The World's Greatest Books, Vol VI.
Part 5 out of 7
They passed that day in intense anxiety, and at night had no thought of
repose. At midnight sounds of indescribable horror began to issue from
the Wanderer's apartment, shrieks of supplication, yells of blasphemy--
they could not tell which. The sounds suddenly ceased. The two men
hastened into the room. It was empty.
A small door leading to a back staircase was open, and near it they
discovered the trace of footsteps of a person who had been walking in
damp sand or clay. They traced the footsteps down the stairs, through
the garden, and across a field to a rock that overlooked the sea.
Through the furze that clothed this rock, there was a kind of track as
if a person had dragged his way, or been dragged, through it. The two
men gained the summit of the rock; the wide, waste, engulfing ocean was
beneath. On a crag below, something hung as floating to the blast.
Melmoth clambered down and caught it. It was the handkerchief which the
Wanderer had worn about his neck the preceding night. That was the last
trace of the Wanderer.
Melmoth and Moncada exchanged looks of silent horror, and returned
* * * * *
DIEGO DE MENDOZA
Lazarillo de Tormes
Don Diego Hurtado de Mendoza's career was hardly of a kind
that would be ordinarily associated with a lively romance of
vagabondage. A grandee of high birth, an ambassador of the
Emperor Charles V., an accomplished soldier and a learned
historian--such was the creator of the hungry rogue Lazarillo,
and the founder of the "picaresque" school of fiction, or the
romance of roguery, which is not yet extinct. Don Diego de
Mendoza, born early in 1503, was educated at the University of
Salamanca, and spent most of the rest of his days in courts
and camps. He died at Madrid in April 1575. Although written
during Mendoza's college days, "Lazarillo de Tormes" did not
appear until 1533, when it was published anonymously at
Antwerp. During the following year it was reprinted at Bruges,
but it fell under the ban of the Inquisition, and subsequent
editions were considerably expurgated. Such was its popularity
that it was continued by inferior authors after Mendoza's
_I.--The Blind Man_
You must know, in the first place, that my name is Lazarillo de Tormes,
and that I am the son of Thomas Gonzalez and Antonia Perez, natives of
Tejares, a village of Salamanca. My father was employed to superintend
the operations of a water-mill on the river Tormes, from which I took my
surname; and I had only reached my ninth year, when he was taken into
custody for administering certain copious, but injudicious, bleedings to
the sacks of customers. Being thrown out of employment by this disaster,
he joined an armament then preparing against the Moors in the quality of
mule-driver to a gentleman; and in that expedition he, along with his
master, finished his life and services together.
My widowed mother hired a small place in the city of Salamanca, and
opened an eating-house for the accommodation of students. It happened
some time afterwards that a blind man came to lodge at the house, and
thinking that I should do very well to lead him about, asked my mother
to part with me. He promised to receive me not as a servant, but as a
son; and thus I left Salamanca with my blind and aged master. He was as
keen as an eagle in his own calling. He knew prayers suitable for all
occasions, and could repeat them with a devout and humble countenance;
he could prognosticate; and with respect to the medicinal art, he would
tell you that Galen was an ignoramus compared with him. By these means
his profits were very considerable.
With all this, however, I am sorry to say that I never met with so
avaricious and so wicked an old curmudgeon; he allowed me almost daily
to die of hunger, without troubling himself about my necessities; and,
to say the truth, if I had not helped myself by means of a ready wit I
should have closed my account from sheer starvation.
The old man was accustomed to carry his food in a sort of linen
knapsack, secured at the mouth by a padlock; and in adding to or taking
from his store he used such vigilance that it was almost impossible to
cheat him of a single morsel. By means of a small rent, however, which I
slyly effected in one of the seams of the bag, I helped myself to the
Whenever we ate, he kept a jar of wine near him; and I adopted the
practice of bestowing on it sundry loving though stolen embraces. The
fervency of my attachment was soon discovered in the deficiency of the
wine, and the old man tied the jar to himself by the handle. I now
procured a large straw, which I dipped into the mouth of the jar; but
the old traitor must have heard me drink with it, for he placed the jar
between his knees, keeping the mouth closed with his hand.
I then bored a small hole in the bottom of the jar, and closed it very
delicately with wax. As the poor old man sat over the fire, with the jar
between his knees, the heat melted the wax, and I, placing my mouth
underneath, received the whole contents of the jar. The old boy was so
enraged and surprised that he thought the devil himself had been at
work. But he discovered the hole; and when next day I placed myself
under the jar, he brought the jar down with full force on my mouth.
Nearly all my teeth were broken, and my face was horribly cut with the
fragments of the broken vessel.
After this, he continually ill-treated me; on the slightest occasion he
would flog me without mercy. If any humane person interfered, he
immediately recounted the history of the jar; they would laugh, and say,
"Thrash him well, good man; he deserves it richly!" I determined to
revenge myself on the old tyrant, and seized an opportunity on a rainy
day when a stream was flowing down the street. I took him to a point
where the stream passed a stone pillar, told him that the water was
narrowest there, and invited him to jump. He jumped accordingly, and
gave his poor old pate such a smash against the pillar that he fell
senseless. I took to my heels as swiftly as possible; nor did I even
trouble to inquire what became of him.
The next day I went to a place called Maqueda, where, as it were in
punishment for my evil deeds, I fell in with a certain priest. I
accosted him for alms, when he inquired whether I knew how to assist at
mass. I answered that I did, which was true, for the blind man had
taught me. The priest, therefore, engaged me on the spot.
There is an old proverb which speaks of getting out of the frying-pan
into the fire, which was indeed my unhappy case in this change of
masters. This priest was, without exception, the most niggardly of all
miserable devils I have ever met with. He had a large old chest, the key
of which he always carried about him; and when the charity bread came
from the church, he would with his own hands deposit it in the chest and
turn the key. The only other eatable we had was a string of onions, of
which every fourth day I was allowed _one_. Five farthings' worth of
meat was his allowance for dinner and supper. It is true he divided the
broth with me; but my share of the meat I might have put in my eye
instead of my mouth, and have been none the worse for it; but sometimes,
by good luck, I got a little morsel of bread.
At the end of three weeks I was so exhausted with sheer hunger that I
could hardly stand on my legs. One day, when my miserable, covetous
thief of a master had gone out, an angel, in the likeness of a tinker,
knocked at the door, and inquired whether I had anything to mend.
Suddenly a light flashed upon me. "I have lost the key of this chest,"
said I, "can you fit it?" He drew forth a bunch of keys, fitted it, and
lo! the lid of the chest arose. "I have no money," I said to my
preserver, "but give me the key and help yourself." He helped himself,
and so, when he had gone, did I.
But it was not predestined for me that such good luck should continue
long; for on the third day I beheld the priest turning and counting the
loaves over and over again. At last he said, "If I were not assured of
the security of this chest, I should say that somebody had stolen my
bread; but from this day I shall count the loaves; there remain now
exactly nine and a piece."
"May nine curses light upon you, you miserable beggar!" said I to
myself. The utmost I dared do, for some days, was to nibble here and
there a morsel of the crust. At last it occurred to me that the chest
was old and in parts broken. Might it not be supposed that rats had made
an entrance? I therefore picked one loaf after another until I made up a
tolerable supply of crumbs, which I ate like so many sugar-plums.
The priest, when he returned, beheld the havoc with dismay.
"Confound the rats!" quoth he. "There is no keeping anything from them."
I fared well at dinner, for he pared off all the places which he
supposed the rats had nibbled at, and gave them to me, saying, "There,
eat that; rats are very clean animals." But I received another shock
when I beheld my tormentor nailing pieces of wood over all the holes in
the chest. All I could do was to scrape other holes with an old knife;
and so it went on until the priest set a trap for the rats, baiting it
with bits of cheese that he begged from his neighbours. I did not nibble
my bread with less relish because I added thereto the bait from the
rat-trap. The priest, almost beside himself with astonishment at finding
the bread nibbled, the bait gone, and no rat in the trap, consulted his
neighbours, who suggested, to his great alarm, that the thief must be a
For security, I kept my precious key in my mouth--which I could do
without inconvenience, as I had been in the habit of carrying in my
mouth the coins I had stolen from my former blind master. But one night,
when I was fast asleep, it was decreed by an evil destiny that the key
should be placed in such a position in my mouth that my breath caused a
loud whistling noise. My master concluded that this must be the hissing
of the snake; he arose and stole with a club in his hand towards the
place whence the sound proceeded; then, lifting the club, he discharged
with all his force a blow on my unfortunate head. When he had fetched a
light, he found me moaning, with the tell-tale key protruding from my
"Thank God," he exclaimed, "that the rats and snakes which have so long
devoured my substance are at last discovered!"
As soon as my wounds were healed, he turned me out of his door as if I
had been in league with the evil one.
_III.--The Poor Gentleman_
By the assistance of some kind people I made my way to Toledo, where I
sought my living by begging from door to door. But one day I encountered
a certain esquire; he was well dressed, and walked with an air of ease
and consequence. "Are you seeking a master, my boy?" he said. I replied
that I was, and he bade me follow him.
He led me through a dark and dismal entry to a house absolutely bare of
furniture; and the hopes I had formed when he engaged me were further
depressed when he told me that he had already breakfasted, and that it
was not his custom to eat again till the evening. Disconsolately I began
to eat some crusts that I had about me.
"Come here, boy," said my master. "What are you eating?" I showed him
the bread. "Upon my life, but this seems exceedingly nice bread," he
exclaimed; and seizing the largest piece, he attacked it fiercely.
When night came on, and I was expecting supper, my master said, "The
market is distant, and the city abounds with rogues; we had better pass
the night as we can, and to-morrow we will fare better. Nothing will
ensure length of life so much as eating little."
"Then truly," said I to myself in despair, "I shall never die."
I spent the night miserably on a hard cane bedstead without a mattress.
In the morning my master arose, washed his hands and face, dried them on
his garments for want of a towel, and then carefully dressed himself,
with my assistance. Having girded on his sword, he went forth to hear
mass, without saying a word about breakfast. "Who would believe," I
said, observing his erect bearing and air of gentility as he walked up
the street, "that such a fine gentleman had passed the whole of
yesterday without any other food than a morsel of bread? How many are
there in this world who voluntarily suffer more for their false idea of
honour, than they would undergo for their hopes of an hereafter!"
The day advanced, and my master did not return; my hopes of dinner
disappeared like those of breakfast. In desperation, I went out begging,
and such was the talent I had acquired in this art that I came back with
four pounds of bread, a piece of cow-heel, and some tripe. I found my
master at home, and he did not disapprove of what I had done.
