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Legend of Good Women," and think of happy ones, to exorcise those complaining ghosts that come and go in the shadow of my book-case.
The reader will remember the charming Lucy Herbert, who might have been a Duchess if the had not chosen to walk out of the purple and wed the poet Habbington, who sang her praises as maid and matron, and loved her, notwithstanding she was his wife 1 I will let a woman* say that "his poems to Castara form one of the most elegant monuments genius em raised to the memory of a wife." The amiable and lovely woman whose early death drove Parnell to destruction, should not be forgotten; nor Anne More, the wife of Dr. Donne, whose fidelity through poverty to death is loftier than any poetry, certainly much loftier than any of the Doctor's. And later still is Lady Littelton, whose flight from this world, in the flush of her youth and beauty, taught Lord Lyttelton the only noble number he ever uttered. In times nearer our own, we recollect several poets whose lives have been broken by the severing of these domestic ties which so many have worn but lightly.
In view of these and similar cases, a witty French author once prepared an ingenius treatise in which he attempted to show why a literary man should not marry at all. He says that twenty poets are unhappy because their wives died, and twenty are wretched because their wives lived. In one case the husband trembles for fear his consort will leave him, and in the other—for fear that she won't! The humourist had proceeded thus far when the ingenuity of his own logic made him an idiot, and he really completed the essay with a solemn protest against marriage! While we smile at the entertaining French gentleman, it is worth observing that many of the finest tributes paid to the gentler sex have emanated from old bachelors—the light-hearted Benedicts who never lived to be married! Tasso made Leonora immortal, and Herrick his Prudence Baldwin—and these were the most incurable of old bachelors. There is one of Herrick's lyrics to his sweetheart, so diminutive, and chaste, and perfect—" like an agate-stone on the fore-finger of an alderman"—that I can never think of itjwithout quoting it:
"on His Maid Prew.
"In this little urn is laid
No reader of recent biography is unfamiliar with Lady Byron's unfortunate marriage, nor with the love of Jean Burn, nor the touching account of Shelley's two wives, nor with the tender care with which the wife of Tom Moore
* Mrs, Jameson,
watched over the splendid ruin of his intellect. The'memorials of Thomas Hood by his son and daughter, present us with a delightful picture of domestic literary life. The book itself is not a remarkable specimen of biographical writing, but the characters of Hood and his wife are so full of human goodness, so touched with all delicate graces, that one forgets everything else, Mrs. Hood's letters are delicious unrevealings of herself. She was
"A spirit, yet a woman, too
• * * •
A creature not too bright or good
Our own day and our own literature are not barren in instances of such unions, nor lacking in painful household histories. The lime has not come when it would be proper to speak of the wives of those authors who are still living, or who have but newly passed away from among us. Many women who to-day are moving quietly and gracefully through the light and shadow of fireside life, are to be known hereafter. Their names will he gracious words to other generations. They shall have justice done them, for the nineteenth century, among other inventions and discoveries has discovered Woman! It was not enough that she was placed in the garden of Eilen for us. We were blind for many thousand years. When the world was young we made her fetch our wood and cook our food and play the menial. In our days of chivalry we taught her to be a pretty Amazon, to dress our wounds, to bind her scarf about our helmet, to receive a fantastic and insincere adoration. Then, as if there were never to be an end to our nonsense, we fancied that she was an Arcadian shepherdess, or a lovely wood-nymph with confused ideas of virtue. Then was the sickly, sentimental, pastoral age in full blast. Then did she tap us on the cheek with her fan, and smirk and smile, and paint and powder, and wear her hair four stories high. That was the courtly age. But by-and-bye she wearied of these follies. We began to treat her with more sense; then little by little she began to assert herself, the better we treated her the more she asserted, until at last we cried out like Frankenstein, "What monster is this we have created?" But it was not a monster—it was only A Woman! Great in her weakness, noble in her chanty, beautiful in her patience. We have found her out! She was never so recognized as now; we have discovered that she has brain as well as heart—that she can write verse like Mrs. Browning, paint pictures like Ro*a Bonheur, be all that is gentle and loveable like Florence Nightingale, and philanthrophical and humane M Miss Burdett Coutts.
A SKIPPER'S TALE.
In one of those islands which form the only part of the Duchy of Normandy now possessed by the kings of England, there lived, not many years ago, a man who, like all the other inhabitants of the lower class, was a compound of husbandman and smuggler, and possessed of all that artful duplicity of mind, and daring resolution of spirit, for which his countrymen, like their fellow Normans on the continent, are so remarkable. Though a well-set and sturdy fellow, you would have taken him for one of the most humble beings you could encounter in a blue jacket and trowsers; his only object seemed to be to slink unobserved through life, to watch the growth of his apples, to make cider, and to tether his cows in the field with such mathematical precision, that they might eat the grass regularly from one end of it to the other without wasting a single blade; and yet, that they might have enough to keep them fat, and to enable them to produce the luxuriant milk for which the breed is celebrated; for the race known in England as Alderney cows alone, are the only cattle propagated in all those islands, and arrive at much greater perfection in the verdant pastures of Jersey and Guernsey, than on the bleak and barren down which forms the whole of the islet from which the English have derived their name. One other terrestrial occupation, indeed, he had—that of making kegs; for your genuine smuggler of those days resembled the citizen soldier of certain political economists, and was, in truth, a man who could make a tub as well as run it ashore, and of whose multifarious occupations, smuggling (I mean the act of landing contraband goods) formed but a portion. Yet, although not constantly engaged in the practice of this latter profession, our hero was a consummate master of the art in all its branches— a fact, by-the-by, which proves how much more congenial smuggling is than fighting to the human heart, notwithstanding all that has been said to prove that warfare is the most natural occupation of man; for your citizen soldier is generally a very unmilitary character, whereas the citizen smuggler is frequently most adroit in the exercise of his vocation.
At the beginning of the late war, when the French and their allies possessed both ships and colonies, the worthy people of the islands to which I have alluded, willing to profit by every circumstance, fitted out a number of their luggers as privateers, and most of the amphibious population at times took a turn on board some of these vessels ; for they were all prudent, careful, money-making fellows, and never neglected any opportunity to "increase their store," and never questioned the means by which such an increase was to be effected. Like most of his compatriots, my hero had made a few voyages along the French and Spanish coasts in one of these
rovers, trading with the natives on shore, or robbing them at sea, as opportunity offered, and fancying all the while that he was performing the part of an honest man and a good citizen; for no argument imaginable could have convinced him that, in defrauding foreign states of the duties levied on imported goods, or taking the vessels of their merchants, he was acting any other part than that which became a subject of the king of England, who was at war with them; and, indeed, all arguments would most probably have been lost upon him which tended to abridge the sum of his earnings.
By dint of all these labours, and of the most rigid economy, for my hero when at home lived upon that luxurious diet which the vulgar call "Glatney soup" (from the name of a street originally inhabited by the lower order, also by the more refined term "soupe a la graisse," from the description of the only animal matter which enters into its composition, and which, in truth, is only admitted in the proportion of half an ounce of beef and pork fat melted together, to a gallon of water and half-a-dozen cabbages), and by dint of never indulging himself, at the most joyful periods, with more than three "doubles" worth of cider, he had saved a considerable sum of money, which he had placed, as it accumulated, in the public funds in London; for, though he had the highest respect for all his countrymen, he somehow felt a dislike to trusting his property in their hands, as was the usual custom of the islanders.
Almost every man has some specific object, which it is his ambition to obtain. Our hero had all his life coveted possession of a farm, which adjoined his own, but which, for many years, he had had no prospect of acquiring; for the owner was, like himself, one of those prudent men who feel more inclined to add to their estates than to dispose of them. Prudent men, however, have sometimes imprudent heirs, and so it happened in the present instance; the farmer died, and his son, after having spent all the money his father had acquired, determined to sell his land and emigrate to Canada; and our hero, who had lent him a considerable sum on the security of his property, agreed to become the purchaser.
I know not whether it was in consequence of one of those unaccountable whims to which the most steady are sometimes subject, or whether it was that he feared to trust his well-beloved money in the hands of any other person, however respectable; but, from whatever cause it arose, our hero resolved to go over to London, and fetch the sum requisite to complete his purchase. To London he came accordingly, and having effected his business, he returned to Southampton, whence he embarked on board a vessel bound for his native island, with his bank- notes carefully sewed into the waistband of his trousers. This event took place just after the last war had broken out with the United States, and at a time when the channel was occasionally visited by American privateers; and, amongst all the mischances against which our hero had provided, he had totally forgotten the chance of being taken prisoner; for the French navy had been so long annihilated, or shut up in their harbours, that the islanders were accustomed to go to and from Southampton as carelessly as if England had been at peace with all the world. This only unforeseen accident, however, as is almost always the case, came to pass. The English vessel had scarcely lost sight of the Isle of Wight, when an American privateer bore down upon her, and as fighting was out of the question, on account of the superior force of the enemy, flying became the only resource. But it soon grew apparent that escape was impossible; the trader was a bad sailor, and heavily laden, and the privateer gained so quickly upon her, that it was evident she must speedily get up with her; and, indeed, the Southampton vessel only continued her flight in the vague hope that some of the English cruisers might heave in sight, and rescue her from impending capture.
You must imagine, for words cannot describe, the terror and anxiety of my hero during this awful period; not that he was by any means deficient in courage, when only life was endangered, but here his money, his bank-notes, which had been the fruit of years of hardship and privation, were at stake, and, more than all, the farm on which he had set his heart seemed now slipping through his hands, at the moment when he thought he had only to close his fingers to grasp it for ever. In his agony, he at first resolved to write down the numbers of his notes in his pocket-book, and then throw them overboard before witnesses, in order that he might prove they had been destroyed, and thus recover their value of the bank; and, in pursuance of this idea, be actually unripped the lining of his trowsers, and laid them out before him in the little locker which served him for B bed cabin. But no amorous glance, or tender billet-doux, ever wrought a more sudden alteration on the mind of an angry lover, than did the sight of these pale-faced and meagre notes on the soul of my hero. How could he, who had worshipped Mammon all his life, entertain for a moment the idea of throwing the god of his idolatry into the sea? There was no sacrilege he would not sooner have committed. He grasped his treasure in his hands, and pressed it to his bosom with the agonizing embrace of one about to be separated for ever from the only object of his affections, and then, thrusting it into big pocket, he ran upon deck and looked out, with the anxiety of sister Anne in the nursery tale, to see whether any relief was at hand. No friendly sail, however, was in sight, and, except sea and air, the only object in view was the American privateer bearing rapidly down upon her quarry, at a distance of
somewhat more than a mile. By this time, however, our hero had recovered a little of his usual coolness. He recollected that the vessel on board which he sailed was of no great value, and that her cargo (consisting chiefly of bricks, mops, brooms, and various other cumbrous articles of household utility) was not likely to be very tempting to the enemy, and he began to entertain a hope that they might merely plunder her of what was valuable, or useful to themselves, and let her go—a hope which was strengthened by the recollection that an American privateer had lately acted in a similar manner to another small trader she had captured, and by the consideration that, probably, the foe could not spare men enough to carry her into a French port. Urged by these opinions, he again went down below, resolved to conceal his money in some secure place, where it might escape the hasty search of the transatlantic plunderers, and having, at length, hidden it to his satisfaction, he was about to return to the deck, when he saw the master and some of the sailors engaged in an occupation that for a time drove even the American privateer from his mind. Among other things of value, consigned to the merchant who owned the vessel, was a a small package of specie. This the master and his companions had broken open, and they were now busily engaged in transferring its glittering contents into their pockets—perhaps hoping that they might escape a personal search, and certain that, at any rate, the risk was worth the adventure. Our hero almost forgot his own impending loss, in his admiration of the wealth he saw these sailors thus carelessly thrusting into their pockets. He stood gazing at it and at them, with his eyes enlarged almost to the size of crown pieces, and nearly as yellow as guineas, with jealousy and desire; and the master (who knew him personally) after he had crammed every receptacle in his dress almost to bursting with gold, called out to him, that he might help himself to a few dollars. Our hero (who would not have refused a few doubles* at any time) heard the permission with delight, and throwing himself upon some silver, that lay scattered about the deck below, he filled every pocket he possessed, and then retreating to his birth, he resolved to await the event, trusting, by pretending illness or some other evil, to mollify the hearts of the enemy, or, at any rate, hoping that, should their object be only to plunder the vessel, he should escape by giving up the dollars of which he had thus acquired possession.
He had scarcely formed this resolution (if such it can be called) when a bustle upon deck announced that the ship was bringing-to, and in a few moments more he could hear that the enemy had taken possession of her, and, almost instantly, some of the captors made their ap
* A "double," or "hard dc France," is a small copper coin, of the value of the seventh part of a penny.
peuance in the cabin. Our hero, who was rarely in a hurry, lay still within his cabin, trembling most heroically; but, feigning sleep or illness, he did not move, nor did any take notice of him, till he learnt, from the conversation that was going on around him, that the Americans were about to take the prisoners into their own vessel, and to send that which they had captured into Cherbourg; and he further learnt that the reason why they proposed to shift the prisoners was, because they could not spare men enough to guard them. If our hero had resolved to sham illness before, the idea of being separated from his money now made him ill in good earnest, and he would willingly share given all the dollars he had so lately acquired, to have had his good bank-notes again sewed up in the waistband of his trousers ; but his wishes were vain, and, although he cast many a rueful glance at the corner where he had secreted his property, he did not dare make a movement towards it, lest he should excite the suspicions of the enemy, who were now busily engaged in gathering up the remaining dollars, some of which had been left, even after our hero had filled his pockets.
It is the property of great minds, and of great minds only, to conceive a comprehensive and efficient plan at a moment of emergency. Such a one was possessed by our hero. As soon as he found that the prisoners were actually quitting the trader for the American, he gave up all hopes of lying perdue, and, crawling out of bed, he went up to the principal officer of the enemy, and twisting his body, as if writhing under inexpressible tortures, he exclaimed, "Vive l'Ameriqiie!—Vive la France 1 —Vive l'Empereur I—Py Gat, Messieurs, nos allies !—Gentlemens, I am glad to see you!"
"Very glad, I dare say," replied the American, drily.
"Que le diahle me coupe le gorge, si je ne suis pas dam glad," returned our hero, drawing one hand across his throat, and at the same time clapping the other on his side, twitching up his left leg, and grinning horribly, as if from intense suffering.
"Why, who are you?" exclaimed the American, staring at our hero; "and what the plague ails you, that you make as many grimaces as a posture-master?"
"Pasdiraasdi! what's dat ?" replied our hero. "I beg you to comprehend dat I am not a pasdimasdi—Je suis Francais, moi—I am a Frenchman, a subject to the Empereur, and an ally of de Americains.—Vivent les Americains, et a has les Anglais."
"If you're a Frenchman, how came you here?" inquired the Yankee, suspiciously; "and above a'l, what is the matter with you, that you grin so awfully?"
"I am habitant de Cherbourg, and I was been captain of a vessel taken prisoner de guerre by de English," replied our hero. "I have cchappe de Fortune prison, and I was gone to Jersey, or some of de oder islands, where I should get de passage home in a smuggler."
"Alia 1" muttered the American.
"Oui, vraiment," replied our hero; "but if you shall excuse me—je m'en vais dormir—I shall go to sleep, for I did get some ill in de prison —some think it is what you call gail sickens, or de typuss faver; but oders say it was de vilain bierre I did drink at Sowsamptom —but, Dieu m'accorde, I shall be better when we gets to Cherbourg, and when we go shore I shall make you welcome to mine 'ouse."
"Cherbourg," repeated the American, "do you know Mr. ?" naming a respectable
"Ma foi, oui, c'est mon cousin," replied our hero, nothing daunted by the cross-examination which he suspected was approaching; for he thought he was well enough acquainted with Cherbourg and its inhabitants to baffle the penetration of a man who could hardly have had occasion to know them as well as himself.
"Your cousin, is he?" said the American, "and do you know Mr. ——?" mentioning the name of the brother-in-law to the first.
"Know him?" repeated our hero, "comment c'est le frere de Madame sa femme, c'est mon cousin, aussi, aha 1 Je suis allie, I am ally to de most respectable peoples dere."
"Well, if you know Mr. , I have letters
for him from our owners; he is to be our agent," said the Yankee; "and as I should be sorry to put one of his cousins to any inconvenience, you shall remain on board. Curse him!" he muttered, as our hero was sneaking off to his berth, " if he is cheating me he cannot gain much by it," for the Yankee did not altogether credit the tale he had heard; "and yet," added he, "he looks very ill, with his lengthy phiz; and should he be what he says, it would be a pity to carry him on a cruise, not to mention that he may infect our whole ship's company with his tie-puss fever."
Our hero, no doubt, did look ill enough, for he dreaded, while he was thus endeavouring to deceive the American, that some inquisitive enemy would discover the bank-notes, in protection of which he was weaving this tissue of falsehoods, and thus deprive him of that which he was exerting his invention to save. When he got to his berth, however, he judged from every appearance that all was safe, and as soon as the vessel had parted from her captor, and the hands on board were busily engaged upon deck, he retook possession of it, to bis inexpressible delight, and again replaced it in its original concealment about his person. Perhaps I should explain to you, that the object our hero had in view in passing himself off as a Frenchman, was, not only to obtain leave to remain on board the vessel in which he had placed his treasure, he also wished to avoid being landed at any other port than Cherbourg, with many of the principal inhabitants of which he was well acquainted, and where, indeed, he was so well known, as a smuggler, that he did not doubt he should not only preserve his money, but that he should alio find some of his countrymen, who would give him a passage to his native island.
As soon as he had secured his money, he cime upon deck, and finding that the privateer was now out of sight, he declared that his malady was very much abated, and set himself to gain the confidence of the American, who had charge of the prize, to whom he recommended himself very highly, by helping to work the sails, and by singing English songs in the manner of a Frenchman, a character he could hardly be said to assume, since French was his native tongue; and the English linjruage and manners were merely habits acquired by mingling with the English residents in his island, and observing their customs. He took care, however, to say nothing further of his relations at Cherbourg, hoping, on the arrival of the vessel there, to be set on shore as a Frenchman, and trusting to his own acquaintance with the place to find friends who would assist him. Thus passed away the evening; for I should have noticed that it was in the afternoon that the vessel was captured, and night set in long before they came in sight of the coast of France. During the conversation that took place upon deck, our hero learnt that none of the crew had ever been at the port to which they were bound, and he offered, in his general desire to make himself useful, to keep watch all night, in order to assist them with his local knowledge, when they reached the coart near Cherbourg. Thie, however, they would by no means suffer, though they consented to call him up in case they should find any occasion for his services, and accordingly, jnst after dawn, they roused him to inform him that they were in sight of land.
Our hero arose, and perceived that they had made Cape la Hogue; but he also perceived, that, though they guessed from the course they had steered whereabouts they were, they were totally ignorant of the coast. At this instant, another of his extraordinary plans entered his mind, and he declared that the headland they saw before them was Cape Barfieur, and that Cherbourg lay but a little way to the westward. The head of the vessel was immediately turned in the direction pointed out by our hero, and in a short time the island and town of Alderney appeared dimly through one of those fogs so very common in that part of the channel.
"Voila Cherbourg!" said our hero, fixing his eyes upon the American commander, to see what impression the information made upon him: "Dat is Cherbourg."
"Indeed!" exclaimed the Yankee, in a tone of astonishment, but not of suspicion. "I thought it had been a larger town."
"Ah—oui—but you cannot see it all, by reason of de mystification, what you call de brume," replied our hero, willing to draw off the attention of his auditor from the place beore him.
"The broom! you mean the fog, I suppose," cried the American.
"Oui, justement P answered my hero;
"Mais qu'allez-vous faire? Ah! eacre" 1 baillezmoi le timon !—give me the tiller,—vous allez vous perdre, I shall lead you right in, for I do not see no vilain pilot boat."
This last asertion, however, was not quite correct, for our hero did see a pilot boat, pulling for the vessel, and almost the only anxiety he now felt was, lest the pilot should get on board and betray him before he had time to bring his plot to maturity; and, what was worse than all, the Americans saw it, and pointed it'out to him.
"Dat miserable bateau-la!" exclaimed our hero in reply; " dat miserable boat a pilot boat— e'est un bateau de pecbeur—it is what you call a fishing-boat—ne savez-vous—do you not know, dat in all de ports of France de pilot boats are vraiment magnifique, superbe? Ah, vous verrez tout a Theure." Then, raising his voice, he bawled out to the pilot boat to keep off, still using the Norman French dialect, and swearing he would run it down if it approached any nearer to him, and sweating with anxiety lest anyone on board should hail the ship in English, and thus overthrow the hopes he began to entertain of recovering the vessel.
Fortune, however, who had stood his friend during the whole of his enterprizc, did not now desert him. The pilot, seeing another vessel in the offing, went to offer his services to her, and the boat belonging to the guard-ship was now becoming visible through the mist of the morning. For this boat our hero steered with breathless anxiety, though without the least alteration of countenance, and but a few minutes elapsed before she was alongside.
Our hero could diguise his feelings no longer. He sprung to the gangway, and exclaimed, "Shump aboard, my boys! de ship's all our own!" The boat's crew, although they could not guess his meaning, instantly obeyed his directions; and, to cut short my tale, the vessel was recaptured, to the infinite astonishment of her American crew, who had never once suspected the duplicity of my hero, so artfully had he concealed his fears and his intentions.
BY MABGARBT Glli CURRIE.
The hoary Christmas Cometh now,