanced. Presently we met a young cavalry
officer, and it was well we did so; he said, "You had better not go
"Why?" said I; "because of the round shot?"
"Oh no," said he, kissing his hand to one as it flew harmlessly over
our heads; "but in yonder wood lie the Neapolitan sharpshooters,
and they will
pick you off presently. Cannon and rifle are different things, you
know. Come along."
There was something in this. We followed our young guide, who proved
to be a student of Bologna, and, moreover, a very intelligent and
"On yonder slope of the St. Angelo range," continued he, as we
ascended the hill, "you will be beyond the reach of the guns, and we
can see the disposition of the camps and the whole of Capua."
We soon gained the summit. It was indeed a picturesque sight. In the
plain beneath us lay the Piedmontese troops, well clothed, well fed,
their position sharply defined by their neat tents. All about them
lay the poor Garibaldian, ill-clothed, ill-fed, with no tents at
all, exposed to the scorching sun by day, and often lying in
absolute swamps at night under a pelting rain. Beyond them shone the
white town of Capua, surrounded on three sides by the winding river Volturno. The batteries were carrying on a desultory fire, and the
forts from St. Angelo answered regularly. The white smoke floated
away, and was blown about the skirts of the landscape.
"Is the general in the camp to-day?" I inquired.
"No," said our friend, "at Caserta."
As we descended the hill I remarked on his spurs―
"You are a cavalry officer; where is your horse?"
"Ah, he had his head carried away by a round shot at the battle of
the Volturno only last week."
"That was a great fight; the English legion are just too late for
We stopped on a little hillock to watch the firing. Just then a
shell burst at our feet, reminding us that we were again within
range. As I left my post a Garibaldian sat down carelessly on the
rock on which I had been standing, when a shell took him in the
middle and blew him to pieces. At last we came to a straggling wood
by the side of the Volturno. The trees were scared and charred with
"We had hot work here," said my friend. "We began at four o'clock
in the morning of the first of October. Milbitz and Medici were both
driven back along the whole line. The Neapolitans fought with
desperate valour. If they could only have got through our lines they
would have sacked Naples. The general was at Caserta, four miles
off; but the instant he heard what was going on he got into his
carriage with Missori, and collecting all the men he could as he
went along, drove up this white road in the thick of a murderous
cross-fire from the Neapolitans. The general's carriage appeared in
the midst of us at the moment our men were breaking ranks and flying
in disorder. He did not get out of his carriage, he sat and gave
his orders. The contrast between his coolness and the wild terror
and excitement of all around him I shall never forget. It had its
effect. It riveted the attention of the most scared. Presently one
of his horses was taken with a round shot and plunged in death
agonies, then his coachman dropped forward, shot through the heart. Then, and not till then, the general leaped out of his carriage with Missori. He had seized the right moment; and drawing his famous
English sword, headed that decisive charge which turned the fortunes
of the day."
At this juncture a trim and finely-disciplined regiment of
Piedmontese was seen approaching us, flanked by a proportionately
ragged and disorderly-looking body of Garibaldians.
"They have been under arms all day," remarked our friend. "We
expect a sortie from Capua, and then we shall have another bout of
This raised my hopes; my ambition was to see a charge with the
bayonet executed by Garibaldians against regular troops, and I
stayed then as late as I could, and revisited the camp afterwards,
but in vain. There was no sortie that or any other day to the end of
the war. The battle of the Volturno was the last real fighting that
took place. This should be remembered, and will help to explain a
good deal that is discreditable to the British legion, and, in fact,
to the volunteers in general. These brave fellows arrived when the
fighting was done. It was their misfortune, not their fault. There
was nothing to do at the camp, and so they thronged Naples; but
there was nothing to do at Naples, and so they misconducted
themselves. Imagine Brighton without a proper police court, in a
wild state of political ferment, with five or six thousand
well-disposed but idle and highly-excitable young men turned loose
upon it, and you will understand the nature of, and the excuse for
those excesses which occurred daily in the hotels and in the streets
of Naples. Duelling was, perhaps, never carried to a more senseless
pitch than during my stay at Naples. A well-known American
Filibuster boasted openly at my hotel of the number of men he had
"got" in duels at Naples with his bowie knife. The demoralization of
war may be bad, but peace in time of war is far worse.
VICTOR EMMANUEL AND GENERAL GARIBALDI AT
The Piedmontese Cabinet, Cavouriens, Unionists, every one who held
back as long as there remained a doubt of success, determined at
last to make a virtue of necessity, and swallow the revolution
whole. It was, however, essential both to the dignity of the royal
cabinet and the safety of the movement itself that the king should
be in at the death and receive in person the new crown that his
illustrious subject was preparing to lay at his feet.
Victor Emmanuel II, King of Italy
from a carte-de-visite.
On the 11th of October, Victor Emmanuel passed the Neapolitan
frontier with the Piedmont troops. The king slept that night at
Teano, and on the next morning started for Garibaldi's
head-quarters. As soon as his approach was known, the general set
off with his staff, and in about an hour came in sight of the head
of the Piedmontese column. The instant the king recognized him he
clapped spurs to his horse, and Garibaldi doing the same, they
galloped forward to meet each other. We have the account from the
lips of a staff-officer. When they were within ten paces the troops
on either side shouted "Long live Victor Emmanuel!" Garibaldi
uncovered his head, and as the king rode up saluted him, in a voice
hoarse with emotion, with the words "Rè d'Italia!" The king,
placing his hand upon his breast and raising himself slightly in his
stirrups, bowed, he then held out his hand, and clasping Garibaldi's
warmly, said, "General, I thank you." The officers of either staff
then mixed, whilst Garibaldi and the king rode apart, conversing for
about half an hour.
From that time the part which the king played in the annexation was
most unsatisfactory. He was surrounded by the regular army of the
north, who hated the irregular army of the south, and by ministers
who were jealous of, and opposed to Garibaldi. At a time when, in
order to obtain the Neapolitan votes for the annexation of Naples,
the king's popularity was even more important a thing than
Garibaldi's, his own followers made him unpopular. Numbers of the
ignorant people knew nothing about the king, and when asked to
transfer their allegiance to him, beheld a figure very unlike that
of the beloved deliverer,—a bold, defiant, cavalry officer, who did
not understand their dialect, had done nothing for them, surrounded
by arrogant and supercilious officials, who shot them and sent them
to prison when they did wrong, and insulted them always. This
unfortunate impression the king did little to dissipate. His
position was a delicate one; it required more than his usual
caution. He gave it less. We believe that personally he is a very
brave man; the manner in which he exposed himself at Palestro made
him popular throughout Italy. We believe that he appreciates the
goodness without envying the greatness of Garibaldi, and that
jealousy or any sense of mean rivalry is a feeling unknown to him. This is saying much, but it is saying all, and his stiff and
careless behaviour in public, which I have so often seen and
regretted, was alone sufficient to damp the ardour of an
impressionable race like the Neapolitans.
On the king's arrival, Capua surrendered after a few hours of
bombardment. As I was walking on the hills above Naples I could
hear, from the incessant booming of the largest guns they possessed,
that something unusual was going on. Rumours reached us in the
afternoon that the king, who had before his arrival requested
Garibaldi not to take Capua by storm, but to wait, had now ordered
the place to be shelled. I was anxious to enter with the first
troops, and see the interior of a town at the close of a siege, and
immediately ordered a carriage and pair at three o'clock in the
morning; but my carriage was seized by Garibaldian officers before I
could gallop out of the town, and not another horse or cart was to
be got that day, so I was deprived of my adventure.
On the 7th, Victor Emmanuel was to enter Naples, accompanied by
Garibaldi. On the morning he had promised to review the Garibaldian
troops; it would have been a graceful as it was almost a necessary
act,—it was much needed to establish a good understanding between
the revolutionary and the royal troops; but it was not done. That
morning the king had found a new mistress in Capua, and could not be
got away. The scandal was known that evening all over Naples. The Garibaldian troops had been kept four hours in the rain, expecting
the king, who never came. Early in the morning the streets of Naples
were densely crowded. I had the choice of several windows, but got
tired of waiting, and went out to mingle with the crowd in the
Toledo. As the day went on the red shirts began to disappear from
the streets; the slight put upon them in the morning was pretty well
known; it was known also that Garibaldi had refused to enter Naples
with the king, or take part in the festivities from which his
companions in arms were to be excluded. The king sent to say he was
much grieved, and hoped Garibaldi would occupy a seat by his side. The general at once yielded.