"It is much better," said he, "to ask, for the love of God, than to
steal. I only charge you on no account to say you live with me."
When I sat down to supper, my poor master eyed me so longingly that I
resolved to invite him to partake of my repast; yet I wondered whether
he would take it amiss if I did so. But my wishes towards him were soon
"Ah!" said he; "cow-heel is delicious. There is nothing I am more fond
"Then taste it, sir," said I, "and try whether this is as good as you
have eaten." Presently he was grinding the food as ravenously as a
In this manner we passed eight or ten days, my master taking the air
every day with the most perfect ease of a man of fashion, and returning
home to feast on the contributions of the charitable, levied by poor
Lazaro. Whereas my former masters declined to feed me, this one expected
that I should maintain him. But I was much more sorry for him than angry
at him, and with all his poverty I found greater satisfaction in serving
him than either of the others.
At length a man came to demand the rent, which of course my master could
not pay. He answered the man very courteously that he was going out to
change a piece of gold. But this time he made his exit for good. Next
morning the man came to seize my master's effects, and on finding there
were none, he had me arrested. But I was soon found to be innocent, and
released. Thus did I lose my third and poorest master.
_IV.--The Dealer in Indulgences_
My fourth master was a holy friar, eager in the pursuit of every kind of
secular business and amusement. He kept me so incessantly on the trot
that I could not endure it, so I took my leave of him without asking it.
The next master that fortune threw in my way was a bulero, or dealer in
papal indulgences, one of the cleverest and most impudent rogues that I
have ever seen. He practised all manner of deceit, and resorted to the
most subtle inventions to gain his end. A regular account of his
artifices would fill a volume; but I will only recount a little
manoeuvre which will give you some idea of his genius and invention.
He had preached two or three days at a place near Toledo, but found his
indulgences go off but slowly. Being at his wits' end what to do, he
invited the people to the church next morning to take his farewell.
After supper at the inn that evening, he and the alguazil quarrelled and
began to revile each other, my master calling the alguazil a thief, the
alguazil declaring that the bulero was an impostor, and that his
indulgences were forged. Peace was not restored until the alguazil had
been taken away to another inn.
Next morning, during my master's farewell sermon, the alguazil entered
the church and publicly repeated his charge, that the indulgences were
forged. Whereupon my devout master threw himself on his knees in the
pulpit, and exclaimed: "O Lord, Thou knowest how cruelly I am
calumniated! I pray Thee, therefore, to show by a miracle the whole
truth as to this matter. If I deal in iniquity may this pulpit sink with
me seven fathoms below the earth, but if what is said be false let the
author of the calumny be punished, so that all present may be convinced
of his malice."
Hardly had he finished his prayer when the alguazil fell down, foaming
at the mouth, and rolled about in the utmost apparent agony. At this
wonderful interposition of Providence, there was a general clamour in
the church, and some terrified people implored my sainted master, who
was kneeling in the pulpit, with his eyes towards heaven, to intercede
for the poor wretch. He replied that no favour should be sought for one
whom God had chastised, but that as we were bidden to return good for
evil, he would try to obtain pardon for the unhappy man. Desiring the
congregation to pray for the sinner, he commanded the holy bull to be
placed on the alguazil's head. Gradually the sufferer was restored, and
fell at the holy commissary's feet, imploring his pardon, which was
granted with benevolent words of comfort.
Great now was the demand for indulgences; people came flocking from all
parts, so that no sermons were necessary in the church to convince them
of the benefits likely to result to the purchasers. I must confess that
I was deceived at the time, but hearing the merriment which it afforded
to the holy commissary and the alguazil, I began to suspect that it
originated in the fertile brain of my master, and from that time I
ceased to be a child of grace. For, I argued, "If I, being an
eye-witness to such an imposition, could almost believe it, how many
more, amongst this poor innocent people, must be imposed on by these
On leaving the bulero I entered the service of a chaplain, which was the
first step I had yet made towards attaining an easy life, for I had here
a mouthful at will. Having bidden the chaplain farewell, I attached
myself to an alguazil. But I did not long continue in the train of
justice; it pleased Heaven to enlighten and put me into a much better
way, for certain gentlemen procured me an office under government. This
I yet keep, and flourish in it, with the permission of God and every
good customer. In fact, my charge is that of making public proclamation
of the wine which is sold at auctions, etc.; of bearing those company
who suffer persecution for justice's sake, and publishing to the world,
with a loud voice, their faults.
About this time the arch-priest of Salvador, to whom I was introduced,
and who was under obligations to me for crying his wine, showed his
sense of it by uniting me with one of his own domestics. About this time
I was at the top of the ladder, and enjoyed all kinds of good fortune.
This happy state I conceived would continue; but fortune soon began to
show another aspect, and a fresh series of miseries and difficulties
followed her altered looks--troubles which it would be too cruel a task
for me to have to recount.
* * * * *
The Death of the Gods
Among Russian writers whose works have achieved European
reputation, prominence must be given to Dmitri Merejkowski.
The son of a court official, Merejkowski was born in 1866, and
began to write verses at the age of fifteen, his first volume
of poems appearing in 1888. Then, nine years later, came the
first of his great trilogy, "The Death of the Gods," which is
continued in "The Resurrection of the Gods," and completed by
"Anti-Christ," the last-named having for its central character
the figure of Peter the Great, the creator of modern Russia.
"The Death of the Gods," by many considered the finest of the
three, is a vivid picture of the times of the Roman Emperor
Julian, setting forth the doctrine that the pagan and the
Christian elements in human nature are equally legitimate and
sacred, a doctrine which, in its various guises, runs through
All was dark in the great palace at Macellum, an ancient residence of
Cappadocian princes. Here dwelt Julian and Gallus, the youthful cousins
of the reigning Emperor Constantius, and the nephews of Constantine the
Great. They were the last representatives of the hapless house of the
Flavii. Their father, Julian Constantius, brother of Constantine, was
murdered by the orders of Constantius on his accession to the throne,
and the two orphans lived in constant fear of death.
Julian was not asleep. He listened to the regular breathing of his
brother, who slept near him on a more comfortable bed, and to the heavy
snore of his tutor Mardonius in the next room. Suddenly the door of the
secret staircase opened softly, and a bright light dazzled Julian.
Labda, an old slave, entered, carrying a metal lamp in her hand.
The old woman, who loved Julian, and held him to be the true successor
of Constantine the Great, placed the lamp in a stone niche above his
head, and produced honey cakes for him to eat. Then she blessed him with
the sign of the cross and disappeared.
A heavy slumber fell on Julian, and then he awoke full of fears. He sat
up on his bed, and listened in the silence to the beatings of his own
heart. Suddenly, voices and steps resounded from room to room. Then the
steps approached, the voices became distinct.
The boy called out, "Gallus, wake up! Mardonius, can't you hear
Gallus awoke, and at the same moment old Mardonius, with his grey hair
all dishevelled, entered and rushed towards the secret door.
"The soldiers of the Prefect! ... Dress! ... We must fly! ..." he
Mardonius was too late; all he could do was to draw an old sword and
stand in warlike attitude before the door, brandishing his weapon. The
centurion, who was drunk, promptly seized him by the throat and threw
him out of the way, and the Roman legionaries entered.
"In the name of the most orthodox and blessed Augustus Constantius
Imperator! I, Marcus Scuda, Tribune of the Fretensian Legion, take under
my safeguard Julian and Gallus, sons of the Patrician Julius Flavius."
It was Scuda's plan to gain favour with his superiors by boldly carrying
off the lads and sending them down to his barracks at Caesarea. There
were rumours from time to time of their escaping from Macellum, and
Scuda knew, the emperor's fear lest these possible claimants for the
throne should gain a following among the soldiers of the people. At
Caesarea they would be in safe custody.
For the first time he gazed upon Gallus and Julian. The former, with his
indolent and listless blue eyes and flaxen hair, trembled and blinked,
his eyelids heavy with sleep, and crossed himself. The latter, thin,
sickly, and pale, with large shining eyes, stared at Scuda fixedly, and
shook with bridled rage. In his right hand, hidden by the panther skin
of his bed, which he had flung over his shoulder, he gripped the handle
of a Persian dagger given him by Labda; it was tipped with the keenest
A wild chance of safety suddenly occurred to Mardonius. Throwing aside
his sword, he caught hold of the tribune's mantle, and shrieked out, "Do
you know what you're doing, rascals? How dare you insult an envoy of
Constantius? It is I who am charged to conduct these two princes to
court. The august emperor has restored them to his favour. Here is the
order from Constantinople!"
"What is he saying? What order is it?" Scuda waited in perplexity while
Mardonius, after hunting in a drawer, pulled out a roll of parchment,
and presented it to the tribune. Scuda saw the name of the emperor, and
read the first lines, without remarking the date of the document. At the
sight of the great imperial seal of dark green wax he became frightened.
"Pardon, there is some mistake," said the tribune humbly. "Don't ruin
us! We are all brothers and fellow-sinners! I beseech you in the name of
"I know what acts you commit in the name of Christ. Away with you!
Begone at once!" screamed Mardonius. The tribune gave the order to
retire, and only when the sound of the steps dying away assured
Mardonius that all peril was over did the old man forget his tutorial
dignity. A wild fit of laughter seized him, and he began to dance.
"Children, children!" he cried gleefully. "Glory to Hermes! We've done
them cleverly! That edict was annulled three years ago! Ah, the idiots,
At daybreak Julian fell into a deep sleep.
_II.--Julian the Emperor_
Gallus had fallen at the hands of the imperial executioner, and Julian
had been banished to the army in Gaul. Constantius hoped to get news of
the defeat and death of Julian, and was horribly disappointed when
nothing was heard but tidings of victory.
Julian, successful in arms and worshipped by his soldiers, became more
and more convinced that the old Olympian gods were protecting him and
advancing his cause, and only for prudential reasons did he continue to
attend Christian churches. In his heart he abhorred the crucified
Galilean God of the Christians, and longed for the restoration of the
old worship of Apollo and the gods of Greece and Rome.
More than two years after the victory of Argentoratum, when Julian had
delivered all Gaul from the barbarians, he received an important letter
from the Emperor Constantius.
Each new victory in Gaul had maddened the soul of Constantius, and
smitten his vanity to the quick. He writhed with jealousy, and grew thin
and sleepless and sick. At the same time he sustained defeat after
defeat in his own campaign in Asia against the Persians. Musing, during
nights of insomnia, the emperor blamed himself for having let Julian
Finally, Constantius decided to rob Julian of his best soldiers, and
then, by gradually disarming him, to draw him into his toils and deal
him the mortal blow.
With this intention he sent a letter to Julian by the tribune Decensius,
commanding him to select the most trusted legions, namely, the Heruli,
Batavians, and Celts, and to dispatch them into Asia for the emperor's
own use. Each remaining legion was also to be deflowered of its three
hundred bravest warriors, and Julian's transport crippled of the pick of
the porters and baggage carriers.
Julian at once warned Decensius, and proved to him that rebellion was
inevitable among the savage legions raised in Gaul, who would almost
certainly prefer to die rather than quit their native soil. But
Decensius took no account of these warnings.
On the departure of the first cohorts, the soldiers, hitherto only
restrained by Julian's stern and wise discipline, became excited and
tumultuous. Savage murmurs ran through the crowd. The cries came nearer;
wild agitation seized the garrison.
"What has happened?" asked a veteran.
"Twenty soldiers have been beaten to death!"
"Twenty! No; a hundred!"
A legionary, with torn clothes and terrified appearance, rushed into the
crowd, shouting, "Comrades, quick to the palace! Quick! Julian's just
These words kindled the long-smouldering flame. Everyone began to shout,
"Where is the envoy from the Emperor Constantius?"
"Down with the envoy!"
"Down with the emperor!"
Another mob swept by the barracks, calling out, "Glory to the Emperor
Julian! Glory to Augustus Julian!"
Then the cohorts, who had marched out the night before, mutinied, and
were soon seen returning. The crowd grew thicker and thicker, like a
"To the palace! To the palace!" the cry was raised. "Let us make Julian
emperor! Let us crown him with the diadem!"
Foreseeing the revolt, Julian had not left his quarters nor shown
himself to the soldiers, but for two days and two nights had waited for
The indistinct cries of the mutineers came to him, borne faintly upon
A servant entered, and announced that an old man from Athens desired to
see the Caesar on urgent business. Julian ran to meet the newcomer; it
was the high-priest of the mysteries of Eleusis, whom he had impatiently
"Caesar," said the old man, "be not hasty. Decide nothing to-night; wait
for the morrow, the gods are silent."
Outside could be heard the noise of soldiers pouring into the courtyard,
and thrilling the old palace with their cries. The die was cast, Julian
put on his armour, warcloak, and helmet, buckled on his sword, and ran
down the principal staircase to the main entrance. In a moment the crowd
felt his supremacy; in action his will never vacillated; at his first
gesture the mob was silenced.
Julian spoke to the soldiers, asked them to restore order, and declared
that he would neither abandon them nor permit them to be taken from
"Down with Constantius!" cried the legionaries. "Thou art our emperor!
Glory to Augustus Julian the Invincible!"
Admirably did Julian affect surprise, lowering his eyes, and turning
aside his head with a deprecating gesture of his lifted palms.
The shouts redoubled. "Silence!" exclaimed Julian, striding towards the
crowd. "Do you think that I can betray my sovereign? Are we not sworn?"
The soldiers seized his hands, and many, falling at his feet, kissed
them, weeping and crying, "We are willing to die for you! Have pity on
us; be our emperor!"
With an effort that might well have been thought sincere, Julian
answered, "My children, my dear comrades, I am yours in life and in
death! I can refuse you nothing!"
A standard-bearer pulled from his neck the metal chain denoting his
rank, and Julian wound it twice around his own neck. This chain made him
Emperor of Rome.
"Hoist him on a shield," shouted the soldiery. A round buckler was
tendered. Hundreds of arms heaved the emperor. He saw a sea of helmeted
heads, and heard, like the rolling of thunder, the exultant cry, "Glory
to Julian, the divine Augustus!"
It seemed the will of destiny.
_III.--The Worship of Apollo_
Constantius was dead, and Julian sole emperor of Rome.
Before all the army the golden cross had been wrenched from the imperial
standard, and a little silver statue of the sun-god, Mithra-Helios, had
been soldered to the staff of the Labarum.
One of the men in the front rank uttered a single word so distinctly
that Julian heard it, "Anti-Christ!"
Toleration was promised to the Christians, but Julian organised
processions in honour of the Olympian gods, and encouraged in every way
the return of the old and dying worship.
* * * * *
Five miles from Antioch stood the celebrated wood of Daphne, consecrated
to Apollo. A temple had been built there, where every year the praises
of the sun-god were celebrated.
Julian, without telling anyone of his intention, quitted Antioch at
daybreak. He wished to find out for himself whether the inhabitants
remembered the ancient sacred feast. All along the road he mused on the
solemnity, hoping to see lads and maidens going up the steps of the
temple, the crowd of the faithful, the choirs, and the smoke of incense.
Presently the columns and pediments of the temple shone through the
wood, but not a worshipper yet had Julian encountered. At last he saw a
boy of twelve years old, on a path overgrown with wild hyacinth.
"Do you know, child, where are the sacrificers and the people?" Julian
The child made no answer.
"Listen, little one. Can you not lead me to the priest of Apollo?"
The boy put a finger to his lips and then to both his ears, and shook
his head gravely. Suddenly he pointed out to Julian an old man, clothed
in a patched and tattered tunic, and Julian recognised a temple priest.
The weak and broken old man stumbled along in drunken fashion, carrying
a large basket and laughing and mumbling to himself as he went. He was
red-nosed, and his watery and short-sighted eyes had an expression of
"The priest of Apollo?" asked Julian.
"I am he. I am called Gorgius. What do you want, good man?"
He smelt strongly of wine. Julian thought his behaviour indecent.
"You seem to be drunk, old man!"
Gorgius, in no wise dismayed, put down his basket and rubbed his bald
"Drunk? I don't think so. But I may have had four or five cups in honour
of the celebration; and, as to that, I drink more through sorrow than
mirth. May the Olympians have you in their keeping!"
"Where are the victims?" asked Julian. "Have many people been sent from
Antioch? Are the choirs ready?"
"Victims! Small thanks for victims! Many's the long year, my brother,
since we saw that kind of thing. Not since the time of Constantine. It
is all over--done for! Men have forgotten the gods. We don't even get a
handful of wheat to make a cake; not a grain of incense, not a drop of
oil for the lamps. There's nothing for it but to go to bed and die....
The monks have taken everything.... Our tale is told.... And you say
'don't drink.' But it's hard not to drink when one suffers. If I didn't
drink I should have hanged myself long ago."
"And no one has come from Antioch for this great feast day?" asked
"None but you, my son. I am the priest, you are the people! Together we
will offer the victim to the god. It is my own offering. We've eaten
little for three days, this lad and I, to save the necessary money.
Look; it is a sacred bird!"
He raised the lid of the basket. A tethered goose slid out its head,
cackling and trying to escape.
"Have you dwelt long in this temple; and is this lad your son?"
"For forty years, and perhaps longer; but I have neither relatives nor
friends. This child helps me at the hour of sacrifice. His mother was
the great sibyl Diotima, who lived here, and it is said that he is the
son of a god," said Gorgius.
"A deaf mute the son of a god?" murmured the emperor, surprised.
"In times like ours if the son of a god and a sibyl were not a deaf mute
he would die of grief," said Gorgius.
"One thing more I want to ask you," said Julian. "Have you ever heard
that the Emperor Julian desired to restore the worship of the old gods?"
"Yes, but ... what can he do, poor man? He will not succeed. I tell
you--all's over. Once I sailed in a ship near Thessalonica, and saw
Mount Olympus. I mused and was full of emotion at beholding the
dwellings of the gods; and a scoffing old man told me that travellers
had climbed Olympus, and seen that it was an ordinary mountain, with
only snow and ice and stones on it. I have remembered those words all my
life. My son, all is over; Olympus is deserted. The gods have grown
weary and have departed. But the sun is up, the sacrifice must be
They passed into the temple alone.
From behind the trees came the sound of voices, a procession of monks
chanting psalms. In the very neighbourhood of Apollo's temple a tomb had
been built in honour of a Christian martyr.
_IV.--"Thou Hast Conquered, Galilean!"_
At the beginning of spring Julian quitted Antioch for a Persian campaign
with an army of sixty-five thousand men.
"Warriors, my bravest of the brave," said Julian, addressing his troops
at the outset, "remember the destiny of the world is in our hands. We
are going to restore the old greatness of Rome! Steel your hearts, be
ready for any fate. There is to be no turning back, I shall be at your
head, on horseback or on foot, taking all dangers and toils with the
humblest among you; because, henceforth, you are no longer my servants,
but my children and my friends. Courage then, my comrades; and remember
that the strong are always conquerors!"
He stretched his sword, with a smile, toward the distant horizon. The
soldiers, in unison, held up their bucklers, shouting in rapture,
"Glory, glory to conquering Caesar!"
But the campaign so bravely begun ended in treachery and disaster.
At the end of July, when the Roman army was in steady retreat, came the
last battle with the Persians. The emperor looked for a miracle in this
battle, the victory which would give him such renown and power that the
Galileans could no longer resist; but it was not till the close of the
day that the ranks of the enemy were broken. Then a cry of triumph came
from Julian's lips. He galloped ahead, pursuing the fugitives, not
perceiving that he was far in advance of his main body. A few bodyguards
surrounded the Caesar, among them old General Victor. This old man,
though wounded, was unconscious of his hurt, not quitting the emperor's
side, and shielding him time after time from mortal blows. He knew that
it was as dangerous to approach a fleeing enemy as to enter a falling
"Take heed, Caesar!" he shouted. "Put on this mail of mine!" But Julian
heard him not, and still rode on, as if he, unsupported, unarmed, and
terrible, were hunting his countless enemies by glance and gesture only
from the field.
Suddenly a lance, aimed by a flying Saracen who had wheeled round,
hissed, and grazing the skin of the emperor's right hand, glanced over
the ribs, and buried itself in his body. Julian thought the wound a
slight one, and seizing the double-edged barb to withdraw it, cut his
fingers. Blood gushed out, Julian uttered a cry, flung his head back,
and slid from his horse into the arms of the guard.
They carried the emperor into his tent, and laid him on his camp-bed.
Still in a swoon, he groaned from time to time. Oribazius, the
physician, drew out the iron lance-head, and washed and bound up the
deep wound. By a look Victor asked if any hope remained, and Oribazius
sadly shook his head. After the dressing of the wound Julian sighed and
opened his eyes.
Hearing the distant noise of battle, he remembered all, and with an
effort, rose upon his bed. His soul was struggling against death. Slowly
he tottered to his feet.
"I must be with them to the end.... You see, I am able-bodied still....
Quick, give me my sword, buckler, horse!"
Victor gave him the shield and sword. Julian took them, and made a few
unsteady steps, like a child learning to walk. The wound re-opened; he
let fall his sword and shield, sank into the arms of Oribazius and
Victor, and looking up, cried contemptuously, "All is over! Thou hast
conquered, Galilean!" And making no further resistance, he gave himself
up to his friends, and was laid on the bed.
At night he was in delirium.
"One must conquer ... reason must.... Socrates died like a god.... I
will not believe!... What do you want from me?... Thy love is more
terrible than death.... I want sunlight, the golden sun!"
At dawn the sick man lay calm, and the delirium had left him.
"Call the generals--I must speak."
The generals came in, and the curtain of the tent was raised so that the
fresh air of the morning might blow on the face of the dying. The
entrance faced east, and the view to the horizon was unbroken.
"Listen, friends," Julian began, and his voice was low, but clear. "My
hour is come, and like an honest debtor, I am not sorry to give back my
life to nature, and in my soul is neither pain nor fear. I have tried to
keep my soul stainless; I have aspired to ends not ignoble. Most of our
earthly affairs are in the hands of destiny. We must not resist her. Let
the Galileans triumph. We shall conquer later on!"
The morning clouds were growing red, and the first beam of the sun
washed over the rim of the horizon. The dying man held his face towards
the light, with closed eyes.
Then his head fell back, and the last murmur came from his half-open
lips, "Helios! Receive me unto thyself!"
* * * * *
Novelist, archaeologist, essayist, and in all three
departments one of the greatest masters of French style of his
century, Prosper Merimee was born in Paris on September 23,
1803. The son of a painter, Merimee was intended for the law,
but at the age of twenty-two achieved fame as the author of a
number of plays purporting to be translations from the
Spanish. From that time until his death at Cannes on September
23, 1870, a brilliant series of plays, essays, novels, and
historical and archaeological works poured from his fertile
pen. Altogether he wrote about a score of tales, and it is on
these and on his "Letters to an Unknown" that Merimee's fame
depends. His first story to win universal recognition was
"Colombo," in 1830. Seventeen years later appeared his
"Carmen, the Power of Love," of which Taine, in his celebrated
essay on the work, says, "Many dissertations on our primitive
savage methods, many knowing treatises like Schopenhauer's on
the metaphysics of love and death, cannot compare to the
hundred pages of 'Carmen.'"
_I.--I Meet Don Jose_
One day, wandering in the higher part of the plain of Cachena, near
Cordova, harassed with fatigue, dying of thirst, burned by an overhead
sun, I perceived, at some distance from the path I was following, a
little green lawn dotted with rushes and reeds. It proclaimed to me the
neighbourhood of a spring, and I saw that a brook issued from a narrow
gorge between two lofty spurs of the Sierra de Cabra.
At the mouth of the gorge my horse neighed, and another horse that I did
not see answered immediately. A hundred steps farther, and the gorge,
suddenly widening, revealed a sort of natural circus, shaded by the
cliffs which surrounded it. It was impossible to light upon a place
which promised a pleasanter halt to the traveller.
But the honour of discovering this beautiful spot did not belong to me.
A man was resting there already, and it my entrance, he had risen and
approached his horse. He was a young fellow of medium height, but robust
appearance, with a gloomy and haughty air. In one hand he held his
horse's halter, in the other a brass blunderbuss. The fierce air of the
man somewhat surprised me, but not having seen any robbers I no longer
believed in them. My guide Antonio, however, who came up behind me,
showed evident signs of terror, and drew near very much against his
I stretched myself on the grass, drew out my cigar-case, and asked the
man with the blunderbuss if he had a tinder-box on him. The unknown,
without speaking, produced his tinder-box, and hastened to strike a
light for me. In return I gave him one of my best Havanas, for which he
thanked me with an inclination of the head.
In Spain a cigar given and received establishes relations of
hospitality, like the sharing of bread and salt in the East. My unknown
now proved more talkative than I had expected. He seemed half famished,
and devoured some slices of excellent ham, which I had put in my guide's
knapsack, wolfishly. When I mentioned I was going to the Venta del
Cuervo for the night he offered to accompany me, and I accepted
As we rode along Antonio endeavoured to attract my attention by
mysterious signs, but I took no notice. Doubtless my companion was a
smuggler, or a robber. What did it matter to me? I knew I had nothing to
fear from a man who had eaten and smoked with me.
We arrived at the venta, which was one of the most wretched I had yet
come across. An old woman opened the door, and on seeing my companion,
exclaimed, "Ah, Senor Don Jose!"
Don Jose frowned and raised his hand, and the old woman was silent at
The supper was better than I expected, and after supper Don Jose played
the mandoline and sang some melancholy songs. My guide decided to pass
the night in the stable, but Don Jose and I stretched ourselves on mule
cloths on the floor.
Very disagreeable itchings snatched me from my first nap, and drove me
to a wooden bench outside the door. I was about to close my eyes for the
second time, when, to my surprise, I saw Antonio leading a horse. He
stopped on seeing me, and said anxiously, "Where is he?"
"In the venta; he is sleeping. He is not afraid of the fleas. Why are
you taking away my horse?"
I then observed that, in order to prevent any noise, Antonio had
carefully wrapped the animal's feet in the remains of an old sack.
"Hush!" said Antonio. "That man there is Jose Navarro, the most famous
bandit of Andalusia. There are two hundred ducats for whoever gives him
up. I know a post of lancers a league and a half from here, and before
it is day I will bring some of them here."
"What harm has the poor man done you that you denounce him?" said I.
"I am a poor wretch, sir!" was all Antonio could say. "Two hundred
ducats are not to be lost, especially when it is a matter of delivering
the country from such vermin."
My threats and requests were alike unavailing. Antonio was in the
saddle, he set spurs to his horse after freeing its feet from the rags,
and was soon lost to sight in the darkness.
I was very much annoyed with my guide, and somewhat uneasy; but quickly
making up my mind, returned to the inn, and shook Don Jose to awaken
"Would you be very pleased to see half a dozen lancers arrive here?" I
He leapt to his feet.
"Ah, your guide has betrayed me! Your guide! I had suspected him. Adieu,
sir. God repay you the service I am in your debt for. I am not quite as
bad as you think. Yes, there is still something in me deserving the pity
of a gentleman. Adieu!"
He ran to the stable, and some minutes later I heard him galloping into
As for me, I asked myself if I had been right in saving a robber,
perhaps a murderer, from the gallows only because I had eaten ham and
rice and smoked with him.
I think Antonio cherished a grudge against me; but, nevertheless, we
parted good friends at Cordova.
_II.--My Experience with Carmen_
I passed some days at Cordova searching for a certain manuscript in the
One evening I was leaning on the parapet of the quay, smoking, when a
woman came up the flight of stairs leading to the river and sat down
beside me. She was simply dressed, all in black, and we fell into
On my taking out my repeater watch she was greatly astonished.
"What inventions they have among you foreigners!"
Then she told me she was a gipsy, and proposed to tell my fortune.
"Have you heard people speak of La Carmencita?" she added. "That is me!"
"Good!" I said to myself. "Last week I supped with a highway robber; now
to-day I will eat ices with a gipsy. When travelling one must see
With that I escorted the Senorita Carmen to a cafe, and we had ices.
My gipsy had a strange and wild beauty, a face which astonished at
first, but which one could not forget. Her eyes, in particular, had an
expression, at once loving and fierce, that I have found in no human
It would have been ridiculous to have had my fortune told in a public
cafe and I begged the fair sorceress to allow me to accompany her to her
domicile. She at once consented, but insisted on seeing my watch again.
"Is it really of gold?" she said, examining it with great attention.
Night had set in, and most of the shops were closed and the streets
almost deserted as we crossed the Guadalquiver bridge, and went on to
the outskirts of the town.
The house we entered was by no means a palace. A child opened the door,
and disappeared when the gipsy said some words to it in the Romany
Then the gipsy produced some cards, a magnet, a dried chameleon, and
other things necessary for her art. She told me to cross my left hand
with a piece of money, and the magic ceremonies began. It was evident to
me that she was no half-sorceress.
Unfortunately, we were soon disturbed. Of a sudden the door opened
violently, and a man entered, who denounced the gipsy in a manner far
I at once recognised my friend Don Jose, and greeted him cheerfully.
"The same as ever! This will have an end," he said turning fiercely to
the gipsy, who now started talking to him in her own language. She grew
animated as she spoke, and her eyes became terrible. It appeared to me
she was urging him warmly to do something at which he hesitated. I think
I understood what it was only too well from seeing her quickly pass and
repass her little hand under her chin. There was some question of a
throat to cut, and I had a suspicion that the throat was mine.
Don Jose only answered with two or three words in a sharp tone, and the
gipsy, casting a look of deep contempt at him, retired to a corner of
the room, and taking an orange, peeled it and began to eat it.
Don Jose took my arm, opened the door, and led me into the street. We
walked some way together in the profoundest silence. Then, stretching
out his hand, "Keep straight on," he Said, "and you will find the
With that he turned his back on me, and walked rapidly away. I returned
to my inn a little crestfallen and depressed. Worst of all was that, as
I was undressing, I discovered my watch was missing.
I departed for Seville next day, and after several months of rambling in
Andalusia, was once more back in Cordova, on my way to Madrid.
The good fathers at the Dominican convent received me with open arms.
"Your watch has been found again, and will be returned to you," one of
them told me. "The rascal is in gaol, and is to be executed the day
after to-morrow. He is known in the country under the name of Jose
Navarro, and he is a man to be seen."
I went to see the prisoner, and took him some cigars. At first he
shrugged his shoulders and received me coldly, but I saw him again on
the morrow, and passed a part of the day with him. It was from his mouth
I learnt the sad adventures of his life.
_III.--Don Jose's Story_
"I was born," he said, "at Elizondo, and my name--Don Jose
Lizzarrabengoa--will tell you that I am Basque, and an old Christian. If
I take the _don_, it is because I have the right to do so. One day when
I had been playing tennis with a lad from Alava I won, and he picked a
quarrel with me. We took our iron-tipped sticks, and fought, and again I
had the advantage; but it forced me to quit the country. I met some
dragoons, and enlisted in the Almanza regiment of cavalry. Soon I became
a corporal, and they were under promise to make me sergeant when, to my
misfortune, I was put on guard at the tobacco factory at Seville.
"I was young then, and I was always thinking of my native country, and
was afraid of the Andalusian young women and their jesting ways. But one
Friday--I shall never forget it--when I was on duty, I heard people
saying, 'Here's the gipsy.' And, looking up, I saw her for the first
time. I saw that Carmen whom you know, in whose house I met you some
"She made some joke at me as she passed into the factory, and flipped a
cassia flower just between my eyes. When she had gone, I picked it up
and put it carefully in my pocket. First piece of folly!
"A few hours afterwards I was ordered to take two of my men into the
factory. There had been a quarrel, and Carmen had slashed another woman
with two terrible cuts of her knife across the face. The case was clear.
I took Carmen by the arm, and bade her follow me. At the guard-house the
sergeant said it was serious, and that she must be taken to prison. I
placed her between two dragoons, and, walking behind, we set out for the
"At first the gipsy kept silence, but presently she turned to me, and
said softly, 'You are taking me to prison! Alas! what will become of me?
Have pity on me, Mr. Officer! You are so young, so good-looking! Let me
escape, and I will give you a piece of the loadstone which will make all
women love you.'
"I answered her as seriously as I could that the order was to take her
to prison, and that there was no help for it.
"My accent told her I was from the Basque province, and she began to
speak to me in my native tongue. Gipsies, you know, sir, speak all
languages. She told me she had been carried off by gipsies from Navarro,
and was working at the factory in order to earn enough to return home to
her poor mother. Would I do nothing for a country-woman? The Spanish
women at the factory had slandered her native place.
"It was all lies, sir. She always lied. But I believed her at the time.
"'If I pushed you and you fell,' she resumed, in Basque, 'it would not
be these two conscripts who would hold me.'
"I forgot my order and everything, and said, "'Very well, my country-
woman; and may our Lady of the Mountain be your aid!'
"Suddenly Carmen turned round and dealt me a blow on the chest with her
fist. I let myself fall backwards on purpose, and, with one bound, she
leapt over me, and started to run. There was no risk of overtaking her
with our spurs, our sabres, and our lances. The prisoner disappeared in
no time, and all the women-folk in the quarter favoured her escape, and
made fun of us, pointing out the wrong road on purpose. We had to return
at last to the guard-house without a receipt from the governor of the
"The result of this was I was degraded and sent to prison for a month.
Farewell to the sergeant's stripes, I thought.
"One day in prison the jailor entered, and gave me a special loaf of
"'Here,' he said, 'see what your cousin has sent you.'
"I was astonished, for I had no cousin in Seville, and when I broke the
loaf I found a small file and a gold piece inside it. No doubt then, it
was a present from Carmen, for a gipsy would set fire to a town to
escape a day's imprisonment, and I was touched by this mark of
"But I served my sentence, and, on coming out, was put on sentry outside
the colonel's door, like a common soldier. It was a terrible
"While I was on duty I saw Carmen again. She was dressed out like a
shrine, all gold and ribbons, and was going in one evening with a party
of gipsies to amuse the colonel's guests. She recognised me, and named a
place where I could meet her next day. When I gave her back the gold
piece she burst into laughter, but kept it all the same. Do you know, my
son,' she said to me when we parted, 'I believe I love you a little. But
that cannot last. Dog and wolf do not keep house together long. Perhaps,
if you adopted the gipsy law, I would like to become your wife. But it
is nonsense; it is impossible. Think no more of Carmencita, or she will
bring you to the gallows.'
"She spoke the truth. I would have been wise to think no more of her;
but after that day I could think of nothing else, and walked about
always hoping to meet her, but she had left the town.
"It was some weeks later, when I had been placed as a night sentinel at
one of the town gates that I saw Carmen. I was put there to prevent
smuggling; but Carmen persuaded me to let five of her friends pass in,
and they were all well laden with English goods. She told me I might
come and see her next day at the same house I had visited before.
"Carmen had moods, like the weather in our country. She would make
appointments and not keep them, and at another time, would be full of
"One evening when I had called on a friend of Carmen's the gipsy entered
the room, followed by a young man, a lieutenant in our regiment.
"He told me to decamp, and I said something sharp to him. We soon drew
our swords, and presently the point of mine entered his body. Then
Carmen extinguished the lamp, and, wounded though I was, we started
running down the street. 'Great fool,' she said. 'You can do nothing but
foolish things. Besides, I told you I would bring you bad luck.' She
made me take off my uniform and put on a striped cloak, and this with a
handkerchief over my head, enabled me to pass fairly well for a peasant.
Then she took me to a house at the end of a little lane, and she and
another gipsy washed and dressed my wounds. Next day Carmen pointed out
to me the new career she destined me for. I was to go to the coast and
become a smuggler. In truth it was the only one left me, now that I had
incurred the punishment of death. Besides, I believed I could make sure
of her love. Carmen introduced me to her people, and at first the
freedom of the smuggler's life pleased me better than the soldier's
life. I saw Carmen often, and she showed more liking for me than ever;
but, she would not admit that she was willing to be my wife."
_IV.--The End of Don Jose's Story_
"One becomes a rogue without thinking, sir. A pretty girl makes one lose
one's head, one fights for her, a misfortune happens, one is driven to
the mountains, from smuggler one becomes robber before reflecting.
"Carmen often made me jealous, especially after she accepted me as her
husband, and she warned me not to interfere with her freedom. On my part
I wanted to change my way of life, but when I spoke to her about
quitting Spain and trying to live honestly in America, she laughed at
"'We are not made for planting cabbages,' she said; '_our_ destiny is to
live at the expense of others.' Then she told me of a fresh piece of
smuggling on hand, and I let myself be persuaded to resume the wretched
"While I was in hiding at Granada, there were bullfights to which Carmen
went. When she returned, she spoke much of a very skilful picador, named
Lucas. She knew the name of his horse, and how much his embroidered
jacket cost him. I paid no heed to this, but began to grow alarmed when
I heard that Carmen had been seen about with Lucas. I asked her how and
why she had made his acquaintance.
"'He is a man,' she said, 'with whom business can be done. He has won
twelve hundred pounds at the bullfights. One of two things: we must
either have the money, or, as he is a good horseman, we can enroll him
in our band.'
"'I wish,' I replied, 'neither his money nor his person, and I forbid
you to speak to him.'
"'Take care,' she said; 'when anyone dares me to do a thing it is soon
"Luckily the picador left for Malaga, and I set about my smuggling. I
had a great deal to do in this expedition, and it was about that time I
first met you. Carmen robbed you of your watch at our last interview,
and she wanted your money as well. We had a violent dispute about that,
and I struck her. She turned pale and wept. It was the first time I saw
her weep, and it had a terrible effect on me. I begged her pardon, but
it was not till three days later that she would kiss me.
"'There is a fete at Cordova,' she said, when we were friends again. 'I
am going to see it, then I shall find out the people who carry money
with them and tell you.'
"I let her go, but when a peasant told me there was a bull-fight at
Cordova, I set off like a madman to the spot. Lucas was pointed out to
me, and on the bench close to the barrier I recognised Carmen. It was
enough for me to see her to be certain how things stood. Lucas, at the
first bull, did the gallant, as I had foreseen. He tore the bunch of
ribbons from the bull and carried it to Carmen, who put it in her hair
on the spot. The bull took upon itself the task of avenging me. Lucas
was thrown down with his horse on his chest, and the bull on the top of
both. I looked at Carmen, she had already left her seat, but I was so
wedged in I was obliged to wait for the end of the fights.
"I got home first, however, and Carmen only arrived at two o'clock in
"'Come with me,' I said.
"'Very well, let us go,' she answered.
"I went and fetched my horse; I put her behind me, and we travelled all
the rest of the night without speaking. At daybreak we were in a
"'Listen,' I said to Carmen, 'I forget everything. Only swear to me one
thing, that you will follow me to America, and live there quietly with
"'No,' she said, in a sulky tone, 'I do not want to go to America. I am
quite comfortable here.'
"I implored her to let us change our way of life and Carmen answered, 'I
will follow you to death, but I will not live with you any longer. I
always thought you meant to kill me, and now I see that is what you are
going to do. It is destiny, but you will not make me yield.'
"'Listen to me!' I said, 'for the last time. You know that it is for you
I have become a robber and a murderer. Carmen! my Carmen, there is still
time for us to save ourselves,' I promised anything and everything if
she would love me again.
"'Jose,' she replied, 'you ask me for the impossible. I do not love you
any more. All is over between us. You have the right to kill me. But
Carmen must always be free. To love you is impossible, and I do not wish
to live with you.'
"Fury took possession of me, and I killed her with my knife. An hour
later I laid her in a grave in the wood. Then I mounted my horse,
galloped to Cordova, and gave myself up at the first guard-house....
Poor Carmen! it is the gipsies who are to blame for having brought her
up like that."
* * * * *
MARY RUSSELL MITFORD
Mary Russell Mitford was known first as a dramatist, with
tragedy as her forte, and in later years as a novelist, but by
posterity she will be remembered as a portrayer of country
life, in simply worded sketches, with a quiet colouring of
humour. These sketches were collected, as "Our Village," into
five volumes, between 1824 and 1832. Miss Mitford was born
Dec. 16, 1787, at Alresford, Hampshire, England, the daughter
of a foolish spendthrift father, to whom she was pathetically
devoted, and lived in her native county almost throughout her
life. In her later years she received a Civil List pension.
She died on January 10, 1855. The quietness of the country is
in all Miss Mitford's writing, but it is a cheerful country,
pervaded by a rosy-cheeked optimism. Her letters, too,
scribbled on small scraps of paper, are as attractive as her
_I.--Some of the Inhabitants_
Will you walk with me through our village, courteous reader? The journey
is not long. We will begin at the lower end, and proceed up the hill.
The tidy, square, red cottage on the right hand, with the long,
well-stocked garden by the side of the road, belongs to a retired
publican from a neighbouring town; a substantial person with a comely
wife--one who piques himself on independence and idleness, talks
politics, reads the newspapers, hates the minister, and cries out for
reform. He hangs over his gate, and tries to entice passengers to stop
and chat. Poor man! He is a very respectable person, and would be a very
happy one if he would add a little employment to his dignity. It would
be the salt of life to him.
Next to his house, though parted from it by another long garden with a
yew arbour at the end, is the pretty dwelling of the shoemaker, a pale,
sickly-looking, black-haired man, the very model of sober industry.
There he sits in his little shop from early morning till late at night.
An earthquake would hardly stir him. There is at least as much vanity in
his industry as in the strenuous idleness of the retired publican. The
shoemaker has only one pretty daughter, a light, delicate, fair-haired
girl of fourteen, the champion, protectress, and play-fellow of every
brat under three years old, whom she jumps, dances, dandles, and feeds
all day long. A very attractive person is that child-loving girl. She
likes flowers, and has a profusion of white stocks under her window, as
pure and delicate as herself.
The first house on the opposite side of the way is the blacksmith's--a
gloomy dwelling, where the sun never seems to shine; dark and smoky
within and without, like a forge. The blacksmith is a high officer in
our little state, nothing less than a constable; but alas, alas! when
tumults arise, and the constable is called for, he will commonly be
found in the thickest of the fray. Lucky would it be for his wife and
her eight children if there were no public-house in the land.
Then comes the village shop, like other village shops, multifarious as a
bazaar--a repository for bread, shoes, tea, cheese, tape, ribbons, and
bacon; for everything, in short, except the one particular thing which
you happen to want at the moment, and will be sure not to find.
Divided from the shop by a narrow yard is a habitation of whose inmates
I shall say nothing. A cottage--no, a miniature house, all angles, and
of a charming in-and-outness; the walls, old and weather-stained,
covered with hollyhocks, roses, honeysuckles, and a great apricot-tree;
the casements full of geraniums (oh, there is our superb white cat
peeping out from among them!); the closets (our landlord has the
assurance to call them rooms) full of contrivances and corner-cupboards;
and the little garden behind full of common flowers. That house was
built on purpose to show in what an exceeding small compass comfort may
The next tenement is a place of importance, the Rose Inn--a whitewashed
building, retired from the road behind its fine swinging sign, with a
little bow-window room coming out on one side, and forming, with our
stable on the other, a sort of open square, which is the constant resort
of carts, waggons, and return chaises.
Next door lives a carpenter, "famed ten miles around, and worthy all his
fame," with his excellent wife and their little daughter Lizzy, the
plaything and queen of the village--a child three years old according to
the register, but six in size and strength and intellect, in power and
self-will. She manages everybody in the place; makes the lazy carry her,
the silent talk to her, and the grave to romp with her. Her chief
attraction lies in her exceeding power of loving, and her firm reliance
on the love and the indulgence of others.
How pleasantly the road winds up the hill, with its broad, green borders
and hedgerows so thickly timbered! How finely the evening sun falls on
that sandy, excavated bank, and touches the farmhouse on the top of the
The shaw leading to Hannah Bint's habitation is a very pretty mixture of
wood and coppice. A sudden turn brings us to the boundary of the shaw,
and there, across the open space, the white cottage of the keeper peeps
from the opposite coppice; and the vine-covered dwelling of Hannah Bint
rises from amidst the pretty garden, which lies bathed in the sunshine
My friend Hannah Bint is by no means an ordinary person. Her father,
Jack Bint (for in all his life he never arrived at the dignity of being
called John), was a drover of high repute in his profession. No man
between Salisbury Plain and Smithfield was thought to conduct a flock of
sheep so skilfully through all the difficulties of lanes and commons,
streets and high-roads, as Jack Bint, aided by Jack Bint's famous dog,
No man had a more thorough knowledge of the proper night stations, where
good feed might be procured for his charge, and good liquor for Watch
and himself; Watch, like other sheepdogs, being accustomed to live
chiefly on bread and beer, while his master preferred gin.
But when a rheumatic fever came one hard winter, and finally settled in
Jack Bint's limbs, reducing the most active and handy man in the parish
to the state of a confirmed cripple, poor Jack, a thoughtless but kind
creature, looked at his three motherless children with acute misery.
Then it was that he found help where he least expected it--in the sense
and spirit of his young daughter, a girl of twelve years old.
Hannah was a quick, clever lass of a high spirit, a firm temper, some
pride, and a horror of accepting parochial relief--that surest safeguard
to the sturdy independence of the English character. So when her father
talked of giving up their comfortable cottage and removing to the
workhouse, while she and her brothers must move to service, Hannah
formed a bold resolution, and proceeded to act at once on her own plans
She knew that the employer in whose service her father's health had
suffered so severely was a rich and liberal cattle-dealer in the
neighbourhood, who would willingly aid an old and faithful servant. Of
Farmer Oakley, accordingly, she asked, not money, but something much
more in his own way--a cow! And, amused and interested by the child's
earnestness, the wealthy yeoman gave her a very fine young Alderney.
She then went to the lord of the manor, and, with equal knowledge of
character, begged his permission to keep her cow on the shaw common. He,
too, half from real good nature, and half not to be outdone in
liberality by his tenant, not only granted the requested permission, but
reduced the rent so much that the produce of the vine seldom failed to
satisfy their kind landlord.
Now Hannah showed great judgment in setting up as a dairy-woman. One of
the most provoking of the petty difficulties which beset a small
establishment in this neighbourhood is the trouble, almost the
impossibility, of procuring the pastoral luxuries of milk, eggs, and
butter. Hannah's Alderney restored us to our rural privilege. Speedily
she established a regular and gainful trade in milk, eggs, butter,
honey, and poultry--for poultry they had always kept.
In short, during the five years she has ruled at the shaw cottage the
world has gone well with Hannah Bint. She has even taught Watch to like
the buttermilk as well as strong beer, and has nearly persuaded her
father to accept milk as a substitute for gin. Not but that Hannah hath
had her enemies as well as her betters. The old woman at the lodge, who
always piqued herself on being spiteful, and crying down new ways,
foretold that she would come to no good; nay, even Ned Miles, the
keeper, her next neighbour, who had whilom held entire sway over the
shaw common, as well as its coppices, grumbled as much as so
good-natured and genial a person could grumble when he found a little
girl sharing his dominion, a cow grazing beside his pony, and vulgar
cocks and hens hovering around the buckwheat destined to feed his noble
Yes! Hannah hath had her enemies, but they are passing away. The old
woman at the lodge is dead, poor creature; and the keeper?--why, he is
not dead, or like to die, but the change that has taken place there is
the most astonishing of all--except perhaps the change in Hannah
Few damsels of twelve years old, generally a very pretty age, were less
pretty than Hannah Bint. Short and stunted in her figure, thin in face,
sharp in feature, with a muddied complexion, wild, sunburnt hair, and
eyes whose very brightness had in them something startling,
over-informed, too clever for her age; at twelve years old she had quite
the air of a little old fairy.
Now, at seventeen, matters are mended. Her complexion has cleared; her
countenance has developed itself; her figure has shot up into height and
lightness, and a sort of rustic grace; her bright, acute eye is softened
and sweetened by a womanly wish to please; her hair is trimmed and
curled and brushed with exquisite neatness; and her whole dress arranged
with that nice attention to the becoming which would be called the
highest degree of coquetry if it did not deserve the better name of
propriety. The lass is really pretty, and Ned Miles has discovered that
she is so. There he stands, the rogue, close at her side (for he hath
joined her whilst we have been telling her little story, and the milking
is over); there he stands holding her milk-pail in one hand, and
stroking Watch with the other. There they stand, as much like lovers as
may be; he smiling and she blushing; he never looking so handsome, nor
she so pretty, in their lives.
There they stand, and one would not disturb them for all the milk and
the butter in Christendom. I should not wonder if they were fixing the
_III.--A Country Cricket Match_
I doubt if there be any scene in the world more animating or delightful
than a cricket match. I do not mean a set match at Lord's Ground--no!
the cricket I mean is a real solid, old-fashioned match between
neighbouring parishes, where each attacks the other for honour and a
For the last three weeks our village has been in a state of great
excitement, occasioned by a challenge from our north-western neighbours,
the men of B----, to contend with us at cricket. Now, we have not been
much in the habit of playing matches. The sport had languished until the
present season, when the spirit began to revive. Half a dozen fine,
active lads, of influence among their comrades, grew into men and
yearned for cricket. In short, the practice recommenced, and the hill
was again alive with men and boys and innocent merriment. Still, we were
modest and doubted our own strength.
The B---- people, on the other hand, must have been braggers born. Never
was such boasting! Such ostentatious display of practice! It was a
wonder they did not challenge all England. Yet we firmly resolved not to
decline the combat; and one of the most spirited of the new growth,
William Grey by name, and a farmer's son by station, took up the glove
in a style of manly courtesy that would have done honour to a knight in
the days of chivalry.
William Grey then set forth to muster his men, remembering with great
complacency that Samuel Long, the very man who had bowled us out at a
fatal return match some years ago at S--, our neighbours south-by-east,
had luckily, in a remove of a quarter of a mile last Lady Day, crossed
the boundaries of his old parish and actually belonged to us. Here was a
stroke of good fortune! Our captain applied to him instantly, and he
agreed at a word. We felt we had half gained the match when we had
secured him. Then James Brown, a journeyman blacksmith and a native,
who, being of a rambling disposition, had roamed from place to place for
half a dozen years, had just returned to our village with a prodigious
reputation in cricket and gallantry. To him also went the indefatigable
William Grey, and he also consented to play. Having thus secured two
powerful auxiliaries, we began to reckon the regular forces.
Thus ran our list. William Grey, 1; Samuel Long, 2; James Brown, 3;
George and John Simmons, one capital, the other so-so--an uncertain
hitter, but a good fieldsman, 5; Joel Brent, excellent, 6; Ben
Appleton--here was a little pause, for Ben's abilities at cricket were
not completely ascertained, but then he was a good fellow, so full of
fun and waggery! No doing without Ben. So he figured in the list as 7.
George Harris--a short halt there too--slowish, but sure, 8; Tom
Coper--oh, beyond the world Tom Coper, the red-headed gardening lad,
whose left-handed strokes send _her_ (a cricket-ball is always of the
feminine gender) send her spinning a mile, 9; Harry Willis, another
We had now ten of our eleven, but the choice of the last occasioned some
demur. John Strong, a nice youth--everybody likes John Strong--was the
next candidate, but he is so tall and limp that we were all afraid his
strength, in spite of his name, would never hold out. So the eve of the
match arrived and the post was still vacant, when a little boy of
fifteen, David Willis, brother to Harry, admitted by accident to the
last practice, saw eight of them out, and was voted in by acclamation.
Morning dawned. On calling over our roll, Brown was missing; and it
transpired that he had set off at four o'clock in the morning to play in
a cricket match at M----, a little town twelve miles off, which had been
his last residence. Here was desertion! Here was treachery! How we cried
him down! We were well rid of him, for he was no batter compared with
William Grey; not fit to wipe the shoes of Samuel Long as a bowler; the
boy David Willis was worth fifty of him. So we took tall John Strong. I
never saw any one prouder than the good-humoured lad was at this not
very flattering piece of preferment.
_They_ began the warfare--these boastful men of B----! And what think
you was the amount of their innings? These challengers--the famous
eleven--how many did they get? Think! Imagine! Guess! You cannot. Well,
they got twenty-two, or, rather, they got twenty, for two of theirs were
short notches, and would never have been allowed, only that, seeing what
they were made of, we and our umpires were not particular. Oh, how well
Then we went in. And what of our innings? Guess! A hundred and sixty-nine!
We headed them by a hundred and forty-seven; and then they gave in,
as well they might. William Grey pressed them much to try another
innings, but they were beaten sulky and would not move.
The only drawback in my enjoyment was the failure of the pretty boy
David Willis, who, injudiciously put in first, and playing for the first
time in a match amongst men and strangers, was seized with such a fit of
shamefaced shyness that he could scarcely hold his bat, and was bowled
out without a stroke, from actual nervousness. Our other modest lad,
John Strong, did very well; his length told in the field, and he got
good fame. William Grey made a hit which actually lost the cricket-ball.
We think she lodged in a hedge a quarter of a mile off, but nobody could
find her. And so we parted; the players retired to their supper and we
to our homes, all good-humoured and all happy--except the losers.
_IV.--Love, the Leveller_
The prettiest cottage on our village green is the little dwelling of
Dame Wilson. The dame was a respected servant in a most respectable
family, which she quitted only on her marriage with a man of character
and industry, and of that peculiar universality of genius which forms
what is called, in country phrase, a handy fellow. His death, which
happened about ten years ago, made quite a gap in our village
Without assistance Mrs. Wilson contrived to maintain herself and her
children in their old, comfortable home. The house had still, within and
without, the same sunshiny cleanliness, and the garden was still famous
over all other gardens. But the sweetest flower of the garden, and the
joy and pride of her mother's heart, was her daughter Hannah. Well might
she be proud of her! At sixteen, Hannah Wilson was, beyond a doubt, the
prettiest girl in the village, and the best. Her chief characteristic
was modesty. Her mind was like her person: modest, graceful, gentle and
generous above all.
Our village beauty had fairly reached her twentieth year without a
sweetheart; without the slightest suspicion of her having ever written a
love-letter on her own account, when, all of a sudden, appearances
changed. A trim, elastic figure, not unaccompanied, was descried walking
down the shady lane. Hannah had gotten a lover!
Since the new marriage act, we, who belong to the country magistrates,
have gained a priority over the rest of the parish in matrimonial news.
We (the privileged) see on a work-day the names which the Sabbath
announces to the generality. One Saturday, walking through our little
hall, I saw a fine athletic young man, the very image of health and
vigour, mental and bodily, holding the hand of a young woman, who was
turning bashfully away, listening, and yet not seeming to listen, to his
tender whispers. Hannah! And she went aside with me, and a rapid series
of questions and answers conveyed the story of the courtship. "William
was," said Hannah, "a journeyman hatter, in B----. He had walked over to
see the cricketing, and then he came again. Her mother liked him.
Everybody liked him--and she had promised. Was it wrong?"
"Oh, no! And where are you to live?" "William had got a room in B----.
He works for Mr. Smith, the rich hatter in the market-place, and Mr.
Smith speaks of him, oh, so well! But William will not tell me where our
room is. I suppose in some narrow street or lane, which he is afraid I
shall not like, as our common is so pleasant. He little
thinks--anywhere--" She stopped suddenly. "Anywhere with him!"
The wedding-day was a glorious morning.
"What a beautiful day for Hannah!" was the first exclamation at the
breakfast-table. "Did she tell you where they should dine?"
"No, ma'am; I forgot to ask."
"I can tell you," said the master of the house, with the look of a man
who, having kept a secret as long as it was necessary, is not sorry to
get rid of the burthen. "I can tell you--in London."
"Yes. Your little favourite has been in high luck. She has married the
only son of one of the best and richest men in B----, Mr. Smith, the
great hatter. It is quite a romance. William Smith walked over to see a
match, saw our pretty Hannah, and forgot to look at the cricketers. He
came again and again, and at last contrived to tame this wild dove, and
even to get the _entree_ of the cottage. Hearing Hannah talk is not the
way to fall out of love with her. So William, finding his case serious,
laid the matter before his father, and requested his consent to the
marriage. Mr. Smith was at first a little startled. But William is an
only son, and an excellent son; and after talking with me, and looking
at Hannah, the father relented. But, having a spice of his son's
romance, and finding that he had not mentioned his station in life, he
made a point of its being kept secret till the wedding-day. I hope the
shock will not kill Hannah."
"Oh, no! Hannah loves her husband too well."
And I was right. Hannah has survived the shock. She is returned to
B----, and I have been to call on her. She is still the same Hannah, and
has lost none of her old habits of kindness and gratitude. She did
indeed just hint at her trouble with visitors and servants; seemed
distressed at ringing the bell, and visibly shrank from the sound of a
double knock. But in spite of these calamities Hannah is a happy woman.
The double rap was her husband's, and the glow on her cheek, and the
smile of her lips and eyes when he appeared spoke more plainly than
ever: "Anywhere with him!"
* * * * *
Autobiography of Mansie Wauch
David Macbeth Moir was born at Musselburgh, Scotland, Jan. 5,
1798, and educated at the grammar school of the Royal Burgh
and at Edinburgh University, from which he received the
diploma of surgeon in 1816. He practised as a physician in his
native town from 1817 until 1843, when, health failing, he
practically withdrew from the active duties of his profession.
Moir began to write in both prose and verse for various
periodicals when quite a youth, but his long connection with
"Blackwood's Magazine" under the pen name of "Delta",
began in 1820, and he became associated with
Christopher North, the Ettrick Shepherd, and others of the
Edinburgh coterie distinguished in "Noctes Ambrosianae." He
contributed to "Blackwood," histories, biographies, essays,
and poems, to the number of about 400. His poems were esteemed
beyond their merits by his generation, and his reputation now
rests almost solely on the caustic humour of his
"Autobiography of Mansie Wauch," published in 1828, a series
of sketches of the manner of life in the shop-keeping and
small-trading class of a Scottish provincial town at the
beginning of the nineteenth century. Moir died at Dumfries on
July 6, 1851.
_I.--Mansie's Forebears and Early Life_
Some of the rich houses and great folk pretend to have histories of the
ancientness of their families, which they can count back on their
fingers almost to the days of Noah's Ark, and King Fergus the First, but
it is not in my power to come further back than auld grand-faither, who
died when I was a growing callant. I mind him full well. To look at him
was just as if one of the ancient patriarchs had been left on the earth,
to let succeeding survivors witness a picture of hoary and venerable
My own father, auld Mansie Wauch, was, at the age of thirteen, bound a
'prentice to the weaver trade, which he prosecuted till a mortal fever
cut through the thread of his existence. Alas, as Job says, "How time
flies like a weaver's shuttle!" He was a decent, industrious,
hard-working man, doing everything for the good of his family, and
winning the respect of all who knew the value of his worth. On the
five-and-twentieth year of his age he fell in love with, and married, my
mother, Marion Laverock.
I have no distinct recollection of the thing myself, but there is every
reason to believe that I was born on October 13, 1765, in a little house
in the Flesh-Market Gate, Dalkeith, and the first thing I have any clear
memory of was being carried on my auntie's shoulders to see the Fair
Race. Oh! but it was a grand sight! I have read since the story of
Aladdin's Wonderful Lamp, but that fair and the race, which was won by a
young birkie who had neither hat nor shoon, riding a philandering beast
of a horse thirteen or fourteen years auld, beat it all to sticks.
In time, I was sent to school, where I learned to read and spell, making
great progress in the Single and Mother's Carritch. What is more, few
could fickle me in the Bible, being mostly able to spell it all over,
save the second of Ezra and the seventh of Nehemiah, which the Dominie
himself could never read through twice in the same way, or without
Being of a delicate make--nature never intended me for the naval or
military line, or for any robustious profession--I was apprenticed to
the tailoring trade. Just afterwards I had a terrible stound of
calf-love, my first flame being the minister's lassie, Jess, a buxom and
forward queen, two or three years older than myself. I used to sit
looking at her in the kirk, and felt a droll confusion when our eyes
met. It dirled through my heart like a dart. Fain would I have spoken to
her, but aye my courage failed me, though whiles she gave me a smile
when she passed. She used to go to the well every night with her two
stoups to draw water, so I thought of watching to give her two apples
which I had carried in my pocket for more than a week for that purpose.
How she started when I stappit them into her hand, and brushed by
Jamie Coom, the blacksmith, who I aye jealoused was my rival, came up
and asked Jess, with a loud guffaw, "Where is the tailor?" When I heard
that, I took to my heels till I found myself on the little stool by the
fireside with the hamely sound of my mother's wheel bum-bumming in my
lug, like a gentle lullaby.
The days of the years of my 'prenticeship having glided cannily over, I
girt myself round about with a proud determination of at once cutting my
mother's apron-string. So I set out for Edinburgh in search of a
journeyman's place, which I got the very first day in the Grassmarket.
My lodging was up six pairs of stairs, in a room which I rented for
half-a-crown a week, coals included; but my heart was sea-sick of
Edinburgh folk and town manners, for which I had no stomach. I could
form no friendly acquaintanceship with a living soul. Syne I abode by
myself, like St. John in the Isle of Patmos, on spare allowance, making
a sheep-head serve me for three days' kitchen.
Everything around me seemed to smell of sin and pollution, and often did
I commune with my own heart, that I would rather be a sober, poor,
honest man in the country, able to clear my day and way by the help of
Providence, than the provost himself, my lord though he be, or even the
mayor of London, with his velvet gown trailing for yards in the glaur
behind him, or riding about the streets in a coach made of clear crystal
and wheels of beaten gold.
But when my heart was sickening unto death, I fell in with the greatest
blessing of my life, Nanse Cromie, a bit wench of a lassie frae the
Lauder direction, who had come to be a servant in the flat below our
workshop, and whom I often met on the stairs.
If ever a man loved, and loved like mad, it was me; and I take no shame
in the confession. Let them laugh who like; honest folk, I pity them;
such know not the pleasures of virtuous affection. Matters were by and
bye settled full tosh between us; and though the means of both parties
were small, we were young, and able and willing to help one another.
Nanse and me laid our heads together towards the taking a bit house in
the fore-street of Dalkeith, and at our leisure bought the plenishing.
Two or three days after Maister Wiggie, the minister, had gone through
the ceremony of tying us together, my sign was nailed up, painted in
black letters on a blue ground, with a picture of a jacket on one side
and a pair of shears on the other; and I hung up a wheen ready-made
waistcoats, caps, and Kilmarnock cowls in the window. Business in fact,
flowed in upon us in a perfect torrent.
Both Nanse and I found ourselves so proud of our new situation that we
slipped out in the dark and had a prime look with a lantern at the sign,
which was the prettiest ye ever saw, although some sandblind creatures
had taken the neatly painted jacket for a goose.
_II.--The Resurrection Men_
A year or two after the birth and christening of wee Benjie, my son, I
was cheated by a swindling black-aviced Englishman out of some weeks'
lodgings and keep, and a pair of new velveteen knee-breeches.
Then there arose a great surmise that some loons were playing false with
the kirkyard; and, on investigation, it was found that four graves had
been opened, and the bodies harled away to the college. Words cannot
describe the fear, the dool, and the misery it caused, and the righteous
indignation that burst through the parish.
But what remead? It was to watch in the session-house with loaded guns,
night about, three at a time. It was in November when my turn came. I
never liked to go into the kirkyard after darkening, let-a-be sit
through a long winter night with none but the dead around us. I felt a
kind of qualm of faintness and downsinking about my heart and stomach,
to the dispelling of which I took a thimbleful of spirits, and, tying my
red comforter about my neck, I marched briskly to the session-house.
Andrew Goldie, the pensioner, lent me his piece and loaded it to me. Not
being well acquaint with guns, I kept the muzzle aye away from me, as it
is every man's duty not to throw his precious life into jeopardy. A
bench was set before the sessions-house fire, which bleezed brightly. My
spirits rose, and I wondered, in my bravery, that a man like me should
be afraid of anything. Nobody was there but a towzy, carroty-haired
The night was now pitmirk. The wind soughed amid the headstones and
railings of the gentry (for we must all die), and the black corbies in
the steeple-holes cackled and crawed in a fearsome manner. Oh, but it
was lonesome and dreary; and in about an hour the laddie wanted to rin
awa hame; but, trying to look brave, though half-frightened out of my
seven senses, I said, "Sit down, sit down; I've baith whiskey and porter
wi' me. Hae, man, there's a cawker to keep your heart warm; and set down
that bottle of Deacon Jaffrey's best brown stout to get a toast."
The wind blew like a hurricane; the rain began to fall in perfect
spouts. Just in the heart of the brattle the grating of the yett turning
on its rusty hinges was but too plainly heard.
"The're coming; cock the piece, ye sumph!" cried the laddie, while his
red hair rose, from his pow like feathers. "I hear them tramping on the
gravel," and he turned the key in the lock and brizzed his back against
the door like mad, shouting out, "For the Lord's sake, prime the gun, or
our throats will be cut before you can cry Jack Robinson."
I did the best I could, but the gun waggled to and fro like a cock's
tail on a rainy day. I trust I was resigned to die, but od' it was a
frightful thing to be out of one's bed to be murdered in an old
session-house at the dead hour of the night by devils incarnate of
ressurrection men with blacked faces, pistols, big sticks, and other
After all, it was only Isaac, the bethrel, who, when we let him in, said
that he had just keppit four ressurrectioners louping over the wall. But
that was a joke. I gave Isaac a dram to kep his heart up, and he sung
and leuch as if he had been boozing with some of his drucken cronies;
for feint a hair cared he about auld kirkyards, or vouts, or dead folk
in their winding-sheets, with the wet grass growing over them. Then,
although I tried to stop him, he began to tell stories of Eirish
ressurrectioners, and ghaists, seen in the kirkyard at midnight.
Suddenly a clap like thunder was heard, and the laddie, who had fallen
asleep on the bench, jumped up and roared "Help!" "Murder!" "Thieves!"
while Isaac bellowed out, "I'm dead! I'm killed!--shot through the head!
Oh, oh, oh!" Surely, I had fainted away, for, when I came to myself, I
found my red comforter loosed, my face all wet, Isaac rubbing down his
waistcoat with his sleeve--the laddie swigging ale out of a bicker--and
the brisk brown stout, which, by casting its cork, had caused all the
alarm, whizz-whizz, whizzing in the chimney lug.
_III.--The Friends of the People_
The sough of war and invasion flew over the land at this time, like a
great whirlwind; and the hearts of men died within their persons with
fear and trembling. Abroad the heads of crowned kings were cut off, and
great dukes and lords were thrown into dark dungeons, or obligated to
flee for their lives to foreign countries.
But worst of all the trouble seemed a smittal one, and even our own land
began to show symptoms of the plague spot. Agents of the Spirit of
Darkness, calling themselves the Friends of the People, held secret
meetings, and hatched plots to blow up our blessed king and
constitution. Yet the business, though fearsome in the main, was in some
parts almost laughable. Everything was to be divided, and everyone made
alike. Houses and lands were to be distributed by lots, and the mighty
man and the beggar--the old man and the hobble-de-hoy--the industrious
man and the spendthrift, the maimed, the cripple, and the blind, the
clever man of business, and the haveril simpleton, made all just
brethern, and alike. Save us! but to think of such nonsense! At one of
their meetings, held at the sign of the Tappet Hen and the Tankard,
there was a prime fight of five rounds between Tammy Bowsie, the snab,
and auld Thrashem, the dominie, about their drawing cuts which was to
get Dalkeith Palace, and which Newbottle Abbey! Oh, sic riff-raff!
It was a brave notion of the king to put the loyalty of the land to the
test, that the daft folk might be dismayed, and that the clanjamphrey
might be tumbled down before their betters, like the windle-straes in a
hurricane. And so they were. Such crowds came forward when the names of
the volunteers were taken down. I will never forget the first day that I
got my regimentals on, and when I looked myself in the glass, just to
think I was a sodger who never in my life could thole the smell of
powder! Oh, but it was grand! I sometimes fancied myself a general, and
giving the word of command. Big Sam, who was a sergeant in the
fencibles, and enough to have put five Frenchmen to flight any day of
the year, whiles came to train us; but as nature never intended me for
the soldiering trade, I never got out of the awkward squad, though I had
two or three neighbours to keep me in countenance.
We all cracked very crouse about fighting; but one dark night we got a
fleg in sober earnest. Jow went the town bell, and row-de-dow gaed the
drums, and all in a minute was confusion and uproar in ilka street. I
was seized with a severe shaking of the knees and a flapping at the
heart, when, through the garret window, I saw the signal posts were in a
bleeze, and that the French had landed. This was in reality to be a
soldier! I never got such a fright since the day I was cleckit. There
was such a noise and hullabaloo in the streets, as if the Day of
Judgment had come to find us all unprepared.
Notwithstanding, we behaved ourselves like true-blue Scotsmen, called
forth to fight the battles of our country, and if the French had come,
as they did not come, they would have found that to their cost, as sure
as my name is Mansie. However, it turned out that it was a false alarm,
and that the thief Buonaparte had not landed at Dunbar, as it was
jealoused; so, after standing under arms for half the night, we were
sent home to our beds.
But next day we were taken out to be taught the art of firing. We went
through our motions bravely--to load, ram down the cartridge, made
ready, present, fire. But so flustered and confused was I that I never
had mind to pull the tricker, though I rammed down a fresh cartridge at
the word of command. At the end of the firing the sergeant of the
company ordered all that had loaded pieces to come to the front, and six
of us stepped out in a little line in face of the regiment. Our pieces
were cocked, and at the word "Fire!" off they went. It was an act of
desperation on my part to draw the tricker, and I had hardly well shut
my blinkers when I got such a thump on the shoulder as knocked me
backwards, head over heels, on the grass. When I came to my senses and
found myself not killed outright, and my gun two or three ells away, I
began to rise up. Then I saw one of the men going forward to lift the
fatal piece, but my care for the safety of others overcame the sense of
my own peril. "Let alane, let alane!" cried I to him, "and take care of
yoursell, for it has to gang off five times yet." I thought in my
innocence that we should hear as many reports as I had crammed
cartridges down her muzzle. This was a sore joke against me for a length
of time; but I tholed it patiently, considering cannily within myself,
that even Johnny Cope himself had not learned the art of war in a single
_IV.--My First and Last Play_
Maister Glen, a farmer from the howes of the Lammermoor, Hills, a
far-awa cousin of our neighbour Widow Grassie, came to Dalkeith to buy a
horse at our fair. He put up free of expense at the widow's, who asked
me to join him and her at a bit warm dinner, as may be, being a
stranger, he would not like to use the freedom of drinking by himself--a
custom which is at the best an unsocial one--especially with none but
women-folk near him.
When we got our joy filled for the second time, and began to be better
acquainted, we became merry, and cracked away just like two pen-guns. I
asked him, ye see, about sheep and cows, and ploughing and thrashing,
and horses and carts, and fallow land and lambing-time, and such like;
and he, in his turn, made inquiries regarding broad and narrow cloth,
Shetland hose, and mittens, thread, and patent shears, measuring, and
all other particulars belonging to our trade, which he said, at long and
last, after we had joked together, was a power better one than the
farming line; and he promised to bind his auldest callant 'prentice to
me to the tailoring trade.
On the head of this auld Glen and I had another jug, three being cannie,
after which we were both a wee tozymozy. Mistress Grassie saw plainly
that we were getting into a state where we could not easily make a halt,
and brought in the tea-things and told us that a company of strolling
players had come to the town and were to give an exhibition in Laird
Wheatley's barn. Many a time I had heard of play-acting, and I
determined to run the risk of Maister Wiggie, our minister's rebuke, for
the transgression. Auld Glen, being as full of nonsense and as fain to
gratify his curiosity as myself, volunteered to pay the ransom of a
shilling for admission, so we went to the barn, which had been browley
set out for the occasion by Johnny Hammer, the joiner.
The place was choke-full, just to excess, and when the curtain was
hauled up in came a decent old gentleman in great distress, and implored
all the powers of heaven and earth to help him find his runaway daughter
that had decamped with some ne'er-do-weel loon of a half-pay captain.
Out he went stumping on the other side, determined, he said, to find
them, though he should follow them to Johnny Groat's house, or something
to that effect. Hardly was his back turned than in came the birkie and
the very young lady the old gentleman described, arm-and-arm together,
laughing like daft Dog on it! It was a shameless piece of business. As
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