Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

in the present Parliament it has been which it was called upon to perform in emphasized by contrast with the weak- one case compare with the demands ness of an exceptionally unauthorita- made upon it in the other? In his tive chairman of committees. That he touching and dignified farewell to the has held the balance singularly even as House of Commons, Mr. Peel referred between majorities and minorities is to the period of his election as a time also as undeniable as is the value of of “storm and stress.” It was so ; but the service which he has thereby ren- it was rapidly drawing to a close. The dered in showing that it is possible storm was fast abating, and the stress for a speaker to exercise this almost relaxing, when Sir Henry Brand redespotic authority without any of the tired from the chair ; but the previous apprehended damage to that reputation seven years had been the storniest for rigid impartiality which is the most period in the whole history of Parliaprecious attribute of the chair. The ment. From 1876 to 1883 the then conscientious fairness which formed speaker of the House of Commons had the moral constituent in this achieve- to cope with wilder scenes of disorder, ment is a common national quality ; with more furious contentions, with the sound judgment which represented more daring defiances of authority, with its intellectual contributory was, of more determined perversions of Parliacourse, personal to the man ; and mentary usage and abuses of Parliathough a further experience of this mentary privilege than a few years authority after its transfer to other before would have seemed probable or hands is necessary to any precise esti- even possible contingencies; and he mate of the difficulty of so irreproach- had to face all this equipped with no ably exercising it, and of the amount of more effective armament than that of judgment required to overcome that dif- the blunt and cumbrous weapons in ficulty, Mr. Peel is, in the mean time, use for hundreds of years. The hours entitled to the full benefit of the pre- alone during which he had, with hardly sumption that this amount was, in his any intermission, to occupy the chair case, considerable. Nor is it unnatural were long enough to dull the vigilance that those who regard the future of the of the most alert, and to break down House of Commons with anxiety should the nerve and vigor of the most robe loth to measure their praises of the bust. Yet Mr. Brand, as he then was, speaker under whom this momentous fought through it all — the almost daily experiment in the reform of our Parlia-“ scenes” in the House, the all-night mentary procedure was carried to a sittings, the wholesale suspensions — successful issue.

and if now and then he made a mistake, When, however, these praises as- as was inevitable, no one has ever sume the form and go the length of charged him with a moment's failure express or implied disparagement of of diguity, resolution, or courage. Mr. Peel's predecessor, it is only right The climax and crisis of the struggle to recall the enormous difference be- was reached at the so-called Parliatween the conditions under which these mentary coup d'état of 1881. In 1882 two distinguished officials respectively the second Crimes Act was passed, discharged the duties of their post, and and, during that and the following the extraordinary degree in which this year, the battle theretofore raging in difference told in favor of the later. Parliament was transferred in part, at In the first place, power is power, least, to another field. In 1884, when though it increases responsibility, and Mr. Peel succeeded to the chair, the the instrument of authority wielded by new franchise legislation was immiSir Henry Brand, as compared with nent; and the exhausted Parnellites that which the House of Commons were waiting for the reinforcements placed in the hands of Mr. Peel, was which they rightly expected from it. almost as a reed to a rod.

In 1885, Mr. Gladstone surrendered to In the next place, how does the work the reinforced party, and the Irish at

eaves

tack on the efficiency of the House of taboo ” to us — yet could not move a Commons was abandoned. It ceased step in search of them; and at the to be the deliberate object, or the next crake they would be yards and direct interest, of any group of mem- yards away in the sea of undulant bers to abuse the privileges of the grass. We would curiously watch the House, and to defy, insult, or even tire swallows skimming closely and swiftly out its speaker, whose labors, more- over it, or the house-martins diving over, were lightened to a degree far down from the nests which they built beyond the experience of any of his under the eaves of the house, predecessors by the twelve o'clock carefully so placed, as it seemed to us, rule. In a word, Mr. Peel's task of that from the top-story windows we governing the House of Commons was could touch the nests with two joints as much easier than was Sir Henry of a fishing-rod, yet could by no manBrand's as Mr. Morley's task of gov- ner of means arrive at a plan by which erning Ireland is easier thau was Mr. we might look, or put our fingers, into Balfour's. Mr. Peel himself would un- them. The fate of Tantalus seems to doubtedly be the first to admit it, and, be the continual portion of a boy. We content with the distinguished place of used to hate these poor birds, who built which he is assured in history as the their nests just out of the reach of our speaker who has tauglit his successors wicked little fingers, with the blind, the wise, yet vigorous, use of new and unreasoning fury of bafled tyrants, and vast controlling powers, he would re- hurl epithets of boyish rage at the pudiate praises bestowed upon him at short white throat and tiny black bill the expense of those before him who that lay over the ridge of the mudhave manfully and successfully upheld walled nest. Yet our hearts were tenthe dignity and efficiency of Parliament der enough to bring big lumps into our with the weaker powers that they pos- throats and an uncomfortable moisture sessed.

into our eyes, when one of our caged H. D. TRAILL. pets came to an untimely end. True,

this might only have been selfish sorrow over our personal loss, - after all,

there is a certain likeness between boys From Macmillan's Magazine. and human beings ; but we have an WHEN WE WERE BOYS.

idea that there was an admixture of WHEN we were boys we used to find more noble, generous pity for the fate no season of the year so trying as the of something we had loved. weeks in which the field or lawn before But if the season of keeping the the house was sacredly kept for mow mowing grass was one of trial to the ing grass. We could see the finches flesh of boyhood, the season of the fly down into it from one or other of actual mowing was one of the purest the three great elm-trees, which stood delight. Early in the morning the so proudly and threw over it such chcery sound of the whetted scythes immense shadows. The finches would would awaken us to the kuowledge that hover a while, picking the seeds of the a busy day was before us. For it was taller grass, then plump down, invisi- needful that we should follow the steps ble, unapproachable.

of the mowers as they laid low wave We were forbidden to set foot upon upon wave of the juicy, ripe-eared this ground, sacred to the mower, grass, that sighed to each sweep of the worse still, forbidden to throw a stone scythe like a wave falling on

a level which might injure the scythe when beach. It was needful that we should the time came for cutting. We could follow, for we could not tell but that hear all day the cry of the corn-crakes, each falling wave might reveal the late

- sometimes coming almost to our feet, nest of a corn-crake or skylark, or a as it seemed, when we stood at the little mat of moss which held humble edge of this world which was “great! bees and combs with honey. There

a

were others whose business it was to speriment of burying in the ant-hill a follow the scythe-strokes no less assid- box with holes punctured in it, conuously, - chaffinches and greenfinches taining the body of some small, dead coming to feast on the falling seeds of thing, in the hope that the ants would grass. They were tame at these times, pick it for us and leave us a perfect not distinguishing the boy, fully armed skeleton. We never found the results with catapult and swan-shot, from the as they should have been. The ants mower and his ordinary camp-follow- left fur or feather or gristle, or someing. It was a season of great opportu- thing which would have been better nities. Nests of field mice were among away, and in trying to scrape these off, the treasures which the mowing was we always brought the mechanism of likely to reveal. In some fields, of slender bones to ruin. We made other which we had heard, partridges' nests experiments with the ants, however ; had been thus discovered ; we had in assuredly the presumption of boys is our memories a tragic story of the head beyond all limits. We constituted ourof a partridge being taken sheer off, as selves Heaven's executive and Nemesis she sat on her nest, by the stroke of on those wasps which we caught enthe scythe, but such fortune never fell deavoring to invade the hives of the in our way. The swallows would come becs. On no other wasps did we deal brushing past us, sweeping very low out so evil a fate, but these, in our boyover the cut grass for the crowds of ish view of justice, seemed to deserve insects, invisible to us, which this con- no better. We caught them with some vuision of their world sent swarming trouble in small butterfly nets, greatly into the air. They came so close that dreading the while the stings of the we almost seemed to feel the stir of bees who might not recognize us as their wings in the still summer air, and benefactors, and with yet greater could distinctly hear the snap of their trouble transferred them to an inverted bills as they closed them on an insect. glass with a shcet of cardboard across But though they flew so low, we might its mouth. In this glass prison we know better than to draw therefrom bore them, buzzing with furious anger, any evil augury for the weather, for to the ant-hill, plumped glass and cardthe house-martins were flying high up board firmly on the yielding substance above the tallest trees; and, above of the hill, withdrew the cardboard, again, cutting bolder circles and al- and watched events. The ants, throng. most lost in the radiance of the upper ing up from their disturbed passages, heaven, the swifts coursed screaming. leaped upon the wasps like tigers. Now and again the scythe of the The wasps might buzz up to the top of mower, or his heavy foot, would send the glass — it was no use ; they did but disaster into a nest of ants, and the bear with them three or four of their active little creatures would appear assailants, who did not cease to attack carrying off to cool underground re-them tooth and nail. Five minutes gions the cocoons which the hot sun was enough to settle it. In that space would soon have baked. Boy-like, we of time every wasp in the glass would loved to add to their discomfort, stir-have surrendered to numbers, been ring up their piled hill with sticks, to put to death, and dragged into hidden watch their skurrying, until bites in storehouses. The cruelty of it is sicktender portions of our legs told us that ening; it is as bad as bull-fighting. some of the out-pickets of the camp We are not sure that the fact of our had found their way up our knicker- discriminating, our presuming to act as bockers for their revenge. We did not instruments of justice, does not throw care for the bites of the black ants, but a worse light, as of a certain smug selfbelieved (on the strength of some righteousness, over it all. We are glad groundless tradition) that the bites of to have confessed to that episode of the red ant are poisonous.

