me out of my dreary mill-round of metaphysics. It
sweeps away that infernal web of self-consciousness, and
absorbs me in outward objects ; and my red-hot Peril-
lus's bull cools in proportion as my horse warms. I tell
you, I never saw a man who could cut out his way across
country who could not cut his way through better things
when his turn came. The cleverest and noblest fellows
are sure to be the best riders in the long run. And
as for bad company and ' the world,' when you take to
going in the first-class carriages for fear of meeting a
swearing sailor in the second-class when those who
have ' renounced the world ' give up buying and selling
in the funds when my uncle, the pious banker, who
will only ' associate ' with the truly religious, gives up
dealing with any scoundrel or heathen who can 'do
business ' with him then you may quote pious people's
opinions to me. In God's name, if the Stock Exchange,
and railway stagging, and the advertisements in the
Protestant Hue-and-Cry, and the frantic Mammon-
hunting which has been for the last fifty years the
peculiar pursuit of the majority of Quakers, Dissenters,
and Religious Churchmen, are not The World, what is?
I don't complain of them, though ; Puritanism has inter-
dicted to them all art, all excitement, all amusement
except money-making. It is their dernier ressort, poor
"But you must explain to us naughty fox-hunters
Spring Yearnings 35
how all this agrees with the good book. We see plainly
enough, in the meantime, how it agrees with 'poor
human nature.' We see that the ' religious world,' like
the * great world,' and the 'sporting world,' and the
' literary world,'
' Compounds for sins she is inclined to,
By damning those she has no mind to ; '
and that because England is a money-making country,
and money-making is an effeminate pursuit, therefore
all sedentary and spoony sins, like covetousness, slander,
bigotry, and self-conceit, are to be cockered and plas-
tered over, while the more masculine vices, and no-vices
also, are mercilessly hunted down by your cold-blooded,
" This is a more quiet letter than usual from me, my
dear coz, for many of your reproofs cut me home : they
angered me at the time; but I deserve them. I am
miserable, self- disgusted, self-helpless, craving for free-
dom, and yet crying aloud for some one to come and
guide me, and teach me ; and who is there in these days
who could teach a fast man, even if he would try? Be
sure, that as long as you and yours make piety a syno-
nym for unmanliness, you will never convert either me
or any other good sportsman.
" By the by, my dear fellow, was I asleep or awake
when I seemed to read in the postscript of your last
letter, something about 'being driven to Rome after
all ' ? . . . Why thither, of all places in heaven or earth ?
You know, I have no party interest in the question.
All creeds are very much alike to me just now. But
allow me to ask, in a spirit of the most tolerant curi-
osity, what possible celestial bait, either of the useful
or the agreeable kind, can the present excellent Pope,
or his adherents, hold out to you in compensation for
the solid earthly pudding which you would have to
desert? ... I dare say, though, that I shall not com-
prehend your answer when it comes. I am, you know,
utterly deficient in that sixth sense of the angelic or
supralunar beautiful, which fills your soul with ecstasy.
You, I know, expect and long to become an angel after
death; I am under the strange hallucination that my
body is part of me, and in spite of old Plotinus, look
with horror at a disembodiment till the giving of that
new body, the great perfection of which, in your eyes,
and those of every one else, seems to be, that it will be
less, and not more of a body, than our present one
Is this hope, to me at once inconceivable and contra-
dictory, palpable and valuable enough to you to send
you to that Italian Avernus, to get it made a little more
certain ? If so, I despair of your making your meaning
intelligible to a poor fellow wallowing, like me, in the
Hylic Borboros or whatever else you may choose to
call the unfortunate fact of being flesh and blood. . . .
SEW ACTORS, AND A NEW STAGE
WHEN Argemone rose in the morning, her
first thought was of Lancelot. His face
haunted her. The wild brilliance of his intellect
struggling through foul smoke-clouds, had haunted
her still more. She had heard of his profligacy,
his bursts of fierce Berserk-madness; and yet
now these very faults, instead of repelling,
seemed to attract her, and intensify her longing
to save him. She would convert him; purify
him; harmonize his discords. And that very
wish gave her a peace she had never felt before.
She had formed her idea ; she had now a purpose
for which to live, and she determined to concen-
trate herself for the work, and longed for the
moment when she should meet Lancelot, and
begin how, she did not very clearly see.
It is an old jest the fair devotee trying to
convert the young rake. Men of the world laugh
heartily at it; and so does the devil, no doubt.
If any readers wish to be fellow-jesters with that
personage, they may; but, as sure as old Saxon
women-worship remains forever a blessed and
healing law of life, the devotee may yet convert
the rake and, perhaps, herself into the bargain.
Argemone looked almost angrily round at her
beloved books and drawings; for they spoke a
message to her which they had never spoken
before, of self-centred ambition. "Yes," she
said aloud to herself, "I have been selfish,
utterly! Art, poetry, science I believe, after
all, that I have only loved them for my own
sake, not for theirs, because they would make
me something, feed my conceit of my own talents.
How infinitely more glorious to find my work-
field and my prize, not in dead forms and colors,
or ink-and-paper theories, but in a living, immor-
tal, human spirit ! I will study no more, except
the human heart, and only that to purify and
True, Argemone ; and yet, like all resolutions,
somewhat less than the truth. That morning,
indeed, her purpose was simple as God's own
light. She never dreamed of exciting Lancelot's
admiration, even his friendship for herself. She
would have started as from a snake, from the
issue which the reader very clearly foresees, that
Lancelot would fall in love, not with Young Eng-
landism, but with Argemone Lavington. But
yet self is not eradicated even from a woman's
heart in one morning before breakfast. Besides,
it is not "benevolence," but love the real
Cupid of flesh and blood, who can first
" Touch the chord of self which, trembling,
Passes in music out of sight."
But a time for all things; and it is now time
for Argemone > to go down to breakfast, having
prepared some dozen imaginary dialogues between
herself and Lancelot, in which, of course, her
eloquence always had the victory. She had yet
to learn, that it is better sometimes not to settle
New Actors, and a New Stage 39
in one's heart what we shall speak, for the Ever-
lasting Will has good works ready prepared for
us to walk in, by what we call fortunate accident;
and it shall be given us in that day and that hour
what we shall speak.
Lancelot, in the meantime, shrank from meet-
ing Argemone; and was quite glad of the weak-
ness which kept him upstairs. Whether he was
afraid of her whether he was ashamed of him-
self or of his crutches, I cannot tell, but I dare
say, reader, you are getting tired of all this
soul-dissecting. So we will have a bit of action
again, for the sake of variety, if for nothing
Of all the species of lovely scenery which
England holds, none, perhaps, is more exquisite
than the banks of the chalk-rivers the perfect
limpidity of the water, the gay and luxuriant
vegetation of the banks and ditches, the masses
of noble wood embosoming the villages, the
unique beauty of the water-meadows, living sheets
of emerald and silver, tinkling and sparkling,
cool under the fiercest sun, brilliant under the
blackest clouds. There, if anywhere, one would
have expected to find Arcadia among fertility,
loveliness, industry, and wealth. But, alas for
the sad reality ! the cool breath of those glitter-
ing water-meadows too often floats laden with
poisonous miasma. Those picturesque villages
are generally the perennial hotbeds of fever and
ague, of squalid penury, sottish profligacy, dull
discontent too stale for words. There is luxury
in the park, wealth in the huge farm -stead ings,
knowledge in the parsonage: but the poor? those
by whose dull labor all that luxury and wealth,
ay, even that knowledge, is made possible what
are they? We shall see, please God, ere the
But of all this Lancelot as yet thought noth-
ing. He, too, had to be emancipated, as much
as Argemone, from selfish dreams; to learn to
work trustfully in the living Present, not to gloat
sentimentally over the unreturning Past. But
his time was not yet come; and little he thought
of all the work which lay ready for him within a
mile of the Priory, as he watched the ladies go
out for the afternoon, and slipped down to the
Nun's-pool on his crutches to smoke and fish, and
build castles in the air.
The Priory, with its rambling courts and
gardens, stood on an island in the river. The
upper stream flowed in a straight artificial channel
through the garden, still and broad, towards the
Priory mill; while just above the Priory wall
half the river fell over a high weir, with all its
appendages of bucks and hatchways, and eel-
baskets, into the Nun's-pool, and then swept
round under the ivied walls, with their fantastic
turrets and gables, and little loopholed windows,
peering out over the stream, as it hurried down
over the shallows to join the race below the
mill. A postern door in the walls opened on an
ornamental wooden bridge across the weir-head
a favorite haunt of all fishers and sketchers
who were admitted to the dragon -guarded Elysium
of Whitford Priors. Thither Lancelot went, con-
gratulating himself, strange to say, in having
escaped the only human being whom he loved on
He found on the weir-bridge two of the keepers.
New Actors, and a New Stage 41
The younger one, Tregarva, was a stately,
thoughtful-looking Cornishman, some six feet
three in height, with thews and sinews in pro-
portion. He was sitting on the bridge looking
over a basket of eel-lines, and listening silently
to the chat of his companion.
Old Harry Verney, the other keeper, was a
character in his way, and a very bad character
too, though he was a patriarch among all the
gamekeepers of the vale. He was a short, wiry,
bandy-legged, ferret-visaged old man, with grizzled
hair, and a wizened face tanned brown and purple
by constant exposure. Between rheumatism and
constant handling the rod and gun, his fingers
were crooked like a hawk's claws. He kept his
left eye always shut, apparently to save trouble
in shooting ; and squinted, and sniffed, and peered,
with a stooping back and protruded chin, as if he
were perpetually on the watch for fish, flesh, and
fowl, vermin and Christian. The friendship
between himself and the Scotch terrier at his
heels would have been easily explained by Les-
sing, for in the transmigration of souls the spirit
of Harry Verney had evidently once animated a
dog of that breed. He was dressed in a huge
thick fustian jacket, scratched, stained, and
patched, with bulging, greasy pockets ; a cast of
flies round a battered hat, riddled with shot-
holes, a dog- whistle at his button-hole, and an
old gun cut short over his arm, bespoke his
"I seed that 'ere Crawy against Ashy Down
Plantations last night, I'll be sworn," said he,
in a squeaking, sneaking tone.
" Well, what harm was the man doing ? "
" Oh, ay, that 's the way you young 'uns talk.
If he warn't doing mischief, he 'd 'a' been glad
to have been doing it, I '11 warrant. If I 'd been
as young as you, I 'd have picked a quarrel with
him soon enough, and found a cause for tackling
him. It 's worth a brace of sovereigns with the
squire to haul him up. Eh? eh? Ain't old
Harry right now ? "
" Humph ! " growled the younger man.
" There, then, you get me a snare and a hare
by to-morrow night," went on old Harry, "and
see if I don't nab him. It won't lay long under
the plantation afore he picks it up. You mind
to snare me a hare to-night, now!"
" I '11 do no such thing, nor help to bring false
accusations against any man ! "
"False accusations!" answered Harry, in his
cringing way. " Look at that now, for a keeper
to say ! Why, if he don't happen to have a snare
just there, he has somewhere else, you know.
Eh ? Ain't old Harry right now, eh ? "
"There, don't say I don't know nothing then.
Eh? What matter who put the snare down, or
the hare in, perwided he takes it up, man? If
'twas his'n he'd be all the better pleased. The
most notoriousest poacher as walks unhung!"
And old Harry lifted up his crooked hands in
"I '11 have no more gamekeeping, Harry. What
with hunting down Christians as if they were
vermin, all night, and being cursed by the squire
all day, I 'd sooner be a sheriff's runner, or a
"Ay, ay ! that 's the way the young dogs always
New Actors, and a New Stage 43
bark afore they 're broke in, and gets to like it,
as the eels does skinning. Haven't I bounced
pretty near out of my skin many a time afore now,
on this here very bridge, with ' Harry, jump in,
you stupid hound ! ' and ' Harry, get out, you
one-eyed tailor ! ' And then, if one of the gentle-
men lost a fish with their clumsiness Oh,
Father! to hear 'em let out at me and my land-
ing-net, and curse fit to fright the devil ! Dash
their sarcy tongues ! Eh ! Don't old Harry
know their ways? Don't he know 'em, now?"
"Ay," said the young man, bitterly. "We
break the dogs, and we load the guns, and we
find the game, and mark the game, and then
they call themselves sportsmen; we choose the
flies, and we bait the spinning-hooks, and we
show them where the fish lie, and then when
they 've hooked them, they can't get them out
without us and the spoon-net ; and then they go
home to the ladies and boast of the lot of fish
they killed and who thinks of the keeper?"
"Oh! ah! Then don't say old Harry knows
nothing, then. How nicely, now, you and I
might get a living off this 'ere manor, if the
landlords was served like the French ones was.
Eh, Paul?" chuckled old Harry. "Wouldn't
we pay our taxes with pheasants and grayling,
that's all, eh? Ain't old Harry right now,
The old fox was fishing for an assent, not for
its own sake, for he was a fierce Tory, and would
have stood up to be shot at any day, not only for
his master's sake, but for the sake of a single
pheasant of his master's; but he hated Tregarva
for many reasons, and was daily on the watch to
entrap him on some of his peculiar points, where-
of he had, as we shall find, a good many.
What would have been Tregarva's answer, I
cannot tell; but Lancelot, who had unintention-
ally overheard the greater part of the conversation,
disliked being any longer a listener, and came
close to them.
"Here's your gudgeons and minnows, sir, as
you bespoke," quoth Harry; "and here's that
paternoster as you gave me to rig up. Beautiful
minnows, sir, white as a silver spoon. They 're
the ones now, ain't they, sir, eh ? "
"They '11 do!"
"Well, then, don't say old Harry don't know
nothing, that's all, eh?" and the old fellow
toddled off, peering and twisting his head about
like a starling.
"An odd old fellow that, Tregarva," said
"Very, sir, considering who made him,"
answered the Cornishman, touching his hat, and
then thrusting his nose deeper than ever into the
"Beautiful stream this," said Lancelot, who
had a continual longing right or wrong to
chat with his inferiors ; and was proportionately
sulky and reserved to his superiors.
"Beautiful enough, sir," said the keeper, with
an emphasis on the first word.
" Why, has it any other fault ? "
"Not so wholesome as pretty, sir."
" What harm does it do ? "
"Fever, and ague, and rheumatism, sir."
"Where?" asked Lancelot, a little amused by
the man's laconic answers.
New Actors, and a New Stage 45
"Wherever the white fog spreads, sir."
Lancelot burst out laughing. The man looked
up at him slowly and seriously.
"You wouldn't laugh, sir, if you 'd seen much
of the inside of these cottages round."
"Really," said Lancelot, "I was only laugh-
ing at our making such very short work of such a
long and serious story. Do you mean that the
unhealthiness of this country is wholly caused
by the river?"
"No, sir. The river-damps are God's sending;
and so they are not too bad to bear. But there 's
more of man's sending, that is too bad to bear."
" What do you mean ? "
"Are men likely to be healthy when they are
worse housed than a pig? "
" And worse fed than a hound ? "
" Good heavens ! No ! "
" Or packed together to sleep, like pilchards
in a barrel ? "
"But, my good fellow, do you mean that the
laborers here are in that state ? "
"It isn't far to walk, sir. Perhaps some day,
when the May-fly is gone off, and the fish won't
rise awhile, you could walk down and see. I beg
your pardon, sir, though, for thinking of such a
thing. They are not places fit for gentlemen,
that's certain." There was a staid irony in his
tone, which Lancelot felt.
" But the clergyman goes ? "
" And Miss Honoria goes ? "
"Yes, God Almighty bless her!"
"And do not they see that all goes right? "
The giant twisted his huge limbs, as if trying
to avoid an answer, and yet not daring to do so.
" Do clergymen go about among the poor much,
sir, at college, before they are ordained ? "
Lancelot smiled, and shook his head.
" I thought so, sir. Our good vicar is like the
rest hereabouts. God knows, he stints neither
time nor money the souls of the poor are well
looked after, and their bodies too as far as his
purse will go; but that 's not far."
"Is he ill off, then?"
"The living 's worth some forty pounds a year.
The great tithes, they say, are worth better than
twelve hundred ; but Squire Lavington has them."
" Oh, I see ! " said Lancelot.
"I'm glad you do, sir, for I don't," meekly
answered Tregarva. " But the vicar, sir, he is a
kind man, and a good; but the poor don't under-
stand him, nor he them. He is too learned, sir,
and, saving your presence, too fond of his Prayer-
"One can't be too fond of a good thing."
"Not unless you make an idol of it, sir, and
fancy that men's souls were made for the Prayer-
book, and not the Prayer-book for them. "
" But cannot he expose and redress these evils,
if they exist ? "
Tregarva twisted about again.
"I do not say that I think it, sir; but this I
know, that every poor man in the vale thinks
it that the parsons are afraid of the landlords.
New Actors, and a New Stage 47
They must see these things, for they are not
blind; and they try to plaster them up out of
their own pockets."
"But why, in God's name, don't they strike
at the root of the matter, and go straight to
the landlords and tell them the truth ? " asked
"So people say, sir. I see no reason for it
except the one which I gave you. Besides, sir,
you must remember that a man can't quarrel
with his own kin ; and so many of them are their
squire's brothers, or sons, or nephews."
"Or good friends with him, at least."
"Ay, sir, and, to do them justice, they had
need, for the poor's sake, to keep good friends
with the squire. How else are they to get a
farthing for schools, or coal-subscriptions, or
lying-in societies, or lending libraries, or penny
clubs? If they spoke their minds to the great
ones, sir, how could they keep the parish to-
" You seem to see both sides of a question, cer-
tainly. But what a miserable state of things,
that the laboring man should require all these
societies, and charities, and helps from the rich !
that an industrious freeman cannot live with-
"So I have thought this long time," quietly
" But Miss Honoria, she is not afraid to tell
her father the truth ? "
"Suppose, sir, when Adam and Eve were in
the garden, that all the devils had come up and
played their fiends' tricks before them, do you
think they'd have seen any shame in it?"
"I really cannot tell," said Lancelot, smiling,
"Then I can, sir. They'd have seen no more
harm in it than there was harm already in them-
selves; and that was none. A man's eyes can
only see what they've learnt to see."
Lancelot started: it was a favorite dictum of
his in Carlyle's works.
"Where did you get that thought, my friend?"
" By seeing, sir. "
"But what has that to do with Miss Honoria?"
"She is an angel of holiness herself, sir; and,
therefore, she goes on without blushing or sus-
pecting, where our blood would boil again. She
sees people in want, and thinks it must be so,
and pities them and relieves them. But she
don't know want herself; and, therefore, she
don't know that it makes men beasts and devils.
She's as pure as God's light herself; and, there-
fore, she fancies every one is as spotless as she
is. And there's another mistake in your chari-
table great people, sir. When they see poor folk
sick or hungry before their eyes, they pull out
their purses fast enough, God bless them; for
they would'n't like to be so themselves. But the
oppression that goes on all the year round, and
the want that goes on all the year round, and the
filth, and the lying, and the swearing, and the
profligacy, that go on all the year round, and
the sickening weight of debt, and the miserable
grinding anxiety from rent-day to rent-day, and
Saturday night to Saturday night, that crushes a
man's soul down, and drives every thought out
of his head but how he is to fill his stomach and
warm his back, and keep a house over his head,
till he dare n't for his life take his thoughts one
New Actors, and a New Stage 49
moment off the meat that perisheth oh, sir,
they never felt this; and, therefore, they never
dream that there are thousands who pass them in
their daily walks who feel this, and feel nothing
This outburst was uttered with an earnestness
and majesty which astonished Lancelot. He for-
got the subject in the speaker.
"You are a very extraordinary gamekeeper!"
" When the Lord shows a man a thing, he can't
well help seeing it," answered Tregarva, in his
usual staid tone.
There was a pause. The keeper looked at
him with a glance, before which Lancelot's eyes
"Hell is paved with hearsays, sir, and as all
this talk of mine is hearsay, if you are in earnest,
sir, go and see for yourself. I know you have a
kind heart, and they tell me that you are a great
scholar, which would to God I was! so you ought
not to condescend to take my word for anything
which you can look into yourself;" with which
sound piece of common-sense Tregarva returned
busily to his eel-lines.
" Hand me the rod and can, and help me out
along the buck-stage," said Lancelot; "I must
have some more talk with you, my fine fellow."
"Amen," answered Tregarva, as he assisted
our lame hero along a huge beam which stretched
out into the pool ; and having settled him there,
returned mechanically to his work, humming a
Lancelot sat and tried to catch perch, but
Tregarva' s words haunted him. He lighted his
cigar, and tried to think earnestly over the matter,
but he had got into the wrong place for thinking.
All his thoughts, all his sympathies, were drowned
in the rush and whirl of the water. He forgot
everything else in the mere animal enjoyment of
sight and sound. Like many young men at his
crisis of life, he had given himself up to the mere
contemplation of Nature till he had become her
slave; and now a luscious scene, a singing bird,
were enough to allure his mind away from the
most earnest and awful thoughts. He tried to
think, but the river would not let him. It thun-
dered and spouted out behind him from the
hatches, and leapt madly past him, and caught
his eyes in spite of him, and swept them away
down its dancing waves, and let them go again
only to sweep them down again and again, till
his brain felt a delicious dizziness from the ever-