Isabella Fyvie Mayo (6)

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IN 1870 my husband and I had the comparatively unusual experience of going across the Atlantic in a sailing-vessel.  Health considerations made desirable a long, unbroken voyage, while other considerations made us anxious to be able to return home at comparatively short notice.  My husband and I were the only passengers, so I was the solitary woman aboard.  We were told that our sailing-ship would probably reach Quebec in about three weeks—it had always done so—and we knew we could return by steamer in about ten days.

    But wind and wave were so contrary that our outward voyage took fully six weeks.  For nearly three weeks I never left my berth, could eat nothing but forecastle biscuits and raw onions—a queer diet I prescribed for myself—and when at last I rose up, my hair was coming out by handfuls.  Almost to the end of the voyage I was never able to sit up to meals, though I sat in the little saloon for an hour or two after tea-time.  It was during that voyage I learned to play whist, having in the captain a patient teacher and a tolerant partner.  Also, I was sometimes helped on deck in the Morning, and lay there watching the unmeasured waters and the clouds hovering over us.  We had repeated storms and foreboding sunsets, which I admired, while the captain shook his head.  During that journey, too, we saw the aurora borealis for the first time, its display filling the whole sky, and being gorgeous beyond any auroras I have since seen in Northern Britain.

    One storm was so bad that all fire and lights in the ship had to be extinguished, so that cooking was impossible.  The waves washed into our state-room, and set my luggage floating on the floor.  The man at the wheel was knocked down, and in catching it from his hand the captain himself was temporarily disabled.  Ever afterwards my husband delighted to tell that as we lay in our berths in the darkness, waiting for we knew not what, a weak little voice issued from my corner, asking:

"John, do the people at home know where our life-insurance policies are?"

    In all my miseries I had the joy to see that, despite every drawback, the strong sea air was bringing health to my husband.  That terrible voyage was the price I paid for seven happy years to follow.  On the other hand, I must have been a miserable companion for him, though he would never acknowledge that.

    The ship's officers consisted of captain, first- mate, and second.  Then there was the quaint little Cockney steward, and the crew—British, Swedes, and Norwegians—in the forecastle.

    The first-mate, a Scot, was most unpopular. In the saloon he delighted to say that if ever there was danger, he should think of himself before the passengers—that sailors should do so, because they were there on business, and passengers, he chose to infer, only on pleasure.  The Scottish captain flatly contradicted him, adding with pawky humour: "Na, na, I shall be the last on the ship, and, to tell you the truth, when it comes that length the ship is often the safest place."

    If in the captain's cabin the mate showed himself a curmudgeon, he was an oppressor among the men.  They grew restive.  There were murmurs and curses.  The ship's carpenter, an intelligent man, himself holding a master's certificate, was the special object of the mate's spleen.  Once as I lay on deck some job was going forward requiring a piece of iron.  The carpenter "thought he knew of something that would suit."  He went below, and returned with a sinister-looking article, of which even my unsophisticated self thought at once, "Why, those are handcuffs."

    The captain took the thing, a strange expression stealing over his face.  "Where did you get that, carpenter?" he asked.  "Na, na," he went on, "we'll not break up our handcuffs, an' I think I'll just take them ow're ma-sel.  They should aye be in my ain keeping."

    The carpenter expressed surprise, declaring that he had not dreamed what the things were, which really seemed incredible.  The captain suspected that the men had been only too anxious to get this instrument destroyed.

    One afternoon when I was resting in my berth I heard angry voices, violent scuffling, and then a heavy fall.  The two mates were fighting, and the second—of Scottish descent, too, though hailing from Liverpool, a gentlemanly young man of the it "nobody's-enemy-but-his-own" type—had got the worst of it.  The steward intervened.  The captain spoke with the utmost severity, and things seemed calmer afterwards, though the first-mate's unpopularity did not grow less.  I remember when the customs officer came on board he instantly noticed the mate's surliness and ill- breeding.  "Who's this you've got?" I heard him ask of the little steward.  "Where was he brought up?"  "He was brought up nowheres," snapped the lively Londoner.  "I believe he was dragged up in Ayr."

    Those who have been to sea only on great liners know nothing of the true spell of the ocean.  Despite all my physical misery, I felt its charm, and would not have foregone it on any account.  One could sit or lie snugly among the coils of rope on deck and feel as if one were alone in an empty world, invisible to all but the sky.  At night, too, there was a weird attraction in the darkness, broken only by the flare of a lamp, and silent save for the flapping of the sails and the plash of the waves.

    In Quebec in 1870 all the old gates were standing and many quaint houses.  The natural beauties of its situation, commanding great waterways, will always maintain it as a queen-city, but when revisited it in 1890 it was—changed!

    Between 1870 and 1890 Montreal had so grown that it was hard to discover the places known during my first visit.  In Ottawa in 1890, in a private residence, I had my first experience of electric light in my bedroom!  Many Canadian villages—quite small—were also lit by electricity when such was scarcely known in big British towns.  The villages were so new that they had never had gas, and, of course, went in at once for the latest invention.

    In 1870 the Red River expedition was just ended, and "feeling" between French and British Canadians was very bitter.  It would then have seemed incredible that a French Canadian should ever be the head of the Dominion Government.  In 1890 all was changed, and since then we know that no public man has been more popular than Sir Wilfrid Laurier.  In 1870 the British in Canada had no good word for their French neighbours.  In 1890 a member of the Government told me that no citizens were more law-abiding, industrious, and valuable.

    In my second visit I found places grown into prosperous towns which I had known before as mere villages.  Primeval forests, where we had driven for hours in 1870, no longer existed in 1890.

    I found flourishing districts settled almost completely by Germans.  Old folks still living had been the pioneers—women who, sitting in rude shanties awaiting the return of their husbands, had heard the wolves howling outside their rough doors.  One of these pioneers had been so foreseeing that immediately on his arrival he had planted the ground around his house with beautiful thick hedges, which by 1890 almost rivalled the ancient growths about castles and halls in the "old country."

    One thread of wild texture still lingered even in the settled districts of 1890.  It was furnished by the tramps.  Canadian hospitality is what hospitality generally is in countries where a man must depend upon the kindness of his fellow-men or perish from sheer hardship.  Any stranger applying at a farm-house door is tolerably sure of a meal and a bed and some furtherance on his way.  Such strangers are often decent folk, ready to do what work they can to pay for their entertainment.  Such are sure of kindly welcome, as it was given to the wandering "tailors" and "knitters" of old-time Scotland.  Others are of different stamp, and arrive with demands, even threats.  If these meet with a civil suggestion to look for refuge farther on, they sullenly remark that they need not trouble anybody for more than a match or two, and then they can kindle a fire for themselves.  This is the harmless-sounding formula that the owner of huge log premises well understands, and the tramp gains admittance and entertainment, even though his appearance be such that his host dare not sleep a wink while he remains on the place.

    Sometimes the "boss" stays on the watch for other reasons than fear of robbery or violence.  A farmer's wife told me that one evening her family, seated in the veranda, saw a buggy driving rapidly down the road.  It was being driven by a woman, but held also a man, a little boy, and an infant.  As the vehicle passed the farm the woman dropped—or rather threw—her whip into the road.  The man jumped down, groping in the twilight to recover it.  The woman expertly bundled the two children out after him, and then drove off at a great pace.  The man stood for a moment, helpless and bewildered.  Next he made for the farm-house and implored a night's shelter for himself and the little ones.

    It was wild weather, and the good people were far too kind-hearted to shut their door on the innocent children.  They were all taken in, fed, and bedded.  The miserable man bewailed himself freely, even with tears.  He said that his wife was a "terrible woman," that she had often threatened to murder the children, and he had had by force to restrain her.  His present plight was due to their having had "a fall out" on the road, when she had promptly devised this heartless revenge, leaving her unweaned babe to pine and fret the whole night long.  Yet the "boss" was suspicious.  This might be a "put-up job" between the couple, and he might wake to find the father also fled and the two children left behind.  So he spent the night seated in the rocking-chair in the same room with the bewailing man, the wailing infant, and the wondering elder boy, who, in true child-fashion, kept reiterating, "Father, what has become of our whip?  Father, what has become of our whip?"

    In the end the "boss" found he had misjudged the luckless parent, who seemed to have no sinister intentions, for when morning came he at once took the baby on his arm and the boy in his hand, and started off to trudge after the cruel vixen with whom his earthly fate was so forlornly bound up.

    On every hand one heard of folks who had come out with nothing but stout hearts and willing hands, and who had attained to comfort and competency, sometimes to affluence.  Of course, there were also stories of failure—for some people carry failure with them—and most of these were histories of poor idlers and wasters who had arrived with a little money in their pockets and the possibility of "remittances" from "home."

    In 1890, the hopes of Canada were turning enthusiastically to the great North-West, which was crying for labour, and where, as an official friend told me, any old woman who could darn a stocking or boil a potato would find herself appreciated and independent, but which had nothing but disaster for those who think more of "sport" than of labour, and cannot be content without all the unwholesome luxuries of overripe "civilization."

    In 1870 our return voyage was made on an Allan liner in December.  It must have been surely during the classic "halcyon days," for the weather was so calm and mild that we could spend most of our time on deck.  Among our fellow-passengers were many officers returning from the Red River expedition, some of them cultured men of kindliest manners.  But there was one whose whole demeanour was more coarse and brutal than that of any man with whom I had ever come in personal contact.  He consorted chiefly with a few commercial travellers of the baser sort.  The special object of his cruel rudeness was the aged and frail-looking sister of Bishop Oxenden, then in office at Montreal.  She had gone out to visit her brother, and was returning quite alone.  Her tremulous, well-restrained nervousness would have reached the sympathy of any sound-hearted man.  She bore all his insolence sweetly, and found it hard to believe that he was "a British officer," but there was no mistake about that

    My lonely voyage to Canada in 1890 was marked by a terrible tragedy.  In the mid-Atlantic a sudden gale arose one night, and next morning we found the steamer was tossing wildly and water was pouring into it.  Very few people had left their berths, and, as I found it impossible—owing to the falling water—to reach the saloon, I turned aside to a very tiny "ladies' cabin," already occupied by the stewardess and two ladies.  We had not sat there long before there came a terrible crash, apparently close beside us.  The stewardess looked out, gave a cry, closed the door, and stood against it.  None of us knew what had happened till two or three hours afterwards.

    It appeared that four gentlemen had reached the saloon, and being anxious to get out of the way of the stewards, who were trying to set breakfast, they had gone up the companion staircase and taken their places in a little gallery at its top, whence they could watch the waves.  Then broke over the vessel a giant wave whose force tore down one of the iron balustrades and threw the gentlemen from the gallery into the saloon below.  One was killed instantly.  Another was carried to his berth, from which he never rose again, dying soon after the vessel got into port.  The two more fortunate were sadly cut about.  The saloon filled with water; several of the iron chairs were torn from their stanchions.  A young man sitting there saw the approaching deluge, and at the very moment of rack and ruin had the presence of mind to spring upon one of the tables, where he had to stay for more than an hour before he could escape.

    With one notable exception, all the women I saw behaved with calmness and fortitude, though there were three or four girls, each travelling alone.

    The exception was a tall, rather masculine-looking, middle-aged person, who was, we understood, the matron of some great charitable institution near London, and who was "going out" only on a visit.  She was a widow, and had, as she whispered to us, understood the helpful courtesy of an elderly gentleman passenger to mean that he would certainly make her an offer of marriage before the voyage ended—she always knew when they were going to do so!  On the morning of the storm she rushed from her cabin only half dressed, and, refusing to remain with us, walked straight into the deluges of water that were pouring upon the saloon deck.  There she was met by a tiny sailor scarcely higher than her shoulder, who wrestled with her and forced her into the ladies' cabin, into which her dripping garments brought pools of water and a horrid odour.  Fearing she might unnerve two ladies already there, one old, the other an invalid, the stewardess and I both spoke sharply to her.  But the others remained quiet in the confidence that "Heaven is as near by sea as by land."  As the wild woman sat, silenced, grinding the cushions in her hands, I could not help thinking what a study she would have been as "Abject Terror" for either actor or artist.  Two days after, when, in a group, we were all discussing what we had been through, the elderly gentleman whom she thought her "admirer" said fervently: "I really thought I was never to see my dear old wife again."  She heard it, and we heard it, and she knew we heard it.  Soon the captain came by, and said to her cuttingly that he'd been told she had been in a terrible state, and ladies who had no self-control should not come to sea.  For the rest of the voyage she was very subdued.

    My husband and I enjoyed innumerable holidays together (1870-1877) in the quaint towns of the coast, in cathedral cities, and in the lovely counties of Kent, Surrey, and Sussex.  But those memories are in the main sacred to ourselves.  Yet we then saw and heard something of the state of things which has probably done much to depopulate the country and to overpopulate the cities.  The agricultural people were wholly in the hands of the squires, and had been thus for so long that their position had become second nature, and the gentry had been regarded as beings of another species.  The squires were sometimes most beneficent autocrats, who considered the best interests of their tenants and labourers in a way beyond what any law could ever compel.  But these men would assuredly have done the same had laws existed which would have at least held the hands and regulated the doings of squires of quite another breed.  One old squire "was always disappointed," as the mistress of the village inn told us, "if all visitors did not avail themselves of his invitation to walk in his grounds," even though the main path led straight past the big window of his dining-room!  A walk there was an object-lesson on due consideration for animals, for in pleasant corners one came on tiny memorial of the squire's regard for the pet dog or pony buried beneath.  There were villagers who, when asked whether the great gates of the "House" were not closed at nights, answered in amaze: "Certainly not. If they were, how could we get in to ask one of the men-servants to ride off for a doctor?"  Yet even this beneficent autocracy had drawbacks: it begot a spirit of dependence, and a kind of reverence which was too often extended to a class, worthy or unworthy, instead of being confined to those individuals who really deserved it.  When a squire was an aged man, a veritable father of his people, it was not unpleasant to see the whole congregation in the church rise, and remain standing while he passed down the aisle.  But the congregation would have done just the same had the "lord of the land" been a stripling, wasting his people's substance on riotous living, and race-courses.

    So many people in these villages, by no means "squires," were yet interested in the upkeep of the gentry as gentry.  Such were all those who were, or had been, retainers or hangers-on in the halls and manor-houses.  To these any idea of progressive movement among the genuine labouring class was contemptible, though their own fathers and brothers had belonged to that class.  By accident I was present at the National Agricultural Labourers' Union's first meeting in a glorious Surrey village.  All the labourers turned up, and were favourably interested, but I felt that display of such personal interest was much subdued after the appearance of some of the stablemen and livery servants from the "great House," who came to jeer, and could scarcely be restrained from making a disturbance.

    In that village the only person who held any formulated progressive views was the public schoolmaster, and many years afterwards I heard one of his "boys" speak of the stimulating effect that master had had on his mind.  I must say that some of the women were instinctively progressive.  I remember a widow who was brought before the Bench for neglecting to send her children to school, who boldly told "their Honours that if the lads and lasses were not allowed to earn a trifle" their parents' wages must go up!

    The clergy of most of the villages—but not of all—then ranged themselves on the side of the landed classes, being often connected with them.  In one instance, however, one of the worthiest squires brought to book a certain vicar who was neglecting his flock.  The good squire gave this gentleman to understand that if he did not resign, a complaint would be laid before the Bishop, and the gentleman resigned.

    I have had the funny experience of hearing a clergyman preach the same sermon three times in one day—in the morning in a coast town church, in the afternoon in a country church in the neighbourhood, and in the evening at a water-side mission.  Of course, no sermon could be in any vital relation to such varied audiences.  I own he had the grace to look rather ashamed when we turned up at the third service.

    Clergymen in certain country districts I have known to exercise their rights and privileges in a most arbitrary way—as, for instance, by removing and destroying beautiful flowering shrubs which, with the full knowledge and consent of their predecessors, had been planted beside graves in the churchyard.  The unnecessary change has been made even without any intimation being given to the families to whom the graves and trees belonged.

    In many villages in the South of England cottages were very few, and, being all in the hands of one proprietor, he could dictate any condition he chose—such as forbidding any laic meeting for reading the Bible and prayer.  In some of these villages there was no place of worship for miles around except the churches of the Establishment.  We came across a decent Scottish farmer who, after settling himself in one of these districts, actually unsettled himself again and went elsewhere, saying that he could not endure to live where all his neighbours regarded him "as worse than a heathen" for being a Presbyterian!  Labourers, too, when they grew too old for their work, got notice to leave their houses that their successors might occupy them.  Those who had been born in a village, and had toiled in it all their lives, had often to leave it at last for sheer lack of houseroom.  I hear from those who know these places to-day that the caste-feeling is diminished and the horizons are wider.  Alas that much of the simplicity of village life, having been so interwoven with what became intolerable, is also departing!

    In the year 1880 I spent a month on the shores of Loch Maree.  Throughout that month my whole party—myself and three young people—spoke to nobody save ourselves, the housekeeper of the farm where we lived, and one shepherd who occasionally passed by.  Nobody else spoke English—only Gaelic!  When the people gathered for evening worship in the farm kitchen, the Gaelic singing was wonderfully thrilling and pathetic.  On Sunday morning we went down to the kirk at Kinlochewe, where an English service was held during the summer.  In winter it appeared that the minister held a private service in the hotel, for the benefit generally of nobody but the landlord's English wife.  Whether or not he addressed her as "dearly beloved sister" we were not told.  As we went down the kirk road we met the retiring Gaelic congregation—young men, shepherds, and farmers' sons in full Highland dress, cairngorms and all, old men with long white hair leaning on staves, aged women with white caps, and shawls decently folded about their shoulders.  But alas! when we entered the church we found it had no means of ventilation, and we had simply to live on the cast-off atmosphere of the Gaelic congregation.  We suffered so much that we never re-entered the kirk during our stay.

    Our housekeeper on the farm at Loch Maree was a well-spoken Highland woman, akin to the family who owned the house.  When we asked her what she knew of the well of Isle Maree (which Whittier made the subject of a poem), she was prepared to declare that its legend is true—that it had the power to restore reason to the insane.  "All I can say of my own knowledge," she said, "is that some years ago, a girl of this neighbourhood whom I well knew to have been quite mad for some time was taken there, howling and shrieking as she went, and she came back that same evening calm and cured, never had a relapse and is now the mother of a healthy family."  One could not doubt our housekeeper's word so far as the facts were concerned, though one may explain them by considering the influence of a sunshiny day, hope, and the presence of solicitous friends on an overwrought mind usually doomed to a darksome hut and general hardship.  The "well" was dried up when we visited it.  It was said it had been dry since "one of the gentry," in scorn of the old legend, had washed his dog in it.  "Who was he?" asked one of us unwarily.  The cautious Highland woman shook her head, but loyally added: "You may be sure it was not ," naming the chief of her clan.

    I found a long visit to Shetland to be most fresh and interesting, and two of my stories and several "papers" resulted from it.

    It may surprise many to hear that Shetlanders—fishers and seafaring folk—living in the purest air, nevertheless suffer much from nervous disorders, that many of the women are cruelly injured by the heavy creels they carry, and that, both among men and women, there are many imaginary invalids.  The long dark winters, the incessant roar of winds and waves, coupled with the gloom and want of ventilation in most of the houses, account for much.  Yet houses absolutely without windows or chimneys—other than a hole in the roof —were very few at the time of my visit, and now possibly none exist.  The Shetlanders then complained that their peculiar breed of sheep—one of which sufficed for a girl's dowry—is getting spoiled, and is nearing extinction.

    In summer Shetland is rich in wild flowers; the maid of my inn told me that the earth was like a carpet with their colours.  My visit was in mid-winter, and I certainly never saw so wet a country.  The ground was like a sponge, and I used to say that the driest walking was in the watercourses, because there one could leap from stone to stone!  Often, sitting in my lonely room at midnight, it was impossible to realize solitude, for the wind swept over the roofs with a noise as of chariots and horses.  Indeed, Shetland is full of eerie sounds.  When walking on the shore I would think that somebody was following me, and would turn to give a greeting, for, as a Glasgow man resident on the island said to me, "Everybody you meet in Shetland is a freend—no like Glesga."  But nobody was there!

    Shetland hospitality is unbounded—at least, it was so twenty years ago.  In the poorest cots a stranger guest was always offered a cup of tea, and if in driving one is overtaken in a great rainstorm, as I was, one is instantly convoyed to the nearest house—be it farm or manse—where the "humans" are dried and refreshed in the parlour, and the beasts are comforted in the stable.  Of course, such "a way of doing" is possible only in a place where strangers are few and "kindly."  Perhaps even Shetland hospitality is more limited during summer months, when visitors are many.

    I think one learns much about Christianity when one is visiting Eastern lands, and one gets a new comprehension of the Bible—that Book of grand poetical imagination which the hard Western mind reads as plain prose.  I could not see the pretty little children playing sweetly inside the mosque of Mehemet Ali at Cairo, or being carried, curious but not afraid, in the arms of their parents through the ranks of howling dervishes, or walking quietly among the officiating priests in the Cathedral of Athens, without seeing that it was of this Eastern type of child, naturally docile, quiet, and fearless, that Jesus said, "Of such is the kingdom of heaven," rather than that type of British boy I lately saw, lifting his heavily-booted foot to try to kick a poor cat, and then bursting into cowardly yells because an old lady leaning on a walking-stick asked him how he would like it if she struck at him in his turn!

    I could not hear our dragoman call the shouting Arabs of the Pyramids "those ravens of the desert" without feeling that I saw before me such beings as fed the prophet Elijah.

    In a hotel in Jaffa, among the sellers in the hall, I came across an elderly woman offering the bead purses which are one of the local productions.  While buying, I was struck by the readiness of her English, and on inquiry found she was an American woman, from the neighbourhood of the Thousand Islands, who had accompanied her husband to one of the fantastic colonies which were started in the Holy Land more than thirty years ago.  In its futilities they had lost their all.  The man died.  The woman was left with a little fatherless boy.  By her own exertions she brought him up until he got into fair employment and married a young girl of French extraction.  The three shared their housekeeping until the young man himself died.  The two widows, now both childless, were struggling on together, the younger teaching in Moslem families, the elder making and selling bead purses.  She had kept up no communication with America, and did not dream of ever returning there.  "I have nothing to go back to," she said.  It was another pathetic illustration of the old lines:

"O little did my mither think,
     The day she cradled me,
 O' the lands that I should travel in
     Or the deith that I should dee!"

    When we were in the citadel of Cairo we had a curious instance of the way misunderstandings arise between people of different languages and culture.  We were shown the steep well in the citadel, and our dragoman, a devout old Moslem, informed us it was "Joseph's Well."  My companion and I whispered to each other, "Saladin's well, you know—Joseph Saladin."  Whereupon the old Moslem repeated severely: "Joseph's well!  You not know your Bibles, and you English ladies!"

    I heard an amusing instance of these international misunderstandings and resulting blunders in my own house not many years ago.  A young Persian divinity student asked my friend Dr. George Ferdinands if he would hear him read a sermon he had prepared, criticize its English, and point out where it fell short.  The sermon was read, and Dr. Ferdinands pronounced it to be fairly correct and grammatical.  "But what," he asked, "is the exclamation or ejaculation which you introduce at every few sentences?  It sounds like 'Be jabe.'"  "Why," said the young Persian, "perhaps I don't pronounce it quite rightly, but I mean it for what I hear all British young men constantly say.  I thought it must be the proper thing."  "What young Britons are always saying?" mused Dr. Ferdinands.  "Surely you mean 'By Jove!'  You are decorating your sermon with an ornamental society oath!"

    Ceylon friends have told me of a typical instance of the same sort of blunder all round which occurred between a well-known Ceylon gentleman of imperfect English and a European neighbour.  The old gentleman was walking to and fro on his veranda, meditative, and his friend, thinking he looked depressed, inquired: "Why are you so downcast, Mr. R?"  "Downcast!" cried the other, indignant.  "How can you call me downcast?  My father was a gentleman, my mother was a gentleman; I am a gentleman, my wife is a gentleman.  How can I be downcast?  Take care what you say."  The worthy man did not see the subtle distinction between "downcast" and "low-caste."

    Our old Cairene dragoman was himself open to many charges of inconsistency.  Moslem as he was, he freely admitted that he loved his daughter much better than his son.  He characterized the boy in hard terms, but said the girl was good and industrious.  We asked what she learned.  "Needlework and a little reading," he said.  "Did she learn writing?" we inquired.  "No," he answered; "what did women want with writing?"  A few days afterwards he asked me to write a certificate of his capacity and character, which he might show to future travellers!

    There are still people in Great Britain who have not advanced beyond this humble Egyptian in estimate of woman's needs and rights in education.  Only ten years ago I heard an Aberdeen fisherman declare that women need not, and ought not, to learn writing.  "It would only serve to get them into mischief.  Let them read their Bibles, but as to geography an' a' that, fat eese is't to them?"  I asked him whether he would not like them to know where their sailor husbands were travelling, to which he replied: "They aye mak' that oot some way!"

    Once, visiting our coast village of Portlethen, I saw a band of about twenty fishermen and one fish-wife engaged in hauling in a boat.  A lady, watching the scene, called out: "Men, you should not let a woman do that task.  It is not woman's work!"  Back came the prompt re-joinder: "No woman's wark?  An' why not?  A mare can pull as well as a horse!"  The stalwart fish-wife laughed heartily.  I wonder if that smart fisherman was prepared to yield other "equalities"?

    One of my visits to Athens was made at the time of the revival of the Olympic games.  My interest was little in the games themselves, but much in the people, to whom I knew they were so significant of national revival.  On the afternoon when the games began we did not go to the Stadium; the weather was uncertain, and we preferred to remain where we could easily find shelter.  We spent part of the time in strolling round the slopes of the Acropolis, whence we could look down into the little streets and courtyards which straggle about its base.  In one of these we saw a young man playing on a pipe, while two lads danced to its music, and one or two women with children looked on.  One marvelled why these youths had not joined in the great national festival.  Oblivious of the shouts and cheering which were borne upon the breeze, they seemed quite absorbed in their own little private entertainment.  Perhaps they were but cheerily enduring a poverty too acute to buy tickets!

    I heard a pleasant anecdote of a Greek girl who was maid in an Athenian house where I was privileged to visit.  All the family went out on that first afternoon of the games, and she was left "in charge."  "Do not leave the house till I come back," her mistress had said.  Presently the maiden's cousin, a young policeman, called for her, having got tickets for the Stadium.  She steadily refused to go.  While he pleaded, one of her younger mistresses returned, and suggested that, as she had come back, the maiden might be free to go out.  The temptation was evidently tremendous.  But the girl decided.  "No!  My mistress bade me keep charge till she came back, and so I will.  Perhaps I may go afterwards."  The staunch loyalty was written in the girl's face, with all its angles "right " angles, and its calm, earnest eyes.

    I was much struck by the unfailing kindliness and interest which the Greek people showed us.  An old gentleman who had travelled on our steamer lost his eye-glasses in Hermes Street, Athens.  He sought for them wildly, being purblind without them, and when the townsmen approached him with interrogations which he could neither understand nor answer, he explained "is situation by making goggles of his fingers and waving his hand at the pavement.  In an instant he was comprehended, and had a score of helpers, and the eye-glasses were found!  Again, in the railway-station I bought a newspaper from a lad.  Not a word passed between us—nothing but the dumb-show by which he knew I was a stranger.  Presently some Russian sailors, linked hand-in-hand, made a rude rush down the platform.  My young Greek jumped forward, caught my arm, and escorted me safely to my railway carriage, and ran off.  (By the way, the Greek word for train signifies "the iron runner.")  On Easter Eve, in the throng in front of the cathedral, a Greek gentleman instructed the men around us so to arrange themselves as to give some chance of seeing to one of my small stature, and when the ceremonial was over, he suggested to the soldiery on guard to let us escape through their ranks, which they did with smiling faces.

    Sometimes it seems that few Britons are capable of regarding any novel foreign customs or methods as interesting or picturesque; their general phrase is, "How funny!"

    I have heard a well-dressed and well-spoken English traveller declare at Alexandria, when he could not get a particular steamer on the very day he wanted it, "that these foreigners plan these things so as to keep us spending our money among them."  I have heard another announce (at Cairo) that "these people are all thieves," because he missed his luggage, left unguarded on the platform.  He found out presently that it had been taken safely to the left-luggage office.

    I have seen two "ministers of the Gospel," one English, the other Scottish, vastly enjoy "the joke" when a coarse young lad from Australia (with a physiognomy that recalled certain early Australian history!) seized some fruit which a poor old Syrian had brought on board at Jaffa, and paid him for it simply what the buyer chose, the vessel being then lifting her anchor.  I have known a group of Englishmen—among them a Lieutenant-Colonel—who refused point-blank to pay their share of the fee to the "cavasse " who is sent from the Embassy to escort parties to the Mosque of Omar.  They left it to be wholly paid by a lady and myself, as we could not see the man wronged, or risk a wrangle.  I have heard the same Lieutenant-Colonel brag at the table d'hôte that these "natives" would do anything for money—"even were glad to let one shoot their pets"—an assertion whose falseness is made clear by many statements in Lady Duff-Gordon's "Letters from Egypt," as well as by all the incidents preceding the tragedy of Denshawi.

    I have seen an Englishman actually striking at an elderly Greek, on the steps of the Propylea, Athens, because he declared the man was "swindling him" by asking a "franc" for a string of beads, when only the day before he had got two of the same sort for "the franc"—the simple explanation being that in the first instance he had paid with a French franc, which at that time was worth about double the coin known as the Greek francan explanation by which I was able to avert a scene.  But the Englishman did not apologize for his accusation, nor did he even thank me for my intervention!

    The British are not all thus, and when they are not so they are justly indignant with their country folk's narrowness and injustice.  The captain of a Mediterranean steamer said to us, "There are worse people and worse places in Liverpool than in Alexandria, bad as is the name given to it."

    On a steamer of the Messageries Maritimes, sailing from Constantinople to Marseilles, I had among my fellow-passengers an old English gentleman, type of the best traditional "John Bull."  He expressed the utmost disgust at the manners he had observed among the British abroad, marvelling how our whole race was not beaten or boycotted.  "And the worst of it is," cried he, "that the more patient these polite foreigners are—by Jove! I could not be so patient—the more these people think it gives them the right to speak and act—as—as—why, as the very cads they are!"

    May the big shadow of this sort of "John Bull" never grow less!  May he never transform his name by the addition of a final "y"!

    In the course of my travels I experienced three coincidences so unlikely and so complete that I think they may be interesting.

    One happened in London during a sitting of the Institute of Journalists.  I was staying with an acquaintance at Morley's Hotel, Charing Cross.  We had reported ourselves at the Institute's headquarters, had heard Zola's speech, and were giving ourselves up to leisurely enjoyment.  Alexander Japp had joined us for afternoon tea.  My companion went down to the hotel office to look after home letters.  She returned saying that the mail from the North was not in, but that there was a telegram for "Edward Garrett"—my pen-name—which she handed to me.  I hesitated to open it, saying that whoever had word of my being at Morley's Hotel must also know my own name, as I had signed both in the Institute's visitors' book.  Dr. Japp thought there might be some Colonial journalists who knew my pen-name well, while my real name might readily have slipped from their minds, and they would have resorted to the other.

    Persuaded by him, I opened the missive, which ran as follows:

    "Sorry baby's illness will keep us both at home this week.  Hope to be in town next week or to see you here."

    No name was signed, but the telegram came from a village I had never heard of, in a county I had scarcely visited!  Dr. Japp was incredulous.  He bade me think, and think again.  He declared that for a person whose real name was Edward Garrett to be in the same London hotel with her whose pen-name was the same would be a coincidence so unnatural that its appearance would not be tolerated in fiction.

    Yet it was the fact.  The hotel people explained that Edward Garrett, the distinguished American artist, was a guest in the hotel, though he was absent for a few days.  I could only leave a note of explanatory regret with the opened telegram.

    The other coincidence was of a different type.  I was packing my boxes to pay a visit in Methlick, an Aberdeenshire village then quite unknown to me, when there was brought in the card of Dr. John Kennedy, the well-known Free Church minister of Dingwall.  He had called to ask if I knew the whereabouts of a young man named John Fyvie, the son of a missionary of the same name who had been rather distinguished on the early Indian mission field.  The young man had been something of a ne'er-do-well, and his father, justly reluctant to leave money in unworthy hands, had by will placed a sum in Dr. Kennedy's charge, to be applied for this John Fyvie's benefit as circumstances should arise.  But John Fyvie had never been heard of, and Dr. Kennedy, grown very aged, was anxious to get the matter settled in his lifetime.  He applied to me, thinking the uncommon surname might indicate some sort of relationship.  The missionary Fyvies (there were two brothers) had originally belonged, said Dr. Kennedy, to Methlick.

    I told him that I had heard my father speak of these missionary Fyvies as probably of a common stock, but that any connection existing was so remote as to be negligible, and I had never heard anything more of them.  But said I: "I am going to Methlick this evening, and will make inquiries.  But do not expect too much.  It is my first visit, and I am the guest of a stranger there."

    Dr. Kennedy was struck even by this coincidence, and congratulated himself on being, so far, "just in time; though," said he, "the missionaries lived so little in Methlick, and that so long ago, that I fear they will be quite forgotten."

    In the late afternoon I arrived at Arnage Station, and found a trap and an elderly driver waiting to convey me to Methlick.  As we drove we chatted, and I thought I could but ask him if he knew any Fyvies in the place.

    "Not now," he said; "but he knew all about the missionaries, and their sister Mary, whom he had known well, had been the mother of one of the chief farmers in the district.  She was dead—not so very long ago—but her son was living, and would certainly give me any information he could."

    After tea my hostess and I strolled to the parish churchyard.  The first grave on which my eyes fell was that of the missionary Fyvie!  Then I visited the Fyvies' nephew, and learned all that was to be learned of the missing man—i.e., nothing.  He had not been seen or heard of for many years, and had presumably died abroad.  The whole series of coincidences, which in picturesque narration should have ended with a restored prodigal and his endowment with this trust fund, closed in "no thoroughfare."

    I had another coincidence of yet another type during a visit to Edinburgh.

    Many years before a highly valued Oriental friend, the late Dr. Brito of Ceylon, had given an English boy an introduction to me.  My friend did not know the lad himself, but only his mother.  The boy proved unworthy, and gave me much worry.  Dr. Brito, who was one of that salt of the earth "the responsible," was greatly pained to think that he had been the medium of our acquaintance.  Presently the boy wholly vanished from our ken, and I forgot all about him.

    Dr. Brito, who had returned to Ceylon, did not write to me often—only once or twice a year—but when he did he wrote long letters in a delicate and minute hand, and took up all kinds of subjects, religious, social, and political.  While I was visiting in Edinburgh, years after our difficulties with F. W., the troublesome boy, a letter from Dr. Brito was forwarded to me from home.  I was just starting to visit a literary friend from the South, also in Edinburgh lodgings, so I pocketed my letter, reserving its interest for leisure after finishing my day's outings.

     My friend presently proposed that I should accompany her to spend an hour or two with friends of hers of whom I knew nothing, save that the son had a distinguished name in Scottish art.  After we were all happily convened in a beautiful room, whose windows were left uncurtained that we might gaze on a moonlit panorama of the Castle Rock and the twinkling city highways, the artist's mother drew me aside to tell me how pleased she was to entertain one of whom she had heard so much through young F. W. and his family.  She was glad to tell me that the youth was proving better than had been expected, and was being held to hard work by a strong hand.

    When I returned to my rooms I drew Dr. Brito's long letter from my pocket, and settled down to enjoy it.  What was my surprise to find that one of his first remarks was about young F. W., with laments over the trouble he had given, and inquiries whether I had ever heard of him or had the least idea of his ultimate fate.

    While the letter still remained unread its answer had come unexpected and unsought.

    I have a friend who, when he hears of a "coincidence," calls it "that beast of a word."  Does anything lie behind "coincidences," and if so, what?

    I know that it needs special training or some experience to enable anybody to make the most of travel, even of the most elementary "going about."  Still, one is rather startled when a lady going on a costly trip to the Holy Land, asks a fellow-traveller "if there are one or two 'r's' in Jerusalem!"  That happened to us in a fashionable cruising party.

    It is odd how some people seem to think that if they have once seen an interesting spot, to go again is sheer "waste" of time, which they prefer to "use" in the most paltry employments.  A traveller I know, "having been in Naples before," and having "then visited Pompeii," preferred to a second visit a morning's shopping, chiefly in quest of cheap gloves!

    The life-interest of travellers is always made manifest by what attracts them in new places, and this should be so, because knowledge and observation begin at home.  I know of a farmer in a quiet Scottish district, a strictly practical and prosaic man, who was noticeable for constantly saving up and taking trips abroad.  As he had visited Holland, France, and Switzerland, his puzzled neighbours asked if he did not find difficulty with the varied languages.

    "Hoot, ay, whiles," was his reply.  "But can aye do as muckle as mak' them understand I want to see the byre."

    And I sympathize with the same worthy's criticism of his minister's lecture on Switzerland.  As the audience broke up, delighted with the views and descriptions, the travelled agriculturist expressed himself thus:

    "Scenery's a' vera fine, but it's no a' thing.  He never ance said coo nor soo!"

    I do sympathize with him!  I remember my vexation when I once read a book on Persia in which there was not one allusion to the history or status of her lovely cats!

    To my own mind, a travel lecture with views, or a travel book with pictures, should be most sparing of verbal description.  The lecturer or writer should seek rather to make the beauty which he presents to the eye grow warm to the heart by some sympathetic touch concerning the life, human or animal, which is associated with it.

    When I have visited historic places my own intuition has been to make myself somewhat acquainted with the inhabitants before beginning to study the antiquities.  In Athens, with the exception of a Sunday afternoon's rest on Mars Hill and a moonlight wandering on the Acropolis, I spent the first week of my stay strolling about the streets, going to church services and improving my acquaintance with one or two residents to whom I had introductions.  Afterwards I turned to the details of ancient architecture and to the wealth of the museums.

    I am sure I then took with me a mind illuminated by what I had seen and heard in my peregrinations.  One had been helped to realize the national Greek characteristics of curiosity, pawkiness, and kindliness, even as Scottish loyalty and determined "making the best of it" could be found the quick repartee I once heard given by an old railway guard in the neighbourhood of Banff.  In our little party there was a gentleman, a native of the locality, who had made his fortune in the East since he had last seen his birthplace, half a century before.  We found ourselves in a cramped and primitive railway carriage, and our friend laughingly said to the guard, "I believe this must be the same carriage I travelled in fifty years ago."  "An' does that show what a guid carriage it's been?" retorted the guard.

    Once, when travelling by night train from London to the north of Scotland, I overheard an awful domestic tragedy discussed quite coolly by two elderly matrons, who looked like the wives of respectable farmers or shopkeepers.  Their talk, as I afterwards learned, put me in possession of the truth concerning the great social sore of the district to which we were all going, and to which these women belonged.  That particular story, into whose frightful details I need not enter, contained every element of awful Greek tragedy.  (I have often smiled sadly to hear "The House with the Green Shutters" regarded as "a realistic picture of Scottish life," when, in fact, while omitting all the brightness, it wholly ignores the darkest shadow on that life.)

    These two matrons dismissed their horrible narrative merely as "a pee-ty," speaking of a treacherous ill which blasted at least two lives and poisoned a whole social circle in much the same tone that they might have used over a soiled dress!  Afterwards they discussed life insurance.  One "didna hold wi' it—a man insured his life and the money his widow got just served to buy her another man."  The other answered that "if widows were left wi'oot money, they pleaded they were fair driven to marry for a home, so there you are atween the two."

    These women had no outlook that was not of the earth earthy.  Of faith and love and purity they had not the faintest glimmer of conception.  Yet I gathered that they were closely connected with "kirks," and on friendly terms with many "ministers."  This sad state of things will always exist where great stress is laid on mere formal observances, so that they become matter of social etiquette rather than of spiritual privilege.

    According to my experience, I do not think it is best to read many travel books concerning a country one is about to visit.  By travel books I mean those giving somebody else's experiences and views.  Rather, go through the driest works, little more than mere lists of what there is to be seen in the way of ruins, architecture, pictures, or "points."  Then go forward, get one's own experiences, make one's own observations, and on returning home read every book one can find written by travellers, and especially by residents, on the track where one has been.  It is interesting to compare one's own notes with these, and it is delightful when one finds one's own observations confirmed by the ripened convictions of the best people who have lived long among the people of the place.



WHEN I hear women speak as if all the evils in the world rise only from the fact that women have been deprived of what they call "power," I wonder to what we must attribute the present troubled condition of domestic service—that problem which waits only for women's solution.

    The best mistresses say, with a sigh, that mistresses in the past, as a class, have been to blame for the existing state of things, though now, as is always the case, some of the most innocent individuals suffer the worst from the shortcomings of their order.

    Is it not a fact that many of the best household workers, women of irreproachable character, much method, and skilled economy, actually prefer to take service in houses where there are no "ladies"?  Mistresses may scoff that this means only that they go "where they can do what they like," and where they are not too rigidly supervised in expenditure.  I am sure it is not always thus.  Look closer, and one sees that the efficient worker naturally chooses to go where she can best exercise her own faculties without constant petty, and often crassly ignorant, interference.  As for the expenditure, the master is sometimes a better economist than the mistress, only he may be less apt to stint the dinner that fancy cakes may be provided for callers at afternoon tea, or to withhold some necessary adjunct to lighten labour that he may afford to add a frill to the edge of his trousers!

    Yet it must be admitted that a vulgar masculine opinion about domestic work has been one element in its unpopularity.  Foolish men, like foolish women, are the readiest to express contempt for anything whose true inwardness is beyond their comprehension.  It is believed by many working-women that men do not care to marry one who has been a servant.  I regard this as a sheer delusion.  Every marriageable woman who has ever helped me in my household work has married well—in some instances so well that if I went into details I should be accused of romancing!  But the delusion is undoubtedly founded upon such comments as I am about to relate.  A servant in my father's house had, during the family's absence for a day, achieved a sort of household feat by washing the varnished ceiling of the dining-room.  She proudly called the younger people's attention to her success.  In the family at that time there was a pompous youth, a connection of my father's, and then one of the "unemployed" of the black-coated variety.  He looked superciliously at the poor girl's performance, and remarked: "Well, Emma, I'm glad my hands were not made for such work!"  He was then living on my father's charity, and in after years deserted a sweet, long-suffering wife and their children, and died the death of a drunkard and a waster in a remote colony!

    Despite all present-day domestic difficulties, I am not inclined too readily to disobey the wise counsel which bids us not to think that former days were better than now.  The past is never better than the present, save possibly within local limits, or under transition conditions, when that which is outworn is passing and that which is to come is not yet fully fashioned.  The writers of past ages were always lamenting the decay of "service" in their day!  One need only quote from "As You like It," where Orlando addresses Adam, with its "constant service of the antique world."

    I think the good servants of old have been remembered, and the bad ones forgotten.  My maternal great-grandmother had a maid who was with her for eighteen years, and then left to marry a Dissenting minister.  But then she was the only servant I heard of in that connection.  Who knows how many stayed only a week?

    I remember, when I was young, accidentally coming across a girl who was a servant in a Bloomsbury lodging-house.  She was an Irish Catholic―a lovely creature, with a face like Delaroche's famous Madonna.  She could neither read nor write, but was very faithful in the performance of her Church duties.  She was alone in London, save for the cousin who had brought her from the "ould counthry," a young man in a butcher's shop, who occasionally called on Sunday afternoons and took her out.  She was a delightful creature to talk with, full of ideas and observations, and at once respectful and self-respecting.  Nowadays, when it is too much the fashion to regard girls as beings without inborn power of self-protection, it may be worth telling that on one occasion, when the men lodgers in the parlours used some coarsely jocular expressions while she was setting their supper, she quietly turned on them, saying, if they were to talk in that way, they must wait on themselves; and, suiting the action to the word, left the room, and did not go near them till next morning, when they had come to a better mind, and all parties ignored what had happened.  She told me the incident herself, because she was not only hurt, but sorry and disappointed, as she said she had previously believed the young fellows "to be dacent gintlemen."  They, on their side, told her mistress simply that they had spoken thoughtlessly, and Mary had reproved and left them, adding that "they thought all the more of her."  I believe she had no further cause for complaint.

    In my own forty years of housekeeping, I remember and talk about the admirable women who were with me for many years, and a sweet young girl who remained till her death.  I can recall many bitter experiences in the intervals, experiences sometimes comic and sometimes tragic, but they always seem the outcome of a condition of things rather than of real human beings.  There is a lack of "characterization," a deadly monotony, in evil.  Dishonesty, drunkenness, unreliability, and utter selfishness have their coarse features so very much in common!

    Occasionally a touch of humour might emerge, as when one servant of mine—an elder woman—commended herself as having repeatedly warned her younger subordinate: "Milly, never tell unnecessary lies!"

    I had one rather curious experience when I was a stranger in the North.  Owing to a servant's sudden illness in the midst of a great snowstorm, I was forced to accept the help of a girl before I had received her "character."  I had written for it, but the posts had ceased to run, and, further, she informed me that letters were never delivered at her former master's farm, and that often two or three weeks elapsed between his calls at the post-office.  She was a pleasant-faced, roughish girl, but proved herself a thorough servant.  Every morning she inquired whether I had had a letter from the farm.  After some months had passed, and I implicitly believed that I was learning her character for myself, she returned from market bearing a beautiful, country-like nosegay, which she presented to me as from her old mistress, whom she had met, and who had explained her silence by saying that my letter was not received till so long after its date that they made sure "things wad ha' settled themselves ane way or ither, an' she had kent it wad be a' richt."

    Things went on satisfactorily for months.  Jean had a few visitors, whom she interviewed at the hall door and speedily despatched.  Once, however, we heard an altercation, and, inquiring the meaning of it, Jean came, flushed and tearful, and made a confession.  There existed a "baby."  I was sorry for the girl, and I had grown to like her.  Though, seeing the tone of the district, I had firmly resolved never knowingly to take a servant "with a past," since certainly such had no difficulty in finding employment, still, I thought I might make an exception in her case, she being already on the scene.  So I told her she could remain, but I should expect her conduct to be specially guarded and discreet.  She wept, seemed sincerely grateful, and life went on as before.

    She needed some help in the household washing, and she introduced an elderly washerwoman, whose husband, she said, had been twenty years in the employ of one local firm, whom she named.  Some time after this she remarked to me that she saw there were many things about my house on which I set special store as having belonged to my husband, and she hoped I would keep all these upstairs, where the washerwoman never went, "for ane doesna' ken."  Though I wondered at her mistrust, I thought her kindly to have given me the warning.

    By-and-by her work and her habits began to show some deterioration, but it was she who gave notice to quit.  She left late in the evening, and I had ordered in a quantity of fresh stores, ready for the new servant, who was to arrive very early next morning.

    When the fresh arrival came, she found the kitchen cupboard positively empty—not a loaf for the breakfast, not a lump of sugar nor a tea-leaf!  Worst of all, there was the disappearance of a fine grey Scots plaid—my husband's property—the dear relic of many happy wanderings.

    A sad story presently came out—the revelation of a life of persistent and deliberate evil.  I was very sorry about my "plaidie."  The other things might go, but over that loss I bewailed!  What was my surprise when, two or three weeks afterwards, late one evening, the door-bell was rung and my new servant brought in a paper parcel, which, when opened, disclosed the grey plaid!

    I have alluded to the illegitimacy so common in the north-east district of Scotland.  I have been astonished to find how lightly average public opinion regards it.  Even mistresses often consent to ignore it in domestics otherwise honest, and above all in capable cooks!  It is surely the bitterest expression of contempt for a class when its moral character is held to be of less account than its skill in purveying luxuries.

    I have heard quite lately of a young lady of rank, from a distance, who married a peer in this district.  On arriving at the castle, she interviewed the housekeeper, an old retainer, and made kind and careful inquiries about the band of women-servants.  She received the answer that "they are just a remarkable fine set of young women—as respectable as they can be."

    But, alas! only two or three weeks later the bride discovered that in this district, among certain people, "respectable" means only sober, honest, and industrious.  The peasant-women seldom drink, and are generally of sterling honesty.  Among the servants whom I have heard about within my whole circle of Scottish friends, I have never heard of drunkenness—said to be the peculiar failing of the London cook.  There may be petty peculations of food, handkerchiefs, stockings, and the like, but cases of downright theft are rare.

    Yet some of the very newspapers of the locality reveal, in their advertisement columns, the generally low state of what are usually called it "morals".

    Certain of the citizens and upper-class country-folk seem to think that this form of immorality stands in place of greater profligacy.  I cannot think so.  Undoubtedly marriage frequently ensues.  But in many cases it does not follow.  All sorts of crime, including infanticide, become involved.  The basest assaults on womanly modesty are not uncommon, and ministers are found to plead the "previous good character" of brutalized men.  Scotland's greatest poet, a native of the South-West, only too conversant with moral frailty in himself, never sought to minimize its evil result on general character:

"I waive the quantum o' the sin,
     The hazard of concealing;
 But och! it hardens a' within,
     An' petrifies the feeling."

    Often the unhappy woman leaves her neighbourhood and drops into the flood of poisonous vice which flows through the streets of great cities.

    Why this form of immorality should be so prevalent in the Scottish North-East it is hard to say.  There have been many conjectures.  Oddly enough, there is the same tendency in the South-West (Wigtown, etc.).  I have heard that centuries ago a member of the then great house of the Earls of Buchan, with a large following, migrated from the North-East to the South-West, where to this day Buchan is not an infrequent family name.  The two districts also have one feature in common—they both abut on the Highlands, of which they form no part.  The North-East fringes the mountains of Dee side, and the South-West lies below the great ranges of the West.

    Now this form of immorality was once—and in a measure is still—regarded with great disfavour by the Celts.  It is—or was—the same among the allied people of Ireland.

    I remember hearing Dr. Guthrie tell that, in a remote Highland parish, where a Gaelic service, still necessary for the older people, preceded the English service, he had attended both, and observed that while the English congregation was mostly of young people, the Gaelic gathering was of the elderly, with but one exception—a young, quiet-looking girl.  He remarked afterwards to the officiating minister that it seemed a pity that so youthful a person should confine herself to the limits of a language growing obsolete.

    "She speaks English as well as any of them," replied the minister, "but some time ago she 'went wrong,' and she would find herself out of place among the respectable young folk.  They would make her feel it.  She is better with the old people."

    In Shetland, too, much the same feeling holds—or held.  When I was there, twenty years ago, the women carried this to such an extent that they all suspended their gossip and left the "merchant's" shop on the entrance of a woman who had had what in the Scottish North-East is called "just a misfortune."

    I may remark that Shetland women are much sought after as servants, generally highly valued, and proving themselves worthy of the preference given to them.

    Some incline to attribute this widespread lack of sex morals in certain Scottish districts to the earlier ecclesiastical practices of Presbyterianism, such as the "cutty-stool," on which offenders against the Seventh Commandment in any of its ramifications were required to stand, in full presence of the congregation, for one or more Sundays.  In very flagrant cases the penance was extended for a whole year, while up to the middle of the eighteenth century the "penitents" usually wore a suit of sackcloth or a white sheet.  It was a proceeding calculated to blunt all the finer sensibilities both in those who suffered and those who looked on.

    Still, this scarcely explains the bad eminence of the two districts named, though we happen to know that this "discipline" was carried out with great rigidity in South-Western Scotland—the shire of Ayr, Burns' own neighbourhood.  It was gradually displaced by a mere public rebuke, which custom itself wholly ceased only about 1850.

    If the Established Church once went unwisely far in the publicity and ignominy of its discipline, to-day it possibly errs on the other side.  Miserable sinners (who would once have crouched on the "cutty-stool") have now, in the very heyday of their sin, been admitted to a place "in the choir," and so have become, in their way, "church workers"—rather too wide a leap from "cutty-stool" and sackcloth!

    I do not think public discipline was ever enforced in the Scottish Episcopal Church, and I do not know if it were specially free from this taint—though perhaps it had that immunity from the grosser failings which is often noticeable in religious communities more or less unpopular, and therefore drawn from a more select class.  I have heard Presbyterians admit that Scottish Episcopalians used to be people of superior breeding and manners.

    I have marvelled greatly when some of the more highly-placed, who had made themselves specially conversant with the moral state of their countryside, and who had publicly engaged in seeking its betterment, have yet not scrupled to give huge entertainments, lasting far into the night—and, indeed, till next morning—while scores of careless young men, the lackeys of their guests, were left to their own sweet will, lounging among the surrounding hamlets.

    It was, I always think, one of the greatest mistakes of philanthropy, long before the days when servants became few and difficult to get, to give special encouragement to "illegitimate mothers" to enter domestic service, often even fresh from their sin.  We do not show the hospitality of our homes, wherein are children and young people, to those who are still casting their skins after scarlet fever, though they must have refuge somewhere.  Also I doubt whether domestic life, with its regularity and its comfortable certitudes, is the safest atmosphere for anyone a-wrestling with unruly passions.  Far better, surely, the wash-tub or the factory, with voluntary home-going to some rough-and-ready supervision and kindliness.  This was the view of an experienced and highly efficient prison matron who once talked with me on the subject.  In this direction may lie, I think, the explanation of the disheartening failure of many penitentiaries and houses of refuge to secure really permanent reform.  The only refuge I have known much about could not, after many years, record a single genuine case of enduring betterment.  I have sometimes marvelled whether, where a spark of real penitence leaps up, a true instinct may not guide the woman first to seek bread in the rough ways where character is not much called in question, and then to work herself up from that.

    But there are some very sinister aspects of the domestic employment of women who have lost character.  Why should a fellow-servant, possibly some decent working-man's innocent young daughter, be exposed to household association with some Magdalen who quite possibly "loved not much" anything or anybody but her own sensuality and idleness?

    Do not let our hopes of doing moral good be on a par of mischief-creating with the ignorant "scientific" charities which only a very few years ago bundled anæmic girls into wards where women were coughing up their lungs in the last stage of consumption, and which elsewhere approached the operating-table in garments as filthy as those of any slaughterman.  Let us use our common sense, and adhere strictly to the fine old rule of taking care to "cease to do evil" while we are learning how "to do well."

    Domestic service—admission into the heart of a home—should have been preserved as the "blue ribbon" of working womanhood.

    Yet in the very districts where female "easiness of virtue" is treated with unusual toleration there are simple people of the severer sects who extend even to male offenders the judgment and ostracism which, unfortunately, is in most places accorded to women only.

    Everybody knows the horrors and terrors now attending hirings in huge cities—the often mysterious organization of registry-offices, and how both written and oral "characters" are secured by those to whom they do not belong so that one's house may thus be readily exposed to the burglar—even the murderer.  It is needless to dwell on these points.  Yet there may be some equally sinister yet less familiar aspects of present-day conditions, even in most unlikely places, which are not quite so familiar.  I have been told that it is the common practice of evil women who gain a living by the promotion of vice to contrive the entrance of pretty, innocent-looking maids into well-conditioned houses where there are sons growing up!

    An old lady, who, with her husband, a distinguished lawyer, had been a lifelong worker among the "unclassed," told me of a glaring instance of this forecasting, individualized effort of evil which came under her own knowledge.  There came to my friend, Mrs. W――, a lady who shall be called Mrs. Z――, a personal acquaintance.  Mrs. Z―― was in great agitation.  She was the wife of a leading citizen, and they were both to preside that night at a civic festival, at which their presence was wellnigh indispensable.  Mrs. Z―― had been the first at her breakfast-table, and, tossing over a heap of letters, came across one addressed to Mr. Alexander Z――.  Alexander was the name of both her husband and their fifteen-year-old son.  She never thought of it as meant for the lad, but, knowing her husband was always "Esquire," inferred this was a carelessly written "Mrs.," and that it was intended for her, as she expected a letter from an artisan who was to do some job for her.  She found it was an epistle to the boy!  The sex of the writer was not disclosed.  All that was said was that the lad had attracted much admiration, and that the writer would be happy to make his acquaintance if he would be in C―― Street, in the short space between two cross-streets named, at half-past eight that evening.

    Of course, Mrs. Z―― put the letter in her pocket, and after breakfast consulted with her husband.  What could they do?  Even at immense inconvenience to a number of outsiders, they would have given up their banquet and gone on guard, but for the consideration that doubtless they would be recognized, and would therefore see nothing.  Their appeal was to Mrs. W―― and her husband, who happened not to be involved in the civic festivity.

    The W――s promised to go together at the appointed time to the appointed place.  They waited fully an hour.  Wayfarers were very few, and all manifestly apart from suspicion—save one, a floridly dressed middle-aged woman whom the lawyer knew to be the mistress of an infamous establishment, wherein young country girls in disgrace sunk to the lowest levels.

    I have heard of such women studying merely to keep the ball of vice a-rolling, even in circumstances where personally they were little likely to reap the results.  It has often struck me that there is no society for the promotion of vice—no committees and no subscriptions—and I have often thought that those who work for virtue might often—as advised by the highest authority—take a leaf from their opponents' carefully far-reaching, forecasting and individualized methods!

    Certainly nothing can be imagined more clumsy and self-defeating than the ways of some societies which concern themselves philanthropically with domestic service.  A lady is told off to visit the maid, to ask her questions as to her treatment, and all about the family ways.  She comes and sits in one's kitchen, and probably makes the disparaging comments of one who has no kitchen of her own.  The lady may be inquisitive—is almost required to ask pointed questions.  The girl may be untruthful.  No working-man's household in these days would tolerate such an intrusion!

    The girls often get misled into great wilfulness, at much cost to themselves—and others.  I knew one, a sufferer from asthma, whose "lady" called, leaving her a ticket for some lecture or entertainment.  The night of the date proved violently stormy, and the mistress, who had freely given consent to the outing, thereupon, with no object but the girl's own good, advised her to stay under shelter.  But her "lady" had said she must come, and so she went.  Next morning she awoke acutely ill, a nurse had to be got, and after a week of ceaseless coughing, which drove everybody, nurse included, wellnigh out of their wits, she recovered and got downstairs, only to be told inevitably that she was not fit for her place, and must take a month's warning.  The maid felt deeply aggrieved, and the mistress resolved never again to engage a "society's" young woman.

    There is another domestic risk in these days, when our "helps" no longer come from the families of old neighbours of our own or of our friends, so that hereditary dangers and peculiarities are wholly unknown.  This is our utter ignorance of the mental status or soundness of the stranger we receive within our gates.  Apart from two incomprehensible women who, arriving with perfectly good oral references, proved incompetent for the simplest domestic duty, and simply sat down and did nothing till they were sent away, I have had in my own kitchen one genuine idiot and one lunatic of a terrible kind.  The first was sent off in a few days, but had time to clean her irons on dress-shirts and to heat a range (for the cooking of one little dish) to such an extent that the whole mass of iron was red-hot.  The other, of specially good manner and appearance, went quietly about her work for months till her final breakdown and departure, but during the greater part of her time she had kept the household in agitation and terror by providing it with a series of most awful anonymous letters, couched in frightful language, and breathing blood and unexplained "vengeance."  They looked as if they had been written by the claw of a fiend.  Every member of the household got these letters, including the servant herself.  They came sometimes by post, sometimes were put "under the door."  She was totally unsuspected, and herself simulated agitation and terror.  The police were consulted in vain.  Yet after she was gone—going out one day and never returning—a neighbouring shopkeeper divulged that she had once stormily entered his shop and demanded how he dared "carry tales" and "make mischief" between her and "her dear mistress."  He had told her the truth—that he had never spoken to me in his life.  In the end, after she had been away some time, she wrote me an hysterical letter begging for "forgiveness"—offence unnamed.  The writing, though in this case fairly neat, was unmistakably the same as in the anonymous scrawls.  Long afterwards, as I was driving through the city in a tram-car, I saw her at a street-corner, leading a well-dressed child.  She had evidently managed to get employment as a nursemaid!

    Within space of a few months four of my friends have had experience of maids who, without any forewarning, suddenly went mad.  They had all entered service with good characters and without hint of their mental unsoundness, which had, however, been known by their "ain folk" and concealed.  One "lost her memory" while out with the baby, and was brought home in a cab by a good Samaritan who chanced to recognize her.  Thereupon she showed strong suicidal tendencies.  The other was also in charge of a child, and it was by the merest accident that she was not absolutely alone with it in the house, for her master and mistress had gone out for an hour or two when her seizure came.  In course of a few minutes she broke out into the wildest violence, so that two or three nurses were required to remove her next day to an asylum.  The third case was similar.  The mistress was a lady living alone.  The fourth girl went mad under weird conditions.  She lived with two ladies, sisters, the elder of whom had been blind for years.  The maid's insanity came on while the younger sister was away on a short visit.  She began to rave very late in the evening, putting the blind woman into the utmost perturbation; then she suddenly rushed out of the house into the midnight darkness, leaving the poor mistress to get through the night how she could, doubtful whether her worst terrors were conjured up by the servant's prolonged absence or by thought of her possible return.  The unhappy girl never came back.  After everybody had lived through two or three days, dreading to get news of suicide, she was discovered, quite distraught, trudging desperately over moor and mountain to her own home.

    Quite recently I heard of another woman who, though not actually demented, yet is certainly very wild.  Not only did she carefully and scrupulously disobey all the wishes of a very mild and reasonable mistress, doing everything in exactly the opposite way from what was asked—and that often to her own detriment—but whenever gently remonstrated with flew off in a tantrum, roaring at the top of her voice:

"O what a friend I have in Jesus:
 How He loves—how He loves!"

with vigorous emphasis on the proper name and its pronouns.

    It has been often said, as if there were great significance in it, that old servants of the best class seldom wish their daughters to be servants in their turn.  I do not put much stress on this, for I have known few fathers who greatly desire their sons to follow in their own professional or commercial groove, unless, indeed, there is a good "connection" or business standing ready made for the youngster!  Everybody knows the knots in his own way of life, and looks only on the external advantages of other ways.

    Unfortunately, mistresses of fifty years ago generally drove domestic service to a very low estate.  The servant had no freedom, though unlimited freedom had begun to be granted to the "young ladies."  She was allowed no prefix to her name on her letters.  Some mistresses even laid embargo on her Christian name for fear it was not "plain" enough, and kept a perennial "Jane" or "Eliza" for domestic use.  She was sneered at if she showed inclination for any reading but the most elementary "goody" books, deportations from the parlour.  She was not allowed to show the least initiative in her own work.  Then came the great industrial revolution, with its innumerable openings for female labour.  Working people discovered that their daughters could remain at home, and bring in their earnings to supplement the family housekeeping.  They began to think that domestic service was little more than a refuge for the unfit, the difficult, or the unsound among their progeny.  The brighter specimens were withdrawn for shop or mill.  It is truly significant that this condition still persists in the mass, though the diminished numbers of domestics servants have so sent up their wages that they can now earn, plus board and room, as much and more than many of their factory sisters, who have to provide themselves with both food and lodging.

    Having already said that I see no reason to imagine that the servants of yesterday were perfect, I go on to say that the mistress of to-day is often to be pitied.  Her household personnel has become a cavalcade ever on the march.  She is compelled to withhold freedom and privileges which she would gladly give if she had had time to prove that they would not be misused.  But she dare not allow them to strangers who are here to-day and gone to-morrow, who might well indulge in capers which would cover the household with ignominy, and possibly bring down some disaster on the girls themselves, for which the mistress would be held responsible.

    A state of things now exists in which the number of "settled" kitchens and of honourable and efficient servants is reduced, especially in certain districts, almost to vanishing-point.  Domestic life is poisoned by perpetual change and unceasing worry.  What this must mean to the children of a family nobody has ever attempted to discover.  Worst of all, mistresses are getting used to this miserable state of things, and are accepting it, struggling not with it, but under it, instead of rising calmly and realizing that a new order of society has come, and that ways must be adjusted to it.  They discuss the matter—among others—in congresses and conferences, at afternoon, teas, and, alas! as "curtain lectures"; but comparatively few resolve to take a sober view of the position, and then determine to do what lies within reach of their own hands to adjust it.

    It is seldom possible to restore genuine vitality to any form of industry which has once been allowed to decay.  Progress usually comes, not by revival of ancient good, but by birth of new.

    Surely the heads of households will do well to study new labour-saving inventions and greater simplicity in furniture, food, and social customs, and even to consider how to do without servants with dignity rather than to degrade oneself by a hunt for what one declares is not to be found.  Where external help is absolutely necessary an efficient, respectable daily worker coming for a few hours is surely to be preferred to resident domestic servants, teasing one from dawn till midnight.  I think most women would own this at once but for that curious bugbear of "opening the door" of which Jean Ingelow made such fun in her little-known but exceedingly clever book "John Jerome."  There she makes her hero reply to "a pleasant, careworn gentlewoman" who had confided to him her difficulties in this respect: "So it costs you the difference between comfort and poverty chiefly that callers may have a maid-of-all-work to answer the door for them instead of a gentlewoman."

    This seems to be a tremendous ordeal to a certain type of woman.  I remember one, married to a literary man whose income could not have exceeded £250 per annum.  They had children to bring up.  They lived in a neat little terrace facing a wood.  I found that on the servant's "afternoon out" a charwoman was always engaged.  I said to my friend suppose you feel timid to be left alone?"

    "Oh dear, no," she replied.  "But if anybody should call, who is to answer the door?"

    Yet I am sure her husband would have been glad not to pay that charwoman's weekly florin.

    I believe that this same bugbear has entered largely into the demoralization of the humbler sort of domestic service.  Where there was only "one girl" she was kept too much a prisoner, lest her mistress should have "to open the door" during her absence.  Thereupon the girl has escaped, for good and all!

    Why is it so disgraceful to open a door?  I can never discover.  Once I was among the earliest guests at an afternoon reception in the home of a society literary woman, where I was a familiar friend.  Just as the visitors began to arrive the lady of the house was seized with sudden and dangerous illness.  The servants and one or two of the visitors present flew to right and left in quest of doctors.  Another lady and I remained behind.  Presently double knocks rattled on the door.  We looked at each other, realizing suddenly that the servants were "away."  "What shall we do?" whispered my companion.  I ran down and opened the door, and announced the simple fact of the case to a puzzled-looking lady whom I recognized as an artist's model put into society by marrying the artist.

    When I returned to the companion of my vigil, she remarked: "If Mrs. H knew you were opening her door it would kill her at once!"

    I repeat, What is so shocking in opening the door?  I constantly do it.  But nobody cares what I do.  Will not some great lady—a duchess for preference—"open the door," and so do more for the emancipation of her sex than if she broke all the windows of Holloway Gaol?  I have known an earl to do it.

    Oh, if women would but open their own doors themselves! (Surely this bugbear is a parable.)

    While on this subject, I should like to say that we must learn to understand that "household work" and "domestic service" are two different things.  Those who wish to receive or to render either should understand this distinctly at the outset. In  "domestic service," most unfortunately, a girl is still liable to slip (at least for a time) into the clutches of the type of woman (still existent) who sits in her first-floor drawing-room and rings the bell to bring her maid from the "sunk flat" and send her up to the second floor to fetch down a handkerchief!  I give my illustration from present-day fact.  Could anybody wish to degrade any intelligent, industrious, active young woman to the humiliation of such a service, however well-fed and well-paid?  Of course, it would be another matter if she were attending on the crippled, the aged, or the imbecile.  But to become the mere hired tool of a woman as able in mind and body as herself is no temptation to anybody but the unworthy.

    Household work, on the other hand—the preparation of good food and the maintenance of domestic hygiene, cleanliness, and beauty—lies, like agricultural labour, at the very root of human living.  When the world shall in time grow quite sane, these two avocations will take precedence of all others.

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