boyhood, that it may not have to be Over and over again we tried the ex-I spoken of again.

The great haunt of our wasps was discomfort. Ways stung us. so frethe stibbard tree which stood in the quently that after a while we grew to hedge dividing the lawn in front of the treat their stings with little attention. house from the kitchen garden. The They grew to hurt less, as it seemed, stibbard is an early apple, earlier even, and we believe in point of fact that one we think, than the quarantin, softer does become so inoculated that the and not ruddy-faced like the quarantin, poison loses much of its effect. Of ripening rather with a golden glow, but course we should have wished that it very sweet and juicy. We loved the wasp should die, like a bee, after stingstibbards, and so did the wasps. It ing, but it was satisfactory to think was not without peril from their stings that we could generally catch the rasthat we endeavored to knock or shake cal and execute him for ourselves. down the stibbard that seemed to us We tried various methods of taking most golden-ripe. Sometimes better wasps' nests, but naphtha was the than any on the tree would seem one means which we liked best. It stupewhich had fallen to the ground of its fied them so completely, that you own mellowness; but we would never might dig out the nest and have it perpick up such an one without first roll- fect. If you dipped the nest into boiling it over with the foot, for often an ing water, you would then kill all the apple that looked perfect from the one larvæ and nymphs, and if you were side might have a hole in the other, careful in picking them out afterwards, through which so many wasps had could keep the nest as a not too highly passed to eat of its juicy substance that smelling trophy. If you take the nest beneath its seeming perfect skin it was at night, as you should, it is not at all more wasp than apple. In this case, wise to wait till the next morning beon turning it over, the wasps would fore dipping it into the scalding water. come tumbling out, bustling over each Our butler made this mistake, but only other and scarcely able to fly owing to once. Authority looked with grace the intoxicating effect on them of the upon our crusade against wasps' nests ; apple-juice.

