M. E. (Mary Elizabeth) Braddon.

Belgravia online

. (page 30 of 53)
Online LibraryM. E. (Mary Elizabeth) BraddonBelgravia → online text (page 30 of 53)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Saturn: a space on the universe almost imdiscemible, for a
satellite is hardly visible to the naked eye. "VVTiat would this be
for the Creator of the universe, to whom the whole universe filled
with earths could not be enough ' (for what ?), ' seeing that he is
infinite.' However, it is not on this reasoning alone that
Swedenborg relies. He tells us, honestly beyond all doubt, that
he knows the truth of what he relates. ' The information I am
about to give,' he says, * respecting the earths in the starry heaven
is from experimental testimony ; from which it will likewise appear
how I was translated thither as to my spirit, the body remaining
in its place.'

His progress in his first star-hunt was to the right, and
continued for about two hours. He found the boimdary of our
solar system marked first by a white but thick cloud, next by a



Digitized by



Google



278 SWEDENBORGS VISIONS OF

tieTj smoke ascending from a great chasm. Here some guards
appeared, who 8tx)pped some of the company, because these had
not, like Swedenborg and the rest, received permission to pass.
They not only stopped those unfortunates but tortured them,
conduct for which terrestrial analogues might possibly be dis-
covered.

Having reached another system, he asked the spirits of one of
the earths there how large their sun was and how it appeared.
They said it was less than the sun of our earth, and has a flaming
appearance. Our sun, in fact, is larger than other suns in space,
for from that earth starry heavens are seen, and a star larger than
the rest appears, which, say those spirits, *was declared from
heaven ' to be the sun of Swedenborg's earthly home.

What Swedenborg saw upon that earth has no special interest.
The men there, though haughty, are loved by their respective
wives because they, the men, are good. But their goodness does
not appear very manifest from anything in the narrative. The
only man seen by Swedenborg took from his wife * the garment
which she wore, and threw it over his own shoulders ; loosening
the lower part, which flowed down to his feet like a robe (much as
a man of our earth might be expected to loosen the tie-back of
the period, if he borrowed it in like manner) he thus walked about
clad.'

He next visited an earth circling round a star, which he
learned was one of the smaller sort, not far from the equator. Its
greater distance was plain from the circumstance that Swedenborg
was two days in reaching it. In this earth he very nearly fell
into a quarrel with the spirits. For hearing that they possess re-
markable keenness of vision, he * compared them with eagles which
fly aloft, and enjoy a clear and extensive view of objects beneath.'
At this they were indignant, * supposing,' poor spirits, * that he
compared them to eagles as to their rapacity, and consequently
thought them wicked.' He hastened to explain, however, that he
* did not liken them to eagles as to their rapacity, but as to sharp-
sightedness.'

Swedenborg's account of a third earth in the star-depths
contains a very pretty idea for temples and churches. The
temples in that earth ' are constructed,' he says, * of trees, not cut
down, but growing in the place where they were first planted. On
that earth, it seems, there are trees of an extraordinary size and
height ; these they set in rows when young, and arrange in such
an order that they may serve when they grow up to form porticoes
and colonnades. In the meanwhile, by cutting and pruning, they
fit and i^repare the tender shoots to entwine one with another and



Digitized by



Google



. OTHEk WORLDS. 579

join together so as to form the groundwork and floor of the temple to
be constructed, and to rise at the sides as walls, and above to bend
into arches to form the roof. In this manner they construct the
temple with admirable art, elevating it high above the ground.
They prepare also an ascent into it, by continuous branches of the
trees, extended from the trunk and firmly connected together.
Moreover, they adorn the temple without and within in various
ways, by disposing the foliage into particular forms ; thus they
build entire groves. But it was not permitted me to see the
nature of these temples, only I was informed that the light of
their sun is let in by apertures amongst the branches, and is every-
where transmitted through crystals; whereby the light falling on
the walls is refracted in colours like those of the rainbow,
particularly blue and orange, of which they are fondest. Such is
their architecture, which they prefer to the most magnificent
palaces of our eaith.'

Other earths in the starry heavens were visited by Swedenborg,
but the above will serve suflSciently to illustrate the nature of his
observations. One statement, by the way, was made to him which
must have seemed unlikely ever to be contravened, but which has
been shown in our time to be altogether erroneous. In the fourth
star-world he visited, he was told that that earth which travels
round its sun in 200 days of fifteen hours each, is one of the least
in the universe, being scarcely 500 German miles, say 2,000
English miles, in circumference. This would make its diameter
about 640 English miles. But there is not one of the whole
fiwnily of planetoids which has a diameter so great as this, and
many of these earths must be less than fifty miles in diameter.
Now Swedenborg remarks that he had his information from the
angels, ' who made a comparison in all these particulars with things
of a like nature on our earth, according to what they saw in me
or in my memory. Their conclusions were formed by angelic
ideas, whereby are instantly known the measure of space and time
in a just proportion with respect to space and time elsewhere.
AngeUc ideas, which are spiritual, in such calculations infinitely
excel human ideas, which are natural.' He must, therefore, have
met, unfortunately, with imtruthful angels.

The real source of Swedenborg's inspirations will be tolerably
obvious — to all, at least, who are not Swedenborgians. But our
account of his visions would not be complete in a psychological
sense without a brief reference to the personal allusions which the
spirits and angels made during their visits or his wanderings.
His distinguished rival. Christian Wolf, was encoimtered as a spirit
by spirits from Mercury, who * perceived that what he said did



Digitized by



Google



28o SWEDENBORGS VISIONS OP OTHER WORLDS.

not rise above the sensual things of the natural man, because in
speaking he thought of honour, and was desirous, as in the world
(for in the other world every one is like his former self), to con-
nect various things into series, and from these again continu-
ally to deduce others, and so form several chains of such, which
they did not see or acknowledge to be true, and which, therefore,
they declared to be chains which neither cohered in themselves
nor with the conclusions, calling them the obscurity of authority; '
so they ceased to question him further, and presently left him.
Similarly, a spirit who in this world had been a * prelate and a
preacher,' and * very pathetic, so that he could deeply move his
hearers,' got no hearing among the spirits of a certain earth in
the starry heavens ; for they said they could tell ' from the tone
of the voice whether a discourse came from the heart or not ; ' and
as his discourse came not from the heart, ' he was unable to teach
them, whereupon he was silent.' Convenient thus to have spirits
and angels to confirm our impressions of other men, living or dead.

Apart from the psychological interest attaching to Sweden-
borg's strange vision, one cannot but be strongly impressed by
the idea pervading them, that to beings suitably constituted all
that takes place in other worlds might be known. Modem science
recognises a truth here ; for in that mysterious ether which occu-
pies all space, messages are at all times travelling by which the
history of every orb is constantly recorded. No world, however
remote or insignificant ; no period, however distant — but has its
history thus continually proclaimed in ever widening waves. Nay,
by these waves also (to beings who could read their teachings
aright) the future is constantly indicated. For, as the waves which
permeate the ether could only be situated as they actually are at
any moment through past processes, each one of which is con-
sequently indicated by those ethereal waves, so also there can
be but one series of events in the future as the sequel of the rela-
tions actually indicated by the ethereal undulations. These,
therefore, speak as definitely and distinctly of the future as of the
past. Could we but rid us of the gross habiliments of flesh, and
by some new Fenses be enabled to feel each order of ethereal un-
dulations, even of those only which reach our earth, all knowledge
of the past and future would be within our power. The con-
sciousness of this underlies the fancies of Swedenborg, just as it
underlies the thought of him who sang —

There's not an orb which thou beholdst
But in bis motion like an angel sings,
Still quiring to the yoimg^yed cherubim.
But while this muddy vesture of 4ecay
Both grossly close us in, we cannot hear it



Digitized by



Google



28l



A TALE OF A TELEGRAM.
BY JAMES PAYN.

I DO not as a rule engage in commercial speculation ; but my dear
friend Jones insisted with such eloquence upon the success that
must indubitably follow upon the establishment of the Great
Butter Company — an association formed for the manufacture of
that commodity out of a material which shall be nameless, but
which was by no means so precarious and open to adulteration as
cream, and the supply of which was practically inexhaustible — that
I suffered the name of Martingale to appear, for a consideration, on
the list of directors.

It is a name well known in society, and was up to that time
untainted by connection with trade ; unless, indeed, the swopping
and sale of chargers — for which I will back myself against any
cavalry oflBcer in Her Majesty's service — may be considered by the
pedantic as coming under that head. As for the City, I knew
nothing more about it than that it was a locality lying east of Cox's,
the army agent's, which was the limit of my personal experience in
that direction. I have always breathed quite another atmosphere —
that of Pall Mall ; I wish I could say a purer one ; but the fact is,
that the atmosphere of the smoking-rooms both at ' the Eag ' and
the * Junior ' are, towards the small hours of the morning, when
my own day is by no means finished, something appalling. I had
three hundred a year for directing the Butter Company ; and it
was far easier work, I am bound to say, than were the old duties in
my regiment, for which I was paid a precisely similar sum. Once
a month the chairman called for me in his brougham, and
deposited me at the offices in Comhill, where, after an excellent
luncheon (of which our butter formed no ingredient), I attached
my autograph to certain documents ; a proceeding which, I believe,
is technically termed ' passing the accounts.' There were some
persons of my acquaintance and profession — ^persons I have reason
to believe who had themselves applied for directorships, and faile d



Digitized by



Google



282 THE G. B. C.

— who did not scruple to call the Great Butter Company a slippery
concern, and who affected to give me friendly counsel to get out
of it ; but I was too well accustomed to the system of military ex-
changes not to perceive their drift : their object was of course to
be gazetted in my stead. I listened to their jokes about * Martin-
gale the man of business ' every time I returned from an expedi-
tion to Comhill with even more than my usual good-nature, for I
had twenty-five golden reasons in my pocket — the directors were
paid monthly — for sticking to the Butter. And I believe the
Butter would have stuck to me, had it not been for my own fault —
if I can call that a fault which was the most extraordinary piece of
ill-fortune that ever befell a fellow, and solely through another
fellow's being too clever by half.

Well, I say the G. B. C. — as we who belong to it were ac-
customed to call it, as the chairman said, ' out of affection^ and
euphony,' but so far as I was concerned, for mere shortness — was a
little * talked about ' ; it had its detractors, and even its enemies.
People shook their heads at it (especially when they tasted the
butter), and prophesied we should not last ; and it was necessary
to advertise considerably to get new customers. Our business lay
rather with new ones than old ones, perhaps ; but it was gradually
getting spread over the country — though thinly spread, like butter
upon bread at school.

So long as we were harmonious amongst ourselves, said the chair-
man, or, at all events, washed our dirty linen at home — did not
attack one another in the papers, as so many boards of directors
are wont to — we should be all right; but if once there should be
mistrust of one another, he would not answer for the consequences.
* Let only the Great Butter Company be true to itself,' said he,
during the peroration of the most powerful speech I ever remember
to have heard from any man sitting^ ' and I do not hesitate to
aflSrm that the days of dairymen are numbered.' For though I
am still under an obligation of secrecy as to the material of which
our butter was composed, I may say it had nothing in conunon
with dairies — except a little water. Enough, however, of com-
mercial details.

When playing at pool in the early autmnn one night at the
Club, I had the misfortime to lose — ^neither my money nor my life,
for I am amazingly careful of both, but — my self-possession, and
somehow or other got inveigled into a promise to go down to old
Slowcombe's to shoot, upon the fibrst of October. It was a foolish
thing to do, for Slowcombe is a bore, and I happened to owe him
a little money ; and when a man is both a bore and a creditor, it
is intolerable to be imder the same roof with him, more especially



Digitized by



Google



THE G. B. C. 283

if it be his own. There were some excuses for me, for in the first
place there were so few men in town that we were obliged to ask
Slowcombe to make up the pool, and secondly, when one owes a
fellow money one is bound to be civil to him. We got talking of
pheasants, and the old fellow asked me if I liked pheasant-
shooting, and when I said yes, ' Then come,' said he, ' and have a
shy at mine.' I no more suspected Slowcombe of having any
pheasant-shooting to give away than of keeping a roulette-table at
Hampton Court races ; he was a stodgy, pursy, plethoric old fellow,
who had been in the yeomanry for a day or two (just to get a
qualification for the Club), and had then rested on his laurels. Still,
when a man farms his own land, there is always a temptation to
get something out of it, and it seemed he had grown pheasants.
I ought to have been more prudent, and I will another time, or
my name is not Martingale.

I am, however, a man of my word, and I never thought of
breaking my promise to Slowcombe, until I heard him ask another
man, and then another, to come down and enjoy themselves
among his covers, and both of them refused povnt-blank. They
did not owe him money, as I did ; but it struck me that they
were more decided in their negatives than the occasion demanded.

* Why don't you go down to poor old Slowcombe's ? ' said I
to one of them, a man I should have liked as a companion in such
an expedition : * he means well and is quite harmless.'

* Harmless I By Jove I that is just what he isn't,' was the un-
expected reply. * Why, last year was the first, according to his
own confession, that he ever took gun in hand, and he shot Brooks
of ours in the leg at fifteen yards in one of his own turnip-fields.
You don't mean to say you never heard Brooks tell the story about
his leg, and how Slowcombe made game of it ? '

I did not like to say that I myself had promised to go down to
Slowcombe's, but I made up my mind from that moment that I
wouldn't go. I am not a family man, but I respect myself, I hope,
as much as if I was ; and I wasn't going to be blown to pieces by an
old rhinoceros like that, in a field of swedes. My difficulty was
to find an excuse ; for the other men's refusals — and his own
knowledge perhaps of why they wouldn't come — had made Slow-
combe * touchy ' ; and when I had hinted that I couldn't be quite
sure of being with him on the First, he had made an allusion to
the little matter of business between us, which I felt to be equivalent
to * play or pay ' — Come to Ploughshire (for he lived among the
clodhoppers), or settle my account.

At last I hit upon a plan. He knew that I was connected
with the Great Butter Company, and bad often sounded me as to



Digitized by



Google



284 THE G, B, C

its prospects ; but I could never persuade him to invest in it. * If
it's such a real good thing, you had better stick to it yourself,
Martingale, and let nobody else in.' I didn't like the remark
about letting people in ; but I was not in a position to quarrel
with Slowcombe. He parted from me on the last day but one of
September, telling me he wanted twenty-four hours to get his guns
ready, and impressing upon me the best train by which to start
for Ploughshire on the morrow. The next morning (the 30th), I
wrote him this letter from the Club :

My dear Slowcombe, — ^I am exceedingly sorry to disappoint you — and still
more so to disappoint myself — ^but I regret to say that my proposed ^isit to you
has been knocked on the head. The enclosed telegram will explain itself. No-
thing but the most urgent business would have prevented my keeping my en-
gagement ; and I feel confident, from the ideas you have often expressed to me
respecting the necessity of attending strictly to the G. B. 0., I need no further
apology for my absence. You will, doubtless, have many another gun with
you, and if the phrase of ^ the more the merrier * can be applied to pheasant-
shooting, that of ' the fewer the better cheer * is certainly still more to the
purpose. A fuller bag will, I hope, compensate for the absence of yours most
faithfully,

Mabmadxjke Martingale.

Then leaving the envelope open, I. proceeded to concoct the tele-
gram:

From the Secretary of the Great Butter Company (Lunitad), Oomhill, to
Marmaduke Martingale, Esq., Military, Naval, and Militia Club, Pall Mall. —
Defalcations have been discovered in the Company's accounts. I am therefore
compelled to summon an extraordinary meeting of the Board of Directors for
Wednesday next, when your presence will be indispensable.

I gave this composition to the Club commissionaire, an active,
intelligent fellow whom I had often employed, and sent him oflF
to the nearest telegraph office. I calculated that it would return
to me — in telegraphic form — in about a quarter of an hour at
furthest. But as it happened, it did not. I had an engagement
for that afternoon at Hurlingham, and was obliged to leave the
Club before the arrival of the expected document. However, as I
knew it must come, and could place the utmost confidence in the
porter, I left my letter with him, instructing him to place the
telegram inside it as soon as it came to hand, and then to post it.

The next morning, I found upon inquiry that this had been
done, and thought no more about the matter. The day after, a
note, as I had expected, arrived from Slowcombe ; the contents of
which, however, I did not expect :

Sir, — I am astonished that you should have the assurance to send me that
telegram from your place of business. If you imagine because your secretary
has ' bolted,' and the ' blessed concern ' (as your friend terms what I had un-



Digitized by



Google



THE a B. a 283

derstood from yofl to be a sound comjuercial association) has ' burst up/ that
I shall not be disposed to press for my hundred pounds, you are very much
mistaken. I have placed the matter in the hands of my solicitor, and re*
main — Yours obediently,

Thohab Slowcombe.

Had I taken leave of my own senses, or had Slowcombe taken
leave of his ? ' Bolted,' * burst up,' * blessed concern ' ? No such
words, I am sure, had ever been contained in my telegram.
What on earth did it all mean ? I did a thing which I had nevei
done before, except upon the first Monday in every month — 1
hurried to our place of business in the City as fast as a hansom
could take me; and found the shutters up. The office of the
G. B. C. was closed — just as though the Company had been de-
funct. Upstairs, however, I found the chairman looking at a
heap of bills and gnawing his moustache.

' This is a pretty piece of work, Captain Martingale,' said he ;

* and we have to thank you for it.'

' To thank rae ? ' cried I. * What do you mean ? Is everybody
gone mad ? I have done nothing — nothing.^

' Perhaps you didn't send a telegram to our secretary about
" defalcations ? " Here it is.' And he tossed pie over the mes-
sage I had sent from the secretary to myself — transposed. That
respectable and intelligent commissionaire had, it seemed, taken
it for granted that I had made a mistake in sending a telegram
to myself, and substituted the word ' from ' for * to,' and * to ' for
' from.' He tliought, doubtless, he was doing a very clever thing,
and one for which I should be much indebted to him.

The secretary really had, it seems, ' defalcated ' in a small
way, and' getting my telegram (instead of my getting Ms), he
thought all was discovered, so laid his hands on everything he
could, and decamped. It was the chairman himself who had
wired the news to me in that familiar style, which had so incensed
Slowcombe : * Our secretary has bolted, and the blessed concern
has burst up.'

The Great Butter Company, in fact, was nowhere, thanks to
my little device for avoiding pheasant-shooting. The secretarj
would probably never have fled, but only have gone on defalcating
slowly, but for my alarming message: as it was, everything was
precipitated, including the compulsory payment of my debt to
Slowcombe. It was altogether a miserable fiasco ; and when I
hear fellows talking about the splendid results of civilisation, and

* Look at the electric telegraph, for example 1 ' and * the corps of

commissionaires!' I say to myself But never mind what I

say. I have told enough to make it understood why I should
not agree with them*



Digitized by



Google



286



<Bmp^ onb €mvk^ at out €luB StSStntioti].

UY AN OLD ENTHUSIAST AND A TOUNG CYNIC.

No. I.— POOR LIZZIE.

You swear I loved you dearly once —

Perhaps ! my pretty Lizzie ;
But then was then — and now is now :

I'm busy — rery busy !

You'd like to have a thousand pounds !

Good girl, your brain is dizzy !
But mine is calm, and knows the world :

I'm busy — ^very busy !

You'll try your rights ! you'll go to law !

Your lawyer's clever ! j& he ?
Well ! give the man my best respects,

I'm busy — very busy !

No. II.— PROGRESS.

We travel faster than we did

A hundred years ago,
And send by wire and not by road

Our messages of woe :
Or else the price of stocks and shares

And wool and calico.
We conquer Time, make hght of Space,

And every passing day
Snatch some new force from Nature's hand.

And teach it to obey.
But are we happier than our sires,

Or brave and good as they ?
Speak up, old History ! tell the truth !

Give us the yea — or nay !



Digiti



ized by Google



QUIPS AND CRANKS, 287



[No. III.— AN ADIEU.

Good-night, sweet Sorrow,

(Jntil to-morrow,
And then we shall dwell together again ;

I*ve known thee long,

Like a monmfnl song,

Till thou'st grown a part

Of my innermost heart.
And a nestling bird on my pillow of pain.

Sweet little Sorrow,
Come back to-morrow ;
I've learned to love thee — ^remain, remain !

No. IV.— A DIALOGUE.

IN DEEP WATER :

Fair- WEATHER friends, that sought mo onco,

I fail to reach the shore ;
Thick darkness shrouds the face of heaven,

And angry tempests roar.
Idle is all your good advice :

I want a rope — a hand —
A heart — a will — ^a little skill

To draw me to the land.

THE FAIR-WEATHER FRIENDS :

Rope, did you say ? wo have no rope ;

Wo drove you not to sea ;
You drifted out into the storm :

Drift out of it, say we !

No. v.— DUBIOUS.

How can an earnest man be born
In an age of jest and scoim,
That mocks at greatness if it comes,
Or noses it with twiddling thumbs ?



Online LibraryM. E. (Mary Elizabeth) BraddonBelgravia → online text (page 30 of 53)