The afternoon was wearing, the crowd in the Toledo was dense, it was
pouring with rain. I climbed up by a lamp-post. The sky was very
dark and gloomy. I looked down upon a sea of umbrellas. The course
was kept clear by the Piedmont army and the national guard ranged on
either side of the street. The crowd began to sway, umbrellas were
smashed, the rain came down in torrents, and an open carriage
preceded and followed by guards drove slowly down the Toledo. "Viva
Garibaldi!" was the only cry I heard. The king looked stern and
bowed stiffly. The pro-dictators of Naples and Sicily were on the
king's right. Garibaldi, with his uncovered head, looked very sad
and worn, and did not bow or in any way acknowledge the shouts which
all his influence was unable at that moment to procure for his
sovereign. They passed and the crowd closed in. As it became known
that Garibaldi was in Naples the red shirts reappeared in numbers. The king went to his palace, the ex-dictator to his hotel, which was
next door to mine. The whole of the Villa Neale and streets along
the quays of the bay were soon densely thronged by a crowd, shouting
without cessation "Viva Garibaldi!" hour after hour. The general
came out on the balcony, and reminded them that his mission in
Naples was accomplished, and implored them to go, off to the palace
and shout there. Some went, and myself amongst them, and shouted
obediently, "Viva Victor Emmanuel!" The crowd was not thick, the
cries were not loud, and people constantly said "Garibaldi" by
mistake. I was standing half on a car close under the royal window
when it was opened, and the king surrounded by several officers
stepped out. I can see him now: the well-known broad plump chest and
high shoulders; the martial face, with chin held up; the eyes
flashing with a stern and somewhat forbidding fire; the enormous
moustache curled and tossed up on either side of the coarse retroussé nose. Such he appeared then, and such he appeared always. He did not even bow to the people who had called him out, but glared
down upon us for a moment, and then turned to one of his officers in
a rough jerking manner, and with ennuié look of half contempt,
walked in again. Then we went back to Garibaldi's hotel. It was
growing dark; the crowd was as dense as ever; processions of waggons with flags, and maniacs waving torches and howling, drew up
one after another, but Garibaldi refused to appear. About ten
o'clock, as the noise was unabated, and the people were preparing to
spend the night there in order to see him as he came out in the
morning, and just as another cart with torches drew up under the
window and began shouting, the window opened, and the general
appeared, looking very stern. He said he was pained by these
demonstrations; he should consider the slight thus coffered to the
king as offered to himself, and if they regarded him at all they
would give heed to his wishes and disperse. Thus snubbed, with just
one more "Viva!" the people went home, and the town got a little
It may be asked how in so short a time Garibaldi had so entirely
subjugated the affections of the most degraded population in Italy. We can only answer he made himself felt everywhere; no detail was
too small for him; his ear was never turned away from the tale of
distress, nor his face from any poor man. Moreover he was one whom
all could reverence. He was absolutely free from the common vices
which degrade our nature. He lived above the senses, and was without
ambition. What seemed to others the highest effort of heroism was to
him simply natural. Tried by both extremes of fortune he was tempted
by neither. No disaster shook him, and no success disturbed the
equilibrium of a mind, at all times perfectly calm. "I am a
principle!" he would often say, "and the homage paid to me is paid
to liberty!" He left his mark upon all those with whom he conversed; a look—a word was sufficient to bind a soldier to him and to his
cause for life. "Courage!" he said in French to a young volunteer
friend of mine who joined the camp whilst I was there, "noun
allons combat pour la patrie!" and these few simple words
sustained my friend through many a tedious hour of trial and
suffering. Almost every day the general visited the hospitals, where
many hundreds of his sick and wounded lay. He would stay hours
sitting or kneeling by their beds, sometimes himself bathing the
fevered brow and moistening the parched lips. They used to say that
virtue went from him to heal them; certain it is those visits did
more good than all the physic. No one was neglected. He laid his
hand upon the head of each, and blessed them ere he went. The eyes
of the dying brightened for the last time as he passed; some forgot
their wounds, and sprang from their beds to meet him. As he went
forth he left indeed many hundreds of suffering bodies behind, but he
also left hearts filled through and through with the deep happiness
of a high and holy love. On Sunday he used always to dine at Naples,
next door to where I was living. It was, I think, the Sunday after
the battle of the Volturno that I first heard him address the
people. He wore his simple red shirt and grey trousers. He looked
very grave, but very good and gentle, and these were some of the
simple yet thrilling words which fell from his lips
on that occasion:—
"In the midst of such a people as this it is unnecessary for me to
excite you by any speeches to patriotism; let united Italy and
Victor Emmanuel be still your motto. I do not need these
demonstrations to assure me of your fidelity. We must all act; the
people must arise; they must fight for liberty."
There was nothing in what he said, but the effect was electric. He
leant a little forward, with his eyes fixed earnestly on the crowd,
and as he pronounced the last words he raised his hand above his
head, and pointed with his finger to the sky.
On the 8th of November, Garibaldi formally resigned all his powers
into the hands of Victor Emmanuel, and from that moment every insult
was heaped upon him by the king's government. His personal enemies
were placed in power, his policy reversed in almost every case, his
grants denied, his appointments cancelled, his officers ignored, his
wounded neglected, his heroes sneered at, and when he himself sent
to the king's stables for a carriage to bear him to the place of
embarkation he was told to take a cab.
On the 9th, Garibaldi, having borrowed twenty pounds to pay his
debts, left Naples on board an American ship for the island of
Caprera, without fifteen shillings in his pocket.
We hasten to conclude for the present our scanty outline of this
great life, with a brief allusion to one of the saddest events in
To explain the complicated interests at stake in the disaster at
Aspromonte, and to prove the perfidy of the Italian ministry, would
need a volume. All we hope to do is to show that, from a reasonable
point of view, the expedition was not so mad and wayward a thing as
it is generally believed to have been.
In the spring of 1861, Garibaldi passed through the north of Italy,
calling upon the people to arm. Everywhere the enormous majority
sided with him. What was his programme? Rome. The Ratazzi
government was in; it was opposed to the movement. Yes, but not
apparently so. Ratazzi favoured the enlistments more openly than he
need have done. He had been to Paris; he had settled with the
emperor that Naples might be a separate kingdom, the kingdom of some
French, prince. Italian unity might still be crushed, but Garibaldi
must be crushed first. They would encourage him to advance; they
would then declare his conduct contrary to the interests of the
nation, and he should be opposed by the royal troops. Enlistments
are thus suffered to go on. Garibaldi is suffered to land at
Palermo, at Naples. An Italian frigate actually follows them within
range. The captain has these ambiguous instructions, "Do what is
best for the interests of the king." There was a wide-spread notion
that there was a secret understanding between Garibaldi and the
king. It was thought the king would not sanction, but that he would
not prevent the expedition. Garibaldi firmly believed that he who
had so graciously accepted the Two Sicilies would accept Rome on the
same terms. An attack on the French in Rome was probably never
contemplated. Had the Pope put himself under English protection, as
he at one time intended to do, or had he in any way left Rome, which
he would probably have done before Garibaldi came in sight of the
walls, there would have been scarcely any pretext for the French
army of occupation to remain. The Romans themselves did not want
them, and had elected Garibaldi by an enormous majority of votes
guardian of their freedom and commander-in-chief of their armies. The pope's tenure of Rome then and ever since has hung upon a
thread; his temporal power virtually ceased when Victor Emmanuel was
proclaimed King of Italy and the Piedmontese marched into the Papal
territories and took possession of them. Thus Victor Emmanuel
himself had pointed the direction, and initiated the action of the
next scene in the revolutionary drama. Was it so strange that
Garibaldi should follow in that track?
On the 29th of August, 1861, information was received that the royal
troops who had been sent to arrest the march of the volunteers upon
Rome were at Stefano, only two hours' march from Forestali of
Aspromonte, where the Garibaldians were assembled. A meeting
longer be avoided. Garibaldi's orders were not to form in line, not
to fight. Afterwards he said to the Marchioness Pallavicini, "From
my splendid position at Aspromonte I saw the Bersaglieri advancing
for three quarters of an hour before they came up. Had I wished, I
could have crushed them completely; but I gave orders not to fire,
and none near me did fire. I openly declared before I left Turin
that I would rather die than draw my sword upon an Italian soldier."
The royal troops advanced in silence; they gave no notice, they
demanded no surrender. Garibaldi alone advanced to meet them, his
large cloak of pale grey lined with red thrown over his broad
shoulders. When within gun shot they took aim at him. He turned
round and repeated the order "Don't fire." Then those men,
advancing upon a foe whom honour had left defenceless, opened fire
"I saw a slight shiver of his body," writes one of his officers; "then we knew he was hit. Two balls had struck him almost at once,
one in the thigh, another full in the instep. He took two or three
steps and then began to stagger. We ran to him and held him up. He
was regardless of his sufferings, and raising his cap, he cried,
'Viva Italia! Viva Italia!' He then fell heavily back. I had his
poor foot resting on my thigh; I felt a shivering in all his limbs. He wished to try and walk; but we carried him and laid him down
under a tree. He cried to his assailants, 'Peace, peace, brethren;'
and to us, Do not fight."' When he felt that he could not move, he
took out a cigar and began smoking. He was perfectly unruffled.
Presently a doctor came and dressed his wounds. Then Colonel Pallavicini, the commander of the royal troops came to him. His head
was uncovered. The first words he said were, "General, this is the
most unhappy day of my life."
"You have only obeyed your orders," replied the general; "you have
done your duty."
He was borne that day on a litter by some of his officers for many
miles. His sufferings must have been very great, but not a murmur
escaped him; he had a smile for every one, and appeared perfectly
calm. They brought him to Varignano in the Duke of Genoa. The voyage
was a most painful one, the surgeon vainly endeavouring to extract
the bullet, and the general fainting after each attempt. When he
landed at Varignano, the women flocked round him, kissing his hands
and the long cloak which was wrapped about him. Every one was
sobbing. Garibaldi was deeply affected, and said, "Patience, my
children, hope for better times;" then, turning to others, with a
very sweet smile, "You see Garibaldi is not dead yet." He then
fainted away and was carried to the apartment prepared for him in
the convict prison. The paper was hanging in ribbons from the damp
walls. There was a small dirty mattress with hardly any clothes on
it. They covered him up as well as they could with two greatcoats
and the blanket in which he was borne. No lint or dressing of any
kind had been provided for him. There were other convicts in the
prison, but there was not one so badly wounded.
H. R. HAWEIS.
POACHERS AND POACHING.
DURING the last
few years much has been done through the medium of the press to
explore the regions of vice, ignorance, weakness, and crime.
Almost every social question has been discussed, and there are few
aspects of civilization in its relation to the perishing and
dangerous classes which have not been thoroughly overhauled and
severely scrutinized. This modern tendency to anatomise the
morbid conditions of moral life has not by any means met with
universal favour. The explorations and exposures have been
hesitatingly received by some, and openly frowned upon by others. Still the investigations have been continued, and the work of social
reform has consequently progressed. When crime is so pictured as to
conceal its inherent wrong, and when scenes and incidents of
criminal life are dressed so attractively as to become lures of evil
and incentives to wrong, the writer or speaker, whatever he may be,
brings down upon himself the just condemnation of society. He who
fosters wrong under the guise of exposing it, is justly execrated
and condemned. But, on the other hand, the habit of either
concealing or ignoring is a culpable stumbling-block in the path of
social progress. We cannot strengthen the weak places of our social
life until the weakness is pointed out, and in this free country,
where public opinion is so great a factor in manners and government,
it is indispensable that the public mind be informed of the evils to
be grappled with before sufficient force can be concentrated upon
them—sufficient force for their mitigation and destruction. Crime
cannot be suppressed until it is understood, and the nexus of its
continuity must be revealed before it can be broken.
Poachers and their doings occasionally occupy some share of public
attention, and the mischief is brought into prominence by
Parliamentary Debates on the Game Laws, or by deadly fights between
poachers and gamekeepers. But in these instances the individual
poacher escapes complete observation. The general public get a
glimpse of the character in one or two of its phases, but they have
no complete portrait.
The cost of poaching is a heavy item in criminal expenditure; these
murderous assaults upon game watchers are terrible, and then there
are strange poaching adventures in many an exciting romance. But who
is at the bottom of all this? What is it all about, and what is the
cause of it all?
What is a poacher? We speak not now of farmers' sons or other
persons who may occasionally shoot a partridge or a hare without a
certificate. Our attention must rather be directed to those who
poach game merely and only with a view to selling it. One scarcely
needs to say that those who kill other people's game for the sake of
money are not to be found among the upper or respectable classes of
society. We must go below these, below respectable tradesmen and
shopkeepers, before we can fall in with the class of whom we are in
quest. The only shopkeepers who can be said to have much to do with
poaching are the licensed game-sellers. These do not poach
themselves, but with some of them the poachers find a ready market
for their game; nor can this encouragement to poaching ever be
prevented until the licensed game-sellers are required to keep a
register of all the game they purchase—a register of the kind and
quantity of game, together with the names and residences of the
parties from whom the purchases were made. A registration of this
kind, open to the inspection of the police, would be an effectual
check to heavy poaching. The poachers proper are men who go out
after game under unlawful circumstances and at unlawful hours. They
belong to the mechanic and labouring classes almost exclusively. The
railway "navvies" were formidable poachers in their day, and
frequently turned out in such numbers that gamekeepers and watchers
had no chance whatever either to arrest them or drive them off. It
is so still with this class as far as they have opportunity.
Wherever railways are being cut through game-preserving districts
there is sure to be plenty of poaching. The utmost cruelty, even
murder has been perpetrated by these railway plunderers of
game-preserves. By these ruffians gamekeepers have often been
abused, kicked, and cudgelled until they lay helpless and bleeding
upon the ground, with the life all but beaten out of them. The only
semblance of an excuse—which is really no excuse at all—for these "navvies" in their cruelty and blood-thirstiness, is their dread of
being taken prisoners. But of their capture there has generally been
no possibility owing to the largeness of their gangs. No! it was not
to secure their own safety, but to inflict wanton and mortal injury
that they turned back and clubbed out the helpless keepers' brains
with the butts of their guns.
"Navvies" are not now so prominent in poaching frays as they were
in former years, because all the great railways are finished. The
practice is only now carried on by drunken mechanics and thriftless
common labourers. These are seldom so bold as the "navvies" used
to be; but they are not a whit less bloodthirsty. The railway
labourers frequently assembled in very large gangs and went out
boldly poaching in open day, and set at defiance farmers and
gamekeepers and everybody else. Your modern poacher has not courage
to perform these bold exploits, but he partakes quite as much of
the assassin and rather more of the thief. A very simple division is
sufficient to classify the poachers of these days; they are either
townsmen or countrymen. In most towns there are gangs of poachers
who are in communication with their confrères in the country, and
the chief portion of poaching is now carried on by men from towns
The social and moral character of poachers will not bear
investigation. Stripped of the romance and false sentimentalism
which has ridiculously accrued to their career, the life of a
poacher is very dull, very stupid, and very miserable; and if the
testimony of those poachers who have some little conscience left is
to be credited, they are sometimes so desperately wretched that as
they wander solitarily through the woods, gun in hand, it is a
debatable point whether they shall shoot the pheasant, the
gamekeeper, or themselves, so heavily does the burden of poverty,
crime, degradation, and ruin press upon them and torment them. The
majority of poachers are idle, immoral, and cruel. They want money
without the trouble of earning it by honest labour, or to speak
nearer the truth, they want more of drink, idleness, and debauchery
than their ordinary earnings in an honest calling will ever enable
them to afford. A few of them, of course, would take only game; but
very many of them will steal anything. Nothing comes amiss to them,
especially when they resolve—as is frequently the case—not to return
home empty-handed. Farm and garden produce, implements of
agriculture, and especially poultry, would frequently be found in
the poachers' lair, if the police entered it with a search warrant. The worst feature in the poacher is his cruelty. Drive him into
straits, and he shows himself cruel, bloodthirsty, and murderous. Most of them would—under circumstances of secrecy—rather kill their
antagonist than be taken prisoner by him. This peculiarly cruel type
of ruffianism marks the poacher far more than any other of the
criminal classes. The regular thieves, whether burglars or garotters,
have never—in proportion to numbers—shown a tithe of the cruelty
which is exhibited by poachers, nor do the police, in the execution
of their duty, suffer half so much maltreatment and cruelty as the
gamekeepers. It is a fact that of all the criminal classes poachers
are the most cruel, and the most wanton in their cruelty. How is
this to be accounted for? Some say the Game Laws make the poacher
what he is. But this is absurd. You might as well say that penal
servitude is the cause of all garrotting, and that honest laws breed
thieves. The Game Laws do not make the poacher cruel. He is
inherently cruel; and if the Game Laws were entirely swept away in
the next session of parliament, the poacher's rascality and
bloodthirstiness would be all unchanged. You may change the laws;
but before you put an end to this cruelty you must change the
poacher from a dissolute ruffian to a sober and honest workman.
Why does the poacher become such? There are many causes which tend
to make men poachers. The love of pleasures for which they cannot
afford to pay, and to which they are therefore not entitled;
fondness for night adventures and the excitements of danger; a
restless and lazy unwillingness to submit to the common and honest
drudgery of life, and a determination to get money rapidly and by
any means, give men their first early tendency to a poacher's life. In some people the love of field sports is intense, and they
no effort to keep their penchant within legal limits. Others, again,
are heavily oppressed by the Game Laws, and are aggravated to
destroy the game which is literally destroying their crops. Farmers
would not object to a moderate quantity of game, but to be eaten up
by them is more than men can be expected to bear patiently. It must
also be remembered that the casuistry of the Game Laws is the
fertile theme of many disputes. Numbers are of opinion that the Game
Laws are unjust, and that they perpetrate no moral wrong in
violating them, especially when they can do so with impunity. Persons reared in this belief are not easily induced to change their
opinion. There is more laxness of opinion about the obligation to
observe the Game Laws than there is about the observance of any
other law of this country, except perhaps the income-tax law. It is
very easy to see how this general laxness of opinion, coupled with
the causes already named, create and continue the criminal pursuits
of the habitual poacher. But whatever love of adventure may induce a
youngster to try his hand with net and gun, no man becomes an
habitual poacher from any mere love of sport, or from any unsound
opinions as to his obligation to obey the Game Laws. The habitual
poacher is an idle vagabond, and one can call him nothing else. By
plundering game preserves he fills his pockets with dishonest money,
and neglects his own honest calling in the walks of honourable
industry. What sport or what manliness can there be in sweeping off
some twenty or thirty hares when the night is so dark that the
poacher cannot see his snares, and is obliged to stumble and grope
his way to the netted game? There may be an inclination to maim and
murder, but there can be no true and heroic love of honourable
adventure in the cowardly assassins who would shoot down a
gamekeeper and then deliberately beat his brains out, rather than
allow themselves to be taken in fair and manly fight as between man
and man. Poachers are always drunkards; and it is only for the sake
of drink and indolence that they give themselves wholly to the
unlawful pursuit of game. Let the truth be spoken. Poachers, as a
class, are not honest men; they are not sober men; they are not
industrious men; they are bad husbands, bad fathers, and bad
neighbours; they like the haunts of vice better than their own
fireside; they can lay no just claim to the possession of common
morality; and if it were not for the attractions of strong drinks
and the love of laziness, there would be no poaching in the sense in
which the subject is being considered in this paper. Anti-Game Law
rhetoricians and poets—and we are neither advocating nor abusing the
Game Laws—represent the poacher as some neglected, helpless,
persecuted, and starving wretch, who is obliged to kill the squire's
game before he can break his fast; or else they picture him as
snaring a hare to make some savoury soup for a sick and dying wife. These pictures are altogether untrue. The man is starving because he
can work and won't; he is out of work because he has thrown himself
out of work by such irregularities as the richest master cannot
afford to tolerate; and if his wife is ill and his children are in
rags, who has brought them to such a pass? Why, the poacher spends
in drink what ought to support his family, and prefers skulking
about in idleness to the resumption of the restraints and dignity of
honest toil. Besides, if his wife is really dying, she wants
something rather more digestible than roast pheasant and jugged
hare. In these days of benevolence and scantily-supplied labour
markets, no capable and well-conducted man need lose a month's work,
and go drinking for a fortnight, and then get himself locked up in
prison. This is no way in which to procure nourishment and comfort
for the sick. Much as the esquire hates poaching, he would not allow
even the poacher's family to pine away in unrelieved sickness and
starvation. Besides, what are the Poor Laws for? Are they not to
help the helpless, and to keep the hungry from temptations to
Poachers, then, are men of bad character. They are indolent, cruel,
and worse. They want money without work, food which they have not
earned, and luxuries to be paid for by stolen game. If the poacher
could obtain no money for his game, he would soon bid farewell to
his dogs and snares and nets and guns. The keepers would be
unmolested on their watch, and the poacher would either take to
unmistakable stealing, or else turn his hand to honest labour; not
because he liked it, but because he must either do it or starve.
What does the poacher do? He begins by getting acquainted with
some established poachers, and the acquaintance is generally formed
in the beer-house. There, seated by the fireside, in a halo of
tobacco smoke, the old poachers spin their yarn of game plundering,
fighting their way through the night watchers, and getting off scot
free. The young man's passions kindle as he listens to the exciting
tales of the poachers, and he bravely determines to join the gang. But if he knew all, or could foresee half the miserable degradation
towards which he has begun to travel, he would come to a very
different determination. He has not heard half the story, and is
blind to the sober facts which have been made, in his hearing, the
text of so much plausible romancing. He has seen the fun and the
excitement; but the heroes of his intoxicated imagination have not
shown him the wounds and bruises, the hunger, the poverty, the
disgrace, and the imprisonments which the poacher brings upon
himself. Those beer-house tales are tawdry fictions mixed with the
merest modicum of fact. They draw bragging pictures, and bag more
game over their beer than they ever did in the fields, and all the
while the youngster is noviciating his tutors are deceitful and
treacherous to one another. There is scarcely one who would not
betray his "chum" to any gamekeeper or policeman who would bid high
enough, and give the pledge of secrecy. They often defraud one
another as to the fruits of their plunder, and sometimes send each
other to prison for spite. The dark side of the picture is
studiously kept out of sight; and as everything appears enchanting
to the youth already half intoxicated, he determines to become a
hero, joins the gang, and begins his miserable initiation into the
beggaring art of poaching.
The poacher's implements are neither very complicated nor very
costly. He needs a gun short in the barrel and light in the stock,
so that he may "take her to pieces in a crack," hide her in his big
pockets, and pass the watcher without suspicion. It is a wonder that
more poachers are not shot with their own guns, for the barrels,
detached from the stock, are frequently loaded, with caps on the
nipples. With these loaded barrels in his pocket, the poacher jumps
a fence or hides in a ditch. The slightest rap on those capped
nipples would send him into the world where there is no poaching.
