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“ The'st dunna go dry-lipped,” cries Flukes, as he fills a horn and holds it forth ; for there is a something in the boy that has ever had a mastery over his coarse, hard nature. Well, and what in’na, eh?—the'st bin on this holiday a while ?”
They all press now with eager questions, even senile drooping eyes look
up, till Joe, putting back Brown Tom's glory almost untasted on the keg, says, “Well, measters, it be to harken to the Minster-organ.
“Ha! ha! ha! ha!” roars round above the blast. But Joe is gone, and they have it to themselves till the other mates come, the pipes are lighted, and the business of the night fairly set in.
Joe is on with fleet steps beneath the clear June night,-for Nature has spread her beautiful mantle over the tired and shutlidded Day-far away from those belching flames and lurid smoke, to where the serenity of heaven lies calm and still upon a cluster of forgemen's cottages beyond the swarth common.
He lightly taps upon a door, lifts the latch, gces in : an old woman sits reading a very blackened book by the strong fire-blaze, for pits lie beneath the soil, and no inflated beadle steps out here to dole parishgiven coals. This woman keeps a dame-school, and has soothed Joe's rugged orphanage with the music of a softened word, and many an ill-spared slice from the hard-won loaf! Blessings on such bread !-the manna of the world. She knows—ready ear for the impulse of the natural heart—that Joe has got the holiday; so without more ado, she lays aside the book, and dives her palsied hand into a ponderous leather pocket that is beneath her quilted gown, and as she sits, touches the floor; wherefrom at last, after a jingle that would be music to a baby's wondering ear, comes forth a little lump of papers, which a girl, hitherto in the chimneycorner, steps quickly near to see unwrapped. One by one the papers fall into the dame's lap--the huckster's score, the blurred scrap
сору, the packman's list of wares, the leaf of the thumbed spelling-book, and, last, from a fragment of some ancient gown, perhaps the one of the long-past marriage-May, comes forth, bright like a jewel as it is, a minted sovereign, brighter for the little beaded drops of toil that stand upon it! The palsied creature knows it is the hoarded thrift of years gathered up like sandgrains from the shore ; and, if hoarding it in her heart would add one jewel-drop, there she would hoard it, for Joe has soothed her weariness, and brightened up her fire, and said God's words of grace in such poor human speech as his coarse nurture has. Yet
withal she doesn't know Joe's big secret, and the grace of nature will not let her ask it. But there is a word of caution.
“ It's hard-earned, Joe ; and the folks in the towns be a pinch
They wun'na take we much in, gran'an," says Joe, “but I 'll a' my sights on. Good night on
thee! The aged creature blesses, and Joe is glad to get away for his secret riots to have vent; but Nell knows it, trust me ; she comes to the door with something which Joe tucks under his smock pretty quickly, and then, with a nod, he is off, looking back, though his steps are eager.
Far away out in the woodlands the night is still more glorious ; the moonlight sleeps upon the gnarled trunks, and flickers like a winged spirit on the gently-waving leaves ; and Joe, freshened by the night, gets on bravely, though now and then stopping to satiate the large wonder that is
him. He rests as dawn comes ; then gets on more slowly as day gathers up and life comes out with newer freshness. Men and women, villages and trees, lanes and brooks, each one is a book ; for this is the first time Joe has been a traveller; so it is far noon before he comes within sight of Lichfield Minster. He waits for evening before he ventures nearer, for he is ashamed to meet the smart holiday-folks in his poor ragged smoke-discoloured smock. Yet is there not soul-eagerness to know if “the big organ” Scrape, the itinerant fiddler, has told him about, makes sweeter sounds than such as he has so long heard in the depth and articulateness of the mighty forge?
Evening has fallen. He steals into the Cathedral, gray, cold, silent. The verger is sleeping on a tomb-stone ; the organ is there, yet has no tongue; nothing but the Spirit of God is above and around !
Black hands, timid feet, wonder-expressing gaze into the gathering shadows, and Joe reaches the choir ; when lo! at his ear, the entrancing wonder bursts forth in its mighty articulateness !
His ears seem filled ; his heart to swell and throb ; a haze, a sort of reeling film to gather on his eyes ; that which in the forge-blast was a struggling power, blind, groping, fushes within the soul angel-winged ; the swathement of genius is burst ; the power to articulate and create is born ; the forge-boy knows he is musician ; and that in the forge-blast, the winter's wind,
the voice of man, one great universal spirit of NATURE'S HARMONY waits, but, for the recognising ear.
Joe is as rigid as the dead beneath his feet, when the verger's stick, cold as a coffin-nail, touches him on the face. With a sort of stupid stare, as one awakened from a sleep, very visible by the clear orthodox light of the verger, now uncovered, lantern Joe looks round, and beholds not only the little frigid icicle of the church's much-to-be-lamented leanness, but an odd, strangelooking man, that has just stepped down from the organ-loft. He is strangely dressed, and has a haggard, unnatural countenance, though marked and sensitive ; a chorister's surplice twisted round his head for the nonce, he might pass for chief eunuch in the seventh heaven of Mahomet. He, whoever he be, recognises the power new-born, for the brotherhood alone know that the baptism of genius is by flowing tears , and Joe's flow; but just as this stranger speaks in a musical foreign tongue, the verger raises his stick again against infringing-implied-smock-frocked-pauper wickedness, and Joe is gone ; his footfall lingering slowly though, on the faint echoes of the aisle.
Joe has a penny besides the minted-honesty ; but this won't get a bed, so far in the green lane, where the evening sun had glinted on him, he finds one rent free, though without four-posts or curtains ; and as certain larks and thrushes and fieldfares (it may be the womankind amongst them) are up by times on the duties of their little democratic commonwealths, and sing, and chirp, and twitter, like veritable human orators, Joe 's up, too, and away
into the town.
He lingers about the Minster till the shops are open, and then he has a greedy eye for every window, passing by some quicker than others, till at last, in a little odd sort of bookseller's window, and in the very furthest corner hangs—a
Mama (I must have it out at last, Joe) a kit, a little dried-up skeleton of a fiddle, as if it had been played upon till it had become an anatomy; and it hangs there with a world of dust upon it, thicker than that on the few discoloured books that have stood so long open at certain pages, that every parish boy and chorister know their contents by heart, for even a friendly draught has never turned them over. Well, having viewed it, and peeped at it as 'acutely as a logician might with the mind's eye the three necessary propositions to his syllogism, Joe, like a mouse about to go into a trap-suspectedcloset, ducks his head in at the door, then out again, then in again, till at last, with a hesitating step and finger at his forelock, he gets fairly into the shop, and sees a little shrimp of an old fellow smoking his pipe behind the counter, who, being in the very middle of a lengthened puff, does not deign any answer to Joe's question as to price, till he brings forth the pound.
“ That's it,” says the laconic smoker, jerking his pipe in the direction of the coin. Joe sighs and turns away, but asks, as he reaches the door, if it cannot be less ? A shake of the head is, however, the only answer ; and Joe, sighing again, goes to the panes outside, nor seeing, that at an inn window opposite, the stranger from the organ loft is watching him. More than thrice he goes and comes to and from the Minster to these six window panes, like a hungry bee to a leaf-closed flower, sighing, asking, looking at his pound, debating, till at last at noon, putting his head in at the door, the little old fellow, who by this time seems soothed into complacency by his pipe, just laid down, says,
“Ay, well, I suppose it's the doctrine of necessity ? and so
“Please, sir,” says Joe, whom nature teaches that poverty sits before him, “I only want a shilling off it, for gran’an would think so much of a little bit of backy, and Nell a thimble, that
Oh! divine chords of the human heart, how rich of impulse when the hand of genuine nature touches thee ! Cynicism and cold poverty now is forgotten, for the little lean man moves to the window, takes down the dusty kit, proves himself a musician by drawing a bow over it with a rich effect, that shows it to have, like many a human anatomy, a wondrous soul in a pitiful, poor encasement, and then pushing it over the counter to Joe, remarks something again about the doctrine of necessity, and says it's his for sixteen shillings. Just as Joe 's about to answer, a broad shadow darkens the door, a voice calls, and the bookseller goes out ; first, however, taking the pound and laying four shillings on the counter. But Joe takes up only one, squeezes the melodious kit, first giving it a polish on his smock, into the green bag, Nell's secret and handiwork, and makes his way out, to see before him, a burly red-faced man on horseback.
Ya-es, Mr. Melody, ya-es, the law 's too lenient. We must have a little more hanging before we put down human vice.
As my name's Justice Statute, (I may very properly remark it was a Statute at Large) five commitments, before breakfast this morning, for a drunken forge riot on Whitsun's Eve. A drunken riot, broken heads and bones ; but I've settled 'em, off to jail with Flukes and Jinkle, and two or three others, for it's only us magistrates that can put human nature properly down, with the strong arm of the law, and this arm must be used strongly, Mr. Melody, I can tell you ; but—but—what is this boy staring it?” Joe's been looking up, for he has heard the name of Flukes, and this mighty defender of the British Constitution likes pauper flesh and blood to feel the sword of justice, but by no means to gaze upon its bloated wielder. As Joe isn't abashed, however, (right, my lad !) the Statute in broadcloth goes on : “Look at your betters humbly, boy, he-m! and so go home and learn your catechism, and humility. Be off-it's likely we shall meet again, you vagabond, and then I'm stringent against disrespect to the Constitution, Mr. Melody,—he-m! he-m ! he-m! Now a word. By Friday next, the latest edition of “Jinks and Tickle on Commitments; and
But Joe is gone ; so blessings with thee, humanising heart of genius! Hug thy kit, Joe; press it to thee; within it is the Soul of Harmony, that universal Pan, or wondrous binding-link throughout humanity, by which rough latent nature may be humanised, and the brutefied satyr of ignorance gently'led onward from the mere sensual, to a recognisement of the spiritual. Hug it, Joe! Better than Jinks and Tickle on Commitments; that I—whom nature has taught a little-can tell you, Joe !
Ten years gone by! an unrecorded unit in the book of time, except for all injustice done, or human wisdom unaccomplished !
It is a glorious June morning; the air cool and blowing fresh in from the country, seems like one breath of new-mown hay and cowslipped fields, when a stranger, on whose ungloved hands lies the wealth of an Exchequer week, and who arrived the night before in Lichfield, in a Long Acre travelling carriage and four, steps, from the town's most reputed inn, where he has set up, into a little street hard by, before he has even breakfasted, or the waiter laid the cloth. He glances eagerly forward: but, bless us ! no longer dust upon the window-panes, or little threadbare-read books, but from the little quaint bookseller's shop, a cheerful spirit, like the very sun itself, gleams out upon the shadowed pavement. It's clear the doctrine of necessity has merged into that of free-will, and that humble shag has mounted up into astonishing bird's-eye. So it has ; and the little old cynic behind his wellfilled counter is not only working a cheerful crotchet, and having an early pipe, but is superintending the packing of an amazing