Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

BY ALBERT FLEMING.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

noon, was yet enough to make him to that of the invisible choir who have our fathers a teacher and seer such as striven to lift the gaze of man above the world has not often known in its the limits of earth, and enlarge their whole history.

hopes to an infinite future. If we have touched aright on the

JULIA WEDGWOOD. clue to Coleridge's deepest thought, we have suggested also an explanation of its temporary eclipse. If the very core of his philosophy centres in the antith

From The Gentleman's Magazine, , esis of Nature, as a sequence of cause and effect, and spirit, as the origin of

A ROMANCE OF GRAY'S INN. will, it is inevitable that its meaning should be dimmed for a school which “ His name is Tobias,” said Winnie, enlarges the scope of Nature to include patting her dog's ugly head. all that can be gathered up in the range “ But, Winnie, I suppose when one of human knowledge, and denies the comes to know him well, one might very existence of a power behind phe- venture to call him Toby?nomena, revealed immediately to the “ I don't think he would like it,” anreason of humanity. That school has swers Winnie, shaking her yellow hair. possessed, for a large part of the half-“ I myself think Tobias is formal, but century we are just concluding, an I hope you'll keep to it." irresistible influence in the world of “But we call you Winnie, and not thought; its meridian is long past, but Winifred." we are still living in its twilight. But “I am only eight,” she answered, in the world of thought, as in the night " and Tobias is at least twelve.” of a northern summer, the twilight of “He might be a hundred to look at one day mingles with the dawn of him," I answered disrespectfully. another. Yesterday's answer to its “What a color the creature is ! Surely problems is not the answer of to-day, you might wash him or bleach him, or even when the problems seem identical. do something to whiten him." The atmosphere of a time is not a mere “ Jim and I have washed him three metaphor ; in the great year of human days running. We pumped on him development the seasons have their with the garden hose ; then he bit Jim, mystic influence which we cannot re- and Jim swore." place by industrious attention, or even Winnie sat nursing her hideous analyze for the computation of strict friend. Tobias was the spoil of her logic. And as long as we interrogate bow and spear. Some months before the thoughts of the past with the de- she met him, in a lame and bedraggled mand that they should answer the per- state ; he was being maltreated and plexities of the present, we shall find stoned by several small boys. She in them that semitone interval which, rushed into the strife, doubled her little as we have said, is the harshest of fist, stamped her tiny foot, burst into all discords. Nevertheless we would tears, and triumphed. Tobias limped leave, as our last word on Coleridge, home after her, and ever since had our conviction that in his prose writ- been her devoted slave. He was cerings is something which speaks to the tainly the ugliest mongrel I ever saw. heart of every one who seeks the in- There are degrees even in mongreldom, visible; that this element will become and Tobias touched the lowest depth. clearer as his voice disentangles itself One eye had been knocked out in some from its own echoes, and gains the ancient battle, and of one ear but a freshness of what is remote. He can- fragment remained. His coat not address, in another generation, the always of a dreadful dirty white, but same class of hearers which he ad- within his unlovely body dwelt a dedressed in his own, but all the more voted and steadfast soul. his voice will sound in harmony with Winnie herself was the daintiest

LIVING AGE. VOL. VI. 286

[ocr errors]

was

[ocr errors]

maiden ever seen. She had lost her an eager, earnest look flash into the father early in the year, and her mother poor maimed, bandaged face. quite recently. Her hair was like rip- “O Bertie, look after Winnie - she'll pling gold, her eyes a good honest have no one but you ; be all in all to hazel, her nose just the lovely unde- ber, keep her always close to your cided thing that a nose ought to be at side.'' eight. She had never had a brother “ Jack," I answered, “I swear I'll or sister, never any young compan- guard her as my very own ; I'll be all ions, and had grown into a silent, sol- you could have been to her." emn child, given much to strange, “Be more than that,” he answered, old-fashioned speeches.

