Imágenes de páginas

respectable man in St. Crispin's line. Biliy could never make a good pair of shoes ; but he could put the bass to a psalm-tune very fairly. During the time of our former rector, Hodgson was the great musical authority of Our Village. He felt that he had a place in the parish-a gift to exercise-mission to fulfil -as young authors say. He could say, on Saturday evening, when he had gathered his choir in the gallery, for practice,-" To-morrow we shall sing Derby, Devizes, and the old 40th Psalm.” He had a comfortable and praiseworthy feeling of self-estimation in saying this. Then Sunday was indeed for Billy a day of pleasure. He believed that it was created and set apart from all other days for psalm-singing. The clerk might say, “Let us sing," &c. ; but Billy had first determined what should be sung. Then, in preparation for this great day, there was abundant occupation during the week. There were the soprani, the girls (including Hodgson's two daughters), to be admonished and kept in readiness. “Now, Şally," Hodgson would say, when he met one of his choir, “ mind you don't have a cold next Sunday.”

Then there were the tenors-two youths who required much coaxing—to be kept in order, and the counter-singer had to be kept to his post ; for he had a propensity to go courting at a neighbouring hamlet on Sundays. Hodgson even composed several psalm-tunes, and not bad ones, which were sung in our church.

Thus it was in the days of his glory. And let us not treat with an air of burlesque that which was the best part of poor Hodgson's life. It was in his psalmody that he rose above earth and all its sordid cares about upper-leathers, soles, welts, and hobnails : this psalm-singing was the main connecting link between the soul of Billy Hodgson and heaven.

Alas! it was severed—and poor Hodgson has, indeed, fallen like Lucifer. I cannot tell all the circumstances of petty disputes which led to the dissolution of the old quire of singers ; but our Rector (who knows and cares nothing about music) gave many affronts to our leader, and ended the dispute by ejecting Hodgson, his daughters, his bass-viol, and all bis other adherents from the gallery. Hodgson has never been in the Church since that fatal day. When he is very tipsy, and allusions are made to his old psalm-singing habits, he will say—“ You may call me what you like now; but them was the best days of my life ; and I was as decent a man as any in the parish ; but I was turned out by a man that knows no more of music than this jug!”

Well; after the ejection there was a blank in our church-service, for we had no singing for several Sundays; but there was a worse blank in poor Hodgson's mind. For a little time he amused himself by going about and telling what he called “ the right side of the story ;” but on Saturday evenings and Sundays he felt a want of something, an empty place within, which he endeavoured to fill by frequent potations at the Queen's Head. To make the story short—his evening draught increased until it reached the gallon measure ; he first neglected, then ill-treated and half-starved his wife and children, and he has become the most degraded character--the greatest drunkard in the parish.

The Rector thinks he did very well in foreseeing that such a man would disgrace the Church ; but forgets to notice that, previous to the ejection, Hodgson was a sober, orderly, and useful parishioner. The stupid Squire says" the Hodgsons were always a bad lot.” If I were to give him my explanation of the case, he would scout it and say " that has nothing to do with it: Hodgson would have drunk just as hard if he had kept on psalm-singing to this day.” The Rector, meanwhile, continues to preach, in a very orthodox style, on the evil consequences of neglecting to attend Church. Both our Squire and our Rector belong to a large but useless class of moralists, who find it easier to utter words of reprobation than to inquire by what means the outcasts of society have been led astray, or by what means similar cases may be prevented. Such moralists look upon everything as a miracle ; for they will never give themselves the trouble to trace an effect to its cause. To say that sinners are sinners is very easy ; but a more useful thing would be to inquire into the exact circumstancs of their fall. If this were done, there would be found many cases substantially like that I have related. The connection that has been traced between the expulsion of the old bass-viol from our orchestra, and the circumstances of Hodgson's daughters, degraded to something worse than beggary, is not imaginary. If the unhappy girls could tell their inner historylow, when their father had degraded himself (and when every body looked upon them as degraded also), they felt that they had no station to maintain, no character to lose, and how they were led, step by step, down the wrong way, until they really became what people seemed to expect them to be--if they could tell their true tale, it would confirm my explanation of it. Yes ; vice is a very bad thing-and so is a great deal of cold, selfish respectability, and moral orthodoxy!

Before I close this little story (too true), I must notice what it suggests repecting Our Village generally.

I have presented a glaring instance of vice resulting from a want of good occupation ; but the rule laid down would be too well confirmed by a close inspection of social life in Our Village. What are our young people thinking about? What are they doing? I have told what they are not doing. They are hardly recognised by their superiors as creatures having souls ; but they have souls, at least, feelings and passions. What are they doing? I leave the reader to guess. If there is not light in a place, of course there must be darkness.

To conclude-have we not persisted too long in the old mistake of treating vice only as a matter for reprobation and punishment, instead of studying the means of prevention ?

Are not many of the vices of the poor and the ignorant just the

to which they are condemned by the apathy of their superiors ? Is that to be called a moral education, or a religion which cultivates none of the best faculties of the mind, which encourages no activity in pure and elevated pursuits, which treats the people as if they were only machines, and thinks to atone for a week of moral lethargy by a sermon on Sunday ?

Such questions are suggested by Our VILLAGE AS IT IS: we shall consider them more fully when we attempt a sketch of Our VILLAGE AS IT OUGHT TO BE.





OF THE TOWN OF NUMSKULLE DEAR EBENEZER,—Your letter came to hand. There was no fear of that. No letter that showed a man to be a fool, ever yet miscarried. And a pretty noodle your bit of foolscap paints you. What! you 're glad we 're going to have out the militia ? You 're delighted to find we've so much blood in us? Blood, indeed! What business has any decent Christian man with blood, unless in the way of black puddings ?

Well, at your time of life, I didn't think you could have had the pipe-clay fever so strong upon you! And yet it only makes out a notion of mine. You may begin with boys and lads, and teach them what's right and straight,—but it's plaguy hard to take the twist and crank out of you respectable middle-aged Solomons that will be fools, and still think you 're so very wise, only because you 're fools with a grave face. You say, the whole town of Numskull is ripe for war. Is it? 'Twould serve it right just to have one morning's relish of it. The mayor, you say, is very hot for glory, and the mayoress and her daughters dying to see the whole town in regimentals. If the thing could be done, I should like to have Numskull besieged, and the mayor's house particularly well peppered. 'Twould be a nice holiday, a capital sight for the rest of all England. I think I could arrange a very pretty day's amusement.

Let me see: we will begin about seven o'clock in the morning. The mayor is yet in his bed, lying on his back, twiddling his thumbs, and counting over his virtues. Whiz-bang-crash ! A shell—fired by the Yankee Wholehog artillery—(they landed last night from the Cashdown, Pennsylvanian frigate)—falls through the roof-through floor and floor-carries away, never minding the mayoress's screams, half the state tester, leaving the mayor and his wife unhurt,-but still falling through dining-room and parlour,--and intent upon doing its worst, descending into the cellar, and finally dropping into a pipe of the very best beeswing port, just going to be bottled. Now, this bomb we 'll suppose to be the first sugar-plum of war!

The Mayor jumps out of bed, thinking of his money-box, his plate, his bonds, his pipe of port, and his wife and daughters. The lady mayoress screams like — no, I can't think of nothing stronger-like a woman! And then her five daughters, all in their bed-gowns and curl-papers, rushing in, scream, too, to show the tenderness and the weakness of their womanhood. Now, Ebenezer, arn 't all these creatures pretty hypocrites ? I mean what I say—and I 'll prove it.

Bless their little satisfied souls ! how they do love the military, to be sure! What a beautiful thing is a review to 'em-isn't it? And how they 'll smile upon cannon-balls as if they were things to eat—and how they 'll wink their precious eyes in the breastNO. XIV.–VOL. III.


plates of the dear officers, more than if they stared in their own looking-glasses ! And then, in their little puffed-up hearts, they think no more of a man than of a barn-door fowl, if he isn't a soldier. But only put a feather in his cap-red cloth and gold lace on his body-roll him tight round with a sash (the babe of glory!)- and let a long sword dangle by his side -- and to woman's heart, what a dear peacock the sweet fellow is! She could follow him all over the world ; his feathers are so fine, and he does strut so beautifully! And in this way, Ebenezer, do women again and again make themselves parties to war and wickedness! In their hearts, to be sure, they don't mean it. They 'll faint, some of 'em, to see a cut finger ; but then a review only shows the frippery of war-without the blood. The music 's beautiful, and there's no call then for lint.

Sometimes, Ebenezer, we hear of plans to raise women in what they call the social scale. I've no objection, I'm sure ; and should very well like to see the plan tried. Nevertheless, I do think, when I reflect upon the mischief of war,—I do think that woman might give man a lift. But then she is such an odd, contradictory thing! Else, at once, she'd set her precious face against cutting throats, and wouldn't think slaughter a bit the better, because done by nice young men in red coats, with colours flying, and trumpets braying.

(By the bye, Ebenezer, when I think of what the trumpet really does-how it sets man upon man--and makes blood burn against blood-braying seems a capital word for it. Isn't it odd, too and there's some meaning in it, depend on 't-that a trumpet and a jackass, are the only things that bray ?)

Now, here 's a chance for women, Ebenezer! If they ’d only fol. low the example of my cousin Johanna! (What a member of Parliament that girl would have made!) She was going to be married to Samson Cream, a young man in the perfumery line. They were so near it, that if the ring wasn't bought, they'd often (through the windows) looked at it. Well, he's very bad with this militia disease—this scarlet fever: and in the pride of his powder-puff heart, told Johanna that he'd no doubt he should be a corporal. Wherefore, the girl at once told him, that he must either give up all thoughts of pipeelay or of her—that she'd never take a cartridge-box to her arms-and when she married would, by no means, have a husband with feathers. So if Samson won't consent to moult, he loses Johanna. The girl 's only a maid-of-all

« AnteriorContinuar »