Imágenes de páginas

distant idea which key fits the jam cupboard. In fact,' I continued, you must accept an author's remarks in the spirit in which they are offered, and if he likes talking about hair and keys, he is not to be blamed because you think these subjects beneath mention. And as to the play, you, my dear, must like Meligraine, and you, Eugenia, cannot help loving Selysette; and, for my part, I can find a sentiment to echo even in that prince of prigs Meleander: "I wonder what it is that Heaven will exact in return for having allowed two such women to be near me."' 'And I, too,' said Sophia, ' can find something to echo even from Aglavaine: "How beautiful of you! you grow more beautiful every day; but do you think it is right to be so beautiful?"

At Perth, Sophia started the idea that the luggage had not arrived, although these eyes had seen it labelled and put into the van. So after debating the question we started in search. Certainly it was not to be seen, and the guards knew nothing of it. At last a porter advised us to look if it had not already been transferred to the train for Edinburgh, where we found it. What guerdon Sophia gave to that porter is between themselves. From having been brought up by her grandmother, who flourished in the time of 'vails'—a word which, curiously enough, still survives in Berkshire for any kind of gratuity-Sophia has an idea that every servant who is reasonably civil to her should be lavishly fee'd; and, despite the injunctions of the railway companies, she saps the altruistic instincts of every guard and porter by the most extravagant tips. At Edinburgh we paraded Princes Street and saw the usual sights. By a wise provision the bonnet shops and book shops are arranged so that husbands and wives may stare at what best pleases them without losing each other. In one shop I had the pleasure of hearing a lady with an American accent ask for a portrait of Charles III.; but the bookseller was no Jacobite and did not know whom she might be meaning. At the corner of a street we came upon a young prophet preaching to about thirty people. He was good-looking and carefully dressed, his camel's hair being shaped into the frock coat of ordinary civilisation. When we came up, he was proving from the Apocalypse that it was foretold the whole Church would lapse into error as a prelude to his re-discovery of the truth. But Sophia does not like standing, and the prophet took so long over the preliminaries that we were forced to pass on without hearing the new revelation.

I cannot leave the train at York without remembering the

[ocr errors]

ancient tale of a sleepy traveller going North, who, knowing his weakness, begged the guard to see that he was put out at the station, willy-nilly; but to his disgust found himself at Edinburgh, and swore consumedly.' 'Well, sir,' said the guard, 'you can swear a bit, but nothing to the gentleman I put out at York.' Some publisher might do a good turn to himself and to an impoverished order if he would commission a few clergymen in each county to collect the humorous tales of their district before they lose all their original brightness. Yorkshire is especially rich in such stories, the prevailing quality being dry. The following was given me recently by a Yorkshireman as an example of red-tape.' A man is lying in extremis, while his daughter takes from the pot a fine ham. The old man asks for a slice and is met by the rebuff: Thee get on with thy deeing; t' ham's for t' funeral.'


We left summer behind and find autumn here; for raspberries, blackberries. Bicycles have once more to take heed to their ways, for the hedges are being clipped, and the stone walls of Scotland had encouraged us to ride carelessly.

[ocr errors]

30th. The value of local tradition was well illustrated this morning by a speech of my neighbour, old John Brown. I was showing a visitor what few traces are left us of antiquity, and especially a field called England's piece,' which I have no doubt, from its neighbourhood to an old camp called Castle, was the scene of some battle or skirmish between the English and Danes. Old Brown was leaning over the fence at the time, and I asked him if he had heard about any battle fought there. It were the battle of Waterloo, sir,' said he,' so they say, 'wever; and I thinks they're right, becos ye can see the bullut marks in the fence.' Speaking of Castle reminds me of another curious piece of antiquarian intelligence. The gentleman whose property it is has built a keeper's lodge there in the castellated style; and once, when putting up for a picnic, I asked the keeper by way of pleasantry whether that were the castle, and was thunderstruck and delighted to hear his answer: 'Well, sir, some says it is, some says it ain't for myself, I rather think it must be, and I'll tell you why: there's so much more room inside than you'd think from looking at it.'

31st.-My monthly budget of letters contains several matters of interest. A propos of my remarks on the sometimes conflicting ideals of religion and gentlemanliness, a lady sends me an amusing

anecdote of a friend who bewailed to her the loss of a somewhat ill-bred but extremely wealthy neighbour who had been very liberal in his help to her country charities. 'Mr. X is dead,' said she; he was so good and kind and helpful to me in all sorts of ways; he was so vulgar, poor dear fellow, we could not know him in London; but we shall meet in heaven.'

The nonsense-verse on the ladies of Birmingham' has, I regret to learn, given offence to some excellent dames there, who think it a reflection on their churchmanship. Of that I am no judge, nor had I any wish to be. On the other side, a gentleman sends 'what he thinks will please me,' a pamphlet containing an indictment on the character of the people of that city. I had no notion that their character had so distinct a hall-mark. The first peculiarity he notices is a high sense of their own excellence and capacity, and a habit of making it known to others. A second is undue familiarity. He accounts for these peculiarities by the fact that Birmingham, not being a corporation when the Five Mile Act was passed, became a city of refuge for persons of tender conscience.

If I copy a few more nonsense-verses, it must be on the understanding that I do not commit myself to any theory as to the relation of the spiritual climate of the place to the particular conduct of the individual.

There was a young lady of Cice❜ter
Who went to consult her solicitor;
When he asked for his fee,
She said Fiddle-de-dee;
I only dropped in as a visitor.'

There was a young woman of Ealing
Whose husband was very unfeeling;
When she had scarlet fever

He threatened to leave her,
Until she had quite finished peeling.

There was an old man of Calcutta
Who had an unfortunate stutter;
'I should like,' he once said,
'Some b-b-b-bread

And some b-b-b-b-b-b-butter.'

If poetry be, as Milton said, 'simple, sensuous, and assionate,' no one could deny the name of poetry to this last charming idyl.




[ocr errors]




'What lot is mine

Whose foresight preaches peace, my heart so slow

To feel it!'

THROUGH these quiet streets the party clattered noisily enough, for the rain had left the rounded stones slippery, and the horses were too tired for a sure step. There were no lights at the streetcorners, for all had been extinguished at midnight, and the only glimmer of a lamp that relieved the darkness was shining through the stained-glass windows of the Cathedral, where the sacred oil burnt night and day.

The Queen was evidently expected at the Casa del Ayuntamiento, for at the approach of the carriage the great doors were thrown open and a number of servants appeared in the patio, which was but dimly lighted. By the General's orders the small bodyguard passed through the doors, which were then closed, instead of continuing their way to the barracks in the Alcazar.

This Casa del Ayuntamiento stands, as many travellers know, in the Plaza of the same name, and faces the Cathedral, which is without doubt the oldest, as it assuredly is the most beautiful, church in the world. The mansion-house of Toledo, in addition to some palatial halls which are of historic renown, has several suites of rooms used from time to time by great personages passing through or visiting the city. The house itself is old, as we esteem age in England, while in comparison to the buildings around it it is modern. Built, however, at a period when beauty of architecture was secondary to power of resistance, the palace is strong enough, and General Vincente smiled happily as the great doors were closed. He was the last to look out into the streets and across the little Plaza del Ayuntamiento, which was deserted and looked peaceful enough in the light of a waning moon.

[ocr errors]

Copyright 1897 by Dodd, Mead & Co. in the United States of America.

The carriage door was opened by a lacquey, and Conyngham gave Estella his hand. All the servants bowed as she passed up the stairs, her face screened by the folds of her white mantilla. There was a queer hush in this great house, and in the manner of the servants. The Cathedral clock rang out the half-hour. The General led the way to the room on the first floor that overlooks the Plaza del Ayuntamiento. It is a vast apartment, hung with tapestries and pictures such as men travel many miles to see. The windows, which are large in proportion to the height of the room, open upon a stone balcony, which runs the length of the house and looks down upon the Plaza and across this to the great façade of the Cathedral. Candles, hurriedly lighted, made the room into a very desert of shadows. At the far end, a table was spread with cold meats and lighted by high silver candelabra.

"Ah!' said Concha, going towards the supper-table.

Estella turned and for the first time met Conyngham's eyes. His face startled her. It was so grave.

'Were you hurt?' she asked sharply.

"Not this time, Señorita.'

Then she turned with a sudden laugh towards her father. 'Did I play my part well?' she asked.

'Yes, my child.' And even he was grave.

Unless I am mistaken,' he continued, glancing at the shuttered windows, we have only begun our task.' He was reading as he spoke some despatches which a servant had handed to him.

'There is one advantage in a soldier's life,' he said, smiling at Conyngham, which is not, I think, sufficiently recognisednamely, that one's duty is so often clearly defined. At the present moment it is a question of keeping up the deception we have practised upon these good people of Toledo sufficiently long to enable the Queen Regent to reach Madrid. In order to make certain of this we must lead the people to understand that the Queen is in this house until, at least, daylight. Given so much advantage I think that her Majesty can reach the capital an hour before any messenger from Toledo. Two horsemen quitted the Bridge of Alcantara as we crossed it, riding towards Madrid; but they will not reach the capital-I have seen to that.'

He paused and walked to one of the long windows, which he opened. The outer shutters remained closed and he did not unbar them, but stood listening.

« AnteriorContinuar »