The Celt and Saxon, Complete
Part 3 out of 4
had tied her to the stake and enveloped her in flames for no accountable
reason, causing her to suffer cruelly and feel humiliated. She knew the
pangs of it in public, and in private as well. And she had not conquered
it yet. She was angered to find herself such a merely physical victim of
the rushing blood: which condition of her senses did not immediately
restore her natural colour.
'They mean nobly,' she said, to fill an extending gap in the conversation
under a blush; and conscious of an ultra-swollen phrase, she snatched at
it nervously to correct it: 'They are becoming alive to the necessity for
action.' But she was talking to a soldier! 'I mean, their heads are
opening.' It sounded ludicrous. 'They are educating themselves
differently.' Were they? 'They wish to take their part in the work of
the world.' That was nearer the proper tone, though it had a ring of
claptrap rhetoric hateful to her: she had read it and shrunk from it in
reports of otherwise laudable meetings.
'Well, spirited, yes. I think they are. I believe they are. One has
need to hope so.'
Philip offered a polite affirmative, evidently formal.
Not a sign had he shown of noticing her state of scarlet. His grave
liquid eyes were unalterable. She might have been grateful, but the
reflection that she had made a step to unlock the antechamber of her
dearest deepest matters to an ordinary military officer, whose notions of
women were probably those of his professional brethren, impelled her to
transfer his polished decorousness to the burden of his masculine
antagonism-plainly visible. She brought the dialogue to a close.
Colonel Adister sidled an eye at a three-quarter view of her face.
'I fancy you're feeling the heat of the room,' he said.
Jane acknowledged a sensibility to some degree of warmth.
The colonel was her devoted squire on the instant for any practical
service. His appeal to his aunt concerning one of the windows was
answered by her appeal to Jane's countenance for a disposition to rise
and leave the gentlemen. Captain Con, holding the door for the passage
of his wife and her train of ladies, received the injunction:
'Ten,' from her, and remarked: 'Minutes,' as he shut it. The shortness
of the period of grace proposed dejection to him on the one hand, and on
the other a stimulated activity to squeeze it for its juices without any
delay. Winding past Dr. Forbery to the vacated seat of the hostess he
'It's I, is it!' cried the doctor. Was it ever he that endangered
the peace and placability of social gatherings! He sat down prepared
rather for a bout with Captain Con than with their common opponents,
notwithstanding that he had accurately read the mock thunder of his
Battles have been won and the streams of History diverted to new channels
in the space of ten minutes. Ladies have been won, a fresh posterity
founded, and grand financial schemes devised, revolts arranged, a yoke
shaken off, in less of mortal time. Excepting an inspired Epic song and
an original Theory of the Heavens, almost anything noteworthy may be
accomplished while old Father Scythe is taking a trot round a courtyard;
and those reservations should allow the splendid conception to pass for
the performance, when we bring to mind that the conception is the
essential part of it, as a bard poorly known to fame was constantly
urging. Captain Con had blown his Epic bubbles, not to speak of his
projected tuneful narrative of the adventures of the great Cuchullin, and
his Preaching of St. Patrick, and other national triumphs. He could own,
however, that the world had a right to the inspection of the Epic books
before it awarded him his crown. The celestial Theory likewise would
have to be worked out to the last figure by the illustrious astronomers
to whom he modestly ranked himself second as a benefactor of his kind,
revering him. So that, whatever we may think in our own hearts, Epic and
Theory have to remain the exception. Battles indeed have been fought, but
when you survey the field in preparation for them you are summoned to
observe the preluding courtesies of civilised warfare in a manner
becoming a chivalrous gentleman. It never was the merely flinging of
your leg across a frontier, not even with the abrupt Napoleon. You have
besides to drill your men; and you have often to rouse your foe with a
ringing slap, if he's a sleepy one or shamming sleepiness. As here, for
example: and that of itself devours more minutes than ten. Rockney and
Mattock could be roused; but these English, slow to kindle, can't subside
in a twinkling; they are for preaching on when they have once begun;
betray the past engagement, and the ladies are chilled, and your wife
puts you the pungent question: 'Did you avoid politics, Con?' in the
awful solitude of domestic life after a party. Now, if only there had
been freedom of discourse during the dinner hour, the ten disembarrassed
minutes allotted to close it would have afforded time sufficient for
hearty finishing blows and a soothing word or so to dear old innocent Mr.
Rumford, and perhaps a kindly clap of the shoulder to John Mattock, no
bad fellow at bottom. Rockney too was no bad fellow in his way. He
wanted no more than a beating and a thrashing. He was a journalist, a
hard-headed rascal, none of your good old-fashioned order of regimental
scribes who take their cue from their colonel, and march this way and
that, right about face, with as little impediment of principles to hamper
their twists and turns as the straw he tosses aloft at midnight to spy
the drift of the wind to-morrow. Quite the contrary; Rockney was his
own colonel; he pretended to think independently, and tried to be the
statesman of a leading article, and showed his intention to stem the
current of liberty, and was entirely deficient in sympathy with the
oppressed, a fanatical advocate of force; he was an inveterate Saxon,
good-hearted and in great need of a drubbing. Certain lines Rockney had
written of late about Irish affairs recurred to Captain Con, and the
political fires leaped in him; he sparkled and said: 'Let me beg you to
pass the claret over to Mr. Rockney, Mr. Rumford; I warrant it for the
circulating medium of amity, if he'll try it.'
"Tis the Comet Margaux,' said Dr. Forbery, topping anything Rockney might
have had to say, and anything would have served. The latter clasped the
decanter, poured and drank in silence.
''Tis the doctor's antidote, and best for being antedated,' Captain Con
rapped his friend's knuckles.
'As long as you're contented with not dating in double numbers,' retorted
the doctor, absolutely scattering the precious minutes to the winds, for
he hated a provocation.
'There's a golden mean, is there!'
'There is; there's a way between magnums of good wine and gout, and it's
generally discovered too late.'
'At the physician's door, then! where the golden mean is generally
discovered to be his fee. I've heard of poor souls packed off by him
without an obolus to cross the ferry. Stripped they were in all
'You remind me of a fellow in Dublin who called on me for medical advice,
and found he'd forgotten his purse. He offered to execute a deed to
bequeath me his body, naked and not ashamed.'
'You'd a right to cut him up at once, Forbery. Any Jury 'd have
pronounced him guilty of giving up the ghost before he called.'
'I let him go, body and all. I never saw him again.'
'The fellow was not a lunatic. As for your golden mean, there's a
saying: Prevention is better than cure: and another that caps it: Drink
deep or taste not.'
'That's the Pierian Spring.'
'And what is the wine on my table, sir?'
'Exhaustless if your verses come of it.'
'And pure, you may say of the verses and the fount.'
'And neither heady nor over-composed; with a blush like Diana confessing
her love for the young shepherd: it's one of your own comparisons.'
'Oh!' Con could have roared his own comparisons out of hearing. He was
angry with Forbery for his obstructive dulness and would not taste the
sneaking compliment. What could Forbery mean by paying compliments and
spoiling a game! The ten minutes were dancing away like harmless wood-
nymphs when the Satyr slumbers. His eyes ranged over his guests
despondently, and fixed in desperation on Mr. Rumford, whom his
magnanimous nature would have spared but for the sharp necessity to
The wine in Rumford at any rate let loose his original nature, if it
failed to unlock the animal in these other unexcitable Saxons.
'By the way, now I think of it, Mr. Rumford, the interpretation of your
Royal Standard, which perplexes you so much, strikes me as easy if you
'll examine the powerfully different colours of the two beasts in it.'
Mr. Rumford protested that he had abandoned his inquiry: it was a piece
of foolishness: he had no feeling in it whatever, none.
The man was a perfect snail's horn for coyness.
The circumstances did not permit of his being suffered to slip away: and
his complexion showed that he might already be classed among the roast.
'Your Lion:--Mr. Rumford, you should know, is discomposed, as a
thoughtful patriot, by the inexplicable presence of the Unicorn in the
Royal Standard, and would be glad to account for his one horn and the
sickly appearance of the beast. I'm prepared to say he's there to
represent the fair one half of the population.
Your Lion, my dear sir, may have nothing in his head, but his tawniness
tells us he imbibes good sound stuff, worthy of the reputation of a noble
brewery. Whereas your, Unicorn, true to the character of the numberless
hosts he stands for, is manifestly a consumer of doctor's drugs. And
there you have the symbolism of your country. Right or left of the
shield, I forget which, and it is of no importance to the point--you have
Grandgosier or Great Turk in all his majesty, mane and tail; and on the
other hand, you behold, as the showman says, Dyspepsia. And the pair are
intended to indicate that you may see yourselves complete by looking at
them separately; and so your Royal Standard is your national mirror; and
when you gaze on it fondly you're playing the part of a certain Mr.
Narcissus, who got liker to the Lion than to the Unicorn in the act. Now
will that satisfy you?'
'Quite as you please, quite as you please,' Mr. Rumford replied.
'One loves the banner of one's country--that is all.' He rubbed his
hands. 'I for one am proud of it.'
'Far be it from me to blame you, my dear sir. Or there's the alternative
of taking him to stand for your sole great festival holiday, and
worshipping him as the personification of your Derbyshire race.'
A glittering look was in Captain Con's eye to catch Rockney if he would
but rise to it.
That doughty Saxon had been half listening, half chatting to Mr. Mattock,
and wore on his drawn eyelids and slightly drawn upper lip a look of
lambent pugnacity awake to the challenge, indifferent to the antagonist,
and disdainful of the occasion.
'We have too little of your enthusiasm for the flag,' Philip said to Mr.
Rumford to soothe him, in a form of apology for his relative.
'Surely no! not in England?' said Mr. Rumford, tempted to open his heart,
for he could be a bellicose gentleman by deputy of the flag. He
recollected that the speaker was a cousin of Captain Con's, and withdrew
into his wound for safety. 'Here and there, perhaps; not when we are
roused; we want rousing, we greatly prefer to live at peace with the
world, if the world will let us.'
'Not at any price?' Philip fancied his tone too quakerly.
'Indeed I am not one of that party!' said Mr. Rumford, beginning to glow;
but he feared a snare, and his wound drew him in again.
'When are you ever at peace!' quoth his host, shocked by the
inconsiderate punctuality of Mrs. Adister O'Donnell's household, for here
was the coffee coming round, and Mattock and Rockney escaping without a
scratch. 'There's hardly a day in the year when your scarlet mercenaries
are not popping at niggers.'
Rockney had the flick on the cheek to his manhood now, it might be hoped.
'Our what?' asked Mr. Rumford, honestly unable to digest the opprobrious
'Paid soldiery, hirelings, executioners, whom you call volunteers, by a
charming euphemism, and send abroad to do the work of war while you
propound the doctrines of peace at home.'
Rockney's forehead was exquisitely eruptive, red and swelling. Mattock
lurched on his chair. The wine was in them, and the captain commended
the spiriting of it, as Prospero his Ariel.
Who should intervene at this instant but the wretched Philip, pricked on
the point of honour as a soldier! Are we inevitably to be thwarted by
our own people?
'I suppose we all work for pay,' said he. 'It seems to me a cry of the
streets to call us by hard names. The question is what we fight for.'
He spoke with a witless moderation that was most irritating, considering
the latest news from the old country.
'You fight to subjugate, to enslave,' said Con, 'that's what you're
doing, and at the same time your journals are venting their fine irony
at the Austrians and the Russians and the Prussians for tearing Poland to
strips with their bloody beaks.'
'We obey our orders, and leave you to settle the political business,'
Forbery declined the fray. Patrick was eagerly watchful and dumb.
Rockney finished his coffee with a rap of the cup in the saucer, an
appeal for the close of the sitting; and as Dr. Forbery responded to it
by pushing back his chair, he did likewise, and the other made a
The disappointed hero of a fight unfought had to give the signal for
rising. Double the number of the ten minutes had elapsed. He sprang up,
hearing Rockney say: 'Captain Con O'Donnell is a politician or nothing,'
and as he was the most placable of men concerning his personality, he
took it lightly, with half a groan that it had not come earlier, and
said, 'He thinks and he feels, poor fellow!'
