"WHERE are you
going now?" Katharina said and I answered, "To see Milly."
"Ah, yes!" she replied. "That was a strange thing her
little girl said when she was dying."
I did go to see Milly.
Her cottage stands quite alone in a small thick orchard, and
I advanced to it through green wheat and meadow-grass. At six
o'clock that morning, when I had first passed this way, the place
was all dewy and still, and the woods were full of the whir of
wings. Finches and blackbirds many had made betrayal of their
nests by tossing down blue and green eggshells, to land themselves
like fruitage among the branches of cow-parsley which fringed the
edge of the woods with flowers more ethereal than sea-foam. It
was now noon, and the day ardently hot. All things swam in the
open cloudless light. We commonly have a few hot days at the
end of May. The air was heavy with scent of hawthorn in
blossom, and odour of fresh resin from the spruce plantations.
Rather wasteful farming prevails thereabout, and I was able to keep
in shadow most of the way, first under tall hedges, and next along
the side of a spinny.
The nightingales were so noisy that, as I knew they had been
singing all night, I wondered when they took the proverbial "nine
winks." The population of England, if reckoned by
nightingales, would be found to have much increased of late.
The same could not be affirmed of any other bird except the
starling. If something is not done to repress the schoolboy
and the starling, we shall soon have few small finches left.
Milly's cottage looked as peaceful as it was secluded; but
the cuckoos answering one another were so close at hand, and the
apple and plum trees were so full of blackcaps, finches, and other
birds, that it was not as silent as is many a country town.
She had parted with a pretty little girl while I was at
Windsor. The child had been ill only for a few days, and as I
had known Milly all my life I went to offer my sympathy.
"Many a slap have I given her," said the sorrowful mother,
wiping away her coursing tears, but yet appearing to take a pleasure
in sitting for a few minutes to indulge them.
The poor who are parents are often pressed hard from morning
till night, striving to overtake their work; they have little time
for tender thought.
"Yes, many a slap, for she was the noisiest and the most
audacious of all mine. It fairly goes to my heart now to think
of it; but it was all for her good mother meant it all for her
She said these last words just as she might have done if the
child had been present to hear.
"And it was for her good; you would not be doing your
duty by them if you let them run wild," I answered.
"No, sir; but it hurts my feelings now. I have a great
moil with them at times. She took her medicine so prettily,
dear lamb; and we never thought we were to lose her, till Doctor
came and told us.
And then the poor mother related her sorrow, the
indifference of the child to food, even the best that she could
tempt her with, and the deep drowsiness that came on in the
intervals of pain.
She told how she sat by her child all through one day, and
there was a noise. All her other children were up and down, in
and out, and it seemed to disturb little Mary, for often she would
knit her brow; so she got their grandmother to take them in and
manage for them as best she could, that her dear child might have
the chamber to herself, "and die comfortable."
And so she sat by her another night; and the child would sigh
now and then, but she was often in a deep sleep, and could not take
nourishment. The father went to his work just at dawn, and
she, overcome with fatigue, dozed a little, for, as she expressed
it, "The nightingales had sung their fill, and she had wept her
fill, and the child, who had moaned in the dark, was quiet."
Suddenly she awoke with a start. The sun had risen, and
little Mary was wide-awake, gazing with a wondrous expression of
rapture into the corner of the whitewashed chamber with its sloping
She also looked earnestly, but nothing was there.
"What dost see, my dear?" she faltered.
"O look, mother, look," said the dying child, still lost in
ecstasy and awe. "Look at those be they pigeons?" and it
seems that she made a movement as if she would lift herself up and
raise her arms toward them; then she fell back and, with eyes wide
open and that smile in them yet, she instantly passed away.
It was to the parson's wife that the mother first told this,
appearing to find a certain comfort and awe in it, as if she looked
on it as the religious experience of her little Mary. But the
parson's wife was a good deal scandalized. She felt that there
was something grotesque in the narration; and what significance had
it? It was naught; but she kept silence, and presently the
mother's comment made her thoughtful.
"Sweet thing," said the cottage dame; "she was such a babe
yet, she'd neither been to church nor to school, and how was she to
know what God Almighty's angels were like? She could not think
what those were that she saw. She'd never been shown so much
as a picture of one."
In those last words lies the sweet strangeness of the story.
It appears that man is naturally aware of spiritual
intelligences; certainly they are neither revealed nor described in
the sacred books of our religion, rather alluded to as already
known; but he is generally so dominated by the fashion of his own
frame that if they essay to show themselves it must be somewhat in
his likeness. It may be that he cannot behold a creature of
higher make than his; or that, beholding, his unacquainted eyes
might in the strangeness lose the meaning. Many seers in their
ecstasy have set eyes on creatures that had the gift of wings;
otherwise they were but men made mighty and uncorrupt.
To the simpleness of child-eyes something sweet and awful
must have shown itself that morning in the void. That it was
not in the form of humanity may have been because of the child's
truer eyesight, and to her wider gain.
We are greatly bereft, whom old mediζval
painters have fooled. The angels with which they have endowed
our fancy are most of them not above humanity but below it; for we
have, as man, the mastery of the world, as woman, the glory of
motherhood; but they have little more than the innocence of our
children, and for the rest, they are equal to the birds.
Of such angels the old Hebrew writers from first to last have
no cognizance. Sometimes the seer's vision bore no likeness to
man; but then it was indescribable, language would not set it
forth. If it was manlike it always had majesty. If it
had wings it could yet shoot from place to place as independent of
them. More commonly it was mistaken for a man, and only on its
withdrawal (that he might not be confounded) showed itself above him
and received his homage; then went over the hills and he could not
follow, or walked by him in the dusk and then was not there.
It is the same from first to last. Neither in the plain
Gospels nor the Apocalyptic vision is there any hint of angels
childlike or feminine, from the "young men in white apparel," to
the "mighty one" who set his right foot on the earth and his left
foot on the sea, and sware by him that liveth forever and ever.
But if a swallow's flight and tender eyes be all their
endowment, what wonder that they should be given over to the little
children, to be their solace and admiration!
There is no reason in the world, however, to suppose that an
angel is necessarily known for such. "A young man" may
frequently be among us now and, passing in the street, may be taken
for one of ourselves.
There are stories, both old and new, far more strange if this
is not so than if it is. I took pains to collect some quite
recent narratives. But those which come from the
simple-hearted and the homely, and from more unsophisticated days,
are without apology and without reserve they read best.
Here is a typical one. The scene is in Wales.
A venerable preacher, Charles by name, after holding a night
service, rode home over the lonely mountains.
Before he set out, a man who had been in the chapel, and knew
that he had a sum of money with him, slipped away, and hid himself
behind a hedge which skirted the mountain path.
He was a murderer in will, and hoped to be in deed.
At midnight he heard the sound of horse's hoofs. He
knew the old pastor was coming; and he rose, bludgeon in hand.
There was perfect silence, but in the broad moonlight he saw
riding beside the pastor another man, a man on a white horse.
He dared not attack two men. The path was long.
He hoped the stranger and the pastor would part; but no, they still
kept together, and at last he gave up following them and went his
Some time after, the man fell sick; and, being sure that he
should die, he began to think upon his crimes, and longed to confess
his intended murder to the old pastor, which he did. "You had
been a dead man," he said, "but for him who rode beside you on the
But there had been no man riding beside him! The old
pastor, so far as his own consciousness went, was perfectly
sure that he had been quite alone.
On this narrative I have bestowed no needless words.
The Border Lands are full of mysterious lights; and the
spiritual evil-ones, dwelling in them also, have darkness in their
habitations, a mystical darkness that may be felt.
I was cogitating thus as I walked through my friend F.'s
field. I shall certainly publish this; therefore I forbear to
give his full name. I found him looking rather flustered.
He was arguing rod in hand, at the edge of the brook with a
somewhat chubby-cheeked lad, his sister's son, who was to have been
brought up for the Church, but who, on coming home from the
holidays, had frightened his widowed mother by informing her, with
some elation of manner, that his attitude of mind was one of
How basely we are treating children. No generation was
ever so badly used before. Those gracious reserves which used
to reverence their inexperience are almost given up. What is
to become of them? This religion and these writings which have
made countless lives honest and noble, countless deaths content and
full of hope, what do we propose to give in lieu of it and of
them, that we suffer such talk, and such literature as is
continually before our children?
This mother, after prayers and tears and reproaches, sent the
lad to F., who also exhorted and then argued, which was a pity, for
the lad was conceited and an egotist, and it elevated him almost to
the seventh heaven to have his convictions made of so much
I must say that the discourse, when I joined it, was not
dignified. In fact it was grotesque, for F. was getting irate;
and, besides, he knew he was out of his depth.
"Hang your conscience,"' he was saying. "Why must it
needs be so obstreperous? Do you think I find it absolutely
necessary to deliver my soul of all the fool's fancies that are in
"That's a bad shot, uncle," answered the lad; but when I
found that he really thought we should allow him then and there to
lay before us a select few of the arguments which are argument to
prove that man has no conscience, and no soul either, I turned on a
stream of ridicule that I commonly have at command, and after he had
been gently played upon for a few minutes his countenance became a
study, a study, after the old masters, in red and black, the black
shown mostly about the brows.
I then made a short detour after a butterfly, thinking,
meanwhile, of how small use was argument, or ridicule either,
excepting to set people fast in their own opinions.
When I came back the chubby-faced boy had recovered his
He was saying that three hundred millions of years was the
least he could do with for the development of man out of
F. laughed at him. The boy was much shocked at this
levity. He appeared to think his new gospel ought to be
treated with a reverence that few bestow on the old. Of course
he did not say that to scoff at this would be to risk the welfare of
our immortal souls; but, as I remarked to him, he looked at us with
a scathing majesty of reproof which nothing but long ages of belief
in such risk and such immortality could ever have enabled a human
countenance to assume.
It was, no doubt, a survival.
He repeated with solemnity that, come what might of
revelation, he must have them. So I said, if he must he must,
if he could get them (the three hundred millions of years, to
wit); and I added that it would make no difference to me, or to the
years either, or to the protoplasm, so far as I could see.
It was surprising how this indifference to his requirements
appeared to bother the lad. So long as his uncle had been
shocked and irritated at his notions he had been as happy as any
sucking mastodon in a pre-creation-of-the-world pool. So I
told him, blandly of course; for why should I quarrel with him
because of opinions that others had put into his head, and mistakes
which were all against himself.
"You are a mere child," I observed. "You never earned
yourself one day's food or shelter in your life. It is my
faith that a merciful God will not allow one who cannot yet
undertake his present, to throw his future away; but you had better
look out; you will soon be fully responsible, and then, if you make
any wilful mistakes, you will certainly have to rue them some day,
The poor lad was mortified by this remark on his youth.
I should have been much disgusted by it myself at his age.
However, he plucked up spirit to observe that he had already elected
for himself the set of scientists that he intended to swear by; and
then, oblivious of the contradiction, he again asserted that his
frame of mind was essentially sceptical.
Scepticism is a very rare frame of mind. Man is
essentially credulous. He can easily change his mind, ten
times a day, from believing one thing to believing its opposite,
when it is not in nature or possibility that he should believe
"Some say the king's dead," quoth the Frenchman, "and some
say he's living; for my part, I believe neither the one nor the
However, F.'s nephew confesses to a decided belief in
table-turning, spirit-rapping, and other "manifestations" of that
sort. F. does not: he contemns them all, root and branch.
For my part, I firmly believe that many so-called
manifestations are simple impostures, got up by those who are
perfectly innocent of any dark assistance, and do all their
spiriting themselves, as a trade to get their living by. Just
as F.'s nephew would have performed the offices of our religion as
an industry by which to put bread in his mouth, but not aware that
there was any power in them, so they pretend to dealings with
demons, while many of them scoff secretly at the notion that there
are any disembodied intelligences at all.
This is a new thing in the world. For myself I do not
doubt where it comes from.
The founder of our religion, according to the account he gave
of Himself, came, among other beneficent purposes, to cast out and
destroy the power of the Evil One. This power is, by all
observation and history, almost nil among Christians, that
is, among real believers in the religion.
Even the outward sign of the sacramental baptism appears to
be a protection (whatever else it may be is not in question here)
against the approach of the nether king and his power, unless this
is invited and desired.
Accordingly the next subtle move of the weird Apollyon and
his hosts is to make people believe that they are not, that
contempt may enable them to work; or that, being despised and
denied, they may be suffered to approach as trumpery or inferior
agencies that may be tampered with, and no harm.
But it will always be found that the further in one direction
go the thoughts of the multitude, the further in an opposite
direction will go the thoughts of a few.
All good Christians are possessed. This has been the
creed of the churches in all ages.
"I believe in the Holy Ghost" who moves men to righteous
deeds. That is one sort of possession.
And I believe in the unholy ghosts who move men to all things
hateful. That is the other sort of possession, and both are
equally silent and potent.
Men are certainly not wicked enough by themselves to contrive
and compass half the evil that gets done in the world; just as they
are not good enough by themselves to do such deeds of mercy and
righteousness as many saints have done and yet are doing.
But to prove that man is not a spiritual creature the
materialist must go into many matters in those Border Lands where
the soul and the world touch, or the spirit and the senses meet;
and, after all, though any man may reason away another's opinion, it
is always useless to reason against his experience.
WE were sitting
under an oak tree. F. had gone a little way up the stream, and
the chubby-faced boy was bestowing on me more of his second-hand
philosophy. He was enlarging in a pragmatical fashion which
would have been amusing but for the pathetic pity it awoke in me for
his absent mother on the foolish humbleness which makes man (and
boy too, I suppose) look outside his own life and nature for objects
to reverence, while his true reverence should be for himself; when,
with a suddenness that surprised me, he jerked up his legs and began
with speed to pull down his trousers, which had been turned up.
After this he hastily settled his collar and, with an air of
perturbation indescribable, snatched a little comb from his pocket
and, lifting his straw hat, furtively smoothed his stubborn locks.
I looked in the direction of his eyes.
Yes, and that reminds me I ought to describe Katharina.
She had on at that moment a very large hat trimmed with
something soft and white, but I think it was not feathers; and she
wore a pale pink dress, and she carried a straw basket on her arm.
She was standing close to the brook which just there spread into a
pool, and her image in the not perfectly quiet water appeared,
though ever there, to be still flowing away. She had seen us
from an upper window of her grandmother's house, and was bringing us
some cake, some baked custard, and a bottle of cowslip wine to add
to our lunch.
A hundred yards lower down the brook was a wooden bridge: the
lad, as if Katharina had not known of it before he was born, started
up hastily to escort her over.
And now what is Katharina like?
Most of us have seen a print representing Mary Queen of
Scots, wearing a little sort of bonnet, or cap, which dips in the
front. Her face is a short oval, broad at the brows and
pointed at the chin, the shape, in fact, of a guinea-fowl's egg.
Katharina is like that; she is a twilight Mary Queen of Scots.
She is beautiful, then? Why, as to that, beauty is a
matter of opinion. She has dusky brown hair, of a twilight
and, so to speak, colourless colour, dusky brown eyes, and a
somewhat dusky complexion, but yet with no appearance of being
No, she is not beautiful to my mind, though my eyes approve
of her. She is of a good height and neither slender nor
otherwise. When I saw the chubby-faced boy walking up to
Katharina, with complications of attitude not to be described, and a
reverential swagger and a deprecatory pride (yes, I declare that all
this was manifest), I burst into a laugh of joy and triumph.
My lungs, in short, "did crow like chanticleer." I experienced
a new sensation. It was this, I saw Katharina adored.
She was, to the chubby-faced boy, if not exactly as Venus rising
from the wave, yet certainly as that same lady walking along by the
reeds and rushes, walking along switching them out of the way with
her parasol, having on a celestial pink tippet (if that is what you
call it), and with a supreme incapacity for understanding that a boy
could be anything but a boy. So she took no notice, while he
escorted her among the moon-daisies and forget-me-nots, tilting up
his head as one who would fain be taller for her sake.
Yes, I experienced a new sensation then; and I have long
noticed that the novelty in a sensation, to a pleasure seeker, is a
greater element of pleasure than is the quality of the sensation
This is a digression, but the subject fascinates me and I
If a man feels dull, or stingy, or nasty in his temper, and
dissatisfied with everything, he often thinks he wants a little
pleasure; and he chooses out something particularly agreeable and
indulges himself in it.
But I believe there would be far more novelty, and also that
more pleasure on the whole might be got out of an experiment of an
Choose for instance, of days in April, one when a specially
vicious east wind is blowing. Choose of Japanese fans with
magenta sunsets in them, two. Then take of raw green
gooseberries half a pint. Take of cats, three, as cross as
possible; tie them into a bag. Carry the whole to the lee side
of a tallow-chandler's yard on boiling-day. There eat the
gooseberries, beat the cats, and look hard at the screens,
considering remorsefully all the time how we have ruined the taste
of the Japanese for art, and given them nothing to make up for the
When you have set your teeth on edge with the gooseberries,
and are chilled to the bone with the east wind, and have breathed in
the odours of the tallow, and listened to the discord of the cats,
release them, and return home. Let this be just at luncheon
On entering your modest mansion, and sitting down to a
comfortable hot lunch, you will experience a keen sensation of
pleasure. All about you will seem warm, sweet, tasteful,
harmonious; and I maintain that while you hug yourself, to think how
you are enjoying things in general, you are experiencing far more
pleasure in degree than anything but contrast could possibly have
given you. And novelty must be added; if you often try such an
experiment it may fail.
The last time* I tried it, which was the first time,
it answered beautifully, and yet I only ate half the gooseberries.
[* Note to the conscientious reader. Dear
Sir, I hope you will not feel bound to believe this statement if it
seems to you improbable. You are at liberty to take it for
what it is worth.]
Now what did I relate this experience for? It has
nothing at all to do with the matter in hand.
I believe it was because I had given it as my opinion that
Katharina was not beautiful; and I did not wish to withdraw the
opinion, and knew not how to justify it. It seems so
unmannerly, let me slide away from the particular remark by making
a few on beauty in general.
But first I may relate that F. came up, and she shook hands
with him and treated him with pretty deference. As we met, sat
down on the grass, and began to eat our luncheon, I noticed more
than ever how exactly Katharina was like that print of Mary Queen of
Scots. The man who painted the said Mary no doubt idealized
her face, for it cannot be denied that painters and sculptors in
general represent what they and their generation admire.
The Greeks, therefore, must have admired large feet.
The feet in proportion to the head, as seen in their art, are much
larger not only than those we admire but than those we walk upon.
In early mediaeval art, such specimens of it as remain to us
in missals and statues represent the cranium as abnormally small and
low, while the nose is high and large, and the face long. The
expression almost always produced, and therefore doubtless admired,
is acute, with a small dark eye. There is no such thing as a
large soft eye or a languid expression. A century later finds
the Venetians representing women with impossibly high foreheads.
The hair is evidently shaved away to increase the seeming height of
the forehead, which reaches to the crown of the head; while at the
same time they delighted in a small flat chest, a very long neck,
and fingers so long and slender as to be almost a deformity.
In the days of our Henry the Eighth, very small features were
probably admired. A collection of Holbein's pictures, for
instance, shows features (the eyes included), out of all proportion
to the fair wide expanse of the countenance.
In Vandyck's day dark hair and eyes were manifestly the rage.
He idealized even his English beauties till they glow with the dark
sun-dyes of the South. Later on, a long pillar-like neck was
all the fashion.
But perhaps flattery reached its acme early in the present
century, when a woman was complimented, by the painter, with eyes
comparable for size to those of an ox, while at the same time he
gave her feet so small that they could not have sustained her
Photography has cured us of this; but some of the
miniature-painters carried it to such a pitch that, if their
portraits had been enlarged to life-size, the eye would have been
nearly three inches long.
It is now the fashion among a few to admire a hungry and
despairing face, with a lean lanky figure and what our grandmothers
called gooseberry eyes. Luckily, few poor creatures in real
life are as ugly or as sickly as these appear to most of us in their
portraits. They are idealized the wrong way.
When I see foreigners at an exhibition, looking with pity and
wonder at such figures, particularly when they appear to be about
eight feet in height, I feel inclined to draw near and whisper:
"Don't believe a word of this; it is a parable, a revolt against the
worship of beauty. They find such women to paint, with great
difficulty, and intend to show that no woman is so ugly that a man
will decline to paint or to love her." I never carry out this
inclination. I know it would be wrong. In fact, it would
After all, I do not see how Katharina could be changed for
the better. Should I like to give her the double chin so much
coveted in the days of Mrs. Delany, or the slip shoulder they all
longed for a little later on?
Certainly not. She not only looks charming as she is;
but, now I consider her face, its short full oval is all that I
could wish. Is beauty all taste? I cannot be sure; but I
will say that Katharina has always suited my taste, and so end.
As I sat, a little apart from the group, I observed that
Katharina gave it completeness. She had a plantain leaf in her
lap, and she ate becomingly. F., on the contrary, struggled
with a baked custard in a fashion to make one pity him. I am
afraid his nephew did not get half enough to eat. (The hunger
of the young is affecting.) F.'s cook had put up a whole fowl
and a loaf, but no knife and fork. We should soon have got the
better of that fowl, but for the presence of Katharina. F.
presently began to nick square blocks out of it with his penknife,
and I looked on; but I soon fell into thought, for I do not mind
making the admission that I think occasionally.
It was to this place that I used to be drawn in my
wheel-chair, after a terrible illness and accident that I had when I
was a good deal younger than F.'s nephew now is. I never see a
moon-daisy or a foxglove just beginning to shoot up, but I recover
some of that ecstasy, such a rapture of peace to sit there in the
shade, with the hard-featured "skilled nurse" on the grass.
I had been long in pain.
Life and death contended for me, seated one on either side of
my bed; but I gave my own unsolicited interest to life, and when
death found it was two to one, he withdrew to a milk shop.
I employed my first happy days in making many mothers
It was a shame!
I paid a little urchin, a good deal younger than myself, to
tear out all the nests he could get at, and I made a fine collection
of eggs. My conscience was sweetly at ease; I thought not of
the action as other than laudable. My nurse baked the nests
for me, and helped me to blow the eggs. I liked that woman;
she had a delicate hand and broke none of them. In fact, I
never knew her to break anything but her word.
That was only four-and-twenty years ago: and yet this woman,
skilled as she was in nursing, could not write otherwise than in
what we call printing hand.
It is extremely pleasant to observe the advance of education,
and to note the preposterously hard words with which all sorts of
people can now lay about them, bringing these out smoothly, as if
they loved them, and fitting them into the sentence with competent
ease. My friend F. ringing his bell to complain to a housemaid
that the knife he was using was rusty, she looked at it with
attention and keenness, then said, "In my opinion this is not rust,
That the knife was eaten into by rust was most evident.
"If it is not rust," he answered rather hotly, "perhaps you
will kindly tell me what it is?"
"No sir," she answered with bland politeness, "that I cannot
undertake to accomplish. I was not engaged to answer any such
Pretty of her, wasn't it? and quite true.
Well, I was recalled from these thoughts by F., who, handing
me a block of fowl on his penknife, and a broken piece of bread,
asked me if I was hungry. I was. I took the prog and,
recalled to the present scene, heard F.'s nephew discoursing at
large to Katharina. I heard him refer to the works of
Plutarch, Esquire, and say that there was an appreciable difference
between his mode of treating subjects and that of a modern; so I,
who love to be of use, here struck in, and said: "There's an
appreciable difference, too, between a buffer and a duffer; but the
careless world seldom defines it."
"Don't, Jack," said Katharina. So I disposed myself,
instead of mingling in the talk, to listen with refined civility,
for I cherish good manners; and it was pretty to see how good
Katharina was, and how grave she looked, till the youngster,
speaking of some yew trees in sight, and lamenting that their
leaders had been docked, said sadly, "But this piece of mischief was
done by one who went to his grave many years ago, out of mere
I laughed then; but mine was not the bitter laugh of
jealousy, and you will the more easily believe me when I remark:
first, that I have already declined the honour of Katharina's hand
and heart; secondly, that I am sure her chubby-faced adorer has not
the remotest chance of either; and thirdly, that she has been for
five years, with my full approval, engaged to Another.
Perhaps at this point I had better explain. When I was
about fourteen years of age I met with, as I have said, an accident.
I will tell of it here, for I shall do so in fewer words than
It was on a frosty winter afternoon. The world was all
white and the western sky was one flush of scarlet. As I came
over the brow of a hill, through the spinney, I saw, between the
trunks of the last trees, this pool, the very pool we have been
speaking of; and there was a boy about my own age on it, and then
there were two girls, both younger.
I knew the ice would not bear.
I dashed forward and, once clear of the wood, stood an
instant and shouted to them with all my might.
They all turned. In half a minute, while I rushed down
the hill, I saw the boy, who had skated close to the brink, up to
his neck in water, and crashing his way out with vast splashings and
commotion. In another instant the fountain of spray fell.
The middle of the pool could be seen again. It was heaving,
and it was a blank.
I tore a great ragged stake from the hedge and sped to the
pool. I never have known how the matter was managed, but I was
creeping on my stomach, over the cracked and creaking ice, with the
long stake at my side, when I got hold of the elder girl by her
hair; and she helped herself, for the stake was about nine feet long
and she held by it. And I remember that, as she rose through
the hole, I saw the little one's red cloak, only a foot or two
farther on, under the transparent ice. That I yelled, and tore
at the ice and burrowed under it, I remember; and then that the
child was out, and that the stake which had partly supported us was
broken. It broke under my ankle, for it was rotten in
consequence of a rusty nail that was in it.
The splinters, and indeed the end of the stake, ran into my
ankle, but I knew nothing of that just then; and people who had seen
us, by that time had run together and flung hurdles to us. In
short, we all got to the edge alive; but I was only just alive, and
what with one of my ankle bones being broken, and the nail having
made intimate acquaintance with my sinews, I had, as an American
would say, rather a serious time of it. I had a rheumatic
fever, too, and have been somewhat lame ever since. The worst
of it was that for several years, at intervals, I had bouts of the
same pains and penalties in the before mentioned ankle, and while
they lasted I had to go about on a rat of a pony, or to use a
But as regards the offer.
I was now nineteen years of age, and Katharina nine; and I
was sitting disconsolate at the bottom of my aunt's garden, with my
crutch at my side.
This crutch, I am thankful to say, has been discarded for
many years; and I can walk as far, I do not say as gracefully, as
most men. At that time I entirely depended on it.
It was at the edge of a small lawn, retired, and generally
used as a play place. Three large trees had been felled and
were lying across it. I, lost in moody thought, was seated on
one. Katharina, a dancing sprite in a white frock, sprang upon
another and contemplated me.
"Jack," she presently said, "shall you ever want anybody to
marry you?" At that stage of my career I regarded the notion
of matrimony with disfavour, and did not vouchsafe her any answer.
"Fanny says," she continued (Fanny was her nurse), "that
nobody would marry a man with a crutch. I said that was a
Here she sprang down from the tree-trunk.
"I said that was a story," she repeated, "because, my
beautiful Jack, I mean to marry you, at least if you'll let me.
Don't you think you will?"
I replied that I thought I would not. I said she was
not big enough, and besides, I could not have a wife who did her
French verbs so badly; but the more I insisted, the more Katharina
insisted, and the next day she brought me a letter in printing hand
which ran thus:―
Grandmamma says I shall soon be a big girl. If you teached
me I could feed your birds, and get the weeds and things you want
out of the hedgers and woods. So don't you think you will
Now for the rest of it.
The reader has already jumped to a conclusion. Through
reading many books he is sure that the child whom I saw under the
ice and risked my life for was Katharina; hence her childish wish to
devote her life to me. But he considers, in his wisdom, she is
engaged to Another; no matter, that engagement will be broken off
and she will marry our hero in the end.
I am sorry to disappoint you, my dear reader, but the fact is
the child with the red cape was not Katharina.
The boy was her brother; the girls were both her sisters, and
have been married some time. The elder is the mother of some
of the most troublesome children I ever had anything to do with.
Her husband, so different is real life from fiction, her husband
has never shown the slightest jealousy of me, or the least tendency
to think that her life must be blighted because I did not ask her to
As to the little one, we were in general good friends, though
we often quarrelled. I helped her in her love affair, and I
also gave her away. She never thought and I never thought that
anything more was to be expected of either of us; and I put it to
the candid reader, whether, because I had been so unfortunate as to
lame myself on her account, it behooved me also to endow her with
all my worldly goods, as well as to promise solemnly to love and
cherish her till death did us part?
This is a necessary digression and I shall therefore not
offer any apology, but take up the thread of my narrative and say
that, luncheon being over, I retired from the lady and the two
fishers, fetching a wide compass in order that I might give a look
to my little plantation little plantation of ai No, Katharina, I
promised that I would not mention the "tree of heaven" any more; but
if my back did not ache before I had done watering some trees which
we will call chestnuts, and which I consider to be of the
greatest consequence, I had better break off here, or I shall
It is not to be annulled, as my Malay boy would say,
meaning, as I suppose, it is not to be expected, that any man,
even for the best of cousins once removed, should stay indoors to
write a book in butterfly weather.
I have rambled to the British Museum, since writing the
above, to see Captain Howland Roberts's present of fifty-seven
lepidoptera from Candahar, also to feast my eyes on the rare and
strange specimens of the hunting-spider, given by Mr. Rye.
As I returned, some people in the railway carriage remarked
that the whole country was like a vast garden. How I hate the
race of gardeners. No, that would be wrong; I mean how
difficult I find it to love the race of gardeners.
They have spoilt most of, and injured all, the country
gardens that I know of. It is a pity we do not peg down Turkey
rugs and Persian carpets on our lawns. They would look just as
well as do some of their more elaborate ribbon and stripe beds.
I have all sorts of aspirations concerning gardeners.
Sometimes I hope they will forthwith strike for double wages, for
most of us are poor at this time and could not pay. At other
times I wish their wives would immediately insist on our visiting
them; or I desire to see them develop a craving for county society,
and, because they cannot have it, make the gardeners emigrate.
Why, they will be weeding our woods next, if we do not look
out, and planting neat rows of Tom Thumb geraniums along the brinks
of our brooks.
No, I rejoice to testify that the country is not at all like
I went out at five o'clock this morning, before the dew was
off, and walked to the edge of my friend F.'s spinney to delight
myself with the sight of a delicate reach of wood-mellick, a grass
of surpassing beauty.
There was no wind. The air only just moved enough to
make it tremble slightly, as if some ecstasy had overtaken it and
was moving it to part with a diamond drop here and there from its
purple panicles to the lush green of its leaves. It was all
shot in and out with sunshine, and had an effect as of a bloom
hanging over low green leaves which stood up swordlike and still; or
rather as of a mirage or a mist, adorned here and there with
butterflies newly waked. I could have gazed on it longer, but
the wild hemlock, growing breast-high and crowned with a milky-way
of flowers, tempted me farther on.
These composite blossoms confound the mind, each uncountable
unit of the multitude is so perfect, and on each one has been
bestowed such a delicacy of elaboration.
They say that Herschel turned his telescope one night on the
Milky Way; and having counted sixty thousand stars passing over its
field in an hour, he was tired, and ceased.
There must be as many little white stars here in these fair
flower clusters as in all the Milky Way together; for the bed, with
a gracious preference for shade, follows the winding outline of the
spinney, and for an acre edges it as with costly froth, fairer
than anything the greenhouse holds, or than the wary gardener has
pinched back with his thumb.
F. will have a show of pelargoniums shortly, but I do not
gather that he means to show his wild-hemlock.
THE fall of
woman, commonly called the fall of man, the two sexes together
standing for humanity, was a greater fall by far for one than for
the other. It brought that sex to the top which was not meant
to be there; and, as related to the Hebrews in the book of Genesis,
is, to my mind, the most surprising story ever told.
Moses was a brave man.
Those to whom he told it would be much confirmed in their
conviction of his divine authority and inspiration, by their
probable belief that no man in his senses would have invented
anything so strange, so undesirable, and so invidious as the putting
of woman so exceeding high and man so distinctly down.
Adam, as he there appears, was not much of a man; but he had
been put at the head, and whether he kept there by rising above
woman, or by pulling her down below his own level, is fair matter
for speculation. At any rate, his descendants had got on when
Moses dared them with this story; they had their women well in hand,
almost under their feet. Very probably they did not let them
know about this matter for it was a man's world then, and a man's
world it continues to this day, man's only.
I have the deepest respect for womanhood. My mother was
a woman, and I have heard that my maternal grandmother was also; but
as she died some time before my birth, what I know concerning her is
all on the testimony of others.
A man's world, but woman bides her time. "The mills of
God grind slowly, but they grind exceeding small." As a man, I
have my forebodings. I think we shall catch it soon, when they
find out, when they combine and put us into our original places
again, when, in short, their Maker turns again their captivity,
and removes the veil which hangs before their eyes.
It may be partly on this account that I never omit a chance
of being obliging and helpful to a woman.
I hope this will be remembered in my favour when her time
It was for this purpose that shortly after eating that
luncheon, and taking a six weeks' tour on the Continent, during
which time I ceased from my literary labours I went down on the
twentieth of July, in the year of grace 18, to Portsmouth, and
found myself in Her Majesty's dockyard, on a distractingly fine day,
with a baby on one arm who was old enough to pull my nose, a big
basket under the other, a tin bath and several bandboxes set at my
feet and left in my charge. I had come down to escort and to
help the wife of an officer, a very good friend and cousin of mine,
she being also a cousin, in short, Katharina's elder sister.
