Lippincott's Magazine of Popular Literature and Science, Vol. XVI., December, 1880 online

. (page 11 of 20)
Online LibraryVariousLippincott's Magazine of Popular Literature and Science, Vol. XVI., December, 1880 → online text (page 11 of 20)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

I mentioned _The Stranger_ a few lines back, and the contrast of the
two plays shows how much lighter and more delicate French art is. The
humor to be found in _The Stranger_ is, to say the least, Teutonic; and
German humor is like the simple Italian wines: it will not stand export.
And in _The Stranger_ there is really no character, no insight into
human nature. _Misanthropy and Repentance_, as Kotzebue called his play
(_The Stranger_ was Sheridan's title for the English translation he
revised for his own theatre), are loud-sounding words when we capitalize
them, but they do not deceive us now: we see that the play itself is
mostly stalking sententiousness, mawkishly overladen with gush. But in
_Froufrou_ there is wit of the latest Parisian kind, and there are
characters - people whom we might meet and whom we may remember. Brigard,
for one, the reprobate old gentleman, living even in his old age in that
Bohemia which has Paris for its capital, and dyeing his few locks
because he feels himself unworthy to wear gray hair, - Brigard is a
portrait from life. The Baron de Cambri is less individual, and I
confess I cannot quite stomach a gentleman who is willing to discuss the
problem of his wife's virtue with a chance adorer. But the cold Baronne
herself is no commonplace person. And Louise, the elder daughter of
Froufrou, the one who had chosen the better part and had kept it by much
self-sacrifice, - she is a true woman. Best, better even than Brigard, is
Gilberte, nicknamed "Froufrou" from the rustling of her silks as she
skips and scampers airily around. Froufrou, when all is said, is a real
creation, a revelation of Parisian femininity, a living thing, breathing
the breath of life and tripping along lightly on her own little feet.
Marrying a reserved yet deeply-devoted husband because her sister bid
her; taking into her home that sister, who had sacrificed her own love
for the husband; seeing this sister straighten the household which she
in her heedless seeking for idle amusement had not governed, then
beginning to feel herself in danger and aware of a growing jealousy,
senseless though it be, of the sister who has so innocently supplanted
her by her hearth, and even with her child; making one effort to regain
her place, and failing, as was inevitable, - poor Froufrou takes the
fatal plunge which will for ever and at once separate her from what was
hers before. What a fine scene is that at the end of the third act, in
which Froufrou has worked herself almost to a frenzy, and, hopeless in
her jealousy, gives up all to her sister and rushes from the house to
the lover she scarcely cares for! And how admirably does all that has
gone before lead up to it! These first three acts are a wonder of
constructive art. Of the rest of the play it is hard to speak so highly.
The change is rather sudden from the study of character in the first
part to the demand in the last that if you have tears you must prepare
to shed them now. The brightness is quenched in gloom and despair. Of a
verity, frivolity may be fatal, and death may follow a liking for
private theatricals and the other empty amusements of fashion; but is it
worth while to break a butterfly on the wheel and to put a humming-bird
to the question? To say what fate shall be meted out to the woman taken
in adultery is always a hard task for the dramatist. Here the erring and
erratic heroine comes home to be forgiven and to die, and so after the
fresh and unforced painting of modern Parisian life we have a finish
full of conventional pathos. Well, death redeems all, and, as Pascal
says, "the last act is always tragedy, whatever fine comedy there may
have been in the rest of life. We must all die alone."



Cyrus the king in royal mood
Portioned his gifts as seemed him good:
To Artabasus, proud to hold
The priceless boon, a cup of gold -
A rare-wrought thing: its jewelled brim
Haloed a nectar sweet to him.
No flavor fine it seemed to miss;
But when the king stooped down, a kiss
To leave upon Chrysantas' lips,
The jewels paled in dull eclipse
To Artabasus: hard and cold
And empty grew the cup of gold.
"Better, O Sire, than mine," cried he,
"I deem Chrysantas' gift to be."
Yet the wise king his courtiers knew,
And unto each had given his due.

To all who watch and all who wait
The king will come, or soon or late.
Choose well: thy secret wish is known,
And thou shalt surely have thine own -
A golden cup thy poor wealth's sign,
Or on thy lips Love's seal divine.



"I have taken you at your word, you see, Miss Mackenzie. You told me not
to give alms in the street, and to bring the begging children to you. So
here is one now."

Thus introduced, the begging child was pushed forward into the room by
the speaker, a lady who was holding her by one shoulder.

She was a stunted, slim creature, that might have been any age from nine
to fourteen, barefooted and bareheaded, and wearing a Rob Roy tartan
frock. She entered in a sidelong way that was at once timid and
confidently independent, and stared all round her with a pair of large
brown eyes. She did not seem to be in the least frightened, and when
released by her guardian stood at ease comfortably on one foot, tucking
the other away out of sight among the not too voluminous folds of her

It was close on twelve o'clock of a March day in the poor sewing-women's
workroom in Drummond street. The average number of women of the usual
sort were collected together - a depressed and silent gathering. It
seemed as if the bitter east wind had dulled and chilled them into a
grayer monotony of look than usual, so that they might be in harmony
with the general aspect which things without had assumed at its grim
bidding. A score or so of wan faces looked up for a minute, but the
child, after all, had nothing in her appearance that was calculated to
repay attention, and the lady was known to them all. So "white seam"
reasserted its old authority without much delay.

Miss Mackenzie laid down the scissors which she had been using on a bit
of coarse cotton, and advanced in reply to the address of the newcomer.
"How do you do? and where did you pick up this creature?" she asked,
looking curiously at the importation.

"Near George IV. Bridge, on this side of it, and I just took hold of her
and brought her off to you at once. I don't believe" - this was said
_sotto voce_ - "that she has a particle of clothing on her but that

"Very likely. - What is your name, my child?"

"Baubie Wishart, mem." She spoke in an apologetic tone, glancing down at
her feet, the one off duty being lowered for the purpose of inspection,
which over, she hoisted the foot again immediately into the recesses of
the Rob Roy tartan.

"Have you a father and mother?"

"Yes, mem."

"What does your father do?"

Baubie Wishart glanced down again in thought for an instant, then raised
her eyes for the first time directly to her questioner's face: "He used
to be a Christy man, but he canna be that any longer, sae he goes wi'

"Why cannot he be a Christy man any longer?"

Down came the foot once more, and this time took up its position
permanently beside the other: "Because mother drinks awfu', an' pawned
the banjo for drink." This family history was related in the most
matter-of-fact, natural way.

"And does your father drink too?" asked Miss Mackenzie after a short

Baubie Wishart's eyes wandered all round the room, and with one toe she
swept up a little mass of dust before she answered in a voice every tone
of which spoke unwilling truthfulness, "Just whiles - Saturday nichts."

"Is _he_ kind to you?"

"Ay," looking up quickly, "excep' just whiles when he's fou - Saturday
nichts, ye ken - and then he beats me; but he's rale kind when he's

"Were you ever at school?"

"No, mem," with a shake of the head that seemed to convey that she had
something else, and probably better, to do.

"Did you ever hear of God?" asked the lady who had brought her.

"Ay, mem," answered Baubie quite readily: "it's a kind of a bad word I
hear in the streets."

"How old are you?" asked both ladies simultaneously.

"Thirteen past," replied Baubie, with a promptness that made her
listeners smile, suggesting as it did the thought that the question had
been put to her before, and that Baubie knew well the import of her

She grew more communicative now. She could not read, but, all the same,
she knew two songs which she sang in the streets - "Before the Battle"
and "After the Battle;" and, carried away by the thought of her own
powers, she actually began to give proof of her assertion by reciting
one of them there and then. This, however, was stopped at once. "Can
knit too," she added then.

"Who taught you to knit?"

"Don' know. Wis at a Sunday-schuil too."

"Oh, you were? And what did you learn there?"

Baubie Wishart looked puzzled, consulted her toes in vain, and then
finally gave it up.

"I should like to do something for her," observed her first friend: "it
is time this street-singing came to an end."

"She is intelligent, clearly," said Miss Mackenzie, looking curiously at
the child, whose appearance and bearing rather puzzled her. There was
not a particle of the professional street-singer about Baubie Wishart,
the child of that species being generally clean-washed, or at least
soapy, of face, with lank, smooth-combed and greasy hair; and usually,
too, with a smug, sanctimonious air of meriting a better fate. Baubie
Wishart presented none of these characteristics: her face was simply
filthy; her hair was a red-brown, loosened tangle that reminded one
painfully of oakum in its first stage. And she looked as if she deserved
a whipping, and defied it too. She was just a female arab - an arab
_plus_ an accomplishment - bright, quick and inconsequent as a sparrow,
and reeking of the streets and gutters, which had been her nursery.