He likes to have his gun ready charged in his pocket, that he may be
always ready to maim a keeper or shoot a hare. Guns are little used
by poachers except for pheasant shooting, or to take a chance shot
at a stray hare when he is not out for a regular night's maraud.
Clever things some of the old hands can do in decoying hares. It is
literally true that some old poachers can imitate the hare's voice
so well as to call her comrade within gunshot. A friend of the
writer's says:—"One poacher I knew, who could so perfectly imitate
the call of a hare, that if there were any within hearing, he would
speedily bring them within range of his gun. He was very successful
in taking hares, but he was very often taken himself. He owned that
he could scarcely ever keep the pig he had fattened for his family,
being always obliged to sell it to pay his increasingly heavy
fines." All that this fellow's skill in poaching did for him was to
rob his famished family of their own pork and bacon.
As for the skill of the poachers in shooting, they are neither
better nor worse marksmen than other folks. We have seen an old
poacher, considered a crack shot, beaten by an honest bricklayer, to
his intense astonishment and disgust.
The poacher's craft requires a large quantity of wire for snaring
hares and pheasants. They become very skilful in the use of these
snares, and seldom go without one in their pockets. Snares are
simply pieces of wire pegged or tied to a bush by one end, and
noosed at the other, the noose end being carefully placed in the run
through the hedge. The game passing through the run gets its head
into the loop, and so strangles itself. There is always great danger
for the poacher with snares, and so he is very wary in taking them
up. The keepers may have seen the snares, and determined to watch
for their owners. So when the poacher comes on the ground, he dreads
a keeper lurking in every hiding-place, and fears to be pounced upon
from the bottom of a ditch or from behind a tree. It is of no use
for the poacher to plead that he did not set the snare, but merely
found it by accident. The question with the keeper is, not who sets
it but who takes it up. Innocent people know this, and if they see a
snared hare in the hedgerow, they take care and pass her by and
leave her there. Sometimes when the poacher goes to take up his
snares he becomes aware of the keeper's presence, and skulks away. He does not always see the keeper, however. A poacher once set some
snares in a very exposed and open place, where it was impossible for
the keeper to hide. After looking up and down the hedgerows the
poacher went to his snares, took them up, and got nicely snared
himself. The keeper had climbed into a very high tree, towards the
branches of which the poacher never cast a glance until it was too
The poachers' nets are mostly made of shoemaker's hemp, and such as
are meant for cover sides are not unfrequently of enormous length. Small nets are used for gateways, and purse nets for securing live
The poacher's dog is an interesting animal, and
is always well trained for his work. A dog between a bull dog
and a greyhound, or between a greyhound or a terrier, makes the best
poacher's dog. You may generally know a poacher's dog when you see
him. He looks very sleepy in the daytime, and seems stupid for want
of a good night's rest. Moreover, he seems slyer and subtler than
other dogs. There is too much of the Jesuit about him to enable him
to pass for an honest dog, and he sulkily does the bidding of his
master with the air of one who must either do it or die. He is
seldom in good spirits, and when on some rare occasion he wags his
tail, he does it as if he were ashamed of himself. Poachers' dogs
are employed, not for catching game, but for running it into the
nets. They are taught to scour a field in the darkest nights, and
work all the hares and rabbits towards the nets in the gateway, or
on the cover sides. Sometimes they are put to watch their master's
net, and will fly at any one who attempts to interfere with it. They
never give mouth under any circumstances, being too well trained to
fall into that error. A Shropshire farmer once told us some rather
good stories about a poacher's dog. He had been trained to run away
from his master when called to approach him, and never to give mouth
under any circumstances. Once upon a time this same poacher was
brought before the magistrates, and the keepers tried to identify
him by his dog. The animal was brought into court as the supposed
property of the poacher. This he stoutly denied. He was told to call
the dog to him, which he did, and immediately the terrified dog
scampered out of the court. He had received too many beatings to
come to his master when asked to do so. This same dog once got his
owner into great trouble. He was set to watch a gate net, and for a
long time the canine sentinel faithfully performed his duty. During
the moonlight night a bull, attracted by the net, came up, and got
his horns into it. The dog, considering it a part of his duty to
interfere, pinned the bull by the nose, which caused a very loud
uproar, and the keepers heard it, and they came, and they took the
nets, and were very near taking the dog also; but the poacher warily
kept himself out of sight, thinking it better to lose his nets than
go to prison. The owner of this queer dog was a very queer man—quite
a character. He knew all the preserves and likely gateways for miles
round. Give him fifty yards start, and no keeper could catch him,
for he was very swift of foot. When in danger of being surrounded he
would, if he had the chance, lie for hours up to the chin in water,
concealing himself among the rushes, while the watchers were
storming around, and wondering, in the name of everything under the
harvest moon, how the fellow had managed to escape them yet again. Once everything had been arranged between himself and his companions
for a night's poaching. During the day he "fell out" with his gang,
and would neither allow them to go with him nor tell them where he
was going. So they served him out—tied the dog to a stone at the
bottom of a deep ditch not far from his master's house. When the
time for starting arrived, the dog was nowhere to be found. The
poacher called and raged in vain. The dog could not get loose, and
he had received too many "wallopings" for whining and barking ever
to give mouth again. The master called till he was tired, but the
dog durst make no sound to let him know that he was fast, and so the
poacher's night was lost amid the jeers of his offended companions.
A gang of poachers will never go to a strange and untried place
without a guide, and frequently they all know the chosen ground
well, and some of them may have poached it for many years. The town
poachers travel long distances by rail, having previously selected
their ground, either by sending a scout, or by communicating with
some village poacher—town and country poachers generally know each
other, and often work together. Dark, windy nights suit them best,
and a moonlight night must be very cloudy before they will venture
out. To beguile the night watchers guns are sometimes fired in one
part of the preserves while the main gang are distant and busy
elsewhere. Having run their nets along the cover side, the dogs are
sent out to drive in the game. A poacher generally stands at each
end of the net with his hand on the top string, and when it jerks he
knows that game is struggling in the net. Then he passes along the
line of netting and kills everything he finds; but if the game had
only the sense to turn back he would take nothing for his pains. What a pity it is that keepers cannot train their game to draw back,
and to do it in the nick of time. As many as twenty or thirty hares
will sometimes be caught at one haul. When the keepers come suddenly
upon them the poachers generally show fight, and many a watcher
heavily beaten to pay off an old grudge. Keepers find it best to
treat poachers kindly and fairly, for if used otherwise they will
take a deadly revenge, however long they may have to wait for their
The poachers have many hair-breadth escapes, and often, by hiding in
water for hours on a bitter cold night, get a rheumatism that clings
to them through life. A single furze bush or a deep drain is
frequently the only barrier between a poacher and a prison. When
driven into close quarters they fight hard and savagely. This is the
worst part of their character. When once their evil nature is
thoroughly roused—and a little will rouse them—they care nothing for
broken limbs and fractured skulls, and every man who tries to catch
a poacher does it at the imminent risk of his life. The fight,
however, is not all tragedy: it is sometimes comedy of the most
ludicrous description. Several keepers once fell in with a gang of
poachers upon one of Lord Bradford's estates. They had no dogs, but
were driving the game by sweeping the field with very long ropes
drawn along the ground. There was some fighting, but most of the
poachers ran, and left their nets when the keepers came upon them.
In the eagerness of the pursuit, one of the keepers got separated
from his companions; but although the night was very dark he managed
to keep up with his man. They closed, struggled, and fell into a dry
ditch together, the poacher being undermost, and on his back. Just
at that moment the moon came out from behind a cloud, and its beams
fell upon the poacher's up-turned face, when the light revealed to
the keeper a horrible sight. Glaring eyes, white teeth, and an
awfully black face. Never was seen in those parts a poacher's face
like that before. Had he got into the fiendish clutches of some
infernal spirit, now glaring upon him through those fiery eyes? No! It was only an earthly chimney-sweep.
There is one peculiar kind of poaching which is only done in the
daytime. Some gentlemen are in the habit of buying large quantities
of live pheasants to turn into their woods for the first of October. This bad habit dazzles the gentleman's visitors by the glittering
show of abundant game, but the show is made at the expense of honest
preserving, and at the cost of something worse. Most of this live
pheasant business is carried on by expert local poachers, encouraged
by dealers in London. The local experts set snares of fine wire in
the pheasant runs, and then walk about the wood to put the pheasants
on the move. They run into the snares, and there is a small knot on
the wire loop to prevent its drawing up so tightly as to hang the
pheasant. When caught, the pheasants are sold alive, either to some
local sportsman, or to the keepers of the City emporiums for live
game. This system of buying live game, to stock exhausted or
extemporised preserves, gives great encouragement to poaching. It is
neither good in the interests of manly sport, nor yet for the
country, neither does it help the reformation of the poacher. Fancy
his being brought before the magisterial bench for poaching live
game. One of the magistrate asks him, "How did you dispose of them?"
and then the answer, "I sold some of them to the man who is your
gardener and keeper, sir!"
Partridges, as everybody knows, are caught by dragging nets over
them in the darkness of night, and sometimes they are caught in
severe wintry weather by springs or snares, set by the troughs where
cattle are fed in the fields—which everybody doesn't know. Before
now, and to save the labour of net-dragging the whole field,
pointers have been trained to work the ground with small lanterns
tied to their necks. When they stand to point, the poacher, in the
darkest night, is guided by the light to the right spot, and spreads
his net over the game at once.
Of all the means employed to capture poachers, torches are dreaded
by them the most. These, blazing suddenly round the gang, enable the
keepers to identify them, and poachers will seldom show fight when
suddenly surrounded by these tell-tale and face-marking
What comes of it all? Why, simply this: the game must be disposed
of, and so must the poachers. It is not for food, nor for sport, but
for money that the game is stolen. Most of it is sold, at a low
price, to the licensed game-dealers, and but for them, there would
be considerably less poaching. Occasionally a member of the gang
will himself take out a license, either to kill game, or to sell it,
but this is not often done. A considerable quantity of poached game
is sold to public-houses and hotel-keepers; but this kind of sale is
so limited, and so uncertain, that no gang of poachers could subsist
upon such chance sales. Stop the game dealers from purchasing
poached game, and poaching will soon be reduced to very narrow
limits; but until this is done, poaching gangs will continue to
exist, because they know they can obtain money for their plunder at
The reader will by this time be able to form his own opinion as to
the ultimate lot of the poacher. He soon becomes a lazy drunken
vagabond, whom nobody will employ, and the longer he follows his
hazardous and guilty pursuit the worse he grows. During the game
season he will scarcely strike one stroke of honest work. When not
in prison he lies in bed the greater part of the day, and, if sober
enough, goes out to plunder in the night. His wife and family are
ill-housed, ill-clad, and ill-fed. They live in constant terror, and
never know when some accident may befall the head of the family, or
how soon he may be sent to prison. The poacher's family are far
worse off, and far more unhappy than the family of the poorest
workman who earns his livelihood honestly. The money which the
poacher earns never does him any good. "Ill got, ill gone,"
explains all; he is kept poor by his drunken habits, by heavy
fines, and by long runs of what he calls "bad luck." The nights are
light and still, the keepers are all on the alert, and he has no
chance. Often he loses his nets, and cannot raise money to buy more. Then come the imprisonments, sharp, long, and frequent; and while he
undergoes his sentence his goods are sold, and his starving wife and
family are thrown upon the parish. Poaching is always a losing game,
and never fails to bring its votary to disgrace, poverty, and ruin. He goes on snaring game until at last "the wicked is snared in the
work of his own hands." He may sing about the "Poachers of Rufford
Park," and the "Lads of Thorney Moor," but his sham and spasmodic
jollity only half hides an aching heart.
"We popped her into the bag, my boys,
And through the woods did steer;
Oh! it's my delight of a shiny night
At the season of the year."
But the "shiny nights" are few for him, and of short duration, and
when locked up in prison, he has neither heart nor means to sing,
"Health to every gentleman
That wants to buy a hare."
After a few imprisonments, the poacher's character is entirely gone.
Scarcely any one will give him employment, and he must either leave
the district, or earn his bread in the most precarious and miserable
manner. Baron Martin once said that he knew a case in which an old
poacher had eaten twenty-three Christmas dinners in prison. We can
well believe it, and can have no difficulty in imagining the amount
of domestic misery and degradation implied in those twenty-three
It is high time to do away with the false sympathy and romance which
has fostered so much evil, and brought so much misery upon the
poacher. Farmers will not free themselves from the sometimes
oppressive use of the Game Laws under which they suffer, by
conniving at the doings of ruffianly gangs. The same men who kill
the landlord's pheasants will generally steal the tenant's hens. The
New Act, empowering the police to interfere, has done much to
diminish the amount of poaching, and it will still do more. The Game
Laws need amendment, but let them be reformed on the merits of the
case, and not by false sympathy with the ruffian, who would rather
murder a gamekeeper than earn honest bread for himself by a hard
day's work. Let us have no more such songs as,
"Drink a health, both young and old,
To every gallant poacher bold."
In the poacher there is nothing courageous, nothing heroic, and
nothing brave. Is there anything courageous in the man who turns his
lazy back on honest labour in the struggle of life, and who would
rather live by sneaking plunder, than by "providing things honest in
the sight of all men?" Is there anything brave in starving a family,
and in madly persisting in a crime which must lead to unnecessary
and utter destruction? Is there anything heroic in injuring and
maiming for life keepers and watchers, while peacefully engaged in
performing their lawful duties? The poacher's boldness is only
vulgar impudence, his bravery is a dastardly refusal to face life's
honest struggles, and his heroism is an uninstructed and licentious
disregard of common rectitude. Abuse the Game Laws if you like, but
don't canonize a scamp, and don't represent a class of men who are
frequently murderers at heart as martyrs to unjust and oppressive
laws. Surely we are not to reserve all our sympathy for an
imprisoned vagabond, and to feel no pity for the keeper's widow and
her children, who weep over their honest and murdered father's
H. W. HOLLAND.
GEORGE ELIOT, AND POETRY.
ago, a book, which I had lent, was returned to me, done up in a
sheet of country newspaper. That sheet contained, among other
miscellaneous quotations, a quotation from a book, the name of which
was new to me—'Scenes and Stories of Clerical Life,' by George
Eliot. As all my copies of this author's books are lent,
except two, I cannot quote the passage verbatim; but it came out of
'Janet's Repentance,' and it was something like this: "Often, I
think, when we are coldly calling a man narrow, or latitudinarian,
Anglican, or Evangelical, or too high or too low, that man is
shedding hot tears in secret, because he cannot find the light or
the strength that shall enable him to say the right word, or do the
difficult deed." My recollection is that this was some long
time after the publication of 'Adam Bede,'—which I had also not
read. But now I immediately got 'Adam Bede' and the 'Scenes
and Stories,' from Mudie's, and read them with strong and peculiar
interest. In those "sallet" days—ah, ye gods, how green I
was!—I used to write articles gratuitously about books that pleased
me very much; because I had a vague but mastering fancy that it was
base to receive money for saying anything about which I felt
strongly. I have not yet lost the feeling, and should think it
a happy, happy day which put it in my power to carry out my desire
never to write for money. However, I wrote immediately some
"free" papers about "George Eliot"—whom I took to be a clergyman—and
expressed an opinion, which has since been verified, about the
influence of this writer's novels in restoring a taste for
healthy realism. You must know I had just been made ill by
a course of Thackeray.
These early works of George Eliot had a lyrical freedom about
them, which has, later on, given place to other characteristics;
they had not much of that sub-acid "note" which you do not often
miss for long in the more recent books of the same writer; and they
had not—even 'Adam Bede' had not—that rapid, clinching, unfaltering
vigour of dialogue, which, as it seems to me, comes to its
climax in 'Felix Holt.' I mean dialogue in which the words
spoken are like blows interchanged between ardent hitters, when
every blow tells—dialogue in which the ball is really kept moving
between the players, with resonance, with will, with clangour of
passion, with accumulation of force, with unceasing antiphonal
rhythm and echo. Now, the lyrical freedom, and the absence of
the sub-acid note, were both favourable to the idea that this author
might write poetry; but that idea never crossed my own mind till I
read the 'Mill on the Floss.' I remember the passage which
first suggested the notion—it is about the sunbeams and
hyacinths—though I can't quote it, for the reason just given.
Now this was only an instance of poetic fancy—it had nothing
particular about it—it was not an instance of "imagination," in the
sense in which Wordsworth uses that word,* nor do I know that George
Eliot's writings contain a single example of such "imagination."
But there was something about the little passage which made me
pause. My thought was something like this:—"This writer seldom
stops to gather flowers but here is a case in which there
really seems a half inclination to do it. Is it the index of a
restrained power?" I concluded that no such matured
power could be so uniformly restrained. "Is it the
index of a growing power, which this writer may or may not choose to
notice or to nurse?" I concluded that it was.
The characteristics I find in the writings of George Eliot
are not those which some of the most admiring find; some of their
words of admiration appear to me wholly misplaced. Why do I
not specify? I'll tell you, sir. Because those whom I
convinced would immediately think there was nothing in George Eliot
at all—nothing; it would be impossible to fill up the vacancy left
by the displaced ideas with new ones difficult of apprehension.
Mr. Buchanan, in one of the most pathetic of his 'London Poems,'
dear ones ever love dearest
Those parts of ourselves that we scorn――"
a very strong generalisation; but one that might, as to criticism,
be translated into something near the truth!
I take this opportunity of saying that George Eliot is not
the only writer with respect to whom I, for one, exercise a similar
reticence. There are writers, with respect to whose high
qualities the whole truth would be the most pernicious thing (so far
as we can judge) that any one could possibly utter. Silence is
always possible. If you think a writer, who is exercising a
beneficial influence, is praised in the wrong place, you had better
stop at expressing what is positive in your own opinions; you are by
no means bound to analyze (even with an admiring pen) up to the
point of your own capacity, the faculty of any one living.
This is a hint for reviewers, who are too apt to put down all the
clever things they can say about a book, heedless what pain they may
cause, and what a misleading effect the whole "handful of truth" may
have. Those of the powers of this writer, which I think it necessary
to signalise, are—I. Perfect intelligence; II. Following that so
rapidly as to appear synchronous, immense flexibility of sympathy;
III. Perfect power of reproducing the surfaces of things; IV. A
wonderful power of writing effective dialogue—a power which I
confess I have not yet been quite successful in analyzing, though I
see my way into it for some distance. For a moment we may leave it
out of the account. But a writer who had the first three
characteristics would be able to produce poetry, if something else
were presupposed—namely, a temperament receptive of "the gleam"—the
"consecration." That temperament belonging in a high degree to the
author of the books before me, it was always "upon the cards," in my
own mind, that George Eliot would write poetry some day—though I
formed no opinion (nor have I now formed any) of the precise rank it
In the opening paragraph of 'Silas Mariner,' there was displayed in
the writing that sensitiveness to congruity between the style and
the thought, which is so highly essential to poetry; though there
was not much of "the gleam." In 'Romola' there was both "the gleam"
and "the consecration;" but there was also something else, which made
me again fancy that this author's intelligence would never find
perfect expression in the form of the novel. With no shade of
insensibility to the greatness of the gift, and without wishing it
other than it is, now we have got it, I must adhere to the opinion
which I formed at the first about 'Romola,' namely, that it should
have been a tragedy; or, at least, a series of scenes, like
'Faust.' The story—the whole subject—was one for picture, passion,
and dialogue; not for processional narration, illuminated by
frequent criticism. That is my opinion; and I can no more alter it,
than I can alter the opinion (which I share with some of the very
best of living critics, and among them, I think, Mr. Lewes) that Mr.
Tennyson's 'Maud' is, in spite of the exquisitely beautiful things it
contains, a mistake. But 'Romola' had a proem, as we all know, and
that proem certainly looked something like the prose of a person who
wanted to sing, and yet wouldn't or couldn't. And I say that in
spite of one or two things in it that were "indifferent honest,"
such as the combination "heart-strains."
It thus happened that—having a mind sensitive to the possibility—I
once or twice had suspicions that poetry, which stood out in my
memory, and which I could not identify as written by any one else,
was the work of George Eliot; but I had, upon reflection, to set
aside all such guesses. Chiefly, because, upon examining the prose
of this writer, I could not find sufficiently decisive traces of
melody—could not find any, or many, of those lapses into rhythm
which poets who write prose cannot help—sweet equivocal passages,
which may be read one way or the other, just as you please. Now,
there are highly rhythmic writers—such as
De Quincey and Ruskin—who
could not, in my opinion, produce satisfactory poetry. But it seems
so near an impossibility for a poet to write prose at all without
rhythmic lapses, that I have always had a doubt here about George
Eliot. Look at this sentence from 'Adam Bede,' book iv. chapter 33:—"The woods behind the chase, and all the hedgerow trees, took on
a solemn splendour, under the dark, low-hanging skies." How the
writer of this sentence could help dropping into complete rhythm is
the question. Let us alter it a very little:―
The woods behind the chase,
And all the hedgerow trees,
Took on a solemn splendour now,
Under the dark, low-hanging skies.
This might still be read as prose; and yet the insertion of the word
"now" makes it perfectly rhythmical. Again:—
The woods behind the chase,
And all the hedgerow trees,
Took on a silent solemn splendour,
Under the dark low-hanging skies.
Here the insertion of the word "silent" makes the passage
rhythmical. I have used that word for the purpose, not because it
has any particular force (it is simply harmless), but because it is
the word which will give me just the requisite variety in
vowel-sound. We will try again:—
The woods behind the chase,
And all the hedgerow trees,
Took on a solemn splendour,
Under the dark, low skies.
This (which omits the word "hanging") is not so satisfactory, either
for prose or verse, as the other specimens but it would pass. I only
quote the passage as one out of hundreds (that might be selected
from the writings of George Eliot), in which is suggested this
dilemma:—Of two things one—this writer either does not easily slide
into rhythmic movement of style; or so easily slides into it that
the "skid" is deliberately put on.
The question, Will George Eliot contribute poetry to English
literature? is necessarily raised by the evidently original
blank-verse mottoes to some of the chapters in 'Felix Holt'—and
would be almost raised, in any case, by the beautiful idyllic
opening of the book; in which again we find exhibited that sense of
congruity in style, which is rarely found in so high a degree
without a share of the poetic faculty. The mottoes to the chapters I
should, myself, guess to have been thrown off for the occasion, as
it arose; but I will quote the greater part of them—putting in italics, not what I think good, but what
I think bad:―
He left me when the down upon his lip
Lay like the shadow of a hovering kiss.
"Beautiful mother, do not grieve," he said
"I will be great, and build our fortunes high,
And you shall wear the longest train at court,
And look so queenly, all the lords shall say,
'She is a royal changeling: there's some crown
Lacks the right head, since hers wears nought but braids.'
Oh, he is coming now—but I am grey:
And he―― —(Vol. i. p. 17.)
'Twas town, yet country too; you felt the warmth
Of clustering houses in the wintry time;
Supped with a friend, and went by lantern home.
Yet from your chamber window you could hear
The tiny bleat of new-yeaned lambs, or see (b)
The children bend beside the hedgerows banks
To pluck the primroses,—(Vol, i. p. 78.)
Sir, there's a hurry in the veins of youth
That makes a vice of virtue by excess.
What if the coolness of our tardier veins
Be loss of virtue?
All things cool with time―
The sun itself, they say, till heat shall find
A general level, nowhere in excess.
'Tis a poor climax, to my weaker thought,
That future middlingness.—(Vol. i. p. 105.)
I'm sick at heart. The eye of day,
The insistent summer noon, seems pitiless, (c)
Shining in all the barren crevices
Of weary life, leaving no shade, no dark,
Where I may dream that hidden waters lie.—(Vol, iii. p. 185.)
Why, there are maidens of heroic touch,
And yet they seem like things of gossamer
You'd pinch the life out of, as out of moths.
Oh, it is not loud tones and mouthingness,
'Tis not the arms akimbo and large strides,
That make a woman's force. The tiniest birds,
With softest downy breasts, have passions in them
And are brave with love.—(Vol. iii p. 206.)
Nay, falter not—'tis an assurèd good
To seek the noblest—'tis your only good
Now you have seen it; for that higher vision
Poisons all meaner choice for evermore.—(Vol. iii p. 249.)
Our finest hope is finest memory;
And those who love in age think youth is happy,
Because it has a life to fill with love.—(Vol. iii p. 280.)
And doubt shall be as lead upon the feet
Of thy most anxious will.—(Vol. ii. p. 1.)
Her gentle looks shot arrows, piercing him
As gods are pierced, with poison of sweet pity.—(Vol. ii p. 104.)
The down we rest on in our aëry dreams
Has not been plucked from birds that live and smart:
'Tis but warm snow, that melts not,—(Vol. iii. p. 64.)
He rates me as a merchant does the wares
He will not purchase—"Quality not high!" (d)
'Twill lose its colour opened to the sun,
Has no aroma, and, in fine, is naught―
I barter not for such commodities (e)
There is no ratio betwixt sand and gems.
'Tis wicked judgment! for the soul can grow,
As embryos, that live and move but blindly,
Burst from the dark, emerge regenerate,
And lead a life of vision and of choice.—(Vol. iii p. 114.)
In the above extracts, at (a) I would point out that the line is
thoroughly unmusical—difficult to read out loud, in fact. At (b) I
would remark that a monotonous effect is produced by the way in
which "hear" is made to end one line and "see" another: the final cæsura occurs in both cases at the verb. George Eliot must be as
well aware as any of us, that this monotony of pause is the point in
which blank-verse writers break down the most easily—and the
repetition may even be intended in this case. I only note it as part
of the general frankness of these comments. At (c) I find the
strength of the image sacrificed by the use of the word "seems." There is also too much sibilation in these two lines—and "crevices"
following "pitiless" is not good. At (d) and (e) I find the idea
not expressed with adequate finish.
It seems absurd to make even such criticisms as these upon fragments
of verse flung carelessly in, by so richly prolific a writer as
George Eliot, who may know a great deal more about versification
than I know; but I do it for the sake of those who think the
writing of verse an easy matter. In one of his papers—that on the 'Prinzenraub,'
I think—Mr. Carlyle says (in effect) that he had preferred hunting
up the real history of the thing to writing a ballad about
it, which would have been much easier. Mr. Carlyle ought to have
known better than to write such nonsense. The writing of verse that
at all deserves the name, must ever be one of the most arduous and
exhausting of human occupations. Another day I will say something of
what I hold to be the characteristics fault of some of our recent
poetry, speaking now of the versification only.
To return, however, and to sum up:—There was always, in my opinion,
reason to apprehend that George Eliot might some day publish poetry. The fragments, which we all presume to be from her pen, in
Holt,' would arrest attention wherever they were found. It is in a
high degree probable that George Eliot will some day contribute with
victorious effect to the dramatic literature of England. That is my
We have not, meanwhile, the means of telling how far George Eliot is
practised in versification. It must, however, be borne in mind, that
one's practice in versification is not, need not be, a thing
conterminous with that other thing—practice in writing verse. Mr.
Carlyle suggests, somewhere, apropos of Goethe, that there is no
really musical writing without a content of true, wise thought. But
this is quite wrong. Some of the most musical verses in the world
were written almost for the express purpose of stultifying the idea! For example, the Laura Matilda parody in the
"Fluttering spread thy purple pinions."
And, besides this, I question whether any human being, from the
beginning of the world, ever wrote poetry who had not a mental habit
of involuntary musical phrasing—a direct tendency to the use of
words as sounds, and as sounds only—material for melody. Nor has any
one tasted all the delight of poetry who does not find in himself a
tendency to think of sweet passages as mere syllabic melody, without
the smallest regard to the sense. As thus:―
or twenty millions of other such things.
And obviously a writer like George Eliot may have had great practice
in versification—in involuntary musical phrasing—without having
written a single poem. Of that we cannot judge at present. But two
things are certain—first, that the writer who produced the beautiful
episode of Annette, which is embedded in 'Felix Holt,' can conceive a
story which has in it the concentrated essence of one of the two†
kinds in which poetry is conceived; and, as to the rest, including
the form, that a mind which has already shown itself so susceptible
to re-impregnation of the most unexpected kind—which has
self-consciousness so complete, and a power of self-discipline so
peculiar, may have surprises in store for many of us. A mind in
which, or, rather, in whose voluntary activity, intelligence takes
precedence of sympathy (by however brief an interval) cannot produce
what we have, most of us, agreed to call the highest order of
poetry, but it may produce poetry of high rank in an order which is
* Of course, imagination belongs to all high
capacity; but not "imagination" taken as Wordsworth takes it, as
opposed to "fancy."
† In the last resort there are only
two possible forms of poetry―which I propose some day, to make clear
by analysis and illustration. But I do not mean the usual
division into the dramatic and the lyrical.
PORT IN A STORM.
"PAPA," said my
sister Effie, one evening as we all sat about the drawing-room fire.
One after another, as nothing followed, we turned our eyes upon her.
There she sat, still silent, embroidering the corner of a cambric
handkerchief, apparently unaware that she had spoken.
It was a very cold night in the beginning of winter. My
father had come home early, and we had dined early that we might
have a long evening together, for it was my father and mother's
wedding-day, and we always kept it as the homeliest of holidays.
My father was seated in an easy-chair by the chimney corner, with a
jug of Burgundy near him, and my mother sat by his side, now and
then taking a sip out of his glass.
Effie was now nearly nineteen; the rest of us were younger.
What she was thinking about we did not know then, though we could
all guess now. Suddenly she looked up, and seeing all eyes
fixed upon her, became either aware or suspicious, and blushed rosy
"You spoke to me, Effie. What was it, my dear?"
"O yes, papa. I wanted to ask you whether you wouldn't
tell us, to-night, the story about how you―――
"Well, my love?"
"――About how you――"
"I am listening, my dear."
"I mean, about mamma and you."
"Yes, yes. About how I got your mamma for a mother to
you. Yes. I paid a dozen of port for her."
We all and each exclaimed Papa! and my mother laughed.
"Tell us all about it," was the general cry.
"Well, I will," answered my father. "I must begin at
the beginning, though."
And, filling his glass with Burgundy, he began.
"As far back as I can remember, I lived with my father in an
old manor-house in the country. It did not belong to my
father, but to an elder brother of his, who at that time was captain
of a seventy-four. He loved the sea more than his life; and,
as yet apparently, had loved his ship better than any woman.
At least he was not married.
"My mother had been dead for some years, and my father was
now in very delicate health. He had never been strong, and
since my mother's death, I believe, though I was too young to notice
it, he had pined away. I am not going to tell you anything
about him just now, because it does not belong to my story.
When I was about five years old, as nearly as I can judge, the
doctors advised him to leave England. The house was put into
the hands of an agent to let—at least, so I suppose; and he took me
with him to Madeira, where he died. I was brought home by his
servant, and by my uncle's directions, sent to a boarding-school;
from there to Eton, and from there to Oxford.
"Before I had finished my studies, my uncle had been an
admiral for some time. The year before I left Oxford, he
married Lady Georgiana Thornbury, a widow lady, with one daughter.
Thereupon he bade farewell to the sea, though I dare say he did not
like the parting, and retired with his bride to the house where he
was born—the same house I told you I was born in, which had been in
the family for many generations, and which your cousin now lives in.
"It was late in the autumn when they arrived at Culverwood.
They were no sooner settled than my uncle wrote to me, inviting me
to spend Christmastide with them at the old place. And here
you may see that my story has arrived at its beginning.
"It was with strange feelings that I entered the house.
It looked so old-fashioned, and stately, and grand, to eyes which
had been accustomed to all the modern commonplaces! Yet the
shadowy recollections which hung about it gave an air of homeliness
to the place, which, along with the grandeur, occasioned a sense of
rare delight. For what can be better than to feel that you are
in stately company, and at the same time perfectly at home in it?
I am grateful to this day for the lesson I had from the sense of
which I have spoken—that of mingled awe and tenderness in the aspect
of the old hall as I entered it for the first time after fifteen
years, having left it a mere child.
"I was cordially received by my old uncle and my new aunt.
But the moment Kate Thornbury entered I lost my heart, and have
never found it again to this day. I get on wonderfully well
without it, though, for I have got the loan of a far better one till
I find my own, which, therefore, I hope I never shall."
My father glanced at my mother as he said this, and she
returned his look in a way which I can now interpret as a quiet
satisfied confidence. But the tears came in Effie's eyes.
She had trouble before long, poor girl! But it is not her
story I have to tell.—My father went on:
"Your mother was prettier then than she is now, but not so
beautiful; beautiful enough, though, to make me think there never
had been or could again be anything so beautiful. She met me
kindly, and I met her awkwardly."
"You made me feel that I had no business there," said my
mother, speaking for the first time in the course of the story.
"See there, girls," said my father. "You are always so
confident in first impressions, and instinctive judgment! I
was awkward because, as I said, I fell in love with your mother the
moment I saw her; and she thought I regarded her as an intruder into
the old family precincts.
"I will not follow the story of the days. I was very
happy, except when I felt too keenly how unworthy I was of Kate
Thornbury; not that she meant to make me feel it, for she was never
other than kind; but she was such that I could not help feeling it.
I gathered courage, however, and before three days were over, I
began to tell her all my slowly reviving memories of the place, with
my childish adventures associated with this and that room or
outhouse or spot in the grounds; for the longer I was in the place
the more my old associations with it revived, till I was quite
astonished to find how much of my history in connection with
Culverwood had been thoroughly imprinted on my memory. She
never showed, at least, that she was weary of my stories; which,
however interesting to me, must have been tiresome to any one who
did not sympathize with what I felt towards my old nest. From
room to room we rambled, talking or silent; and nothing could have
given me a better chance, I believe, with a heart like your
mother's. I think it was not long before she began to like me,
at least, and liking had every opportunity of growing into something
stronger, if only she too did not come to the conclusion that I was
unworthy of her.
"My uncle received me like the jolly old tar that he
was—welcomed me to the old ship—hoped we should make many a voyage
together—and that I would take the run of the craft—all but in one
" 'You see, my boy,' he said, 'I married above my station,
and I don't want my wife's friends to say that I laid alongside of
her to get hold of her daughter's fortune. No, no, my boy;
your old uncle has too much salt water in him to do a dog's trick
like that. So you take care of yourself—that's all. She
might turn the head of a wiser man than ever came out of our
"I did not tell my uncle that his advice was already too
late; for that, though it was not an hour since I had first seen
her, my head was so far turned already, that the only way to get it
right again, was to go on turning it in the same direction; though,
no doubt, there was a danger of overhauling the screw. The old
gentleman never referred to the matter again, nor took any notice of
our increasing intimacy; so that I sometimes doubt even now if he
could have been in earnest in the very simple warning he gave me.
Fortunately, Lady Georgiana liked me—at least I thought she did, and
that gave me courage."
"That's all nonsense, my dear," said my mother. "Mamma
was nearly as fond of you as I was; but you never wanted courage."
"I knew better than to show my cowardice, I daresay,"
returned my father. "But," he continued, "things grew worse
and worse, till I was certain I should kill myself, or go straight
out of my mind, if your mother would not have me. So it went
on for a few days, and Christmas was at hand.
"The admiral had invited several old friends to come and
spend the Christmas week with him. Now you must remember that,
although you look on me as an old-fashioned fogie――"
"Oh, papa!" we all interrupted; but he went on.
"Yet my old uncle was an older-fashioned fogie, and his
friends were much, the same as himself. Now, I am fond
of a glass of port, though I dare not take it, and must content
myself with Burgundy. Uncle Bob would have called Burgundy
pig-wash. He could not do without his port, though he
was a moderate enough man, as customs were. Fancy, then, his
dismay when, questioning his butler, an old coxswain of his own, and
after going down to inspect in person, he found that there was
scarcely more than a dozen of port in the wine-cellar. He
turned white with dismay, and, till he had brought the blood back to
his countenance by swearing, he was something awful to behold in the
dim light of the tallow candle old Jacob held in his tattooed fist.
I will not repeat the words he used; fortunately, they are out of
fashion, amongst gentlemen, although ladies, I understand, are
beginning to revive the custom, now old, and always ugly.
Jacob reminded his honour that he would not have more put down till
he had got a proper cellar built, for the one there was, he had
said, was not fit to put anything but dead men in. Thereupon,
after abusing Jacob for not reminding him of the necessities of the
coming season, he turned to me, and began, certainly not to swear at
his own father, but to expostulate sideways with the absent shade
for not having provided a decent cellar before his departure from
this world of dinners and wine, hinting that it was somewhat
selfish, and very inconsiderate of the welfare of those who were to
come after him. Having a little exhausted his indignation, he
came up, and wrote the most peremptory order to his wine-merchant,
in Liverpool, to let him have thirty dozen of port before Christmas
Day, even if he had to send it by post-chaise. I took the
letter to the post myself, for the old man would trust nobody but
me, and indeed would have preferred taking it himself; but in winter
he was always lame from the effects of a bruise he had received from
a falling spar in the battle of Aboukir.
"That night I remember well. I lay in bed wondering whether I
might venture to say a word, or even to give a hint to your mother
that there was a word that pined to be said if it might. All at once
I heard a whine of the wind in the old chimney. How well I knew that
whine! For my kind aunt had taken the trouble to find out from me
what room I had occupied as a boy, and, by the third night I spent
there, she had got it ready for me. I jumped out of bed, and found
that the snow was falling fast and thick. I jumped into bed again,
and began wondering what my uncle would do if the port did not
arrive. And then I thought that, if the snow went on falling as it
did, and if the wind rose any higher, it might turn out that the
roads through the hilly part of Yorkshire in which Culverwood lay,
might very, well be blocked up.
"The north wind doth blow,
And we shall have snow,
And what will my uncle do then, poor
He'll run for his port,
But he will run short,
And have too much water to drink, poor
"With the influences of the chamber of my childhood crowding
upon me, I kept repeating the travestied rhyme to myself, till I
"Now, boys and girls, if I were writing a novel, I should
like to make you, somehow or other, put together the facts—that I
was in the room I have mentioned; that I had been in the cellar with
my uncle for the first time that evening; that I had seen my uncle's
distress, and heard his reflections upon his father. I may add
that I was not myself, even then, so indifferent to the merits of a
good glass of port as to be unable to enter into my uncle's dismay,
and that of his guests at last, if they should find that the
snow-storm had actually closed up the sweet approaches of the
expected port. If I was personally indifferent to the matter,
I fear it is to be attributed to your mother and not to myself."
"Nonsense!" interposed my mother once more. "I never
knew such a man for making little of himself and much of other
people. You never drank a glass too much port in your life."
"That's why I'm so fond of it, my dear," returned my father.
"I declare you make me quite discontented with my pig-wash here.
"That night I had a dream.
"The next day the visitors began to arrive. Before the
evening after, they had all come. There were five of
them—three tars and two land-crabs, as they called each other when
they got jolly, which, by-the-way, they would not have done long
"My uncle's anxiety visibly increased. Each guest, as
he came down to breakfast, received each morning a more constrained
greeting.—I beg your pardon, ladies; I forgot to mention that my
aunt had lady-visitors, of course. But the fact is, it is only
the port-drinking visitors in whom my story is interested, always
excepted your mother.
"These ladies my admiral uncle greeted with something even
approaching to servility. I understood him well enough.
He instinctively sought to make a party to protect him when the
awful secret of his cellar should be found out. But for two
preliminary days or so, his resources would serve; for he had plenty
of excellent claret and Madeira—stuff I don't know much about—and
both Jacob and himself condescended to manœuvre
"The wine did not arrive. But the morning of Christmas
Eve did. I was sitting in myroom, trying to write a song for
Kate—that's your mother, my dears—"
"I know, papa," said Effie, as if she were very knowing to
"――when my uncle came into
the room, looking like Sintram with Death and the Other One after
him—that's the nonsense you read to me the other day, isn't it,
"Not nonsense, dear papa," remonstrated Effie; and I loved
her for saying it, for surely that is not nonsense.
"I didn't mean it," said my father, and turning to my mother,
added: "It must be your fault, my dear, that my children are so
serious that they always take a joke for earnest. However, it
was no joke with my uncle. If he didn't look like Sintram he
looked like t'other one.
" 'The roads are frozen—I mean snowed up,' he said.
'There's just one bottle of port left, and what Captain Calker will
say—I dare say I know, but I'd rather not. Damn this
weather!—God forgive me! —that's not right—but it is trying—aint
it, my boy?'
" 'What will you give me for a dozen of port, uncle?' was all
" 'Give you? I'll give you Culverwood, you rogue.'
" 'Done,' I cried.
" 'That is,' stammered my uncle, 'that is,' and he reddened
like the funnel of one of his hated steamers, 'that is, you know,
always provided, you know. It wouldn't be fair to Lady
Georgiana, now, would it? I put it to yourself—if she took the
trouble, you know. You understand me, my boy?'
" 'That's of course, uncle,' I said.
" 'Ah! I see you're a gentleman like your father, not
to trip a man when he stumbles,' said my uncle. For such was
the dear old man's sense of honour, that he was actually
uncomfortable about the hasty promise he had made without first
specifying the exception. The exception, you know, has
Culverwood at the present hour, and right welcome he is.
" 'Of course, uncle,' I said—'between gentlemen, you know.
Still, I want my joke out, too. What will you give me for a
dozen of port to tide you over Christmas Day?'
