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happier than ever I was; but if the old store-room, with the big linen-presses, and the long china-press with upper doors of wire-screen, the long table and square mahogany and leather arm-chairs and sofa, gives to the occupants to-day half the pleasure it always gave me, they are not to be pitied whatever their fate.
The wide window looked out upon a hideous little street, but in front there was a stone terrace, with two huge eagles, where Mrs Clement kept pots of plants and flowers that, alas! never bloomed, watered she them never so sedulously; and above the terraces, if you ignored the sordid street, the sunset traced all its fairest and rarest effects upon the broad arch of heaven that spanned the street opening. Those Irish skies! you must go to Italy and Greece to find hues as heavenly. How many a sorrow unsuspected, that filled me with such intensity of despair as only childhood can feel, has been smoothed by that mysterious slip of sky between two dull rows of houses, against which in the liquid summer of blue dusk the eagles, with all the lovely significance of a romantic image, were sketched in sculptured stone. I dried my eyes to dream of lands where eagles flew as common as sparrows. I cannot now tell why, but I remember well that I grew to associate that distant glimpse of heaven from the old store-room with the isle of Prospero and Miranda. And when I learnt the Sonnets-which I knew by heart, as well as "The Tempest" and "The Merchant of Venice" before the holidays
were over I always found some strange connection between the abortive, sickly cowslips and primroses Mrs Clement cultivated on her terrace in wooden boxes and those magic lines"From you have I been absent in the spring,
When proud-pied April, dressed in all his trim,
Hath put a spirit of youth in everything."
What can it be that poetry says to children, since they can neither understand the rhythm, nor metre, nor beauty, nor sentiment of it? And the child who (as I was then) is susceptible to the charm of poetry that sweeps through the infinite, weeps with delicious emotion without the ghost of an idea why. I was but a child of nine, when my sister in response to my prayer, with my cheek still stinging from that blow along the Warwick road, opened the fairyland of Shakespeare to me. With a rapture I would I now could feel, I thrilled to the glamour of the moonlight scene of the "Merchant." We never went to bed without rehearsing it, each in turn being Jessica or Lorenzo. I only remember one other sensation as passionate and vivid and absorbing, my first hearing of the Moonlight Sonata, also at an age when it was perfectly impossible that I should understand more than a mouse or a linnet a particle of its beauty or meaning. Yet there they stand out in extraordinary relief from a confusion of childish impressions, two distinct moments of inexplicable ecstasy, the reveries of Lorenzo and Jessica and the impassioned utterance of the master's soul in
the divinest of sound played, possibly not well, by my eldest sister's governess in a soft summer twilight so long ago.
Meanwhile I have left Mrs Clement, excited and pathetic, holding my thin little visage in the cup of her folded palms. She was just as faded and fair and melancholy as ever, and the same young man's head showed in the brooch frame on the unchanged black silk gown. She kissed me several times, and stroked my hair, and expressed amazement at the change in me. And while she, dear kindly soul, was only thinking of me, there was I, volatile little rascal, looking around me, delighted to see again the beautiful big red-andwhite cups, and smell the spices of the cupboard. Has tea, have bread - and - milk, ever tasted again as these modest luxuries tasted in those beautiful cups? The very remembrance of them brings the water of envy to the mouth of age. I forget the miseries of childhood only to recall the pleasure I took in that warm and rich pottery, and the brilliant effect of bowls and plates and cups upon the morning and evening damask.
And that first night at home, four little girls sleeping together in two large beds, three nightdressed forms perched on a single bed, while I, the stranger returned from abroad, mimicked Mr Parker for their shrieking delight, and held my nightdress high up on either side to perform the famous curtsey of Queen Anne. And then a furious shout outside the landing, and my mother's
"What's the meaning of that
noise? Go to sleep instantly, or I'll come in and whip you all round.”
A sudden scamper of whiterobed limbs, and in a twinkling four heads are hidden under the sheets. Silence down the corridors, silence throughout the high old house; only the breathing of night, and four little heads are again bobbing over the pillows.
"Oh, I say, Angela, we didn't tell you, there's a new baby upstairs. Susanna! Did you ever hear of such a name? Everybody has pretty names but us. Birdie was so jealous when it came, because nurse said her nose would be out of joint, that she tried to smash its head with a poker one day. She was caught in time."
And so there was. Another lamentable little girl born into this improvident dolorous vale of Irish misery. Elsewhere boys are born in plenty. In Ireland,
the very wretchedest land on earth for woman, the one spot of the globe where no provision is made for her, and where parents consider themselves as exempt of all duty, of tenderness, of justice in her regard, where her lot as daughter, wife, and old maid bears no resemblance to the ideal of civilisation, a dozen girls are born for one boy. The parents moan, and being fatalists as well as Catholics, reflect that it is the will of God, as if they were not in the least responsible; and while they assure you that they have not wherewith to fill an extra mouth, which is inevitably true, they continue to produce their twelve, fifteen, or twenty infants with alarming and in
indulged himself in that isolation from society which we have heard ladies with HighChurch tendencies describe as a Retreat.
We had occasion to notice that he was sufficiently weatherwise to select for the purpose one of those days which a fisherman's almanac might specify as being good for neither man nor beast. On such a day, wrapped up in a dressinggown before a comfortable fire, he would invite the respectful sympathy of his family, who quite entered into the spirit of the thing and understood that the master of the house expected to be cosseted, posseted, and generally made much of. Brandy-gruel and favourite titbits were administered at seemly intervals, and though we do not remember that straw was laid down in the street or that the doorknocker was muffled, a discreet parlour-maid was careful to whisper her answers to inquiring visitors with all the gravity due to so solemn an occasion.
"It is one of master's bad days, sir, and I am afraid you cannot see him."
The visitor had no cause for being unduly anxious. Experience would have taught him that if the next day was fine and bright the phoenix would rise from its ashes, and a rejuvenated Æson would gladden the hearts of his countrymen by discarding the dressing-gown and resuming the ordinary garb and habits of a vigorous nineteenth-century Englishman.
Most men, however, seem to view the advance of age from what we may call an objective point of view, critically studying the performances of their elders or contemporaries, and regulating their own line of conduct accordingly. We know one man, for instance, who for years past has never omitted to greet our own appearance in the cricket-field with the same remark, slightly personal, but always well-meant "Awfully glad to see you playing here to-day, old fellow; you know that you are ever so much older than I am." And this puts us upon our mettle at once. For do we not feel that we are for the nonce serving as an object-lesson, and that there is somebody on the ground who is, if possible, even more keenly interested in our success than we are ourselves? And we can go home and sleep the sleep of the just that night, buoyed up by the conviction that while others may have noted our shortcomings, and possibly resented the presence of an old fossil on the side, one man at any rate has been equally ready to observe any redeeming features in our play. There is a species of satisfaction even in the thought that we have one trumpeter surviving; for we know that for months to come he will find in our humble self a precedent for not giving up all semblance of juvenility, and that if any contemporary less energetic than himself ventures to suggest that cricket is a young man's game, an answer will be ready on his tongue.
"Too old to play cricket? What nonsense! Why, I met old What's-his-name playing the other day, and he got a heap of runs, and he's years older than I am."
If the pair of us, the veterans of our side, have been fair subject for criticism on the part of our juniors, how shrewdly in our turn have we watched the performances of the youngsters, half fancying that in our prime we were better men than they are now; sure in our own mind that in the years to come few of them will feel as vigorous as we feel ourselves to-day, sceptical perhaps as to the absolute superiority of young steel over old iron. And if it so happen that by any chance Ulysses, favoured by the goddess, temporarily seems to regain his pristine strength and to bend the bow with more ease than Telemachus, how sweet the triumph, how unbounded the satisfaction to feel that there is some life in the old dog yet? We are both of us on the best of terms with Anno Domini for weeks to come, and so far from feeling oppressed by weight of years, inclined to give ourselves credit for more of them than we are really carrying.
But to reverse the picture, and regard the object-lesson from another point of view. On those bad days which come only too often, when time and everything else seems to be thoroughly out of joint, when the wind blows from the east or the ground is slippery, when the eye is faulty, and the muscles refuse to work pro
VOL. CLXV.-NO. M.
perly, when the catches are dropped and the ball will persist in going between our legs, when, as a climax to our misfortunes, some volatile young gentleman is kind enough to run us out-who so grieved as our trumpeter? In the fall of Hector-this reads rather as if there were two trumpeters, but we must pose as his Hector just for this once he foresees the ruin of Troy, in our discomfiture he recognises his own fate, and that night he goes home very sorry for himself. We will hope that he may find some comfort in the thought that we really, after all, are "years older than he is, and so thinking, may postpone the sale of his bat and pads for a period, at all events.
But Anno Domini has also, from the objective point of view, a sadder tale to tell. Some ten years ago we sat up smoking well into the small hours of the night in the company of an old army man, who had received his commission in or about the year that 'Maga first saw daylight. Time had dealt kindly with him; he was upright as a dart, in full possession of all his faculties, a brilliant pianist, and a most cheery and interesting companion. Suddenly, in the middle of a story of some
adventure he had met with early in the century, he interpolated, almost by way of apology, "Of course, all those fellows are dead now. It's a devilish odd thing, sir, but you've no idea how many of my contemporaries are dead;
in stupefied awe. I had been in a ship across the sea. I had traversed half of England in a railway-carriage. Had I seen an elephant ? Mary Jane wanted to know if I had seen the Queen.
No; but I had seen a naked lady, with beautiful golden hair down her back, ride through the town of Lysterby on a white pony, while twelve lovely pages in silver and gold and satin rode before, and twelve lovely maidens with long velvet cloaks lined with white satin rode behind her. This sounded as grand as a royal procession, and I glided ingeniously over the ignominy of having been to England and not having seen the Queen.
Mary Jane's mamma gave me a bowl of milk and a plate of arrowroot biscuits, and as I devoured them, with what a splendid air I recognised the old and faded views of New York! I scorned my past ignorance, and off-handedly mentioned that "You know, the sea isn't a bit like the pond." And then the search for a brilliant and captivating comparison-arm extended to suggest immensity; heaving wave, rolling ship.
"Isn't she wonderful?" they cried ; "and the fine language of her!"
From cottage to cottage, from shop to shop, I wandered, intoxicated by the incense of admiration. I embroidered fact and invented fiction with the readiness of the fanciful traveller. Sister Esmeralda became an unimaginable fiend, who had persecuted me as if I had been the heroine of the fairy-tale I
was acting, till the entire village was fit to rise and shout for her blood.
"The likes of that did you ever hear?" a gaunt peasant in corduroy would ask his neighbour in dismay.
"Troth and 'tis thim English as is a quare lot. Beat a little lady as is fit to rule the lot of them, and lock her up in dungeons along with spirits and goblins, and starve the life and soul out of her! Sure 'tis worse they are than in the days of Cromwell."
Naturally, in the amazing record of my experiences, the hidden bones and marble hand of my old friend, the White Lady of the Ivies, played a prominent and shuddering part.
Under the influence of such an audience, I tasted the fascinating results of suffering. I was in that brief week repaid for all the previous slights of fortune. I reposed in the lap of adulation, and turned my woes into a dramatic enjoyment. I had suffered; but the romantic activity of my imagination, with a natural mirthfulness of temperament, preserved me from the self-centred and subjective misery of the visionary, and from the embittering anguish of rancour. Once I had excited the local mind against Sister Esmeralda and the wretched superioress of the Ladies of Mercy, my anger against them vanished, and they simply remained in memory as picturesque instruments of misfortune. But for the moment I was too full of the joy of living for anything like morbid selfpity. I preferred to loll on the grass beside Bessy the apple