The Argosy, 1866 (6)

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THE UNDERTAKER'S MAN.


FOR the — day in April, 1865, I received three invitations: one to attend the funeral of a wealthy old bachelor, who had resided in Russell-square, and was to be buried in Highgate Cemetery; the second, to be one of a wedding-party at a house in Baker-street; and the third, to dine with a friend residing in one of the squares in South Kensington.  As the wedding and the funeral were to take place about the same hour, and in different parts of London, it was impossible for me to attend both.  I was not particularly interested in either.  I knew but little of the young couple who were to be married; and I am no admirer of a wedding-breakfast.  I do not like champagne in the morning, and have a strong dislike to the stereotyped twaddle—dignified by the name of speeches—of the breakfast-table.  The gentleman whose funeral I was invited to attend was little more than a stranger to me; and the sole reason for his executors complimenting me with an invitation was that I had been called upon to witness his will.  The turning-point which decided me in my choice between the two invitations was my wish to ascertain whether a distant relation of the deceased, whom I knew intimately, had been left any money.  He was at the time a resident in India, and far from being in affluent circumstances.

    The invitation, then, for the funeral was accepted; and at the hour appointed, the mourning coach drew up at my door to convey me to the house of the deceased in Russell-square.  On arriving, I found two mutes, with the usual scarfs and a singular sort of black banners in their hands, standing at the door.  As soon as I alighted from the carriage, one of them gave a prolonged, though subdued knock at the door, and then resumed his original position.  I entered the house, and a respectable-looking, middle-aged man, with a white cravat, and a face of great solemnity, took my hat, and in a low solemn tone of voice asked me if I was a relative of the deceased.  I told him I was not, and asked him why he made the inquiry.  After giving a low sigh of relief (as if it gratified him to hear that my feelings were less likely to be lacerated from the fact that no relationship existed between me and the deceased), he softly replied that he wished to know whether he was to place a silk or a crape hat-band on my hat.  Another attendant, with a face as solemn as his fellow's, now ushered me into a large dining-room, from which daylight had been studiously excluded,—the only light being from some candles on the table.  In this room were assembled perhaps a dozen gentlemen, and it was easy to perceive that they did not belong to the undertaker's staff, for although dressed in black, there was not the slightest appearance of solemnity about them.  They were conversing together in an ordinary tone of voice, about different topics of the day; not one among them even naming the deceased gentleman.  Everything seemed to be taken by them in an ordinary business-like way, as if their presence was a compliment they were paying to the deceased, and nothing more.

    Among the spectators, two only showed anything more than perfect indifference on the occasion.  These were young men, who, while attempting to put on the look of unconcern which characterized the rest of the party, were evidently in a state of satisfactory excitement.  I immediately guessed them to be the two presumed heirs of the deceased, and that the principal subject of interest to them at that moment was the amount which would be left to each.  My musings were interrupted by the entrance of two of the undertaker's men,—one carrying a large silver tray with glasses on it, filled with different sorts of wine, and the other a similar waiter with cakes.  These men were admirable models of funereal propriety.  There was a solemn expression upon their countenances, without the slightest tinge of sorrow in it; their faces seemed as inflexible as those we see on marble monuments; nothing, apparently, could either make them laugh or weep.  As they handed the waiters round, they asked the guests, in a solemn, sepulchral tone of voice admirably suited to the occasion, whether they would take a glass of wine or some cake.  When their duties were over, they again left the room, in the same noiseless way in which they had entered.

    The next event was the entrance of two others, as solemn as the rest.  One of them carried a large tray with black gloves on it, and the other, taking each gentleman in turn, fitted him with a pair.  "Can you tell me your number, sir?" he inquired of me, with great solemnity.  I told him I did not know it; and he chose two or three pairs of the size he thought would suit me.  This man's face struck me more than any of the others, so rigidly solemn was it.  After he had finished his duties with me, he proceeded to the others, and so on till all were provided with gloves, when he and his fellow silently left the room, closing the door after them.  The next part of the ceremony consisted in several of the men entering the room, some carrying on their arms long black cloaks, while others carried hats, with the long hatband fixed upon them.  As I had suspected, I found there were only two with crape, and these were assigned to the young men whose satisfied expression of countenance had led me to imagine them to be relatives of the deceased.  We were now ushered in due form to the mourning coaches, four persons in each.  I was assigned a place in the last with the doctor, the solicitor, and another individual, whose appearance and manners made me suspect he had only been invited to make the number complete.  What he was I cannot form the slightest idea; he was certainly well dressed, but from the time he entered the carriage, until the body was consigned to the earth, he uttered not a single word; and as soon as the ceremony was over he disappeared, and we saw him no more.

    In due time the funeral procession arrived at the cemetery, and the whole proceedings were carried through with the same air of cold, indifferent propriety which had hitherto distinguished the ceremony.  On returning to the house, I found myself alone in the carriage with the doctor; the solicitor having entered one of the others, in which were the two heirs.  The doctor was a chatty, good-natured, and shrewd little man of about fifty years of age, somewhat of a cynic, and very intelligent.  I soon found myself perfectly at home with him; and the body having been consigned to the earth, we both seemed tacitly to admit that there was no occasion for any further solemnity of manner, and conversed fluently together.

    "Did you know anything of the deceased?" I inquired; "he seems to have been little cared for, judging from the behaviour of those at the funeral."

    "I knew little more of him than as a patient," said the doctor; "he was an ordinary sort of man, possessed of considerable wealth, of which he was very penurious.  At the same time, I must say I never heard of an unworthy or dishonest action that he ever committed.  His good qualities seemed to be all of a negative description; nothing particularly to admire, and certainly less to object to."

    "Are not those two young men with crape hat-bands his heirs?" I asked.

    "I believe so," said the doctor, "and they are of the same opinion; however, we shall know more on that subject by-and-by.  They were the only persons of the party who showed the slightest interest in what was going forward, and their feelings seemed to be those of pure satisfaction."

    "I remarked that," I said.  "The money the old gentleman has left them, seems in this case, at any rate, to have neutralized any sorrow they might have felt at his decease."

    "Exactly so," remarked the doctor, "and as far as my experience goes, I believe the worst thing a man can do, in five cases out of six, if he wishes for the love and affection of any individual after his decease, is to leave him a large sum of money.  I have frequently noticed that a five-pound note given during life, is received with far greater gratitude by the legatee, than five hundred pounds left to him by will."

    We conversed in this strain till the mourning coach had arrived at the house in Russell-square, where the will was read.  As both the doctor and myself had anticipated, the two young men were left the bulk of the property.  I was sorry to see that my poor friend in India, with a wife and a large family of children depending on him, had no legacy.  My curiosity on that point being now satisfied, I left the house of sham mourning, and proceeded homewards, out of spirits and disgusted with the whole proceeding.  The impression made on my mind by the funeral hung over me the whole day,—everything seemed coloured by it; I was gloomy myself, and doubtless that made every object assume the same tint in my eyes.

    At last the hour arrived for me to dress for the dinner-party to which I had been invited.  When I arrived at the house I found most of the guests assembled, and a very brilliant party they made.  I was on terms of intimacy with more than one-half of those present, but still I could not raise my spirits to a point befitting the occasion.  The servants and waiters (for several had evidently been hired) particularly attracted my attention as having the same solemn expression of countenance which I had noticed in the undertaker's men at the funeral in the morning.  Although their duties were those tending to cause hilarity and good humour, they did not seem to take the slightest pleasure in their task, and had the dinner been in the family vault instead of the well-lighted dining-room, their faces could not have been more serious.  Even when they had occasion to speak to any of the guests, when naming the dishes they presented to them, they did it in the sort of conventional whisper used by the undertaker's men in the morning.  At last one spoke to me, on offering me some Moselle, in such a funereal tone of voice as to especially attract my attention, and I turned round to look at him.  Judge of my surprise when I recognized the face of the undertaker's man who had fitted on my gloves in the morning.  From my surprised manner it was utterly impossible that the man did not notice me, still not the slightest change passed over his countenance.  Had his face been a plaster cast his feature, could not have been more rigid.  Several times during the meal I noticed him, and he evidently saw me, yet still the same immobility of feature continued.  At last I gave up watching him, and conversed as fluently as I could with the other guests.

    The dinner was a perfect success.  At length it was time to depart, and one by one the guests left, until I was the last, having been engaged in an earnest discussion with my host, which lasted for some time after all the other visitors had gone.  At last, I bade him good-bye, and descended to the lower room to get my hat and coat.  Here I found the undertaker's man and another person with him, who from the expression of his countenance might have followed the same occupation.

    "It is a very wet night, sir," said my friend of the morning; "had I not better send for a cab?"

    "I should be much obliged to you if you would," said I.  "I hope there is a cab-stand near."

    "No sir, I am sorry to say there is not; and on a wet night there may be some difficulty in obtaining one.  I suspect we must send as far as the stand at Knightsbridge before one can be found.  I am afraid you will have to wait pretty well half an hour."

    "It cannot be helped," I replied; "and you will oblige me by sending for one immediately."

    "Certainly, sir.  John," continued he, addressing the other man, "put on your hat and get an umbrella, and fetch this gentleman a cab as quickly as you can."

    John immediately started on his errand, and I was left alone with my friend.

    "Did I not see you at the funeral this morning?" I inquired of him.

    "Yes, sir," he replied, "and a very nice funeral it was.  The house I work for always do things in a capital manner; there is not one in the trade better up to their business."

    "But if you are an undertaker's man, how is it that you can be a gentleman's servant at the same time?" I inquired.

    "I am not a servant, sir," he answered; "I live with my brother, who keeps a greengrocer's shop; and as I can wait well at table, I am a good deal in request one way or another during the season.  Before I saw you at the funeral this morning, I assisted in laying out a wedding-breakfast, and this evening, as you see, I am waiting at a dinner-party."

    "Where may the wedding have been?" I inquired.

    "At No. — Baker-street, sir."

    By a singular coincidence, it was the very wedding to which I had been invited.

    "You must have seen a good deal of life," I said to him.

    "I have indeed, sir, seen a great deal of life; in our way of business one cannot help it.  What with waiting at christenings and weddings, performing funerals, and attending at dinner-parties, I assure you we get quite philosophical."

    I have written the word philosophical, as I strongly suspect the man intended to make use of it; at the same time I admit it might have been physiological or psychological, or a mixture of the three.

    "And pray, which might have been your original occupation," I inquired, "the waiter, or the undertaker's man?"

    "The undertaker's man was my original profession, and few men have had more experience in it than I have.  I began at the bottom of the ladder and have worked up to the top rung.  I have been at parish funerals, and I have also attended at the interment of princes of the blood royal."  This was evidently said with the intention of arousing my admiration and respect, and I determined to humour him in his little vanity.

    "And pray, which of your professions do you like best?" I inquired.

    "Decidedly the undertaker's, sir; there is far more mind in it; waiting at table is all mechanical."

    "Do you generally see as little feeling shown at funerals as there was at the one this morning?" I asked.

    "It entirely depends, sir, upon who the parties may be, and what may have been their line of life.  Among the rich, old bachelors are little cared for, as was the case with the gent we buried this morning.  A great deal more of sorrow is shown for old maids than for old bachelors.  In some houses I have seen old maids a good deal grieved for, but I never saw a tear dropped for an old bachelor.  Generally I find the poor are much more sorrowed after than the rich."

    "To what do you attribute the difference?" I inquired.

    "Oh, sir, there are many causes.  In the first place, those nearest in relationship to the rich are anxious to know what money has been left them; and they are always jealous of more being left to another than themselves.  Again, the absence of ladies takes away from the sorrow of the scene, as of course they always cry more freely than the men; still, I understand, even with them, that they do not grieve as much as women of the poorer class do for their relatives.  They are also interested in what money has been left, and then there are more people to console them.  So what with that, and thinking how they will have their mourning made (as I hear from the ladies' maids, for of course I do not know it myself), their sorrow appears to be considerably softened.  I made up my mind on this point when I was employed one day when very young on a heavy job in the country."

    "A heavy job?" I inquired.

    "Yes, sir, a heavy job."

    "And pray what may a heavy job be?" I asked.

    "What the newspapers call 'the funeral obsequies of the deceased nobleman.'  I noticed there how little any one cared about him.  He had lived a very fast life, and had been a very bad husband.  His wife did not pretend to the slightest sorrow for him, and he was despised by his children; still it was a magnificent affair, and many hundreds of pounds were spent to do him honour—what for, I do not know, for never was a man less deserving of it."

    "But I should have thought, that from the misery and degradation in which a great portion of our poor live, they would neither have the time nor inclination to grieve much for their relatives."

    "You are very much mistaken, sir; the poor have far greater respect shown to them at their decease than most people imagine.  You would be astonished if you knew how much they subscribed to their burial clubs in order to get a decent funeral for their families.  Even amongst the poorest and worst, they will still rather pay for their funerals than have those dear to them degraded by a pauper's burial."

    "And pray, what is there so terrible in a pauper's funeral?"

    "Upon my word, sir, I don't know, unless it is that they look upon it as a sign that nobody cares for the dead person.  This feeling is far more common among the women than the men.  A poor man cares very little what becomes of his body after his death; but I have known women almost starving who had two or three pounds sewn up in their linen for the purpose of avoiding a pauper's funeral."

    "To what do you attribute this excessive dislike to a pauper's funeral in women?" I asked.

    "Well, sir, I have often been much puzzled about it, because a pauper's funeral may be performed as decently as one that you pay two pounds fifteen shillings for.  I am half inclined to believe, that to be buried by the parish is held by them to be a sign that nobody cares for them, and this idea is frequently more terrible than death itself.  No matter how slight the regard that may be shown, still they like to have somebody who does regret them.  Some time since, before I left off attending paupers' funerals, an old woman who had been in the workhouse for some years, finding her death approaching, sent for the matron.  'Mrs. B――,' she said, 'you have always been very kind to me, and I am very grateful to you for it, but I want you to promise to do me one favour when I am dead.  In my stays you will find four pounds sewn up.  One I wish to leave to you, as a testimonial of your kindness—the other three I wish to be expended on my funeral.  I know the Poor Law Guardians would claim the money if they could, but I have so great a dread of a pauper's funeral, that I have kept it all the time I have been in the house, and I hope you will see my wish carried out.'  'Certainly, Betty, I will.  But is there no one you would like to leave the money to?  I promise you if you are buried by the parish I will see that every respect is shown you, just as if you paid for a funeral yourself.'  'No, ma'am,' said Betty, after hesitating a moment, 'I have no relations whatever, they're all dead and gone; but I would rather have my own funeral paid for, and that you should superintend it.  It will be a great comfort to me to know that when I die there will be one person in the world who will have as much regard for me as to see me decently buried.'"

    "Then there is not much kind feeling existing between the inmates of the workhouse?" I said.

    "Well, sir, of course they go there as old men and women, and they do not form friendships easily; still a death never occurs in a workhouse ward without leaving a greater effect on those in it than we noticed at that job we were at this morning."

    "I should feel obliged," I said, interrupting him "if you would speak of the interment of my deceased friend in somewhat more respectful terms than calling it a job."

    "I beg your pardon, sir, I meant the funeral we performed."

    I felt some objection to the word "performed," but after a moment's reflection I found it was so appropriate to the occasion, that I let it pass without observation.

    "Then if no friendships are formed in a workhouse ward, how do the inmates show sorrow at the decease of one of their companions?"

    "I don't mean to say absolute sorrow, sir, but a considerable degree of respect.  If a man dies in the male ward, you generally find on the day of his funeral, all the rest will remain silent and reserved; talk little to each other; and apparently be absorbed in their own thoughts.  In the women's ward, they generally cry a good deal, but it soon passes off—far sooner than with the men.  I assure you, sir, there is a great deal that is wrong in the song, or piece of poetry, that you have heard—


"'Rattle his bones
  Over the stones;
  He's only a pauper
  That nobody owns.'


    "You seem to think," I said, "that women get over their grief sooner than men; is that really the case?"

    "Yes it is, sir.  Their sorrow is more expressive than the sorrow of men, and their affection is certainly so too; but they do not grieve so long."

    "You mean respectable men, of course."

    "No, sir.  Even among the coarsest men, I have occasionally met with instances of great affection.  If you will not be offended at my affability, I will give you a couple of proofs of the truth of what I say."

    "So far from being offended," I replied, "you will oblige me particularly by so doing."

    "Well, sir, my first case is that of a man, who was the ganger of a party of navvies.  He was a fellow of about six feet two inches high, as strong as a horse; and about as ruffianly a brute as ever lived.  He was a drunkard, and a bully, and none of his companions liked him, although from the amount of work he did and the order he kept, he was always in full employ, and earned very high wages.  He had been married to a very decent sort of woman, whom he treated with indifference when sober, so long as she got his meals ready for him—and with great brutality when he was drunk.  The woman died, and left a child, about three years of age.  After her death, Bill Storks and his little girl went to reside with his sister, a widow woman, in Rotherhithe.  Now Bill, who had not a single particle of affection for any other human being—not even his own sister—had a wonderful fondness for his child.  He used to humour her in everything, and nothing was too good for her.  One day, when she was about four years old, she was playing near the fire, and knocked over a kettle of water, which scalded her so severely that she died from the effects.  Bill was away at the time, and as soon as he received his sister's letter, telling him of the accident, he left the job he was on, and came home three parts drunk, and raving mad.  His first act was to beat his sister cruelly, and then he burst into tears, and cried like a child over his little daughter.  The police were obliged to interfere, and he was informed that if he laid his hand on his sister again, he would certainly be locked up, and taken before a magistrate.  As soon as he was sober, however, he begged his sister's pardon for what he had done, and never laid his hands on her again.  Our people had to perform the funeral, and I had the management of the job.  The mourners consisted of Bill, his sister, and two navvies.  With the exception of the woman, they were all pretty well intoxicated.  The party lounged along, and in time we reached the churchyard.  Bill looked not sorrowful, but defiant, and scowled around him, as if he should like to find somebody to quarrel with.

    "All passed off quietly enough until the sexton threw some earth upon the coffin, when the words 'Dust to dust' were said by the clergyman.  Bill then started up, and shaking his fist at the sky, made use of such expressions against God, for having taken his child away, that I should be sorry to repeat them.  The clergyman looked astonished, and was evidently upon the point of speaking to Bill, when one of the navvies lurched up to him, and said, 'Don't mind him, sir, he has not got his head, and he don't know what he is saying on.  You had better not speak to him, sir, he will be all right presently.'

    "The clergyman took the hint and proceeded with the service, and when it was over, the party returned homewards.  Before they had got outside the churchyard walls Bill turned round, and began making use of the same language as before.  The woman, terrified, put her hand upon his mouth and begged him to be quiet, reminding him that God had the rights to take his child if he pleased.

    "'She's right, Bill,' said one of the navvies.  Don't stand making a fool of yourself there.'  And the party again turned homewards.

    "That evening Bill, as well as his friends, got stupidly drunk upon beer.  He returned home about eleven o'clock at night, when he threw himself upon the bed with his clothes on, and slept until the next morning.  When he arose he came down stairs and found his sister in the room, and his breakfast spread out for him on the table.  He took no notice of her, but seating himself at the table, poured out some tea, and began his meal; he had no appetite, however, and could not swallow a mouthful.  He pushed the things from him in a spiteful sort of manner, and folding his arms on the table, he laid his head on them, and there sat quietly for some time.

    "At last he arose from his seat, and looking mechanically round the room, his eye fell on a little basket, which had been a plaything of his child's.  He took it up and examined it for a minute, and then began looking for other things which had belonged to her.  He found a little rag doll which he himself had made for her, and also a coloured story-book he had once given to her.  This he opened, and his eye rested on the picture of a lion, on which were the marks of her little fingers, for he had taught her to beat it, and say, 'Naughty lion.'  These, with one or two other little things, he placed in the basket, which he tied over with paper, and then hung it on a hook over the chimneypiece.  As soon as he had done this he turned to his sister, who had come into the room.  'Don't let nobody touch that there, do you hear?' he said.  'Mind if they do they shall hear of it again, I can tell you.'  Then snatching up his hat he left the house, nor did he return to it again until the evening, and then he was, as usual, drunk.

    "He continued this way of life for two or three days, and then resolved on going on a job into the country.  When he left the house he gave especial directions as well as threats to his sister, against allowing any one to touch the basket; and then, without saying another word, he took up his bundle and went away.  In about a fortnight's time he returned, in consequence of a quarrel he had had with his mates.  They had been drinking together one evening at a public-house, when one of his comrades, who had joined him that day said to him, 'I was very sorry to hear about that poor child of yours, Bill.'  Bill was at that moment drinking from a pewter pot.  His eyes glared viciously at the man who had spoken to him, and, saying, with an oath—'What do you speak about her for?' he dashed the pewter pot at the other's head.  Fortunately it did not hit him, but struck the wall with such force that the pot was doubled up like a glove.  This caused a great row among the other navvies, and Bill was obliged to leave.  His first care on arriving at home was to examine the little basket, and he gave a growl of satisfaction on finding it had not been touched.  He now loafed about London for some days, doing no work, and drinking.  One morning after breakfast, when he was sitting quietly by the fire, his sister came into the room with her bonnet and shawl on.  'Where are you going to, old gal?' he said, good-naturedly.  'I am going,' she said, 'to get something for dinner, or you will have to go without one.'  'Stop a minute,' he said, 'and I'll go with you; only give me time to put on my boots.'  He left the room, and his sister seated herself on a chair to wait until he was ready.  She waited for more than half an hour, and then went until out to see what he was about.  She had hardly got to the door of the room before she gave a loud scream and fell senseless to the floor.  Before her, in an outhouse in the yard, she saw her brother hanging by his neck to one of the rafters.  As soon as she recovered herself she called for assistance, and they found the wretched man was quite dead.  He had never been able to get over the loss of his child, and at last it became so oppressive to him that he put an end to his life.

    "The other case is that of a poor widow who, with her two daughters (one of them a great cripple), lived in one room.  They had formerly seen much better days, and were respectable.  Although very industrious they lived in great poverty, maintaining themselves by any little jobs of needlework they could get.  A time of distress, however, came on, and work was not very plentiful, and the poor cripple became worse in consequence of bad living.  By away of making their money go further, they gave up the doctor who usually attended them, and obtained a ticket for the dispensary instead.  The dispensary doctor was a very kind, humane, and skilful man, and paid them every attention in his power; but still the cripple did not improve, and at last they began to be greatly alarmed about her.

    "One day the widow said to him, 'Doctor, I am very uneasy about my child.  I wish you would tell me candidly whether there is any danger.'  'I am sorry to say I should not be telling you the truth if I said there was not; at the same time she may certainly live a considerable time yet.  Everything will depend upon the way we keep up her constitution.'  'I am sure, sir' said the widow, she will willingly take any medicines you may send her.'  'Medicine will do her very little good,' said the doctor, 'beyond taking a little cod-liver oil.  What she wants is good nursing, good air, and plenty of nourishment; the first, I know she has; the second, I fear she cannot get; and you must make every effort to obtain the third.  Meat she must have every day, in some shape or other; beef-tea would be as good as anything for her; and she ought also to have at least a pint of porter, and a glass or two of port wine.'

    "The poor woman sighed when she heard the doctor's directions, but made no remark.  There was only one way of obeying them; and that was by pawning her things as far as they would go.  This, however, was not done without the mother and the other daughter suffering great privation in consequence.  I believe they lived upon nothing but bread and water, and very little of that.  The poor cripple noticed how little they took, and pressed them to take some of the things they had procured for her; but they made excuse that they had no appetite, and did not care for meat or beer.

    "At last the poor cripple gradually got worse, and died, just when their means were nearly exhausted.  It was really beautiful to see the attention and kindness shown to the poor girl during her last illness, by both mother and sister.  She required a good deal of nursing; and night and day they were unceasing in their attendance on her.  One was always on duty, while the other worked hard with her needle, to obtain what little money they could by soldiers' shirt-making.  They never appeared to be tired, and the knowledge that they were benefiting the poor girl seemed to keep up their strength.  After her death they had, of course, to bury her; but how to do this they did not know, without asking the parish to let them have a pauper's funeral.  This, however, the mother and daughter would on no account allow; and they set to work, night and day, with their needle, to earn, if possible, enough to pay the expenses of a funeral of the cheapest sort.  They did not, however, succeed; and at last the other lodgers began to complain of their keeping the body so long in the room.  They wanted one pound still to make up the required sum; and the mother—in despair—went to the parish officers, and asked whether they would be kind enough to let her have a sovereign in order to bury her daughter.  This could not be done; for the Poor Law prohibits it.  The clerk told her the Guardians were only allowed to pay the whole or none.  What to do now, the poor woman did not know!  To submit to a pauper's funeral she would not; and to pay for another she could not.  At last our governor came to her help, and he said to her, 'My good soul, I will tell you what I will do.  I must send a parish coffin in the day time to your house, that all may seem fair and straightforward; but in the evening I will take it away and leave you another; the Guardians will pay me for a parish funeral, and you can make it up to me after it is over, and I will return them the money.'

    "Well, the poor woman thankfully accepted the offer, and paid in advance what money she had in hand.  The funeral was ordered to take place the next day,—and a very decent one it was, as I know, having conducted it myself.  The mother and daughter were the only mourners; and I never saw greater sorrow than theirs.  I noticed the widow, as she stood by the grave, weeping bitterly.  I think I see her now,—a tall, pale-faced, thin-looking woman; and when it came to 'dust to dust, and ashes to ashes,' she sank on her knees in a very curious manner.  It was not as if she had no strength, but it seemed rather as if some heavy hand had been placed on the back of her neck, against her will, which pressed her down, down, on her knees, at last bending her head almost to the earth.

    "The funeral over, we returned to the house.  The mother and daughter were sorrowful enough all that day, there was no doubt of it.  The next morning they opened the window and commenced cleaning the room; they were silent and sad as they were putting things away—but still there were no tears.  As soon as they had got things a little put to rights, they again set to work to earn sufficient money to pay the balance of the funeral expenses to our governor.  He was a good-natured man, and told them there was no necessity, as the parish would not ask for the money, 'he was sure.'  They told him they were much obliged to him, but it was a mark of respect to the one who was dead; and they were determined to pay every shilling—which they honestly did.  When the amount was made up, all sorrow seemed to have left them.  Understand me, sir, I do not mean to say that they did not love the poor girl as dearly as ever; but they did not grieve for her.  They now managed to get on a little bit in the world; and six months after the death of her sister, the other girl married, and is now doing very well, and her mother still lives with her.

    "There was another case I met with—" Here a violent ringing was heard at the door.

    "Here's your cab, sir," said the undertaker's man, breaking off suddenly, and hurriedly helping me on with my coat, and putting my hat in my hand, as if he wished to get home as soon as possible.  He accompanied me to the street door, where I saw his companion, whom he had sent for the cab.

    "I am sorry I have kept you waiting, sir," he said; "but I had a good deal of difficulty in finding a cab; it is such a nasty night, they are very difficult to be had."

    "I am much obliged to you for the trouble you have taken," I replied, slipping at the same time a half-a-crown into his hand.

    My loquacious friend noticed the gift, and immediately the familiarity of his manner ceased, and he again assumed the solemn aspect natural to the undertaker's man.  The two now accompanied me across the pavement to the cab, assisting me as I entered it in the same manner they are accustomed to do on helping persons into a mourning coach.  They then closed the cab door, and retreating under the portico, stood watching me on each side of the street door, with the solemn aspect of a couple of mutes.  The coachman then drove off, and I threw myself back in the cab,—reflecting during my way home on the mutability of human affairs.


WILLIAM GILBERT.

―――♦―――


 
THEATRES AND MUSIC HALLS.


THOSE readers of the Argosy who have happened to cast their eyes upon previous papers of mine will not suppose that I am at all dependent upon "Harry Clifton," or the "Great Vance," or the "Inimitable Mackney," for the amusement of my leisure, or that I can be interested, except as a student of human nature, in songs like "Pretty Little Sarah," "Paddle your Own Canoe," or in any of the songs sung at third-rate music-halls, with titles very much like the titles I meet with in turning over music-books of the time of the Regency—such as "Go it, if it kills you," "Widow Waddle's Jig," "Betsy's Delight," or "Carlton House in a Bustle,"—from which I infer that the tastes of the lower music-hall public are not very unlike the tastes of the "fashionable" public before I was born.  But, precisely because I cannot be supposed to have any personal interest in the subject, I may the more safely take up, in a passing way, a question which will some day have historic interest, and emphasize, by anecdote and comment, words of toleration and faiths in human nature which, during the ten years for which I have been writing, I have never lost an opportunity of speaking, with various applications.

    Necessities of space compel the omission here of a discussion of the place and function of Art in great cities.  In that discussion, however, I have taken, for purposes of illustration, the ballet (it is always best to take the bull by the horns), which is the most soundly abused of all entertainments, and, after allowing for the very worst thing that the least amenable of critics can have to say, I find myself compelled in fairness, to judge of public entertainments in which there is one grain of Art, on principles which are chiefly these :—


I.    The function of Art is to chasten, while delighting, by a symmetrical reflection of the play of human passion, ever ascending into the sphere of emotion.

II.    By presenting Beauty and Order as ends to be sought for their own sake, Art, though not moral, allies itself with Duty.

III.   Therefore, so long as Art continues faithful to Beauty, it cannot, of itself, be inimical to Morality.

IV.   The moment Art ceases to be beautiful, it becomes powerless to give delight; it can then only confer pleasure, which can be had better and cheaper without Art.

V.    Under those circumstances, any exhibition claiming to be artistic will chiefly attract pleasure-seekers.

VI.  These pleasure-seekers would, under any circumstances, find their pleasure; so that the grain of Art which the exhibition may Gold in suspension is so much to the good.


    I cannot help it (for the present) if there appears an almost ludicrous remoteness in the application of these hints to an imminent public question, the decision of which cannot fail to be a landmark in the history of civilized freedom.  The question is just now fought as a free-trade question, but no such phraseology can really cover the ground of the battle, though, for the present (1866) the commercial aspect of the matter comes to the front.  Freedom of trade is the only kind of freedom which the multitude of men can be got to understand at present; and much suffering and degradation grow out of that limited intelligence of theirs.  We must continue to do the best we can and lift up the first flag that comes handy (and this flag has a prestige about it, besides being handy)—for the battle will not wait; but in the meanwhile we need not be unheedful of larger, remoter issues than any which the flag of free-trade covers.  Free trade, free religion, free art, and free self-culture are all bound up in the same bundle, and stand or fall together.  Our present concern is with a question of free art and free trade combined.

    In the capital of England, where the Court is situated, Theatres and Plays, considered as actable, exist, in the last resort, by sufferance of a quasi-public functionary, the Lord Chamberlain; who has been gaily, and not without cause (as we shall see) called the Lord Chambermaid.  He may refuse his license to any play, or any theatre—therefore, to every play, and every theatre: an absurd, but not abstractly inconceivable result.  The Lord Chamberlain and his assistants may be, and sometimes are, sensible and cultivated persons, [1] but the function personified is what I speak of, and it is one of the least credible anomalies of modern times.  The Lord Chamberlain, then, is a lineal descendant of the Master of the Revels: is a relic of the days when masques and plays were in the first instance a kind of privilege of the Court, and a functionary was supposed to be necessary, to see that nothing "unhandsome" came "betwixt the wind" and the "nobility."  The vulgar might have may-poles and dancing bears, and conjuring and tumbling, but the drama was not for them—except as Lazarus might gather scraps at the door of Dives.  In the play-bills of the old patent theatres (Drury Lane and Covent Garden) the actors still describe themselves as (his or) her Majesty's servants, and seriously-disposed justices of the peace in the provinces still look upon actors as vagabonds and sturdy beggars.  Great changes have arisen in dramatic matters since the two largest theatres lost their patents, but the Lord Chamberlain still remains, retaining and exercising his authority, though at the moment at which I write, another change is evidently breaking upon the horizon of dramatic and quasi-dramatic entertainment.

    Meanwhile, there is something almost too absurd for contemplation in the exercise of certain functions by the Lord Chamberlain.  Somebody writes, for example, to inform him that, in the somebody's opinion, the skirts of the ballet-girls at some particular theatre are too short.  His Lordship (I suppose) goes, or sends, to see, and then forwards an intimation to the director of the theatre that his young ladies must wear longer dresses.  They manage these things worse in France, [2] (I have in my mind, while writing, a certain police regulation about the Cancan); but I should think Englishmen can scarcely endure the image of an elderly gentleman whose duty it is to see that the tunics of English girls are long enough; or that they have the regulation "skirt-tacks."  Pray let us have a public Chambermaid for these purposes—if they can be supposed matters for any public functionary whatever.  For my part, I hold them to be matters of public sentiment.  "With no one to embody it?"  With no one legally constituted to embody it.  I believe public sentiment, left to itself, will always, in such matters, create a police of good understanding which cannot be evaded; while the police of a function can be and is evaded; the growth of sound sentiment being moreover retarded by the mere fact of the function's existence.  There is ample proof that the mischiefs aimed at, for example, by Lord Campbell's Act, are much increased by the existence of the Act.

    However, to return.  Between the Act of Parliament which undertakes (we all know what queer things Acts of Parliament do undertake, and they will undertake queerer things still as more mediocrities find their way into the House of Commons) to define a stage play, and the Lord Chamberlain's exercise of his functions, a difficulty has arisen which, from its relations, historic and philosophical, is worthy of deliberate notice.

    In the time of Shakspeare, I have read that gallants smoked and refreshed themselves at the theatres just as they pleased.  The habits of the Germans we all know, though I am not aware that, except at the "summer" theatres, there is smoking in theatres even in Germany.  As it so happens that I am constitutionally intolerant of tobacco in any shape, I have personally no desire (but very much the reverse) that people should ever smoke in the theatres of my own country.  But I stand for justice—to everybody.  The habits of the English people, the masses, are no secret.  They like smoking; they like eating and drinking; they have no notion of amusement without them.  A small tradesman and his wife going from Chelsea to Gravesend on board a Thames steamer, begin to smoke, sip, and skin shrimps almost as soon as the paddle-wheels are in motion.  We also know (though one is surprised to see how many well-informed people underrate it) the fondness of "the common people" for singing and music—especially in company.  Now, in our own day, every kind of amusement is provided on competitive and commercial principles, and paid for, to be enjoyed in masses, [3] and my reader does not want another word to lead him up to those strange places, called Music-halls.  Where or how the discrepancy first arose, or how it grew to its present size, is another question; but the fact is, that the half-cultivated population of our great cities who want amusement has enormously increased, while the drama has not overtaken their tastes, though, for the drama itself, there is still a sufficient and a largely increased public.  However, the "Music-halls" all over the kingdom are filled nightly with multitudes of men and women, who, while the singing or dancing proceeds upon the stage, sit at tables or lounge about, munching, drinking, smoking, chattering, laughing,—monster convivial parties, in fact, held in public, the guests being about as much known to each other as the guests at hundreds of "distinguished" balls or "receptions" in a London season.  The audiences, of course, are as miscellaneous as possible, and widely different in different parts of London and the provinces.  In one quarter you have a preponderance of the small tradesman and artisan element; but there is always, of course, a large infusion of the pleasure-seeking population of great cities.  You cannot expect to go to any such place without being brought face to face with the abandonment of youth, eager for "pleasure;" nor can the least felicitous concomitant of the scene blot out the grace of youth.  Being blind to nothing, I must still say that merely as a show of animal spirits and young blood, I think a place like the Alhambra a splendid spectacle.  I happened to be there on the night of the Oxford and Cambridge boat-race, when there was, I suppose, a much larger sprinkling than usual of the best youth of England: and I was powerfully moved by the beauty of the young men's faces.  I was there for some hours, moving about, watching, and listening, and whatever I saw that I wished away, I left the place proud of my country.  And let me entreat the reader to remember that good people have too often an exaggerating pruriency of their own, which makes them quite unjust to mixed assemblies of human beings whose object is distinctly "pleasure."  Their budgets of "depravity" will not really bear handling.  Things are quite bad enough, but their pathetic nonsense will seldom stand cross-examination.  In a parliamentary committee which sat some years ago upon public-houses, a witness, speaking of a certain Saloon, said he could not describe to the committee the scenes which he had witnessed there.  This answer I once found quoted in a magazine article by an accomplished lady who was criticising in a very noble and beautiful spirit the impurities of certain by-paths of modern life.  This "sensation" answer had evidently struck her mind with horror; but what are the facts?  The witness in question was asked at a later period of his examination to explain what he meant by not being able to describe the "scenes" he had witnessed.  His reply was, that the character and variety of the entertainments were such as he could not describe!  And how many old-bogie stories of the sort break down in a similar way when rigorously handled.  Can anything be more absurd than what the terrified pruriency of very well-meaning people figures to itself about what "goes on" (that is a favourite phrase, goes on—it is so deliciously mysterious!) "behind the scenes," or the "depravity" of the ballet-girls?  It is useless to disguise the fact that the scene behind the scene to an unaccustomed eye is full of piquancy.  It cannot be unamusing, for example, to come close to half a dozen women in short muslin clouds, laughing and chattering—the usual innocent chatter of women; or to exchange civilities with a lithe young creature of nineteen, whom you never saw before and will never see again, with her bright curls gathered up close round her little neck, in the dress of a (stage) fairly prince, or a (stage) Watteau shepherd.  There is piquancy in this, as there is in smelling a rose or drinking a glass of wine, or walking up Regent-street in the season on a fine afternoon.  But the piquancy does not, with ordinary human beings, survive use; and the closer one gets to any class of one's fellow-creatures the more one is struck by their resemblance to each other, and the great excess of what is good and loveable over what is not.  The prurient good people think with horror of the "orgies" or "saturnalia" that "go on" behind the unconscious curtain.  Drop them down suddenly in the midst of stage "business," and they would be astonished to find that actresses are very much like their own sisters, and that visitors must—get out of the way.  Again let me say there is no disguising the piquancy of the scene to certain people—but they are not the people who would go behind the scenes, expecting to find orgies or saturnalia there, any more than they are people who think a thunderbolt ought to fall because a young girl in a short tunic stands "chaffing" a stage-carpenter for a moment.

    In dealing with any class of human beings of whom we know but little, we must begin by dropping the old-bogie way of thinking of them, if we want to get at the truth.  For my part, I repeat, I am not blind to the worst that can be said upon such matters, and when that worst is allowed for, I maintain that the good of the whole case is greater than the evil, and that these are matters in which we have, above all things, to begin by being just.  We shall never better our fellow-creatures if we commence by looking at them through the cloud of an old-bogie sensibility.

    It so happens that another illustration of this subject is ready to my hand.  I had once myself, along with most people, a very exaggerated idea of the amount of drinking that goes on at these "music-halls."  But after taking pains to observe and to inquire, I am satisfied that the total amount of what is spent in eating, drinking, and cigars is quite inconsiderable.  Great stress is laid, by those who know the habits of the working and small trading classes, upon the fact that the wife is very often the companion of the husband at these places—keeping him, it is suggested, out of mischief.  On the other hand, no doubt, some wives may learn to drink themselves at such places.  But, on the whole, these monstrous symposia of the "people" point to changes in our manners which, after a time, will prove to be for the better.

    The chief difficulty lying in the way of any such change is the indifferent, or positively bad quality, of the entertainment given at the Music-halls.  And so long as the Theatre proper is "protected," how can we throw stones at the Music-halls?  They cannot give a dialogue, or a ballet with a story in it, without serious risk, as the law stands.  The utter absurdity of restricting an entertainment to dumb show, or singing in evening-dress, and then wondering that the audience contains elements which are not of the choicest, is surely patent.  For the discussion of the question of "privilege" I have no patience.  To permit any people, any where, performing a play at their own risk, and in their own way, is part of a policy for which there are no words of scorn strong enough.  Let us not lose our temper over the subject, or over that of the function of the Lord Chamberlain.  A play is, of all things, that which is most openly submitted to public opinion, and most rapidly and decisively judged by it.  A book, if it is bad, may have dropped poison into a thousand hearts before anybody points it out, and even then it cannot be recalled from the hands of those who have bought it.  But a play is submitted at once to the criticism of two thousand people of average character and intelligence, and is liable to be "damned" in an hour.  If the Lord Chamberlain is less critical than the average audience, he is worse than useless; if he is only as critical, he is a cipher; if he were more critical, his judgments could not be enforced.  He is a simple absurdity.  Those who think he is useful in the interests of public virtue must deal with the three alternatives just put, or, if they prefer it, they may deal with Milton's scornful retort upon a similar point—"Public virtue! public folly, rather—for who shall judge of public virtue?"

    I should be very glad if words of mine could help to induce others to look without prejudice upon the coarseness of the audiences, and the entertainments, at some of the fifth-rate places of amusement in great cities.  My own habits are those of a very quiet, studious person; I have delicate health, and fastidious senses—and yet I can tolerate, and with amused interest, a great deal from which some very good people turn harshly away.  At the "Bower Saloon," Stangate, Westminster, I have witnessed a drama called, in the bill of the play,


"THE HUNGARY SON,
"OR,
"THE DREADFUL EFFECTS OF FAMILY HATRED CARRIED ON TOO LONG;"


but I also saw once, and with pleasure, a girl act Hamlet there.  And very creditably she did it too, although she was so ignorant that in the great soliloquy she said "sickled" for "sicklied."  On this occasion, the house was so crowded that the gallery audience overflowed on to the sloping roofs of the boxes, and there was a ring of naked, shoeless legs dangling in pairs over the heads of the indignant dress-circle.  Indeed, the excitement of the people was so great (excusably, for Miss G―― was the only lady Hamlet I had then ever heard of, though Miss Marriott has acted Hamlet since) that a disturbance appeared imminent at one time of the evening.  However, the Polonius of the tragedy Mr. B――, came before the drop-scene between the acts, and made an angry speech, of which I caught a few words,—". . . . policeman at the door. . . . one of you got a week the other day . . . . disgrace the savages in the backwoods . . . ."  The remainder was lost in a storm of applause, and order was restored for the rest of the evening.  Generally speaking the behaviour of the people at third-rate and fifth-rate places of amusement has almost incredibly improved within the last six or eight years.  I have been present at performances at the east-end theatres [4], and at the Victoria Theatre in the south, without being able to hear one word of what the actors said.  But all this is now changed.  It is true you may still see in the pit of a second-rate theatre (at the Surrey you may see it) such a thing as a placard in which "Persons are requested not to crack nuts during the performance;" and there may be an occasional squabble, and a cry for "the Bobbies" (vulgar for policemen); but that is the worst that happens.  Monday night and Saturday night are, of course, always noisy nights; on Friday (the "order" night) the audience is not so "genteel;" and, of course, at holiday-times the sovereign "people" have it a good deal their own way.  I was in the pit of a third-rate theatre on Boxing-night, 1865.  It was an hour's work to get in, and I had to stand all the time, wedged in between two women and two or three men, who talked incessantly, and in the coarsest conceivable vein.  The roughs in the place, men and women, joined in the chorus of one of the songs imported from the Music-halls into the pantomime ("Free-and-Easy" is the name of the song), and the "swells" in the stalls stood up and turned their backs on the stage to applaud the chanting roughs.  I do not think the conversational license taken by men and women of "the common people" at inferior theatres at all exceeds that taken in private boxes at first-class theatres; though, of course, talking in the body of the place is more objectionable to listeners, and the tournure of the phrases is not so elegant.  Let me take the liberty of supposing that you are in the pit of a fifth-rate theatre, and listening to what goes on behind you or at your side, where there is a household party—a tradesman, his wife, a friend of the family, and his sweetheart.  This is the kind of thing you might hear, as a " comic" actor came forward with an absurd make-up:

First Gentleman.—Oh! golley; aint he a reg'lar Cure!

His wife.—Now, then, Joe-in-the-copper, speak up; will you?

Second Gentleman.—Gawdstruth,[5] aint he a bubblyjock!

Sweetheart.—Oh my, jiminy! he is a head o' cauliflower!

    This is not edifying; but you can well believe in the solid virtues of people who are capable of such felicities.  By-and-by the conversation is resumed:

Second Gentleman.—Have you seen Ovinia [6] Jones—East Lynne?

Sweetheart.—No; not yet.

Second Gentleman.—Ah, you've got to, I can tell you!  I cried like a water-cart when the kid dies—it is cutting, I can tell you!

Mamma.—Ropes of inions?

Gentleman.—Ah, it is inions, that is!

Sweetheart.I s'pose it's a very deep tradegy? Spoken with critical gravity, the present writer having somehow betrayed that he is listening.

Gentleman.—(Evading the high-art question).  I ain't cried so much—not since I see Belphegor.  I'll take you to see her.

    This is delivered with an air of patronage which would not disgrace a Sultan; and then the happy pair fall to upon their provisions, and flakes of piecrust fall, like rose-leaves, at the feet of the lovers as they munch.  Some commonplace question is asked of me, which I answer with civility, and then, rising to depart, I have the satisfaction of hearing myself called, in a whisper, "a affable gent."

    Some years ago I went one night to a place of cheap entertainment called the Rotunda, in the Blackfriars-road, near the bridge.  It is now, I believe, a fire-stove shop, the little circus having been put down as a nuisance but I lay no stress upon that fact, for the ordinary, respectable Englishman, especially the English shopkeeper, calls nearly everything unusual a nuisance, and particularly anything that gathers a mob of roughs together.  That roughs frequented this Rotunda I know, for I saw and heard them "roughing" on the night of my visit, and I do not doubt that thieves and ill-conditioned people of all sorts were there; but the audience behaved as well as any audience could possibly behave, and one could hardly help being glad at heart to see them sitting there so quietly, out of mischief for the time, and getting the benefit of even so low a form of art.  There was solo singing in "character" (a cobbler, a Scotchman, an Irishman, very coarse, but with no real harm about either the song or the characterization), solo dancing, a rope performance, and a ballet d'action.  A ballet d'actionthat is to say, a ballet in which there is a story, as distinguished from a ballet divertissement, in which there is (supposed to be) none—is illegal; but my friends of the Rotunda evidently thought they were keeping sufficiently to windward of the law by avoiding dialogue, for the story of this ballet was told in the most undisguised manner by the mere action; though, for the assistance of slack wits, it was told in black and white also.  The stage-manager, at every turn of the plot, held up in front of the stage a placard to say what was happening, as


SHE IS JEALOUS,
or—HE ENLISTS FOR A SOLDIER,
or— THEY ARE TO BE MARRIED TO-MORROW.


This last notification was received with tremendous applause.  As is universally the case at the low-class theatres even more than at the better sort, I found the audience had their old favourites.  A half-withered, moiled-looking woman of fifty odd, who danced in the ballet, was received and pursued with storms of clapping and compliment—"Condemn my sanguinary organs of vision! the old girl stuck to it, didn't she, Bill?"  The performance closed with a little exhibition on the tight-rope, in which the clown, a quiet, decent, worn-looking man of about thirty, and his very lovely young wife took part.  I shall never forget the exquisitely-turned limbs of this little woman.  The rope on which she had to walk went straight across the pit until it attached itself to a fastening in the boxes, or gallery, so that this pretty creature had to walk clean over the heads of the people in the pit—over mine among the rest.  Her husband, proud, I am sure, of her beauty, followed her transit with jealous eyes; but it was unnecessary.  Honi soit qui mal y pense—it was a chivalric pit.  As for me, I believe I was suspected of being a spy—though I hummed nigger tunes, jested with my neighbours, and looked as much like a blackguard as I possibly could, in order to disarm suspicion.

    My success, however, was not satisfactory to my own mind; and the next time I visited a "gaff"—this was in Shoreditch—I sought, and obtained for the sum of fourpence, a private box all to myself.  The premises were so confined that, in coming out, I lost my way, after having taken only a step or two, into somebody's back parlour, where there were plates and dishes set on a clean tablecloth, all ready for supper.  There was no smell of cooking about, but that is nothing; the neighbourhood is a paradise of fried fish, baked potatoes, whelks, eels, cockles, mutton-pies, cranberry tarts, pig's trotters, and "faggots." [7]  At this place there was no ballet.  The audience was what you might expect.  There were fiddlers, with a clarionet, a flute, and a piano in the very last stage of knockiness—every bit of baize having evidently been worn off the furrowed keys.  This delicious instrument, retained perhaps for the purpose of giving a refined air to the entertainment, was feverishly played by a bald-headed, little old man, who had so respectable an appearance that I wondered how he had drifted into such a place.  There were women there of all ages; and one pleasant-looking young creature in the very centre of the pit, with a babe held fast to her uncovered bosom.  The mother had no ring on, but she had an innocent face, [8] and her presence did me good.

    The first thing I heard from my private box was the then new song, "God bless the Prince of Wales!"  The Prince had just been married, and the more distinctly loyal and affectionate parts of the song were soundly and, I undertake to say, sincerely applauded.  Let me be excused for being sentimental enough to add that I was moved by the evident heartiness with which I saw these poor roughs—some of them pickpockets and drifted women—wished well to the marriage.  The singers of the song were two—a young man, and a tall, stout woman, with highly-pomatumed hair, a wedding-ring and keeper, a silk gown fixed high in the neck with a large brooch, and a bunch of flowers in her hand—which was red and large with labour.  This song was followed by others—the usual Irishman, Scotchman, and what not.  Then came what the Music-hall people will persist in calling a duologue. [9]  Two men, one representing Gutta Percha, and the other Leather, had a sort of sham fight, mixed up with tumbling, singing, and banter, the victory always leaning to the side of Leather, which greatly delighted the audience.  I need not say that all this was to me very tedious buffoonery; but though some of the jokes were unquestionable doubles entendres, as gross as any in Shakspeare, I really lay no particular stress upon the fact as an index of character.  Humour must always turn on things in which there is a quick and easy common understanding, and what those things are which most readily present themselves to the mind of the humorist depends on culture.  Even this low humour had an infinitesimal grain of art in it, and, honestly, I don't believe people were measurably better or measurably worse for listening to it; and I am satisfied that the majority of the women, in this audience as in others, did not "take" the jokes.  It is the silly conceit of men, rather than any real depravity of instinct, which makes them find anything to enjoy in this garbage.  However, after this "comic" singing had been continued till I was very sick indeed, the audience began impatiently to stamp, clap, whistle, and shriek out some word which I could not catch.  Who was the traveller that has recorded his bewilderment at some Paris theatre when he heard everybody calling out, Ree-cat! Ree-cat!  This (as some readers may guess) turned out to be clipped French for Henri Quatre; but no bewilderment could exceed that of the gentleman in the private box, when every voice in this "gaff" seemed to him to be shouting "Crœsus! "What on earth could the people mean by this classical reference?  My wonder soon ceased, when a gentleman, who was hailed with the greatest enthusiasm, came on to the stage and began to sing a song called "Water-Cresses."  This gave unspeakable delight, the audience making up a chorus at the end of each verse, thus


"She promised for to marry me, upon the first of May,
 With a gold ring and a bunch of watercreases!"


    At the close of this entertainment the place was cleared, and after a short time, a second audience admitted to a repetition of the programme, or something fresh.  In this manner such places are made to pay.

    The audiences at the better-class Theatres and Music-halls stand related to audiences such as I have been speaking of, as the people at a west-end club to the people in a beer-house parlour.  Upon all this I would merely found an à fortiori argument in favour of the removal of all restraint but police restraint, such as is exercised in the next street, from places of public entertainment in which the common standards of decency are maintained.  In these matters, as in all others, the nursing or protective policy applied in one direction, and the exclusive policy applied in another, are found to have the usual results.  The "protected" entertainment degrades in quality, and actually fetches "attractions" from the "unprotected."  The staple of the thing now called a burlesque or extravaganza, consists, positively, of grotesque singing and dances imported from the Music-halls into the Theatres.  The Theatre prevents the Music-hall from attempting to give anything like a dramatic entertainment.  The Music-hall gets up these singing grotesqueries because it must do something lively, and then it is avenged upon its "protected" enemy by the policy of imitation which the latter is forced to adopt.  Really it is a ridiculous piece of business.

    Probably I shall not be expected to go out of my way to observe that neither at Theatres nor at Music-halls do I find what appears to me most desirable in the way of popular entertainment.  But everywhere I find more to hope than to fear.  I wish, indeed, I could expect, in small compass, to express my deep sense of the social importance of mixed assemblies, in which people of all classes, out of jails and bedlams, are permitted to meet together for some common purpose, under no restraints but those of police.  The tone of mixed assembles, taken as wholes, is always so much higher than the tone of their lower elements, that they are among the most efficacious instruments of education in manners.  The very coarsest put on their "best behaviour" before strangers; and so the habit of self-restraint is begun.  When the very worst has been said for the very worst assembly of people that could be got together, it still remains true that all classes of people have a right to meet and amuse themselves in their own way.  The better the amusements they choose, the more they will be benefited—we need not waste words over truisms; but our first duty is to leave them their choice.  This, at all events, is a lesson in fair dealing—if we accompany our non-interference by an expression of opinion that their choice might be better.  The prime duty, here as elsewhere, is to be simply just.  If we strive to be just, we shall not miss our reward.  I never came away from any assembly of my fellow-creatures, gathered together to partake of an entertainment in common, without feeling my faith in human nature raised, without a deep triumphing sense how much the good exceeds the bad, wherever men and women meet in large numbers together.  Do you remember Sir Roger de Coverlet' at the play?  "As soon as the house was full and the candles lighted, my old friend stood up and looked about him with that pleasure which a mind seasoned with humanity naturally feels in itself at the sight of a multitude of people who seem pleased with one another, and partake of the same common entertainment."  I never go to a place of amusement without seeing the ghost of the good old man standing up in the middle of the area.

    For the sake of an argument à fortiori (which the reader will construe as kindly as he can), let me again speak for a moment of myself.  No man can be more reticent in his personal habits, no man can have stronger convictions as to what is wrong or in bad taste at any place of public amusement, no man can be more deeply pledged by his antecedents and avowed principles to the "faith which Milton held," no man can possibly feel more acutely the incongruity between a speech of Imogen or Rosalind and the clinking of glasses in a half regardless crowd.  But my likes and dislikes, my approvals and disapprovals, are no guides for others, and I commit the greatest possible wrong if I attempt to enforce them.  You do not like the idea of Hamlet's soliloquy delivered in the midst of tobacco-smoke?  No more do I.  But who are you, pray?  Somebody else does like it, and you have no more right to prevent his having it than you have to prevent his wearing a rose in his button-hole, or employing a doctor whom you think a quack.  Nor is this all.  There is no fact of the same mixed order for which such an overwhelming mass of evidence can be collected as the fact that all attempts to make laws for purposes of protection, nursing, or guidance, are worse than stultified; they are always punished by the event; and the people who are intended to be benefited are generally the greatest sufferers.  So it was in the beginning, and so it will be for ever.  The watchword of true progress is, Hands off!  It proceeds by inducements, not by penalties; and only when unjust compulsion is removed does any work of real improvement begin.  For my part, wherever the battle of freedom is fought, I fling myself into it; it does not matter how much there is of what is ugly on the side of those who are struggling; for the first condition of goodness is liberty.  When we, who stand for justice, hear people say that the drama must be "protected," we reply, Nothing but rights shall be protected if we can help it—if people like to meet together and hear Mr. Tennyson's In Memoriam, Blair's Sermons, or Herbert's Porch to the Temple, read while they are eating and drinking, it is no business of anybody.  For my part, to use the words of Macaulay in his speech on the Chapels Bill in the year 1844, I contend against the intolerance of these people now, in precisely the same spirit as that in which I should be ready, in case of need, to contend for their rights against intolerance from any other side; and I only wish we had a few more of the old-fashioned Liberals, like Mr. Locke and Mr. Clay, to fight in the same spirit.


MATTHEW BROWNE.


NOTES.


1. Lord Sydney and Mr. Donne (the Examiners of Plays) are gentlemen of liberal feeling and high culture.

2. Let me say here, that I blush to the quick for some of my confrères—who go to Paris and come back imperialised.  We are perpetually pestered with what they do "in Paris."  But who cares what they do "in Paris?"

3. I have elsewhere expressed my regret that this should be so; but it is not to be helped.  Above all it is not to be hindered by any act of injustice.

4. It has little to do with the subject, but I may perhaps be allowed to express my surprise that people are still found who risk opera at theatres in the south of London, where it is always a dead failure.  In the east, it is a success; because there are so many Jews living there.  I have heard La Traviata and Il Trovatore at the Standard Theatre, and have been surprised, as well as amused, at the keen criticism of the pit upon the performance.

5. This adjuration is, in nine cases out of ten, employed by the poor with no more idea of the meaning than they would have of the meaning of 'zounds.

6. This is vulgar for Miss Avonia Jones.  I need not say that it is impossible for "the common people" not to alter a name.  They turn Reynolds into Randles, Albert into Alibert, Nine Elms into Nine Ellums, Alexandra into Alexandria, omnibus into omminibus, and Westminster into Westminster.  Who would grudge them a pleasure so innocent?

7. I will not assume the responsibility of recommending any one to eat a faggot, but the smell is delicious.  It is the night-policeman's joy!  "Does your husband sleep, when he comes home at six in broad daylight?" said I to a policeman's wife, once.  "Law, yes, sir," said she, "I stuffs a 'ankercher into the mug, to keep it hot, along with the gravy, and he has his faggit, and goes sound asleep as a church."

8. She might have pawned her ring; but even if she had none to pawn, those of my readers who the most rigidly hold to the association of virtue and order, need not doubt that the woman's face was innocent.  There are, or were, until quite recently, corners of London, where, as in some forest district in England, the essence of conjugal virtue exists, though the form and name are alien to the people's ideas.  Now and then I am told a clergyman undertakes a civilizade into these retreats, and marries the willing couples; and I once heard an amusingly painful anecdote of a just-married mother of four children going and flaunting her newly-acquired "virtue" in the face of another mother of a family—not yet married—who had nursed the other lady through a long illness, and pawned her flat-irons to help her.  The ungrateful lady was hustled for her pains by some of the other ladies, and in the evening there were a few fights got up among the gentlemen—chiefly bricklayers' labourers—on this great public question.

9. There is no such word as this, which is a jumble of Greek and Latin.

―――♦―――

 
LOTTA SCHMIDT.


AS all the world knows, the old fortifications of Vienna have been pulled down,—the fortifications which used to surround the centre or kernel of the city; and the vast spaces thus thrown open and forming a broad ring in the middle of the town have not as yet been completely filled up with those new buildings and gardens which are to be there, and which, when there, will join the outside city and the inside city together, so as to make them into one homogeneous whole.  The work, however, is going on, and if the war which has come does not swallow everything appertaining to Austria into its maw, the ugly remnants of destruction will be soon carted away, and the old glacis will be made bright with broad pavements and gilded railings, and well-built lofty mansions and gardens beautiful with shrubs—and beautiful with turf also, if Austrian patience can make turf to grow beneath Austrian sky.  But if the war that has now begun to rage is allowed to have its way, as most men think that it will, it does not require any wonderful prophet to foretell that Vienna will remain ugly, and that the dust of the brickbats will not be made altogether to disappear for another half century.

    No sound of coming war had as yet been heard in Vienna in the days, not yet twelve months since, to which this story refers.  On an evening of September, when there was still something left of daylight at eight o'clock, two girls were walking together in the Burgplatz, or large open space which lies between the city palace of the Emperor and the gate which passes thence from the old town out to the new town.  Here at present stand two bronze equestrian statues, one of the Archduke Charles, and the other of Prince Eugene.  And they were standing there also, both of them, when these two girls were walking round them; but that of the Prince had not as yet been uncovered for the public.  There was coming a great gala day in the city.  Emperors and empresses, archdukes and grand-dukes, with their archduchesses and grand-duchesses, and princes and ministers, were to be there, and the new statue of Prince Eugene was to be submitted to the art critics of the world.  There was very much thought at Vienna of the statue in those days.  Well; since that the statue has been submitted to the art critics, and henceforward it will be thought of as little as any other huge bronze figure of a prince on horseback.  A very ponderous prince is poised in an impossible position, on an enormous dray horse.  But yet the thing is grand, and Vienna is so far a finer city in that it possesses the new equestrian statue of Prince Eugene.

    "There will be such a crowd, Lotta," said the elder of the two girls, "that I will not attempt it.  Besides, we shall have plenty of time for seeing it afterwards."

    "Oh yes," said the younger girl, whose name was Lotta Schmidt; "of course we shall all have enough of the old prince for the rest of our lives; but I should like to see the grand people sitting up there on the benches; and there will be something nice in seeing the canopy drawn up.  I think I shall come.  Herr Crippel has said that he would bring me, and get me a place."

    "I thought, Lotta, you had determined to have nothing more to say to Herr Crippel."

    "I don't know what you mean by that.  I like Herr Crippel very much, and he plays beautifully.  Surely a girl may know a man old enough to be her father without having him thrown in her teeth as her lover."

    "Not when the man old enough to be her father has asked her to be his wife twenty times, as Herr Crippel has asked you.  Herr Crippel would not give up his holiday afternoon to you if he thought it was to be for nothing."

    "There I think you are wrong, Marie.  I believe Herr Crippel likes to have me with him simply because every gentleman likes to have a lady on such a day as that.  Of course it is better than being alone.  I don't suppose he will say a word to me except to tell me who the people are, and to give me a glass of beer when it is over."

    It may be as well to explain at once, before we go any further, that Herr Crippel was a player on the violin, and that he led the musicians in the orchestra of the great beer-hall in the Volksgarten.  Let it not be thought that because Herr Crippel exercised his art in a beer-hall therefore he was a musician of no account.  No one will think so who has once gone to a Vienna beer-hall, and listened to such music as is there provided for the visitors.

    The two girls, Marie Weber and Lotta Schmidt, belonged to an establishment in which gloves were sold in the Graben, and now, having completed their work for the day,—and indeed their work for the week, for it was Saturday evening,—had come out for such recreation as the evening might afford them.  And on behalf of these two girls, as to one of whom at least I am much interested, I must beg my English readers to remember that manners and customs differ much in Vienna from those which prevail in London.  Were I to tell of two London shop girls going out into the streets after their day's work, to see what friends and what amusement the fortune of the evening might send to them, I should be supposed to be speaking of young women as to whom it would be better that I should be silent; but these girls in Vienna were doing simply that which all their friends would expect and wish them to do.  That they should have some amusement to soften the rigours of long days of work was recognized to be necessary; and music, beer, dancing, with the conversation of young men, are thought in Vienna to be the natural amusements of young women, and in Vienna are believed to be innocent.

    The Viennese girls are almost always attractive in their appearance, without often coming up to our English ideas of prettiness.  Sometimes they do fully come up to our English idea of beauty.  They are generally dark, tall, light in figure, with bright eyes, which are however very unlike the bright eyes of Italy and which constantly remind the traveller that his feet are carrying him eastward in Europe.  But perhaps the peculiar characteristic in their faces which most strikes a stranger is a certain look of almost fierce independence, as though they had recognized the necessity, and also acquired the power of standing alone, and of protecting themselves.  I know no young women by whom the assistance of a man's arm seems to be so seldom required as the young women of Vienna.  They almost invariably dress well, generally preferring black, or colours that are very dark; and they wear hats that are I believe of Hungarian origin, very graceful in form, but which are peculiarly calculated to add something to that assumed savageness of independence of which I have spoken.

    Both the girls who were walking in the Burgplatz were of the kind that I have attempted to describe.  Marie Weber was older, and not so tall, and less attractive than her friend; but as her lot in life was fixed, and as she was engaged to marry a cutter of diamonds, I will not endeavour to interest the reader specially in her personal appearance.  Lotta Schmidt was essentially a Viennese pretty girl of the special Viennese type.  She was tall and slender, but still had none of that appearance of feminine weakness which is so common among us with girls who are tall and slim.  She walked as though she had plenty both of strength and courage for all purposes of life without the assistance of any extraneous aid.  Her hair was jet black, and very plentiful, and was worn in long curls which were brought round from the back of her head over her shoulders.  Her eyes were blue,—dark blue,—and were clear and deep rather than bright.  Her nose was well formed, but somewhat prominent, and made you think at the first glance of the tribes of Israel.  But yet no observer of the physiognomy of races would believe for half a moment that Lotta Schmidt was a Jewess.  Indeed, the type of form which I am endeavouring to describe is in truth as far removed from the Jewish type as it is from the Italian; and it has no connection whatever with that which we ordinarily conceive to be the German type.  But, overriding everything in her personal appearance, in her form, countenance, and gait, was that singular fierceness of independence, as though she were constantly asserting that she would never submit herself to the inconvenience of feminine softness.  And yet Lotta Schmidt was a simple girl, with a girl's heart, looking forward to find all that she was to have of human happiness in the love of some man, and expecting and hoping to do her duty in life as a married woman and the mother of a family.  Nor would she have been at all coy in saying as much had the subject of her life's prospects become matter of conversation in any company; no more than one lad would be coy in saying that he hoped to be a doctor, or another in declaring a wish for the army.

    When the two girls had walked twice round the hoarding within which stood all those tons of bronze which were intended to represent Prince Eugene, they crossed over the centre of the Burgplatz, passed under the other equestrian statue, and came to the gate leading into the Volksgarten.  There, just at the entrance, they were overtaken by a man with a fiddle-case under his arm, who raised his hat to them and then shook hands with both of them.

    "Ladies," he said, "are you coming in to hear a little music?  We will do our best."

    "Herr Crippel always does well," said Marie Weber.  "There is never any doubt when one comes to hear him."

    "Marie, why do you flatter him?" said Lotta.

    "I do not say half to his face that you said just now behind his back," said Marie.

    "And what did she say of me behind my back?" said Herr Crippel.  He smiled as he asked the question, or attempted to smile, but it was easy to see that he was much in earnest.  He blushed up to his eyes, and there was a slight trembling motion in his hands as he stood with one of them pressed upon the other.

    As Marie did not answer at the moment, Lotta replied for her.

    "I will tell you what I said behind your back.  I said that Herr Crippel had the firmest hand upon a bow, and the surest fingers among the strings in all Vienna,—when his mind was not wool-gathering.  Marie, is not that true?"

    "I do not remember anything about the wool-gathering," said Marie.

    "I hope I shall not be wool-gathering to-night; but I shall doubtless;—I shall doubtless,—for I shall be thinking of your judgment.  Shall I get you seats at once?  There; you are just before me.  You see I am not coward enough to fly from my critics."  And he placed them to sit at a little marble table, not far from the front of the low orchestra in the foremost place in which he would have to take his stand.

    "Many thanks, Herr Crippel," said Lotta.  "I will make sure of a third chair, as a friend is coming."

    "Oh, a friend!" said he; and he looked sad, and all his sprightliness was gone.

    "Marie's friend," said Lotta, laughing.  "Do you not know Carl Stobel?"

    Then the musician became bright and happy again.  "I would have got two more chairs if you would have let me; one for the fraulein's sake, and one for his own.  And I will come down presently, and you shall present me, if you will be so very kind."

    Marie-Weber smiled and thanked him, and declared that she should be very proud;—and the leader of the band went up into his place.

    "I wish he had not placed us here," said Lotta.

    "And why not?"

    "Because Fritz is coming."

    "No!"

    "But he is."

    "And why did you not tell me?"

    "Because I did not wish to be speaking of him.  Of course you understand why I did not tell you.  I would rather it should seem that he came of his own account,—with Carl.  Ha, ha!"  Carl Stobel was the diamond-cutter to whom Marie Weber was betrothed.  "I should not have told you now,—only that I am disarranged by what Herr Crippel has done."

    "Had we not better go,—or at least move our seats?  We can make any excuse afterwards."

    "No," said Lotta.  "I will not seem to run away from him.  I have nothing to be ashamed of.  If I choose to keep company with Fritz Planken, that should be nothing to Herr Crippel."

    "But you might have told him."

    "No; I could not tell him.  And I am not sure Fritz is coming either.  He said he would come with Carl if he had time.  Never mind; let us be happy now.  If a bad time comes by-and-by, we must make the best of it."

    Then the music began, and, suddenly, as the first note of a fiddle was heard, every voice in the great beer-hall of the Volksgarten became silent.  Men sat smoking, with their long beer-glasses before them, and women sat knitting, with their beer-glasses also before them, but not a word was spoken.  The waiters went about with silent feet, but even orders for beer were not given, and money was not received.  Herr Crippel did his best, working with his wand as carefully,—and I may say as accurately,—as a leader in a fashionable opera-house in London or Paris.  But every now and then, in the course of the piece, he would place his fiddle to his shoulder and join in the performance.  There was hardly one them in the hall, man or woman, boy or girl, who did not know, from personal knowledge and judgment, that Herr Crippel was doing his work very well.

    "Excellent, was it not?" said Marie.

    "Yes; he is a musician.  Is it not a pity he should be so bald?" said Lotta.

    "He is not so very bald," said Marie.

    "I should not mind his being bald so much, if he did not try to cover his old head with the side hairs.  If he would cut off those loose straggling locks, and declare himself to be bald at once, he would be ever so much better.  He would look to be fifty then.  He looks sixty now."

    "What matters his age?  He is forty-five, just; for I know.  And he is a good man."

    "What has his goodness to do with it?"

    "A good deal.  His old mother wants for nothing, and he makes two hundred florins a month.  He has two shares in the summer theatre.  I know it."

    "Bah! what is all that when he will plaster his hair over his old bald head?"

    "Lotta, I am ashamed of you."  But at this moment the further expression of Marie's anger was stopped by the entrance of the diamond-cutter, and as he was alone, both the girls received him very pleasantly.  We must give Lotta her due, and declare that, as things had gone, she would much prefer now that Fritz should stay away, though Fritz Planken was as handsome a young fellow as there was in Vienna, and one who dressed with the best taste, and danced so that no one could surpass him, and could speak French, and was confidential clerk at one of the largest hotels in Vienna, and was a young man acknowledged to be of much general importance,—and had, moreover, in plain language declared his love for Lotta Schmidt.  But Lotta would not willingly give unnecessary pain to Herr Crippel, and she was generously glad when Carl Stobel, the diamond-cutter, came by himself.  Then there was a second and third piece played, and after that Herr Crippels came down, according to promise, and was presented to Marie's lover.

    "Ladies," said he, "I hope I have not gathered wool."

    "You have surpassed yourself," said Lotta.

    "At wool-gathering?" said Herr Crippel.

    "At sending us out of this world into another," said Lotta.

    "Ah; go into no other world but this," said Herr Crippel, "lest I should not be able to follow you."  And then he went away again to his post.

    Before another piece had been commenced, Lotta saw Fritz Planken enter the door.  He stood for a moment gazing round the hall, with his cane in his hand and his hat on his head, looking for the party which he intended to join.  Lotta did not say a word, nor would she turn her eyes towards him.  She would not recognize him if it were possible to avoid it.  But he soon saw her, and came up to the table at which they were sitting.  When Lotta was getting the third chair for Marie's lover, Herr Crippel, in his gallantry, had brought a fourth, and now Fritz occupied the chair which the musician had placed there.  Lotta, as she perceived this, was sorry that it should be so.  She could not even dare to look up to see what effect this new arrival would have upon the leader of the band.

    The new comer was certainly a handsome young man,—such a one as inflicts unutterable agonies on the hearts of the Herr Crippels of the world.  His boots shone like mirrors, and fitted his feet like gloves.  There was something in the make and sit of his trousers which Herr Crippel, looking at them as he could not help looking at them, was quite unable to understand.  Even twenty years ago Herr Crippell's trousers, as Her Crippel very well knew, had never looked like that.  And Fritz Planken wore a blue frock coat with silk lining to the breast, which seemed to have come from some tailor among the gods.  And he had on primrose gloves, and round his neck a bright pink satin handkerchief, joined by a ring, which gave a richness of colouring to the whole thing which nearly killed Herr Crippel, because he could not but acknowledge that the colouring was good.  And then the hat!  And when the hat was taken off for a moment, then the hair-perfectly black, and silky as a raven's wing, just waving with one curl!  And when Fritz put up his hand, and ran his fingers through his locks, their richness and plenty and beauty were conspicuous to all beholders.  Herr Crippel, as he saw it, involuntarily dashed his hand up to his own pate, and scratched his straggling lanky hairs from off his head.

    "You are coming to Sperl's to morrow, of course," said Fritz to Lotta.  Now Sperl's is a great establishment for dancing in the Leopoldstadt which is always open of a Sunday evening, and which Lotta Schmidt was in the habit of attending with much regularity.  It was here she had become acquainted with Fritz.  And certainly to dance with Fritz was to dance indeed!  Lotta too was a beautiful dancer.  To a Viennese such as Lotta Schmidt, dancing is a thing of serious importance.  It was a misfortune to her to have to dance with a bad dancer, as it is to a great whist-player among us to sit down with a bad partner.  Oh, what she had suffered more than once when Herr Crippel had induced her to stand up with him!

    "Yes; I shall go.  Marie, you will go?"

    "I do not know," said Marie.

    "You will make her go, Carl, will you not?" said Lotta.

    "She promised me yesterday, as I understood," said Carl.

    "Of course we will all be there," said Fritz, somewhat grandly and I will give a supper for four."

    Then the music began again, and the eyes of all of them became fixed upon Herr Crippel.  It was unfortunate that they should have been placed so fully before him, as it was impossible that he should avoid seeing them.  As he stood up with his violin to his shoulders, his eyes were fixed on Fritz Planked, and Fritz Planken's boots, and coat, and hat, and hair.  And as he drew his bow over the strings he was thinking of his own boots and of his own hair.  Fritz was sitting, leaning forward in his chair, so that he could look up into Lotta's face, and he was playing with a little amber-headed cane, and every now and then he whispered a word.  Herr Crippel could hardly play a note.  In very truth he was wool-gathering.  His hand became unsteady, and every instrument was more or less astray.

    "Your old friend is making a mess of it to-night," said Fritz to Lotta.  I hope he has not taken a glass too much of schnaps."

    "He never does anything of the kind," said Lotta, angrily.  "He never did such a thing in his life."

    "He is playing awfully badly," said Fritz.

    "I never heard him play better in my life than he has played to-night," said Lotta.

    "His hand is tired.  He is getting old," said Fritz.  Then Lotta moved her chair and drew herself back, and was determined that Marie and Carl should see that she was angry with her young lover.  In the meantime the piece of music had been finished, and the audience had shown their sense of the performers' inferiority by withdrawing those plaudits which they were so ready to give when they were pleased.

    After this some other musician led for a while, and then Herr Crippel had to come forward to play a solo.  And on this occasion the violin was not to be his instrument.  He was a great favourite among the lovers of music in Vienna, not only because he was good at the fiddle and because with his bow in his hand he could keep a band of musicians together, but also as a player on the zither.  It was not often now-a-days that he would take his zither to the music-hall in the Volksgarten; for he would say that he had given up that instrument; that he now played it only in private; that it was not fit for a large hall, as a single voice, the scraping of a foot, would destroy its music.  And Herr Crippel was a man who had his fancies and his fantasies, and would not always yield to entreaty.  But occasionally he would send his zither down to the public hall; and in the programme for this evening it had been put forth that Herr Crippel's zither would be there and that Herr Crippel would perform.  And now the zither was brought forward, and a chair was put for the zitherist, and Herr Crippel stood for a moment behind his chair and bowed.  Lotta glanced up at him and could see that he was very pale.  She could even see that the perspiration stood upon his brow.  She knew that he was trembling and that he would have given almost his zither itself to be quit of his promised performance for that night.  But she knew also that he would make the attempt.

    "What, the zither?" said Fritz.  "He will break down as sure as he is a living man."

    "Let us hope not," said Carl Sobel.

    "I love to hear him play the zither better than anything," said Lotta.

    "It used to be very good," said Fritz; "but everybody says he has lost his touch.  When a man has the slightest feeling of nervousness he is done for the zither."

    "H—sh; let him have his chance at any rate," said Marie.

    Reader, did you ever hear the zither?  When played, as it is sometimes played in Vienna, it combines all the softest notes of the human voice.  It sings to you of love, and then wails to you of disappointed love, till it fills you with a melancholy from which there is no escaping, from which you never wish to escape.  It speaks to you as no other instrument ever speaks, and reveals to you with wonderful eloquence the sadness in which it delights.  It produces a luxury of anguish, a fulness of the satisfaction of imaginary woe, a realization of the mysterious delights of romance, which no words can ever thoroughly supply.  While the notes are living, while the music is still in the air, the ear comes to covet greedily every atom of tone which the instrument will produce, so that the slightest extraneous sound becomes an offence.  The notes sink and sink so low and low, with their soft sad wail of delicious woe, that the listener dreads that something will be lost in the struggle of listening.  There seems to come some lethargy on his sense of hearing, which he fears will shut out from his brain the last, lowest, sweetest strain, the very pearl of the music, for which he has been watching with all the intensity of prolonged desire.  And then the zither is silent, and there remains a fond memory together with a deep regret.

    Herr Crippel seated himself on his stool and looked once or twice round about upon the room almost with dismay.  Then he struck his zither, uncertainly, weakly, and commenced the prelude of his piece.  But Lotta thought that she had never heard so sweet a sound.  When he paused after a few strokes there was a sound of applause in the room,of applause intended to encourage by commemorating past triumphs.  The musician looked again away from his music to his audience, and his eyes caught the eyes of the girl he loved; and his gaze fell also upon the face of the handsome, well-dressed, young Adonis who was by her side.  He, Herr Crippel the musician, could never make himself look like that; he could make no slightest approach to that outward triumph.  But then, he could play the zither, and Fritz Planken could only play with his cane!  He would do what he could!  He would play his best!  He had once almost resolved to get up and declare that he was too tired that evening to do justice to his instrument.  But there was an insolence of success about his rival's hat and trousers which spirited him on to the fight.  He struck his zither again, and they who understood him and his zither knew that he was in earnest

    The old men who had listened to him for the last twenty years declared that he had never played as he played on that night.  At first he was somewhat bolder, somewhat louder than was his wont; as though he were resolved to go out of his accustomed track; but, after a while, he gave that up; that was simply the effect of nervousness, and was continued only while the timidity remained present with him.  But he soon forgot everything but his zither and his desire to do it justice.  The attention of all present soon became so close that you might have heard a pin fall.  Even Fritz sat perfectly still, with his mouth open, and forgot to play with his cane.  Lotta's eyes were quickly full of tears, and before long they were rolling down her cheeks.  Herr Crippel, though he did not know that he looked at her, was aware that it was so.  Then came upon them all there an ecstasy of delicious sadness.  As I have said above, every ear was struggling that no softest sound might escape unheard.  And then at last the zither was silent, and no one could have marked the moment when it had ceased to sing.

    For a few moments there was perfect silence in the room, and the musician still kept his seat with his face turned upon his instrument.  He knew well that he had succeeded, that his triumph had been complete, and every moment that the applause was suspended was an added jewel to his crown.  But it soon came, the loud shouts of praise, the ringing bravos, the striking of glasses, his own name repeated from all parts of the hall, the clapping of hands, the sweet sound of women's voices, and the waving of white handkerchiefs.  Herr Crippel stood up, bowed thrice, wiped his face with a handkerchief, and then sat down on a stool in the corner of the orchestra.

    "I don't know much about his being too old," said Carl Stobel.

    "Nor I either," said Lotta.

    "That is what I call music," said Marie Weber.

    "He can play the zither, certainly," said Fritz; "but as to the violin, it is more doubtful."

    "He is excellent with both,—with both," said Lotta, angrily.

    Soon after that the party got up to leave the hall, and as they went out they encountered Herr Crippel.

    "You have gone beyond yourself to-night," said Marie, "and we wish you joy."

    "Oh no.  It was pretty good, was it?  With the zither it depends mostly on the atmosphere; whether it is hot, or cold, or wet, or dry, or on I know not what.  It is an accident if one plays well.  Good-night to you.  Goodnight, Lotta.  Good-night, sir."  And he took off his hat, and bowed,—bowed, as it were, expressly to Fritz Planken.

    "Herr Crippel," said Lotta, "one word with you."  And she dropped behind from Fritz, and returned to the musician.  "Herr Crippel, will you meet me at Sperl's tomorrow night?"

    "At Sperl's?  No.  I do not go to Sperl's any longer, Lotta.  You told me that Marie's friend was coming to-night; but you did not tell me of your own."

    "Never mind what I told you, or did not tell you.  Herr Crippel, will you come to Sperl's to-morrow?"

    "No; you would not dance with me, and I should not care to see you dance with any one else."

    "But I will dance with you."

    "And Planken will be there?"

    "Yes; Fritz will be there.  He is always there.  I cannot help that."

    "No, Lotta; I will not go to Sperl's.  I will tell you a little secret.  At forty-five one is too old for Sperl's."

    "There are men there every Sunday over fifty,—over sixty, I am sure."

    "They are men different in their ways of life from me, my dear.  No, I will not go to Sperl's.  When will you come and see my mother?"

    Lotta promised that she would go and see the Frau Crippel before long, and then tripped off and joined her party.

    Stobel and Marie had walked on, while Fritz remained a little behind for Lotta.

    "Did you ask him to come to Sperl's to-morrow?" he said.

    "To be sure I did."

    "Was that nice of you, Lotta?"

    "Why not nice?  Nice or not, I did it.  Why should not I ask him, if I please?"

    "Because I thought I was to have the pleasure of entertaining you;—that it was a little party of my own."

    "Very well, Herr Planken," said Lotta, drawing herself a little away from him; "if a friend of mine is not welcome at your little party, I certainly shall not join it myself."

    "But, Lotta, does not every one know what it is that Crippel wishes of you?"

    "There is no harm in his wishing.  My friends tell me that I am very foolish not to give him what he wishes.  But I still have the chance."

    "O yes; no doubt you still have the chance."

    "Herr Crippel is a very good man.  He is the best son in the world, and he makes two hundred florins a month."

    "O, if that is to count!"

    "Of course it is to count.  Why should it not count?  Would the Princess Theresa have married the other day if the young Prince had had no income to support her?"

    "You can do as you please, Lotta."

    "Yes, I can do as I please, certainly.  I suppose Adela Bruhl will be at Sperl's to-morrow?"

    "I should say so, certainly.  I hardly ever knew her to miss her Sunday evening."

    "Nor I.  I, too, am fond of dancing,—very.  I delight in dancing.  But I am not a slave to Sperl's, and then I do not care to dance with every one."

    "Adela Bruhl dances very well," said Fritz.

    "That is as one may think.  She ought to; for she begins at ten, and till two, always.  If there is no one nice for dancing she puts up with some one that is not nice.  But all that is nothing to me."

    "Nothing, I should say, Lotta."

    "Nothing in the world.  But this is something; last Sunday you danced three times with Adela."

    "Did I?  I did not count."

    "I counted.  It is my business to watch those things, if you are to be ever anything to me, Fritz.  I will not pretend that I am indifferent.  I am not indifferent.  I care very much about it.  Fritz, if you dance to-morrow with Adela you will not dance with me again,—either then or ever."  And having uttered this threat she ran on and found Marie, who had just reached the door of the house in which they both lived.

    Fritz, as he walked home by himself, was in doubt as to the course which it would be his duty as a man to pursue in reference to the lady whom he loved.  He had distinctly heard that lady ask an old admirer of hers to go to Sperl's and dance with her; and yet, within ten minutes afterwards, she had peremptorily commanded him not to dance with another girl!  Now, Fritz Planken had a very good opinion of himself, as he was well entitled to have, and was quite aware that other pretty girls besides Lotta Schmidt were within his reach.  He did not receive two hundred florins a month, as did Herr Crippel, but then he was five-and-twenty instead of five-and-forty; and, in the matter of money, too, he was doing pretty well.  He did love Lotta Schmidt.  It would not be easy for him to part with her.  But she, too, loved him,—as he told himself, and she would hardly push matters to extremities.  At any rate, he would not submit to a threat.  He would dance with Adela Bruhl, at Sperl's.  He thought, at least, that when the time should come, he would find it well to dance with her.

    Sperl's dancing saloon, in the Tabor Strasse, is a great institution at Vienna.  It is open always of a Sunday evening, and dancing then commences at ten, and is continued till two or three o'clock in the morning.  There are two large rooms, in one of which the dancers dance, and in the other the dancers and visitors, who do not dance, eat, and drink, and smoke continually.  But the most wonderful part of Sperl's establishment is this, that there is nothing there to offend any one.  Girls dance and men smoke, and there is eating and drinking, and everybody is as well behaved as though there was a protecting phalanx of dowagers sitting round the walls of the saloon.  There are no dowagers, though there may probably be a policeman somewhere about the place.  To a stranger it is very remarkable that there is so little of what we call flirting;—almost none of it.  It would seem that to the girls dancing is so much a matter of business, that here at Sperl's they can think of nothing else.  To mind their steps,—and at the same time their dresses, lest they should be trod upon,—to keep full pace with the music, to make all the proper turns at every proper time, and to have the foot fall on the floor at the exact instant; all this is enough, without further excitement.  You will see a girl dancing with a man as though the man were a chair, or a stick, or some necessary piece of furniture.  She condescends to use his services, but as soon as the dance is over she sends him away.  She hardly speaks a word to him, if a word!  She has come there to dance, and not to talk; unless, indeed, like Marie Weber and Lotta Schmidt, she has a recognized lover there of her very own.