had even expressed some interest and A little farther down the path which some incredulity about our statement edged the lawn, and led past the stib- that more than one queen could generbard tree, was a poplar of the more ally be found in a nest; had finally spreading, less steeple-like kind. It even mentioned a wish to see a nest as exuded a gummy humor, and around it was when dug out, always under our this tree, for the sake, as we believed, guarantee that the wasps were thorof a certain sugariness in the gum, the oughly stupefied beyond prospect of wasps were always humming. One present revival. There was no trouble year it was much beset by hornets, so in arranging this. The rag soaked in much so that we believed them to have naphtha was duly thrust within the a nest somewhere in the trec, but we hole in the bank which was the outlet never cared to climb it to examine of the nest, a match was put to the rag, closely. We had an enormous respect, a sod was put over the hole. A little exaggerated very likely, for a hornet. trouble might be given by a few lagThree stings of a hornet, we had been gard wasps returning home late, as told, would kill a man ; and we were they will on a warm, light night; but always very ready to credit anything all who were in bed and asleep wero that had in it an element of awe or perfectly unconscious and harmless horror. The sting of a bee we dreaded when we removed the sod and dur too ; there was always such a trouble them out. in getting the sting out. We derived It was a fine large nest, and we took inmense satisfaction from the consid- special pains to remove it unbroken ; eration that with its sting the bee lost then we enclosed it in a duster and its life ; but still that did not quite triumphantly bore it into the presence compensate us for the swelling and of Authority. It was a quaint scene

[ocr errors]

a

as

soon

boyhood, with all the dirt associated mind of the butler. He thought with the digging of a wasps' nest on (a butler should never think) that itself and its worst clothes, blinking in it would be enough if the wasps' nest the glare of the bright lights which were put into the scalding water on were a startling contrast to the cool the morrow morning. For the night, tones of the summer night, proudly un- he put it into the pantry. He had folding a corner of the duster to exhibit quite forgotten about the wasps' nest our grimy prize to Authority in spotless when he opened the pantry door the evening attire, which it withdrew with next morning, but was very quickly a rustling of the petticoats, and fearful and pointedly reminded of it. The apprehensions lest the insects should entire pantry was one angry buzz. not be completely comatose. Author- Wasps swarming on the window panes ity showed a discreet and complimen- shut out the light of day. Wasps tary interest, but an interest which angrily buzzing into the butler's face was quickly satisfied, and gave place to made him close his eyes and rush a desire that both boyhood, in its blindly away, pursued, like Orestes, present condition, and wasps' nest, in by a stream of Furies. Wasps its present or any other condition, stinging bim ferociously in every should be removed from its presence vulnerable part might have suggested

as possible. Boyhood was another classic simile, the shirt of told that it was much too late to be Nessus. The butler knew nothing out of doors, and high time to leave off of these classic characters. Until the those dirty clothes and go to bed. previous evening he had known nothThis, as was well understood, was not ing of wasps. Now, of a sudden, he to be taken as a special rebuke, for found his knowledge of them much Authority very well knew that wasps' too intimate. He was stung fearfully nests could not be taken except after all over, as he reported, meaning, sur low and the taking of wasps' thereby, wherever a wasp was able to nests it considered a good work; it reach his unprotected skin to sting it. was only an expression of the general The trouble did not end with the butattitude of Authority towards boy- ler. The wasps, following him from hood, the attitude which has found its the pantry, pervaded every room of best-known illustration in the pointless the house. There were few members joke of Punch, Go and see what of that domestic circle who escaped Tommy is doing, and tell him he being stung by them. In the end, the mustn't.” From Tommy's point of coachman, with his life in his hand view there is no joke in it whatever. and his person protected by the bridal

Boyhood, however, retired with a arrangement of muslins in which he glad sense of having done its duty, was accustomed to hive a swarm of and the butler was summoned to re- bees, fought his way into the pantry move the wasps' nest. He was a bearing a pail of scalding water, in new butler who had lately come from which he immersed the wasps' nest, London. He knew nothing about and, opening the windows, allowed the wasps' nests; he did not even know survivors to fly forth into a homeless that wasps, according to the Devon-world. It was a tragic page in our boyshire lingo, ought, properly speaking, hood's history, bearing in fiery characto be called “appledranes.” Never- ters the moral that one should always theless he ought to have known that do as one is told. Of course, the brunt it was his duty to do as he was told. of the blame, as was but rational, fell He did not do so. He was told to upon the butler, who soon afterwards take away the wasps' nest, and put gave warning ; but a portion of it, as it into scalding water immediately. was but human, fell to the share of Especial stress was laid upon that boyhood, with an injunction in strictadverb immediately; but the stress est terms never again to bring a wasps' did not communicate itself to the nest into the house.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »