being severe, there 's many a boy, as their mothers
will tell you, comes home night after night, too tired
to eat their suppers, and tumble, fasting, to bed in
the same foul shirt which they Ve been working
in all the day, never changing their rag of calico
from week's end to week's end, or washing the
skin that's under it once in seven years."
"No wonder," said Lancelot, " that such a life
of drudgery makes them brutal and reckless."
" No wonder, indeed, sir : they Ve no time to
think ; they 're born to be machines, and machines
they must be ; and I think, sir," he added bitterly,
" it 's God's mercy that they dare n't think. It 's
God's mercy that they don't feel. Men that write
books and talk at elections call this a free country,
and say that the poorest and meanest has a free
opening to rise and become prime minister, if he
can. But you see, sir, the misfortune is, that in
practice he can't; for one who gets into a gentle-
man's family, or into a little shop, and so saves a
few pounds, fifty know that they Ve no chance
before them, but day-laborer born, day-laborer
live, from hand to mouth, scraping and pinching
to get not meat and beer even, but bread and
potatoes ; and then, at the end of it all, for a
worthy reward, half-a-crown a week of parish pay
or the workhouse. That 's a lively hopeful
prospect for a Christian man ! "
The Village Revel 213
" But," said Lancelot, " I thought this new poor-
law was to stir them up to independence ? "
" Oh, sir, the old lav/ has bit too deep : it made
them slaves and beggars at heart. It taught them
not to be ashamed of parish pay to demand it
as a right."
" And so it is their right," said Lancelot. " In
God's name, if a country is so ill-constituted that
it cannot find its own citizens in work, it is bound
to find them in food."
" Maybe, sir, maybe. God knows I don't grudge
it them. It 's a poor pittance at best, when they
have got it. But don't you see, sir, how all poor-
laws, old or new either, suck the independent spirit
out of a man; how they make the poor wretch
reckless ; how they tempt him to spend every extra
farthing in amusement?"
" Why, he is always tempted to say to himself,
1 Whatever happens to me, the parish must keep
me. If I am sick it must doctor me; if I am worn
out it must feed me; if I die it must bury me;
if I leave my children paupers the parish must
look after them, and they '11 be as well off with
the parish as they were with me. Now they Ve
only got just enough to keep body and soul to-
gether, and the parish can't give them less than
that What 's the use of cutting myself off from
sixpenny-worth of pleasure here, and sixpenny-
worth there? I 'm not saving money for my chil-
dren, 1 'm only saving the farmers' rates 1 . There it
is, sir," said Tregarva ; "that's the bottom of it,
sir, ' I 'm only saving the farmers' rates. Let us
eat and drink, for to-morrow we die ! ' "
" I don't see my way out of it," said Lancelot.
2 1 4 Yeast
" So says everybody, sir. But I should have
thought those members of parliament, and states-
men, and university scholars have been set up in
the high places, out of the wood where we are
all struggling and scrambling, just that they
might see their way out of it; and if they
don't, sir, and that soon, as sure as God is in
heaven, these poor fellows will cut their way out
" And blindfolded and ignorant as they are,"
said Lancelot, " they will be certain to cut their
way out just in the wrong direction."
" I 'm not so sure of that, sir," said Tregarva,
lowering his voice. "What is written? That
there is One who hears the desire of the poor.
' Lord, Thou preparest their hearts, and Thine
ear hearkeneth thereto, to help the fatherless and
poor unto their right, that the man of the earth
be no more exalted against them.' "
" Why, you are talking like any Chartist,
Tregarva ! "
"Am I, sir? I haven't heard much Scripture
quoted among them myself, poor fellows; but
to tell you the truth, sir, I don't know what
I am becoming. I 'm getting half mad with all
I see going on and not going on ; and you will
agree, sir, that what's happened this day can't
have done much to cool my temper or brighten
my hopes ; though, God 's my witness, there '3
no spite in me for my own sake. But what makes
me maddest of all, sir, is to see that everybody
sees these evils, except just the men who can
cure them the squires and the clergy."
" Why surely, Tregarva, there are hundreds, if
not thousands, of clergymen and landlords work-
The Village Revel 2 1 5
ing heart and soul at this moment, to better the
condition of the laboring classes ! "
" Ay, sir, they see the evils, and yet they don't
see them. They do not see what is the matter
with the poor man; and the proof of it is, sir,
that the poor have no confidence in them. They '11
take their alms, but they'll hardly take their
schooling, and their advice they won't take at
all. And why is it, sir? Because the poor have
got in their heads in these days a strange con-
fused fancy, maybe, but still a deep and a fierce one,
that they have n't got what they call their rights.
