The Argosy, 1866 (9)

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GARIBALDI.

(Continued from p. 217.)


I ARRIVE AT THE SCENE OF ACTION, 1860.


I COULD not sleep that night, so I turned out and went up on deck.  We had left Civita Vecchia late in the afternoon; the next morning we should enter the Bay of Naples.  It was a lovely night, the moon was shining full upon the Mediterranean; the paddle-wheels lashed the quiet water into phosphorescent waves; we left a bright shining track behind us.  On our left lay the dark outline of the Italian coast.

    That night others were afflicted with the same restlessness.  The hot breath of the revolution had reached us; the Garibaldi fever had got into our veins as we approached the scene of his last triumphs.  Numbers of the British legion were on board—young men of good families, with splendid new red frock-coat uniforms and silver buttons, and such swords!  I soon joined a little group on the upper deck.  We had all been very merry together during the voyage from Genoa; a young volunteer English officer, who had never seen a blow struck in war, was entertaining his hearers with accounts of his own prodigious valour in various civil encounters in which he had displayed his acquaintance with the noble art of self-defence to the disadvantage of bargees and blacklegs of various grades.  His aspirations, I may say, were bloodthirsty: to listen to him one would have thought Bomba was his personal enemy, and the Neapolitan soldiers so many demons preparing to devastate the halls of his ancestors.  We walked up and down, discussing the prospects of the war, and bringing out, each in his turn, some anecdote of personal adventure, in which, of course, number one figured at the expense of every other number; and so the night wore away.

    I snatched an hour's sleep before daybreak, and at six o'clock came up on deck again.  We were steaming into the Bay of Naples.  The sun was glittering through the mists, and smiting the ships, the quays, the water, everything.  I experienced a sense of indescribable freshness, like the blowing of a spring wind: every one seemed in the highest state of exhilaration.  The French and English fleets were lying a little off the shore in that splendid and commodious harbour.  We threaded our way through a wilderness of floating and densely-populated vessels, rafts, and boats of all kinds.  As we approached the quay, numbers more put off.  Even at that early hour several steamers were getting up steam or letting it off.  Every one in Italy seemed to have come to Naples that morning, and every one seemed to be in the same state of excitement.  "Garibaldi" you heard echoed from mouth to mouth; you caught little broken bits of anecdote about the recent battle of the Volturno as you passed this or that boat.  "They said he was wounded;" "A bullet went right through his hat;" "You should have seen him rally the troops!"  "Diavolo! he went at them like a lion," and so forth.

    There seemed no particular order when we landed; no one wanted our passports.  The Neapolitan gendarmes still wore the old government uniform, but seemed to have come over in a body and now served under the Dictator but they didn't seem to know what to do.  Crowds flocked into the customhouse as a matter of form, and flocked out again; the Neapolitan officials stood behind their desks as they had stood under the sleepy old government, but seemed quite bewildered with the crowds.  Every now and then some trunk was seized and examined; but the traveller was usually greeted with a solemn sort of wink, a hopeless kind of "give-it-up" nod, and the "lascia passare" of chronic despair.

    For about a fortnight after the general's arrival, Naples was governed almost by his word of mouth—the general forbids assassination, the general will have no more robberies, the general will not suffer the mules and horses to be ill-treated, no one must be refused access to the general.  Nothing was more extraordinary than the way in which Garibaldi impressed himself upon the people of Naples, until the masses of degraded and ignorant criminals which formed the lower strata of its population actually began to reflect something of his humanity and love of right.  He came upon them like a revelation.  He infected them with the divine contagion of his own pure and lofty instincts, and I was assured on good authority that whilst he was in Naples as the visible governor not an act of crime or violence had to be recorded.  What such a fact meant, those only can judge who, like myself, were living in Naples under the government of Türr, but during the Dictator's temporary absence before Capua.

    Robbery was a light thing, and murder on the quays or in the streets of daily occurrence.  The courts were so disorganized and the police so inadequate that the offenders could seldom be brought to justice.  I was sitting at dinner in the Toledo one afternoon when a man rushed down the street flourishing a bloody rapier—he had slain his man, and was making his escape; the crowd parted, none dared to stop him.  The cab-drivers all had clasp-knives or stilettos.  One confessed to me that he had killed three men with the knife he showed me, and told me the tale of each murder; he did not seem to think it wrong.

    Travellers were not unfrequently stabbed on the quays if they refused to pay exorbitant prices for the boats.  I often thought what a thread my life was hanging on as I not unfrequently found myself alone between two of these rascals, whilst they rowed me off at night to dine on board the Admiral's flag-ship Hannibal, which lay half a mile or more out at sea.

    "Milord!" they would say: "for two you will pay double."

    "I will tell you all about that," said I; "but get on quick to the Admiral's ship, or I promise you you shall get but half."

    It was not safe to walk a mile out of Naples in any direction unarmed.  At night, with my brother, I frequently returned from dining at a villa up above Naples, through those charming woods which separate the town from the Camaldoli heights; the moon was usually very bright, but the place was infested with robbers, and the very last night I passed through the wood unharmed some less fortunate adventurers were robbed and mutilated.  Knowing that your driver kept a knife, it was not safe to get into a fiacre without a revolver or dirk of some sort, as I once found to my cost.  One day, when I had forgotten to take mine, I was very tired, and chartered a cab to bring me home.  The horse was wretched, I thought we should never get back.  At the end the man demanded double.  I pretended not to hear, and walking briskly into the open passage tried to gain the stairs; he followed me, and seizing my arm attempted to stop me; I shook him off and tried to push by, but he got between me and the stairs and, hemming me in against the wall, drew his knife.  My retreat was thus cut off, I had not much time for reflection: I was unarmed, unhappily I am not a pugilist.  The reader would probably have knocked the man down at once—I didn't—I paid the money!


THE SIEGE OF CAPUA—1860.


    Accompanied by my brother, who wore the uniform of her Majesty's navy, and was thus a valuable companion on such expeditions, I set out one fine autumn morning for the scene of war.  We swept out of Naples at a shambling gallop in a rickety two-wheeler driven by a villainous-looking fellow who sat on the shafts; but being two to one, and having nothing valuable about us, we felt quite easy.  The road bore traces of the wild times in which we were living.  The artillery waggons had left their heavy ruts all along the way—a hat, a torn coat lying on the road, told of an assault and robbery here; a little pool of dark blood bore witness to an assassination, and the body might not unfrequently be found in the ditch hard by.  Horses fallen and expiring beneath the weight of baggage and the sun's heat, and abandoned to their fate, lined, at intervals, most of the high roads; whilst every now and then we came across a small band of ruffians who eyed our poor vehicle and its contents, but let us pass unmolested.  And now as we approached the little town of Santa Maria, enclosed in the Garibaldian camp, the booming of the cannon from Capua grew louder and louder.  Nothing can describe the mad desire I felt to hasten to the spot; my brother, who had often been under fire at Palermo, took things more coolly.  Presently we entered Santa Maria: I never before witnessed such a state of confusion, not even in Naples—soldiers in every possible costume down to mere rags—vehicles of every possible description down to trucks drawn by donkeys—women, some of them high-born Italian ladies, wearing the Garibaldian colours and mounted on fine chargers, and others with more patriotism than virtue—the caffès crowded with men bawling in tongues of all nations, and a Pandemonium of sound, above which rose, like thunder in a hail-storm, the heavy boom of cannon from Capua, now about two miles distant.

    We were obliged to proceed on foot, but we had no passes, and the general's orders were strict that none could be admitted within the Garibaldian lines without.  I went straight to General Bixio's head-quarters and demanded a pass, which was politely refused.  We then made our way out of the town, guided by the sound of the cannon, determined either to persuade or outwit the sentries and penetrate into the camp.  A man in a brown coat was walking before us.  I walked up to him and touched his arm, he appeared frightened, and getting out his pocket-book, showed us his pass, supposing we had some authority to stop him.  I nodded, as much as to say, "We are satisfied," and attempted to converse; however, we couldn't understand each other much.  I offered him some brandy, and a cordial understanding was soon established.  We approached the first sentry picket—my brother, I, and the individual in brown.  Brown showed his pass, we drew up together, and each taking one of his arms, we walked through with him, nodding to the sentinel in a careless manner, as who should say, "We are friends of the general and old hands at this sort of thing."  The man was completely taken in, and bowed respectfully.

    At the second lines we met an officer who asked us our business.

    "Inglesi," replied I; "from the English admiral's ship Hannibal."

    He took off his hat, and we took off ours and passed into the very heart of the camp.  We had not gone far along the white, blinding, hot road before we were stopped by a round shot fired across our bow.  We could see the walls of Capua, now about a mile distant, and the little white clouds like wool, from the batteries.  Then with a whizz, the round shot, or with a hiss, the bomb-shell, would strike close by, or burst in the air above us.  Three of us black spots on a white road were doubtless good marks.  The Neapolitans were evidently practising at us.  The individual in brown did not like it, and turned back.  We reflected that a moving mark fired at a mile off was not easily hit, and so we advanced.  Presently we met a young cavalry officer, and it was well we did so; he said, "You had better not go any further."

    "Why?" said I; "because of the round shot?"

    "Oh no," said he, kissing his hand to one as it flew harmlessly over our heads; "but in yonder wood lie the Neapolitan sharpshooters, and they will pick you off presently.  Cannon and rifle are different things, you know.  Come along."

    There was something in this.  We followed our young guide, who proved to be a student of Bologna, and, moreover, a very intelligent and patriotic volunteer.

    "On yonder slope of the St. Angelo range," continued he, as we ascended the hill, "you will be beyond the reach of the guns, and we can see the disposition of the camps and the whole of Capua."

    We soon gained the summit.  It was indeed a picturesque sight.  In the plain beneath us lay the Piedmontese troops, well clothed, well fed, their position sharply defined by their neat tents.  All about them lay the poor Garibaldian, ill-clothed, ill-fed, with no tents at all, exposed to the scorching sun by day, and often lying in absolute swamps at night under a pelting rain.  Beyond them shone the white town of Capua, surrounded on three sides by the winding river Volturno.  The batteries were carrying on a desultory fire, and the forts from St. Angelo answered regularly.  The white smoke floated away, and was blown about the skirts of the landscape.

    "Is the general in the camp to-day?" I inquired.

    "No," said our friend, "at Caserta."

    As we descended the hill I remarked on his spurs

    "You are a cavalry officer; where is your horse?"

    "Ah, he had his head carried away by a round shot at the battle of the Volturno only last week."

    "That was a great fight; the English legion are just too late for it."

    We stopped on a little hillock to watch the firing.  Just then a shell burst at our feet, reminding us that we were again within range.  As I left my post a Garibaldian sat down carelessly on the rock on which I had been standing, when a shell took him in the middle and blew him to pieces.  At last we came to a straggling wood by the side of the Volturno.  The trees were scared and charred with fire.

    "We had hot work here," said my friend.  "We began at four o'clock in the morning of the first of October.  Milbitz and Medici were both driven back along the whole line.  The Neapolitans fought with desperate valour.  If they could only have got through our lines they would have sacked Naples.  The general was at Caserta, four miles off; but the instant he heard what was going on he got into his carriage with Missori, and collecting all the men he could as he went along, drove up this white road in the thick of a murderous cross-fire from the Neapolitans.  The general's carriage appeared in the midst of us at the moment our men were breaking ranks and flying in disorder.  He did not get out of his carriage, he sat and gave his orders.  The contrast between his coolness and the wild terror and excitement of all around him I shall never forget.  It had its effect.  It riveted the attention of the most scared.  Presently one of his horses was taken with a round shot and plunged in death agonies, then his coachman dropped forward, shot through the heart.  Then, and not till then, the general leaped out of his carriage with Missori.  He had seized the right moment; and drawing his famous English sword, headed that decisive charge which turned the fortunes of the day."

    At this juncture a trim and finely-disciplined regiment of Piedmontese was seen approaching us, flanked by a proportionately ragged and disorderly-looking body of Garibaldians.

    "They have been under arms all day," remarked our friend.  "We expect a sortie from Capua, and then we shall have another bout of it."

    This raised my hopes; my ambition was to see a charge with the bayonet executed by Garibaldians against regular troops, and I stayed then as late as I could, and revisited the camp afterwards, but in vain.  There was no sortie that or any other day to the end of the war.  The battle of the Volturno was the last real fighting that took place.  This should be remembered, and will help to explain a good deal that is discreditable to the British legion, and, in fact, to the volunteers in general.  These brave fellows arrived when the fighting was done.  It was their misfortune, not their fault.  There was nothing to do at the camp, and so they thronged Naples; but there was nothing to do at Naples, and so they misconducted themselves.  Imagine Brighton without a proper police court, in a wild state of political ferment, with five or six thousand well-disposed but idle and highly-excitable young men turned loose upon it, and you will understand the nature of, and the excuse for those excesses which occurred daily in the hotels and in the streets of Naples.  Duelling was, perhaps, never carried to a more senseless pitch than during my stay at Naples.  A well-known American Filibuster boasted openly at my hotel of the number of men he had "got" in duels at Naples with his bowie knife.  The demoralization of war may be bad, but peace in time of war is far worse.


VICTOR EMMANUEL AND GENERAL GARIBALDI AT NAPLES, 1860.


    The Piedmontese Cabinet, Cavouriens, Unionists, every one who held back as long as there remained a doubt of success, determined at last to make a virtue of necessity, and swallow the revolution whole.  It was, however, essential both to the dignity of the royal cabinet and the safety of the movement itself that the king should be in at the death and receive in person the new crown that his illustrious subject was preparing to lay at his feet.
 

Victor Emmanuel II, King of Italy (1820–78),
from a carte-de-visite.


    On the 11th of October, Victor Emmanuel passed the Neapolitan frontier with the Piedmont troops.  The king slept that night at Teano, and on the next morning started for Garibaldi's head-quarters.  As soon as his approach was known, the general set off with his staff, and in about an hour came in sight of the head of the Piedmontese column.  The instant the king recognized him he clapped spurs to his horse, and Garibaldi doing the same, they galloped forward to meet each other.  We have the account from the lips of a staff-officer.  When they were within ten paces the troops on either side shouted "Long live Victor Emmanuel!"  Garibaldi uncovered his head, and as the king rode up saluted him, in a voice hoarse with emotion, with the words "Rè d'Italia!"  The king, placing his hand upon his breast and raising himself slightly in his stirrups, bowed, he then held out his hand, and clasping Garibaldi's warmly, said, "General, I thank you."  The officers of either staff then mixed, whilst Garibaldi and the king rode apart, conversing for about half an hour.

    From that time the part which the king played in the annexation was most unsatisfactory.  He was surrounded by the regular army of the north, who hated the irregular army of the south, and by ministers who were jealous of, and opposed to Garibaldi.  At a time when, in order to obtain the Neapolitan votes for the annexation of Naples, the king's popularity was even more important a thing than Garibaldi's, his own followers made him unpopular.  Numbers of the ignorant people knew nothing about the king, and when asked to transfer their allegiance to him, beheld a figure very unlike that of the beloved deliverer,—a bold, defiant, cavalry officer, who did not understand their dialect, had done nothing for them, surrounded by arrogant and supercilious officials, who shot them and sent them to prison when they did wrong, and insulted them always.  This unfortunate impression the king did little to dissipate.  His position was a delicate one; it required more than his usual caution.  He gave it less.  We believe that personally he is a very brave man; the manner in which he exposed himself at Palestro made him popular throughout Italy.  We believe that he appreciates the goodness without envying the greatness of Garibaldi, and that jealousy or any sense of mean rivalry is a feeling unknown to him.  This is saying much, but it is saying all, and his stiff and careless behaviour in public, which I have so often seen and regretted, was alone sufficient to damp the ardour of an impressionable race like the Neapolitans.

    On the king's arrival, Capua surrendered after a few hours of bombardment.  As I was walking on the hills above Naples I could hear, from the incessant booming of the largest guns they possessed, that something unusual was going on.  Rumours reached us in the afternoon that the king, who had before his arrival requested Garibaldi not to take Capua by storm, but to wait, had now ordered the place to be shelled.  I was anxious to enter with the first troops, and see the interior of a town at the close of a siege, and immediately ordered a carriage and pair at three o'clock in the morning; but my carriage was seized by Garibaldian officers before I could gallop out of the town, and not another horse or cart was to be got that day, so I was deprived of my adventure.

    On the 7th, Victor Emmanuel was to enter Naples, accompanied by Garibaldi.  On the morning he had promised to review the Garibaldian troops; it would have been a graceful as it was almost a necessary act,—it was much needed to establish a good understanding between the revolutionary and the royal troops; but it was not done.  That morning the king had found a new mistress in Capua, and could not be got away.  The scandal was known that evening all over Naples.  The Garibaldian troops had been kept four hours in the rain, expecting the king, who never came.  Early in the morning the streets of Naples were densely crowded.  I had the choice of several windows, but got tired of waiting, and went out to mingle with the crowd in the Toledo.  As the day went on the red shirts began to disappear from the streets; the slight put upon them in the morning was pretty well known; it was known also that Garibaldi had refused to enter Naples with the king, or take part in the festivities from which his companions in arms were to be excluded.  The king sent to say he was much grieved, and hoped Garibaldi would occupy a seat by his side.  The general at once yielded.

    The afternoon was wearing, the crowd in the Toledo was dense, it was pouring with rain.  I climbed up by a lamp-post.  The sky was very dark and gloomy.  I looked down upon a sea of umbrellas.  The course was kept clear by the Piedmont army and the national guard ranged on either side of the street.  The crowd began to sway, umbrellas were smashed, the rain came down in torrents, and an open carriage preceded and followed by guards drove slowly down the Toledo.  "Viva Garibaldi!" was the only cry I heard.  The king looked stern and bowed stiffly.  The pro-dictators of Naples and Sicily were on the king's right.  Garibaldi, with his uncovered head, looked very sad and worn, and did not bow or in any way acknowledge the shouts which all his influence was unable at that moment to procure for his sovereign.  They passed and the crowd closed in.  As it became known that Garibaldi was in Naples the red shirts reappeared in numbers.  The king went to his palace, the ex-dictator to his hotel, which was next door to mine.  The whole of the Villa Neale and streets along the quays of the bay were soon densely thronged by a crowd, shouting without cessation "Viva Garibaldi!" hour after hour.  The general came out on the balcony, and reminded them that his mission in Naples was accomplished, and implored them to go, off to the palace and shout there.  Some went, and myself amongst them, and shouted obediently, "Viva Victor Emmanuel!"  The crowd was not thick, the cries were not loud, and people constantly said "Garibaldi" by mistake.  I was standing half on a car close under the royal window when it was opened, and the king surrounded by several officers stepped out.  I can see him now: the well-known broad plump chest and high shoulders; the martial face, with chin held up; the eyes flashing with a stern and somewhat forbidding fire; the enormous moustache curled and tossed up on either side of the coarse retroussé nose.  Such he appeared then, and such he appeared always.  He did not even bow to the people who had called him out, but glared down upon us for a moment, and then turned to one of his officers in a rough jerking manner, and with ennuié look of half contempt, walked in again.  Then we went back to Garibaldi's hotel.  It was growing dark; the crowd was as dense as ever; processions of waggons with flags, and maniacs waving torches and howling, drew up one after another, but Garibaldi refused to appear.  About ten o'clock, as the noise was unabated, and the people were preparing to spend the night there in order to see him as he came out in the morning, and just as another cart with torches drew up under the window and began shouting, the window opened, and the general appeared, looking very stern.  He said he was pained by these demonstrations; he should consider the slight thus coffered to the king as offered to himself, and if they regarded him at all they would give heed to his wishes and disperse.  Thus snubbed, with just one more "Viva!" the people went home, and the town got a little rest.

    It may be asked how in so short a time Garibaldi had so entirely subjugated the affections of the most degraded population in Italy.  We can only answer he made himself felt everywhere; no detail was too small for him; his ear was never turned away from the tale of distress, nor his face from any poor man.  Moreover he was one whom all could reverence.  He was absolutely free from the common vices which degrade our nature.  He lived above the senses, and was without ambition.  What seemed to others the highest effort of heroism was to him simply natural.  Tried by both extremes of fortune he was tempted by neither.  No disaster shook him, and no success disturbed the equilibrium of a mind, at all times perfectly calm.  "I am a principle!" he would often say, "and the homage paid to me is paid to liberty!"  He left his mark upon all those with whom he conversed; a look—a word was sufficient to bind a soldier to him and to his cause for life.  "Courage!" he said in French to a young volunteer friend of mine who joined the camp whilst I was there, "noun allons combat pour la patrie!" and these few simple words sustained my friend through many a tedious hour of trial and suffering.  Almost every day the general visited the hospitals, where many hundreds of his sick and wounded lay.  He would stay hours sitting or kneeling by their beds, sometimes himself bathing the fevered brow and moistening the parched lips.  They used to say that virtue went from him to heal them; certain it is those visits did more good than all the physic.  No one was neglected.  He laid his hand upon the head of each, and blessed them ere he went.  The eyes of the dying brightened for the last time as he passed; some forgot their wounds, and sprang from their beds to meet him.  As he went forth he left indeed many hundreds of suffering bodies behind, but he also left hearts filled through and through with the deep happiness of a high and holy love.  On Sunday he used always to dine at Naples, next door to where I was living.  It was, I think, the Sunday after the battle of the Volturno that I first heard him address the people.  He wore his simple red shirt and grey trousers.  He looked very grave, but very good and gentle, and these were some of the simple yet thrilling words which fell from his lips on that occasion:—


    "In the midst of such a people as this it is unnecessary for me to excite you by any speeches to patriotism; let united Italy and Victor Emmanuel be still your motto.  I do not need these demonstrations to assure me of your fidelity.  We must all act; the people must arise; they must fight for liberty."


    There was nothing in what he said, but the effect was electric.  He leant a little forward, with his eyes fixed earnestly on the crowd, and as he pronounced the last words he raised his hand above his head, and pointed with his finger to the sky.

    On the 8th of November, Garibaldi formally resigned all his powers into the hands of Victor Emmanuel, and from that moment every insult was heaped upon him by the king's government.  His personal enemies were placed in power, his policy reversed in almost every case, his grants denied, his appointments cancelled, his officers ignored, his wounded neglected, his heroes sneered at, and when he himself sent to the king's stables for a carriage to bear him to the place of embarkation he was told to take a cab.

    On the 9th, Garibaldi, having borrowed twenty pounds to pay his debts, left Naples on board an American ship for the island of Caprera, without fifteen shillings in his pocket.


ASPROMONTE, 1861.


    We hasten to conclude for the present our scanty outline of this great life, with a brief allusion to one of the saddest events in military history.

    To explain the complicated interests at stake in the disaster at Aspromonte, and to prove the perfidy of the Italian ministry, would need a volume.  All we hope to do is to show that, from a reasonable point of view, the expedition was not so mad and wayward a thing as it is generally believed to have been.

    In the spring of 1861, Garibaldi passed through the north of Italy, calling upon the people to arm.  Everywhere the enormous majority sided with him.  What was his programme?  Rome.  The Ratazzi government was in; it was opposed to the movement.  Yes, but not apparently so.  Ratazzi favoured the enlistments more openly than he need have done.  He had been to Paris; he had settled with the emperor that Naples might be a separate kingdom, the kingdom of some French, prince.  Italian unity might still be crushed, but Garibaldi must be crushed first.  They would encourage him to advance; they would then declare his conduct contrary to the interests of the nation, and he should be opposed by the royal troops.  Enlistments are thus suffered to go on.  Garibaldi is suffered to land at Palermo, at Naples.  An Italian frigate actually follows them within range.  The captain has these ambiguous instructions, "Do what is best for the interests of the king."  There was a wide-spread notion that there was a secret understanding between Garibaldi and the king.  It was thought the king would not sanction, but that he would not prevent the expedition.  Garibaldi firmly believed that he who had so graciously accepted the Two Sicilies would accept Rome on the same terms.  An attack on the French in Rome was probably never contemplated.  Had the Pope put himself under English protection, as he at one time intended to do, or had he in any way left Rome, which he would probably have done before Garibaldi came in sight of the walls, there would have been scarcely any pretext for the French army of occupation to remain.  The Romans themselves did not want them, and had elected Garibaldi by an enormous majority of votes guardian of their freedom and commander-in-chief of their armies.  The pope's tenure of Rome then and ever since has hung upon a thread; his temporal power virtually ceased when Victor Emmanuel was proclaimed King of Italy and the Piedmontese marched into the Papal territories and took possession of them.  Thus Victor Emmanuel himself had pointed the direction, and initiated the action of the next scene in the revolutionary drama.  Was it so strange that Garibaldi should follow in that track?

    On the 29th of August, 1861, information was received that the royal troops who had been sent to arrest the march of the volunteers upon Rome were at Stefano, only two hours' march from Forestali of Aspromonte, where the Garibaldians were assembled.  A meeting could no longer be avoided.  Garibaldi's orders were not to form in line, not to fight.  Afterwards he said to the Marchioness Pallavicini, "From my splendid position at Aspromonte I saw the Bersaglieri advancing for three quarters of an hour before they came up.  Had I wished, I could have crushed them completely; but I gave orders not to fire, and none near me did fire.  I openly declared before I left Turin that I would rather die than draw my sword upon an Italian soldier."

    The royal troops advanced in silence; they gave no notice, they demanded no surrender.  Garibaldi alone advanced to meet them, his large cloak of pale grey lined with red thrown over his broad shoulders.  When within gun shot they took aim at him.  He turned round and repeated the order "Don't fire."  Then those men, advancing upon a foe whom honour had left defenceless, opened fire "I saw a slight shiver of his body," writes one of his officers; "then we knew he was hit.  Two balls had struck him almost at once, one in the thigh, another full in the instep.  He took two or three steps and then began to stagger.  We ran to him and held him up.  He was regardless of his sufferings, and raising his cap, he cried, 'Viva Italia!  Viva Italia!'  He then fell heavily back.  I had his poor foot resting on my thigh; I felt a shivering in all his limbs.  He wished to try and walk; but we carried him and laid him down under a tree.  He cried to his assailants, 'Peace, peace, brethren;' and to us, Do not fight."'  When he felt that he could not move, he took out a cigar and began smoking.  He was perfectly unruffled.  Presently a doctor came and dressed his wounds.  Then Colonel Pallavicini, the commander of the royal troops came to him.  His head was uncovered.  The first words he said were, "General, this is the most unhappy day of my life."

    "You have only obeyed your orders," replied the general; "you have done your duty."

    He was borne that day on a litter by some of his officers for many miles.  His sufferings must have been very great, but not a murmur escaped him; he had a smile for every one, and appeared perfectly calm.  They brought him to Varignano in the Duke of Genoa.  The voyage was a most painful one, the surgeon vainly endeavouring to extract the bullet, and the general fainting after each attempt.  When he landed at Varignano, the women flocked round him, kissing his hands and the long cloak which was wrapped about him.  Every one was sobbing.  Garibaldi was deeply affected, and said, "Patience, my children, hope for better times;" then, turning to others, with a very sweet smile, "You see Garibaldi is not dead yet."  He then fainted away and was carried to the apartment prepared for him in the convict prison.  The paper was hanging in ribbons from the damp walls.  There was a small dirty mattress with hardly any clothes on it.  They covered him up as well as they could with two greatcoats and the blanket in which he was borne.  No lint or dressing of any kind had been provided for him.  There were other convicts in the prison, but there was not one so badly wounded.


H. R. HAWEIS.

―――♦―――


 
POACHERS AND POACHING.


DURING the last few years much has been done through the medium of the press to explore the regions of vice, ignorance, weakness, and crime.  Almost every social question has been discussed, and there are few aspects of civilization in its relation to the perishing and dangerous classes which have not been thoroughly overhauled and severely scrutinized.  This modern tendency to anatomise the morbid conditions of moral life has not by any means met with universal favour.  The explorations and exposures have been hesitatingly received by some, and openly frowned upon by others.  Still the investigations have been continued, and the work of social reform has consequently progressed.  When crime is so pictured as to conceal its inherent wrong, and when scenes and incidents of criminal life are dressed so attractively as to become lures of evil and incentives to wrong, the writer or speaker, whatever he may be, brings down upon himself the just condemnation of society.  He who fosters wrong under the guise of exposing it, is justly execrated and condemned.  But, on the other hand, the habit of either concealing or ignoring is a culpable stumbling-block in the path of social progress.  We cannot strengthen the weak places of our social life until the weakness is pointed out, and in this free country, where public opinion is so great a factor in manners and government, it is indispensable that the public mind be informed of the evils to be grappled with before sufficient force can be concentrated upon them—sufficient force for their mitigation and destruction.  Crime cannot be suppressed until it is understood, and the nexus of its continuity must be revealed before it can be broken.

    Poachers and their doings occasionally occupy some share of public attention, and the mischief is brought into prominence by Parliamentary Debates on the Game Laws, or by deadly fights between poachers and gamekeepers.  But in these instances the individual poacher escapes complete observation.  The general public get a glimpse of the character in one or two of its phases, but they have no complete portrait.

    The cost of poaching is a heavy item in criminal expenditure; these murderous assaults upon game watchers are terrible, and then there are strange poaching adventures in many an exciting romance.  But who is at the bottom of all this?  What is it all about, and what is the cause of it all?

    What is a poacher?  We speak not now of farmers' sons or other persons who may occasionally shoot a partridge or a hare without a certificate.  Our attention must rather be directed to those who poach game merely and only with a view to selling it.  One scarcely needs to say that those who kill other people's game for the sake of money are not to be found among the upper or respectable classes of society.  We must go below these, below respectable tradesmen and shopkeepers, before we can fall in with the class of whom we are in quest.  The only shopkeepers who can be said to have much to do with poaching are the licensed game-sellers.  These do not poach themselves, but with some of them the poachers find a ready market for their game; nor can this encouragement to poaching ever be prevented until the licensed game-sellers are required to keep a register of all the game they purchase—a register of the kind and quantity of game, together with the names and residences of the parties from whom the purchases were made.  A registration of this kind, open to the inspection of the police, would be an effectual check to heavy poaching.  The poachers proper are men who go out after game under unlawful circumstances and at unlawful hours.  They belong to the mechanic and labouring classes almost exclusively.  The railway "navvies" were formidable poachers in their day, and frequently turned out in such numbers that gamekeepers and watchers had no chance whatever either to arrest them or drive them off.  It is so still with this class as far as they have opportunity.  Wherever railways are being cut through game-preserving districts there is sure to be plenty of poaching.  The utmost cruelty, even murder has been perpetrated by these railway plunderers of game-preserves.  By these ruffians gamekeepers have often been abused, kicked, and cudgelled until they lay helpless and bleeding upon the ground, with the life all but beaten out of them.  The only semblance of an excuse—which is really no excuse at all—for these "navvies" in their cruelty and blood-thirstiness, is their dread of being taken prisoners.  But of their capture there has generally been no possibility owing to the largeness of their gangs.  No! it was not to secure their own safety, but to inflict wanton and mortal injury that they turned back and clubbed out the helpless keepers' brains with the butts of their guns.

    "Navvies" are not now so prominent in poaching frays as they were in former years, because all the great railways are finished.  The practice is only now carried on by drunken mechanics and thriftless common labourers.  These are seldom so bold as the "navvies" used to be; but they are not a whit less bloodthirsty.  The railway labourers frequently assembled in very large gangs and went out boldly poaching in open day, and set at defiance farmers and gamekeepers and everybody else.  Your modern poacher has not courage to perform these bold exploits, but he partakes quite as much of the assassin and rather more of the thief.  A very simple division is sufficient to classify the poachers of these days; they are either townsmen or countrymen.  In most towns there are gangs of poachers who are in communication with their confrères in the country, and the chief portion of poaching is now carried on by men from towns and cities.

    The social and moral character of poachers will not bear investigation.  Stripped of the romance and false sentimentalism which has ridiculously accrued to their career, the life of a poacher is very dull, very stupid, and very miserable; and if the testimony of those poachers who have some little conscience left is to be credited, they are sometimes so desperately wretched that as they wander solitarily through the woods, gun in hand, it is a debatable point whether they shall shoot the pheasant, the gamekeeper, or themselves, so heavily does the burden of poverty, crime, degradation, and ruin press upon them and torment them.  The majority of poachers are idle, immoral, and cruel.  They want money without the trouble of earning it by honest labour, or to speak nearer the truth, they want more of drink, idleness, and debauchery than their ordinary earnings in an honest calling will ever enable them to afford.  A few of them, of course, would take only game; but very many of them will steal anything.  Nothing comes amiss to them, especially when they resolve—as is frequently the case—not to return home empty-handed.  Farm and garden produce, implements of agriculture, and especially poultry, would frequently be found in the poachers' lair, if the police entered it with a search warrant.  The worst feature in the poacher is his cruelty.  Drive him into straits, and he shows himself cruel, bloodthirsty, and murderous.  Most of them would—under circumstances of secrecy—rather kill their antagonist than be taken prisoner by him.  This peculiarly cruel type of ruffianism marks the poacher far more than any other of the criminal classes.  The regular thieves, whether burglars or garotters, have never—in proportion to numbers—shown a tithe of the cruelty which is exhibited by poachers, nor do the police, in the execution of their duty, suffer half so much maltreatment and cruelty as the gamekeepers.  It is a fact that of all the criminal classes poachers are the most cruel, and the most wanton in their cruelty.  How is this to be accounted for?  Some say the Game Laws make the poacher what he is.  But this is absurd.  You might as well say that penal servitude is the cause of all garrotting, and that honest laws breed thieves.  The Game Laws do not make the poacher cruel.  He is inherently cruel; and if the Game Laws were entirely swept away in the next session of parliament, the poacher's rascality and bloodthirstiness would be all unchanged.  You may change the laws; but before you put an end to this cruelty you must change the poacher from a dissolute ruffian to a sober and honest workman.

    Why does the poacher become such?  There are many causes which tend to make men poachers.  The love of pleasures for which they cannot afford to pay, and to which they are therefore not entitled; fondness for night adventures and the excitements of danger; a restless and lazy unwillingness to submit to the common and honest drudgery of life, and a determination to get money rapidly and by any means, give men their first early tendency to a poacher's life.  In some people the love of field sports is intense, and they make no effort to keep their penchant within legal limits.  Others, again, are heavily oppressed by the Game Laws, and are aggravated to destroy the game which is literally destroying their crops.  Farmers would not object to a moderate quantity of game, but to be eaten up by them is more than men can be expected to bear patiently.  It must also be remembered that the casuistry of the Game Laws is the fertile theme of many disputes.  Numbers are of opinion that the Game Laws are unjust, and that they perpetrate no moral wrong in violating them, especially when they can do so with impunity.  Persons reared in this belief are not easily induced to change their opinion.  There is more laxness of opinion about the obligation to observe the Game Laws than there is about the observance of any other law of this country, except perhaps the income-tax law.  It is very easy to see how this general laxness of opinion, coupled with the causes already named, create and continue the criminal pursuits of the habitual poacher.  But whatever love of adventure may induce a youngster to try his hand with net and gun, no man becomes an habitual poacher from any mere love of sport, or from any unsound opinions as to his obligation to obey the Game Laws.  The habitual poacher is an idle vagabond, and one can call him nothing else.  By plundering game preserves he fills his pockets with dishonest money, and neglects his own honest calling in the walks of honourable industry.  What sport or what manliness can there be in sweeping off some twenty or thirty hares when the night is so dark that the poacher cannot see his snares, and is obliged to stumble and grope his way to the netted game?  There may be an inclination to maim and murder, but there can be no true and heroic love of honourable adventure in the cowardly assassins who would shoot down a gamekeeper and then deliberately beat his brains out, rather than allow themselves to be taken in fair and manly fight as between man and man.  Poachers are always drunkards; and it is only for the sake of drink and indolence that they give themselves wholly to the unlawful pursuit of game.  Let the truth be spoken.  Poachers, as a class, are not honest men; they are not sober men; they are not industrious men; they are bad husbands, bad fathers, and bad neighbours; they like the haunts of vice better than their own fireside; they can lay no just claim to the possession of common morality; and if it were not for the attractions of strong drinks and the love of laziness, there would be no poaching in the sense in which the subject is being considered in this paper.  Anti-Game Law rhetoricians and poets—and we are neither advocating nor abusing the Game Laws—represent the poacher as some neglected, helpless, persecuted, and starving wretch, who is obliged to kill the squire's game before he can break his fast; or else they picture him as snaring a hare to make some savoury soup for a sick and dying wife.  These pictures are altogether untrue.  The man is starving because he can work and won't; he is out of work because he has thrown himself out of work by such irregularities as the richest master cannot afford to tolerate; and if his wife is ill and his children are in rags, who has brought them to such a pass?  Why, the poacher spends in drink what ought to support his family, and prefers skulking about in idleness to the resumption of the restraints and dignity of honest toil.  Besides, if his wife is really dying, she wants something rather more digestible than roast pheasant and jugged hare.  In these days of benevolence and scantily-supplied labour markets, no capable and well-conducted man need lose a month's work, and go drinking for a fortnight, and then get himself locked up in prison.  This is no way in which to procure nourishment and comfort for the sick.  Much as the esquire hates poaching, he would not allow even the poacher's family to pine away in unrelieved sickness and starvation.  Besides, what are the Poor Laws for?  Are they not to help the helpless, and to keep the hungry from temptations to dishonesty?

    Poachers, then, are men of bad character.  They are indolent, cruel, and worse.  They want money without work, food which they have not earned, and luxuries to be paid for by stolen game.  If the poacher could obtain no money for his game, he would soon bid farewell to his dogs and snares and nets and guns.  The keepers would be unmolested on their watch, and the poacher would either take to unmistakable stealing, or else turn his hand to honest labour; not because he liked it, but because he must either do it or starve.

    What does the poacher do?  He begins by getting acquainted with some established poachers, and the acquaintance is generally formed in the beer-house.  There, seated by the fireside, in a halo of tobacco smoke, the old poachers spin their yarn of game plundering, fighting their way through the night watchers, and getting off scot free.  The young man's passions kindle as he listens to the exciting tales of the poachers, and he bravely determines to join the gang.  But if he knew all, or could foresee half the miserable degradation towards which he has begun to travel, he would come to a very different determination.  He has not heard half the story, and is blind to the sober facts which have been made, in his hearing, the text of so much plausible romancing.  He has seen the fun and the excitement; but the heroes of his intoxicated imagination have not shown him the wounds and bruises, the hunger, the poverty, the disgrace, and the imprisonments which the poacher brings upon himself.  Those beer-house tales are tawdry fictions mixed with the merest modicum of fact.  They draw bragging pictures, and bag more game over their beer than they ever did in the fields, and all the while the youngster is noviciating his tutors are deceitful and treacherous to one another.  There is scarcely one who would not betray his "chum" to any gamekeeper or policeman who would bid high enough, and give the pledge of secrecy.  They often defraud one another as to the fruits of their plunder, and sometimes send each other to prison for spite.  The dark side of the picture is studiously kept out of sight; and as everything appears enchanting to the youth already half intoxicated, he determines to become a hero, joins the gang, and begins his miserable initiation into the beggaring art of poaching.

    The poacher's implements are neither very complicated nor very costly.  He needs a gun short in the barrel and light in the stock, so that he may "take her to pieces in a crack," hide her in his big pockets, and pass the watcher without suspicion.  It is a wonder that more poachers are not shot with their own guns, for the barrels, detached from the stock, are frequently loaded, with caps on the nipples.  With these loaded barrels in his pocket, the poacher jumps a fence or hides in a ditch.  The slightest rap on those capped nipples would send him into the world where there is no poaching.  He likes to have his gun ready charged in his pocket, that he may be always ready to maim a keeper or shoot a hare.  Guns are little used by poachers except for pheasant shooting, or to take a chance shot at a stray hare when he is not out for a regular night's maraud.

    Clever things some of the old hands can do in decoying hares.  It is literally true that some old poachers can imitate the hare's voice so well as to call her comrade within gunshot.  A friend of the writer's says:—"One poacher I knew, who could so perfectly imitate the call of a hare, that if there were any within hearing, he would speedily bring them within range of his gun.  He was very successful in taking hares, but he was very often taken himself.  He owned that he could scarcely ever keep the pig he had fattened for his family, being always obliged to sell it to pay his increasingly heavy fines."  All that this fellow's skill in poaching did for him was to rob his famished family of their own pork and bacon.

    As for the skill of the poachers in shooting, they are neither better nor worse marksmen than other folks.  We have seen an old poacher, considered a crack shot, beaten by an honest bricklayer, to his intense astonishment and disgust.

    The poacher's craft requires a large quantity of wire for snaring hares and pheasants.  They become very skilful in the use of these snares, and seldom go without one in their pockets.  Snares are simply pieces of wire pegged or tied to a bush by one end, and noosed at the other, the noose end being carefully placed in the run through the hedge.  The game passing through the run gets its head into the loop, and so strangles itself.  There is always great danger for the poacher with snares, and so he is very wary in taking them up.  The keepers may have seen the snares, and determined to watch for their owners.  So when the poacher comes on the ground, he dreads a keeper lurking in every hiding-place, and fears to be pounced upon from the bottom of a ditch or from behind a tree.  It is of no use for the poacher to plead that he did not set the snare, but merely found it by accident.  The question with the keeper is, not who sets it but who takes it up.  Innocent people know this, and if they see a snared hare in the hedgerow, they take care and pass her by and leave her there.  Sometimes when the poacher goes to take up his snares he becomes aware of the keeper's presence, and skulks away.  He does not always see the keeper, however.  A poacher once set some snares in a very exposed and open place, where it was impossible for the keeper to hide.  After looking up and down the hedgerows the poacher went to his snares, took them up, and got nicely snared himself.  The keeper had climbed into a very high tree, towards the branches of which the poacher never cast a glance until it was too late.

    The poachers' nets are mostly made of shoemaker's hemp, and such as are meant for cover sides are not unfrequently of enormous length.  Small nets are used for gateways, and purse nets for securing live game.

    The poacher's dog is an interesting animal, and is always well trained for his work.  A dog between a bull dog and a greyhound, or between a greyhound or a terrier, makes the best "lurcher" or poacher's dog.  You may generally know a poacher's dog when you see him.  He looks very sleepy in the daytime, and seems stupid for want of a good night's rest.  Moreover, he seems slyer and subtler than other dogs.  There is too much of the Jesuit about him to enable him to pass for an honest dog, and he sulkily does the bidding of his master with the air of one who must either do it or die.  He is seldom in good spirits, and when on some rare occasion he wags his tail, he does it as if he were ashamed of himself.  Poachers' dogs are employed, not for catching game, but for running it into the nets.  They are taught to scour a field in the darkest nights, and work all the hares and rabbits towards the nets in the gateway, or on the cover sides.  Sometimes they are put to watch their master's net, and will fly at any one who attempts to interfere with it.  They never give mouth under any circumstances, being too well trained to fall into that error.  A Shropshire farmer once told us some rather good stories about a poacher's dog.  He had been trained to run away from his master when called to approach him, and never to give mouth under any circumstances.  Once upon a time this same poacher was brought before the magistrates, and the keepers tried to identify him by his dog.  The animal was brought into court as the supposed property of the poacher.  This he stoutly denied.  He was told to call the dog to him, which he did, and immediately the terrified dog scampered out of the court.  He had received too many beatings to come to his master when asked to do so.  This same dog once got his owner into great trouble.  He was set to watch a gate net, and for a long time the canine sentinel faithfully performed his duty.  During the moonlight night a bull, attracted by the net, came up, and got his horns into it.  The dog, considering it a part of his duty to interfere, pinned the bull by the nose, which caused a very loud uproar, and the keepers heard it, and they came, and they took the nets, and were very near taking the dog also; but the poacher warily kept himself out of sight, thinking it better to lose his nets than go to prison.  The owner of this queer dog was a very queer man—quite a character.  He knew all the preserves and likely gateways for miles round.  Give him fifty yards start, and no keeper could catch him, for he was very swift of foot.  When in danger of being surrounded he would, if he had the chance, lie for hours up to the chin in water, concealing himself among the rushes, while the watchers were storming around, and wondering, in the name of everything under the harvest moon, how the fellow had managed to escape them yet again.  Once everything had been arranged between himself and his companions for a night's poaching.  During the day he "fell out" with his gang, and would neither allow them to go with him nor tell them where he was going.  So they served him out—tied the dog to a stone at the bottom of a deep ditch not far from his master's house.  When the time for starting arrived, the dog was nowhere to be found.  The poacher called and raged in vain.  The dog could not get loose, and he had received too many "wallopings" for whining and barking ever to give mouth again.  The master called till he was tired, but the dog durst make no sound to let him know that he was fast, and so the poacher's night was lost amid the jeers of his offended companions.

    A gang of poachers will never go to a strange and untried place without a guide, and frequently they all know the chosen ground well, and some of them may have poached it for many years.  The town poachers travel long distances by rail, having previously selected their ground, either by sending a scout, or by communicating with some village poacher—town and country poachers generally know each other, and often work together.  Dark, windy nights suit them best, and a moonlight night must be very cloudy before they will venture out.  To beguile the night watchers guns are sometimes fired in one part of the preserves while the main gang are distant and busy elsewhere.  Having run their nets along the cover side, the dogs are sent out to drive in the game.  A poacher generally stands at each end of the net with his hand on the top string, and when it jerks he knows that game is struggling in the net.  Then he passes along the line of netting and kills everything he finds; but if the game had only the sense to turn back he would take nothing for his pains.  What a pity it is that keepers cannot train their game to draw back, and to do it in the nick of time.  As many as twenty or thirty hares will sometimes be caught at one haul.  When the keepers come suddenly upon them the poachers generally show fight, and many a watcher has been heavily beaten to pay off an old grudge.  Keepers find it best to treat poachers kindly and fairly, for if used otherwise they will take a deadly revenge, however long they may have to wait for their opportunity.

    The poachers have many hair-breadth escapes, and often, by hiding in water for hours on a bitter cold night, get a rheumatism that clings to them through life.  A single furze bush or a deep drain is frequently the only barrier between a poacher and a prison.  When driven into close quarters they fight hard and savagely.  This is the worst part of their character.  When once their evil nature is thoroughly roused—and a little will rouse them—they care nothing for broken limbs and fractured skulls, and every man who tries to catch a poacher does it at the imminent risk of his life.  The fight, however, is not all tragedy: it is sometimes comedy of the most ludicrous description.  Several keepers once fell in with a gang of poachers upon one of Lord Bradford's estates.  They had no dogs, but were driving the game by sweeping the field with very long ropes drawn along the ground.  There was some fighting, but most of the poachers ran, and left their nets when the keepers came upon them.  In the eagerness of the pursuit, one of the keepers got separated from his companions; but although the night was very dark he managed to keep up with his man.  They closed, struggled, and fell into a dry ditch together, the poacher being undermost, and on his back.  Just at that moment the moon came out from behind a cloud, and its beams fell upon the poacher's up-turned face, when the light revealed to the keeper a horrible sight.  Glaring eyes, white teeth, and an awfully black face.  Never was seen in those parts a poacher's face like that before.  Had he got into the fiendish clutches of some infernal spirit, now glaring upon him through those fiery eyes?  No!  It was only an earthly chimney-sweep.

    There is one peculiar kind of poaching which is only done in the daytime.  Some gentlemen are in the habit of buying large quantities of live pheasants to turn into their woods for the first of October.  This bad habit dazzles the gentleman's visitors by the glittering show of abundant game, but the show is made at the expense of honest preserving, and at the cost of something worse.  Most of this live pheasant business is carried on by expert local poachers, encouraged by dealers in London.  The local experts set snares of fine wire in the pheasant runs, and then walk about the wood to put the pheasants on the move.  They run into the snares, and there is a small knot on the wire loop to prevent its drawing up so tightly as to hang the pheasant.  When caught, the pheasants are sold alive, either to some local sportsman, or to the keepers of the City emporiums for live game.  This system of buying live game, to stock exhausted or extemporised preserves, gives great encouragement to poaching.  It is neither good in the interests of manly sport, nor yet for the country, neither does it help the reformation of the poacher.  Fancy his being brought before the magisterial bench for poaching live game.  One of the magistrate asks him, "How did you dispose of them?" and then the answer, "I sold some of them to the man who is your gardener and keeper, sir!"

    Partridges, as everybody knows, are caught by dragging nets over them in the darkness of night, and sometimes they are caught in severe wintry weather by springs or snares, set by the troughs where cattle are fed in the fields—which everybody doesn't know.  Before now, and to save the labour of net-dragging the whole field, pointers have been trained to work the ground with small lanterns tied to their necks.  When they stand to point, the poacher, in the darkest night, is guided by the light to the right spot, and spreads his net over the game at once.

    Of all the means employed to capture poachers, torches are dreaded by them the most.  These, blazing suddenly round the gang, enable the keepers to identify them, and poachers will seldom show fight when suddenly surrounded by these tell-tale and face-marking night-lights.

    What comes of it all?  Why, simply this: the game must be disposed of, and so must the poachers.  It is not for food, nor for sport, but for money that the game is stolen.  Most of it is sold, at a low price, to the licensed game-dealers, and but for them, there would be considerably less poaching.  Occasionally a member of the gang will himself take out a license, either to kill game, or to sell it, but this is not often done.  A considerable quantity of poached game is sold to public-houses and hotel-keepers; but this kind of sale is so limited, and so uncertain, that no gang of poachers could subsist upon such chance sales.  Stop the game dealers from purchasing poached game, and poaching will soon be reduced to very narrow limits; but until this is done, poaching gangs will continue to exist, because they know they can obtain money for their plunder at any time.

    The reader will by this time be able to form his own opinion as to the ultimate lot of the poacher.  He soon becomes a lazy drunken vagabond, whom nobody will employ, and the longer he follows his hazardous and guilty pursuit the worse he grows.  During the game season he will scarcely strike one stroke of honest work.  When not in prison he lies in bed the greater part of the day, and, if sober enough, goes out to plunder in the night.  His wife and family are ill-housed, ill-clad, and ill-fed.  They live in constant terror, and never know when some accident may befall the head of the family, or how soon he may be sent to prison.  The poacher's family are far worse off, and far more unhappy than the family of the poorest workman who earns his livelihood honestly.  The money which the poacher earns never does him any good.  "Ill got, ill gone," explains all; he is kept poor by his drunken habits, by heavy fines, and by long runs of what he calls "bad luck."  The nights are light and still, the keepers are all on the alert, and he has no chance.  Often he loses his nets, and cannot raise money to buy more.  Then come the imprisonments, sharp, long, and frequent; and while he undergoes his sentence his goods are sold, and his starving wife and family are thrown upon the parish.  Poaching is always a losing game, and never fails to bring its votary to disgrace, poverty, and ruin.  He goes on snaring game until at last "the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands."   He may sing about the "Poachers of Rufford Park," and the "Lads of Thorney Moor," but his sham and spasmodic jollity only half hides an aching heart.


"We popped her into the bag, my boys,
     And through the woods did steer;
 Oh! it's my delight of a shiny night
     At the season of the year."


But the "shiny nights" are few for him, and of short duration, and when locked up in prison, he has neither heart nor means to sing,


"Health to every gentleman
     That wants to buy a hare."


    After a few imprisonments, the poacher's character is entirely gone.  Scarcely any one will give him employment, and he must either leave the district, or earn his bread in the most precarious and miserable manner.  Baron Martin once said that he knew a case in which an old poacher had eaten twenty-three Christmas dinners in prison.  We can well believe it, and can have no difficulty in imagining the amount of domestic misery and degradation implied in those twenty-three imprisonments.

    It is high time to do away with the false sympathy and romance which has fostered so much evil, and brought so much misery upon the poacher.  Farmers will not free themselves from the sometimes oppressive use of the Game Laws under which they suffer, by conniving at the doings of ruffianly gangs.  The same men who kill the landlord's pheasants will generally steal the tenant's hens.  The New Act, empowering the police to interfere, has done much to diminish the amount of poaching, and it will still do more.  The Game Laws need amendment, but let them be reformed on the merits of the case, and not by false sympathy with the ruffian, who would rather murder a gamekeeper than earn honest bread for himself by a hard day's work.  Let us have no more such songs as,


"Drink a health, both young and old,
     To every gallant poacher bold."


In the poacher there is nothing courageous, nothing heroic, and nothing brave.  Is there anything courageous in the man who turns his lazy back on honest labour in the struggle of life, and who would rather live by sneaking plunder, than by "providing things honest in the sight of all men?"  Is there anything brave in starving a family, and in madly persisting in a crime which must lead to unnecessary and utter destruction?  Is there anything heroic in injuring and maiming for life keepers and watchers, while peacefully engaged in performing their lawful duties?  The poacher's boldness is only vulgar impudence, his bravery is a dastardly refusal to face life's honest struggles, and his heroism is an uninstructed and licentious disregard of common rectitude.  Abuse the Game Laws if you like, but don't canonize a scamp, and don't represent a class of men who are frequently murderers at heart as martyrs to unjust and oppressive laws.  Surely we are not to reserve all our sympathy for an imprisoned vagabond, and to feel no pity for the keeper's widow and her children, who weep over their honest and murdered father's grave.


H. W. HOLLAND.

―――♦―――

 
GEORGE ELIOT, AND POETRY.


SEVERAL years ago, a book, which I had lent, was returned to me, done up in a sheet of country newspaper.  That sheet contained, among other miscellaneous quotations, a quotation from a book, the name of which was new to me—'Scenes and Stories of Clerical Life,' by George Eliot.  As all my copies of this author's books are lent, except two, I cannot quote the passage verbatim; but it came out of 'Janet's Repentance,' and it was something like this: "Often, I think, when we are coldly calling a man narrow, or latitudinarian, Anglican, or Evangelical, or too high or too low, that man is shedding hot tears in secret, because he cannot find the light or the strength that shall enable him to say the right word, or do the difficult deed."  My recollection is that this was some long time after the publication of 'Adam Bede,'—which I had also not read.  But now I immediately got 'Adam Bede' and the 'Scenes and Stories,' from Mudie's, and read them with strong and peculiar interest.  In those "sallet" days—ah, ye gods, how green I was!—I used to write articles gratuitously about books that pleased me very much; because I had a vague but mastering fancy that it was base to receive money for saying anything about which I felt strongly.  I have not yet lost the feeling, and should think it a happy, happy day which put it in my power to carry out my desire never to write for money.  However, I wrote immediately some "free" papers about "George Eliot"—whom I took to be a clergyman—and expressed an opinion, which has since been verified, about the influence of this writer's novels in restoring a taste for healthy realism.  You must know I had just been made ill by a course of Thackeray.

    These early works of George Eliot had a lyrical freedom about them, which has, later on, given place to other characteristics; they had not much of that sub-acid "note" which you do not often miss for long in the more recent books of the same writer; and they had not—even 'Adam Bede' had not—that rapid, clinching, unfaltering vigour of dialogue, which, as it seems to me, comes to its climax in 'Felix Holt.'  I mean dialogue in which the words spoken are like blows interchanged between ardent hitters, when every blow tells—dialogue in which the ball is really kept moving between the players, with resonance, with will, with clangour of passion, with accumulation of force, with unceasing antiphonal rhythm and echo.  Now, the lyrical freedom, and the absence of the sub-acid note, were both favourable to the idea that this author might write poetry; but that idea never crossed my own mind till I read the 'Mill on the Floss.'  I remember the passage which first suggested the notion—it is about the sunbeams and hyacinths—though I can't quote it, for the reason just given.  Now this was only an instance of poetic fancy—it had nothing particular about it—it was not an instance of "imagination," in the sense in which Wordsworth uses that word,* nor do I know that George Eliot's writings contain a single example of such "imagination."  But there was something about the little passage which made me pause.  My thought was something like this:—"This writer seldom stops to gather flowers but here is a case in which there really seems a half inclination to do it.  Is it the index of a restrained power?"  I concluded that no such matured power could be so uniformly restrained.  "Is it the index of a growing power, which this writer may or may not choose to notice or to nurse?"  I concluded that it was.

    The characteristics I find in the writings of George Eliot are not those which some of the most admiring find; some of their words of admiration appear to me wholly misplaced.  Why do I not specify?  I'll tell you, sir.  Because those whom I convinced would immediately think there was nothing in George Eliot at all—nothing; it would be impossible to fill up the vacancy left by the displaced ideas with new ones difficult of apprehension.  Mr. Buchanan, in one of the most pathetic of his 'London Poems,' says—


"――――Our dear ones ever love dearest
 Those parts of ourselves that we scorn――"


a very strong generalisation; but one that might, as to criticism, be translated into something near the truth!

    I take this opportunity of saying that George Eliot is not the only writer with respect to whom I, for one, exercise a similar reticence.  There are writers, with respect to whose high qualities the whole truth would be the most pernicious thing (so far as we can judge) that any one could possibly utter.  Silence is always possible.  If you think a writer, who is exercising a beneficial influence, is praised in the wrong place, you had better stop at expressing what is positive in your own opinions; you are by no means bound to analyze (even with an admiring pen) up to the point of your own capacity, the faculty of any one living.  This is a hint for reviewers, who are too apt to put down all the clever things they can say about a book, heedless what pain they may cause, and what a misleading effect the whole "handful of truth" may have.  Those of the powers of this writer, which I think it necessary to signalise, are—I. Perfect intelligence; II. Following that so rapidly as to appear synchronous, immense flexibility of sympathy; III. Perfect power of reproducing the surfaces of things; IV. A wonderful power of writing effective dialogue—a power which I confess I have not yet been quite successful in analyzing, though I see my way into it for some distance.  For a moment we may leave it out of the account.  But a writer who had the first three characteristics would be able to produce poetry, if something else were presupposed—namely, a temperament receptive of "the gleam"—the "consecration."  That temperament belonging in a high degree to the author of the books before me, it was always "upon the cards," in my own mind, that George Eliot would write poetry some day—though I formed no opinion (nor have I now formed any) of the precise rank it would take.

    In the opening paragraph of 'Silas Mariner,' there was displayed in the writing that sensitiveness to congruity between the style and the thought, which is so highly essential to poetry; though there was not much of "the gleam."  In 'Romola' there was both "the gleam" and "the consecration;" but there was also something else, which made me again fancy that this author's intelligence would never find perfect expression in the form of the novel.  With no shade of insensibility to the greatness of the gift, and without wishing it other than it is, now we have got it, I must adhere to the opinion which I formed at the first about 'Romola,' namely, that it should have been a tragedy; or, at least, a series of scenes, like 'Faust.'  The story—the whole subject—was one for picture, passion, and dialogue; not for processional narration, illuminated by frequent criticism.  That is my opinion; and I can no more alter it, than I can alter the opinion (which I share with some of the very best of living critics, and among them, I think, Mr. Lewes) that Mr. Tennyson's 'Maud' is, in spite of the exquisitely beautiful things it contains, a mistake.  But 'Romola' had a proem, as we all know, and that proem certainly looked something like the prose of a person who wanted to sing, and yet wouldn't or couldn't.  And I say that in spite of one or two things in it that were "indifferent honest," such as the combination "heart-strains."

    It thus happened that—having a mind sensitive to the possibility—I once or twice had suspicions that poetry, which stood out in my memory, and which I could not identify as written by any one else, was the work of George Eliot; but I had, upon reflection, to set aside all such guesses.  Chiefly, because, upon examining the prose of this writer, I could not find sufficiently decisive traces of melody—could not find any, or many, of those lapses into rhythm which poets who write prose cannot help—sweet equivocal passages, which may be read one way or the other, just as you please.  Now, there are highly rhythmic writers—such as De Quincey and Ruskin—who could not, in my opinion, produce satisfactory poetry.  But it seems so near an impossibility for a poet to write prose at all without rhythmic lapses, that I have always had a doubt here about George Eliot.  Look at this sentence from 'Adam Bede,' book iv. chapter 33:—"The woods behind the chase, and all the hedgerow trees, took on a solemn splendour, under the dark, low-hanging skies."  How the writer of this sentence could help dropping into complete rhythm is the question.  Let us alter it a very little:


The woods behind the chase,
And all the hedgerow trees,
Took on a solemn splendour now,
Under the dark, low-hanging skies.


    This might still be read as prose; and yet the insertion of the word "now" makes it perfectly rhythmical.  Again:—


The woods behind the chase,
And all the hedgerow trees,
Took on a silent solemn splendour,
Under the dark low-hanging skies.


    Here the insertion of the word "silent" makes the passage rhythmical.  I have used that word for the purpose, not because it has any particular force (it is simply harmless), but because it is the word which will give me just the requisite variety in vowel-sound.  We will try again:—


The woods behind the chase,
And all the hedgerow trees,
Took on a solemn splendour,
Under the dark, low skies.


    This (which omits the word "hanging") is not so satisfactory, either for prose or verse, as the other specimens but it would pass.  I only quote the passage as one out of hundreds (that might be selected from the writings of George Eliot), in which is suggested this dilemma:—Of two things one—this writer either does not easily slide into rhythmic movement of style; or so easily slides into it that the "skid" is deliberately put on.

    The question, Will George Eliot contribute poetry to English literature? is necessarily raised by the evidently original blank-verse mottoes to some of the chapters in 'Felix Holt'—and would be almost raised, in any case, by the beautiful idyllic opening of the book; in which again we find exhibited that sense of congruity in style, which is rarely found in so high a degree without a share of the poetic faculty.  The mottoes to the chapters I should, myself, guess to have been thrown off for the occasion, as it arose; but I will quote the greater part of them—putting in italics, not what I think good, but what I think bad:


He left me when the down upon his lip
Lay like the shadow of a hovering kiss.
"Beautiful mother, do not grieve," he said
"I will be great, and build our fortunes high,
And you shall wear the longest train at court,
And look so queenly, all the lords shall say,
'She is a royal changeling: there's some crown
Lacks the right head, since hers wears nought but braids.' (a)
Oh, he is coming now—but I am grey:
And he―― —(Vol. i. p. 17.)

'Twas town, yet country too; you felt the warmth
Of clustering houses in the wintry time;
Supped with a friend, and went by lantern home.
Yet from your chamber window you could hear
The tiny bleat of new-yeaned lambs, or see (b)
The children bend beside the hedgerows banks
To pluck the primroses,—(Vol, i. p. 78.)


1ST CITIZEN.


Sir, there's a hurry in the veins of youth
That makes a vice of virtue by excess.

2ND CITIZEN.

What if the coolness of our tardier veins
Be loss of virtue?

1ST CITIZEN.

                              All things cool with time
The sun itself, they say, till heat shall find
A general level, nowhere in excess.

2ND CITIZEN.

'Tis a poor climax, to my weaker thought,
That future middlingness.—(Vol. i. p. 105.)


        I'm sick at heart.  The eye of day,
The insistent summer noon, seems pitiless, (c)
Shining in all the barren crevices
Of weary life, leaving no shade, no dark,
Where I may dream that hidden waters lie.—(Vol, iii. p. 185.)

Why, there are maidens of heroic touch,
And yet they seem like things of gossamer
You'd pinch the life out of, as out of moths.
Oh, it is not loud tones and mouthingness,

'Tis not the arms akimbo and large strides,
That make a woman's force.   The tiniest birds,
With softest downy breasts, have passions in them
And are brave with love.—(Vol. iii p. 206.)

Nay, falter not—'tis an assurèd good
To seek the noblest—'tis your only good
Now you have seen it; for that higher vision
Poisons all meaner choice for evermore.—(Vol. iii p. 249.)

Our finest hope is finest memory;
And those who love in age think youth is happy,
Because it has a life to fill with love.—(Vol. iii p. 280.)

And doubt shall be as lead upon the feet
Of thy most anxious will.—(Vol. ii. p. 1.)

Her gentle looks shot arrows, piercing him
As gods are pierced, with poison of sweet pity.—(Vol. ii p. 104.)

The down we rest on in our aëry dreams
Has not been plucked from birds that live and smart:
'Tis but warm snow, that melts not,—(Vol. iii. p. 64.)

He rates me as a merchant does the wares
He will not purchase—"Quality not high!" (d)
'Twill lose its colour opened to the sun,
Has no aroma, and, in fine, is naught
I barter not for such commodities (e)
There is no ratio betwixt sand and gems.
'Tis wicked judgment! for the soul can grow,
As embryos, that live and move but blindly,
Burst from the dark, emerge regenerate,
And lead a life of vision and of choice.—(Vol. iii p. 114.)


    In the above extracts, at (a) I would point out that the line is thoroughly unmusical—difficult to read out loud, in fact.  At (b) I would remark that a monotonous effect is produced by the way in which "hear" is made to end one line and "see" another: the final cæsura occurs in both cases at the verb.  George Eliot must be as well aware as any of us, that this monotony of pause is the point in which blank-verse writers break down the most easily—and the repetition may even be intended in this case.  I only note it as part of the general frankness of these comments.  At (c) I find the strength of the image sacrificed by the use of the word "seems."  There is also too much sibilation in these two lines—and "crevices" following "pitiless" is not good.  At (d) and (e) I find the idea not expressed with adequate finish.

    It seems absurd to make even such criticisms as these upon fragments of verse flung carelessly in, by so richly prolific a writer as George Eliot, who may know a great deal more about versification than I know; but I do it for the sake of those who think the writing of verse an easy matter.  In one of his papers—that on the 'Prinzenraub,' I think—Mr. Carlyle says (in effect) that he had preferred hunting up the real history of the thing to writing a ballad about it, which would have been much easier.  Mr. Carlyle ought to have known better than to write such nonsense.  The writing of verse that at all deserves the name, must ever be one of the most arduous and exhausting of human occupations.  Another day I will say something of what I hold to be the characteristics fault of some of our recent poetry, speaking now of the versification only.

    To return, however, and to sum up:—There was always, in my opinion, reason to apprehend that George Eliot might some day publish poetry.  The fragments, which we all presume to be from her pen, in 'Felix Holt,' would arrest attention wherever they were found.  It is in a high degree probable that George Eliot will some day contribute with victorious effect to the dramatic literature of England.  That is my judgment.

    We have not, meanwhile, the means of telling how far George Eliot is practised in versification.  It must, however, be borne in mind, that one's practice in versification is not, need not be, a thing conterminous with that other thing—practice in writing verse.  Mr. Carlyle suggests, somewhere, apropos of Goethe, that there is no really musical writing without a content of true, wise thought.  But this is quite wrong.  Some of the most musical verses in the world were written almost for the express purpose of stultifying the idea!  For example, the Laura Matilda parody in the 'Rejected Addresses,' and Pope's


"Fluttering spread thy purple pinions."


And, besides this, I question whether any human being, from the beginning of the world, ever wrote poetry who had not a mental habit of involuntary musical phrasing—a direct tendency to the use of words as sounds, and as sounds only—material for melody.  Nor has any one tasted all the delight of poetry who does not find in himself a tendency to think of sweet passages as mere syllabic melody, without the smallest regard to the sense.  As thus:


                                   Everyalleygreen
Dingleorbushydellofthiswildwood
Andeveryboskybournfromsidetoside

or,

Thehuddlingbrooktohearhismadrigal
Andsweetenedeverymuskroseofthedale

or,

Inthebeginninghowtheheavensandearth
Roseoutofchaos;

or,

DelighttheemoreandSiloa'sbrookthatflowed
FastbytheoracleofGod;

or,

Whilethegoldlilyblowsandoverhead
Thelightcloudsmouldersonthesummercrag

or,

Illyrianwoodlandsechoingfalls

or,

Bydancingrivuletsfedhisflocks;


or twenty millions of other such things.

    And obviously a writer like George Eliot may have had great practice in versification—in involuntary musical phrasing—without having written a single poem.  Of that we cannot judge at present.  But two things are certain—first, that the writer who produced the beautiful episode of Annette, which is embedded in 'Felix Holt,' can conceive a story which has in it the concentrated essence of one of the two kinds in which poetry is conceived; and, as to the rest, including the form, that a mind which has already shown itself so susceptible to re-impregnation of the most unexpected kind—which has self-consciousness so complete, and a power of self-discipline so peculiar, may have surprises in store for many of us.  A mind in which, or, rather, in whose voluntary activity, intelligence takes precedence of sympathy (by however brief an interval) cannot produce what we have, most of us, agreed to call the highest order of poetry, but it may produce poetry of high rank in an order which is subsequent.


MATTHEW BROWNE.



* Of course, imagination belongs to all high capacity; but not "imagination" taken as Wordsworth takes it, as opposed to "fancy."

† In the last resort there are only two possible forms of poetry―which I propose some day, to make clear by analysis and illustration.  But I do not mean the usual division into the dramatic and the lyrical.

―――♦―――

 
PORT IN A STORM.


"PAPA," said my sister Effie, one evening as we all sat about the drawing-room fire.  One after another, as nothing followed, we turned our eyes upon her.  There she sat, still silent, embroidering the corner of a cambric handkerchief, apparently unaware that she had spoken.

    It was a very cold night in the beginning of winter.  My father had come home early, and we had dined early that we might have a long evening together, for it was my father and mother's wedding-day, and we always kept it as the homeliest of holidays.  My father was seated in an easy-chair by the chimney corner, with a jug of Burgundy near him, and my mother sat by his side, now and then taking a sip out of his glass. 

    Effie was now nearly nineteen; the rest of us were younger.  What she was thinking about we did not know then, though we could all guess now.  Suddenly she looked up, and seeing all eyes fixed upon her, became either aware or suspicious, and blushed rosy red.

    "You spoke to me, Effie.  What was it, my dear?"

    "O yes, papa.  I wanted to ask you whether you wouldn't tell us, to-night, the story about how you―――

    "Well, my love?"

    "――About how you――"

    "I am listening, my dear."

    "I mean, about mamma and you."

    "Yes, yes.  About how I got your mamma for a mother to you.  Yes.  I paid a dozen of port for her."

    We all and each exclaimed Papa! and my mother laughed.

    "Tell us all about it," was the general cry.

    "Well, I will," answered my father.  "I must begin at the beginning, though."

    And, filling his glass with Burgundy, he began.

    "As far back as I can remember, I lived with my father in an old manor-house in the country.  It did not belong to my father, but to an elder brother of his, who at that time was captain of a seventy-four.  He loved the sea more than his life; and, as yet apparently, had loved his ship better than any woman.  At least he was not married.

    "My mother had been dead for some years, and my father was now in very delicate health.  He had never been strong, and since my mother's death, I believe, though I was too young to notice it, he had pined away.  I am not going to tell you anything about him just now, because it does not belong to my story.  When I was about five years old, as nearly as I can judge, the doctors advised him to leave England.  The house was put into the hands of an agent to let—at least, so I suppose; and he took me with him to Madeira, where he died.  I was brought home by his servant, and by my uncle's directions, sent to a boarding-school; from there to Eton, and from there to Oxford.

    "Before I had finished my studies, my uncle had been an admiral for some time.  The year before I left Oxford, he married Lady Georgiana Thornbury, a widow lady, with one daughter.  Thereupon he bade farewell to the sea, though I dare say he did not like the parting, and retired with his bride to the house where he was born—the same house I told you I was born in, which had been in the family for many generations, and which your cousin now lives in.

    "It was late in the autumn when they arrived at Culverwood.  They were no sooner settled than my uncle wrote to me, inviting me to spend Christmastide with them at the old place.  And here you may see that my story has arrived at its beginning.

    "It was with strange feelings that I entered the house.  It looked so old-fashioned, and stately, and grand, to eyes which had been accustomed to all the modern commonplaces!  Yet the shadowy recollections which hung about it gave an air of homeliness to the place, which, along with the grandeur, occasioned a sense of rare delight.  For what can be better than to feel that you are in stately company, and at the same time perfectly at home in it?  I am grateful to this day for the lesson I had from the sense of which I have spoken—that of mingled awe and tenderness in the aspect of the old hall as I entered it for the first time after fifteen years, having left it a mere child.

    "I was cordially received by my old uncle and my new aunt.  But the moment Kate Thornbury entered I lost my heart, and have never found it again to this day.  I get on wonderfully well without it, though, for I have got the loan of a far better one till I find my own, which, therefore, I hope I never shall."

    My father glanced at my mother as he said this, and she returned his look in a way which I can now interpret as a quiet satisfied confidence.  But the tears came in Effie's eyes.  She had trouble before long, poor girl!  But it is not her story I have to tell.—My father went on:

    "Your mother was prettier then than she is now, but not so beautiful; beautiful enough, though, to make me think there never had been or could again be anything so beautiful.  She met me kindly, and I met her awkwardly."

    "You made me feel that I had no business there," said my mother, speaking for the first time in the course of the story.

    "See there, girls," said my father.  "You are always so confident in first impressions, and instinctive judgment!  I was awkward because, as I said, I fell in love with your mother the moment I saw her; and she thought I regarded her as an intruder into the old family precincts.

    "I will not follow the story of the days.  I was very happy, except when I felt too keenly how unworthy I was of Kate Thornbury; not that she meant to make me feel it, for she was never other than kind; but she was such that I could not help feeling it.  I gathered courage, however, and before three days were over, I began to tell her all my slowly reviving memories of the place, with my childish adventures associated with this and that room or outhouse or spot in the grounds; for the longer I was in the place the more my old associations with it revived, till I was quite astonished to find how much of my history in connection with Culverwood had been thoroughly imprinted on my memory.  She never showed, at least, that she was weary of my stories; which, however interesting to me, must have been tiresome to any one who did not sympathize with what I felt towards my old nest.  From room to room we rambled, talking or silent; and nothing could have given me a better chance, I believe, with a heart like your mother's.  I think it was not long before she began to like me, at least, and liking had every opportunity of growing into something stronger, if only she too did not come to the conclusion that I was unworthy of her.

    "My uncle received me like the jolly old tar that he was—welcomed me to the old ship—hoped we should make many a voyage together—and that I would take the run of the craft—all but in one thing.

    " 'You see, my boy,' he said, 'I married above my station, and I don't want my wife's friends to say that I laid alongside of her to get hold of her daughter's fortune.  No, no, my boy; your old uncle has too much salt water in him to do a dog's trick like that.  So you take care of yourself—that's all.  She might turn the head of a wiser man than ever came out of our family.'

    "I did not tell my uncle that his advice was already too late; for that, though it was not an hour since I had first seen her, my head was so far turned already, that the only way to get it right again, was to go on turning it in the same direction; though, no doubt, there was a danger of overhauling the screw.  The old gentleman never referred to the matter again, nor took any notice of our increasing intimacy; so that I sometimes doubt even now if he could have been in earnest in the very simple warning he gave me.  Fortunately, Lady Georgiana liked me—at least I thought she did, and that gave me courage."

    "That's all nonsense, my dear," said my mother.  "Mamma was nearly as fond of you as I was; but you never wanted courage."

    "I knew better than to show my cowardice, I daresay," returned my father.  "But," he continued, "things grew worse and worse, till I was certain I should kill myself, or go straight out of my mind, if your mother would not have me.  So it went on for a few days, and Christmas was at hand.

    "The admiral had invited several old friends to come and spend the Christmas week with him.  Now you must remember that, although you look on me as an old-fashioned fogie――"

    "Oh, papa!" we all interrupted; but he went on.

    "Yet my old uncle was an older-fashioned fogie, and his friends were much, the same as himself.  Now, I am fond of a glass of port, though I dare not take it, and must content myself with Burgundy.  Uncle Bob would have called Burgundy pig-wash.  He could not do without his port, though he was a moderate enough man, as customs were.  Fancy, then, his dismay when, questioning his butler, an old coxswain of his own, and after going down to inspect in person, he found that there was scarcely more than a dozen of port in the wine-cellar.  He turned white with dismay, and, till he had brought the blood back to his countenance by swearing, he was something awful to behold in the dim light of the tallow candle old Jacob held in his tattooed fist.  I will not repeat the words he used; fortunately, they are out of fashion, amongst gentlemen, although ladies, I understand, are beginning to revive the custom, now old, and always ugly.  Jacob reminded his honour that he would not have more put down till he had got a proper cellar built, for the one there was, he had said, was not fit to put anything but dead men in.  Thereupon, after abusing Jacob for not reminding him of the necessities of the coming season, he turned to me, and began, certainly not to swear at his own father, but to expostulate sideways with the absent shade for not having provided a decent cellar before his departure from this world of dinners and wine, hinting that it was somewhat selfish, and very inconsiderate of the welfare of those who were to come after him.  Having a little exhausted his indignation, he came up, and wrote the most peremptory order to his wine-merchant, in Liverpool, to let him have thirty dozen of port before Christmas Day, even if he had to send it by post-chaise.  I took the letter to the post myself, for the old man would trust nobody but me, and indeed would have preferred taking it himself; but in winter he was always lame from the effects of a bruise he had received from a falling spar in the battle of Aboukir.

    "That night I remember well. I lay in bed wondering whether I might venture to say a word, or even to give a hint to your mother that there was a word that pined to be said if it might. All at once I heard a whine of the wind in the old chimney. How well I knew that whine! For my kind aunt had taken the trouble to find out from me what room I had occupied as a boy, and, by the third night I spent there, she had got it ready for me. I jumped out of bed, and found that the snow was falling fast and thick. I jumped into bed again, and began wondering what my uncle would do if the port did not arrive. And then I thought that, if the snow went on falling as it did, and if the wind rose any higher, it might turn out that the roads through the hilly part of Yorkshire in which Culverwood lay, might very, well be blocked up.


"The north wind doth blow,
 And we shall have snow,

And what will my uncle do then, poor thing?

 He'll run for his port,
 But he will run short,

And have too much water to drink, poor thing.


    "With the influences of the chamber of my childhood crowding upon me, I kept repeating the travestied rhyme to myself, till I fell asleep.

    "Now, boys and girls, if I were writing a novel, I should like to make you, somehow or other, put together the facts—that I was in the room I have mentioned; that I had been in the cellar with my uncle for the first time that evening; that I had seen my uncle's distress, and heard his reflections upon his father.  I may add that I was not myself, even then, so indifferent to the merits of a good glass of port as to be unable to enter into my uncle's dismay, and that of his guests at last, if they should find that the snow-storm had actually closed up the sweet approaches of the expected port.  If I was personally indifferent to the matter, I fear it is to be attributed to your mother and not to myself."

    "Nonsense!" interposed my mother once more.  "I never knew such a man for making little of himself and much of other people.  You never drank a glass too much port in your life."

    "That's why I'm so fond of it, my dear," returned my father.  "I declare you make me quite discontented with my pig-wash here.

    "That night I had a dream.

    "The next day the visitors began to arrive.  Before the evening after, they had all come.  There were five of them—three tars and two land-crabs, as they called each other when they got jolly, which, by-the-way, they would not have done long without me.

    "My uncle's anxiety visibly increased.  Each guest, as he came down to breakfast, received each morning a more constrained greeting.—I beg your pardon, ladies; I forgot to mention that my aunt had lady-visitors, of course.  But the fact is, it is only the port-drinking visitors in whom my story is interested, always excepted your mother.

    "These ladies my admiral uncle greeted with something even approaching to servility.  I understood him well enough.  He instinctively sought to make a party to protect him when the awful secret of his cellar should be found out.  But for two preliminary days or so, his resources would serve; for he had plenty of excellent claret and Madeira—stuff I don't know much about—and both Jacob and himself condescended to manœuvre a little.

    "The wine did not arrive.  But the morning of Christmas Eve did.  I was sitting in myroom, trying to write a song for Kate—that's your mother, my dears—"

    "I know, papa," said Effie, as if she were very knowing to know that.

    "――when my uncle came into the room, looking like Sintram with Death and the Other One after him—that's the nonsense you read to me the other day, isn't it, Effie?"

    "Not nonsense, dear papa," remonstrated Effie; and I loved her for saying it, for surely that is not nonsense.

    "I didn't mean it," said my father, and turning to my mother, added: "It must be your fault, my dear, that my children are so serious that they always take a joke for earnest.  However, it was no joke with my uncle.  If he didn't look like Sintram he looked like t'other one.

    " 'The roads are frozen—I mean snowed up,' he said.  'There's just one bottle of port left, and what Captain Calker will say—I dare say I know, but I'd rather not.  Damn this weather!—God forgive me! —that's not right—but it is trying—aint it, my boy?'

    " 'What will you give me for a dozen of port, uncle?' was all my answer.

    " 'Give you?  I'll give you Culverwood, you rogue.'

    " 'Done,' I cried.

    " 'That is,' stammered my uncle, 'that is,' and he reddened like the funnel of one of his hated steamers, 'that is, you know, always provided, you know.  It wouldn't be fair to Lady Georgiana, now, would it?  I put it to yourself—if she took the trouble, you know.  You understand me, my boy?'

    " 'That's of course, uncle,' I said.

    " 'Ah!  I see you're a gentleman like your father, not to trip a man when he stumbles,' said my uncle.  For such was the dear old man's sense of honour, that he was actually uncomfortable about the hasty promise he had made without first specifying the exception.  The exception, you know, has Culverwood at the present hour, and right welcome he is.

    " 'Of course, uncle,' I said—'between gentlemen, you know.  Still, I want my joke out, too.  What will you give me for a dozen of port to tide you over Christmas Day?'

    " 'Give you, my boy?  I'll give you―――'

    "But here he checked himself, as one that had been burned already.

    " 'Bah!' he said, turning his back, and going towards the door; what's the use of joking about serious affairs like this?'

    "And so he left the room.  And I let him go.  For I had heard that the road from Liverpool was impassable, the wind and snow having continued every day since that night of which I told you.  Meantime, I had never been able to summon the courage to say one word to your mother—I beg her pardon, I mean Miss Thornbury.

    "Christmas Day arrived.  My uncle was awful to behold.  His friends were evidently anxious about him.  They thought he was ill.  There was such a hesitation about him, like a shark with a bait, and such a flurry, like a whale in his last agonies.  He had a horrible secret which he dared not tell, and which yet would come out of its grave at the appointed hour.

    "Down in the kitchen the roast beef and turkey were meeting their deserts.  Up in the store-room—for Lady Georgiana was not above housekeeping, any more than her daughter—the ladies of the house were doing their part; and I was oscillating between my uncle and his niece, making myself amazingly useful now to one and now to the other.  The turkey and the beef were on the table, nay, they had been well eaten, before I felt that my moment was come.  Outside, the wind was howling, and driving the snow with soft pats against the window-panes.  Eager-eyed I watched General Fortescue, who despised sherry or Madeira even during dinner, and would no more touch champagne than he would eau sucrée, but drank port after fish or with cheese indiscriminately—with eager eyes I watched how the last bottle dwindled out its fading life in the clear decanter.  Glass after glass was supplied to General Fortescue by the fearless coxswain, who, if he might have had his choice, would rather have boarded a Frenchman than waited for what was to follow.  My uncle scarcely ate at all, and the only thing that stopped his face from growing longer with the removal of every dish was that nothing but death could have made it longer than it was already.  It was my interest to let matters go as far as they might up to a certain point, beyond which it was not my interest to let them go, if I could help it.  At the same time I was curious to know how my uncle would announce—confess the terrible fact that in his house, on Christmas Day, having invited his oldest friends to share with him the festivities of the season, there was not one bottle more of port to be had.

    "I waited till the last moment—till I fancied the admiral was opening his mouth, like a fish in despair, to make his confession.  He had not even dared to make a confidante of his wife in such an awful dilemma.  Then I pretended to have dropped my table-napkin behind my chair, and rising to seek it, stole round behind my uncle, and whispered in his ear:

    " 'What will you give me for a dozen of port now, uncle?'

    " 'Bah!' he said, 'I'm at the gratings; don't torture me.'

    " 'I'm in earnest, uncle.'

    "He looked round at me with a sudden flash of bewildered hope in his eye.  In the last agony he was capable of believing in a miracle.  But he made me no reply.  He only stared.

    " 'Will you give me Kate?  I want Kate,' I whispered.

    " 'I will, my boy.  That is, if she'll have you.  That is, I mean to say, if you produce the true tawny.'

    " 'Of course, uncle; honour bright—as port in a storm,' I answered, trembling in my shoes and everything else I had on, for I was not more than three parts confident in the result.

    "The gentlemen beside Kate happening at the moment to be occupied, each with the lady on his other side, I went behind her, and whispered to her as I had whispered to my uncle, though not exactly in the same terms.  Perhaps I had got a little courage from the champagne I had drunk; perhaps the presence of the company gave me a kind of mesmeric strength; perhaps the excitement of the whole venture kept me up; perhaps Kate herself gave me courage, like a goddess of old, in some way I did not understand.  At all events I said to her:

    " 'Kate,'—we had got so far even then—'my uncle hasn't another bottle of port in his cellar.  Consider what a state General Fortescue will be in soon.  He'll be tipsy for want of it.  Will you come and help me to find a bottle or two?'

    "She rose at once, with a white-rose blush—so delicate I don't believe any one saw it but myself.  But the shadow of a stray ringlet could not fall on her cheek without my seeing it.

    "When we got into the hall, the wind was roaring loud, and the few lights were flickering and waving gustily with alternate light and shade across the old portraits which I had known so well as a child—for I used to think what each would say first, if he or she came down out of the frame and spoke to me.

    "I stopped, and taking Kate's hand, I said

    " 'I daren't let you come farther, Kate, before I tell you another thing: my uncle has promised, if I find him a dozen of port—you must have seen what a state the poor man is in—to let me say something to you—I suppose he meant your mamma, but I prefer saying it to you, if you will let me.  Will you come and help me to find the port?'

    "She said nothing, but took up a candle that was on a table in the hall, and stood waiting.  I ventured to look at her.  Her face was now celestial rosy red, and I could not doubt that she had understood me.  She looked so beautiful that I stood staring at her without moving.  What the servants could have been about that not one of them crossed the hall, I can't think.

    "At last Kate laughed and said—'Well?' I started, and I daresay took my turn at blushing.  At least I did not know what to say.  I had forgotten all about the guests inside.  'Where's the port?' said Kate.  I caught hold of her hand again and kissed it."

    "You needn't be quite so minute in your account, my dear," said my mother, smiling.

    "I will be more careful in future, my love," returned my father.

    " 'What do you want me to do?' said Kate.

    " 'Only to hold the candle for me,' I answered, restored to my seven senses at last; and, taking it from her, I led the way, and she followed, till we had passed through the kitchen and reached the cellar-stairs.  These were steep and awkward, and she let me help her down."

    "Now, Edward!" said my mother.

    "Yes, yes, my love, I understand," returned my father.

    "Up to this time your mother had asked no questions; but when we stood in a vast, low cellar, which we had made several turns to reach, and I gave her the candle, and took up a great crowbar which lay on the floor, she said at last

    " 'Edward, are you going to bury me alive? or what are you going to do?'"

    'I'm going to dig you out,' I said, for I was nearly beside myself with joy, as I struck the crowbar like a battering-ram into the wall.  You can fancy, John, that I didn't work the worse that Kate was holding the candle for me.

    "Very soon, though with great effort, I had dislodged a brick, and the next blow I gave into the hole sent back a dull echo.  I was right!

    "I worked now like a madman, and, in a very few minutes more, I had dislodged the whole of the brick-thick wall which filled up an archway of stone and curtained an ancient door in the lock of which the key now showed itself.  It had been well greased, and I turned it without much difficulty.

    "I took the candle from Kate, and led her into a spacious region of sawdust, cobweb, and wine-fungus.

    " 'There, Kate!' I cried, in delight.

    " 'But,' said Kate, 'will the wine be good?'

    " 'General Fortescue will answer you that,' I returned, exultantly.  'Now come, and hold the light again while I find the port-bin.'

    "I soon found not one, but several well-filled port-bins.  Which to choose I could not tell.  I must chance that.  Kate carried a bottle and the candle, and I carried two' bottles very carefully.  We put them down in the kitchen with orders they should not be touched.  We had soon carried the dozen to the hall-table by the dining-room door.

    "When at length, with Jacob chuckling and rubbing his hands behind us, we entered the dining-room, Kate and I, for Kate would not part with her share in the joyful business, loaded with a level bottle in each hand, which we carefully erected on the sideboard, I presume, from the stare of the company, that we presented a rather remarkable appearance—Kate in her white muslin, and I in my best clothes, covered with brick-dust, and cobwebs, and lime.  But we could not be half so amusing to them as they were to us.  There they sat with the dessert before them but no wine-decanters forthcoming.  How long they had sat thus, I have no idea.  If you think your mamma has, you may ask her.  Captain Calker and General Fortescue looked positively white about the gills.  My uncle, clinging to the last hope, despairingly, had sat still and said nothing, and the guests could not understand the awful delay.  Even Lady Georgiana had begun to fear a mutiny in the kitchen, or something equally awful.  But to see the flash that passed across my uncle's face, when he saw us appear with ported arms!  He immediately began to pretend that nothing had been the matter.

    " 'What the deuce has kept you, Ned, my boy?' he said.  'Fair Hebe,' he went on, 'I beg your pardon.  Jacob, you can go on decanting.  It was very careless of you to forget it.  Meantime, Hebe, bring that bottle to General Jupiter, there.  He's got a corkscrew in the tail of his robe, or I'm mistaken.'

    "Out came General Fortescue's corkscrew.  I was trembling once more with anxiety.  The cork gave the genuine plop; the bottle was lowered; glug, glug, glug, came from its beneficent throat, and out flowed something tawny as a lion's mane.  The general lifted it lazily to his lips, saluting his nose on the way.

    " 'Fifteen! by Gyeove!' he cried.  Well, Admiral, this was worth waiting for!  Take care how you decant that, Jacob—on peril of your life.'

    "My uncle was triumphant.  He winked hard at me not to tell.  Kate and I retired, she to change her dress, I to get mine well brushed, and my hands washed.  By the time I returned to the dining-room, no one had any questions to ask.  For Kate, the ladies had gone to the drawing-room before she was ready, and I believe she had some difficulty in keeping my uncle's counsel.  But she did.—Need I say that was the happiest Christmas I ever spent?"

    "But how did you find the cellar, papa?" asked Effie.

    "Where are your brains, Effie?  Don't you remember I told you that I had a dream?"

    "Yes.  But you don't mean to say the existence of that wine-cellar was revealed to you in a dream?"

    "But I do, indeed.  I had seen the wine-cellar built up just before we left for Madeira.  It was my father's plan for securing the wine when the house was let.  And very well it turned out for the wine, and me too.  I had forgotten just all about it.  Everything had conspired to bring it to my memory, but had failed of success.  I had fallen asleep under all the influences I told you of—influences from the region of my childhood.  They operated still when I was asleep, and, all other distracting influences being removed, at length roused in my sleeping brain the memory of what I had seen.  In the morning I remembered not my dream only, but the event of which my dream was a reproduction.  Still, I was under considerable doubt about the place, and in this I followed the dream only, as near as I could judge.

    "The admiral kept his word, and interposed no difficulties between Kate and me.  Not that, to tell the truth, I was ever very anxious about that rock ahead; but it was very possible that his fastidious honour or pride might have occasioned a considerable interference with our happiness for a time.  As it turned out, he could not leave me Culverwood, and I regretted the fact as little as he did himself.  His gratitude to me was, however, excessive, assuming occasionally ludicrous outbursts of thankfulness.  I do not believe he could have been more grateful if I had saved his ship and its whole crew.  For his hospitality was at stake.  Kind old man!"

    Here ended my father's story, with a light sigh, a gaze into the bright coals, a kiss of my mother's hand which he held in his, and another glass of Burgundy.


GEORGE MACDONALD.






LONDON: PRINTED BY WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, STAMFORD STREET AND CHARING CROSS.

 



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