"Yes," continued the good lady, "I must look after her."

"Poor little atom! I suppose you will find out where the parents live,
and send the school-board officer to them. That is the usual thing, is
it not? I must go, Miss Mackenzie. Good-bye for to-day. And do tell me
what you settle for her."

Miss Mackenzie promised, and her friend took her departure.

"Go and sit by the fire, Baubie Wishart, for a little, and then I shall
be ready to talk to you."

Nothing loath apparently, Baubie established herself at the end of the
fender, and from that coign of vantage watched the on-goings about her
with the stoicism of a red Indian. She showed no symptom of wonder at
anything, and listened to the disquisitions of Miss Mackenzie and the
matron as to the proper adjustment of parts - "bias," "straights,"
"gathers," "fells," "gussets" and "seams," a whole new language as it
unrolled its complexities before her - with complacent indifference.

At last, all the web of cotton being cut up, the time came to go. Miss
Mackenzie buttoned up her sealskin coat, and pulling on a pair of warm
gloves beckoned Baubie, who rose with alacrity: "Where do your father
and mother live?"

"Kennedy's Lodgings, in the Gressmarket, mem."

"I know the place," observed Miss Mackenzie, to whom, indeed, most of
these haunts were familiar. "Take me there now, Baubie."

They set out together. Baubie trotted in front, turning her head,
dog-fashion, at every corner to see if she were followed. They reached
the Grassmarket at last, and close to the corner of the West Bow found
an entry with the whitewashed inscription above it, "Kennedy's
Lodgings." Baubie glanced round to see if her friend was near, then
vanished upward from her sight. Miss Mackenzie kilted her dress and
began the ascent of the stairs, the steps of which, hollowed out as they
were by the tread of centuries of human feet, afforded a not too safe

Arrived at the third floor, she found Baubie waiting for her,
breathless and panting.

"It's here," she said - "the big kitchen, mem."

A long, narrow passage lay before them, off which doors opened on all
sides. Precipitating herself at one of these doors, Baubie Wishart, who
could barely reach the latch, pushed it open, giving egress to a
confusion of noises, which seemed to float above a smell of cooking, in
which smell herrings and onions contended for the mastery.

It was a very large room, low-ceilinged, but well enough lighted by a
couple of windows, which looked into a close behind. The walls had been
whitewashed once upon a time, but the whitewash was almost lost to view
under the decorations with which it was overlaid. These consisted of
pictures cut out of the illustrated weekly papers or milliners' books.
All sorts of subjects were represented: fashion-plates hung side by side
with popular preachers and statesmen, race-horses and Roman Catholic
saints; red-and white-draped Madonnas elbowed the "full-dress" heroines
of the penny weeklies. It was a curious gallery, and a good many of the
works of art had the merit of being antique. Generations of flies had
emblazoned their deeds of prowess on the papers: streaks of
candle-grease bore witness to the inquiring turn of mind, attracted by
the letter-press, or the artistic proclivities of Kennedy's lodgers. It
was about two, the dinner-hour probably, which accounted for the
presence of so many people in the room. Most, but not all, seemed to be
of the wandering class. They were variously employed. Some were sitting
on the truckle-beds that ran round the walls; one or two were knitting
or sewing; a cripple was mending baskets in one of the windows; and
about the fire a group were collected superintending the operations
which produced, though not unaided, the odors with which the room was

Miss Mackenzie stood for a few minutes, unnoticed apparently, looking
about her at the motley crowd. Baubie on entering the room had raised
herself for a second on tiptoe to look into a distant corner, and then,
remarking to herself, half audibly, "His boords is gane," subsided, and
contented herself with watching Miss Mackenzie's movements.

There seemed to be no one to do the honors. The inmates all looked at
each other for a moment hesitatingly, then resumed their various
occupations. A young woman, a sickly, livid-faced creature, rose from
her place behind the door, and, advancing with a halting step, said to
Miss Mackenzie, "Mistress Kennedy's no' in, an' Wishart's oot wi's

"I wanted to see him about this child, who was found begging in the
streets to-day."

Miss Mackenzie looked curiously at the woman, wondering if she could
belong in any way to the Wishart family. She was a miserable object,
seemingly in the last stage of consumption.

"Eh, mem," she answered hurriedly, and drawing nearer, "ye're a guid
leddy, I ken, an' tak' t' lassie away oot o' this. The mither's an awfu'
wuman: tak' her away wi' ye, or she'll sune be as bad. She'll be like
mysel' and the rest o' them here."

"I will, I will," Miss Mackenzie said, shocked and startled, recoiling
before the spirit-reeking breath of this warning spectre. "I will, I
will," she repeated hastily. There was no use remaining any longer. She
went out, beckoning to Baubie, who was busy rummaging about a bed at the
top of the room.

Baubie had bethought her that it was time to take her father his dinner.
So she slipped over to that corner of the big kitchen which was allotted
to the Wishart family and possessed herself of a piece of a loaf which
was hidden away there. As she passed by the fire she profited by the
momentary abstraction of the people who were cooking to snap up and make
her own a brace of unconsidered trifles in the shape of onions which
were lying near them. These, with the piece of bread, she concealed on
her person, and then returned to Miss Mackenzie, who was now in the

"Baubie," said that lady, "I will send some one here about you. Now,
don't let me hear of your singing in the streets or begging again. You
will get into trouble if you do."

She was descending the stairs as she spoke, and she turned round when
she had reached the entry: "You know the police will take you, Baubie."

"Yes, mem," answered Baubie, duly impressed.

"Well, now, I am going home. Stay: are you hungry?"

Without waiting for her answer, Miss Mackenzie entered a tiny shop close
by, purchased a mutton-pie and handed it to Baubie Wishart, who received
it with wondering reverence. Miss Mackenzie took her way home westward
up the Grassmarket. She turned round before leaving it by way of King's
Stables, and caught sight of Bauble's frock by the entry of Kennedy's
Lodgings - a tiny morsel of color against the shadow of the huge gray
houses. She thought of the big kitchen and its occupants, and the face
and words of the poor girl, and promised herself that she would send the
school-board officer to Kennedy's Lodgings that very night.

Baubie waited till her friend was well out of sight: then she hid her
mutton-pie in the same place with the onions and the piece of bread, and
started up the Grassmarket in her turn. She stopped at the first shop
she passed and bought a pennyworth of cheese. Then she made her way to
the Lothian road, and looked up and down it anxiously in search of the
walking advertisement-man. He was not there, so she directed her course
toward Princes street, and after promenading it as far east as the
Mound, she turned up into George street, and caught sight of her father
walking along slowly by the curbstone. It was not long before she
overtook him.

"Od, lassie, I wis thinkin' lang," he began wearily as soon as he
realized her apparition. Baubie did not wait for him to finish: with a
peremptory nod she signified her will, and he turned round and followed
her a little way down Hanover street. Then Baubie selected a flight of
steps leading to a basement store, and throwing him a look of command
flitted down and seated herself at the bottom. It was sheltered from
the cold wind and not too much overlooked. Wishart shifted the boards
from about his shoulders, and, following her, laid them against the wall
at the side of the basement-steps, and sat down heavily beside her. He
was a sickly-looking man, sandy-haired, with a depressed and shifty
expression of face - not vicious, but weak and vacillating. Baubie seemed
to have the upper hand altogether: every gesture showed it. She opened
the paper that was wrapped about her fragment of rank yellow cheese,
laid it down on the step between them, and then produced, in their order
of precedence, the pie, the onions and the bread.

"Wha gied ye that?" asked Wishart, gazing at the mutton-pie.

"A leddy," replied Baubie, concisely.

"An' they?" pointing to the onions.

A nod was all the answer, for Baubie, who was hungry, was busy breaking
the piece of loaf. Wishart with great care divided the pie without
spilling much more than half its gravy, and began on his half of it and
the biggest onion simultaneously. Baubie ate up her share of pie,
declined cheese, and attacked her onion and a great piece of crust. The
crust was very tough, and after the mutton-pie rather dry and tasteless,
and she laid it down presently in her lap, and after a few minutes'
passive silence began: "That," nodding at the cheese, or what was left
of it rather, "wis all I got - ae penny. The leddy took me up till a
hoose, an' anither are that wis there came doon hame and gaed in ben,
an' wis speirin' for ye, an' says she'll gie me till the polis for
singin' an' askin' money in t' streets, an' wants you to gie me till her
to pit in schuil."

She stopped and fixed her eyes on him, watching the effect of her words.
Wishart laid down his bread and cheese and stared back at her. It seemed
to take some time for his brain to realize all the meaning of her
pregnant speech.

"Ay," he said after a while, and with an effort, "I maun tak' ye to
Glasgae, to yer aunt. Ye'll be pit in schuil if yer caught."

"I'll no bide," observed Baubie, finishing off her onion with a
grimace. The raw onion was indeed strong and hot, even for Bauble's not
too epicurean palate, but it had been got for nothing - a circumstance
from which it derived a flavor which many people more dainty than Bauble
Wishart find to be extremely appetizing.

"Bide!" echoed her father: "they'll mak' ye bide. Gin I had only the
banjo agen!" sighed the whilom Christy man, getting up and preparing to
adjust the boards once more.

The last crumb of the loaf was done, and Bauble, refreshed, got up too.
"Whenll ye be hame?" she questioned abruptly when they had reached the
top of the steps.

"Seven. Gaeway hame wi' ye, lassie, noo. Ye didna see _her_?" he
questioned as he walked off.

"Na," replied Bauble, standing still and looking about her as if to
choose which way she should take.

He sighed deeply, and moved off slowly on his way back to his post, with
the listless, hopeless air that seems to belong to the members of his

Bauble obeyed her parent's commands in so far as that she did go home,
but as she took Punch and Judy in her course up the Mound, and diverged
as far as a football match in the Meadows, it was nearly seven before
Kennedy's Lodgings saw her again.

The following morning, shortly after breakfast, Miss Mackenzie's butler
informed her that there was a child who wanted to speak with her in the
hall. On going down she found Bauble Wishart on the mat.

"Where is your father? and why did he not come with you?" asked Miss
Mackenzie, puzzled.

"He thoucht shame to come an' speak wi' a fine leddy like you." This
excuse, plausible enough, was uttered in a low voice and with downcast
eyes, but hardly was it pronounced when she burst out rapidly and
breathlessly into what was clearly the main object of her visit: "But
please, mem, he says he'll gie me to you if ye'll gie him the three
shillin's to tak' the banjo oot o' the pawn."

This candid proposal took Miss Mackenzie's breath away. To become the
owner of Baubie Wishart, even at so low a price, seemed to her rather a
heathenish proceeding, with a flavor of illegality about it to boot.
There was a vacancy at the home for little girls which might be made
available for the little wretch without the necessity of any preliminary
of this kind; and it did not occur to her that it was a matter of any
moment whether Mr. Wishart continued to exercise the r√іle of
"sandwich-man" or returned to his normal profession of banjo-player.
Baubie was to be got hold of in any case. With the muttered adjuration
of the wretched girl in Kennedy's Lodgings echoing in her ears, Miss
Mackenzie determined that she should be left no longer than could be
helped in that company.

How earnest and matter of fact she was in delivering her extraordinary
errand! thought Miss Mackenzie to herself, meeting the eager gaze of
Baubie Wishart's eyes, looking out from beneath her tangle of hair like
those of a Skye terrier.

"I will speak to your father myself, Baubie - tell him so - to-morrow,
perhaps: tell him I mean to settle about you myself. Now go."

The least possible flicker of disappointment passed over Baubie's face.
The tangled head drooped for an instant, then she bobbed by way of adieu
and vanished.

That day and the next passed before Miss Mackenzie found it possible to
pay her long-promised visit to Mr. Wishart, and when, about eleven in
the forenoon, she once more entered the big kitchen in Kennedy's
Lodgings, she was greeted with the startling intelligence that the whole
Wishart family were in prison.

The room was as full as before. Six women were sitting in the middle of
the floor teasing out an old hair mattress. There was the same odor of
cooking, early as it was, and the same medley of noises, but the people
were different. The basket-making cripple was gone, and in his place by
the window sat a big Irish beggar-woman, who was keeping up a
conversation with some one (a compatriot evidently) in a window of the
close behind.

The mistress of the house came forward. She was a decent-looking little
woman, but had rather a hard face, expressive of care and anxiety. On
recognizing her visitor she curtsied: "The Wisharts, mem? Yes, they're
a' in jail."

"All in jail?" echoed Miss Mackenzie. "Will you come outside and speak
to me? There are so many people - "

"Eh yes, mem: I'm sure ye fin' the room closs. Eh yes, mem, the Wisharts
are a' in the lock-up."

They were standing outside in the passage, and Mrs. Kennedy held the
door closed by the latch, which she kept firmly grasped in her hand. It

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 11 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

Online LibraryVariousLippincott's Magazine of Popular Literature and Science, Vol. XVI., December, 1880 → online text (page 11 of 20)