20000 Free eBooks
Library for Free Download eBooks and Read Online

Your last book:

You dont read books at this site.

Total books at library:
about 20000

You can read online and download ebooks for free!

Ebooks by authors: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 
Chambers, William / Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, No. 441 Volume 17, New Series, June 12, 1852


No. 441. NEW SERIES. SATURDAY, JUNE 12, 1852. PRICE 1-1/2_d._


It is with a feeling doubtless somewhat analogous to that of the
angler, that the London shopkeeper from time to time regards the
moneyless crowds who throng in gaping admiration around the tempting
display he makes in his window. His admirers and the fish, however,
are in different circumstances: the one won't bite if they have no
mind; the others can't bite if they should have all the mind in the
world. Yet the shopkeeper manages better than the angler; for while
the fish are deaf to the charming of the latter, charm he never so
wisely, the former is able, at a certain season of the year, to
convert the moneyless gazers into ready-money customers. This he does
by the force of logic. 'You are thinking of Christmas,' says he--'yes,
you are; and you long to have a plum-pudding for that day--don't deny
it. Well, but you can't have it, think as much as you will; it is
impossible as you manage at present. But I'll tell you how to get the
better of the impossibility. In twenty weeks, we shall have Christmas
here: now if, instead of spending every week all you earn, you will
hand me over sixpence or a shilling out of your wages, I'll take care
of it for you, since you can't take care of it for yourself; and you
shall have the full value out of my shop any time in Christmas-week,
and be as merry as you like, and none the poorer.'

This logic is irresistible. Tomkins banks his 6d. for a plum-pudding
and the etceteras with Mr Allspice the grocer; and this identical
pudding he enjoys the pleasure of eating half-a-dozen times over in
imagination before the next instalment is due. He at length becomes so
fond of the flavour, that he actually--we know, for we have seen him
do it--he actually, to use his own expression, 'goes in for a goose'
besides with Mr Pluck the poulterer. Having once passed the Rubicon,
of course he cannot go back; the weekly sixpences must be paid, come
what will: it would be disgraceful to be a defaulter. So he practises
a little self-denial, for the sake of a little self-esteem--and the
goose and pudding in perspective. He finds, to his astonishment, that
he can do quite as much work with one pot of beer a day as he could
with two, and he drops the superfluous pot, and not only pays his
instalments to the Christmas-bank, but gets a spare shilling in his
pocket besides. Thus, under the tuition of the shopkeeper, he learns
the practice of prudence in provisioning his family with plum-pudding,
and imbibes the first and foremost of the household virtues, on the
same principle as a wayward child imbibes physic--out of regard to the
dainty morsel that is to come afterwards.

Passing one day last autumn through a long and populous thoroughfare
on the southern side of the Thames, we happened to light upon Mr
Allspice's appeal to the consciences and the pockets of the
pudding-eating public. 'If you are wise,' said the admonitory placard,
'you will lose no time in joining Allspice's Plum-pudding Club.'
Remembering the retort of a celebrated quack: 'Give me all the fools
that come this way for my customers, and you are welcome to the wise
men,' we must own we felt rather doubtful of the prosperity of the
puddings; but having an interest in the matter, we resolved,
notwithstanding, to ascertain, if possible, whether the Wisdom who
uttereth her voice in the streets had on this special occasion spoken
to any purpose, and whether any, and how many, had proved themselves
wise in the acceptation of Mr Allspice. On making the necessary
inquiries after the affair had gone off, we learned, to our surprise
and gratification, that the club had been entirely successful. Upwards
of a hundred persons of a class who are never worth half-a-crown at a
time, had subscribed 6d. a week each for eighteen weeks, and thus
entitled themselves to 9s. worth of plum-pudding ingredients, besides
a certain quantity of tea and sugar. Thus the club had prospered
exceedingly, and had been the instrument of introducing comfort and
festive enjoyment to no small number of persons who might, and in all
probability would, have had little to eat or drink, and, consequently,
little cause for merriment, at that season. This is really a very
pleasant fact to contemplate, connected though it be with a somewhat
ludicrous kind of ingenuity, which must be exercised in order to bring
it about. To anybody but a London shopkeeper, the attempt would appear
altogether hopeless, to transform a hundred poor persons, who were
never worth half-a-crown a piece from one year's end to the other,
into so many 9s. customers; and yet the thing is done, and done, too,
by the London grocer in a manner highly satisfactory, and still more
advantageous to his customers. Is it too much to imagine that the
lesson of provident forethought thus agreeably learned by multitudes
of the struggling classes--for these clubs abound everywhere in
London, and their members must be legion--have a moral effect upon at
least a considerable portion of them? If one man finds a hundred needy
customers wise enough to relish a plum-pudding of their own providing,
surely they will not _all_ be such fools as to repudiate the practice
of that very prudence which procured them the enjoyment, and brought
mirth and gladness to their firesides! Never think it! They shall go
on to improve, take our word for it; and having learned prudence from
plum-pudding, and generosity from goose--for your poor man is always
the first to give a slice or two of the breast, when he has it, to a
sick neighbour--they shall learn temperance from tea, and abstinence,
if they choose, from coffee, and ever so many other good qualities
from ever so many other good things; and from having been wise enough
to join the grocer's Plum-pudding Club, they shall end by becoming
prosperous enough to join the Whittington Club, or the Gresham Club,
or the Athenĉum Club, or the Travellers' Club; or the House of
Commons, or the House of Lords either, for all that you, or we, or
anybody else, can say or do to the contrary.