If you were to raise the wages of every man
in this country from nine to twelve shillings a week
to-morrow, you would n't satisfy them ; at least,
the only ones whom you would satisfy would be
the mere hogs among them, who, as long as they
can get a full stomach, care for nothing else."
"What, in Heaven's name, do they want?"
"They hardly know yet, sir; but they know
well what they don't want. The question with
them, sir, believe me, is not so much, How shall
we get better fed and better housed, but whom
shall we depend upon for our food and for our
house ? Why should we depend on the will and
fancy of any man for our rights? They are
asking ugly questions among themselves, sir, about
what those two words, rent and taxes, mean, and
about what that same strange word, freedom,
means. Right or wrong, they Ve got the thought
into their heads, and it 's growing there, and they
will find an answer for it. Depend upon it, sir, I
tell you a truth, and they expect a change. You
will hear them talk of it to-night, sir, if you Ve luck."
2 1 6 Yeast
" We all expect a change, for that matter/' said
Lancelot " That feeling is common to all classes
and parties just now."
Tregarva took off his hat.
" ' For the word of the Lord hath spoken it.'
Do you know, sir, I long at times that I did
agree with those Chartists? If I did I'd turn
lecturer to-morrow. How a man could speak out
then ! If he saw any door of hope, any way
of salvation for these poor fellows, even if it
was nothing better than salvation by act of
parliament ! "
"But why don't you trust the truly worthy
among the clergy and the gentry to leaven their
own ranks and bring all right in time?"
" Because, sir, they seem to be going the way
only to make things worse. The people have been
so dependent on them heretofore, that they have
become thorough beggars. You can have no
knowledge, sir, of the whining, canting, deceit, and
lies which those poor miserable laborers' wives palm
on charitable ladies. If they were n't angels, some
of them, they 'd lock up their purses and never
give away another farthing. And, sir, these free-
schools, and these penny-clubs, and clothing clubs,
and these heaps of money which are given away,
all make the matter worse and worse. They make
the laborer fancy that he is not to depend upon God
and his own right hand, but on what his wife can
worm out of the good nature of the rich. Why,
sir, they growl as insolently now at the parson or
the squire's wife if they don't get as much money
as their neighbors, as they used to at the parish
vestrymen under the old law. Look at that Lord
Vieuxbois, sir, as sweet a gentleman as ever God
The Village Revel 217
made. It used to do me good to walk behind him
when he came over here shooting, just to hear the
gentle kind-hearted way in which he used to speak
to every old soul he met. He spends his whole
life and time about the poor, I hear. But, sir, as
sure as you live he 's making his people slaves and
humbugs. He does n't see, sir, that they want to
be raised bodily out of this miserable hand-to-
mouth state, to be brought nearer up to him, and
set on a footing where they can shift for them-
selves. Without meaning it, sir, all his boundless
charities are keeping the people down, and telling
them they must stay down, and not help them-
selves, but wait for what he gives them. He fats
prize-laborers, sir, just as Lord Minchampstead
fats prize-oxen and pigs."
Lancelot could not help thinking of that amus-
ingly inconsistent, however well-meant, scene in
" Coningsby," in which Mr. Lyle is represented as
trying to restore "the independent order of peasan-
try," by making them the receivers of public alms
at his own gate, as if they had been middle-aged
serfs or vagabonds, and not citizens of modern
" It may suit the Mr. Lyles of this age," thought
Lancelot, " to make the people constantly and
visibly comprehend that property is their protector
and their friend, but I question whether it will suit
the people themselves, unless they can make prop-
erty understand that it owes them something more
definite than protection."
Saddened by this conversation, which had helped
to give another shake to the easy-going compla-
cency with which Lancelot had been used to con-
template the world below him, and look on its evils
2i 8 Yeast
as necessaries, ancient and fixed as the universe,
he entered the village fair, and was a little disap-
pointed at his first glimpse of the village-green.
Certainly his expectations had not been very ex-
alted ; but there had run through them a hope of
something melodramatic, dreams of May-pole
dancing and athletic games, somewhat of village-
belle rivalry, of the Corin and Sylvia school ; or,
failing that, a few Touchstones and Audreys, some
genial earnest buffo humor here and there. But
there did not seem much likelihood of it. Two or
three apple and gingerbread stalls, from which
draggled children were turning slowly and wistfully
away to go home ; a booth full of trumpery fair-
ings, in front of which tawdry girls were coaxing
maudlin youths, with faded southernwood in their
button-holes ; another long low booth, from every
crevice of which reeked odors of stale beer and
smoke, by courtesy denominated tobacco, to the
treble accompaniment of a jigging fiddle and a
tambourine, and the bass one of grumbled oaths
and curses within these were the means of relaxa-
tion which the piety, freedom, and civilization of
fourteen centuries, from Hengist to Queen Victoria,
had devised and made possible for the English
" There seems very little here to see," said
Lancelot, half peevishly.
" I think, sir," quoth Tregarva, " that very thing
is what's most worth seeing."
Lancelot could not help, even at the risk of
detection, investing capital enough in sugar-plums
and gingerbread, to furnish the urchins around
with the material for a whole carnival of stomach-
aches; and he felt a great inclination to clear the
The Village Revel 219
fairing-stall in a like manner, on behalf of the poor
bedizened sickly-looking girls round, but he was
afraid of the jealousy of some beer-bemuddled
swain. The ill-looks of the young girls surprised
him much. Here and there smiled a plump rosy
face enough ; but the majority seemed under-sized,
under-fed, utterly wanting in grace, vigor, and
what the penny-a-liners call " rude health." He
remarked it to Tregarva. The keeper smiled
" You see those little creatures dragging home
babies in arms nearly as big as themselves, sir.
That and bad food, want of milk especially,
accounts for their growing up no bigger than they
do; and as for their sad countenances, sir, most
of them must carry a lighter conscience before
they carry a brighter face. "
" What do you mean ? " asked Lancelot.
"The clergyman who enters the weddings and
the baptisms knows well enough what I mean,
sir. But we '11 go into that booth, if you want to
see the thick of it, sir; that's to say, if you're
not ashamed. "
" I hope we need neither of us do anything to
be ashamed of there; and as for seeing, I begin
to agree with you, that what makes the whole
thing most curious is its intense dulness."
" What upon earth is that ? "
" I say, look out there ! "
"Well, you look out yourself!"
This was caused by a violent blow across the
shins with a thick stick, the deed of certain
drunken wiseacres who were persisting in play-
ing in the dark the never very lucrative game of
three sticks a penny, conducted by a couple of
gipsies. Poor fellows ! there was one excuse for
them. It was the only thing there to play at,
except a set of skittles; and on those they had
lost their money every Saturday night for the
last seven years each at his own village beer-
So into the booth they turned ; and as soon as
Lancelot's eyes were accustomed to the reeking
atmosphere, he saw seated at two long temporary
tables of board, fifty or sixty of "My brethren,"
as clergymen call them in their sermons, wrang-
ling, stupid, beery, with sodden eyes and droop-
ing lips interspersed with more girls and
brazen-faced women, with dirty flowers in their
caps, whose whole business seemed to be to cast
jealous looks at each other, and defend them-
selves from the coarse overtures of their swains.
Lancelot had been already perfectly astonished
at the foulness of language which prevailed ; and
the utter absence of anything like chivalrous
respect, almost of common decency, towards
women. But lo! the language of the elder
women was quite as disgusting as that of the
men, if not worse. He whispered a remark on
the point to Tregarva, who shook his head.
"It's the field-work, sir the field-work, that
does it all. They get accustomed there from
their childhood to hear words whose very mean-
ings they shouldn't know; and the elder teach
the younger ones, and the married ones are
worst of all. It wears them out in body, sir,
that field-work, and makes them brutes in soul
and in manners."
"Why don't they give it up? Why don't the
respectable ones set their faces against it?"
The Village Revel 221
"They can't afford it, sir. They must go
a-field, or go hungered, most of them. And they
get to like the gossip and scandal, and coarse fun
of it, while their children are left at home to
play in the roads, or fall into the fire, as plenty
do every year."
"Why not at school?"
" The big ones are kept at home, sir, to play at
nursing those little ones who are too young to go.
Oh, sir," he added, in a tone of deep feeling,
"it is very little of a father's care, or a mother's
love, that a laborer's child knows in these days !"
Lancelot looked round the booth with a hope-
less feeling. There was awkward dancing going
on at the upper end. He was too much sickened
to go and look at it. He began examining the
faces and foreheads of the company, and was
astonished at the first glance by the lofty and
ample development of brain in at least one half.
There were intellects there or rather capacities
of intellect, capable, surely, of anything, had not
the promise of the brow been almost always
belied by the loose and sensual lower features.
They were evidently rather a degraded than an
undeveloped race. "The low foreKead of the
Kabyle and Koord," thought Lancelot, "is com-
pensated by the grim sharp lip, and glittering
eye, which prove that all the small capabilities
of the man have been called out into clear and
vigorous action : but here the very features them-
selves, both by what they have and what they
want, testify against that society which carelessly
wastes her most precious wealth, the manhood of
her masses ! Tregarva ! you have observed a
good many things did you ever observe whether
the men with the large foreheads were better
than the men with the small ones ? "
"Ay, sir, I know what you are driving at.
I 've heard of that new-fangled notion of scholars,
which, if you'll forgive my plain speaking,
expects man's brains to do the work of God's
" But what have you remarked ? "
"All I ever saw was, that the stupid-looking
ones were the greatest blackguards, and the
clever-looking ones the greatest rogues."
Lancelot was rebuked, but not surprised. He
had been for some time past suspecting, from the
bitter experience of his own heart, the favorite
modern theory which revives the Neo-Platonisra
of Alexandria, by making intellect synonymous
with virtue, and then jumbling, like poor bewil-
dered Proclus, the "physical understanding" of
the brain with the pure "intellect" of the
"You '11 see something, if you look round, sir,
a great deal easier to explain and, I should
have thought, a great deal easier to cure than
want of wits."
" And what is that ? "
"How different-looking the young ones are
from their fathers, and still more from their
grandfathers! Look at those three or four old
grammers talking together there. For all their
being shrunk with age and weather, you won't
see such fine-grown men anywhere else in this
It was too true. Lancelot recollected now
having remarked it before when at church; and
having wondered why almost all the youths were
The Village Revel 223
so much smaller, clumsier, lower-brained, and
weaker-jawed than their elders.
" Why is it, Tregarva ? "
"Worse food, worse lodging, worse nursing
and, I 'm sore afraid, worse blood. There was too
much filthiness and drunkenness went on in the
old war-times, not to leave a taint behind it, for
many a generation. The prosperity of fools shall
destroy them ! "
"Oh!" thought Lancelot, "for some young
sturdy Lancashire or Lothian blood, to put new
life into the old frozen South Saxon veins ! Even
a drop of the warm enthusiastic Celtic would be
better than none. Perhaps this Irish immigration
may do some good, after all."
Perhaps it may, Lancelot. Let us hope so,
since it is pretty nearly inevitable.
Sadder and sadder, Lancelot tried to listen to
the conversation of the men round him. To his
astonishment he hardly understood a word of it.
It was half articulate, nasal, guttural, made up
almost entirely of vowels, like the speech of
savages. He had never before been struck with
the significant contrast between the sharp, clearly
defined articulation, the vivid and varied tones of
the gentleman, or even of the London street-boy
when compared with the coarse, half-formed
growls, as of a company of seals, which he heard
round him. That single fact struck him, per-
haps, more deeply than any; it connected itself
with many of his physiological fancies ; it was
the parent of many thoughts and plans of his
after-life. Here and there he could distinguish
a half sentence. An old shrunken man opposite
him was drawing figures in the spilt beer with
his pipe-stem, and discoursing of the glorious
times before the great war, "when there was
more food than there were mouths, and more
work than there were hands." "Poor human
nature ! " thought Lancelot, as he tried to follow
one of those unintelligible discussions about the
relative prices of the loaf and the bushel of flour,
which ended, as usual, in more swearing, and more
quarrelling, and more beer to make it up " Poor
human nature ! always looking back, as the German
sage says, to some fancied golden age, never look-
ing forward to the real one which is coining ! "
"But I say, vather," drawled out some one,
"they say there 's a sight more money in England
now than there was afore the war-time."
"Eees, booy," said the old man; "but it's got
into too few hands."
"Well," thought Lancelot, "there's a glimpse
of practical sense, at least. " And a pedler who
sat next him, a bold, black-whiskered bully from
the potteries, hazarded a joke:
"It's all along of this new sky-and-tough-it
farming. They used to spread the money broad-
cast, but now they drills it all in one place, like
bone-dust under their fancy plants, and we poor
self-sown chaps gets none."
This garland of fancies was received with great
applause; whereat the pedler, emboldened, pro-
ceeded to observe, mysteriously, that "donkeys
took a beating, but horses kicked at it ; and that
they'd found out that in Staffordshire long ago.
You want a good Chartist lecturer down here, my
covies, to show you donkeys of laboring men that
you have got iron on your heels, if you only
know'd how to use it."
The Village Revel 225
"And what's the use of rioting?" asked some
"Why, if you don't riot, the farmers will starve
"And if we do, they'd turn sodgers yeo-
manry, as they call it, though there ain't a yeo-
man among them in these parts; and then they
takes sword and kills us. So, riot or none, they
has it all their own way."
Lancelot heard many more scraps of this sort.
He was very much struck with their dread of
violence. It did not seem cowardice. It was
not loyalty the English laborer has fallen below
the capability of so spiritual a feeling; Lancelot
had found out that already. It could not be
apathy, for he heard nothing but complaint upon
complaint bandied from mouth to mouth the
whole evening. They seemed rather sunk too
low in body and mind, too stupefied and spirit-
less, to follow the example of the manufacturing
districts; above all, they were too ill-informed.
It is not mere starvation which goads the Leices-
ter weaver to madness. It is starvation with
education, an empty stomach and a cultivated,
even though miscultivated, mind.
At that instant, a huge hulking farm-boy rolled
into the booth, roaring dolefully the end of a
song, with a punctuation of his own invention:
" He '11 maak me a lady . Zo . Vine to be zyure.
And, vaithfully; love me. Although; I; be-e; poor-r-r-r."
Lancelot would have laughed heartily at him
anywhere else; but the whole scene was past a
jest; and a gleam of pathos and tenderness
seemed to shine even from that doggerel, a
K Vol. V
vista, as it were, of true genial nature, in the
far distance. But as he looked round again,
"What hope," he thought, "of its realization?
Arcadian dreams of pastoral innocence and grace-
ful industry, I suppose, are to be henceforth
monopolized by the stage or the boudoir ? Never,
so help me, God ! "
The ursine howls of the new-comer seemed to
have awakened the spirit of music in the party.
"Coom, Blackburd, gi' us zong, Blackburd,
bo' ! " cried a dozen voices to an impish, dark-
eyed gipsy boy, of some thirteen years old.
" Put 'n on taable. Now, then, pipe up ! "
"What will 'eeha'?"
"Mary; gi' us Mary."
"I shall make a' girls cry," quoth Blackbird,
with a grin.
"Do'n good, too; they likes it: zing away."
And the boy began, in a broad country twang,
which could not overpower the sad melody of
the air, or the rich sweetness of his flute-like
" Young Mary walked sadly down through the green clover,
And sighed as she looked at the babe at her breast ;
' My roses are faded, my false love a rover,
The green graves they call me, " Come home to your
" Then by rode a soldier in gorgeous arraying,
And ' Where is your bride-ring, my fair maid ? ' he cried ;
' I ne'er had a bride-ring, by false man's betraying,
Nor token of love but this babe at my side.
M <Tho' gold could not buy me, sweet words could deceive me;
So faithful and lonely till death I must roam.'
' Oh, Mary, sweet Mary, look up and forgive me,
With wealth and with glory your true love comes home j
The Village Revel 227
44 ' So give me my own babe, those soft arms adorning,
I '11 wed you and cherish you, never to stray ;
For it 's many a dark and a wild cloudy morning
Turns out by the noon-time a sunshiny day.' "
"A bad moral that, sir," whispered Tregarva.
"Better than none," answered Lancelot.
" It 's well if you are right, sir, for you '11 hear
The keeper spoke truly; in a dozen different
songs, more or less coarsely, but, in general,
with a dash of pathetic sentiment, the same case
of lawless love was embodied. It seemed to be
their only notion of the romantic. Now and
then there was a poaching song ; then one of the
lowest flash London school filth and all was
roared in chorus in presence of the women.
" I am afraid that you do not thank me for
having brought you to any place so unfit for a
gentleman," said Tregarva, seeing Lancelot's sad
" Because it is so unfit for a gentleman, there-