" 'Give you, my boy? I'll give you―――'
"But here he checked himself, as one that had been burned
" 'Bah!' he said, turning his back, and going towards the
door; what's the use of joking about serious affairs like this?'
"And so he left the room. And I let him go. For I
had heard that the road from Liverpool was impassable, the wind and
snow having continued every day since that night of which I told
you. Meantime, I had never been able to summon the courage to
say one word to your mother—I beg her pardon, I mean Miss Thornbury.
"Christmas Day arrived. My uncle was awful to behold.
His friends were evidently anxious about him. They thought he
was ill. There was such a hesitation about him, like a shark
with a bait, and such a flurry, like a whale in his last agonies.
He had a horrible secret which he dared not tell, and which yet
would come out of its grave at the appointed hour.
"Down in the kitchen the roast beef and turkey were meeting
their deserts. Up in the store-room—for Lady Georgiana was not
above housekeeping, any more than her daughter—the ladies of the
house were doing their part; and I was oscillating between my uncle
and his niece, making myself amazingly useful now to one and now to
the other. The turkey and the beef were on the table, nay,
they had been well eaten, before I felt that my moment was come.
Outside, the wind was howling, and driving the snow with soft pats
against the window-panes. Eager-eyed I watched General
Fortescue, who despised sherry or Madeira even during dinner, and
would no more touch champagne than he would eau sucrée,
but drank port after fish or with cheese indiscriminately—with eager
eyes I watched how the last bottle dwindled out its fading life in
the clear decanter. Glass after glass was supplied to General
Fortescue by the fearless coxswain, who, if he might have had his
choice, would rather have boarded a Frenchman than waited for what
was to follow. My uncle scarcely ate at all, and the only
thing that stopped his face from growing longer with the removal of
every dish was that nothing but death could have made it longer than
it was already. It was my interest to let matters go as far as
they might up to a certain point, beyond which it was not my
interest to let them go, if I could help it. At the same time
I was curious to know how my uncle would announce—confess the
terrible fact that in his house, on Christmas Day, having invited
his oldest friends to share with him the festivities of the season,
there was not one bottle more of port to be had.
"I waited till the last moment—till I fancied the admiral was
opening his mouth, like a fish in despair, to make his confession.
He had not even dared to make a confidante of his wife in such an
awful dilemma. Then I pretended to have dropped my
table-napkin behind my chair, and rising to seek it, stole round
behind my uncle, and whispered in his ear:
" 'What will you give me for a dozen of port now, uncle?'
" 'Bah!' he said, 'I'm at the gratings; don't torture me.'
" 'I'm in earnest, uncle.'
"He looked round at me with a sudden flash of bewildered hope
in his eye. In the last agony he was capable of believing in a
miracle. But he made me no reply. He only stared.
" 'Will you give me Kate? I want Kate,' I whispered.
" 'I will, my boy. That is, if she'll have you.
That is, I mean to say, if you produce the true tawny.'
" 'Of course, uncle; honour bright—as port in a storm,' I
answered, trembling in my shoes and everything else I had on, for I
was not more than three parts confident in the result.
"The gentlemen beside Kate happening at the moment to be
occupied, each with the lady on his other side, I went behind her,
and whispered to her as I had whispered to my uncle, though not
exactly in the same terms. Perhaps I had got a little courage
from the champagne I had drunk; perhaps the presence of the company
gave me a kind of mesmeric strength; perhaps the excitement of the
whole venture kept me up; perhaps Kate herself gave me courage, like
a goddess of old, in some way I did not understand. At all
events I said to her:
" 'Kate,'—we had got so far even then—'my uncle hasn't
another bottle of port in his cellar. Consider what a state
General Fortescue will be in soon. He'll be tipsy for want of
it. Will you come and help me to find a bottle or two?'
"She rose at once, with a white-rose blush—so delicate I
don't believe any one saw it but myself. But the shadow of a
stray ringlet could not fall on her cheek without my seeing it.
"When we got into the hall, the wind was roaring loud, and
the few lights were flickering and waving gustily with alternate
light and shade across the old portraits which I had known so well
as a child—for I used to think what each would say first, if he or
she came down out of the frame and spoke to me.
"I stopped, and taking Kate's hand, I said―
" 'I daren't let you come farther, Kate, before I tell you
another thing: my uncle has promised, if I find him a dozen of
port—you must have seen what a state the poor man is in—to let me
say something to you—I suppose he meant your mamma, but I prefer
saying it to you, if you will let me. Will you come and help
me to find the port?'
"She said nothing, but took up a candle that was on a table
in the hall, and stood waiting. I ventured to look at her.
Her face was now celestial rosy red, and I could not doubt that she
had understood me. She looked so beautiful that I stood
staring at her without moving. What the servants could have
been about that not one of them crossed the hall, I can't think.
"At last Kate laughed and said—'Well?' I started, and I
daresay took my turn at blushing. At least I did not know what
to say. I had forgotten all about the guests inside.
'Where's the port?' said Kate. I caught hold of her hand again
and kissed it."
"You needn't be quite so minute in your account, my dear,"
said my mother, smiling.
"I will be more careful in future, my love," returned my
" 'What do you want me to do?' said Kate.
" 'Only to hold the candle for me,' I answered, restored to
my seven senses at last; and, taking it from her, I led the way, and
she followed, till we had passed through the kitchen and reached the
cellar-stairs. These were steep and awkward, and she let me
help her down."
"Now, Edward!" said my mother.
"Yes, yes, my love, I understand," returned my father.
"Up to this time your mother had asked no questions; but when
we stood in a vast, low cellar, which we had made several turns to
reach, and I gave her the candle, and took up a great crowbar which
lay on the floor, she said at last―
" 'Edward, are you going to bury me alive? or what are
you going to do?'"
'I'm going to dig you out,' I said, for I was nearly beside
myself with joy, as I struck the crowbar like a battering-ram into
the wall. You can fancy, John, that I didn't work the worse
that Kate was holding the candle for me.
"Very soon, though with great effort, I had dislodged a
brick, and the next blow I gave into the hole sent back a dull echo.
I was right!
"I worked now like a madman, and, in a very few minutes more,
I had dislodged the whole of the brick-thick wall which filled up an
archway of stone and curtained an ancient door in the lock of which
the key now showed itself. It had been well greased, and I
turned it without much difficulty.
"I took the candle from Kate, and led her into a spacious
region of sawdust, cobweb, and wine-fungus.
" 'There, Kate!' I cried, in delight.
" 'But,' said Kate, 'will the wine be good?'
" 'General Fortescue will answer you that,' I returned,
exultantly. 'Now come, and hold the light again while I find
"I soon found not one, but several well-filled port-bins.
Which to choose I could not tell. I must chance that.
Kate carried a bottle and the candle, and I carried two' bottles
very carefully. We put them down in the kitchen with orders
they should not be touched. We had soon carried the dozen to
the hall-table by the dining-room door.
"When at length, with Jacob chuckling and rubbing his hands
behind us, we entered the dining-room, Kate and I, for Kate would
not part with her share in the joyful business, loaded with a level
bottle in each hand, which we carefully erected on the sideboard, I
presume, from the stare of the company, that we presented a rather
remarkable appearance—Kate in her white muslin, and I in my best
clothes, covered with brick-dust, and cobwebs, and lime. But
we could not be half so amusing to them as they were to us.
There they sat with the dessert before them but no wine-decanters
forthcoming. How long they had sat thus, I have no idea.
If you think your mamma has, you may ask her. Captain Calker
and General Fortescue looked positively white about the gills.
My uncle, clinging to the last hope, despairingly, had sat still and
said nothing, and the guests could not understand the awful delay.
Even Lady Georgiana had begun to fear a mutiny in the kitchen, or
something equally awful. But to see the flash that passed
across my uncle's face, when he saw us appear with ported arms!
He immediately began to pretend that nothing had been the matter.
" 'What the deuce has kept you, Ned, my boy?' he said.
'Fair Hebe,' he went on, 'I beg your pardon. Jacob, you can go
on decanting. It was very careless of you to forget it.
Meantime, Hebe, bring that bottle to General Jupiter, there.
He's got a corkscrew in the tail of his robe, or I'm mistaken.'
"Out came General Fortescue's corkscrew. I was
trembling once more with anxiety. The cork gave the genuine
plop; the bottle was lowered; glug, glug, glug, came from its
beneficent throat, and out flowed something tawny as a lion's mane.
The general lifted it lazily to his lips, saluting his nose on the
" 'Fifteen! by Gyeove!' he cried. Well, Admiral, this
was worth waiting for! Take care how you decant that, Jacob—on
peril of your life.'
"My uncle was triumphant. He winked hard at me not to
tell. Kate and I retired, she to change her dress, I to get
mine well brushed, and my hands washed. By the time I returned
to the dining-room, no one had any questions to ask. For Kate,
the ladies had gone to the drawing-room before she was ready, and I
believe she had some difficulty in keeping my uncle's counsel.
But she did.—Need I say that was the happiest Christmas I ever
"But how did you find the cellar, papa?" asked Effie.
"Where are your brains, Effie? Don't you remember I
told you that I had a dream?"
"Yes. But you don't mean to say the existence of that
wine-cellar was revealed to you in a dream?"
"But I do, indeed. I had seen the wine-cellar built up
just before we left for Madeira. It was my father's plan for
securing the wine when the house was let. And very well it
turned out for the wine, and me too. I had forgotten just all
about it. Everything had conspired to bring it to my memory,
but had failed of success. I had fallen asleep under all the
influences I told you of—influences from the region of my childhood.
They operated still when I was asleep, and, all other distracting
influences being removed, at length roused in my sleeping brain the
memory of what I had seen. In the morning I remembered not my
dream only, but the event of which my dream was a reproduction.
Still, I was under considerable doubt about the place, and in this I
followed the dream only, as near as I could judge.
"The admiral kept his word, and interposed no difficulties
between Kate and me. Not that, to tell the truth, I was ever
very anxious about that rock ahead; but it was very possible that
his fastidious honour or pride might have occasioned a considerable
interference with our happiness for a time. As it turned out,
he could not leave me Culverwood, and I regretted the fact as little
as he did himself. His gratitude to me was, however,
excessive, assuming occasionally ludicrous outbursts of
thankfulness. I do not believe he could have been more
grateful if I had saved his ship and its whole crew. For his
hospitality was at stake. Kind old man!"
Here ended my father's story, with a light sigh, a gaze into
the bright coals, a kiss of my mother's hand which he held in his,
and another glass of Burgundy.