and the rest was silence. I was Winnie's guardian, and this is And thus it was that I became Winthe way that came about. One day nie's guardian, though, in addition, I my best friend, Jack Nevill, who I was legally appointed under Jack's thought told me all his secrets, took will. From the day of his death she me by surprise by putting his hands on always called me dad. There were no my shoulders and saying, “Bertie, I'm special difficulties with Mrs. Nevill. married.” As rule, this is not the With a peculiar selfishness that was kind of news that pleases a man's quite touching, she quietly shifted the bosom friend ; it generally gives the entire charge of Winnie on to my bosom friendship notice to quit; it cer- shoulders ; she was then ill at her tainly did not please me, still less so leisure. She lived only six months when he told me the lady's name, after her husband ; not dying, as far Leonora Graham. I had kuown her, as I could see, because there was any through Jack, for some time a fantas- reason for it, but simply because she tic, languishing girl, with £500 a year. was too lazy to make any effort to live. After I had said “Good Heavens !” Then Winnie became, as it were, several times in various keys I felt able entirely my own. A hundred times a to face the matter ; but from that mo- day I saw Jack's look in her sweet ment up to the day of dear old Jack's eyes, and heard an echo of Jack in her death I never discovered the real rea- merry laughter. Winnie loved me, son for his marrying such a woman. too, with all her heart, and, looking upShe led him an awful life with her wards from her eight years to my whims and fancies. When Winnie twenty-five, she gave me veneration as came she was more exacting and more well as companionship. fanciful than ever ; after that she took A few days afterwards Winnie and I up with nerves.

sat together in the lonely drawing-room Contrary to the usual rule, the mar- for the last time before the old house riage strengthened the bond between was broken up. Tobias leant against Jack and me. When Winnie was my knee, not out of any particular seven years old her father was injured affection for me, but to be as near to in a railway accident. They took him Winnie as possible. To all my proto the nearest hospital, and he was posals to Winnie for her future she able to give my name. I was with him made but one reply, “Don't send me in an hour. I shall never forget as I away from you, dad.” entered the ward how my eye flashed “But, Winnie, you know I live in quickly down the long row of beds till dreadful bachelor

in Gray's it stopped with a shock at one ; the Inn; they are so very dusty and dirty,

l; man I loved best of all things in the and not at all a nice place for a child." world was even then in the pains of “I can help to make them clean, death, but as I bent over him the dark- dad ; let Tobias and me ening eyes opened and brightened. I you." said, “Oh, Jack, dear boy!” and She put her arms round my neck, could say no more. He held my hand and laid the pretty golden head on my in his with a tightening grasp. I saw 'shoulder : “You're the only thing left

rooms

a

come with

>

to me in all the world, you and Tobias, fusion books, pipes, papers, and and if you send me away to live clothes on the floors, and chairs with amongst strangers I shall die.”

castors, and chairs without. Now and Returning home to my chambers in then Mrs. Binns said she'd “set 'em Verulam Buildings, Gray's Inn, I sur- to rights,” but as far as one could see veyed the position. The prospect was it was only to add to their confusion. simply desperate. Verulam Buildings That evening, as I sat beside my fire, is that long row of houses to the east and put coals on with my fingers and a of Gray's Inn Gardens, the buildings bit of newspaper (the coal-scoop being that Charles Lamb anathematized. long since defunct), I seriously surYou reach them by a narrow archway veyed my surroundings, including Mrs. from the arid desert of Gray's Inn Binns, and I came to the definite conSquare - a high wall crowned with clusion that the thing was impossible, iron spikes separating them from unless I could re-arrange my mode of Gray's Inn Road. The myriad passen- life and get rid of Mrs. Binns. gers who rattle past in cabs or omni- She was not a nice old lady, and buses on their way to Euston and the could not possibly remain if Winnie Great Northern, look up at the long, came. That much was clear. She unlovely row of square windows cut in always repudiated with scorn any inthe filthy bricks, and say that the sinuatiou that she drank. She owned buildings are something between a she “’ad spasms,” and to these she workhouse and a prison. The prison attributed the lapses and failure of idea is confirmed when you get inside, speech and gait that others attributed and ascend the austere stone staircase to alcohol. She resided in the basewith iron balustrades. Every landing ment, sharing a dismal apartment with has two black iron doors, with the legions of black beetles. Mrs. Binns prisoners' names written over them had two settled convictions in life — in stern black letters ; the staircase first, that she was a very superior windows are always dim with dirt, and cook; and secondly, that she was a a faint, earthy, churchyard-like odor person of scrupulous cleanliness. In floats upwards from mysterious subter- certain unguarded moments I have ranean regions. Up and down out of permitted Mrs. Binns to prepare dinner cellar-like caves mouldy old women for me. The dinner was heralded with crawl with keys and beer jugs in their graphic details of where each viand hands. They are called laundresses, was purchased, with the colloquies that chiefly because they never wash any- took place with each tradesman. The thing. When once you effect an en- sole was piebald in color, with black trance beyond these black doors the spots on it, due to cinders. The result is surprising. Many of the ten- “ shrimp soss,” which Mrs. Binns reants decorate their rooms with flowers, lied upon as her culinary chef-d'ouvre, old china, and Liberty hangings; the was apparently composed of small red roar and rattle of the streets sink to snails floating in liquid grease. This a distant murmur, and out of the course was followed by a steak, the window you see nothing but fine old memory of which lingers with me still. trees, flower-beds, and the greenest of By what ivgenious process honest Enlawos.