She was to sail for India that very day, with her husband and
The vast troop-ship, with her "distinguishing stripe," spread
out her milk-white bulk along side. O my friends and enemies (let me
not exclude any who may be indifferent to me) what a sight she was!
What a beautiful, pathetic, cruel, soul-stirring sight it all was!
Poor sword and sash bearer; thy better half must stay behind
to bring up, or to tug up, thy boys! Poor redcoat; thy rib,
sparerib though she may be, is not to go! No room for her.
I went on board. Comely mothers of all ranks had
brought young girls to take leave of their engaged lovers; and
these, with husband and wife, mother and son, melted there in public
and did not mind. Nobody minded. I did not mind. I
should have liked to imitate some of those officers, and take the
dear creatures in my arms.
But I controlled myself. Besides, I had already the
baby and the bath, and now a deck-chair, to hold. Yes, I
repeat it; what a man's world this is! A ship of war shows
this as well as most articles.
Sweet things! It was sad for them all, saddest for the
young; but these would have been sweeter yet, if cold separation had
not come between them and their sobbing heroes. A girl and a
guinea are both alike. You never know how good they are till
you ring them.
I consider that the classical females of renown, if we could
meet them now, would look rather dowdy, and perhaps clumsy, among
our modern beauties and graces. They stalked about with a
certain swing (I allude more particularly to Minerva, Juno, Hebe,
and that set), so that, what with their large feet and large waists,
and their wearing no gloves, it wouldn't do.
The girls I saw this morning, as they entered the dockyard,
were so finished in all their appointments, so complete.
They moved more gracefully than a sailing sloop; and what can one
Their feet, methought, were overmuch tilted forward on little
props like black cotton-reels; but who could forbear to display
insteps of such convincing shape, which so small a boot enshrined in
fashion so distracting? As to their gowns, I remember some
more to my mind, robes which, when the wearer walked, fell into
gracious if not majestical folds.
These had a sort of valance hanging below the knees, which
seemed to tie them up with causeless severity; but this may be
prejudice. I wish to look on all feminine gear as setting off
that loveliness which, as we are informed, is destined to elevate
the coarser sex.
It is only good manners so to look at it. Good manners
is the valet of good sense.
If an angel, in this present year of grace, came down to
teach a day-school, what would probably be two of the first things
in which he would give his lessons? I think they would be
reverence and good manners; we want both hugely.
I can stand a good deal of crying from women; but I hate to
see a man cry, and did not desire to be a crying man.
I heard the distant band draw near. I saw all the
redcoats march on board, including the drummers (poor little
fellows!) and their goat, a certain silky-haired arrogant
personage, who appeared to think that the show was got up entirely
for his glorification.
Defiant martial music is all very well, excepting on
occasions which have in them a natural and convincing pathos.
When the mourning-women of the East are howling and wailing,
flinging their arms about, and making as if they tore their hair,
one can look on and be critical. They are paid to chant; and
sometimes the dead is some old scoundrel, well out of the way.
This was different. Sorrow, thus defied to show itself, sits
bleeding, and cries at the heart.
So, before it was needful, I took leave of my friends; and,
having done all I could for them, stepped ashore and ran away.
I went to the nearest hotel and had a tolerably good
luncheon, during which I moralized much. Then, having nothing
to do, I crossed Southsea Common again, and had just reached the
shingly shore, when, behold! she came, the troop-ship came.
A crowd, chiefly of women and boys, ran along the shore,
sobbing and cheering, and being answered by faint cheers from the
ship. For a little while they kept up with her, while like a
white daylight ghost she moved majestically and skimming along the
coast in a deep calm, over the pale blue sea, the ghost of glory;
but glory is a sham and she was a reality.
A thousand soldiers, standing looking over her side, made a
long red line on her upper deck; but their faces were not
distinguishable. How many will come back again from the east?
and what will they be like when they do?
I walked on, past Southsea Castle, and left the group of
soldiers' friends and wives and sweethearts behind me. As soon
as I was out of hearing I turned and apostrophized it: "O woman,
woman! you are in this transgression. I am sick of hearing of
Woman's Rights, while her faults are so many and her foolishness is
so great. Your star is already in the ascendant, and man is a
minority. How long will it be before you take heart and perceive
that, if you would but combine, nothing in the world could be done
'without the leave of you'"?
Woman is not merely the female man. She is from him a strangely
different creature. Nothing that breathes is such a contrast as the
man is to his mate. Culture makes this only more evident.
There is nothing in Eastern life, or in the life of the Hebrews,
that does not stand in sharp contrast to the account given by Moses
of the first state of life as led by our first parents. He was
looking for companionship among the beasts, when she came and
straightway desired for both that they "should be as gods."
Now God does not make the best first. When the highest comes down,
it has the greatest fall.
The lord of the earth is earthly; his passions have dominion over
him; and it is only among some of the Christian nations that woman
is his true helpmeet now, elevates him and teaches him to feel and
to aspire, as she was meant to do at first.
After all the centuries of ignorance, degradation, slavery, woman is
still the higher creature in some and those the higher things.
That which can give up best, does give up most, has in fact the
fairest theory and practice of self-sacrifice, must come to rule in
the end, though it should wait for its realm many thousands of
The Founder of our faith moved the world to restore woman; and ever
since, the sexes have been weighed in a balance. One day they will
be equally poised, and then the balance will begin to turn.
I hate a great deal of the common cant about Woman's Rights, because
its aim is so low; it keeps so completely on the surface. I look to
the direction of which my heart prophesies, the direction from
which the right, the true right, is to come.
Man makes woman his slave, by his might or by his law: by the first
where he is lawless; by the second where he is a lawgiver, for he
frames all his laws so as to keep this precious chattel powerless,
to have a right to her, all she does and all she has.
Woman should not therefore sigh for rights so much in the line of
politics, trade, or property, but rather, and first, for that is
higher, her rights in man.
O wasteful woman! She who may
On her sweet self set her own price,
Knowing he cannot choose but pay,
How hath she cheapened Paradise!
That word "may" should be changed into "might" might if she would,
and all is told.
"Because thou hast done this, thy desire shall be to thy husband and
he shall rule over thee." Yes! and to have her under his feet has been as great a misfortune to him as to her; it has been to lose his
own best chance of rising.
Woman, in the new dispensation, has the right and the power to be
free; but she is slow to learn, or love, or take her freedom. It is
only in the more enlightened of Christian countries that any woman
has any real right in any one man, that is, by a lawful marriage.
What is the ideal world, then?
What sort of a world would this be for peace, plenty, health, and
industry, if a lawful marriage was the only way in which a man could
obtain possession of any one woman?
What stands in the way of such a state of things?
First, besides her love of luxury, stands woman's want of
willingness to combine; and last, her want of power to organize.
These are her two greatest defects. She does not love her own, she
loves the more selfish sex. If she can be prevailed on to combine it
must first be shown her that this would be even more for man's
advantage than for her own; and if she can be taught to organize, it
must be by man himself.
There are trade-unions, clubs, corporations, societies, armies,
without end. They all belong to men. Why should not the women of the
Christian nations bind themselves also into vast sisterhoods, the
rich helping the poor and the poor trusting the rich, all agreed,
and encouraging one another to declare that nothing but marriage
will do for them? Moreover, that a good character shall count as
much in a man's case as it does in a woman's?
Such a notion as that would be enough to cover the women with
ridicule, but only at first. If a decree once came into operation,
but that is a parlous if; and yet, if such a sisterhood were once
formed, it would begin, even before they had done laughing at it, to
make men behave themselves.
It has never been shown yet that women like better to be slaves and
vagabonds than to be married wives and courted maidens. If they do,
there is no more to say.
If not, their destiny is in their own power, when they can only
consent as to what it shall be.
Woman has already the larger share as well as the harder part of
life, for she does the serving and man does the ruling. It is far
easier to rule well than to serve well. She must undertake more, and
show man how to rule while yet she continues to serve.
She has a good many advantages already, which would greatly help her
if she would take her place.
The first to be considered is, that a vast majority of the women in
this country earn their own bread, whether they are married or
They are much more economical than men.
And they are more numerous.
Some of them are rich and independent. None of these matters are in
One may add to them that there is a vast deal of human nature in a
man, and in a woman a vast deal of human art. Human nature is but
Commensurate with human life; and life is short, but art is long.
Generation after generation of men come up, and for the most part
they succumb to human nature. They are fighting animals. None
restrain them; they fight. Women let them. They come back minus an
arm, a leg, an eye, and the fair fools cry over them, and even like
them all the better.
They are sensual animals. Many of them waste their youth, ruin their
health, and sin against woman. While they thus act, modest women
pretend not to see, and afterwards marry them.
Then, are men worse than women?
I write, remembering that you will read this, Katharina. The
wickedness of the world is not "print" to you. How good man is to
the purer portion of your sex! How he respects your innocence!
Now let me answer: No!
Woman, in the great accusation, is worse than man; and the
accusation includes even you.
For generation after generation of women comes up, and they succumb
to their love of luxury. For them mainly are the gorgeous
pageants, are the costly clothes, the gold lace, the carpets of
velvet pile, the diamonds and the splendours of life. The pride of
life is in their souls, and mainly for them.
It is luxury that stands in the way of the civilized world, so that
men cannot marry young and be happy.
For the earth does not produce unbounded riches for a few while yet
the many can have enough.
Equality among men is a word without meaning or possibility; but
notwithstanding, squalor and destitution might be things outside our
experience, as should be luxury and waste.
Here I seem to hear Katharinq say: But women cannot possibly be
expected to give up luxury.
No; but the world grows better by the unexpected and the impossible.
Women are not angels.
No, but they are women. What has not woman done already? what has
she not forborne?
She must rise by voluntary descent. "Ye shall be as gods," were the
words that tempted her; and still this pride of life has dominion.
Let her lay it down that she may be as men.
At present she is not "as men," for she fell, and men trampled on
her; and she has the vices of a slave. She desires a short-lived
passion and admiration, where she ought to command a lifelong love,
honour, and esteem.
She flatters where she ought to encourage, and she condones most
where she ought to be most severe.
I adore the unexpected. It is what I expect, and not without reason. What we have no business to expect crops up from time to time and
refreshes the world.
As for the impossible, I revel in it; for I was born in Utopia,
where the impossible was born.
It was quite impossible that slavery should be put down. Could you
expect people to pay millions of money to put down what, as
individuals, was no fault of theirs?
Everybody said it was not to be expected, it was impossible; and
then that same everybody helped to do it.
Since then it has been done again at a cost of far better stuff than
We are beginning to have a great tussle with drink now. Woman woke
up during that last war, woke up for good and all, and began to
How ridiculous she has made herself! How ridiculous she is making
men make themselves, it rejoices my heart to perceive; for nothing
that can live through ridicule can ever be put to death by anything
else. Make yourselves into vast secret societies, my liege ladies,
and the world will be yours. Man is ordained to love and admire you. If you should decree that you will spend less time and money in your
adornment, do you think that will make any difference? Not at all;
you may do it with impunity.
Have you not experimented to the utmost already, and found that
whether you trail a gown yards after you in the dust, or hang hoops
about you till you abide in a cage, or draw your sashes round with
merciless tightness, or assume the bed-curtains, arraying yourselves
in patterns like peonies and melons for bigness, he admires you just
But woman has another advantage over man she is more religious. Our
religion suits her well, for it was founded in self-sacrifice and
She is the lesser creature, the inferior animal of the two; her
passions, her strength, her intellect are less; but also she is less
of an animal and more of a spirit.
"LOOK out, you
duffers! If you don't want to be tossed, the Pope's bull and the
lawyer's calf are not more to be avoided than the Solent. What tubs! One might as well go to sea in a cradle or a coffin."
I was looking across the Solent when I said this aloud to Myself,
who answered: "I am afraid, sir, you would be quite at sea in
This little dialogue took place the following morn. I had slept at Southsea, after going out to dinner; some fellows, to whom I had
innocently given a dinner on a previous occasion, having
ungratefully insisted that I should dine with them on board Her
Majesty's ship Whatever-you-like-to-call-her.
Talk of a beast of burden, what is his yoke compared with that of a
man of burden? and who is he but one made continually to go out to
dinner against his will?
The Solent had lost all its yesterday's calm.
I took a canoe and went after a party whom I saw in one of the tubs
They had written to insist that I should come to a lawn-tennis party
that afternoon. I felt that I would rather fly the place than submit
to the tyrannous hospitality which was blowing up like a storm to
pelt me with invitations.
I drew up to them.
"O Jack," they cried when I was within hail, "we 're so dull! The
fish won't bite! Make us laugh; haul us out a handful of jokes."
"What," said I, "do you think the fish would rise at that bait? No,
my lads, fish never take a joke. I never knew one yet that could."
They had two sweet little cockney girls with them. One was making
piteous pretence of being happy; the other looked very white about
the mouth. "O Mr. Jerome," she said, "would you mind taking me
ashore in your canoe because the sun is so hot on my back?
In my canoe!
I was obliged to make her observe that this was impossible; but in
her interest I said there would certainly be no fish caught that
morning, and I advised them to give up their fishing party. Then I
told them I could not accept their kind invitation, because I was
going home that very afternoon.
So we parted. The sea rose every moment.
As I went back I passed as near as was safe to a schooner that
looked, in the long swell, like an ungainly beast wallowing about,
creaking, and slipping down as fast as she rose on the wave. Then I
passed astern of a steam-tug, rolling about in an absurd fashion.
There is something very ridiculous in the appearance of a tug a
short thick one standing across the waves, waiting for a signal to
bring some ship in, and being rolled about by the water while she
first backs her engines, then makes them go, trying to keep in one
place. She looks as if she must be sea-sick.
So I went home, went to see Katharina and her grandmother, to report
concerning the sailing of the troop-ship.
Katharina was unusually silent and grave, and so she had been the
last time I had seen her.
I did not think it was all because her elder sister had sailed. I
agreed with F., who had also seen her, and who said to me that he
thought she must have had a letter from Another.
"Another," as we all agree, is a remarkable man, as true as steel
but not demonstrative. When first he went to the East,
uneasy at his short epistles and at the spaces between them; but
as time went on, and every letter, when it came, showed that he
was as far from changing, himself, as he was from deeming it
possible that she could change, she learned to mock at her fears,
and I helped her.
It is extraordinary what difficulty some men find in writing
Well, Another made a small fortune, and was almost deciding to come
home, marry her, and take her out, when he lost it and had to begin
again. I think Katharina found my counsel, my sympathy, and perhaps
my belief that all would come right, a comfort to her at that time;
but she is a cunning creature. She did not tell Another that her
limping cousin was kind, for Another, be it known, had been jealous
of me, and had once been heard to say, with a touch of bitterness,
that I "did not limp worth mentioning." Now when that was repeated
to me I felt that I owed him a good turn. I was pleased, too, for
this was the testimony of an enemy (a friendly enemy of course); and
I have felt ever since that if my enemies consider my limp not worth
mentioning, it may be to my friends (if they shut their eyes) not
visible at all.
But what do you think? Katharina's gravity had nothing to do with
Another; for the next day she came to see me, mounted into my loft
where I was stuffing a bird, and, after seating herself on the one
chair, took out her handkerchief and began to cry with all her
"O Jack," she exclaimed, "I am so miserable!"
"It must be that fellow Another!" I exclaimed. "He has written and
asked you to come out and marry him, and you do not like the parting
with your grandmother. Well, but you know you have long promised
that you would do this as soon as he could send for you; and I have
promised to escort you. He could not have chosen a more inconvenient
time of year, though, for me, no, not if he had hurried his own
affairs on purpose to do it."
"You need not be so cross," said Katharina, "it is nothing of the
kind. I have not heard from him; and nobody is ill, and I have not
heard any bad news." Here she sobbed again and said, "But I wish you
would come downstairs."
"Cannot you cry just as comfortably here?" I answered, for I was
much relieved by her last speech and wanted to go on with my work.
"The birds look so nasty with cotton-wool for eyes," she answered. "O Jack, I have not seen Anna for two years."
"Oh, that's it," was my reply; "and I must say it is a great shame. Turn your chair round, that you may not see the cotton-wool, and let
us talk this over. You never see Anna now?"
So she sat with her back to me. It is not at all unbecoming to women
to cry. Katharina cried a little, and said Anna had invited
her to come and stay in the tents, pitched just now on a lovely heath in
Westmoreland; and she cried again, and said her grandmother would
not hear of it. Here I put in, "Of course not;" and she said, "I
thought you were going to talk it over."
"I shall not talk your grandmother over."
"But if you would go and look, and see what sort of a place they are
in? If there is a village near, grandmother might be persuaded to
take lodgings in it, and take me with her, I do so want to see
"Godfrey and your grandmother cannot bear one another; they would
"But I should see Anna!"
"Anna is very happy with him at present. She might be set against
him by one or both of you."
"But he is so odd!"
"Yes, it seems as if nature turned out some men by the dozen or by
the score; but he is of his own kind, and the only specimen extant."
"Then you will not go, Jack?"
"Then, I will! But I would have you to know that there are many
advantages in oddness. In my opinion there used some time ago to be
too many odd people in the world, and now there are too few. The
advantages of having odd people among us are, first and foremost,
that they set us thinking."
Katharina had started up and dried her eyes. She said joyfully:
"You really mean it; you really will go?"
"I was about to discourse with you on the advantages of oddness, a
subject which I have long been considering. I see I may spare my
pains! Yes, I really will go."
"O Jack, what a dear fellow you are!"
"I have long suspected it! If I find that there really is a village
close to Godfrey's tents, I may go and stay there myself, and invite
your grandmother and you to be my guests. I shall take the cob and
my little carriage down to drive you backward and forward."
"Provided always that you are extremely careful not to offend the
odd man!" So presently Katharina departed; and perhaps I was not
altogether sorry, for I like to have my say out when I am inclined
to talk; and I went straight on, when she had descended, not
doubting that if there had been auditors they would have been
The advantages of having odd people among us, as I was remarking,
are, first and foremost, that they set us thinking.
In this country, for instance, we live in houses, and we take for
granted that it is the right thing in fact, the only thing to do;
unless we fall in with people who, having a town house and a
shooting-box, deliberately go forth from both, that they may enjoy
themselves during the summer, and that in a tent.
I have tried this trick myself twice, so I know there is something
to be said for it.
Then, unless we have any special reason to do otherwise, we may all
be said to breakfast about nine o'clock in the morning and go to bed
about eleven, summer and winter; but if we, or one of us, or, to
speak plainly, if I, Myself, -- walking up to a suburban villa at
nine O'clock on a summer evening, find a footman "sitting on a
chair in the front garden, who desires me to ring lest I should
disturb his master and
mistress and the other servants, who are gone to bed, because at
that time of year they rise at four o'clock in the morning, while
the air is sweet and free from smoke, and have their breakfast in
the back garden, why, it is apt to cause thought. It may even raise
a doubt as to whether the common plan is the best.
Then, as a rule, I think it may be said that we all desire to get on
in the world, if not to get up. Having been born respectable, we do
not wish to die in a ditch. None of us regard with complacency what
we call coming down in the world.
We exist, as it were, in layers. The layers lie one above the other; and we like to move and work and visit in our own layer or the one
Voluntary descent which is quite distinct from self-sacrifice is
an uncommon notion to us if presented in the light of an advantage.
If a man, the younger son of a baronet, is well educated and has a
good income (though no land), how can he make experiments to
ascertain whether he or a common carrier on a country road, he or
the master of a parish school, he or an itinerant vender of
tin-ware, is in the happier position?
These things, by common consent, have been decided long ago.
Yet the man Godfrey, one with whom I have a keen feeling of
fellowship and friendship, has tried all these experiments; and why
shouldn't he if he likes? When he had tried them I asked for his
opinion. "Which of these states of life," said I, "is the happiest?" He answered that he did not know, for that in trying them he had not
been able to divest himself of all that he had felt and learned and
seen. He had certain prejudices concerning food and sleeping
accommodations that he could not overcome, so that the experiment
had not been fairly tried "which," said he, "is a pity."
"Why a pity?" was my reply. "You would not divest yourself, would
you, of the results of culture, reading, and travel? You must allow
that these are advantages."
"I allow nothing that I cannot prove," he answered; "I take nothing
He is such a good fellow! But to hear his relations talk of him you
might suppose he was a reprobate; for of course he has ruined his
prospects. "So long as thou doest well for thyself," says the wise
man, "men will speak well of thee." He might have added, "and no
Well, but the advantages of oddness to other people?
The second is, that the odd are never cowards; they have the moral
courage to dare surprise, disapproval, ridicule. Now courage is a
virtue that spreads. We catch it of one another.
And thirdly, the odd people, by choosing to be glad, contented,
happy, or even unhappy, in a way that is not our way, make the
tyranny of custom more bearable, so far as we must bear it, and make
us more willing to rebel against it when we know this is our wisdom,
and to our advantage or our peace.
The misery that such as are not odd suffer from the tyranny of
custom, no tongue can tell.
Now that cousin of mine, whose red cape I pulled out from under the
ice, with her curly head beneath it ―
"Yes?" cries the reader.
She was Katharina's sister.
"So you said before."
I helped her with her love affair; and she married the said Godfrey.
He is the very oddest man I ever met with.
I am much attached to him. I call him a poet, partly because he
never writes verses.
Writing verses is such a common trick! Anybody can do it; I can. If
your poet likes to do it too, now and then, so be it. But a
real poet is a very uncommon man. A poet, for instance, is always one
who can see things, not merely one who can feel things and twaddle
I have no idea of defining a poet here; but I consider that he
ought to be a man wholly alive at all points, keen, and awake with
stirring consciousness, and aware of, as living among, the lives
overhead, alongside, and beneath him.
As for this Godfrey, he breathes in the air of all the ages, and
nothing is so old that he cannot work it up into the web of his own
being. What is future to the race is not all future to him; and, as
there is nothing so new that he has not yet felt it, there is
nothing so remote that it never drew near and looked him in the
He has a very reverent mind toward the heavenly, but there is
nothing on earth that he does not question and hold in doubt.
However, as I said, he is odd all through, not mind being called
odd. He had made a decree that he would marry at eight and twenty,
and that is how I came to be akin to him; for his Love, on purpose
to get away from him, went, without giving him any warning, and
married a curate, she being utterly frightened, not at his strange
notions but, at the sudden discovery that he meant to carry them
"I shall marry just the same," he said to me when I went to condole.
"Why, who is to be the lady?" I exclaimed; for I knew it was
within three weeks of the proposed time.
"I don't know," he answered thoughtfully, and with his usual air of
Well, I had a sudden inspiration. I said, "Why not Anna?" and it
came to pass.
He said afterward, with pleasure, that the thing had been arranged
with wonderfully little fuss. Fuss was a thing that he hated; and
as, very soon after they were married, Anna told him that she had
loved him all her life (which I had suspected), there is no harm in
my telling it.
He had a theory that there ought to be men of culture and property
who were willing to live on little more than a tinker's earnings or
a day-labourer's wages, to lead a useful simple life, and prove
whether it is not as fruitful in happiness and good as the more
common style, and so charm envy out of the hearts of the labouring
He had means, he said, and if any young fellows liked to try that
kind of thing he would set them up in tents and tools. Two young Cantabs came forward at once; but one of them got the earache, and
the other had rheumatic fever. Then he had a following of six, who
adored him, but they found Great Britain a restricted sphere. The
various handicrafts are well represented already, several tinkers
and basket-makers offered to fight them for the custom of the road,
and there are, besides, very few open places left where a man is
allowed to pitch a tent; so these went off to a less sham rusticity,
Godfrey had two or three fights forced on him, to the intense terror
of his wife, before he was allowed to take his place among other
The first time I saw them after their marriage they were encamped in
a secluded part of Cannock Chase. I did no more than spend the day,
and at night I slept at an inn called the Shrewsbury Arms in the
town of Rugeley. When I first caught sight of them Godfrey, sitting
in the opening of the tent, was weaving a basket. Anna, dressed in a
green satin gown, was kneeling beside a brook, washing the breakfast
china that they had used that morning.
She answered my glance.
"Yes, I was determined to have my best china with me. I knew, if the
house was to be let furnished, some of it would be broken; so I
thought if it must be broken, I should prefer to break it myself."
She looked the picture of health and careless happiness, but I did
not tell her so. Health and happiness, to be real, should be
unconscious; we may easily haggle ourselves out of them. To catch
the precious things and then take no notice of them is, if you want
to keep them, the best part of the trick. Never go up to a wren's
nest and put your finger in to feel if the eggs are warm. If you do,
I know of no bird so likely to desert and let them grow cold.
I glanced at Anna's little brown hands. She laughed and said, "This
is much better than sitting on a sofa, doing art needle-work." And
then I glanced at her gown. "It does look rather droll here, no
doubt," she observed; "but Godfrey says I had better wear out the
gowns I have before I buy new ones. He thinks, too, that one gown is
just as good as another."
I had been informed, by a friend who had seen them, that, Anna being
rigged in all her wedding finery, he had handed her out of a
donkey-cart, and attended the church service with her, attired in a
blouse. He had no notion of consistency. In the front of his necktie
he wore a diamond pin. It had belonged to his grandfather, to whose
memory he was much attached. He did not choose to lay the pin aside
just because people said it looked ridiculous when worn with his
Well, time had gone on. Those sisters had been very loving friends
till Godfrey and Another had come on the scene, and the last had
quarrelled so violently with the first that intercourse was misery. So the poor girls kissed and parted. The marriage had answered very
well so far as Godfrey's own happiness was concerned, but Anna
naturally wanted to see her relatives, and to say that they all
detested and scorned him would be to put the matter mildly; so poor
Anna, when she came to visit her grandmother, heard many righteous
judgments delivered against him. I was the only person who took his
part. I did not see why he might not be happy in his own way.
I often saw Godfrey and Anna from time to time, and meant to bring
about a meeting for all if possible.
But how to do it?
Godfrey bore no malice, and frequently invited Katharina to come and
stay with her sister; but in the winter they travelled abroad, and
in the summer they were either living in a barge and slowly going up
and down canals, or they were in that tent, or they were sleeping in
However, according to my promise, I set forth to look them up.
Really, if one likes to think so, there was no harm in his
They were on a long upland heath in Cumberland.
The nearest house was about two miles off. There I could have
It was a drawback that Godfrey often had certain followers about
him. These were, among others, a tinker (whom I remembered of old,
and often saw), his daughter, sometimes his wife (who washed and
cooked for Anna on the sly, and took care of her children), and the
village choir-master and his wife.
The tinker does errands and attends to Godfrey's donkey. If he and
his daughter are not their servants, what are they? Godfrey says the
tinker's mind is full of fresh and interesting thought, and he
encourages him to talk.
I do not want to hurt his feelings, but I believe, for my part, he
enjoys their society because, whatever he says and does in that
tent, his equals are not there to criticise.
He reminds me of some snug little king of an out-of-the-way country
that nobody takes any notice of, and who collects his taxes, does
his beheadings, and what not, with a cheerful mind, as not afraid of
They were in the enjoyment of delightful weather. We generally have
about three weeks of that same when once it sets in. I wrote in
haste to my aunt, setting things in the best light, telling her I
had taken rooms in a farmhouse, and sent for my Malay boy to bring
up the little cob and the phaeton; said I felt what a Christian act
it would be on her part to come and stay with me in the said rooms. So it
would be a most Christian act, for she was wholly in the wrong
in that quarrel; and everybody knows how hard it is for the party
that has been wrong to forgive the one that was
A Sunday came in, and I strolled out in the evening about seven
o'clock to the heath. Oh the balm of that air; no such elixir ever
enters a house, however widely you may open the windows.
It was still hot enough to make the shadow of the tents pleasant. They were all sitting outside, grouped near a basket-table that
stood about a foot high.
I have often noticed how delicious is the taste of tea when taken
out of doors. There were boiled eggs and there were cold
sausages, also gooseberries (these from the choir-master's garden); and there was plenty of bread and butter. This worthy pair was
present. As for the tinker and his daughter, their presence was a
matter of course.
I joined them and sat on the grass. They all looked solemn. Godfrey
had been talking of the soul, and was now sitting silent, as if lost
in thought. They all had an air of edifying solemnity, as if to
discourse about the soul must needs be of the very essence of
Then the choir-master, after sighing, exclaimed, "If I could put my
hand in my bowsom and take out this beautiful soul, I wonder what it
would be like."
"You might not be able to put it back agin," said the tinker, "and
then where would you be?"
The force of the literal could, methought, no further go; but his
daughter broke in with, "Whenever I think about my soul, it always
seems to me as if it was summat like a crab."
"It's an unreasonable thing," quoth the tinker, "for to wish to see
it at all."
Yes, I thought it was! almost as unreasonable as the wish of the
little girl who, having seen a Lord Mayor's show, wished to order
another for the very next day, and declared she could pay for it
with her sixpence.
"Because," he continued with pragmatical gravity, "it ain't
matter at all, it's sperit."
Anna glanced at me with the least little guarded flash of amusement
in her eyes, for Godfrey would have been hurt if he had thought us
capable of laughing at these sincere expressions of human thought. One man's thought was just as interesting as another's, he always
"But there's no harm surely, father," persisted the maiden, "in
wishing to know how big it is."
"And it's natural, too," observed the choirmaster's wife.
This was appealing to my friend on his most tender point. He can
always sympathize if you say a thing is natural. He turned on the
woman a look of sincere approval, and it made her countenance shine;
for she was warm already, and her tea made her more so. She was in
her Sunday-best, and had a handkerchief spread over her knees, and
was blowing her tea so naturally.
It is natural to wish to be cool. To indulge this wish Godfrey had
taken his coat off. His shirt sleeves were rolled up above his
elbows, and his trousers were detained above the calves with leather
He could not have appeared in such guise in the simplest rectory
drawing-room; but the choir-master's wife and the tinker's
daughter, as modest women as ever breathed, were not particular as
to the sort or amount of covering a man had on his arms and legs.
Was he a little fond of preaching? Yes, I think he was. He
discoursed that evening rather strangely; not that I have not heard
such things said in the pulpit, but then the preacher was properly
arrayed, and stuck up for us all to gaze at. Besides, you could not
interrupt him under pain of being taken up for "brawling;" whereas,
when we interrupted Godfrey, he listened to whomsoever it might be
with equal respect, he did so much desire to be impartial.
I pointed out the advent of the first star whereupon the
choir-master's wife, wishing to say something appreciative
concerning those bodies, remarked: "Some people say the stars are
like diamonds; but to tell you the truth I think they are much
handsomer than any I ever set eyes on." She paused as if for
reflection, then added: "And a vast sight larger, by all accounts;
at least, so our rector says."
"Rector," grumbled the tinker, "he's not much of a rector, he's
got hardly anything to rect. Howsoever, I like for to hear him speak
out bold, and lay about him like a man; for, though I be called a
fool, I can find out soon enough when folks try to smooth things
"I agree with you, tinker," said Godfrey, that smoothing away arises
from fear of or distaste for the truth, and an attempt, as if for
the sake of God, to smother or ignore it. There is a singular
partiality in the subjects we choose for religious thought and
investigation. Others we shirk, as almost ashamed of them."
"Right you are, Godfrey," answered the tinker; "but I don't hold with
what that gentleman said this blessed day in the morning." He
pointed at me.
"Well," said Godfrey, "but the smoothing away you spoke of is often
very noticeable as regards the existence and power of evil spirits."
"Ay, sir; but the gentleman made out it were almost as much
consequence we should believe in Satan as in the Almighty. Said he,
'our religion drops to pieces without the Evil One.'"
"So it does," said I. "Natural religion does not, but ours is the
Christian religion. What does it all mean? What can you make of it
without the Evil One?"
"Well, sir, I can make out a good lot in the Bible."
"You can make out almost anything you please, if you pick and
"The Bible is a very extraordinary book," said the tinker, as if his
own independent investigations had led him to this conclusion; "and I believe, for my part, and always did, that it is the Word of
"Then let it speak for itself. God was our Father, it tells us, and
we were naturally good. The Evil One, tempting us, stole us away
from God, making us evil too. Our religion, therefore, is our faith
in God's plan of warfare with him. The Bible is mainly an account of
the means by which we, and the whole creation which groans and
travails together with us, are won back again. In these writings man
is not treated like a child. He is exhorted to believe many hard
sayings. Many strange and unexpected things are asserted, things
that he never can hope to understand in this life, and others,
that in these days he always wishes to shirk; but on the other hand
God frequently implies that man knows certain things by nature. He,
knowing what is implanted in us, alludes to them
"This is one of His habits. He not only has great and truly awful
reservations with men, but also He takes things for granted. That
is, which God takes for granted; and what He alludes to as within
our knowledge, we know.
"It is taken for granted that man knows there are
evil spirits, and it is asserted and taught that he is not to have
dealings with them. It is taken for granted that he knows the
nature of sacrifice. It is asserted and taught that he is not
to sacrifice as the heathen do.
"It is taken for granted that he knows of such a thing as possession
by evil spirits of human and animal bodies. He is taught that he
need no longer fear this, for that Christ came to destroy the works
of the Evil One; and he is comforted by being taught of another
kind of possession, that by a Holy Spirit to be given to all who
ask for it."
By this time several rustics and their sweethearts, strolling that
way, had paused to take a look at the tents. Even an Englishman
cannot make a castle of his tent. Anna was accustomed to this kind
of thing. She produced some hymn-books, and proposed that the now
enlarged party should sing some hymns.
The new comers seated themselves. Oh how sweetly, with the
choir-master and his wife to lead, they sent up their somewhat