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As represented by Jane Austen.


(From: Atalanta: The Victorian Magazine, 1893.)

JANE AUSTEN has never been a widely "popular" author. In her own day, her work made neither fame nor profit, though it was speedily appreciated by such judges as Walter Scott, Southey, Coleridge, Archbishop Whately, and Lord Macaulay. The latter, be it noted, set her down as second in rank only to Shakespeare. Her fame has this true test of genuineness, that it has been slow of growth, and that it is still growing. It may be interesting to study the secret of her strength and excellence.

    We must first consider what she was in herself. She was a young woman of the upper class, in circumstances of easy affluence. She never married, but there is no streak of real tragedy or romance visible in the scanty materials of her biography. Her strongest personal attachment seems to have been to her elder sister Cassandra, and one traces this sisterly affection in the attachment between her "Elizabeth" and "Jane Bennett," her "Elinor and Marianne Dashwood," even in the bond which so readily forms between "Fanny Price" and her sister. Nearly all Jane Austen's known correspondence is what passed between herself and this beloved Cassandra during their brief separations. These letters reveal the life in which she lived--a life of happy household affection, petty neighbourly interests, and the "genteel" diversions of the day, balls, routs, and country-house visiting. It is often hard to believe that her letters are not chapters from novels! One can scarcely tell whether she is writing about the movement of her living acquaintances or of her "characters."

    Letters and novels alike display fine insight into character, and a humorous perception of its intricacies. We may note that in her letters, Jane Austen occasionally allows herself a more cynical tone than she would put directly into the mouths of her own favourite heroines. This flavour of cynicism, though it certainly appears in the novels, is created there rather by the skilful way in which the characters are played off one upon another, or by the wonderful little sentences, so few and far between, wherein the authoress herself plays the part of the Greek chorus, and also occasionally by the utterances of characters not on the heroine-level. Thus in "Mansfield Park " it is not Fanny Price, but Mary Crawford, who says, "We seemed very glad to see each other, and I do really think we were a little!"—a sentence which might have come out of one of Miss Austen's own letters, abounding as they do in such remarks as, "We have been very gay since I wrote last; dining at Nackington, returning by moonlight, and everything quite in moonlight, everything style, not to mention Mr. Claringbould's funeral, which we saw go by on Sunday;" or, again, "I rather wish the Lefroys may have the curacy. It would be an amusement to Mary to superintend their household management, and abuse them for expense, especially as Mrs. L―― means to advise them to put their washing out;" or, once more, "Fanny Austen's match is quite news, and I am sorry she has behaved so ill.  There is some comfort to us in her misconduct, that we have not a congratulatory letter to write."

    The first thing that strikes us about Jane Austen is that she (in this particular like the otherwise widely dissimilar Tolstoi of our own time) wrote only of what she really knew.  Her scenes are laid in the country towns and watering places and London visits, which made the surroundings of her own life.  Her characters are chosen from the country gentry, and the clerical, naval, and military circles in which she was familiar.  On the margin are one or two "city people," or yeoman farmers like poor Robert Martin in "Emma."  Her little section of the world is sharply focussed in her pages (as in her letters).  The rest remains in the outer darkness, as if it did not exist.  There may he 'poor' without individuality who are 'visited,' and who receive doles of tea, sugar, and flannel, or who bully young ladies in country lanes, as when Churchill overtakes Harriet on the Richmond Road.  The 'church' is regarded as a conveniently profitable and genteel calling for younger sons of the steadier sort.  Henry Tilney, Edmund Bertram, and Edward Ferraris, are all clergymen.  They dance, hunt, and flirt as if these made the whole of life.  Edmund is in love, in a way, with Mary Crawford and Fanny Price, both at once.  Edward Ferraris is in love with Elinor Dashwood while he is engaged to Lucy Steele.  When he gets a living, the items concerning it which are summed up as worthy of interest, are the state of the house, garden and glebe, extent of the parish, condition of the land and rate of the tithes!  Oft Austen, in her own person, had no view of ministerial duty which could prevent her from describing its discharge by the coined verb, "to clergy!"  She lived and wrote in stirring times.  The Napoleonic wars were going on, Nelson conquered and died, the slave trade was abolished, the war of American Independence separated the United States from Great Britain, the battle of Waterloo was fought.  But no trace of any influence from these events is to be found in her books (save that some of the families are a little disturbed in their West Indian properties, or some of the naval or military youths obtain promotion), nor yet in Jane's own letters, except by such slight references as to Southey's "Life of Nelson."  "I am tired of Lives of Nelson, being that I never read any.  I will read this, however, if Frank is mentioned in it."  ("Frank" being her brother.)  There are some pretty but very slight vignettes of English scenery in the stories.  No animals cross their pages, save horses for riding or driving.  Nor do we find any "pets" mentioned in her letters.

    All of Jane Austens's stories end "happily."  That is to say, all "entanglements" are cleared away, financial arrangements drop into right condition, and the heroine gets married to the hero—and all this in a fashion quite inconsistent with the sternly truthful tone of the preceding story.  We know that no such endings are true to real life, where the right people will often go on and marry the wrongs ones, and where character persists in spite of matrimony!  All this was but Jane Austen's concession to convention, and was, perhaps, made the more easily because no iron ever seems to have entered into her soul, to impress her with life's deeper problems and perplexities!

    What we have hitherto said only serves to show that Jane Austen put on her canvas but a small section of the world's life, and to most eyes a common-place and uninteresting section.  She was entirely and frankly limited by the social customs, conventions, and ways of life and thought around her, so that her pictures of these are already of almost antiquarian interest.  Yet her fame is growing!  In what, then, does her greatness consist?

    It consists in her insight into human character.  Her range of human life might be small, but her knowledge of human nature was boundless.  She likened her own work to miniature painting "with so fine a brush as produces little effect after so much labour."  But then each miniature is a matchless portrait, and as we know, it takes greater skill to bring out individuality in such a delicate and tiny scale, especially when, to coarser visions, there might seem a general resemblance in the faces of the subjects, even as in their garb!  It is comparatively easy to draw angels, because, as nobody has seen one, the likeness cannot be questioned, or monsters, because if one has not seen the like, he still cannot absolutely deny that they may exist.  Take for instance, Dickens' "Quilp."  I remember once, many years ago, venturing to suggest that he was an exaggeration, when a lady in the company silenced me by the remark that she knew such a man—he had been her own husband!  But even that singular testimonial to reality cannot give "Quilp" more than a purely pathological value.  He is in the scheme of human life only as are "the Siamese twins," or "the living skeleton."  There are no "Quilps" among Jane Austen's characters.  We have all known every one of them—which simply means that we have all known some of the faces which go to make up the wonderful "composite" with which she presents us.

    We are not to confound this marvellous faculty of true presentation, with mere observation, or with what is called "drawing from the life."  These are part of it, but it is more than these.  Observation is worth very little unless we know what to observe, and how to co-relate our observations.  And when all that can be said of any character-drawing is that it is "a study from the life" it has probably seized only the accidental and not the essential, and is apt to be as valueless as those awful amateur photographs which "must be like, you know," but which simply cannot be identified by the uninitiated!

    Observation is of slight value, unless it accompanies such a grasp of character as will enable the portrayer not merely to depict words and actions which have been heard and seen, but also to predicate words which would be spoken and the line of conduct which would be pursued by the subject of the portraiture on any given occasion or under any imaginable pressure.  As it was said that if a bone was given to Sir Richard Owen, he could construct the animal to which it belonged, so a phrase or an action becomes to the seeing eye, the revelation of a whole character—the prophecy of a complete history.

    It is almost impossible to point out special instances of Jane Austen's faculty in this wise, because her books are simply compact with them.  If, in explanation of what we have said, we indicate a few scenes for our readers' special consideration, it is not that they excel thousands of others, but simply that they suffice to serve our purpose.

    Take the wonderfully drawn characters of "Mr. and Mrs. John Dashwood" in "Sense and Sensibility."  It is little likely indeed that Jane Austin had ever heard such a dialogue as she reports in Chapter II.  But she had observed the tendency of human nature to minimize its "good intentions" when brought to the point of fulfilment, and to yield to influences which sway it in the direction of its own worst tendencies.  And again, in Chapter XVII., how pithily the few remarks between Elinor and Marianne concerning "competence" and "wealth," set forth the perpetual trap into which plain people fall if they do not carefully insist that their gushing controverters shall explain their terms!

    The Steele girls are life-like presentments of inbred vulgarity.  In "Northanger Abbey," how the shallowness—entailing falseness—of Isabella Thorpe's character is revealed by dainty touches in the conversation between her and Catherine in Chapter Vl., and again where they meet at the theatre.  How inimitable is that young lady's championship of "Miss Andrews."  "The men think us incapable of real friendship, you know and I am determined to show them the difference . . . You have so much animation, which is exactly what Miss Andrews wants; for I must confess there is something amazingly insipid about her."  How John Thorpe makes himself known to us, uttering contradictory commonplaces with conceited dogmatism, and shining especially as a literary critic!  And how consonant with this introduction is the part he plays in the story, whose very simple plot hinges on his wild assertions and retractions!

    "Pride and Prejudice" is one of the best of Jane Austen's novels.  Elizabeth Bennett, with her quiet good sense, is a delightful heroine, with Jane for a pleasant second, and the other Bennett girls for foils.  The mother's "extraordinary ordinariness" often rises to sublimity!—as, when eagerly pressing forward the marriage of her runaway Lydia, she pauses in all her agitation, to think of Lydia's clothes and to reflect that Lydia does not know the best warehouses!

    Mr. Collins, the young clergyman, is made to show himself exactly as he is, unctuous, pragmatic, and underbred, and this without any suspicion of caricature!  His enjoyment of Lady Catherine's offensive patronage, as set forth in Chapter XIV., is delightfully realistic, as is his proposal to Elizabeth in Chapter XIX., and his sententious and selfish moralities throughout.  Quiet, cool Mr. Bennett, who is aware he has married a fool, and that against stupidity even the gods fight in vain, is very skilfully depicted.  The studied rudeness of a fine lady is well brought out when Lady Catherine first appears in Chapter XXIX., and critics particularly admire Chapter LVI.,—calling the scene between Lady Catherine and Elizabeth "delicious and inimitable."

    There is much exquisite character-drawing in "Mansfield Park."  Every scene in which Mrs. Norris appears is worthy of careful study.  More vividly than any sermon could, does the episode of the private theatricals show the force of frivolity and persistence in wearing away better principles.  The three sisters, Lady Bertram, Mrs. Norris, and Mrs. Price, all equally self-engrossed, though in such different fashion, are very well brought out.  Fanny Price herself, with all her sweetness and docility, has plenty of sense and spirit, which evidently develop in the suffering caused by Edmund's devotion to Miss Crawford, and which we cannot help half hoping may some day prove the Nemesis of that infatuation!

    "Emma" seems to us the least attractive of Miss Austen's books.  Emma herself is a charming study, but only because she is so naively conceited, so frankly puffed up with her own wisdom!  She can be so unkind to poor Miss Bates, so unjust to worthy Robert Martin.  Her father, so kindly a gentleman, in all his valetudinarianism, is a delicate triumph of skill.  Miss Bates herself is a delightful compound of sweetness of nature, muddle-headness, and volubility.

    "Persuasion" has a great charm.  It was Jane Austen's last book.  Her own youth had passed away, she was in the trying days of early middle life, the very hand of death was upon her, when she wrote it.  Anne, gentle, refined Anne, is described in two words "only Anne,"that is all she is to those for whom she had sacrificed her love and surrendered her will.  "She had been forced into prudence in her youth, she learned romance as she grew older," and such a nature and history is well set off between her two sisters, the hard and haughty spinster and the selfish, narrow-minded young married woman, living in perpetual friction with her mother-in-law.  Chapter X. is full of pathos, only deepened by the severe reserve of its expression.  It makes us feel as tired as Anne herselfthe tiredness of a sad heart.  Very subtle is Anne's secret reflection, in the following chapter, that the much-pitied Captain Renwick "has not a more sorrowing heart than I have; I cannot believe his prospects so blighted for ever.  He is younger than I am, younger in feeling; younger as a man."  And what deep reading of the human heart is in the little incident when Anne's alienated lover, Captain Wentworth, notices a stranger's casual admiration of her, and straightway turning to look at her, sees "something like Anne Elliott again."

    All this is observation, but it is imagination too, and that deep insight born of the sympathy which can project itself not only into others' circumstances, but into their very natures.

    Jane Austen's knowledge of the human heart was positively uncanny for a woman so young and so fortunately placed.  She was undoubtedly cynical.  There are no signs of tenderness in her letters, and but few in her books.  Even in "Persuasion," she can actually raise a smile at a matron's "fat sighs" over her worthless dead son!  Yet, as Lord Brabourne says, her works "make virtue lovely and vice the reverse . . . Without ever preaching to us, they continually impress upon our minds lessons of a purifying and elevating tendency.  The different motives which influence men and women in various circumstances of life—the special faults which beset certain natures; the effects those faults produce upon others . . . all these are drawn by the master hand of a great artist."

    It is worth noting that one of the last utterances Jane Austell put into the mouth of her latest and meekest heroine is an expression of belief "that a strong sense of duty is no bad part of a woman's portion."






(From: Atalanta: The Victorian Magazine, 1894.)

HERE are few historic periods which are to us so misty and indistinct as those just beyond the reach of our own memories.  In general, we know far more about the Norman Conquest, or the Plantagenet or Tudor dynasties, than we know of the sequence and significance of events occurring within the twenty-five years before own existence.  One finds that, by the time one approaches middle life, one can occasionally make oneself quire interesting to younger people, by relating personal recollections of striking incidents of famous personages, and telling their story to those who find them so new and fresh, though they are so familiar to their elders!

    What meaning can most readers of ATLANTA attach date, April 11th, 1864?  Yet what a day that was in London, ay, and in all Great Britain—a day when the heart of the whole land went forth to welcome a man of the grand antique type—"one of Plutarch's men," as he has been aptly called—Giuseppe Garibaldi the "Liberator" of Italy.

    He had been a great conqueror, a man before whom a kingdom had fallen like a house of cards.  But it was not as a conqueror only that we thought of him—indeed, by that time he was no conqueror, but a defeated and wounded man.  A touch of chivalric tenderness saved our admiration from my suspicion of vulgarly.  His past militancy glories served but as the pedestal on which to raise him high enough for us to see the simple grace and dignity, the sterling worth, of the man himself.

    The young people of to-day can scarcely realise the time when the name of "Italy" conjured up thoughts of dungeons and exiles, and cruel deaths by swift execution or slow tortured.  Indeed, there was no "Italy" in those days.  "Italy"—but the dream in which patriots and poets foresaw the fusion of the little states and kingdoms in which their beautiful country, "the Juliet of the nations," lay divided, with foreign armies occupying well nigh all her classic cities.  We used to see the Italian exile in our streets, and to note the gentle music of their voices.  After the attempted revolution of 1848 there were crowds of them—grave, stately folk they generally were, easily to be discriminated from the more voluble refugees from France.  Quiet, law-abiding people they appeared to be, only now and again a terrible assassination of some unknown foreigner seemed to denote that the last dread penalty had been exacted from some traitor to one of those "secrete societies" which ramified the Italian nations at home or in exile.  Nearly every schoolgirl of those days had at least heard of the poet Silvio Pellico and his pathetic book, "In my Prison," the record of his ten years' solitary confinement in the dungeons of Venice and Spielberg.  The British Government itself had protested against the King of Naples' barbarous treatment of political prisoners.  London had witnessed the jubilation of its Italian residents, when the patriot Poerio, with 66 companions—released after years of miserable confinement, only to be deported to South America—siezed the vessel in which they were voyaging, and brought her triumphantly into British waters and freedom.

    This was in 1859.  In the following year, the history of modern Italy began.  But we are not to attempt its formal recapitulation here.

    "Italia Unita!" was the battle cry of this revolution, and the statesman Cavour was its brain, and the hero Garibaldi was its arm.  Its history reads like a chapter from Tacitus.  Think of Garibaldi with his "thousand heroes," landing at Marsala, marching on to Naples and driving in his open carriage right under the guns of the royal fort!

    Some of us may have heard the Rev. Mr. Haweis tell the story of that scene—how there was a sort of awful suspense—would the royal troops be true to their master, or to their country?  General Garibaldi was face to face with magical victory or certain death.  He rose in his carriage, and, looking straight up at the enemies' guns, in stentorian tones he bade his coachman "Drive slower!"—and yet again, "Slower still!"  And then the ringing cheers broke from the Neapolitan troops-and the kingdom passed from cruel Bomba's son and his poor young Bavarian queen.

    Think of that other scene, when, victory following victory, Garibaldi met the patriot King of Sardinia, and hailed him "King of Italy," while the other acknowledged the power of "the Kingmaker" by the simple words—"I thank you."

    Alas! alas! the virtue of gratitude, and of loyal support to those whose past services merit it, are at least as rare among nations as among individuals!  Garibaldi could not rest until the whole of Italy was made one.  The new Italian government—the government which owed its very existence to his efforts—by its vacillating policies first encouraged him to make onslaught on the Papal States; and then, probably in fear of provoking the hostility of the Emperor of the French, actually sent troops against him, engaged him in conflict, wounded him (so that ever afterwards he was lame), and took him prisoner!

    And that was the last of his public life, before he — to us on that April day!

    It was such a beautiful day.  April is often one of the happiest months in London.  The great city has brushed aside her winter gloom and dust, and is prinking herself for her "season."  The budding trees are fresh and green, not yet scorched and wilted.  And the London of 1864 was not quite the London of today.  True, it could not boast its noble embankment by the river, but it was then full of quaint corners, which have since been invaded by railway stations and monster hotels.  The air, too, seemed purer and sweeter—there was no "underground" in those days to belch forth sulphurous vapours.

    There had been no formal preparation for Garibaldi's entranced into London.  He was to be received by some private friends connected with the City Corporation, and he was to be the guest of the Duke of Sutherland at that Stafford House which the Queen is said to have called "a palace."  During the day before the General's arrival, some people in the suburbs, hearing that seats where to be for letting on the line of route, laughed the idea to scorn, and suggested that very low fees would suffice!

    Garibaldi was expected to reach the West-End in the early afternoon.  Full of ardent girlish enthusiasm, I and a companion started forth in very good time to secure a coign of vantage.  But where should we find it?  Charing Cross was one densely packed mass of humanity.  We managed to push our way through wide Cocksure Street.  Pall-Mall we found well nigh impassable, so we skirted it by back by-ways, turning into it again and again to see if prospects were more hopeful.  In vain.  There were few flags and little decorations to be seen; but the fronts of the houses were all crowded, save one or two of the most fashionable clubs, whose members stood about at the windows in pairs, with slightly discontented countenance, while the appearance of some unpopular politician elicited an occasioned expressions of disapprobation, or a jeer from the crowd.

    I suppose there must have been policemen in that crowd, but certainly they were so little in evidenced that I do not remember them as one of its features.  Yet the multitude was of that vast, dense character which is often supposed to require the control of cavalry.  The people filled the roadways as well as the pavements, standing about without any pretence of forming line.  Carriage traffic seemed wholly suspended.

    But the crowd itself was so wonderful.  The "rough" element seemed entirely absent: it was evident that the interest of the occasion appealed to another set.  There were a great many men and women of the higher artisan class, who must have snatched their holiday only at some cost.  Everybody looked neat and respectable.   Hour after hour passed, yet all remained cheerful and orderly in their long patience.  Faces were shining with enthusiasm.  Friends talked eagerly together.  Even stranger exchanged confidences.  "A touch of high emotion" was on us all.

"It was a sight for sin, and wrong.
     And slavish cranny to see—
 A sight to make our faith more pure and strong
    In high humanity."

    The romantic nerve which runs in the hardest nature was a-thrill in all of us.

    At last we found a place where we could stand at our ease.  The line of route did not seem to be quite surely ascertained, and some people had doubts whether it comprised this corner, so that there was room for us.

    We stood there for hours, content that, though we might not see very well, we should yet see something.  I remember the drift of our conversation: it was doubtless a fair type of much of the talk going on in that vast crowd.  We talked about the hardy rearing this great man had had in his fisher-father's home in Genoa.  It was not till years afterwards that I saw the portraits of his mother—a noble, severe-looking old dame, doubtless a strict disciplinarian, and true and staunch to the backbone, such a woman as we may readily find among "grave livers" in the Scotland even of to day.

    We spoke of Garibaldi's adventurous youth—his energies ever thrown into the scale against tyranny wherever he found it—of his impetuous wooing of the beautiful Anita de Silva, who, alas! broke her engagement with an earlier lover for the sake of this bold bridegroom.  It is not every day that a Giuseppe Garibaldi comes to woo, and who knows may have been the strange magnetic attraction possessed by this man, who could dare to "drive slower" in he face of a presumably hostile garrison?  Pity poor Anita in her short, sweet, stormy, married life, nursing her little ones, and then surrendering them to her husband's mother, and sharing all his dangers in the blighted revolution of 1849, until that day of flight and misery, when heart and strength failed her, and she lay down and died, and was buried by strangers in a brave which nobody knows, on the shores of the Adriatic.  Pity her the more, because all the tragedy of her romantic love did not save her from the Nemeses of her slighted faith to her first love.  We are told that the bitterest agony of her last hour was the sense that she was leaving behind him for whom she had sacrificed all, and was going alone into the spirit land where her slighted lover, who had died before her, was awaiting her.  Poor Anita!

    We waited and waited.  The great crowd swayed slowly to and fro.  We all wondered at the delay, and conjectured that it was due to the unprepared-for warmth of the British welcome.

    At last we felt we must wait no longer.  It was not that our patience failed.  We had been on our feet for nearly two hours, and we would have remained to the end, however long it might be postponed.  But we knew there were elders at home who would be anxious about us, and sorrowful and disappointed we took our homeward way, leaving behind the great crowd, never growing less, but always more.

    We had gone a little distance, away down back streets, when a mighty roar of acclamations announced that the triumphant moment had come just too late for us!  But not too late for us to have earned for ever that human nature has a passion for hero-worship, and is never so happy as in yielding to a rapture of reverence and love!

