« AnteriorContinuar »
being disturbed by any little object. If they saw a nut-shell in the way, they would go about to avoid treading upon it. "Bad boys, to throw their nut-shells down in the way!" If you were to come up behind one of them in the street, and, conceiving him to be one of your own hearty hail-fellow-well-met kind of acquaintances, gi vehim a sound slap on the shoulder, and ask him how he did, you would see him start like a Laputan philosopher under the influence of the flapper, and perhaps next moment faint, sink, and die away upon the street, unknelled, uncoffined, and unknown, unless an address card happened to be found in his pocket. But see one trysted Triih an obstreperous bottle of small ale, with which he is going to regale you as you drop in, some warm, thirsty forenoon, at his country box. He brings in the bottle in his arms, nursing it all the way as carefully as he would a new-born babe. He sets about the business of driving in the screw, with all the solemnity, and silence, and decorum, with which a Druid could have set about the sacrifice of a human being. The stopper is recusant; it requires more exertion than he can at any time think of making—for violent gesture is equivalent to noise. It has to be transferred to your own less scrupulous care. You make the cork fly in a moment, and see what a waterspout of foam! The quietist is paralysed with the loudness of the report, and the fizzing, cheeping, squeaking, spirting, and squirting which the liquor makes, as you vainly endeavour to repress it with your hand. The echoes of the house, that have slumbered for months, are roused by your calls for relays of tumblers, wherein to receive the seemingly endless effusion of froth. And after puzzling and noozling your way to the bottom of half-a-dozen of these tumblers, in the vain quest of a mouthful, you leave the unhappy quietist in agony for the evening—his ears rent with)our jocund remarks on the small ale, and all the rest of his senses shattered, and torn, and disgusted with the scene of ravage which you have been the innocent means of introducing into his parlour. It must be remarked that these velvet people scarcely detest any thing so much as a hearty laugh. They mark a cachinnator as a man to be avoided. Of men whom they have every other reason to regard with esteem, they will remark—" Yes, he is very good—a very estimable man: but don't you think he has a rather boisterous way of laughing?" Yourquittist never laughs, even at the most amusing incident or witticism: he only treats you to a soft noiseless smile. In their conversation, they appear as if they were at some pains to avoid using the harsh consonants, such as r and ..•.- they indulge chiefly in liquids and vowels, and do a great deal with such monosyllabic interjections, as ah, eh, ay, oh, &c. They often speak upon a respiration, instead of an aspiration, as if their words made less noise when bound inwards than
outwards: they seem as if they wished to swallow their very language, upon the same principle as a manufactory consuming its own smoke, so that it might never more give any trouble, or create any fuss, in the world. Sometimes, in company, they escape the horror of making a noise with their tongues altogether. They sit in a composed manner, perhaps looking into the fire, and only signify their appreciation of what you are saying to them, by occasional inarticulate sounds within their closed lips, or by a motion of the head to one side, or by a mere transient glance of the eye. This is what they call having a little quiet conversation; and when the parties rise, it is always observable that they display an appearance of vast edification.
These men of aspirate existence are often found in possession of small public dignities, such as that of provost, bailie, or town-clerk in some country burgh. Nothing can be done by such people—no step can be taken, till they have thoroughly ascertained that it is to have a perfectly good appearance, and that there is no back-come or negative influence which may derange it. "Wheesht! just let us keep a calm sough. We must proceed decently. We must walk with circumspection. That business about the Port-brae—I'll just take occasion some night to ca' in by John Richie's, and hear what he says about it, and if he doesna seem to hae any objection, we'll see what
may be done. In the meantime, ye may throw yoursell in Mr 's
way, and hear his breath. We canna be ower cautious. Dinnagang anes eerand. That would look ower set-like on the business. We'll see about it a', by and by; ay, we'll see about it; just be canny for awhile: wheesht!"
Or perhaps it is,—" That business about the clerkship to the buird: my son John, he's a weel-doing lad. Mr Jamieson, his late master, just looked upon him as the apple o' his ee. He used to say he could take a voyage to Cheena, and hae an easy mind a' the time, for he was sure that John wad hae every thing richt when he cam back. Served a regular apprenticeship to a double-you-ess. Though it's mysel that says't, there canna be a candidate better qualifeed. For my ain part, I'm an auld servant o'thetoon. In that business, ye ken, o' the brig, I was never aff my feet—lost agude deal o'my ain business by negleck—and ye keen as weel as ony body hoo muckle fyke I 'vu ha'en wi' the Puir's House. I've just been considering whether John has ony chance. We're anxious to soond our way afore we gang ony farther; for we wadna like to pit in for't and no get it after a'. Yell hae a vote? [Here the person addressed intimates many friendly wishes, but is not inclined to give a distinct pledge.] Ou na—we canna expek that, ye ken. It wad neither be richt o' me to ask it, nor for youtogie't. The toon's interest, abune a'things! But I just ca'd to let ye ken hoo things stude. I'm by na means anxious for the place tojohn. Butsomeo' oor freends wad hno us to come forrit, and we did na like that they should ha' been at sae muckle trouble on oor account, and we fa' back after a'. In the meantime, ye'll say naething till ye hear frae me. We're gaun to be very cautious. We'U/ecf ourway—Wheesht!''
Even to the humblest individuals connected with corporations, this system of quietness extends. There is always a kind of valet or man of the corporation's body, who hands about the circulars which call the members together, attends to the decoring, as Caleb Balderstone would call it, of the hall of assembly, and lives in a den hard by, where he " keeps the keys." This man is always found to be a most decided votary of the idea of wheesht. He goes noiseless about the place, like a puff of Old Town smoke, and seems absolutely oppressed with a sense of the decency with which it is necessary to conduct "corporation business." Yea, he cannot pronounce the very word, "corporation" without that sinking of the voice and interjectional reverence of manner, with which certain words of a really sacred nature are properly uttered in ordinary discourse. He looks upon " the corporation" as the greatest of all public bodies; if the government itself be greater, it is only greater in another way. And the deacon, in his opinion—oh, no man can equal the deacon. "The corporation is very rich. We support twenty-three dekeyed members and eleven widows, and we ha'e a richt to put five callants into the Orphan Hospital. We've our chairter frae James the Sixth; and our record —we've a grand record. It has the Catholic oath at the beginning, —' By my pairt of Paradise'—that ilk member swears to, when he enters. If you wad be very quiet about it, ye micht gang up stairs and see't. Mak'nae noise, now. Wheesht!"
There is a kindred set of men, who act in something like the same capacity to places of worship—old decent men—squires of the church's body, who come in, as avant-couriers of the minister, to lay down his Bible on the desk, and who evidently are at a great deal of trouble in keeping up a tremendously grave and important aspect, appropriate to their duties. These old men appear in large entailed black coats, which have been in the family forages, and the skirts of which sweep solemnly by, almost like the mainsheet of a seventy-four. Such persons might be the very door-keepers of the Court of Silence—the high priests of the idea of wheesht. They are immensely impressed with a sense of the greatness of the minister, though, perhaps, he is in reality, no conflagrator of the Thames; and their whole form and impression breathes of the solemnity of " the vestry." Any thing that an elder says is to them law; and if the minister were toaddress himself to them, they would feel the honour so deeply, that they would not know what they were about all the rest of the day. When they appear within the body of the church, they do not, of course say anything; but it is evident that they mean a great deal by their anti-disturbance aspect. "Children be all quiet; public worship is just about to commence; it behoves all people to show an outward decency in the house of God. I could give ye a word mysel'; but I leave it to the minister. All I shall say is—Wheeskt --"*
Thai there is a set of equally peaceable old men, who, in the country, act as elders, and stand, every Sunday, with a peculiarly mortified and speechless aspect, beside the plate which receives the oblations of the congregation—" grave and reverend seignors," fixed as statues, with their hands thrust into the opposite cuffs of their spencers, and downcast faces that would not smile for untold gold. The boys, and even older people, are almost afraid to pass them, they are so awfully solemn. In one respect they are a kind of fuglemen. The countenances of the worshippers in passing catch from them the contagion of decorum, and instead of the easy, this-world expression which they sported a few minutes ago, while talking in the churchyard upon such terrene subjects as crops and markets, display, in their pews, a gravity appropriate to the place, but which couldscarcely have been otherwise assumed. In fact, these old grave men, if planted in the entrance to the cave of Trophonius, would have been sufficient to account for the miracle. During the first prayer they are seen to enter the body of the church, and plant themselves in a seat under the pulpit, with a quietness and solemnity that would not be amiss among the special jurors of Rhadamanthus. If you visit one in his own residence, some evening during the week, you find him sitting in a small lonely room, with a large Bible open before him, into which, as you enter, he quietly thrusts his spectacles for a mark. "You almost tremble to disturb so fine a picture of religious contemplation. When he speaks, you find that he has a deep, guttural voice, broken and softened into something inexpressibly smooth and gentle; a constant susurrus of wheesht! Ifyou converse regarding books, you find that, of all secular compositions, he likes Hervey's Medi
* Personages of this kind abound in the streets of Edinburgh, during the hour between ten and eleven on Sunday forenoons,when they are all going to their respective places of worship. One of them was observed gliding gently along Prince's Street one forenoon, in company with eome othvr '' decent people," to whom he was evidently making a few quiet, solemn remarks upon the subject of things in general, with, perhaps, a particular reference to the gaudy show of fine new houses and elegantly dressed people, whom ho saw around him. He was just overheard to make one observation; but it was most characteristic of the quiet tribe to which he belonged: "Sirs," said b.' witb a philosophical glance from side to side, "there's nae reality in naething now /"
This world is but a fleeting show
tations, and, what he calls, Strum's Reflections. The subdued tone of these works harmonizes finely with the tranquil pulsations of his soul and heart . On a Sunday afternoon, when the slight bustle which the dismissal of the congregation has made upon the street is all hushed down into the soft and melancholy calm which ever rests that day upon the rural towns of Scotland, if you drop quietly in upon him, you find him sitting in his back room, in the midst of his family, with a stream of rich light from the setting sun, falling upon his quiet grey head, and a large Bible displaying its brighter treasures before him. He is reading a chapter to his children, in the low, murmuring voice peculiar to him. The whole scene is one of piquant noiselessness and repose; for the children, admirably trained, are all as quiet as doves, and, besides his own voice, there is no sound to be heard, excepting, perhaps, the soft occasional wail of the wind, or the equivocal lull of the distant waterfall. Should one of the young people betray but the slightest mark of restlessness, a glance from the old man, over the top of the spectacles, stills it in an instant. There is something in the scene that seems to say,—" Children, let us all be meek and gentle of spirit—let us all be reverent, and lowly, and quiet; let us sit amidst the stillness of the evening hour, and offer up the silent vespers of a grateful and devout spirit—be every worldly and profane thought banished—be ye holy and calm—wheesht!" There is a set of the generation of quietists, who are ever and anon coming up to you in the street with a curious entre-nous expression of phiz, as if, like a grief-laden ghost, they were possessed of some secret which they could not bring themselves to divulge. Now, for my part, I have no curiosity after secrets. I would rather want the best of them than be at the trouble of recollecting to keep them to myself. Yet these people do often seize me by the button, and attempt to work off" a great secret" upon me, in their quiet way, dribble by dribble, notwithstanding all I can do to the contrary. "Have you heard of any thing within the last few days? Anything about ?Iheard it whispered last night, but I could not be
•lieve it. It was talked of to-day, however, I know, in the Parliament House. And Guthry, I'm told, knows all about it. For God'ssake, however, speak loundly about it; anddon't say I told you. It's a very delicate business. Wheesht!" And so, after a thousand insinuations, by whisper, wink, shrug, and smile, they quit button, and leave you weltering in astonishment, unable to make out, for the lifeof you, what all this means; nay, perhaps, so completely do you feel bamboozled by the tide of new and imperfect ideas which has been let loose upon you, that you scarcely know that you are walking on the earth for fivo minutes after. You feel ravished away, as it were, into middle air, rnputferit alia sidera—not with elation, but with botheration of spi