All hope of a general action was over.
'That shall pass for the epitaph of the living,' said Rockney.
It was too late to catch at a trifle to strain it to a tussle. Con was
obliged to subjoin: 'Inscribe it on the dungeon-door of tyranny.' But the
note was peaceful.
He expressed a wish that the fog had cleared for him to see the stars of
heaven before he went to bed, informing Mr. Mattock that a long look in
among them was often his prayer at night, and winter a holy season to
him, for the reason of its showing them bigger and brighter.
'I can tell my wife with a conscience we've had a quiet evening, and
you're a witness to it,' he said to Patrick. That consolation remained.
'You know the secret of your happiness,' Patrick answered.
'Know you one of the secrets of a young man's fortune in life, and give
us a thrilling song at the piano, my son,' said Con: 'though we don't
happen to have much choice of virgins for ye to-night. Irish or French.
Irish are popular. They don't mind having us musically. And if we'd go
on joking to the end we should content them, if only by justifying their
opinion that we're born buffoons.'
His happy conscience enabled him to court his wife with assiduity and
winsomeness, and the ladies were once more elated by seeing how
chivalrously lover-like an Irish gentleman can be after years of wedlock.
Patrick was asked to sing. Miss Mattock accompanied him at the piano.
Then he took her place on the music-stool, and she sang, and with an
electrifying splendour of tone and style.
'But it's the very heart of an Italian you sing with!' he cried.
'It will surprise you perhaps to hear that I prefer German music,' said
'But where--who had the honour of boasting you his pupil?'
She mentioned a famous master. Patrick had heard of him in Paris. He
begged for another song and she complied, accepting the one he selected
as the favourite of his brother Philip's, though she said: 'That one?'
with a superior air. It was a mellifluous love-song from a popular
Opera somewhat out of date. 'Well, it's in Italian!' she summed up her
impressions of the sickly words while scanning them for delivery.
She had no great admiration of the sentimental Sicilian composer, she
confessed, yet she sang as if possessed by him. Had she, Patrick
thought, been bent upon charming Philip, she could not have thrown more
fire into the notes. And when she had done, after thrilling the room,
there was a gesture in her dismissal of the leaves displaying critical
loftiness. Patrick noticed it and said, with the thrill of her voice
lingering in him: 'What is it you do like? I should so like to know.'
She was answering when Captain Con came up to the piano and remarked in
an undertone to Patrick: 'How is it you hit on the song Adiante Adister
used to sing?'
Miss Mattock glanced at Philip. He had applauded her mechanically,
and it was not that circumstance which caused the second rush of scarlet
over her face. This time she could track it definitely to its origin.
A lover's favourite song is one that has been sung by his love. She
detected herself now in the full apprehension of the fact before she had
sung a bar: it had been a very dim fancy: and she denounced herself
guilty of the knowledge that she was giving pain by singing the stuff
fervidly, in the same breath that accused her of never feeling things at
the right moment vividly. The reminiscences of those pale intuitions
made them always affectingly vivid.
But what vanity in our emotional state in a great jarring world where we
are excused for continuing to seek our individual happiness only if we
ally it and subordinate it to the well being of our fellows! The
interjection was her customary specific for the cure of these little
tricks of her blood. Leaving her friend Miss Barrow at the piano, she
took a chair in a corner and said; 'Now, Mr. O'Donnell, you will hear the
music that moves me.'
'But it's not to be singing,' said Patrick. 'And how can you sing so
gloriously what you don't care for? It puzzles me completely.'
She assured him she was no enigma: she hushed to him to hear.
He dropped his underlip, keeping on the conversation with his eyes until
he was caught by the masterly playing of a sonata by the chief of the
poets of sound.
He was caught by it, but he took the close of the introductory section,
an allegro con brio, for the end, and she had to hush at him again, and
could not resist smiling at her lullaby to the prattler. Patrick smiled
in response. Exchanges of smiles upon an early acquaintance between two
young people are peeps through the doorway of intimacy. She lost sight
of the Jesuit. Under the influence of good music, too, a not
unfavourable inclination towards the person sitting beside us and sharing
that sweetness, will soften general prejudices--if he was Irish, he was
boyishly Irish, not like his inscrutable brother; a better, or hopefuller
edition of Captain Con; one with whom something could be done to steady
him, direct him, improve him. He might be taught to appreciate Beethoven
and work for his fellows. 'Now does not that touch you more deeply than
the Italian?' said she, delicately mouthing: 'I, mio tradito amor!'
'Touch, I don't know,' he was honest enough to reply. 'It's you that
haven't given it a fair chance I'd like to hear it again. There's a
forest on fire in it.'
'There is,' she exclaimed. 'I have often felt it, but never seen it.
You exactly describe it. How true!'
'But any music I could listen to all day and all the night,' said he.
'And be as proud of yourself the next morning?'
Patrick was rather at sea. What could she mean?
Mrs. Adister O'Donnell stepped over to them, with the object of
installing Colonel Adister in Patrick's place.
The object was possibly perceived. Mrs. Adister was allowed no time to
set the manoeuvre in motion.
'Mr. O'Donnell is a great enthusiast for music, and could listen to it
all day and all night, he tells me,' said Miss Mattock. 'Would he not
sicken of it in a week, Mrs. Adister?'
'But why should I?' cried Patrick. 'It's a gift of heaven.'
'And, like other gifts of heaven, to the idle it would turn to evil.'
'I can't believe it.'
'Work, and you will believe it.'
'But, Miss Mattock, I want to work; I'm empty-handed. It 's true I want
to travel and see a bit of the world to help me in my work by and by.
I'm ready to try anything I can do, though.'
'Has it ever struck you that you might try to help the poor?'
'Arthur is really anxious, and only doubts his ability,' said Mrs.
'The doubt throws a shadow on the wish,' said Miss Mattock. 'And can one
picture Colonel Adister the secretary of a Laundry Institution, receiving
directions from Grace and me! We should have to release him long before
the six months' term, when we have resolved to incur the expense of a
Mrs. Adister turned her head to the colonel, who was then looking down
the features of Mrs. Rockney.
Patrick said: 'I'm ready, for a year, Miss Mattock.'
She answered him, half jocosely: 'A whole year of free service? Reflect
on what you are undertaking.'
'It's writing and accounts, no worse?'
'Writing and accounts all day, and music in the evening only now and
'I can do it: I will, if you'll have me.'
'Do you hear Mr. O'Donnell, Mrs. Adister?'
Captain Con fluttered up to his wife, and heard the story from Miss
He fancied he saw a thread of good luck for Philip in it. 'Our house
could be Patrick's home capitally,' he suggested to his wife. She was
not a whit less hospitable, only hinting that she thought the refusal of
the post was due to Arthur.
'And if he accepts, imagine him on a stool, my dear madam; he couldn't
Miss Mattock laughed. 'No, that is not to be thought of seriously. And
with Mr. O'Donnell it would be probationary for the first fortnight or
month. Does he know anything about steam?'
'The rudimentary idea,' said Patrick.
'That's good for a beginning,' said the captain; and he added: 'Miss
Mattock, I'm proud if one of my family can be reckoned worthy of
assisting in your noble work.'
She replied: 'I warn everybody that they shall be taken at their word if
they volunteer their services.'
She was bidden to know by the captain that the word of an Irish gentleman
was his bond. 'And not later than to-morrow evening I'll land him at
your office. Besides, he'll find countrywomen of his among you, and
there's that to enliven him. You say they work well, diligently,
She deliberated. 'Yes, on the whole; when they take to their work.
Intelligently certainly compared with our English. We do not get the
best of them in London. For that matter, we do not get the best of the
English--not the women of the north. We have to put up with the rejected
of other and better-paying departments of work. It breaks my heart
sometimes to see how near they are to doing well, but for such a little
want of ballast.'
'If they're Irish,' said Patrick, excited by the breaking of her heart,
'a whisper of cajolery in season is often the secret.'
Captain Con backed him for diplomacy. 'You'll learn he has a head, Miss
'I am myself naturally blunt, and prefer the straightforward method,'
Patrick nodded. 'But where there's an obstruction in the road, it's
permissible to turn a corner.'
'Take 'em in flank when you can't break their centre,' said Con.
'Well, you shall really try whether you can endure the work for a short
time if you are in earnest,' Miss Mattock addressed the volunteer.
'But I am,' he said.
'We are too poor at present to refuse the smallest help.'
'And mine is about the smallest.'
'I did not mean that, Mr. O'Donnell.'
'But you'll have me?'
Captain Con applauded the final words between them. They had the genial
ring, though she accepted the wrong young man for but a shadow of the
right sort of engagement.
This being settled, by the sudden combination of enthusiastic Irish
impulse and benevolent English scheming, she very considerately resigned
herself to Mrs. Adister's lead and submitted herself to a further jolting
in the unprogressive conversational coach with Colonel Adister, whose
fault as a driver was not in avoiding beaten ways, but whipping wooden
Evidently those two were little adapted to make the journey of life
together, though they were remarkably fine likenesses of a pair in the
dead midway of the journey, Captain Con reflected, and he could have
jumped at the thought of Patrick's cleverness: it was the one bright
thing of the evening. There was a clear gain in it somewhere. And if
there was none, Jane Mattock was a good soul worth saving. Why not all
the benefaction on our side, and a figo for rewards! Devotees or
adventurers, he was ready in imagination to see his cousins play the part
of either, as the cross-roads offered, the heavens appeared to decree.
We turn to the right or the left, and this way we're voluntary drudges,
and that way we're lucky dogs; it's all according to the turn, the fate
of it. But never forget that old Ireland is weeping!
O never forget that old Ireland is weeping
The bitter salt tears of the mother bereft!
He hummed the spontaneous lines. He was accused of singing to himself,
and a song was vigorously demanded of him by the ladies.
He shook his head. 'I can't,' he sighed. 'I was plucking the drowned
body of a song out of the waters to give it decent burial. And if I sing
I shall be charged with casting a firebrand at Mr. Rockney.'
Rockney assured him that he could listen to anything in verse.
'Observe the sneer:--for our verses are smoke,' said Con.
Miss Mattock pressed him to sing.
But he had saddened his mind about old Ireland: the Irish news weighed
heavily on him, unrelieved by a tussle with Rockney. If he sang, it
would be an Irish song, and he would break down in it, he said; and he
hinted at an objection of his wife's to spirited Irish songs of the sort
which carry the sons of Erin bounding over the fences of tyranny and the
brook of tears. And perhaps Mr. Rockney might hear a tale in verse as
hard to bear as he sometimes found Irish prose!--Miss Mattock perceived
that his depression was genuine, not less than his desire to please her.
'Then it shall be on another occasion,' she said.
'Oh! on another occasion I'm the lark to the sky, my dear lady.'
Her carriage was announced. She gave Patrick a look, with a smile, for
it was to be a curious experiment. He put on the proper gravity of a
young man commissioned, without a dimple of a smile. Philip bowed to her
stiffly, as we bow to a commanding officer who has insulted us and will
hear of it. But for that, Con would have manoeuvred against his wife to
send him downstairs at the lady's heels. The fellow was a perfect
riddle, hard to read as the zebra lines on the skin of a wild jackass--
if Providence intended any meaning when she traced them! and it's a moot
point: as it is whether some of our poets have meaning and are not
composers of zebra. 'No one knows but them above!' he said aloud,
apparently to his wife.
'What can you be signifying?' she asked him. She had deputed Colonel
Arthur to conduct Miss Mattock and Miss Barrow to their carriage, and she
supposed the sentence might have a mysterious reference to the plan she
had formed; therefore it might be a punishable offence. Her small round
eyes were wide-open, her head was up and high.
She was easily appeased, too easily.
'The question of rain, madam,' he replied to her repetition of his words.
'I dare say that was what I had in my mind, hearing Mr. Mattock and Mr.
Rockney agree to walk in company to their clubs.'
He proposed to them that they should delay the march on a visit to his
cabin near the clouds. They were forced to decline his invitation to the
gentle lion's mouth; as did Mr. Rumford, very briskly and thankfully.
Mr. Rockney was taken away by Mr. and Mrs. Marbury Dyke. So the party
separated, and the Englishmen were together, and the Irishmen together;
and hardly a syllable relating to the Englishmen did the Irishmen say,
beyond an allusion to an accident to John Mattock's yacht off the Irish
west-coast last autumn; but the Irishmen were subjected to some remarks
by the Englishmen, wherein their qualities as individuals and specimens
of a race were critically and neatly packed. Common sense is necessarily
critical in its collision with vapours, and the conscious possessors of
an exclusive common sense are called on to deliver a summary verdict, nor
is it an unjust one either, if the verdict be taken simply for an
estimate of what is presented upon the plain surface of to-day. Irishmen
are queer fellows, never satisfied, thirsting for a shindy. Some of them
get along pretty well in America. The air of their Ireland intoxicates
them. They require the strong hand: fair legislation, but no show of
weakness. Once let them imagine you are afraid of them, and they see
perfect independence in their grasp. And what would be the spectacle if
they were to cut themselves loose from England? The big ship might be
inconvenienced by the loss of the tender; the tender would fall adrift on
the Atlantic, with pilot and captain at sword and pistol, the crew
playing Donnybrook freely. Their cooler heads are shrewd enough to see
the folly, but it catches the Irish fancy to rush to the extreme, and we
have allowed it to be supposed that it frightens us. There is the
capital blunder, fons et origo.
Their leaders now pretend to work upon the Great Scale; they demand
everything on the spot upon their own interpretation of equity.
Concessions, hazy speeches, and the puling nonsense of our present
Government, have encouraged them so far and got us into the mess. Treat
them as policemen treat highwaymen: give them the law: and the law must
be tightened, like the hold on a rogue by his collar, if they kick at it.
Rockney was for sharp measures in repression, fair legislation in due
'Fair legislation upon your own interpretation of fair,' said Mattock,
whose party opposed Rockney's. 'As to repression, you would have missed
that instructive scene this evening at Con O'Donnell's table, if you had
done him the kindness to pick up his glove. It 's wisest to let them
exhaust their energies upon one another. Hold off, and they're soon at
'What kind of director of a City Company does he make?' said Rockney.
Mattock bethought him that, on the whole, strange to say, Con O'Donnell
comported himself decorously as a director, generally speaking on the
reasonable side, not without shrewdness: he seemed to be sobered by the
'That wife of his is the salvation of him,' Rockney said, to account for
the Captain's shrewdness. 'She manages him cleverly. He knows the
length of his line. She's a woman of principle, and barring the
marriage, good sense too. His wife keeps him quiet, or we should be
hearing of him. Forbery 's a more dangerous man. There's no intentional
mischief in Con O'Donnell; it's only effervescence. I saw his game, and
declined to uncork him. He talks of a niece of his wife's: have you ever
seen her?--married to some Servian or Roumanian prince.'
Mattock answered: 'Yes.'
'Is she such a beauty?'
Again Mattock answered: 'Yes,' after affecting thoughtfulness.
'They seem to marry oddly in that family.'
Mattock let fly a short laugh at the remark, which had the ring of some
current phrase. 'They do,' he said.
Next morning Jane Mattock spoke to her brother of her recruit. He
entirely trusted to her discretion; the idea of a young Irish secretary
was rather comical, nevertheless. He had his joke about it, requesting
to have a sight of the secretary's books at the expiry of the week, which
was the length of time he granted this ardent volunteer for evaporating
'If it releases poor Grace for a week, it will be useful to us,' Jane
said. 'Women are educated so shamefully that we have not yet found one
we can rely on as a competent person. And Mr. O'Donnell--did you notice
him? I told you I met him a day or two back--seems willing to be of use.
It cannot hurt him to try. Grace has too much on her hands.'
'She has a dozen persons.'
'They are zealous when they are led.'
'Beware of letting them suspect that they are led.'
'They are anxious to help the poor if they can discover how.'
'Good men, I don't doubt,' said John Mattock. 'Any proposals from
'Not of late. Captain O'Donnell, the brother of our secretary, is
handsomer, but we do not think him so trustworthy. Did you observe him
at all?--he sat by me. He has a conspirator's head.'
'What is that?' her brother asked her.
'Only a notion of mine.'
She was directed to furnish a compendious report of the sayings, doings,
and behaviour of the Irish secretary in the evening.
'If I find him there,' she said.
Her brother was of opinion that Mr. Patrick O'Donnell would be as good as
his word, and might be expected to appear there while the novelty lasted.
THE MATTOCK FAMILY
That evening's report of the demeanour of the young Irish secretary in
harness was not so exhilarating as John Mattock had expected, and he
inclined to think his sister guilty of casting her protecting veil over
the youth. It appeared that Mr. O'Donnell had been studious of his
duties, had spoken upon no other topic, had asked pertinent questions,
shown no flippancy, indulged in no extravagances. He seemed, Jane said,
eager to master details. A certain eagerness of her own in speaking of
it sharpened her clear features as if they were cutting through derision.
She stated it to propitiate her brother, as it might have done but for
the veracious picture of Patrick in the word 'eager,' which pricked the
scepticism of a practical man. He locked his mouth, looking at her with
a twinkle she refused to notice. 'Determined to master details' he could
have accepted. One may be determined to find a needle in a dust-heap;
one does not with any stiffness of purpose go at a dust-heap eagerly.
Hungry men have eaten husks; they have not betrayed eagerness for such
dry stuff. Patrick's voracity after details exhibited a doubtfully
genuine appetite, and John deferred his amusement until the termination
of the week or month when his dear good Jane would visit the office to
behold a vacated seat, or be assailed by the customary proposal.
Irishmen were not likely to be far behind curates in besieging an
heiress. For that matter, Jane was her own mistress and could very well
take care of herself; he had confidence in her wisdom.
He was besides of an unsuspicious and an unexacting temperament. The
things he would strongly object to he did not specify to himself because
he was untroubled by any forethought of them. Business, political,
commercial and marine, left few vacancies in his mind other than for the
pleasures he could command and enjoy. He surveyed his England with a
ruddy countenance, and saw the country in the reflection. His England
saw much of itself in him. Behind each there was more, behind the
country a great deal more, than could be displayed by a glass. The
salient features wore a resemblance. Prosperity and heartiness; a ready
hand on, and over, a full purse; a recognised ability of the second-rate
order; a stout hold of patent principles; inherited and embraced, to make
the day secure and supply a somniferous pillow for the night; occasional
fits of anxiety about affairs, followed by an illuminating conviction
that the world is a changing one and our construction not of granite,
nevertheless that a justifiable faith in the ship, joined to a constant
study of the chart, will pull us through, as it has done before, despite
all assaults and underminings of the common enemy and the particular;
these, with the humorous indifference of familiarity and constitutional
annoyances, excepting when they grew acute and called for drugs, and with
friendliness to the race of man of both colours, in the belief that our
Creator originally composed in black and white, together with a liking
for matters on their present footing in slow motion, partly under his
conductorship, were the prominent characteristics of the grandson of the
founder of the house, who had built it from a spade.
The story of the building was notorious; popular books for the inciting
of young Englishmen to dig to fortune had a place for it among the
chapters, where we read of the kind of man, and the means by which the
country has executed its later giant strides of advancement. The first
John Mattock was a representative of his time; he moved when the country
was moving, and in the right direction, finding himself at the auspicious
moment upon a line of rail. Elsewhere he would have moved, we may
suppose, for the spade-like virtues bear their fruits; persistent and
thrifty, solid and square, will fetch some sort of yield out of any soil;
but he would not have gone far. The Lord, to whom an old man of a mind
totally Hebrew ascribed the plenitude of material success, the Lord and
he would have reared a garden in the desert; in proximity to an oasis,
still on the sands, against obstacles. An accumulation of upwards of
four hundred thousand pounds required, as the moral of the popular books
does not sufficiently indicate, a moving country, an ardent sphere, to
produce the sum: and since, where so much was done, we are bound to
conceive others at work as well as he, it seems to follow that the
exemplar outstripping them vastly must have profited by situation at
the start, which is a lucky accident; and an accident is an indigestible
lump in a moral tale, real though the story be. It was not mentioned in
the popular books; nor did those worthy guides to the pursuit of wealth
contain any reminder of old John Mattock's dependence upon the conjoint
labour of his fellows to push him to his elevation. As little did they
think of foretelling a day, generations hence, when the empty heirs of
his fellows might prefer a modest claim (confused in statement) to
compensation against the estate he bequeathed: for such prophecy as that
would have hinted at a tenderness for the mass to the detriment of the
individual, and such tenderness as that is an element of our religion,
not the drift of our teaching.
He grumbled at the heavy taxation of his estate during life: yearly this
oppressed old man paid thousands of pounds to the Government. It was
poor encouragement to shoulder and elbow your way from a hovel to a
He paid the money, dying sour; a splendid example of energy on the road,
a forbidding one at the terminus. And here the moral of the popular
books turned aside from him to snatch at humanity for an instance of our
frailness and dealt in portentous shadows:--we are, it should be known,
not the great creatures we assume ourselves to be. Six months before his
death he appeared in the garb of a navvy, humbly soliciting employment at
his own house-door. There he appealed to the white calves of his footmen
for a day's work, upon the plea that he had never been a democrat.
The scene had been described with humanely-moralising pathos in the
various books of stories of Men who have come to Fortune, and it had for
a length of seasons an annual position in the foremost rank (on the line,
facing the door) in our exhibition of the chosen artists, where, as our
popular words should do, it struck the spectator's eye and his brain
simultaneously with pugilistic force: a reference to the picture in the
catalogue furnishing a recapitulation of the incident. 'I've worked a
good bit in my time, gentlemen, and I baint done yet':--SEE PROFESSOR
SUMMIT'S 'MEN WHO HAVE COME TO FORTUNE.' There is, we perceive at a
glance, a contrast in the bowed master of the Mansion applying to his
menials for a day's work at the rate of pay to able-bodied men:--which he
is not, but the deception is not disingenuous. The contrast flashed with
the rapid exchange of two prizefighters in a ring, very popularly. The
fustian suit and string below the knee, on the one side, and the purple
plush breeches and twinkling airy calves (fascinating his attention as he
makes his humble request to his own, these domestic knights) to right and
left of the doorway and in front, hit straight out of the canvas. And as
quickly as you perceive the contrast you swallow the moral. The dreaded
thing is down in a trice, to do what salutary work it may within you.
That it passed into the blood of England's middle-class population, and
set many heads philosophically shaking, and filled the sails of many a
sermon, is known to those who lived in days when Art and the classes
patronising our Native Art existed happily upon the terms of venerable
School-Dame and studious pupils, before the sickly era displacing
Exhibitions full of meaning for tricks of colour, monstrous atmospherical
vagaries that teach nothing, strange experiments on the complexion of the
human face divine--the feminine hyper-aethereally. Like the first John
Mattock, it was formerly of, and yet by dint of sturdy energy, above the
people. They learnt from it; they flocked to it thirsting and retired
from it thoughtful, with some belief of having drunk of nature in art, as
you will see the countless troops of urchins about the one cow of London,
in the Great City's Green Park.
A bequest to the nation of the best of these pictures of Old John, by a
very old Yorkshire collector, makes it milk for all time, a perpetual
contrast, and a rebuke. Compared with the portrait of Jane Mattock in
her fiery aureole of hair on the walls of the breakfast-room, it marks
that fatal period of degeneracy for us, which our critics of Literature
as well as Art are one voice in denouncing, when the complex overwhelms
the simple, and excess of signification is attempted, instead of letting
plain nature speak her uncorrupted tongue to the contemplative mind.
Degeneracy is the critical history of the Arts. Jane's hair was of a
reddish gold-inwoven cast that would, in her grandfather's epoch, have
shone unambiguously as carrots. The girl of his day thus adorned by
Nature, would have been shown wearing her ridiculous crown with some
decent sulkiness; and we should not have had her so unsparingly crowned;
the truth would have been told in a dexterous concealment--a rope of it
wound up for a bed of the tortoise-shell comb behind, and a pair of tight
cornucopias at the temples. What does our modern artist do but flare it
to right and left, lift it wavily over her forehead, revel in the
oriental superabundance, and really seem to swear we shall admire it,
against our traditions of the vegetable, as a poetical splendour. The
head of the heiress is in a Jovian shower. Marigolds are in her hand.
The whole square of canvas is like a meadow on the borders of June. It
Her brother also is presented: a fine portrait of him, with clipped red
locks, in blue array, smiling, wearing the rose of briny breezes, a
telescope under his left arm, his right forefinger on a map, a view of
Spitzbergen through a cabin-window: for John had notions about the north-
west passage, he had spent a winter in the ice, and if an amateur, was
not the less a true sailor.
With his brass-buttoned blue coat, and his high coloured cheeks, and his
convict hair--a layer of brickdust--and his air of princely wealth, and
the icebergs and hummocks about him, he looks for adventure without a
thought of his heroism--the country all over.
There he stands, a lover of the sea, and a scientific seaman and engineer
to boot, practical in every line of his face, defying mankind to suspect
that he cherishes a grain of romance. On the wall, just above his
shoulder, is a sketch of a Viking putting the lighted brand to his ship
in mid sea, and you are to understand that his time is come and so should
a Viking die: further, if you will, the subject is a modern Viking, ready
for the responsibilities of the title. Sketches of our ancient wooden
walls and our iron and plated defences line the panellings. These
degenerate artists do work hard for their money.
The portrait of John's father, dated a generation back, is just the man
and little else, phantomly the man. His brown coat struggles out of the
obscurity of the background, but it is chiefly background clothing him.
His features are distinguishable and delicate: you would suppose him
appearing to you under the beams of a common candle, or cottage coalfire
--ferruginously opaque. The object of the artist (apart from the triumph
of tone on the canvas) is to introduce him as an elegant and faded
gentleman, rather retiring into darkness than emerging. He is the ghost
of the painter's impasto. Yet this is Ezra Mattock, who multipled the
inheritance of the hundreds of thousands into millions, and died, after
covering Europe, Asia, and the Americas with iron rails, one of the few
Christians that can hold up their heads beside the banking Jew as
magnates in the lists of gold. The portrait is clearly no frontispiece
of his qualities. He married an accomplished and charitable lady, and
she did not spoil the stock in refining it. His life passed quietly;
his death shook the country: for though it had been known that he had
been one of our potentates, how mightily he was one had not entered into
the calculations of the public until the will of the late Ezra Mattock,
cited in our prints, received comments from various newspaper articles.
A chuckle of collateral satisfaction ran through the empire. All England
and her dependencies felt the state of cousinship with the fruits of
energy; and it was an agreeable sentiment, coming opportunely, as it did,
at the tail of articles that had been discussing a curious manifestation
of late--to-wit, the awakening energy of the foreigner--a prodigious
apparition on our horizon. Others were energetic too! We were not, the
sermon ran, to imagine we were without rivals in the field. We were
possessed of certain positive advantages; we had coal, iron, and an
industrious population, but we were, it was to be feared, by no means a
thrifty race, and there was reason for doubt whether in the matter of
industry we were quite up to the mark of our forefathers. No
deterioration of the stock was apprehended, still the nation must be
accused of a lack of vigilance. We must look round us, and accept the
facts as they stood. So accustomed had we become to the predominance of
our position that it was difficult at first to realise a position of
rivalry that threatened our manufacturing interests in their hitherto
undisputed lead in the world's markets. The tale of our exports for the
last five years conveys at once its moral and its warning. Statistics
were then cited.
As when the gloomy pedagogue has concluded his exhortation, statistics
birched the land. They were started at our dinner-tables, and scourged
the social converse. Not less than in the articles, they were perhaps
livelier than in the preface; they were distressing nevertheless; they
led invariably to the question of our decadence. Carthage was named; a
great mercantile community absolutely obliterated! Senatorial men were
led to propose in their thoughtfullest tones that we should turn our
attention to Art. Why should we not learn to excel in Art? We excelled
in Poetry. Our Poets were cited: not that there was a notion that poems
would pay as an export but to show that if we excel in one of the Arts we
may in others of them. The poetry was not cited, nor was it necessary,
the object being to inflate the balloon of paradox with a light-flying
gas, and prove a poem-producing people to be of their nature born
artists; if they did but know it. The explosion of a particular trade
points to your taking up another. Energy is adapted to flourish equally
in every branch of labour.
It is the genius of the will, commanding all the crossroads. A country
breeding hugely must prove its energy likewise in the departments of the
mind, or it will ultimately be unable to feed its young--nay, to feast
its aldermen! Let us be up and alive.--Such was the exhortation of a
profound depression. Outside these dismal assemblies, in the streets,
an ancient song of raven recurrence croaked of 'Old England a-going down
the hill'; for there is a link of electricity between the street-boy and
the leading article in days when the Poles exchange salutations.
Mr. Ezra's legacy of his millions to son and daughter broke like a golden
evening on the borders of the raincloud. Things could not be so bad when
a plain untitled English gentleman bequeathed in the simplest manner
possible such giant heaps, a very Pelion upon Ossa, of wealth to his
children. The minds of the readers of journals were now directed to
think of the hoarded treasures of this favoured country. They might
approximately be counted, but even if counted they would be past
conception, like the sidereal system. The contemplation of a million
stupefies: consider the figures of millions and millions! Articles were
written on Lombard Street, the world's gold-mine, our granary of energy,
surpassing all actual and fabulous gold-mines ever spoken of: Aladdin's
magician would find his purse contracting and squeaking in the
comparison. Then, too, the store of jewels held by certain private
families called for remark and an allusion to Sindbad the sailor, whose
eyes were to dilate wider than they did in the valley of diamonds. Why,
we could, if we pleased, lie by and pass two or three decades as jolly
cricketers and scullers, and resume the race for wealth with the rest of
mankind, hardly sensible of the holiday in our pockets though we were the
last people to do it, we were the sole people that had the option. Our
Fortunatus' cap was put to better purposes, but to have the cap, and not
to be emasculated by the possession, might excuse a little reasonable
pride in ourselves.
Thus did Optimism and Pessimism have their turn, like the two great
parties in the State, and the subsiding see-saw restored a proper
balance, much to the nation's comfort. Unhappily, it was remembered,
there are spectators of its method of getting to an equipoise out of the
agitation of extremes. The peep at our treasures to regain composure
had, we fear, given the foreigner glimpses, and whetted the appetite of
our masses. No sooner are we at peace than these are heard uttering low
howls, and those are seen enviously glaring. The spectre, Panic, that
ever dogs the optimistic feast, warns us of a sack under our beds, and
robbers about to try a barely-bolted door. . . Then do we, who have so
sweetly sung our senses to sleep, start up, in their grip, rush to the
doctor and the blacksmith, rig alarums, proclaim ourselves intestinally
torn, defenceless, a prey to foes within and without. It is discovered
to be no worse than an alderman's dream, but the pessimist frenzy of the
night has tossed a quieting sop to the Radical, and summoned the
volunteers to a review. Laudatory articles upon the soldierly 'march
past' of our volunteers permit of a spell of soft repose, deeper than
prudent, at the end of it, India and Ireland consenting.
So much for a passing outline of John Bull--the shadow on the wall of
John Mattock. The unostentatious millionaire's legacy to his two
children affected Mr. Bull thrillingly, pretty nearly as it has here been
dotted in lining. That is historical. Could he believe in the existence
of a son of his, a master of millions, who had never sighed (and he had
only to sigh) to die a peer, or a baronet, or simple Knight? The
downright hard-nailed coffin fact was there; the wealthiest man in the
country had flown away to Shadowland a common Mr.! You see the straight
deduction from the circumstances:--we are, say what you will, a
Republican people! Newspaper articles on the watch sympathetically for
Mr. Bull's latest view of himself, preached on the theme of our peculiar
Republicanism. Soon after he was observed fondling the Crown Insignia.
His bards flung out their breezy columns, reverentially monarchial. The
Republican was informed that they were despised as a blatant minority. A
maudlin fit of worship of our nobility had hold of him next, and English
aristocracy received the paean. Lectures were addressed to democrats;
our House of Lords was pledged solemnly in reams of print. We were told
that 'blood' may always be betted on to win the race; blood that is blue
will beat the red hollow. Who could pretend to despise the honour of
admission to the ranks of the proudest peerage the world has known! Is
not a great territorial aristocracy the strongest guarantee of national
stability? The loudness of the interrogation, like the thunder of Jove,
precluded thought of an answer.
Mr. Bull, though he is not of lucid memory, kept an eye on the owner of
those millions. His bards were awake to his anxiety, and celebrated John
Mattock's doings with a trump and flourish somewhat displeasing to a
quietly-disposed commoner. John's entry into Parliament as a Liberal was
taken for a sign of steersman who knew where the tide ran. But your
Liberals are sometimes Radicals in their youth, and his choice of parties
might not be so much sagacity as an instance of unripe lightheadedness.
A young conservative millionaire is less disturbing. The very wealthy
young peer is never wanton in his politics, which seems to admonish us
that the heir of vast wealth should have it imposed on him to accept a
peerage, and be locked up as it were. A coronet steadies the brain.
You may let out your heels at the social laws, you are almost expected to
do it, but you are to shake that young pate of yours restively under such
a splendid encumbrance. Private reports of John, however, gave him
credit for sound opinions: he was moderate, merely progressive. When it
was added that the man had the habit of taking counsel with his sister,
he was at once considered as fast and safe, not because of any public
knowledge of the character of Jane Mattock. We pay this homage to the
settled common sense of women. Distinctly does she discountenance leaps
in the dark, wild driving, and the freaks of Radicalism.
John, as it happened, had not so grave a respect for the sex as for the
individual Jane. He thought women capable of acts of foolishness; his
bright-faced sister he could thoroughly trust for prudent conduct. He
gave her a good portion of his heart in confidence, and all of it in
affection. There were matters which he excluded from confidence, even
from intimate communication with himself. These he could not reveal; nor
could she perfectly open her heart to him, for the same reason. They
both had an established ideal of their personal qualities, not far above
the positive, since they were neither of them pretentious, yet it was a
trifle higher and fairer than the working pattern; and albeit they were
sincere enough, quite sincere in their mutual intercourse, they had, by
what each knew at times of the thumping organ within them, cause for
doubting that they were as transparent as the other supposed; and they
were separately aware of an inward smile at one another's partial
deception; which did not thwart their honest power of working up to the
respected ideal. The stroke of the deeper self-knowledge rarely shook
them; they were able to live with full sensations in the animated picture
they were to the eyes best loved by them. This in fact was their life.
Anything beside it was a dream, and we do not speak of our dreams--not of
every dream. Especially do we reserve our speech concerning the dream in
which we had a revelation of the proud frame deprived of a guiding will,
flung rudderless on the waves. Ah that abject! The dismantled ship has
the grandeur of the tempest about it, but the soul swayed by passion is
ignominiously bare-poled, detected, hooted by its old assumption. If
instinct plays fantastical tricks when we are sleeping, let it be ever
behind a curtain. We can be held guilty only if we court exposure. The
ideal of English gentleman and gentlewoman is closely Roman in the self-
repression it exacts, and that it should be but occasionally difficult to
them shows an affinity with the type. Do you perchance, O continental
observers of the race, call it hypocritical? It is their nature
disciplined to the regimental step of civilisation. Socially these
island men and women of a certain middle rank are veterans of an army,
and some of the latest enrolled are the stoutest defenders of the flag.
Brother and sister preserved their little secrets of character apart.
They could not be expected to unfold what they declined personally to
examine. But they were not so successful with the lady governing the
household, their widowed maternal aunt, Mrs. Lackstraw, a woman of
decisive penetration, and an insubordinate recruit of the army aforesaid.
To her they were without a mask; John was passion's slave, Jane the most
romantic of Eve's daughters. She pointed to incidents of their youth;
her vision was acutely retrospective. The wealth of her nephew and niece
caused such a view of them to be, as she remarked, anxious past
endurance. She had grounds for fearing that John, who might step to an
alliance with any one of the proudest houses in the Kingdom, would marry
a beggar-maid. As for Jane, she was the natural prey of a threadbare
poet. Mrs. Lackstraw heard of Mr. Patrick O'Donnell, and demanded the
right to inspect him. She doubted such perfect disinterestedness in any
young man as that he should slave at account-keeping to that Laundry
without a prospect of rich remuneration, and the tale of his going down
to the city for a couple of hours each day to learn the art of keeping
books was of very dubious import in a cousin of Captain Con O'Donnell.
'Let me see your prodigy,' she said, with the emphasis on each word.
Patrick was presented at her table. She had steeled herself against an
Irish tongue. He spoke little, appeared simple, professed no enthusiasm
for the Laundry. And he paid no compliments to Jane: of the two he was
more interested by the elder lady, whose farm and dairy in Surrey he
heard her tell of with a shining glance, observing that he liked thick
cream: there was a touch of home in it. The innocent sensuality in the
candid avowal of his tastes inspired confidence. Mrs. Lackstraw fished
for some account of his home. He was open to flow on the subject; he
dashed a few sketches of mother and sisters, dowerless girls, fresh as
trout in the stream, and of his own poor estate, and the peasantry, with
whom he was on friendly terms. He was an absentee for his education.
Sweet water, pure milk, potatoes and bread, were the things he coveted in
plenty for his people and himself, he said, calling forth an echo from
Mrs. Lackstraw, and an invitation to come down to her farm in the Spring.
'That is, Mr. O'Donnell, if you are still in London.'
'Oh, I'm bound apprentice for a year,' said he.
He was asked whether he did not find it tiresome work.
'A trifle so,' he confessed.
Then why did he pursue it, the question was put.
He was not alive for his own pleasure, and would like to feel he was
doing a bit of good, was the answer.
Could one, Mrs. Lackstraw asked herself, have faith in this young
Irishman? He possessed an estate. His brogue rather added to his air of
truthfulness. His easy manners and the occasional streak of correct
French in his dialogue cast a shadow on it. Yet he might be an ingenuous
creature precisely because of the suspicion roused by his quaint
unworldliness that he might be a terrible actor. Why not?--his heart was
evidently much more interested in her pursuits than in her niece's. The
juvenility of him was catching, if it was indeed the man, and not one of
the actor's properties. Mrs. Lackstraw thought it prudent to hint at the
latter idea to Jane while she decided in her generosity to embrace the
former. Oh! if all Irishmen shared his taste for sweet water, pure milk
and wholesome bread, what a true Union we should have! She had always
insisted on those three things as most to be desired on earth for the
masses, and she reminded Jane of it as a curious fact. Jane acquiesced,
having always considered it a curious fact that her aunt should combine
the relish of a country life with the intensest social ambition--
a passion so sensitive as to make the name her husband had inflicted on
her a pain and a burden. The name of Mattock gave her horrors. She
spoke of it openly to prove that Jane must marry a title and John become
a peer. Never was there such a name to smell of the soil. She declared
her incapacity to die happy until the two had buried Mattock. Her own
one fatal step condemned her, owing to the opinion she held upon the
sacredness of marriage, as Lackstraw on her tombstone, and to Lackstraw
above the earthly martyr would go bearing the designation which marked
her to be claimed by him. But for John and Jane the index of Providence
pointed a brighter passage through life. They had only to conquer the
weakness native to them--the dreadful tendency downward. They had, in
the spiritual sense, frail hearts. The girl had been secretive about the
early activity of hers, though her aunt knew of two or three adventures
wanting in nothing save boldness to have put an end to her independence
and her prospects:--hence this Laundry business! a clear sign of some
internal disappointment. The boy, however, had betrayed himself in his
mother's days, when it required all her influence and his father's
authority, with proof positive of the woman's unworthiness, to rescue him
from immediate disaster.
Mrs. Lackstraw's confidences on the theme of the family she watched over
were extended to Patrick during their strolls among the ducks and fowls
and pheasants at her farm. She dealt them out in exclamations, as much
as telling him that now they knew him they trusted him, notwithstanding
the unaccountable part he played as honorary secretary to that Laundry.
The confidences, he was aware, were common property of the visitors one
after another, but he had the knowledge of his being trusted as not every
Irishman would have been. A service of six months to the secretaryship
established his reputation as the strange bird of a queer species: not
much less quiet, honest, methodical, than an Englishman, and still
impulsive, Irish still; a very strange bird.
The disposition of the English to love the children of Erin, when not
fretted by them, was shown in the treatment Patrick received from the
Mattock family. It is a love resembling the affection of the stage-box
for a set of favourite performers, and Patrick, a Celt who had schooled
his wits to observe and meditate, understood his position with them as
one of the gallant and amusing race, as well as the reason why he had won
their private esteem. They are not willingly suspicious: it agitates
their minds to be so; and they are most easily lulled by the flattery of
seeing their special virtues grafted on an alien stock: for in this
admiration of virtues that are so necessary to the stalwart growth of
man, they become just sensible of a minor deficiency; the tree, if we
jump out of it to examine its appearance, should not be all trunk. Six
months of ungrudging unremunerated service, showing devotion to the good
cause and perfect candour from first to last, was English, and a poetic
touch beyond: so that John Mattock, if he had finished the sentence
instead of lopping it with an interjection, would have said: 'These Irish
fellows, when they're genuine and first rate!--are pretty well the pick
of the land.' Perhaps his pause on the interjection expressed a doubt
of our getting them genuine. Mr. O'Donnell was a sort of exceptional
Irishman, not devoid of practical ability in a small way--he did his
duties of secretary fairly well; apparently sincere--he had refrained
from courting Jane; an odd creature enough, what with his mixture of
impulsiveness and discretion; likeable, pleasant to entertain and talk
to; not one of your lunatics concerning his country--he could listen to
an Englishman's opinion on that head, listen composedly to Rockney,
merely seeming to take notes; and Rockney was, as Captain Con termed him,
Press Dragoon about Ireland, a trying doctor for a child of the patient.
On the whole, John Mattock could shake his hand heartily when he was
leaving our shores. Patrick was released by Miss Grace Barrow's
discovery at last of a lady capable of filling his place: a circumstance
that he did not pretend to regret. He relinquished his post and stood
aside with the air of a disciplined soldier. This was at the expiration
of seven months and two weeks of service. Only after he had gone, upon
her receiving his first letter from the Continent, did Jane distinguish
in herself the warmth of friendliness she felt for him, and know that of
all around her she, reproaching every one who had hinted a doubt, had
been the most suspicious of his pure simplicity. It was the vice of her
condition to be suspicious of the honesty of men. She thought of her
looks as less attractive than they were; of her wealth she had reason to
think that the scent transformed our sad sex into dogs under various
disguises. Remembering her chill once on hearing Patrick in a green lane
where they botanised among spring flowers call himself her Irish cousin,
as if he had advanced a step and betrayed the hoof, she called him her
Irish cousin now in good earnest. Her nation was retrospectively
enthusiastic. The cordiality of her letter of reply to the wandering
Patrick astonished him on the part of so cool a young lady; and Captain
Con, when he heard Miss Mattock speak of Patrick to his wife, came to the
conclusion that the leery lad had gone a far way toward doing the trick
for himself, though Jane said his correspondence was full of the deeds of
his brother in India. She quite sparkled in speaking of this boy.
She and the captain had an interchange of sparklings over absent Patrick,
at a discovery made by Miss Colesworth, the lady replacing him, in a nook
of the amateur secretary's official desk, under heaps of pamphlets and
slips, French and English and Irish journals, not at all bearing upon the
business of the Laundry. It was a blotting-pad stuffed with Patrick's
jottings. Jane brought it to Con as to the proper keeper of the
reliquary. He persuaded her to join him in examining it, and together
they bent their heads, turning leaf by leaf, facing, laughing, pursuing
the search for more, sometimes freely shouting.
Her inspection of the contents had previously been shy; she had just
enough to tell her they were funny. Dozens of scraps, insides of torn
envelopes, invitation-cards, ends of bills received from home, whatever
was handy to him at the moment, had done service for the overflow of Mr.
Secretary's private notes and reflections; the blotting-paper as well;
though that was devoted chiefly to sketches of the human countenance,
the same being almost entirely of the fair. Jane fancied she spied
herself among the number. Con saw the likeness, but not considering
it a complimentary one, he whisked over the leaf. Grace Barrow was
unmistakeable. Her dimpled cushion features, and very intent eyes gazing
out of the knolls and dingles, were given without caricature. Miss
Colesworth appeared on the last page, a half-length holding a big key,
demure between curls. The key was explained by a cage on a stool, and a
bird flying out. She had unlocked the cage for Patrick.
'He never seemed anxious to be released while he was at work,' said Jane,
after she and the captain had spelt the symbolling in turns.
'And never thirsted to fly till he flew, I warrant him,' said Con.
A repeated sketch of some beauty confused them both; neither of them
could guess the proud owner of those lineaments. Con proclaimed it to be
merely one of the lad's recollections, perhaps a French face. He thought
he might have seen a face rather resembling it, but could not call to
mind whose face it was.
'I dare say it's just a youngster's dream on a stool at a desk, as poets
write sonnets in their youth to nobody, till they're pierced by somebody,
and then there's a difference in their handwriting,' he said, vexed with
Patrick for squandering his opportunity to leave a compliment to the
heiress behind him.
Jane flipped the leaves back to the lady with stormy hair.
'But you'll have the whole book, and hand it to him when he returns; it
'll come best from you,' said Con. 'The man on horseback, out of
uniform, 's brother Philip, of course. And man and horse are done to the
life. Pray, take it, Miss Mattock. I should lose it to a certainty; I
should; I can't be trusted. You'll take it!'
He pressed her so warmly to retain the bundle in her custody that she
carried it away.
Strange to say the things she had laughed at had been the things which
struck her feelings and sympathies. Patrick's notes here and there
recalled conversations he had more listened to than taken part in between
herself and Grace Barrow. Who could help laughing at his ideas about
women! But if they were crude, they were shrewd--or so she thought them;
and the jejuneness was, to her mind, chiefly in the dressing of them.
Grace agreed with her, for Grace had as good a right to inspect the
papers as she, and a glance had shown that there was nothing of peculiar
personal import in his notes: he did not brood on himself.
Here was one which tickled the ladies and formed a text for discussion.
'Women must take the fate of market-fruit till they earn their own
pennies, and then they 'll regulate the market. It is a tussle for money
with them as with us, meaning power. They'd do it as little by oratory
as they have done by millinery, for their oratory, just like their
millinery, appeals to a sentiment, and to a weaker; and nothing solid
comes of a sentiment. Power is built on work.'
To this was appended: 'The better for mankind in the developing process,
ay, and a bad day for us, boys, when study masks the charming eyes in
gig-lamps, and there is no pretty flying before us. Good-night to Cupid,
I fear. May be I am not seeing far enough, and am asking for the devil
to have the loveliest women as of old. Retro S. M.'
The youthful eye on their sex, the Irish voice, and the perceptible moral
earnestness in the background, made up a quaint mixture.
OF THE GREAT MR. BULL AND THE CELTIC AND SAXON VIEW OF HIM: AND SOMETHING
OF RICHARD ROCKNEY
Meanwhile India, our lubber giant, had ceased to kick a leg, and Ireland,
our fever-invalid, wore the aspect of an opiate slumber. The volcano we
couch on was quiet, the gritty morsel unabsorbed within us at an
armistice with the gastric juices. Once more the personification of the
country's prosperity had returned to the humming state of roundness.
Trade whipped him merrily, and he spun.
A fuller sketch of the figure of this remarkable emanation of us and
object of our worship, Bull, is required that we may breathe the
atmosphere of a story dealing with such very different views of the idol,
and learn to tolerate plain-speaking about him.
Fancy yourself delayed by stress of weather at an inn or an excursion,
and snapped up by some gossip drone of the district, who hearing whither
you are bound, recounts the history and nature of the place, to your
ultimate advantage, though you groan for the outer downpour to abate.--
Of Bull, then: our image, before the world: our lord and tyrant, ourself
in short--the lower part of us. Coldly worshipped on the whole, he can
create an enthusiasm when his roast-beef influence mounts up to peaceful
skies and the domestic English world spins with him. What he does not
like will then be the forbidding law of a most governable people, what
he does like the consenting. If it is declared that argument will be
inefficacious to move him, he is adored in the form of post. A hint of
his willingness in any direction, causes a perilous rush of his devotees.
Nor is there reason to suppose we have drawn the fanatical subserviency
from the example of our subject India. We may deem it native; perhaps
of its origin Aryan, but we have made it our own. Some have been so
venturesome as to trace the lordliness of Bull to the protecting
smiles of the good Neptune, whose arms are about him to encourage the
development of a wanton eccentricity. Certain weeds of the human bosom
are prompt to flourish where safeness would seem to be guaranteed. Men,
for instance, of stoutly independent incomes are prone to the same sort
of wilfulness as Bull's, the salve abject submission to it which we
behold in his tidal bodies of supporters. Neptune has done something.
One thinks he has done much, at a rumour of his inefficiency to do the
utmost. Spy you insecurity?--a possibility of invasion? Then indeed the
colossal creature, inaccessible to every argument, is open to any
suggestion: the oak-like is a reed, the bull a deer. But as there is no
attack on his shores, there is no proof that they are invulnerable.
Neptune is appealed to and replies by mouth of the latest passenger
across the Channel on a windy night:--Take heart, son John! They will
have poor stomachs for blows who intrude upon you. The testification to
the Sea-God's watchfulness restores his darling who is immediately as
horny to argument as before. Neptune shall have his share of the
Ideal of his country Bull has none--he hates the word; it smells of
heresy, opposition to his image. It is an exercise of imagination to
accept an ideal, and his digestive organs reject it, after the manner of
the most beautiful likeness of him conjurable to the mind--that flowering
stomach, the sea-anemone, which opens to anything and speedily casts out
what it cannot consume. He is a positive shape, a practical corporation,
and the best he can see is the mirror held up to him by his bards of the
Press and his jester Frank Guffaw. There, begirt by laughing ocean-
waves, manifestly blest, he glorifies his handsome roundness, like that
other Foam-Born, whom the decorative Graces robed in vestments not so
wonderful as printed sheets. Rounder at each inspection, he preaches to
mankind from the text of a finger curved upon the pattern spectacles.
Your Frenchmen are revolutionising, wagering on tentative politics; your
Germans ploughing in philosophy, thumbing classics, composing music of a
novel order: both are marching, evolutionising, learning how to kill.
Ridiculous Germans! capricious Frenchmen! We want nothing new in
musical composition and abstract speculation of an indecent mythology,
or political contrivances and schemes of Government, and we do not want
war. Peace is the Goddess we court for the hand of her daughter Plenty,
and we have won that jolly girl, and you are welcome to the marriage-
feast; but avaunt new-fangled theories and howlings: old tunes, tried
systems, for us, my worthy friends.
Roundness admiring the growth of its globe may address majestic
invitation to the leaner kine. It can exhibit to the world that Peace is
a most desirable mother-in-law; and it is tempted to dream of capping the
pinnacle of wisdom when it squats on a fundamental truth. Bull's perusal
of the Horatian carpe diem is acute as that of the cattle in fat meads;
he walks like lusty Autumn carrying his garner to drum on, for a sign of
his diligent wisdom in seizing the day. He can read the page fronting
him; and let it be of dining, drinking, toasting, he will vociferously
confute the wiseacre bookworms who would have us believe there is no such
thing as a present hour for man.
In sad fact, the member for England is often intoxicate. Often do we
have him whirling his rotundity like a Mussulman dervish inflated by the
spirit to agitate the shanks, until pangs of a commercial crisis awaken
him to perceive an infructuous past and an unsown future, without one bit
of tracery on its black breast other than that which his apprehensions
project. As for a present hour, it swims, it vanishes, thinner than the
phantom banquets of recollection. What has he done for the growth of his
globe of brains?--the lesser, but in our rightful posture the upper, and
justly the directing globe, through whose directions we do, by feeding on
the past to sow the future, create a sensible present composed of both--
the present of the good using of our powers. What can he show in the
Arts? What in Arms? His bards--O faithless! but they are men--his
bards accuse him of sheer cattle-contentedness in the mead, of sterility
of brain, drowsihood, mid-noddyism, downright carcase-dulness. They
question him to deafen him of our defences, our intellectual eminence,
our material achievements, our poetry, our science; they sneer at his
trust in Neptune, doubt the scaly invulnerability of the God. They
point over to the foreigner, the clean-stepping, braced, self-confident
foreigner, good at arms, good at the arts, and eclipsing us in
industriousness manual and mental, and some dare to say, in splendour
of verse=-our supreme accomplishment.
Then with one big fellow, the collapse of pursiness, he abandons his
pedestal of universal critic; prostrate he falls to the foreigner; he is
down, he is roaring; he is washing his hands of English performances,
lends ear to foreign airs, patronises foreign actors, browses on reports
from camps of foreign armies. He drops his head like a smitten ox to all
great foreign names, moaning 'Shakespeare!' internally for a sustaining
apostrophe. He well-nigh loves his poets, can almost understand what
poetry means. If it does not pay, it brings him fame, respectfulness in
times of reverse. Brains, he is reduced to apprehend, brains are the
generators of the conquering energies. He is now for brains at all
costs, he has gained a conception of them. He is ready to knock
knighthood on the heads of men of brains--even literary brains. They
shall be knights, an ornamental body. To make them peers, and a
legislative, has not struck him, for he has not yet imagined them a
stable body. They require petting, to persuade them to flourish and
bring him esteem.
This is Mr. Bull, our image before the world, whose pranks are passed as
though the vivid display of them had no bad effect on the nation.
Doubtless the perpetual mirror, the slavish mirror, is to blame, but his
nakedness does not shrink from the mirror, he likes it and he is proud of
it. Beneath these exhibitions the sober strong spirit of the country,
unfortunately not a prescient one, nor an attractively loveable, albeit
of a righteous benevolence, labours on, doing the hourly duties for the
sake of conscience, little for prospective security, little to win
affection. Behold it as the donkey of a tipsy costermonger, obedient to
go without the gift of expression. Its behaviour is honourable under a
discerning heaven, and there is ever something pathetic in a toilful
speechlessness; but it is of dogged attitude in the face of men. Salt is
in it to keep our fleshly grass from putrefaction; poets might proclaim
its virtues. They will not; they are averse. The only voice it has is
the Puritan bray, upon which one must philosophise asinically to unveil
the charm. So the world is pleased to let it be obscured by the paunch
of Bull. We have, however, isolated groups, individuals in all classes,
by no means delighting in his representation of them. When such is felt
to be the case among a sufficient number, his bards blow him away as a
vapour; we hear that he is a piece of our English humour--we enjoy
grotesques and never should agree to paint ourselves handsome: our subtle
conceit insists on the reverse. Nevertheless, no sooner are the hours
auspicious to fatness than Bull is back on us; he is our family goat,
ancestral ghost, the genius of our comfortable sluggishness. And he is
at times a mad Bull: a foaming, lashing, trampling, horn-driving,
excessive, very parlous Bull. It is in his history that frenzies catch
him, when to be yoked to him is to suffer frightful shakings, not to
mention a shattering of our timbers. It is but in days of the rousing of
the under-spirit of the country, days of storm imprudent to pray the
advent of, that we are well rid of him for a while. In the interim he
does mischief, serious mischief; he does worse than when, a juvenile, he
paid the Dannegelt for peace. Englishmen of feeling do not relish him.
For men with Irish and Cambrian blood in their veins the rubicund
grotesque, with his unimpressionable front and his noisy benevolence of
the pocket, his fits of horned ferocity and lapses of hardheartedness, is
a shame and a loathing. You attach small importance to images and
symbols; yet if they seem representative, and they sicken numbers of us,
they are important. The hat we wear, though it is not a part of the
head, stamps the character of our appearance and has a positive influence
on our bearing. Symbolical decorations will stimulate the vacant-minded
to act up to them, they encircle and solidify the mass; they are a sword
of division between Celts and Saxons if they are abhorrent to one
section. And the Celtic brotherhood are not invariably fools in their
sensitiveness. They serve you on the field of Mars, and on other fields
to which the world has given glory. These execrate him as the full-grown
Golden Calf of heathenish worship. And they are so restive because they
are so patriotic. Think a little upon the ideas of unpatriotic Celts
regarding him. You have heard them. You tell us they are you:
accurately, they affirm, succinctly they see you in his crescent
outlines, tame bulk, spasms of alarm and foot on the weaker; his
imperviousness to whatsoever does not confront the sensual eye of
him with a cake or a fist, his religious veneration of his habitual
indulgences, his peculiar forms of nightmare. They swear to his
perfect personification of your moods, your Saxon moods, which their
inconsiderate spleen would have us take for unmixedly Saxon. They are
unjust, but many of them speak with a sense of the foot on their necks,
and they are of a blood demanding a worshipworthy idea. And they dislike
Bull's bellow of disrespect for their religion, much bruited in the
meadows during his periods of Arcadia. They dislike it, cannot forget
the sound: it hangs on the afflicted drum of the ear when they are in
another land, perhaps when the old devotion to their priest has expired.
For this, as well as for material reasons, they hug the hatred they
packed up among their bundles of necessaries and relics, in the flight
from home, and they instruct their children to keep it burning. They
transmit the sentiment of the loathing of Bull, as assuredly they would
be incapable of doing, even with the will, were a splendid fire-eyed
motherly Britannia the figure sitting in the minds of men for our image
--a palpitating figure, alive to change, penetrable to thought, and not a
stolid concrete of our traditional old yeoman characteristic. Verily he
lives for the present, all for the present, will be taught in sorrow that
there is no life for him but of past and future: his delusion of the
existence of a present hour for man will not outlast the season of his
eating and drinking abundantly in security. He will perceive that it was
no more than the spark shot out from the clash of those two meeting
forces; and penitently will he gaze back on that misleading spark-the
spectral planet it bids wink to his unreceptive stars--acknowledging him
the bare machine for those two to drive, no instrument of enjoyment. He
lives by reading rearward and seeing vanward. He has no actual life save
in power of imagination. He has to learn this fact, the great lesson of
all men. Furthermore there may be a future closed to him if he has
thrown too extreme a task of repairing on that bare machine of his. The
sight of a broken-down plough is mournful, but the one thing to do with
it is to remove it from the field.
Among the patriotic of stout English substance, who blew in the trumpet
of the country, and were not bards of Bull to celebrate his firmness and
vindicate his shiftings, Richard Rockney takes front rank. A journalist
altogether given up to his craft, considering the audience he had gained,
he was a man of forethought besides being a trenchant writer, and he
was profoundly, not less than eminently, the lover of Great Britain.
He had a manner of utterance quite in the tone of the familiar of the
antechamber for proof of his knowing himself to be this person. He did
not so much write articles upon the health of his mistress as deliver
Orphic sentences. He was in one her physician, her spiritual director,
her man-at-arms. Public allusions to her were greeted with his emphatic
assent in a measured pitch of the voice, or an instantaneous flourish of
the rapier; and the flourish was no vain show. He meant hard steel to
defend the pill he had prescribed for her constitutional state, and
the monition for her soul's welfare. Nor did he pretend to special
privileges in assuming his militant stand, but simply that he had studied
her case, was intimate with her resources, and loved her hotly, not to
say inspiredly. Love her as well, you had his cordial hand; as wisely,
then all his weapons to back you. There were occasions when
distinguished officials and Parliamentary speakers received the impetus
of Rockney's approval and not hesitatingly he stepped behind them to
bestow it. The act, in whatever fashion it may have been esteemed by the
objects propelled, was a sign of his willingness to let the shadow of any
man adopting his course obscure him, and of the simplicity of his
attachment. If a bitter experience showed that frequently, indeed
generally, they travelled scarce a tottering stagger farther than they
were precipitated, the wretched consolation afforded by a side glance at
a more enlightened passion, solitary in its depth, was Rockney's. Others
perchance might equal his love, none the wisdom of it; actually none the
vigilant circumspection, the shaping forethought. That clear knowledge
of the right thing for the country was grasped but by fits by others.
Enough to profit them this way and yonder as one best can! You know the
newspaper Press is a mighty engine. Still he had no delight in shuffling
a puppetry; he would have preferred automatic figures. His calls for
them resounded through the wilderness of the wooden.
Any solid conviction of a capable head of a certainty impressed upon the
world, and thus his changes of view were not attributed to a fluctuating
devotion; they passed out of the range of criticism upon inconsistency,
notwithstanding that the commencement of his journalistic career smelt
of sources entirely opposed to the conclusions upon which it broadened.
One secret of the belief in his love of his country was the readiness of
Rockney's pen to support our nobler patriotic impulses, his relish of the
bluff besides. His eye was on our commerce, on our courts of Law, on our
streets and alleys, our army and navy, our colonies, the vaster than the
island England, and still he would be busy picking up needles and threads
in the island. Deeds of valour were noted by him, lapses of cowardice:
how one man stood against a host for law or humanity, how crowds looked
on at the beating of a woman, how a good fight was maintained in some sly
ring between two of equal brawn: and manufacturers were warned of the
consequences of their iniquities, Government was lashed for sleeping upon
shaky ordinances, colonists were gibbeted for the maltreating of natives:
the ring and fervour of the notes on daily events told of Rockney's hand
upon the national heart--with a faint, an enforced, reluctant indication
of our not being the men we were.
But after all, the main secret was his art of writing round English,
instead of laborious Latinised periods: and the secret of the art was his
meaning what he said. It was the personal throb. The fire of a mind was
translucent in Press columns where our public had been accustomed to the
rhetoric of primed scribes. He did away with the Biscay billow of the
leading article--Bull's favourite prose--bardic construction of sentences
that roll to the antithetical climax, whose foamy top is offered and
gulped as equivalent to an idea. Writing of such a kind as Rockney's was
new to a land where the political opinions of Joint Stock Companies had
rattled Jovian thunders obedient to the nod of Bull. Though not alone in
working the change, he was the foremost. And he was not devoid of style.
Fervidness is the core of style. He was a tough opponent for his betters
in education, struck forcibly, dexterously, was always alert for debate.
An encounter between Swift and Johnson, were it imaginable, would present
us probably the most prodigious Gigantomachy in literary polemics. It is
not imaginable among comparative pygmies. But Rockney's combat with his
fellow-politicians of the Press partook of the Swiftian against the
Johnsonian in form. He was a steam ram that drove straight at the bulky
broadside of the enemy.
Premiers of parties might be Captains of the State for Rockney: Rockney
was the premier's pilot, or woe to him. Woe to the country as well,
if Rockney's directions for steering were unheeded. He was a man of
forethought, the lover of Great Britain: he shouted his directions in
the voice of the lover of his mistress, urged to rebuke, sometimes to
command, the captain by the prophetic intimations of a holier alliance,
a more illumined prescience. Reefs here, shallows there, yonder a foul
course: this is the way for you! The refusal of the captain to go this
way caused Rockney sincerely to discredit the sobriety of his intellect.
It was a drunken captain. Or how if a traitorous? We point out the
danger to him, and if he will run the country on to it, we proclaim him
guilty either of inebriety or of treason--the alternatives are named:
one or the other has him. Simple unfitness can scarcely be conceived
of a captain having our common senses and a warranted pilot at his elbow.
Had not Rockney been given to a high expression of opinion, plain in
fervour, he would often have been exposed bare to hostile shafts. Style
cast her aegis over him. He wore an armour in which he could walk, run
and leap-a natural style. The ardour of his temperament suffused the
directness of his intelligence to produce it, and the two qualities made
his weakness and strength. Feeling the nerve of strength, the weakness
was masked to him, while his opponents were equally insensible to the
weakness under the force of his blows. Thus there was nothing to teach
him, or reveal him, except Time, whose trick is to turn corners of
unanticipated sharpness, and leave the directly seeing and ardent to dash
How rigidly should the man of forethought govern himself, question
himself! how constantly wrestle with himself! And if he be a writer
ebullient by the hour, how snappishly suspect himself, that he may feel
in conscience worthy of a hearing and have perpetually a conscience in
his charge! For on what is his forethought founded? Does he try the
ring of it with our changed conditions? Bus a man of forethought who has
to be one of our geysers ebullient by the hour must live days of fever.
His apprehensions distemper his blood; the scrawl of them on the dark of
the undeveloped dazzles his brain. He sees in time little else; his very
sincereness twists him awry. Such a man has the stuff of the born
journalist, and journalism is the food of the age. Ask him, however,
midway in his running, what he thinks of quick breathing: he will answer
that to be a shepherd on the downs is to be more a man. As to the
gobbling age, it really thinks better of him than he of it.
After a term of prolonged preachification he is compelled to lash that he
may less despise the age. He has to do it for his own sake. O gobbling
age! swallowing all, digesting nought, us too you have swallowed,
O insensate mechanism! and we will let you know you have a stomach.
Furiously we disagree with you. We are in you to lead you or work you
Rockney could not be a mild sermoniser commenting on events. Rather no
journalism at all for him! He thought the office of the ordinary daily
preacher cowlike. His gadfly stung him to warn, dictate, prognosticate;
he was the oracle and martyr of superior vision: and as in affairs of
business and the weighing of men he was of singularly cool sagacity, hard
on the downright, open to the humours of the distinct discrimination of
things in their roughness, the knowledge of the firmly-based materialism
of his nature caused him. thoroughly to trust to his voice when he
delivered it in ardour--circumstance coming to be of daily recurrence.
Great love creates forethoughtfulness, without-which incessant journalism
is a gabble. He was sure of his love, but who gave ear to his
prescience? Few: the echo of the country now and then, the Government
not often. And, dear me! those jog-trot sermonisers, mere commentators
upon events, manage somehow to keep up the sale of their journals:
advertisements do not flow and ebb with them as under the influence of a
capricious moon. Ah, what a public! Serve it honourably, you are in
peril of collapsing: show it nothing but the likeness of its dull animal
face, you are steadily inflated. These reflections within us! Might not
one almost say that the retreat for the prophet is the wilderness, far
from the hustled editor's desk; and annual should be the uplifting of his
voice instead of diurnal, if only to spare his blood the distemper?
A fund of gout was in Rockney's, and he had begun to churn it. Between
gouty blood and luminous brain the strife had set in which does not
conduce to unwavering sobriety of mind, though ideas remain closely
consecutive and the utterance resonant.
Never had he been an adulator of Bull. His defects as well as his
advantages as a politician preserved to him this virtue. Insisting on a
future, he could not do homage to the belying simulacrum of the present.
In the season of prosperity Rockney lashed the old fellow with the crisis
he was breeding for us; and when prostration ensued no English tongue was
loftier in preaching dignity and the means of recovery. Our monumental
image of the Misuse of Peace he pointed out unceasingly as at a despot
constructed by freemen out of the meanest in their natures to mock the
gift of liberty. His articles of foregone years were an extraordinary
record of events or conditions foreseen: seductive in the review of them
by a writer who has to be still foreseeing: nevertheless, that none of
them were bardic of Bull, and that our sound man would have acted wisely
in heeding some of the prescriptions, constituted their essential merit,
consolatory to think of, though painful. The country has gone the wrong
road, but it may yet cross over to the right one, when it perceives that
we were prophetic.
Compared with the bolts discharged at Bull by Rockney's artillery,
Captain Con O'Donnell's were popgun-pellets. Only Rockney fired to
chasten, Con O'Donnell for a diversion, to appease an animus. The
revolutionist in English journalism was too devoutly patriotic to
belabour even a pantomime mask that was taken as representative of us for
the disdainful fun of it. Behind the plethoric lamp, now blown with the
fleshpots, now gasping puffs of panic, he saw the well-minded valorous
people, issue of glorious grandsires; a nation under a monstrous
defacement, stupefied by the contemplation of the mask: his vision
was of the great of old, the possibly great in the graver strife ahead,
respecters of life, despisers of death, the real English whereas an
alienated Celtic satirist, through his vivid fancy and his disesteem,
saw the country incarnate in Bull, at most a roguish screw-kneed clown to
be whipped out of him. Celt and Saxon are much inmixed with us, but the
prevalence of Saxon blood is evinced by the public disregard of any
Celtic conception of the honourable and the loveable; so that the Celt
anxious to admire is rebutted, and the hatred of a Celt, quick as he is
to catch at images, has a figure of hugeous animalism supplied to his
malign contempt. Rockney's historic England, and the living heroic
England to slip from that dull hide in a time of trial, whether of war or
social suffering, he cannot see, nor a people hardening to Spartan
lineaments in the fire, iron men to meet disaster, worshippers of a
discerned God of Laws, and just men too, thinking to do justice; he has
Bull on the eye, the alternately braggart and poltroon, sweating in
labour that he may gorge the fruits, graceless to a scoffer. And this is
the creature to whose tail he is tied! Hereditary hatred is approved by
critical disgust. Some spirited brilliancy, some persistent generosity
(other than the guzzle's flash of it), might soften him; something
sweeter than the slow animal well-meaningness his placable brethren point
his attention to. It is not seen, and though he can understand the
perils of a severance, he prefers to rub the rawness of his wound and be
ready to pitch his cap in the air for it, out of sheer bloodloathing of
a connection that offers him nothing to admire, nothing to hug to his
heart. Both below and above the blind mass of discontent in his island,
the repressed sentiment of admiration-or passion of fealty and thirst to
give himself to a visible brighter--is an element of the division:
meditative young Patrick O'Donnell early in his reflections had noted
that:--and it is partly a result of our daily habit of tossing the straw
to the monetary world and doting on ourselves in the mirror, until our
habitual doings are viewed in a bemused complacency by us, and the scum-
surface of the country is flashed about as its vital being. A man of
forethought using the Press to spur Parliament to fitly represent the
people, and writing on his daily topics with strenuous original vigour,
even though, like Rockney, he sets the teeth of the Celt gnashing at him,
goes a step nearer to the bourne of pacification than Press and
Parliament reflecting the popular opinion that law must be passed to
temper Ireland's eruptiveness; for that man can be admired, and the Celt,
in combating him, will like an able and gallant enemy better than a
grudgingly just, lumbersome, dull, politic friend. The material points
in a division are always the stronger, but the sentimental are here very
strong. Pass the laws; they may put an extinguisher on the Irish
Vesuvian; yet to be loved you must be a little perceptibly admirable.
You may be so self-satisfied as to dispense with an ideal: your yoke-
fellow is not; it is his particular form of strength to require one for
his proper blooming, and he does bloom beautifully in the rays he courts.
Ah then, seek to be loved, and banish Bull. Believe in a future and
banish that gross obscuration of you. Decline to let that old-yeoman-
turned alderman stand any longer for the national man. Speaking to the
brain of the country, one is sure of the power of a resolute sign from it
to dismiss the brainless. Banish him your revels and your debatings,
prohibit him your Christmas, lend no ear either to his panics or his
testiness, especially none to his rages; do not report him at all,
and he will soon subside into his domestic, varied by pothouse, privacy.
The brain should lead, if there be a brain. Once free of him, you will
know that for half a century you have appeared bottom upward to mankind.
And you have wondered at the absence of love for you under so astounding
a presentation. Even in a Bull, beneficent as he can dream of being,
when his notions are in a similar state of inversion, should be sheepish
in hope for love.
He too, whom you call the Welshman, and deride for his delight in songful
gatherings, harps to wild Wales, his Cambrian highlands, and not to
England. You have not yet, though he is orderly and serviceable, allured
his imagination to the idea of England. Despite the passion for his
mountains and the boon of your raising of the interdict (within a hundred
years) upon his pastors to harangue him in his native tongue, he gladly
ships himself across the waters traversed by his Prince Madoc of
tradition, and becomes contentedly a transatlantic citizen, a member of
strange sects--he so inveterate in faithfulness to the hoar and the
legendary!--Anything rather than Anglican. The Cymry bear you no hatred;
their affection likewise is undefined. But there is reason to think that
America has caught the imagination of the Cambrian Celt: names of
Welshmen are numerous in the small army of the States of the Union; and
where men take soldier-service they are usually fixed, they and their
children. Here is one, not very deeply injured within a century, of
ardent temperament, given to be songful and loving; he leaves you and
forgets you. Be certain that the material grounds of division are not
all. To pronounce it his childishness provokes the retort upon your
presented shape. He cannot admire it. Gaelic Scots wind the same note
And your poets are in a like predicament. Your poets are the most
persuasive of springs to a lively general patriotism. They are in the
Celtic dilemma of standing at variance with Bull; they return him his
hearty antipathy, are unable to be epical or lyrical of him, are
condemned to expend their genius upon the abstract, the quaint, the
picturesque. Nature they read spiritually or sensually, always
shrinkingly apart from him. They swell to a resemblance of their patron
if they stoop to woo his purse. He has, on hearing how that poets bring
praise to nations, as in fact he can now understand his Shakespeare to
have done, been seen to thump the midriff and rally them for their
shyness of it, telling them he doubts them true poets while they abstain
from singing him to the world-him, and the things refreshing the centre
of him. Ineffectual is that encouragement. Were he in the fire, melting
to the iron man, the backbone of him, it would be different. At his
pleasures he is anti-hymnic, repellent to song. He has perceived the
virtues of Peace, without the brother eye for the need of virtuousness to
make good use of them and inspire the poet. His own enrolled
unrhythmical bardic troops (humorous mercenaries when Celts) do his
trumpeting best, and offend not the Pierides.
This interlude, or rather inter-drone, repulsive to write, can hardly be
excluded from a theme dramatising Celtic views, and treating of a blood,
to which the idea of country must shine resplendently if we would have it
running at full tide through the arteries. Preserve your worship, if the
object fills your optics. Better worship that than nothing, as it is
better for flames to be blown out than not to ascend, otherwise it will
wreak circular mischief instead of illumining. You are requested simply
to recollect that there is another beside you who sees the object
obliquely, and then you will not be surprised by his irreverence. What
if, in the end, you were conducted to a like point of view? Self-worship,
it has been said, is preferable to no trimming of the faculty, but
worship does not necessarily cease with the extinction of this of
the voraciously carnal. An ideal of country, of Great Britain, is
conceivable that will be to the taste of Celt and Saxon in common, to
wave as a standard over their fraternal marching. Let Bull boo his
drumliest at such talk: it is, I protest, the thing we want and can have.
He is the obstruction, not the country; and against him, not against the
country, the shots are aimed which seem so malignant. Him the gay
manipulators propitiate who look at him through Literature and the Press,
and across the pulpit-cushions, like airy Macheath at Society, as carrion
to batten on. May plumpness be their portion, and they never hanged for
it! But the flattering, tickling, pleasantly pinching of Bull is one of
those offices which the simple starveling piper regards with afresh
access of appetite for the well-picked bone of his virtue. That ghastly
apparition of the fleshly present is revealed to him as a dead whale,
having the harpoon of the inevitable slayer of the merely fleshly in his
oils. To humour him, and be his piper for his gifts, is to descend to a
carnival deep underneath. While he reigns, thinks this poor starveling,
Rome burns, or the explosive powders are being secretly laid. He and his
thousand Macheaths are dancing the country the giddy pace, and there
will, the wretch dreads, be many a crater of scoria in the island, before
he stretches his inanimate length, his parasites upon him. The theme is
chosen and must be treated as a piper involved in his virtue conceives
it: that is, realistically; not with Bull's notion of the realism of the
butcher's shop and the pendent legs of mutton and blocks of beef painted
raw and glaring in their streaks, but with the realism of the active
brain and heart conjoined. The reasons for the division of Celt and
Saxon, what they think and say of one another, often without knowing that
they are divided, and the wherefore of our abusing of ourselves, brave
England, our England of the ancient fortitude and the future incarnation,
can afford to hear. Why not in a tale? It is he, your all for animal
pleasure in the holiday he devours and cannot enjoy, whose example
teaches you to shun the plaguey tale that carries fright: and so you find
him sour at business and sick of his relaxings, hating both because he
harnesses himself in turn bestially to each, growling at the smallest
admixture of them, when, if he would but chirp a little over his work,
and allow his pleasures to inspire a dose of thoughtfulness, he would be
happier, and--who knows?-become a brighter fellow, one to be rescued from
Now the rain is over, your carriage is at the door, the country smiles
and the wet highway waves a beckoning hand. We have worn through a cloud
with cloudy discourses, but we are in a land of shifting weathers,
'coelum crebris imbribus ac nebulis foedum,' not every chapter can be
CROSSING THE RUBICON
Rough weather on the Irish sea discharged a pallid file of passengers
from the boat at Holyhead just as the morning sun struck wave and
mountain with one of the sudden sparkling changes which our South-welters
have in their folds to tell us after a tumultuous night that we have only
been worried by Puck. The scene of frayed waters all rosy-golden, and
golden-banded heathery height, with the tinted sand, breaking to flights
of blue, was resplendent for those of our recent sea-farers who could
lift an eye to enjoy it. Freshness, illumination, then salt air, vivid
distances, were a bath for every sense of life. You could believe the
breast of the mountain to be heaving, the billows to be kissing fingers
to him, the rollers shattered up the cliff to have run to extinction to
scale him. He seemed in his clear-edged mass King of this brave new
boundless world built in a minute out of the wreck of the old.
An hour back the vessel was labouring through rueful chasms under
darkness, and then did the tricksy Southwest administer grisly slaps to
right and left, whizzing spray across the starboard beam, and drenching
the locks of a young lady who sat cloaked and hooded in frieze to teach
her wilfulness a lesson, because she would keep her place on deck from
beginning to end of the voyage. Her faith in the capacity of Irish
frieze to turn a deluge of the deeps driven by an Atlantic gale was
shaken by the time she sighted harbour, especially when she shed showers
by flapping a batlike wing of the cloak, and had a slight shudder to find
herself trickling within.
'Dear! and I'm wet to the skin,' she confided the fact to herself
'You would not be advised,' a gentleman beside her said after a delicate
pause to let her impulsive naturalism of utterance fly by unwounded.
'And aren't you the same and worse? And not liking it either, I fear,
Sir!' she replied, for despite a manful smile his complexion was tell-
tale. 'But there 's no harm in salt. But you should have gone down to
the cabin with Father Boyle and you would have been sure of not catching
cold. But, Oh! the beautiful . . . look at it! And it's my first
view of England. Well, then, I'll say it's a beautiful country.'
Her companion looked up at the lighted sky, and down at the pools in
tarpaulin at his feet. He repressed a disposition to shudder, and with
the anticipated ecstasy of soon jumping out of wet clothes into dry, he
said: 'I should like to be on the top of that hill now.'
The young lady's eyes flew to the top.
'They say he looks on Ireland; I love him; and his name is Caer Gybi; and
it was one of our Saints gave him the name, I 've read in books. I'll be
there before noon.'
'You want to have a last gaze over to Erin?'
'No, it's to walk and feel the breeze. But I do, though.'
'Won't you require a little rest?'
'Sure and I've had it sitting here all night!' said she.
He laughed: the reason for the variation of exercise was conclusive.
Father Boyle came climbing up the ladder, uncertain of his legs; he
rolled and snatched and tottered on his way to them, and accepted the
gentleman's help of an arm, saying: 'Thank ye, thank ye, and good
morning, Mr. Colesworth. And my poor child! what sort of a night has
it been above, Kathleen?'
He said it rather twinkling, and she retorted:
'What sort of a night has it been below, Father Boyle?' Her twinkle was
livelier than his, compassionate in archness.
'Purgatory past is good for contemplation, my dear. 'Tis past, and
there's the comfort! You did well to be out of that herring-barrel,
Mr. Colesworth. I hadn't the courage, or I would have burst from it to
take a ducking with felicity. I haven't thrown up my soul; that's the
most I can say. I thought myself nigh on it once or twice. And an
amazing kind steward it was, or I'd have counted the man for some one
else. Surely 'tis a glorious morning?'
Mr. Colesworth responded heartily in praise of the morning. He was
beginning to fancy that he felt the warmth of spring sunshine on his
back. He flung up his head and sniffed the air, and was very like a
horse fretful for the canter; so like as to give Miss Kathleen an idea of
the comparison. She could have rallied him; her laughing eyes showed the
readiness, but she forbore, she drank the scene. Her face, with the
threaded locks about forehead and cheeks, and the dark, the blue, the
rosy red of her lips, her eyes, her hair, was just such a south-western
sky as April drove above her, the same in colour and quickness; and much
of her spirit was the same, enough to stand for a resemblance. But who
describes the spirit? No one at the gates of the field of youth. When
Time goes reaping he will gather us a sheaf, out of which the picture
'There's our last lurch, glory to the breakwater!' exclaimed Father
Boyle, as the boat pitched finally outside the harbour fence, where a
soft calm swell received them with the greeting of civilised sea-nymphs.
'The captain'll have a quieter passage across. You may spy him on the
pier. We'll be meeting him on the landing.'
'If he's not in bed, from watching the stars all night,' said Miss
'He must have had a fifty-lynx power of sight for that, my dear.'
'They did appear, though, and wonderfully bright,' she said. 'I saw them
come out and go in. It's not all cloud when the high wind blows.'
'You talk like a song, Kathleen.'
'Couldn't I rattle a throat if I were at home, Father!'
'Ah! we're in the enemy's country now.'
Miss Kathleen said she would go below to get the handbags from the
Mr. Colesworth's brows had a little darkened over the Rev. Gentleman's
last remark. He took two or three impatient steps up and down with his
head bent. 'Pardon me; I hoped we had come to a better understanding,'
he said. 'Is it quite fair to the country and to Miss O'Donnell to
impress on her before she knows us that England is the enemy?'
'Habit, Mr. Colesworth, habit! we've got accustomed to the perspective
and speak accordingly. There's a breach visible.'
'I thought you agreed with me that good efforts are being made on our
side to mend the breach.'
'Sir, you have a noble minority at work, no doubt; and I take you for one
of the noblest, as not objecting to stand next to alone.'
'I really thought, judging from our conversation at Mrs. O'Donnell's that
evening, that you were going to hold out a hand and lead your flock to
the right sort of fellowship with us.'
'To submission to the laws, Mr. Colesworth; 'tis my duty to do it as
pastor and citizen.'
'No, to more than that, sir. You spoke with friendly warmth.'
'The atmosphere was genial, if you remember the whisky and the fumes of
our tobacco at one o'clock!'
'I shall recollect the evening with the utmost pleasure. You were kind
enough to instruct me in a good many things I shall be sure to profit by.
I wish I could have spent more time in Ireland. As it is, I like
Irishmen so well that if the whole land were in revolt I should never
call it the enemy's country.'
'Excellently spoken, Mr. Colesworth,' said the priest. 'We 'll hope your
writings may do service to mend the breach. For there is one, as you
know, and more 's the pity; there's one, and it's wide and deep. As my
friend Captain Con O'Donnell says, it's plain to the naked eye as a pair
of particularly fat laundry drawers hung out to dry and ballooned in
extension--if mayhap you've ever seen the sight of them in that state:--
just held together by a narrow neck of thread or button, and stretching
away like a corpulent frog in the act of swimming on the wind. His
comparison touches the sentiment of disunion, sir.'
Mr. Colesworth had not ever seen such a pair of laundry drawers inflated
to symbolise the breach between Ireland and England; nor probably, if he
Back to Full Books