    Though we did not see Garibaldi that day, we saw him afterwards, two or three times, driving to and from the houses of his hosts.  There was never the slightest pomp or formality about his entourage.  He sat in his carriage with twos or three English friends about him.  He wore his famous red shirt, with a grey cloak thrown about his shoulders, and a small cap on his head, which, however, was generally raised as he saluted the cheering crowds which attended him, whenever and wherever went out.  In short, those crowds hung about all day on the pavement outside Stafford House, and about the area railings of the General's later host—a Member of Parliament living on the margin of Hyde Park.

(Taken from Good Words, collected edition, 1882)

    The General's costume, as we have described it, was absolutely appropriate to the man, and as fit for direct artistic treatment as was his character for the page of romance and poetry.  His face was characterised by its simplicity and good humour.  He always looked pleased by the enthusiasm about him, but his pleasure was as unself-conscious as if anther had been the object of that enthusiasm.  His complexion was fresh, though his face was lined.  His thin hair was of chestnut, softening into silver.  His grey eyes beamed with kindliness.  His presence had that ineffable charm that always attends strength, which is held at the service of others.  "He is like what my father was," cried one good daughter, who had had cause to adorer her dead parent.  One felt so about Garibaldi: all his life long he had probably reminded everybody of what was dearest and best.  Yet one could easily see the fire and force beneath the geniality.  The upright figure and the noble pose of the head, were the of the spirit within.  "He who bends his back too low," said the General, "may find it hard to straighten it again."  He knew no such temptation!

    His two sons had accompanied him to this county.  They seldom drove with him, but generally in a carriages following his.  The eldest, Menotti, had already been the partner of his father's victories, had been wounded with him at Aspromonte, and had shared his imprisonment.  He was a handsome young man, dark in complexion (it was said he resembled his mother) and somewhat reserved and severe of aspect.  The younger, Ricciotti, who had spent his early life in England, under the kind care of a lady who had taken compassion on his motherless infancy, was of a softer type, with the suggestion of a slightly cynical smile.

    The General's daughter Teresa not with her farther in England, having already (if I remember rightly) become the wife of one of his officers, Signor Canzio.  Those who had seen her at Caprera, her father's island home, spoke of her as a dignified and fine-looking damsel, of a grave and thoughtful mien, which can well be believed, if there was any truth in the story current in society at the time, that Magin, the sculptor, had modelled his famous "Reading Girl" from the face and form of Teresa Garibaldi.

    The home life at Caprera was always of the simplest and most wholesome kind.  The man who had made a nation had never wasted a thought on making his own fortune.  There were no servants, in the ordinary sense, at Caprera.  The "Kingmaker's" family worked with their own hands.  They got through all their farming and domestic operations with the assistant of the "friends" who were always staying with them, for the General's house was never closed to old comrades.  Indeed, his unsuspecting goodness of heart made him an easy prey to the scheming, the indolent, or the odd.  Travellers visiting Caper were often unfavourably struck by the appearance of some of those to whom the great man ungrudgingly dispensed prolonged hospitalities.  When some of Garibaldi's English friends resolved to present him with a yacht that he might be the more free to move about or leave his island home, it was mooted that the cost of the upkeep and manning of the vessel would involve the General in more expanse than he might like.  When this came to the ears of one of his sons, the young man eagerly explained that there need be no fear that score: "We will do all the work among ourselves," said he.

    Among my memories of that time, though rather later than the General's visit to England, is a curious little glimpse of the Caper home, and of "the lives that the women live" in the shadowy backgrounds of history-making.  It was shown in a story told me by Ricciotti Garibaldi, whom I met in the company of his adoptive English mother at a quiet little evening party, given in the pretty Kensington home of a well-known literary man and his better-known wife.  [Ed.―possibly Mr. & Mrs. S. C. Hall (Anne Maria Fielding)]

    In an aside from a general conversation on the many strange things which lie beyond the philosophy of the merely practical "Horatios" of Society, Riciotti Garibaldi said that they had had their own "mystery" at Caprera.  One of his fathers expeditions (he told me which expedition, but my memory will not be quite positive on that point) had begun, as usual, in the utmost secrecy.  A band of trusted men, many of them old personal friends, had gathered on the island, and then under the shadow of night had embarked in little vessel for the mainland.  Among these was a youth whose family had been on the most intimated terms with the General's, a sister of his being Teresa Garibaldi's special friend.  This sister had accompanied her brother to Caprera, and was to remains there as Teresa's companion during the dreadful suspense of the expedition.

    The embarkation took place—the ship sailed.  All was silent and desolate where recently there had been such excitement.  The two girls were left in the deserted house without any other companion than an aged man, who was to serve them in their simple housekeeping.  They got through some dreary hours in the best fashion they could, and were not sorry to retire to rest.  Leaving their old servitor clearing away their evening meal, the two girls went off to their sleeping chamber—a room approached from a corridor, on which opened three or four other dormitories, all empty and echoing now.  The young visitor carrying a light in her hand, advanced a few steps before the General's daughter, who heard her utter a sudden exclamation, not of alarm, and then saw her step hastily forwards and pause.  She explained that her bother must have come back, he was standing at the door of his room, and, as they came in sight, had retired within.  They thought it very strange, but they were quite used to unexpected comings and goings, and to the need for secrecy.  So they made a brief pause, but, when one or two gently-uttered callings of the familiar name failed to bring any answer, a feeling of uneasiness awoke.  They went to the room, found the door still wide open and the apartment empty!  The old attendant was summoned, and a general search made, wholly without result.  Uneasiness now gave place to terror and premonitions of evil.  The young visitor was inconsolable.  She was sure her bother was killed, and that, thinking of her in his last moments, he had appeared to her to break the blow of the sad news.  Teresa Garibaldi and the old Italian refused to take this gloomy view, especially, as the latter sensibly urged, no real danger was yet incurred by anybody, since no fighting have could have been begun, for the whole party must be still safely voyaging through the fine, clear night across the calm waters.

    "But for all that," said Ricotta Garibaldi "the first tidings from the expeditionary party conveyed the news of that young man's death.  In the course of some nautical manipulations he had fallen overboard, and was drowned at the very hour that his sister had sprung forward to greet his wraith in the corridor of the Caprera house."

    The story itself is one of the type most commons among all those legends of the unknown world, which we are apt to whisper of "between the lights."  Its only interest is in the place where it occurred and the the individuals and incidents connected with it.  But think of that lonely house, within sound of the eternal wash of the unresting sea, and of the two girls, their dear ones all gone, waiting, waiting, with nothing more to do but wait, and

        "Bear to think
You're gone— to feel you may not come—
To heard the door latch stir and clink,
        Yet no more you."

    Before men dare to be heroes they must, surely, have heroic women at home!

    General Garibaldi's visit to this country came to a rather abrupt conclusion.  There were perplexities, misgivings.  His was an uncomfortable figure for politicians to find in their narrow and sinuous paths.  He not only told simple truths, and nothing but the truth, but he told all the truth.  He did not understand reserves.  In political life he was as awkward a subject as a plain-spoken school-boy at an afternoon tea, where the polite people cannot help loving him, even while they sigh, "Oh dear, dear, what will he say or do next?"  That is about the worst that can be said of General Garibaldi that his faults were virtues to an extremity.  He was a man of action, not of argument or artifice.

    So he came among us and went away.  But I feel sure that he, and his story, and his character, passed through our stifling social atmosphere like a breeze from the hills blowing down a fœtid street.


From . . . .


12th March, 1898.

WE women are sometimes sorely tempted to fancy that we have gifts and graces which have been smothered and stultified by adverse circumstances.  We bewail that we have never got our chance.  It is possible that men are not exempt from this failing, but there are some reasons why they have less temptation to it.  All biography is full of stories of men who have triumphed over every sort of obstacle and disability, and a man can scarcely realise any disadvantages of his own lot, whatever they may be, without recalling some other man who was strong and brave enough to master similar drawbacks.  Then, again, the difficulties or hindrances to a man's career are generally of an active nature, so that if there be any "go" at all in him, he understands at once that they serve only to test his strength and energy.

    But with women there is a difference, less indeed than it used to be, but still persisting and likely to persist.  First, they have comparatively little biographical guidance.  And such biography of women as there is, deals chiefly with women of high place and fortune, of rare, adventurous career, or of tragic eminence of some sort.  The peculiar difficulties and discouragement which beset most of their sex, seldom come much into such women's lives.  Those women's lives whose history, experience and result would most benefit the majority of their sisters, remain yet for the most part unwritten.

    This is why we wish to have a little talk over Christina Rossetti, the poet who not very long ago passed from us, and whom the verdict of critics ventures to place in comparison not only with Jean Ingelow but with Mrs. Barrett-Browning.  For we think the story of her life is one which may come with peculiar strengthening and comfort to many a disheartened girl and woman.  Yet had she happened to fall even just below the very high level of poetic power to which she rose, or had she chanced to lack the one advantage which her life possessed, it is very likely the world would never have heard a word of her life's history.

    She was born in a prosy, dingy district of Landon, one of the long uniform streets lying to the south-cast of Regent's Park, and then as now, the haunt of foreign refugees of every shade of political opinion.  She herself was the daughter of an Italian refugee, and her mother was the daughter of another Italian, so it was by right only of her mother's English mother that Christina Rossetti could claim to be English.

    Her father, who gained his livelihood as a teacher of Italian and who eventually became professor of that language at King's College, was somewhat of a poet, a great student of Dante, and altogether a clever and interesting man.  Her two brothers, a little older than herself, have both reached celebrity, the elder of the two, the poet-painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti attaining great fame, though he was a man of an unfortunate temperament leading to an unhappy history.

    But from the first, it is evident that the paramount influence in Christina's life was that of her mother, a woman of sweet character, but one who, in modern parlance, "did nothing," save the housekeeping and mothering of a little household whose means were at once narrow and precarious.

    The little girl throve somewhat feebly in her London home.  She did not go to school, gaining all substantial instruction from her mother.  Though we hear that she enjoyed Hone's Every Day Book when she was nine, she does not seem to have been a specially bookish child, not so bookish as the elder sister and the two brothers, who were her only youthful companions.  For visitors, there were only bearded Italian "patriots," in whose tragic histories, however, the well-trained little ones had sense and sympathy enough to take interest—Christina, with characteristic faithfulness, cherishing a relic of one all her life long, so that it stood in the chamber of her death-bed.

    For pleasures, she had games with her brothers and sister, walks in Regent's Park, every corner of which she knew, investing the more picturesque points with romantic characteristics which would have escaped less poetic eyes.  Above all, she had occasional visits to her maternal grandfather at Holmer's End—about thirty miles from London, a distance which in those days involved six hours driving in a stage coach!  There she got her first revelation of the beauty of genuine nature and the first inspiration of her love and sympathy for the undomesticated animal creation.  For animals nearer us, she had already learned a tender affection, for some of her earliest verses, written when she was about sixteen, were "On the Death of a Cat, a friend of mine, aged ten years and a half."  Her happy visits to Holmer End ceased when she was about nine, at which time her grandfather removed to London and became a near neighbour.  The old gentleman was very fond of little Christina, and prophesied great things of her.  To the very end of her life she cherished the memory of these country visits, and spoke of the way in which they had awakened her imagination.  A book, Time Flies, which she wrote fully forty years afterwards, abounds with allusions to those early days, whose slight incidents, indelibly impressed on her sensitive mind, she often wove into exquisite parables.

    Another youthful joy lay in visits to the Zoological Gardens, though there her feeling was that the imprisoned birds should sing "plaintive verses."  It is said that, as a child, she told of a strange dream she had.  "She thought she was in Regent's Park at dawn, while, just as the sun ruse, she seemed to see a wave of yellow light sweep from the trees.  It was a multitude of canaries, thousands of them, all the canaries in London.  They had met and were now going back to captivity."

    A most interesting reminiscence of her childhood we find, when, veiling her own identity, she told

    "I know of a little girl who, not far from half a century ago, having heard that oil calmed troubled waters, suggested to her mother its adoption for such a purpose in case of a sea-storm.

    "Her suggestion fell flat, as from her it deserved to fall.  Yet nowadays here is science working out the babyish hint of ignorance."

    She called herself "the ill-tempered one of the family," there having been, in her earlier life, a decidedly irritable strain in her disposition, partly caused by the infirmity of her health.  "In later life," says her last biographer, Mackenzie Bell, "this was entirely conquered, and this conquest strengthened her character, as moral conquests ever do strengthen the character."

    As Christina advanced into young womanhood the family means grew narrower.  The brothers had not yet had time to make any mark in their respective careers, the father was growing old and feeble, and not only so, but his subject, Italian, was giving place to German as a favourite study.  One of those critical times came when a household is brought to realise that "something must be done."  It was decided that Mrs. Rossetti and Christina should start a little school.  The experiment was first made in the house where the family had lived for some time, near Mornington Crescent.  Fifty years ago this school-keeping was the favourite resource of gentle poverty.  It would be as wrong as it is idle to wish that such avenue of profit was still open, for too often it admitted women who had little to impart beyond their own prejudices and ineptitude.  It must, however, be owned that it had some advantages, since it could offer an opportunity to such women as Christina and her mother.  Neither of them might have been found able to pass modern examinations or to fulfil present-day "requirements," and yet surely their sweet, conscientious natures would be a priceless influence on any young girl with whom they came in contact.

    The London school-keeping, however, did not succeed.  Accordingly Christina and her mother, the invalid father accompanying them, resolved to renew the experiment at Frome, Somersetshire, the brothers and the elder daughter struggling on in London.

    In Frome they stayed for about a year.  It is significant that this was longest period that Christina ever lived out of London.  She was not very happy while she was there; it was scarcely likely that she could be.  Her father's health was failing day by day, so that he died almost immediately their sojourn at Frome came to an end.  The school venture succeeded no better than the first one had done.  Also Christina had not long before had her first love-affair, receiving an offer of marriage which, as happened with another offer later on, she resolutely put aside in the belief that both were accompanied by circumstances which would not have conduced to her highest spiritual life.

    But all these shadows, outer and inner, did not prevent her from keeping her mind and heart open to impressions and influences.  Among those dull, grey days she laid up beautiful thoughts, albeit they may be sometimes tremulous with the misgivings of a self-mistrustful heart.  She tells us that on one of her country walks she found a four-leaved trefoil.  She did not then know of its rarity.  She Says—

    "Perhaps I plucked and so destroyed it: I certainly left it, for most certainly I have it not . . .  Now I would give something to recover that wonder: then, when I might have it for the carrying, I left it.

    "Once missed, one may peer about in vain all the rest of one's days for a second four-leaved trefoil.

    "No one expects to find whole fields of such: even one for once is an extra allowance.

    "Life has, so to say, its four-leaved trefoils for a favoured few: and how many of us overlook once and finally our rare chance!"

    It is pretty to know that one who read this parable sent her a gift of a four-leaved trefoil, and doubtless Christina saw a still sweeter parable in the substitution.

    After the return to London, and the father's death, the little family struggled on again, its path, however steep being at least upward.  Christina did some literary work in the way of of compilation and translating: she also began to publish her poems.  But she was not a voluminous writer, nor was any of her work, prose or poetry, from first to last, of the class which readily commands "a large market."  Consequently, though her name was more or less before the public from 1855 to her death in 1894, and though some of her best poems were produced comparatively early, yet her income from literature never exceeded—and seldom reached—£45 per annum, until 1890!

    Nevertheless, through the success of the brothers and other circumstances, the family affairs grew easier.  In 1861 and 1865, the younger son took his mother and Christina for visits to the continent.  Neither trip exceeded six weeks in duration, nor did either go beyond tracks tolerably beaten even then: the first was to Paris and Normandy, returning by the Channel Islands; in the second, Basle, Como, Milan, Freiburg and the Black Forest were visited.  Christina wrote of those holidays that they were "enjoyable beyond words; a pleasure in one's life never to he forgotten," adding that all she had seen made her "proud of her Italian blood."  It appears that the little party walked into Italy by the Pass of Mount St. Gothard, for she says: "We did not tunnel our way like worms through its dense substance.  We surmounted its crest like eagles.  Or, if you please, not at all like eagles, yet assuredly as like those born monarchs as it consisted with our possibilities."

    If we did not know that "Uphill" (which, short as it is, remains to many minds as her masterpiece) had been written in 1858, we might imagine it to be the outcome of such a pilgrimage.  Mr. Mackenzie Bell aptly says that this "brief sixteen line poem reveals quaintly, with one flash of genius, a whole philosophy of life."  It is not yet so widely known as to make quotation superfluous.


"Does the road wind uphill all the way?
           Yes, to the very end.
 Will the day's journeys take the whole long day?
            From morn to night, my friend.
But is there for the night a resting place
            A bed for when the slow dark hours begin.
 May not the darkness hide it from my face?
            You cannot miss that inn.
Shall I meet other wayfarers at night
            Those who have gone before.
 Then must I knock, or call when just in sight?
            They will not keep you standing at that door.
Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?
            Of labour you shall find the sum.
 Will there be beds for me and all who seek?
            Yes, beds for all who come."

    Much that had made the interests and pleasures of Christina's life till this time, now began to fade out of her daily living.  The brothers got married.  The very success of the circle of brilliant young people who had frequented the Rossetti household during its struggling time, now drew them apart into spheres of their own.  So just as Christina's own genius had obtained some sort of worthy recognition (pecuniarily unprofitable as it remained till long afterwards) her personal life settled down upon the narrowest lines.  She was not very much over thirty when she found herself the youngest member of a household consisting of her ageing mother and two old maiden aunts.  Even her elder sister, Maria Francesca, for whom Christina had a most reverent love, was much withdrawn by duties connected with an Anglican sisterhood to which she had attached herself, her younger sister Christina's self-devotion enabling her to do thus without dereliction of home duty.

    Henceforth, Christina devoted herself to the old ladies, not in any self-conscious spirit of sacrifice, but with joyful loving service.  From that time, with the exceptions of one or two brief visits to a friend in Scotland, her "holidays" were taken in little commonplace seaside or spa resorts not far from London, and always selected solely with a view to the comfort and pleasure of the seniors.  She had no "study" to herself nor made her work of any importance in the household life.  All her daily comings and goings were regulated in the interests of mother and aunts, so that as their age and infirmities increased, she was little seen in society, and could receive nothing in the way of formal visits in her own house—that house in Torrington Square where she lived on till her death.  Indeed in time its public rooms were converted into bedrooms for the bed-ridden sufferers.

    Despite her tender love for her brother, the poet-painter Dante Gabriel, and her interest and pride in his genius, there was much in his history which must have touched her tender spirit to the quick.  She was very true about it, too.  She would not put a gloss on his infirmities,

    There is no doubt that Christina Rossetti's love for her mother was the "grand passion" of her life.  All her books, save two, were dedicated to her.  After the mother's death, which occurred at a great age, and only eight years before Christina's own, they were dedicated to her memory.  Through the revelations of her made by her gifted daughter, we gain a glimpse of a singularly sweet and strong character, not without some of the mental limitations common to her period, but a woman with whom tender caressing speeches were a daily habit, one delicately scrupulous in money matters and always careful how to spare trouble to everybody.

    Such was the life and the surroundings which sufficed Christina Rossetti for well-nigh thirty years.  From everything about her she drew good and satisfaction and delight.  As a young girl she had been of pensive nature, but it was the avowed creed of her later years that "Cheerfulness is a fundamental and essential Christian virtue—the blithe cheerfulness which one can put over one's sadness like a veil—a bright-shining veil."

    She was always ready to learn lessons from the quiet, patient lives about her, those, as she herself expresses it

"Learned in life's sufficient school."

telling us how "a good, unobtrusive soul," whom we now know to have been her aunt Eliza, found comfort in the recollection "that no day lasted longer than twenty-four hours," and setting before herself and others the example of "an exemplary Christian" (her aunt Charlotte) who said "that she was never blamed without perceiving some justice in the charge."  Sometimes such little autobiographic touches (their secret kept till after her death) take very beautiful form, as when she tells us

    "Once in conversation I happened to lay stress on the virtue of resignation, when the friend I spoke to depreciated resignation in comparison with conformity to the Divine will.

    "My spiritual height was my friend's spiritual hillock."

    Her quiet matter-of-fact "changes" sufficed to help her to vivid or beautiful imagery.  The sight of a spider running down the bare wall of a seaside bedroom, apparently frightened of its own huge shadow cast by the gas-jet, was to her a symbol of "an impenitent sinner who, having outlived enjoyment, remains isolated irretrievably with his own horrible, loathsome self."

    The sight of swallows perched on a telegraph wire at Walton-on-Naze could give rise to a parable of subtle beauty, thus

    "There they sat steadily.  After a while, when someone looked again, they were gone.

    "This happened so late in the year as to suggest that the birds had mustered for migration and then had started.

    "The sight was quaint, comfortable-looking, pretty.  The small creatures seemed so fit and so ready to launch out on their pathless journey: contented to wait, contented to start, at peace and fearless.

    "Altogether they formed an apt emblem or souls, willing to willing to depart.

                               *                               *                               *                               *

    "That combination of swallows with telegraph wire sets in vivid contrast before our mental eye the sort of evidence we put confidence in, and the sort of evidence we mistrust.

    "The telegraph conveys messages from man to man.

   "The swallows, by dint of analogy, of suggestion, of parallel experience, if I may call it so, convey messages from the Creator to the human creature.

    "We act instantly, eagerly, on telegrams.  Who would dream of stopping to question their genuineness ?

    "Who, watching us, could suppose that the senders of the telegrams were fallible, and that the only Sender of providential messages is infallible?"

    She had, as we have said before, that love of all created life which did not only care for those which touched her own personality, as "Muff," the pet cat, but was also aware of links between her soul and those creatures which seem remotest from humanity.  She did not think all is waste which does not served man.  She sang

        "And other eyes not ours
         Were made to look on flowers,
 Eyes of small birds and insects small:
         The deep sun-blushing rose
         Round which the prickles close
 Opens her bosom to them all.
         The tiniest living thing
         That soars on feathered wing,
 Or crawls among the long grass out of sight,
         Has just as good a right
 To its appointed portion of delight
         As any king,"

    Of course, such a temperament is open to soothing and consolation which could not touch the coarser natures which have not cultivated sympathy.  She tells us how in her earlier, troubled times—

    "One day long ago, I sat in a certain garden by a certain ornamental water.

    "I sat so long and so quietly that a wild garden creatures or two made its appearance: a water-rat, perhaps, or a water-haunting bird.  Few have been my personal experiences of this sort, and this one gratified me.  I was absorbed that afternoon in anxious thought, yet the slight incident pleased me.

                               *                               *                               *                               *

    "Many (I hope) whom we pity as even wretched, may in reality, as I was at that moment, be conscious of some small secret fount of pleasure: a bubble, perhaps, yet lit by a dancing rainbow.

    "I hope so and I think so: for we and all creatures alike are in God's hands, and God loves us."

    With such thoughts and feelings, vivisection was, of course, abhorrence to her, as much from the thought of those who inflict agony as of the dumb innocent who endure it.  In her quiet way she worked in the cause of mercy and justice in this matter, as also in the effort to secure better legal protection for young people under the age of responsibility.  She was much interested in endeavours to help the poorest girl-workers of London, such as the matchmakers, jam-makers, and rope-makers.  She had a friend actively engaged in this work and used to look for her accounts with great interest, saying

"London makes mirth, but I know God bears
 The sobs in the dark and the dropping of tears."

    She would have liked herself to join in these labours, but felt that her duties kept her at home, for though by that time her dear mother had been taken from—doubtless leaving a void which nothing could have filled so well as active good works—the two aged invalid aunts remained.

    But in neighbourly services she abounded: she was ready to seek work for the workless: and a most touching little relic is an accidentally preserved list of seaside lodgings, with a detailed description of accommodations and charges, drawn up by her to spare trouble to a suffering lady, the wife of a valued friend.  Such books as she had in her little library—which after all was not hers in a way, for she had few books save those which had been bought by her mother—were always eagerly pressed into the service of any friend likely to find them useful.  Mr. Mackenzie Bell says, "Whenever Christina Rossetti wished to confer a favour, her manner of doing so was as if she were about to ask one."  That is the hall-mark of God's ladyhood.

    It is said she was a great judge of character and had strong likes and dislikes.  But she held all this in charity.  None of her parables are more telling than that which narrates how a traveller was received at a certain house with great hospitality and courtesy, so that he felt "he lacked nothing but a welcome," and so went away with a most gloomy impression, only to learn afterwards that the hosts he had thought so chill, had been bearing an irretrievable grief, which they could hide from him, though they could not rejoice with him.  So they had given him all they could.  Her comment is

    "The fret of temper we despise may have its rise in the agony of some great, unflinching, unsuspected self-sacrifice, or in the sustained strain of self-conquest, or in the endurance of unavowed, almost intolerable pain."

    Elsewhere, remarking that even our most cherished opinions are almost inevitably modified by time, she adds, with subtle wisdom—

    "If even time lasts long enough to reverse a verdict of time, how much more eternity?

    "Let us take courage, secondary as we may for the present appear.  Of ourselves likewise, the comparative aspect will fade away, the positive will remain."

    She drained all the little pleasures of life to their last drop, loving to tend her ferns, to watch the sunlight effects in the trees of the London square, to walk in the London square itself.  But let nobody think that this noble contentment is reached without effort.  She was not one to talk of her struggles but we can trace the marks of them, as it were, in her poems.  She had cried—

"If I might only love my God and die!
 But now He bids me love Him and live on."

    She had felt—

"These thorns are sharp, yet I can tread on them;
         This cup is loathsome, yet Christ makes it sweet,
 My face is steadfast towards Jerusalem—
         My heart remembers it.
 Although to-day, I walk in tedious ways,
         To-day His staff is turned into a rod,
 Yet will I wait for Him the appointed days
         And stay upon my God."

    And thus she reached the calm heights where she could sing—

"Chimes that keep time are neither slow nor fast,
     Not many are the numbered sands nor few;
     A time to suffer, and a time to do,
 And then the time is past."

    The end came to her just when her selfless nature would have chosen, for as she had thanked God that she was left to mourn her mother and not her mother to mourn her, so she survived till both the agèd aunts were also removed.  Indeed, all the family circle, save her youngest brother, had gone before her—Dante Gabriel, the unhappy genius, her sister, and both her brothers' wives.

    Christina Rossetti had suffered much from physical ill-health all her life, and her end was full of bodily pain of a peculiar nature which tended to gather clouds of depression about her.  But one of those who best knew and appreciated her, declares that Christina herself would accept even this with joy, could she but have realised how the thought of her passage through these deep waters must strengthen and cheer others called to follow her by the same dark way.  Her beautiful spirit never failed.  To the offertory of the church, in whose services she had found so much comfort, she sent the regular contribution she could no longer give with her own hand.  She liked to be told when visitors called, though she could no longer see them, and she liked them to be detained till she could send down some special, kind little message.  She even instructed her nurse that if a certain valued friend should call soon after her departure, that friend should be at once admitted to look on her dead face.

    In person, Christina Rossetti was very attractive, though an illness from which she suffered twenty years before her death, slightly marred the beauty of her face.  She had a placid, gentle manner.  "In going into her house," says her biographer, "one seemed to have passed into an atmosphere of rest and of peace."

    Speaking, as she spoke, in symbols, we would say that the sweetest fruits often ripen in walled gardens.


(From Good Words)

Do you flatter yourself that nobody thinks you eccentric?  Do not.  If there is not something about you which would seem to others eccentric, then you have no reasonable hope of immortality, for you have no centre of individuality, nothing to show that you are a being and not a mould.

    We call people eccentric whose ways are not our ways.  “She is so eccentric, poor thing!” says the woman of society, speaking of some old friend.  “She never goes anywhere.  She says she does not receive nor pay calls.  There is no use in asking her to take a stall at a bazaar.  She has buried herself alive with that husband of hers and those four rough boys.”  Yet probably the woman who speaks and the woman who is spoken about, both say alike that home should take precedence, and all the “eccentricity” lies in the fact that the one puts her precepts into practice.

    The eccentricities of genius have long been a handy theme for the leisurely comments of people of safely limited talent.  The genius is eccentric, because, having discovered the diet best suited to his constitution, he keeps to it and will not eat pickled salmon, no, not even to please a lord mayor.  The genius is eccentric, because he did not pay the least attention to the Countess of Dulborough, but spent the whole evening talking to that old maid, Miss Good, who is nobody at all.

    The word “eccentric” is commonly applied to any deviation from custom, or from the habits and manners of others, but as they never profess to radiate from any centre, ought it not rather, in mere strictness of speech, to be applied to any deviation from the declared centre of our own existence?

    Is not true eccentricity simply a wish to do an easy and plain thing in a hard and intricate way, or else to do something which had better not be done at all?  To call a merely unusual or novel action eccentric is to confound eccentricity with originality and progress.  The first man to build a house or to carry an umbrella was no eccentric.  Any man who would persist in walking on his hands, or in going to bed in all his day-apparel, would have been always eccentric, and will be ever so.

    On the other hand, what is generally called eccentricity is commonly the discovery of easier and swifter methods, or of novelties, whether in duty or circumstance.  Such a man is said to be so “peculiar“— he made all his friends in such queer ways, — one friendship began in a chance conversation on a steamer, another in a meeting at an inn.  Now, everybody admits that the making of friends is perfectly legitimate and normal; only most prefer the manufacture to be carried on by an elaborate machinery of introductions, calls, cards, etc., through which all our carpets are worn out by the feet of casual comers and goers, before we hear the footfall of one who really brings good tidings of love and fellowship to our own soul.  Or another is called eccentric, because, heartily believing something to be of vital good to his fellow-creatures, he invests all his money in furthering it, and spends himself in recommending it in season and out of season.  His belief itself may be eccentric, or it may not; it may be in the golden rule or in a particular pill, but his honest application of that belief is not eccentric, and never can be.  At that point precisely he is at one with all the great men who have soiled and strained themselves to push the world towards God and good, — and one against the huge army of charlatans who impose burdens which they do not bear.

    What a huge mass of small misery would vanish if people could dare to be eccentric in the sense of doing something which is right for themselves as individuals!  How many a woman suffering under the close pinches of a narrow income, with a constant dispiriting sense of shabbiness, could be set free from her worst torture, if she gave up the use of gloves except when needed for warmth, and put their price into her general treasury!  Is it best to have hands a little brown or a face worried and anxious?  The real beauty of a hand is not spoiled by exposure, or even by hard work, and nothing can be more hideous than the preserved whiteness and plumpness of a coarse hand.  We cannot imagine angels in gloves.  We cannot imagine the old healthy heathen goddesses in gloves.  The hand-clasps which we shall never forget were given by ungloved fingers.

    To hide hands or face from ordinary wear and tear lest they spoil them is as bad as to starve with money in the bank lest we spend it.  Hands and faces were given us to be used and worn out, and wear out they will whether or no.  The true test of beauty is its long resistance and its faculty for wearing well.  Who would put brown holland over Russia leather chairs?  While new, they might be taken for good imitation, but when old they are undoubted.

    Everybody has to be eccentric somehow.  It takes many a queer twist before the infinite variety of human character and circumstances can be reduced to a similarity almost as striking as that in a packet of pins.  It was a humorous and suggestive illustration of this that a book, lately written to advise ladies of limited income how to look like their richer neighbours, hinted that in order to secure the conventional number of silk dresses and parasols, they might even wear coloured under-linen!

    It is often said that when poverty approaches as “an armed man,” the first retrenchment is made on the table, the last in the wardrobe.  This ought not to be.  Is not “the body more than raiment”?  Put the boy into corduroys instead of broadcloth, but spare him a good dinner, and so give him a chance of getting his own broadcloth when his turn comes, instead of wearing out yours till it drops in rags about him in some casual ward.  Any linen shirts and beaver hats you can buy will soon be translated to some other sphere of matter quite beyond his use, while muscle and nerve will remain.  There is nothing sadder than the study of the children of shabby-genteel families.  They retain the well-moulded features and lithe forms of “good blood,” long after the departure of the hot energy or cool staying power which really constituted it.  To borrow a phrase from the stable, “They are good ones to look at, but bad ones to go.”  They are our social slaves — the drug of our labour-market, and capital shrewdly knows that it can extort any terms from them, while it does not insist on fustian jackets or white caps and aprons.

    There may be table-retrenchments for which nobody needs pity.  If the children get porridge instead of tea, rosy apples instead of jellies, they may bless the poverty that suggested the change.  It is the poorer tea and the thinner bread and butter which is to be deprecated.  Even the moderate cost of the carefully hoarded black silk dress, which deceives nobody, if put into the bread account, would relieve all tightness in that quarter for the whole period that it would wear.

    Let a widowed mother make her Sabbath-best of serge, and boldly teach her lads the virtues of holland and corduroy, that she may grudge no quantity of wholesome food, no cost of merry holiday, and she may live to display the rich gifts from her eldest, and to boast that her youngest, though he does not make money, has learned to live so simply that he can easily afford to give his life to the art or science of his ambition, and so to write the name she gave him on the best page of his country’s history.

    To wish to be like other people is as futile as it is fatal.  We cannot be like anybody but ourselves.  The more conventional we are, the more we resemble the jay which borrowed a feather from every other bird.  We do not succeed in our attempted resemblance, we only spoil our own appearance and our own capacities.  Nobody admires such.  They are ridiculous even in the eyes of similarly bedecked jays.  How the people in a theatre laugh as old Polonius proses!  There is wisdom in his words, but it is wisdom as a rose after a snail has slimed it.  He knows right, wrongly.  And yet we may be quite sure there are more of Poloniuses in box, pit, and gallery than there are of vacillating Hamlets, blunt Horatios, or guilty kings and queens.  These belie the prince’s words.  These “galled jades” do not wince.  Their criticism is, “This is a fool:” the moral they deduce appears to be, “Let us be so likewise.”

    Our use of the word “must” should be greatly in our minds when we confess that we do those things which we ought not to do, and leave undone those things which we should do.  We neglect duties that should be done at any cost of will-power; we helplessly accept as duties actions which, done as such, lose all their value.  How many “cannot” dismiss a servant, and open their own hall-door or dust their own shoes, even though their annual expenditure is regularly in excess of their annual income!  Yet they “must” pay calls on people whom they do not like, and they “must” go to parties where two or three hours of black-hole atmosphere and ten minutes’ gobble at unwholesome food leave them with a week’s indigestion and bad temper.  Or on higher levels it may be that we “cannot” keep a certain commandment, but we “must” believe a certain creed.  We cannot serve some fellow-creature, but we must love him!  It is simply a double lie, as transparent as if one should say he cannot cross a gutter, but can easily jump over the moon.

    From some people’s talk one might infer that public opinion was a solid body of resistless force, or at least a policeman with a truncheon.  “One cannot go to two parties in the same dress,” said a lady.  “What prevents you?” asked her companion.  “Simply do it.”

    What is public opinion?  The aggregate of many persons’ opinions, mostly founded on their own ways.  Do you acknowledge even to yourself that their ways and their opinions are better than yours?  You think Mrs. S. a feather-brained creature, in fact a fool, and yet you feel it a terrible judgment if you can imagine that she is making derogatory remarks on the length of your skirt, or even the amount of beef you order from your butcher.

    When you shrink from handing the dishes at your own table, or from the growing necessity that your daughters should do something for their own livelihood, whose image looms terribly before you?  Is it that of the great man whose rare visits fill your house with spiritual light and warmth?  Or that of the good woman whose life you know goes up as daily incense before God?  Or that of the dear friend who knows all about you, even about the skeleton in your cupboard, and whose life has so penetrated your life, that you cannot realize how it was when you did not know him?  No, it is that of the De Vescis opposite — about whom you delight to tell the naughty anecdote that they have a malicious cousin who superscribes his letters to Gentility Square, with the plain name of “Mr. Vesey.”  Or that of the Wildes, over whom there always hangs such a cloud of mystery, so that nobody has ever heard how he made his money, or what was her maiden name.  Or lastly and chiefly, it is that of Lady Pompon, who twice a year kindly renews the card that you keep on the top of your card-basket, and who, could you only know it, goes to her next evening service with a happy consciousness of “acts of humility.”

    We should all have a “proper regard” for public opinion.  Only what public opinion?  Our most conventional acquaintance seeks the favourable verdict of Pluto Place, not of Black Slum.  Let us think of the quality of the approval we gain rather than of its quantity.  Let us dare to do what should be done, and the best will either approve us at once, or presently thank us for teaching them a new lesson.  People’s moral tastes, like their artistic, want educating.  The greater a man is, the fewer within earshot will praise him.  Condemnation is the only title of honour that some people can bestow.  Mazzini’s greatness was truly recognized when he was judged as an assassin by those who would have been proud of a presentation to the besotted Bomba.  They saw that white was the opposite of black: they only mistook the terms.  Columbus was wise when he had his fetters buried with him: he had doubtless learned that in such a world the iron chain is a far more substantial order of merit than the most selectly distributed golden fleece.  Higher yet.  While the Jews made a hero of Barabbas the robber, their only possible tribute to Jesus was to crucify him.

    If there be anything which we secretly long to do, could we only muster courage, then we may be sure that there are many others like us — standing still as sheep till the bell-wether moves onward.  There are some slaves who achieve their own freedom long before the general emancipation act which they help to bring about.  And let us remember the old proverb — it is “the hindmost” whom the devil takes.  It would be a foolish cat who refused to go to the milk-pan till the other cats had licked off the cream.  Yet there are people who can accept nothing till it begins to grow stale.  The originality of some impulses are half their value.  When they cease to be a protest against the untruthfulness and unthinkingness of habit, they are often far on the way to be untruthful or unthinking themselves.  To-day, the most conventional of us are doing what was first done by some very “eccentric” forefather.  Shall we drive the steeds of the car of time, or shall we toil ever behind in the dust which it raises?  Shall we be slaves ourselves, or free liberators of others?

Dare to be strong: the world is very weak,
And longs for burning words which strong souls speak,
    Thirsts for the cup which ye have strength to grasp,
Toils on the road where ye are swift to run,
Does nought itself, but worships what is done.
    Spare it one hand: thine other angels clasp.





(From The Girl's Own Paper, 1881)


DO you know the road that leads from Medmedham to Wygate?  And do you know a row of little cottages which stands aside from the road soon after it leaves our village?  Neither their back windows nor their front look upon the road, to which the house at the end turns only its blind gable.  A little paved footpath runs immediately in front of these houses, and gives access to all of them, and on the other side of this path is a green wicker paling, with one gate in its centre, through which the tenants of the houses can pass into the large common garden.  As a common garden it is large, pretty, and profitable.  Had it been cut up and a portion allotted to each little dwelling it would have been but a set of patches wasted with narrow paths and cumbrous hedges.  As it is, it has a fairly broad walk running round it and another cutting across it, and can boast some very good fruit trees, and each house has its share of kitchen garden, flower-bed, and border.  There may be sometimes a little civil bickering and dissatisfaction over the first of these, but the care of the others is very generally left to the taste and industry of some of the elderly people in the row, guided by the skill of the one or two among the tenants who happens to know something of gardening.

    In all Medmedham there are not quieter, more old-fashioned people than the dwellers in Convent row.  It got its name because it was originally built by one Dame Elinor Parkiss as a sort of refuge for the older among the nuns who lost their home when Henry VIII. sacked the convent, whose ruins may still be seen on the south bank of the River Mede.  And when the nuns were all dead it became a favourite retreat for the aged pensioned servants from the great houses round, and thus it got a repute as a kind of quiet resting-place; and though it is now rented out in quite the ordinary way, there are some people who would never dream of taking up their abode in it — people with late, noisy habits, or large broods of troublesome children.

    Perhaps the houses themselves have something to do with this.  They had been built of solid old-English masonry, and having from time to time been solidly and stoutly repaired they keep much of their original character.  They are full of all sorts of queer dark corners; the rooms are on different levels with one or two steps between them, and the staircases would be fatal to a tipsy man or a neglected child.  But all theses drawbacks are easily borne by sedate old ladies and gentlemen, who "take their time" to all they do, and who cheerfully bear the lack of an oven and of "laid-on" water while they can enjoy a fireplace with a genuine chimney-corner, and a chimney in which they can cure their bacon.

    Still there is always plenty of youth in Convent-row, and one of the prettiest girls of Medmedham lived in the house farthest from the road, and the smallest and quaintest in the Row.  Any summer evening you liked you might see Ruth Venn following her father about the garden, binding up the sunflowers and hollyhocks, and chatting pleasantly to him, her soft laugh mingling sweetly with his low, merry chuckle.  Any Sunday morning you might see her going to church with her father and mother; and on Medmedham market-day she might be often seen in grave consultation with the substantial farmers' wives, for Ruth Venn and her mothers did plain needlework, and their handicraft was much favoured by old-fashioned folk who liked neatness and durability, and perhaps had a lingering prejudice against machines.

    Elsewhere Ruth Venn was not often to be seen.  She was a quiet, shy girl, and her mother had made her so much of a companion that she had not required close friendship with anybody else.  Her home was not a dull one.  Job Venn, her father, had travelled in his day—a young crippled master having taken a great fancy to him when he was the gardener, and insisted that as nobody could help him so well as Job, Job must go with him wherever he went.  Job had been in Flanders, and to France and Spain.  Perhaps his observing powers had been sharpened by trying to get some interest and amusement out of the ways of people whose speech he did not understand.  At any rate, Job came home a shrewd, clever fellow, whose wise sayings where worthy of note by deeper minds than those of his admiring little girl.  And Mrs. Venn was a lively little woman, one of those whom years seem only to brighten and sharpen.

    Ruth was not the only child of the house.  There was her brother Harold, two years younger than herself.  Harold had got his high-sounding name from his father's invalid master, who at his death had left a sum for the lad's education, which had been well laid out, and by which the boy had heartily profited.  A handsome, bright-faced young fellow was Harold Venn, free of speech and popular of manner, quite different from his quiet sister, but not therefore the less dear to her.  All his life he had seemed her especial charge, and nobody can tell the awful difference it made to Ruth, nor how all the sunshine of her life seemed to change to grey mist when, through the interest of some of his godfather's connexions, he got a situation in the foreign telegraph service, and was presently drafted off to an office in Canada.

    Children cannot guess how much their welfare costs at home.  Some parents might have thought that an only boy should be kept there for their own sake; but Job and Mrs. Venn knew that their boy was not fit for hard, manual work, also that, his education having prepared him for something else, it was not fair that he should stand still, filling up the place of another who had not received his advantages.  For such as he there was no real chance in life in Medmedham.

    "Mothers have got to give way," said Mrs. Venn, with the tears standing in her eyes.  "We should not be where we are to-day if your mother had not let you go out into the world, Job.  And she died while you were away too, so I mustn't fret, whatever may happen.  Don't think I'm going to harden my heart, though; but fretting isn't sorrow.  Jesus wept.  Tears in moderation are natural; but you have to twist your face out of shape to grizzle, and then it stiffens so.  The only question we have to put ourselves is, 'Is this for Harold's good?'  It seems so every way."

    "It will find out what mettle is in the lad," put in Job.  "You never know what your children are till you stand 'em down alone out of your sight.  But it has to be done sooner or later.  You don't make cracked china whole by keeping it in cotton wool.  If the crack is there its only chance is to go in two, and then get a honest rivet."

    Harold had been as well-trained as well-taught, and all his impulses and inclinations were kindly, so that if there were any misgivings in his parents' hearts they were too vague to find form in definite warnings.  Perhaps the nearest approach to this was his mother's hint.

    "Take care who your first friends are, Harry.  Better live lonely for a year than go haunted all your days."

    And then the boy was gone.  And Mrs. Venn and Ruth did the women's part in the little tragedy of life: they folded away his old clothes, sorted his school-books, stored his "rubbish" among their treasures, and set their minds to wait for letters and compose answers thereto.

    Harold had gone out on a great line steamer, and he had a gay and pleasant voyage, for the ship was full, and the weather delightful.  He wrote home that he found most agreeable people among his fellow-passengers.  Perhaps there were very few among those with whom he associated who would have noticed how bright and clever he was if they had seen him among the humble surroundings of the old home at Medmedham.  Harold Venn was not a snob.  He was not ashamed of his fine old father and mother, and he would not wilfully have added a pound to a statement of their income, nor a foot to a description of the size of their house.  But people do not ask plain questions about these things, and Harold's innocent allusions to many matters of old-fashioned furniture and strict ways, the school he had attended, and the sort of books he had read, raised a mistaken impression on the minds of his fellow-passengers, too many of whom were of the thriftless and shifting kind who, paying very dear for discomfort and muddle, cannot believe that comfort and order can be got at little cost by those who know how to search for those commodities at the right time and in the right place.  They presumed Harold to be the son of some farmer, old-fashioned, perhaps, but wealthy and well-considered, and so treated him with a courtesy and friendliness which they would not have dreamed of extending to the child of a mere working gardener.  It is often hard to draw the line between vanity and geniality; perhaps no such line existed in Harold Venn's simple nature.  At any rate, he was half-flattered, half-grateful, and wholly pleased.

    Many and merry were the earlier letters which he wrote home; whether or not there were any secret misgivings in the parents' hearts, they openly expressed a satisfaction in which it pained Ruth that she could not heartily join.  She thought the fault lay in her own heart, and hated herself accordingly.  She said to herself that surely she was jealous of these strangers of whom Harold seemed so fond, that surely she was envious of the pleasures and prosperities which seemed crowding round her darling brother.  And yet there was something in her pain which she could not beat down, even on her bended knees.  In those days Ruth sat in the seat of humiliation and felt herself truly a miserable sinner.

    The letters grew fewer and fewer by-and-by; fewer in number and vaguer in tone, with hints of much business and even of failing health.  The father and mother were rather proud of the former, and innocently credulous and anxious concerning the latter.

    And just about that time other trouble and sorrow entered the little household in Convent-row.  To anybody who knew all the secret of those changed letters from abroad it might almost have seemed as if they brought a deadly infection with them which poisoned the poor mother's life blood and palsies the old father's limbs.  For that winter, cheery, active Mrs. Venn suddenly drooped and faded; and Job himself, the hale, vigorous man, had a stroke of paralysis which, making his right leg almost useless, laid him aside from all his gardening and carpentering.  For a long time Ruth's sweet face was not seen among the farmers' wives at Medmedham market, for care of the two sick people and sole charge of the little house took up all her time.  But the tiny savings of happier days soon wasted away.  They were but a tiny store, for the bequest for Harold's education had been sacredly kept to its proper use and expended thereon.  And Ruth presently felt, with a sigh, that at any cost, more money must be earned instead of less.  She must resign herself to leave her parents lonely, while she went to and fro, and they must all submit to less perfect order and cleanliness, and reconcile themselves to the make-shift meals and irregular hours which must be often borne in homes where the housekeeper is also the breadwinner.

    They were all shrewd, sensible people, who could see the bearings of new facts, and did not require to state them to themselves or to each other in words, which make troubles harder to bear, precisely as a heavy weight would be harder to carry if it was wrapped in stinging-nettles.  Mrs. Venn said nothing, nor shed a tear, when for the first time in her married life clean curtains were not put up in the sitting-room on Saturday evening.  And when Job found that a soft grey comforter was prepared for him, to supply the place of the starched collars which his wife and daughter had hitherto kept so dainty, he actually went and looked at himself in the glass, and said "it was a comfortable fashion for an old man, and hid up his poor, scraggy neck."


NOBODY hinted that Harold might be asked if he had anything to spare for his struggling home.  Did anybody feel that such a resource might be more available kept as a dim comfort in the background than fairly put to the test?  It is hard to say.  But it was bitter to have even that dim comfort swept away by a short, convulsively-written letter from the boy himself, pleading sudden unexpected and unexplained difficulties, and entreating them to send him help—he did not say how much, he only said as much as they could.

    It was a sad time.  There were many tears shed that evening.  The parents' pity and alarm concerning their boy were so passionate that even Ruth's simple ears detected a suspicion that excuse and justification were needed.  Their own letters to Harold had been as cheerful as possible.  They had made the best of everything, as people can, without being untrue.  They had owned to illness, and to necessary economising.  But they had hastend to assure him of recovery, without specifying what sort of recovery, and they had never added one of those details which bring a change of circumstances vividly before an absent and unimaginative mind.  Of late Ruth had been the chief letter-writer, and she had felt so much pain breathing between the lines of her epistles that she had dreaded their effect on Harold.  And now!―somehow, on that very night a strange feeling entered Ruth's mind that the worst was not yet, and a strange dread filled her heart, which she afterwards owned was a merciful preparation for what followed.

    Very, very few were the sovereigns left in the little family treasury, but five of them were instantly counted off for the distant son.

    "He is alone in a strange country," sobbed the poor mother.  "We are together in the old place."

    There was no way of sending out the money except by a post-office order.  If Ruth had had cash to spend for a conveyance, or spare time for a long walk, she would have toiled over to Wygate to take out the order at an office where she and her people were unknown.  She knew well enough that the postmaster was bound to keep secret all facts which he learned in his calling, and that, therefore, she need not fear her brother's wants leaking into common gossip; but it was so dreadful that even one pair of disinterested eyes should be allowed to peep into what poor Ruth began to feel would be soon the family-skeleton cupboard.

    It is hard for most of us to believe that others cannot realise the full significance of facts in our own history, and we are often wounded by words which might not be so frankly spoken if their point was understood.

    Ruth walked all the way up the High street and back again before she ventured into the post-office, and when she made her modest request, the old postmaster, who had known her from her childhood, and had always praised the handwriting on the outside of her letters, said, with a laugh—

    "Halloo, Miss Venn, this money is travelling the wrong way."

    It stabbed Ruth to the heart.  In reality the old man, never dreaming how poor the Venns were, only thought, "I should not wonder if that sharp young monkey Harry Venn is beginning to buy lots in the backwoods, and his sister is putting a bit of her money alongside of his."

    There came one hasty line—literally, only one — acknowledging that five pounds, and then the Canadian letters stopped.

    That seemed a terrible summer.  How is it that in one way or another the weather always does seem terrible when our hearts are heavy?  How sultry it was; how the thick white mist crept along over the shallow pools and parched meadows round Medmedham.  It seemed always daytime—garish, glaring day, making tired heads ache and weeping eyes burn.  And yet the nights were too long for lying awake, or for falling asleep and having terrible dreams.

    And yet Ruth was aware of a feeling of respite every morning, when the postman passed without a letter.  Not so the poor mother.  For her, her lost boy had become a child again—a child who could not take care of itself, and was in allsorts of perils and dangers.  She only wanted to hear of him — to know that he was safe.

    Tidings came at last.  And they were what might have been expected.  Harold Venn was in prison.  He had kept silence through his frantic struggle to extricate himself from the mesh in which was caught, and through the suspense of his trial.  Now he wrote to tell them the truth — he could scarcely say to set their minds at ease — and to bid them farewell.  He would do the best he could for himself.  If he ever again became a credit to them they should hear from him.  His sentence would end early in the following spring, and then he would go West and get some sort of work somewhere.

    The father took the blow very quietly, expressing his emotion only in the sudden palsied shaking of his head and the rapid bending of his stiff old back.  The mother cried out, with the passionate vehemence of a stormy nature which never before through a long lifetime had been stirred to its depth.  It was "her boy — her boy." The terror of utterly losing him overcame the present shame and pain for his sin.

    His was the old story of the simple youth led out of his depth by companions whose means and manners of life were not suited to his own.  Those who rise from their own class, especially when they do so by no more solid advantages than personal appearance and vivacity of manner, are in great danger of rising only to the dregs of the class above them.  It was so with Harry Venn, and he had run the familiar course of carelessness, extravagance, debt, difficulty, gambling, embezzlement, and detection.

    Ruth's mind, like her mother's, went on to the future, but, being less blinded by intensity of pain, it could see more clearly.  She did not altogether fear that they should lose sight of Harry.  She knew her brother, and felt sure that such heroic resolution of disappearance would be likely to go the way of his other resolutions.  But she realised clearly that a possible turning-point in his life, the crisis of his welfare and of the happiness of her parents' declining years, lay at the moment when he should return through the prison gates to the outer world.  Even in his day of unsullied innocence and untarnished hope he had failed, and now the ill-savour of his blighted character would attract all noxious things to it.  She knew her brother's nature better than did anybody else, and loved him so much that even in that knowledge she did not despise him.

    One thing stood clear before her mind.  If the good in Harold was to have another chance, then somebody must stand at his side to uphold and encourage him when he left his prison.

    There was nobody who could so stand but herself.

    And how was she to travel thousands of miles without money, or to leave a home of which she was now the main support?  These were the thoughts that were for ever seething in Ruth Venn's mind as she lay awake on those autumn evenings when the freshening breeze blew down the first leaves from the elms of Convent-row, or as she sat sewing beside her mother, who thought her silence cold and severe, and yearned towards her lost boy with an increasing increasing vehemence that the more sharply pierced her daughter's heart.

    A plan shaped itself at last in Ruth's mind, as plans do generally shape themselves where love and pity and earnestness mingle together.  She had heard of men who "worked their way out to the Colonies."  She must work out hers.  Stewardesses must be required, and nurses for ladies and children.  She must get a place as such.

    But before this plan had occurred to her, precious time had been lost.  There was no longer leisure for advertisements, even had there been means.  Her resolution must be put to the test at once by one bold stroke.  She must go to the nearest seaport town and struggle for such employment on the spot.

    With a beating heart, she unfolded her scheme to her father and mother.  They both cried out against it at first, saying they had better keep what they had got.  But it was the sea and the sickness and the sore loneliness only which they feared for Ruth.  They could trust their girl as they now felt they had never trusted their boy.  Where she went God would go with her.  And as Ruth argued and pleaded, they slowly yielded, as old and failing people will yield to the young on whom they have learned to rely.

    Job Venn had one trustworthy acquaintance in the seaport, an old woman who kept a little haberdasher's shop, and to her Ruth proposed to go in the first instance.  They had not heard of her for two or three years, but she would be sure to be found in the same place.

    Very, very small was the sum which would remain for the maintenance of the old couple when their daughter's labour was withdrawn.  But she said she would "surely be able to send them something soon," and they counted the few poor pounds, and said they "would do," thinking that when they came to an end a few more weeks' sustenance could be eked out by the sale of the few humble household treasures they had gathered about them.  All would be well lost if only Harry was saved.  Poor, independent-spirited Mrs. Venn now felt that she could die happy in the workhouse if she might hear that her boy was doing well in the far country.

    Ruth scarcely touched the little hoard of cash.  For before she opened her plan to her father and mother, she had made a tiny purse for herself.  She had walked over to Wygate, and sold the poor little possessions she could call her own — a handsome Scotch pebble brooch which her father had given her in their prosperous days — a gold pencil-case which had been a sort of family heirloom — the books which she had won as prizes at school.  This was her all, and its proceeds would only serve to take her to the seaport, and maintain her there for a day or two.  If she failed, then she would have to walk home, begging her way, like the poor tramper women she had often helped.  But Ruth Venn was determined not to fail.

"She kissed her mother at the gate, and parted from her father quite brightly."

    She started off on a grey October morning.  She kissed her mother at the gate, and parted from her father quite brightly.  And when she was really off, quite alone, she felt as if she could have lain down beneath the withering hedgerow, and died there.  But she did not even cry.  Her fellow-travellers an the later part of her journey thought her a cheerful, contented girl; and when they heard that she was seeking a passage to Canada, they guessed she had a sweetheart there, and was going out to be married.  And Ruth only smiled and denied nothing.

    Her troubles began the moment she reached the seaport.  She found the little haberdashery shop shut up, and learned, on inquiry that her father's old friend had been dead for about three months.

    She got such cheap lodgement as her scanty purse could procure.  It was decent enough to be sure, but to Ruth's daintily trained village senses, it was coarse, unclean, and uncomely.  Alas, only two or three months later she had learned to smile at the discomfort she felt in that rough abode.

    And then she set about seeking the work she wanted.  She scarcely knew how to seek it, and so exposed herself to many useless ordeals.  The loud-voiced captains scoffed at the idea of a stewardess who had never been to sea, and the sailors paid rude compliments and cut broad jokes which made her heart beat and her cheeks burn.  Yet perhaps she fared better among them than she might among any other class, for the rough, strong men knew the hardships of the life she was seeking, and pitied the gentle-toned fair-faced girl who, perhaps, reminded each one of them of another "lass" left safe in some sweet inland village.


N those bitter days Ruth Venn first learned what it is to rise hungry from one's breakfast, and put aside half of a dry roll for one's supper.  But she learned also, that while there is a part of one's courage and spirit which ebbs when one is ill-fed and ill-lodged, there is another part which quietly settles down on the ancient rock, "Though God slay me, yet will I trust in Him."  And perhaps the one lesson was worth learning even at the price of the other.

    At last, when only pence remained in her purse, a white-haired old steward, who had stood listening and watching her as she timidly answered a busy captain's disparaging questions, followed her up the companion ladder when the interview was over, and hinted that he knew of something which might suit her, if her requirements in the way of wage were as humble as her qualifications seemed to be.  He knew the master of a small sailing vessel, just starting for Quebec, who wanted a young woman to look after a little girl during the voyage.  She was his brother's child, and both her parents were dead, the mother having recently died in England, and the master wanted to take his niece back to his own folk in the Canadian township.  He was but poor himself, and could not afford to give much, but what he could give was safe, would be given at once, "down on the nail," said the old steward, adding that he was a good God-fearing man, with whom he would trust a daughter of his own.

    Ruth's heart leaped for joy.  Not only had her plan succeeded, but she would be able to send her parents something before she went, which, beside materially aiding them, would cheer them with the assurance of her prosperity.  She only felt more happy after she had seen the honest-looking grey-eyed captain and his pretty little niece.  To her new master she he told her simple story without disguising one fact.  And after he had heard it he insisted on adding another pound to the wage they had agreed between them.

    When Ruth had despatched her last letter to Convent-row, and saw the seaport fading from sight as the ship moved out to sea, she felt as if she had turned over the darkest page of her life.

    She did not mind the sea-sickness which prostrated her and her little charge for the first few days.  The crew were kind and cheery to them both, and the mere rest was grateful to Ruth's worn nerve and weary limbs.  Nor did she fear much when the great storms came and the little ship seemed to toss here and there, like a feather in the wind.  For herself she did not fear at all, but she could not help thinking of her father and mother at home, and of Harold in his dismal prison, and of her own incomplete task.  But she presently remembered that if God took her from her work, then she left it in His hands.

    Lengthened horrors where to follow.  The ship had suffered severely, and had got far out of her track.  A dead rat was discovered in the water-tank, poisoning all the store of water, and putting them on the short allowance they could get from an apparatus which made sea-water fit for drinking, and which machine itself had suffered severely during the storm.  Nor had the decaying carcase been discovered soon enough to save the captain, who was a great water drinker, from catching a fever which quite incapacitated him for his duties and threatened to endanger his life.  His little niece drooped and faded with fear and privation.  Of the two mates, had never made that voyage before, and the other soon showed himself a drunkard, quarrelsome and tyrannical in his cups, bringing out all that was evil and dangerous in the men under his rule.  Ruth had to hear violent words and awful threats, and even to see fierce blows.  It was true nobody hastened to show any unkindness to her and the child — unless, indeed, it was the drunken mate himself, who looked upon them as troublesome consumers of little luxuries he would have liked for himself.  But Ruth began to see the evil that was in the men, and to discover the vile and brutal past which lay in the history of many of them.  More than once she wondered if she could have undertaken this task had she foreseen all it involved; but her brave heart only answered that if not, then she thanked God that we never know the dangers which beset our duties, till our duties are half done, and the dangers are passing.

    Still, for all her courage, she felt the dreadful strain of a constant nameless terror — a constants watching for what would happen, when whatever could happen was almost sure to be for the worse.  And still the voyage seemed to draw no nearer to its end.  And the captain tossed in delirium, and still his little niece's cheek wore paler and thinner day by day.

    Once ― it was the first time for many weeks ― they came for a moment within the ken of humanity.  They passed another ship which, like their own, had got out of her track.  Her captain and their mate hailed each other through their trumpets, but she was a faster sailer than their vessel, and they were soon left behind again.

    The weather was bitterly cold by this time, and Ruth was not very well provided against its inclemency.  The captain grew rather better.  It was true he remained as helpless as an infant, and could not have aided Ruth in any real danger.  But the fever and delirium had passed, and he could reassure and soothe her and his niece, as a good man always can.  They sighted land at last.  But it was a gloomy and terrible land, not less forbidding than the waste of waters which had surrounded rounded them so long.  Ruth had never even heard its name.  The captain called it the Island of Anticosti [Ed.―
situatedat the mouth of the St. Lawrence River].  It showed no sign of human habitation — nothing but a stretch of waving shore, here and there broken into low ravines, all dark with primeval pine and fir.  The captains said there was no life upon it, except bears and wolves, and two French Canadians, set to keep a sort of watch-tower on its coast.

    And while the ship was passing this inhospitable shore another terrible storm arose.  It was fiercer and wilder than any which had befallen them yet — much fiercer and wilder than those which had harassed them since the captain's illness.  And whether the previous ones had partly disabled the ship or whether the mate's management was unskilful, this storm proved too much for the poor "Sea Gull," and she was driven sideways and run aground, and lay a helpless mass of hull and and splinters on the frowning shore of Anticosta.  All got safely ashore except one sailor, whose body was washed up by the waves the next morning.  For the night, they sheltered themselves as best they could, burning the brushwood to make heat for themselves and to scare any wild things which might be prowling about.  Winter had now quite set in, and everywhere was white with snow.  As soon it was daybreak the whole party set off to the watch-tower.  The captain was still unable to walk, and was carried, turn about, by two of the men.  The ship's cook and carpenter took charge of the little girl.  And everybody, even the drunken mate, now cowed and penitent, was ready with a helping hand for poor Ruth.  She needed it sorely.  Her feet were cut and frozen, and every limb was numb.  They had to walk many miles before they reached the lighthouse, and then it could offer few of the solaces they all required so terribly.  True, there were safe shelter and fire, and a little tea and food, but no beds, no bath, no fit nourishment.  And when, on the second day after her arrival, Ruth ventured to look beyond the narrow wall, and noticed some snow-covered mounds of earth scattered here and there, she was not surprised to learn that these were the graves of travellers who had been shipwrecked there before them—feeble women or maimed sailors who had succumbed to the hardships of a shelter scarcely less cruel than the devouring sea itself.

    Ruth feared for the captain, the one human reliance she had.  But it was not the captain who died.  It was his little niece.  Among the general haggardness and misery the rapidity of her fading had not shown as it would otherwise, and the sudden end startled everybody.  She woke one morning, smiled in Ruth's face, called her "Mother," and prattled of sunshine and flowers which nobody else could see.  Half-an-hour lather she was dead, and when Ruth saw the little still countenance, and knew she would never again hear the childish treble, she realised a new loneliness, and understood how much help we get from those for whom we have to care, and how we are supported by that which leans on us.

    It was many days before they were released from their solitary retreat by a vessel which brought stores to the French watchmen.  And during those days, with the little grave before their eyes, and danger and hardship of all kinds surrounding them on every hand, Ruth and the young captain learned to value each other.  The dark background served to set forth the courage, and patience, and gentleness of both their characters.  And though it may seem at first as if life had been cheated of its holiday by this grave and solemn courtship with its stern surroundings, yet might such easily serve as a rock whereon to found the sunny bowers of household bliss.

    Very light and easy seemed the privations of the short remainder of their journey, and soon after the New Year came in, they arrived at Quebec.  Ruth walked up the steep streets alike one in a dream, and after the cramped cabins with their recent wreckage and disorder, the strange lodging, poor enough, but neat and clean, seemed uncannily like her own old chamber in Convent Row.  Womanlike, perhaps, she walked to the little looking-glass to gaze upon her own countenance for the first time after she had won a good man's love.  She started.  For a moment it seemed as if it was her mother's face, as she could remember it in her infancy, which looked back upon her.  The girlish bloom and shyness had alike vanished.  It was a resolute face now, worn lines and steadfast eyes, and there were a few silver steaks among the golden hair.

    But Ruth Venn did not forget that her brother and her brother's welfare had been the object of her journey, and that unless this was accomplished it would lie a failures.  This was her own work, which she must do by herself — the burden which she must bear alone, though she would not reject any friendly grasp which should strengthen her for the bearing.  She settled down in a lonely lodging hard by the prison, and counted herself happy in finding work at which, with hard labour, she could earn her daily bread.

    Captain Rogers presently started off on a return voyage to England.  He was to go up to Medmedham and see her parents and tell all the news.  Ruth managed to scrape together a trifle to send by his hand — the merest trifle, which would not have been worth sending save by such a friendly bearer.  And then he was gone, and she was quite alone — an unnoticed unit on the great strange Continent.

    She often wondered afterwards how she lived through those days.  They only who have experienced times of inactive and helpless waiting after seasons of wild excitement can know what she bore.  Her work did not help her.  The regular hours of silent stitching were almost an aggravation, though she felt that the constant strain necessary to make both ends meet was a great blessing.  She took long walks by plain and shore; she watched the magical transformation of the Canadian spring, she found out little children and garrulous old folks for whom she could do little services.  But all her life afterwards it might have been noticed that Ruth Venn always took up the suffering and sorrowful at the point where most consolers let them drop.

    "The storm uses up our strength and the after-calm demands it," she sometimes said, years after, when, as a sailor's wife, many of her figures of speech were borrowed from a seafaring life.

    She met Harold at his prison gate, and the two went off together to one of the townships near Montreal, where Captain Rogers had some kinsfolk who, on his recommendation, were willing to be kind to the strangers without asking too many questions.  Homely work was found for Harold, wood-cutting, apple-gathering, and such like wholesome occupations, which led him among simple, honest men who did not stir the old vanities nor graze the old wound.  Tenderly and faithfully did the sister watch over the brother.  But there was many a time when her influence would have failed and her ministrations have been thrust aside, but for the fact which touched all that was good in the lad, and which his evil genius could neither ignore nor deny — that for his sake she had taken her life in her hand, and dared the worst dangers which women dread.

    While her story is being thus told Ruth Venn is seated by her own hearth in a pleasant timbered house in Sherbrooke, Canada.  She is Ruth Rogers now, and her life is free from all anxieties and sorrows, except those of a woman who never sees half enough of a dear husband whose heart dwells at home while he roams the stormy seas.  She is not lonely in her little home, for her father and mother have ventured out to the new country long, long ago.  Old Job rather liked to renew the adventures of his youth, and his wife yearned for her children, and felt that it was better for all that she should go to them than that they should return to her.

    And Harold is doing well.  And when one sees how the giddy prodigal, who might so easily have become the branded outcast, is grown into the steady thriving man, with a kind word and a helping hand for everybody, though with a curious gravity which seems always struggling with the natural gaiety of his disposition, one feels what miracles may be wrought in this world, and how very near the Kingdom of God might he, if there was more of that force of love which beareth all things, hopeth all things, endure all things.


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