    At about half-past ten Marie and Lotta entered the saloon, and paid their kreutzers, and sat themselves down on seats in the further saloon, from which, through open archways, they could see the dancers.  Neither Carl nor Fritz had come as yet, and the girls were quite content to wait.  It was to be presumed that they would be there before the men, and they both understood that the real dancing was not commenced early in the evening.  It might be all very well for such as Adela Bruhl to dance with any one who came at ten o'clock, but Lotta Schmidt would not care to amuse herself after that fashion.  As to Marie, she was to be married after another week, and of course she would dance with no one but Carl Stobel.

    "Look at her," said Lotta, pointing with her foot to a fair girl, very pretty, but with hair somewhat untidy, who at this moment was waltzing in the other room.  "That lad is a waiter from the Minden hotel.  I know him.  She would dance with any one."

    "I suppose she likes dancing, and there is no harm in the boy," said Marie.

    "No, there is no harm, and if she likes it I do not begrudge it her.  See what red hands she has."

    "She is of that complexion," said Marie.

    "Yes, she is of that complexion all over; look at her face.  At any rate she might have better shoes on.  Did you ever see anybody so untidy?"

    "She is very pretty," said Marie.

    "Yes, she is pretty.  There is no doubt she is pretty.  She is not a native here.  Her people are from Munich.  Do you know, Marie, I think girls are always thought more of in other countries than in their own."

    Soon after this Carl and Fritz came together, and Fritz, as he passed across the end of the first saloon, spoke a word or two to Adela.  Lotta saw this, but determined that she would take no offence at so small a matter.  Fritz need not have stopped to speak, but his doing so might be all very well.  At any rate, if she did quarrel with him she would quarrel on a plain intelligible ground.  Within two minutes Carl and Marie were dancing, and Fritz had asked Lotta to stand up.

    "I will wait a little," said she, "I never like to begin much before eleven."

    "As you please," said Fritz; and he sat down in the chair which Marie had occupied.  Then he played with his cane, and as he did so his eyes followed the steps of Adela Buhl.

    "She dances very well," said Lotta.

    "Hm—m, yes."  Fritz did not choose to bestow any strong praise on Adela's dancing.

    "Yes, Fritz, she does dance well,—very well indeed.  And she is never tired.  If you ask me whether I like her style, I cannot quite say that I do.  It is not what we do here,—not exactly."

    "She has lived in Vienna since she was a child."

    "It is in the blood then, I suppose.  Look at her fair hair, all blowing about.  She is not like one of us."

    "Oh no, she is not."

    "That she is very pretty, I quite admit," said Lotta.  "Those soft grey eyes are delicious.  Is it not a pity she has no eyebrows?"

    "But she has eyebrows."

    "Ah; you have been closer than I, and you have seen them.  I have never danced with her, and I cannot see them.  Of course they are there,—more or less."

    After a while the dancing ceased, and Adela Bruhl came up into the supper-room, passing the seats on which Fritz and Lotta were sitting.

    "Are you not going to dance, Fritz," she said, with a smile, as she passed them.

    "Go, go," said Lotta; "why do you not go?  She has invited you."

    "No; she has not invited me.  She spoke to us both."

    "She did not speak to me, for my name is not Fritz.  I do not see how you can help going, when she asked you so prettily."

    "I shall be in plenty of time presently.  Will you dance now, Lotta?  They are going to begin a waltz, and we will have a quadrille afterwards."

    "No, Herr Planken, I will not dance just now."

    "Herr Planken is it?  You want to quarrel with me then, Lotta."

    "I do not want to be one of two.  I will not be one of two.  Adela Bruhl is very pretty, and I advise you to go to her.  I was told only yesterday her father can give her fifteen hundred florins of fortune!  For me,—I have no father."

    "But you may have a husband to-morrow."

    "Yes, that is true, and a good one.  Oh, such a good one!"

    "What do you mean by that?"

    "You go and dance with Adela Bruhl, and you shall see what I mean."

    Fritz had some idea in his own mind, more or less clearly developed, that his fate, as regarded Lotta Schmidt, now lay in his own hands.  He undoubtedly desired to have Lotta for his own.  He would have married her there and then,—at that moment had it been possible.  He had quite made up his mind that he preferred her much to Adela Bruhl, though Adela Bruhl had fifteen hundred florins.  But he did not like to endure tyranny, even from Lotta, and he did not know how to escape the tyranny otherwise than by dancing with Adela.  He paused a moment, swinging his cane, endeavouring to think how he might best assert his manhood and yet not offend the girl he loved.  But he found that to assert his manhood was now his first duty.

    "Well, Lotta," he said, "since you are so cross with me, I will ask Adela to dance."  And in two minutes he was spinning round the room with Adela Bruhl in his arms.

    "Certainly she dances very well," said Lotta, smiling, to Marie, who had now come back to her seat.

    "Very well," said Marie, who was out of breath.

    "And so does he."

    "Beautifully," said Marie.

    "Is it not a pity that I should have lost such a partner for ever?"

    "Lotta!"

    "It is true.  Look here, Marie, there is my hand upon it.  I will never dance with him again,—never,—never,—never.  Why was he so hard upon Herr Crippel last night?"

    "Was he hard upon Herr Crippel?"

    "He said that Herr Crippel was too old to play the zither; too old!  Some people are too young to understand.  I shall go home, I shall not stay to up with you to-night."

    "Lotta, you must stay for supper."

    "I will not sup at his table.  I have quarrelled with him.  It is all over.  Fritz Planken is as free as the air for me."

    "Lotta, do not say anything in a hurry.  At any rate do not do anything in a hurry."

    "I do not mean to do anything at all.  It is simply this,—I do not care very much for Fritz after all.  I don't think I ever did.  It is all very well to wear your clothes nicely, but if that is all, what does it come to?  If he could play the zither, now!"

    "There are other things except playing the zither.  They say he is a good book-keeper."

    "I don't like book-keeping.  He has to be at his hotel from eight in the morning till eleven at night."

    "You know best."

    "I am not so sure of that.  I wish I did know best.  But I never saw such a girl as you are.  How you change!  It was only yesterday you scolded me because I did not wish to be the wife of your dear friend Crippel."

    "Herr Crippel is a very good man."

    "You go away with your good man! you have got a good man of your own.  He is standing there waiting for you, like a gander on one leg.  He wants you to dance; go away."  Then Marie did go away, and Lotta was left alone by herself.  She certainly had behaved badly to Fritz, and she was aware of it.  She excused herself to herself by remembering that she had never yet given Fritz a promise.  She was her own mistress, and had, as yet, a right to do what she pleased with herself.  He had asked her for her love, and she had not told him that he should not have it.  That was all.  Herr Crippel had asked her a dozen times, and she had at last told him definitely, positively, that there was no hope for him.  Herr Crippel, of course, would not ask her again;so she told herself.  But if there was no such person as Herr Crippel in all the world, she would have nothing more to do with Fritz Planken,nothing more to do with him as a lover.  He had given her fair ground for a quarrel, and she would take advantage of it.  Then as she sat still while they were dancing, she closed her eyes and thought of the zither and of the zitherist.  She remained alone for a long time.  The musicians in Vienna will play a waltz for twenty minutes, and the same dancers will continue to dance almost without a pause; and then, almost immediately afterwards, there was a quadrille.  Fritz, who was resolved to put down tyranny, stood up with Adela for the quadrille also.  "I am so glad," said Lotta to herself.  "I will wait till this is over, and then I will say good-night to Marie, and will go home."  Three or four men had asked her to dance, but she had refused.  She would not dance to-night at all.  She was inclined, she thought, to be a little serious, and would go home.  At last Fritz returned to her, and bade her come to supper.  He was resolved to see how far his mode of casting off tyranny might be successful, so he approached her with a smile, and offered to take her to his table as though nothing had happened.

    "My friend," she said, "your table is laid for four, and the places will all be filled."

    "The table is laid for five," said Fritz.

    "It is one too many.  I shall sup with my friend, Herr Crippel."

    "Herr Crippel is not here."

    "Is he not?  Ah me! then I shall be alone, and I must go to bed supperless.  Thank you, no, Herr Planken."

    "And what will Marie say?"

    "I hope she will enjoy the nice dainties you will give her.  Marie is all right.  Marie's fortune is made.  Woe is me! my fortune is to seek.  There is one thing certain, it is not to be found here in this room."

    Then Fritz turned on his heel and went away; and as he went Lotta saw the figure of a man, as he made his way slowly and hesitatingly into the saloon from the outer passage.  He was dressed in a close frock coat, and had on a hat of which she knew the shape as well as she did the make of her own gloves.  "If he has not come after all!" she said to herself.  Then she turned herself a little round, and drew her chair somewhat into an archway, so that Herr Crippel should not see her readily.

    The other four had settled themselves at their table, Marie having said a word of reproach to Lotta as she passed.  Now, on a sudden, she got up from her seat and crossed to her friend.

    "Herr Crippel is here," she said.

    "Of course he is here," said Lotta.

    "But you did not expect him?"

    "Ask Fritz if I did not say I would sup with Herr Crippel.  You ask him.  But I shall not all the same.  Do not say a word.  I shall steal away when nobody is looking."

    The musician came wandering up the room, and had looked into every corner before he had even found the supper-table at which the four were sitting.  And then he did not see Lotta.  He took off his hat as he addressed Marie, and asked some question as to the absent one.

    "She is waiting for you somewhere, Herr Crippel," said Fritz, as he filled Adela's glass with wine.

    "For me?" said Herr Crippel, as he looked round.  "No, she does not expect me."  And in the meantime Lotta had left her seat, and was hurrying away to the door.

    "There! there!" said Marie; "you will be too late if you do not run."  Then Herr Crippel did run, and caught Lotta as she was taking her hat from the old woman who had the girls' hats and shawls in charge near the door.

    "What, Herr Crippel, you at Sperl's?  When you told me expressly, in so many words, that you would not come!  That is not behaving well to me, certainly."

    "What, my coming?  Is that behaving bad?"

    "No; but why did you say you would not come when I asked you?  You have come to meet some one.  Who is it?"

    "You, Lotta; you."

    "And yet you refused me when I asked you!  Well, and now you are here, what are you going to do?  You will not dance."

    "I will dance with you, if you will put up with me."

    "No, I will not dance.  I am too old.  I have given it up.  I shall come to Sperl's no more after this.  Dancing is a folly."

    "Lotta, you are laughing at me now."

    "Very well; if you like, you may have it so."  By this time he had brought her back into the room, and was walking up and down the length of the saloon with her.  "But it is no use our walking about here," she said.  "I was just going home, and now, if you please, I will go."

    "Not yet, Lotta."

    "Yes; now, if you please."

    "But why are you not supping with them?"

    "Because it did not suit me.  You see there are four.  Five is a foolish number for a supper party."

    "Will you sup with me, Lotta?"  She did not answer him at once.  "Lotta," he said, "if you sup with me now you must sup with me always.  How shall it be?"

    "Always? no.  I am very hungry now, but I do not want supper always.  I cannot sup with you always, Herr Crippel."

    "But you will to-night?"

    "Yes, to-night."

    "Then it shall be always."  And the musician marched up to a table, and threw his hat down, and ordered such a supper that Lotta Schmidt was frightened.  And when presently Carl Stobel and Marie Weber came up to their table,—for Fritz Planken did not come near them again that evening,—Herr Crippel bowed courteously to the diamond-cutter, and asked him when he was to be married.

    "Marie says it shall be next Sunday," said Carl.

    "And I will be married the Sunday afterwards," said Herr Crippel.  Yes; and there is my wife."  And he pointed across the table with both his hands to Lotta Schmidt.

    "Herr Crippel, how can you say that?" said Lotta.

    "Is it not true, my dear?"

    "In fourteen days! no, certainly not.  It is out of the question."  But nevertheless what Herr Crippel said came true, and on the next Sunday but one he took Lotta Schmidt home to his house as his wife.

    "It was all because of the zither," Lotta said to her old mother-in-law.  "If he had not played the zither that night I should not have been here now."


ANTHONY TROLLOPE.

―――♦―――



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