glish beef could be reduced to the But my rooms, alas ! were not deco- texture of leather still baMes me. rated by Liberty – I could not afford Even Mrs. Binus had her misgivings old china and proof engravings. My about the steak, and as she lifted the laundress, Mrs. Binns, claimed the cover she remarked, " which it ain't as merit of their decoration and arrange- tender as I could wish, but the fire is ment. There were five rooms, two allers that contrairy when the wind is bedrooms, two sitting-rooms, and a in the sou’-west." I survived this kitchen, but all were indescribably deadly repast only by taking advantage dirty, always in a direful state of con- l of Mrs. Binn's retirement to the

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

kitchen to throw portions of the vari- / was indeed drawiog near. At twelve ous viands out of the window to the o'clock, punctual to the moment, Aunt crows and cats. I smeared my plate Betty arrived, and without a moment's with the brick-dust fat and the little loss of time cross-examined me as to red caterpillars, and then greeted Mrs. when Mrs. Binn's wages were due, Binns with a look as of a surfeit of added to them a month's wages in lieu delight.

of notice, took the exact amount in Ah, sir, you look as if you'd 'ad a specie out of an old purse, which apgood meal. It's 'omelike a-dining in parently resided in her stays and had to your own rooms." But I never did it be hoisted out of them by a serviceable agaiu.

black tape, and then said : Several times I had given Mrs. Binns Ring for the woman." notice to quit; sometimes she had I crouched in my armchair whilst wept, and softened my heart ; some- this war of Titans went on. Never times she defied me, and answered that to my dying day shall I forget Aunt she'd waited on the gentlemen in them Betty's voice and mauner as she opened rooms for ten years, and go she the attack : wouldn't. And go she did not.

" You're a drunken old wretch ; That very evening Mrs. Binns had there's your wages and a month's spasms. I missed half a bottle of some money over, and you take yourself off old Scotch whiskey, and expected an in an hour's time.” And then the attack. She found it impossible to find magnificent way in which Binns sniffed my particular black door, and tried all the fray from afar, and placing her of them up the staircase in turns. hands on her hips sported defiance, Having found it, she could not in- uttering the one word only, “H’oh!” troduce her keys, and was in a dis- For ten minutes I felt as a small tressingly lachrymose state. It was cruiser might when two ironclads enmanifestly certain that Binns must go. counter, but after a tremendous canIf only I had a resolute lady friend who nonade Auut Betty carried all before could tackle her. Thinking this matter her, winding up with : over in a helpless way I suddenly rec- 'Now, woman, no more of your ollected my Aunt Betty. That very tomfoolery. I've got a policeman outevening I wrote a letter, and laid the side, and if you dou't clear out I'll have case before her. I had to abase myself you carried out." and expose my helplessness. Next day Mrs. Binns then tried tears, but she brought back her reply. She was a might as well have wept on the dome lady of trenchant literary style, curt of St. Paul's. She appealed to me, rather, but to the point. Her letter wanted to embrace my knees, but Aunt ran to this effect : “ You're a fool, and Betty interposed her umbrella.

ACshe is a rogue. I will come to-morrow tually within an hour, out of one of and pack her off.”

the back windows, I saw Mrs. Biuns The next day Mrs. Binns provided drive off with four bulky bags and

as usual with breakfast - bacon boxes. But who was to take her garnished with cinders, and a shop egg place ? Again I crouched in my big boiled to an adamantine hardness. armchair, and felt helpless, and apThe old reprobate bore in her face the pealed to Aunt Betty. trace of last night's outbreak. She

" I've hired a woman for you — a clattered down the tray, adding: decent, clean, honest body, who'll look

" And it's well, sir, as I'm alive to after you and that poor child, Winnie, wait on yer, for the colic and spasms properly; she's been my charwoman was that bad last night, a-twisting up at Dulwich for fifteen years, and oddly my innards into kuots, till I thought enough she lived in this Inn for years my last hour was come.

before that, and she knows its ways — I thought perhaps for once she had and precious bad ways they are to my spoken the truth, for her last hour thinking. Her name is Dixon."

me

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

When I returned from the club that got you, dad, and I've got Tobias, and afternoon the door was opened by a I'll try and be good to you both.” cheery little apple-faced woman, who We drove in at the melancholy gate wore a nice clean white apron and a opposite the Town Hall, and the cab neat cap, and who dropped me a pretty pulled up at my door. After the pretty curtsey and greeted me with :

garden, the brightly flowing river, and “ And so, sir, you're my good gentle- the old trees of Chiswick I own it man, and glad I am to see you ; but of seemed a hundred times more depressall dirty holes !” and then the little ing than ever. rosy-cheeked face shook itself despair- Winnie looked up at the dirty rows ingly.

of windows and the dismal stone stair“Well, Dixov," I answered, " we're cases. not as clean as we might be, but we'll “Is this my new home ?" she asked, brush up a bit by and by, and I hope and I answered, with a qualm at my we shall get along together."

heart, “ Yes." It was some time before I had cour- We made our way up-stairs, Tobias age to announce that Winnie was going solemnly following. The stairs were to live with me. When I did so the particularly dirty that day, and the iron worthy woman threw up her hands and balustrades all rust caten ; rough gas said :

| lamps marked each landing, great black “ Dear heart alive ! did you say she patches on wall and ceiling marking was a little miss of eight, and to live each lamp. I did not use my latch in Gray's Inn !"

key, I thought I'd let Winnie knock “ I know there'll be drawbacks, but and be greeted on the doorstep by there is no help for it. I shall have Dixon. This was a liappy thought, for the spare room refurnished, and her that good soul opened the door on governess can come every day and the moment and greeted us with the teach her."

l'osiest of faces and the cleanest of nice “ Poor little pet! and no compan- aprons. ions of her own age, and no fresh air ; “Lor, if it ain't my little miss !" she and what'll all the other gentlemen in cried, taking the poor little lass to her the Inn think of it ?

motherly bosom and giving her a good For a fortnight we worked at that kiss ; "and there's Tobias too. Well, spare room, and I got it all nicely fur- I don't 'old with dogs, and never did, nished, till it looked quite a pretty nest but we'll manage to pull along somefor my little bird. I broke it gently to how.” Dixon that Winnie would certainly be Winnie's spirits rose when she saw accompanied by her dog, Tobias. her bedroom all fresh with pretty hang

“Did I hear you rightly, sir ?” she ings and cheerful pictures. Then I answered ; “perhaps it was doll you took her into the dining-room. said ? »

“Oh dad ! how many books, and I answered that I said dog and meant how dirty they all are !” Then she dog.

gave a cry of delight, and ran to the * I don't hold with it, sir, and no one window. The old gardens were gay shall make me say I do; a little miss with summer greenery, the sky was in Gray's Inn is bad enough, but with blue between the branches, under the a dog it's worse."

great boughs the grey haze stretched At last the day came for Winnie's softly, just below a party of young felarrival. I went down to Chiswick to lows were playing tennis, beyond a fetch her. There were a few tears group of children were dancing on the shed as she left the pretty little house, turf. but it was then dismantled and looked “Oh dad, how pretty it is, and like dreary.

the country too ! Will they let me "I won't cry,” said Winnie, swal- play there too ?lowing her tears with a gulp. " I've I had ordered a special tea for Win

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »