Imágenes de páginas

action could be transacted without that laughter, snatches of which we occaceremony, whatever it might mean. sionally heard. Broster had been in Idlers were everywhere celebrating the the Crimea, was wounded at Alma, merits and “dacency” of the various recovered, went through all the work buyers and sellers. Huge greasy leather and privation of the first winter of the pocket-books of undoubted antiquity, siege, got knocked up, came home on were to be seen in many a hand, and sick leave, and having had enough of it, rolls of bank-notes were deftly changing as he frankly confessed, took the opporowners. The ground, too, was begin- tunity on his father's death, which ning to clear, and purchasers were happened then, to sell out and settle driving off their cattle. Many of the as a farmer on a small property to dealers who had disposed of stock were which he fell heir. He chatted about taking their ease in the inns. You the events of the war in an easy, familiar could see them looking out of the open way, quietly, as if the whole affair had windows; and, occasionally, a man been a game at football; and when whose potations had been early and ex- courage, strength, and splendid proscessive went whooping through the pects were changed by unseen bullet, crowd. In a short time John returned or grim bayonet stab, into a rude grave with his friend.

on the bleak plateau, the thing was “ Captain Broster,” said John, pre- mentioned as a mere matter of course! senting him, “has promised to dine Sometimes a comrade's fate met with with us at three. Sharp at the hour, an expression of soldierly regret, slight mind, for we wish to leave early." . and indifferent enough, yet with a cer

“I'll be punctual as clockwork," said tain pathos which no high-flown oration the captain, turning to look after his could reach. For the indifferent tone purchases.

seemed to acquiesce in destiny, to conWe strolled up and down till three sider that disappointment had been too o'clock, and then bent our steps to the common in the life of every man during inn, where we found Broster waiting the last six thousand years to warrant In honour to his guests the landlord any raving or passionate surprise at this himself brought in dinner, and waited time of day; and that in any case our with great diligence. When the table ordinary pulse and breath time our was cleared we had punch and cigars, march to the grave; passion beats the and sat chatting at the open window. double-quick, and when it is all over, The space in front was tolerably clear of there is little need for outcry and the cattle now, but dealers were hovering shedding of tears over the eternal rest. about, standing in clumps, or prome- In the midst of his talk, voices rose in nading in parties of twos and threes. one of the apartments below : the noise But at this point a new element had became altercation, and immediately entered into the scene. It was dinner a kind of struggling or dragging was hour, and many of the forgemen from heard in the flagged passage, and then the furnaces above had come down to a tipsy forgeman was unceremoniously see what was going on. Huge, hulk- shot out into the square ; and the inn ing, swarthy-featured fellows they were. door closed with an angry bang. The Welshmen, chiefly, as I was afterwards individual seemed to take the indignity told; who, confident in their strength, in very good part ; along he staggered, were at no pains to conceal their his hands in his pockets, heedless of the contempt for the natives. They, too, satirical gibes and remarks of his commingled in the crowd, but the greater panions, who were smoking beneath our number leaned lazily against the houses, windows. Looking out, we could see smoking their short pipes and indulging that his eyes were closed, as if he in the dangerous luxury of “chaffing" scorned the outer world, possessing one the farmers. Many a rude wit-combat so much more satisfactory within himself. was going on, accompanied by roars of As he went he began to sing from sheer excess of happiness; the following came at a run, and flung themselves in stanza coming distinctly to our ears. to the assistance of their companions.

Just at this moment, a couple of con“When I was a chicken as big as a hen, stables pressed forward into the mad

My mother 'ot me an' I 'ot her agen ; velling crowd. A hammersmith came My father came for to see the r-r-rrow, behind one, and seizing his arms, held So I lifted my fist an I 'ot him a clow.” him, despite his struggles, firmly as in

a vice. The other was knocked over “I hope that fellow won't come to

and trampled 'under foot. “Good grief," said Broster, as the forgeman heavens, murder will be done,” cried lurched through a group of countrymen

Broster, lifting his heavy whip from intent on a bargain, and passed on the table. “We must try and put an without notice or apology, his eyes end to this disgraceful scene. Will you closed, and singing as before,

join me?” “With heart and soul," “Ses my mother, ses she, there's a

said Penruddock, “ and there is no time

to be lost. Come along, Burdett.” At peeler at hand.”

the foot of the stair we found the land“By Jove, he's down at last, and lord shaking in every limb. He had there'll be the devil to pay!” We locked the door, and was standing in looked out: the forgeman was prone in the passage with the key in his hand. the dust, singing, and apparently un- “McQueen, we want out ; open the conscious that he had changed his posi- door.” tion. A party of farmers were standing “Shure, jintlemen, you'r not goin? around laughing ; one of them had just now. You'll be torn to paces if put out his foot and tripped the forge- you go.” man as he passed. The next moment, “If you won't open the door give me a bare-armed, black-browed hammer- the key, and I'll open it myself.” smith stood out from the wall, and, The landlord passively yielded : without so much as taking the pipe Broster unlocked the door, and flung from his mouth, felled the dealer at the key down on the flagged passage. a blow, and then looked at his com- “Now, my lads, cried he to half a panions as if wishing to be informed if dozen countrymen who were hanging-on he could do anything in the same way spectators on the skirts of the combat, for them. The blow was a match and at the same time twisting his whip dropped in a powder magazine. Alelu ! lash tightly around his right hand till to the combat. There were shouts and the heavily leaded head became a for. yells. Insult had been rankling long midable weapon, a blow from which in the breasts of both parties. Old would be effective on any skull of scores had to be paid off. From every ordinary susceptibility ; “Now my lads, quarter, out of the inns, leaving potheen we are resolved to put an end to this, and ale, down the streets from among will you assist us?” The captain's the cattle, the dealers came rushing to family had been long resident in the the fray. The forgemen mustered with county, he was himself personally alacrity, as if battle were the breath known to all of them, and a cheerful of their nostrils. In a few seconds, “ay, ay," was the response. “Penthe square was the scene of a general ruddock, separate them when you can, melée. The dealers fought with their knock them over when you can't, short heavy sticks; the forgemen had Welshman or Irishman, its quite the but the weapons nature gave, but their same.” So saying, in we drove. Broster arms were sinewed with iron, and every clove a way for himself, distributing blow told like a hammer. These last his blows with great impartiality, and were overpowered for a while, but the knocking over the combatants like ninealarm had already spread to the furnaces pins. We soon reached the middle of above, and parties of twos and threes the square, where the fight was hottest.

The captain was swept away in an eddy for a moment, and right in front of Penruddock and myself two men were grappling on the ground. As they rolled over, we saw that one was the hammersmith who had caused the whole affray. We flung ourselves upon them, and dragged them up. The dealer with whom I was more particularly engaged had got the worst of it, and plainly wasn't sorry to be released from the clutches of his antagonist. With his foe it was different. His slow sullen blood was fairly in a blaze, and when John pushed him aside, he dashed at him and struck him a severe blow on the face. In a twinkling, Penruddock's coat was off, while the faintest stream of blood trickled from his upper lip. “Well, my man,” said he, as he stood up ready for action, “ if that's the game you mean to play at, I hope to give you a bellyful before I've done.” “Seize that man, knock him over,” said Broster; “ you're surely not going to fight him, Penruddeck, it's sheer madness; knock him over.” “I tell you what it is,” said Penruddock, turning savagely, “ you sha'n't deprive me of the luxury of giving this fellow a sound hiding.” Broster shrugged his shoulders, as if giving up the case. By this time the cry arose, “Black Jem's goin' to fight the gentle man,” and a wide enough ring was formed. Many who were prosecuting small combats of their own desisted, that they might behold this greater one. Broster stood beside John. “He's an ugly mass of strength," whispered he, “and will hug you like a bear; keep him well off, and remain cool for Heaven's sake.” “Ready ?” said John, stepping forward. “As a lark i the mornin',” growled Jem, as he took up his ground. The men were very wary, Jem retreating round and round, John advancing. Now and then one or other darted out a blow, but it was generally stopped, and no harm done. At last the blows went home; the blood began to rise. The men drew closer, and struck with greater rapidity. They are at it at last, hammer and tongs. No shirking or flinching now. Jem's was flowing. He was

No. 9.–VOL. II.

evidently getting severely punished. He couldn't last long at that rate. He fought desperately for a close, when a blinding blow full in the face brought him to the earth. He got up again like a madman, the whole bull-dog nature of him possessed and mastered by fierce, brutal rage. He cursed and struggled in the arms of his supporters to get at his enemy, but by main force they held him back till he recovered himself. “He'll be worked off in another round,” I heard Broster whisper in my ear. Ah! here they come! I glanced at John for a moment as he stood with his eye on his foe. There was that in his face that boded no good. The features had hardened into iron somehow; the pitiless mouth was clenched, the eye cruel. A hitherto unknown part of his nature revealed itself to me as he stood there. Perhaps unknown to himself. God help us, what strangers we are to ourselves ! In every man's nature there is an interior unexplored as that of Africa, and over that region what wild beasts may roam ! But they are at it again ; Jem still fights for a close, and every time his rush is stopped by a damaging blow. They are telling rapidly; his countenance, by no means charming at the best, is rapidly transforming. Look at that hideously gashed lip! But he has dodged Penruddock's left this time, and clutched him in his brawny arms. Now comes the tug of war, skill pitted against skill, strength against strength. They breathe for a little in one another's grip, as if summoning every energy. They are at it now, broad chest to chest. Now they seem motionless, but by the quiver of their frames you can guess the terrific strain going on. Now one has the better, now the other, as they twine round each other, lithe and supple as serpents. Penruddock yields ! No! That's a bad dodge of Jem's. By Jove he loses his grip. All is over with him. John's brow grows dark; the veins start out on it; and the next moment Black Jem, the hero of fifty fights, slung over his shoulder, falls heavily to the ground.

At his fall a cheer rose from the

dealers. “You blacksmith fellows had better make off," cried Broster; “your man has got the thrashing he deserves, and you can carry him home with you. I am resolved to put a stop to these disturbances—there have been too many of late.” The furnace men hung for a moment irresolute, seemingly half in clined to renew the combat, but a formidable array of cattle-dealers pressed forward and turned the scale. They decided on a retreat. Black Jem, who had now come to himself, was lifted up, and, supported by two men, retired toward the works and dwellings on the upper grounds, accompanied by his companions, who muttered many a surly oath and vow of future vengeance.

When we got back to the inn, John was very anxious about his face. He washed, and carefully perused his features in the little looking-glass. Luckily, with the exception of the upper lip slightly cut by Jem's first blow, no mark of the combat presented itself; at this happy result of his investigations he expressed great satisfaction-Broster laughing the meanwhile, and telling

him that he was as careful of his face as a young lady.

The captain came down to see us off. The fair was over now, and the little streets were almost deserted. The dealers-apprehensive of another descent from the furnaces—had hurried off as soon as their transactions could in any way permit. Groups of villagers, however, were standing about the doors discussing the event of the day; and when Penruddock appeared he became, for a quarter of an hour, an object of public interest for the first time in his life, and so far as he has yet lived, for the last; an honour to which he did not seem to attach any particular value.

We shook hands with the captain ; then, at a touch of the whip, the horse started at a gallant pace, scattering a brood of ducks in all directions ; and in a few minutes, Keady,—with its white-washed houses and dark row of furnaces, tipped with tongues of flame, pale and shrunken yet in the lustre of the afternoon, but which would rush out wild and lurid when the evening fell, lay a rapidly dwindling speck behind.




It is very important to arrive at some definite opinion on a subject which has been so much confused.

I wish to direct attention to three distinct series of effects which have been produced by the new gold.

Firstly. The substance which is by so many nations adopted as a medium of exchange has been augmented in quantity.

Secondly. The new gold has influenced the wealth and the social condition of the countries in which it has been discovered.

Thirdly. Great Britain has been affected by this change in the social and material condition of one of her most important colonies.

When it was found in 1851 that Australia and California would each year supply nearly 30,000,0001. of gold, or, in other words, at least four times as much as all other gold mines had annually yielded before, it was supposed that gold would rapidly decline in value to the extent of at least twenty-five per cent. The best authorities now agree that this decline has not as yet occurred. I will, in the first place, state the reasons which justify this supposition, and then explain in what manner the increased gold has been absorbed, and its value been maintained. An inductive proof of a change in the value of gold requires data which cannot be obtained, for a comparison of general prices during the

last ten years will not afford a sufficient years no silver mines of exceptional proof. Thus the average price of wheat richness have been discovered, and the is lower now than then. The value of worse mines which were then worked are gold compared with wheat has risen ; worked now, it affords strong evidence but how erroneous would it be thence that nothing has occurred to affect the to conclude that its general value had value of silver. If, therefore, gold risen! Wheat has declined in price has declined in value twenty-five per because it can be imported cheaply from cent., silver estimated in gold would other countries. On the other hand, the have increased twenty-five per cent. in price of meat and dairy produce has of price. But it has not increased five per late risen considerably. This rise in cent. This, I believe, affords important price we know is partly due to the in- evidence that the general value of gold creasing wants of an advancing popu- has not yet declined. For some years lation, and especially to the increased up to 1840 our exports and imports had consumption of a more numerous and steadily increased. About that time the better paid-labouring class; but although progress seemed to have ceased, for from we know this, we cannot assert that the 1840 to 1846 our exports remained at the rise in the price of such produce has not stationary point of about 50,000,0001. been augmented by a fall in the general per annum. The fettered energy of the value of gold. Manifestly such com- country seemed to have achieved its parisons avail nothing. The price of utmost. Free trade and the repeal of silver will afford the most important the navigation laws unloosed these evidence. Silver and gold have been fetters, and then the country started on a adopted as the general media of ex- career of the most extraordinary progress. change because they are liable to little Our exports in nine years advanced from change in their value. The value of 50,000,0001. to 115,000,0001. In 1847, these metals, like agricultural produce, 475,000,000 lbs. of cotton were imis determined by the cost of obtaining ported; in 1856 more than 1,000,000,000 them under the most unfavourable cir lbs. This increased commerce stimucumstances. Therefore their value is not lates the accumulation of capital ; the altered, unless the current rate of profit in wage-fund of the country is augmented, a country falls, and renders it profitable and wages, especially in the manufacto work worse mines than those already turing districts, obtain a very decided worked; or, on the other hand, rises, rise. Free trade also cheapens many of and renders it no longer profitable to the prime necessaries of life, and much. work these worse mines. Where com- more can therefore be spared for luxumodities are employed in industrial ries. No luxury is more prized by the occupations, the demand is variable; poor than tea; and hence we find that their value depends upon the demand; only 50,000,000 lbs. of tea were imand this value constantly tends to obtain ported in 1850, but that 86,000,000 lbs. that position of stable equilibrium when were imported in 1856. In Europe, the supply equals the demand. But the during the last few years, there has been quantity of gold and silver which is a great failure of the silk crop. China used for industrial purposes is compara has been resorted to ; and thus, while tively very insignificant ; and when a only 1,700,000 lbs. of silk were imported substance is used merely as a medium of in 1850, more than 4,000,000 lbs. were exchange, the demand is always exactly imported in each of the years 1854, equal to the supply; the aggregate 1855. The plodding industry of the supply determines the value, and the Chinese enables them to supply this invalue in a cross way regulates the creased tea and silk; but, surrounded supply, because the supply must give with all the prejudices which have resuch a value as will cause the current sulted from an isolation of two thousand rate of profit to be obtained in the worst years, we can induce them to take no usemines. If, therefore, within the last ten ful commodities in return. They will be

« AnteriorContinuar »