We know nothing of the original genius who first hit upon this mode of
indoctrinating the lower orders in a way so much to their advantage;
we hope, however, as there is little reason to doubt, that he found
his own account in it, and reaped his well-deserved reward. Whoever he
was, his example has been well followed for many years past. In the
poorer and more populous districts of the metropolis, this practice of
making provision for inevitable wants, by small subscriptions paid in
advance, prevails to a large extent. As winter sets in, almost every
provision-dealer, and other traders as well, proffers a compact to the
public, which he calls a club, though it is more of the nature of a
savings-bank, seeing that, at the expiration of the subscribing
period, every member is a creditor of the shop to the amount of his
own investments, and nothing more. Thus, besides the Plum-pudding
Clubs, there are Coal Clubs, by which the poor man who invests 1s. a
week for five or six of the summer months, gets a ton of good coal
laid in for the winter's consumption before the frost sets in and the
coal becomes dear. Then there is the Goose Club, which the wiser
members manage among themselves by contracting with a country dealer,
and thus avoid the tipsy consummation of the public-house, where these
clubs have mostly taken shelter. Again, there is the Twelfth-cake
Club, which comes to a head soon after Christmas, and is more of a
lottery than a club, inasmuch as the large cakes are raffled for, and
the losers, if they get anything, get but a big bun for their pains
and penalties. All these clubs, it will be observed, are plants of
winter-growth, or at least of winter-fruiting, having for their object
the provision of something desirable or indispensable in the winter
season. There is, however, another and a very different species of
club, infinitely more popular than any of the above, the operations of
which are aboundingly visible throughout the warm and pleasant months
of summer, and which may be, and sometimes is, called the Excursion

The Excursion Club is a provision which the working and labouring
classes of London have got up for themselves, to enable them to enjoy,
at a charge available to their scanty means, the exciting
pleasures--which are as necessary as food or raiment to their health
and comfort--of a change of air and scene. It is managed in a simple
way. The foreman of a workshop, or the father of a family in some
confined court, or perhaps some manageress of a troop of
working-girls, contracts with the owner of a van for the hire of his
vehicle and the services of a driver for a certain day. More
frequently still, the owner of the van is the prime mover in the
business, but then the trip is not so cheap. The members club their
funds, the men paying 1s. each, the wives, 6d., the children, 3d. or
4d.; and any poor little ragged orphan urchin, who may be hanging
about the workshop, gets accommodated with a borrowed jacket and
trousers, and a gratuitous face-washing from Mrs Grundy, and is taken
for nothing, and well fed into the bargain. The cost, something over a
guinea, is easily made up, and if any surplus remains, why, then, they
hire a fiddler to go along with them. On the appointed morning, at an
early hour, rain or shine, they flock to the rendezvous to the number
of forty or fifty--ten or a dozen more or less is a trifle not worth
mentioning. Each one carries his own provisions, and loaded with
baskets, cans, bottles, and earthen-jars, mugs and tea-kettles, in
they bundle, and off they jog--pans rattling, women chattering,
kettles clinking, children crowing, fiddle scraping, and men
smoking--at the rate of six or seven miles an hour, to Hampton Court
or Epping Forest. It is impossible for a person who has never
witnessed these excursions in the height of summer, to form an
adequate notion of the merry and exciting nature of the relaxation
they afford to a truly prodigious number of the hardworking classes.
Returning from Kingston to London one fine Monday morning in June
last, we met a train of these laughter-loaded vans, measuring a full
mile in length, and which must have consisted of threescore or more
vehicles, most of them provided with music of some sort, and adorned
with flowers and green boughs. As they shot one at a time past the
omnibus on which we sat, we were saluted by successive volleys of
mingled mirth and music, and by such constellations of merry-faced
mortals in St Monday garb, as would have made a sunshine under the
blackest sky that ever gloomed. Arrived at Hampton Court, the separate
parties encamp under the trees in Bushy Park, where they amuse
themselves the livelong day in innocent sports, for which your
Londoner has at bottom a most unequivocal and hearty relish. They
will most likely spend a few hours in wandering through the
picture-galleries in the palace, then take a stroll in the exquisite
gardens, where the young fellow who is thoughtless enough to pluck a
flower for his sweetheart, is instantly and infallibly condemned to
drag a heavy iron roller up and down the gravel-walk, to the amusement
of a thousand or two of grinning spectators. Having seen the palace
and the gardens, they pay a short visit, perhaps, to the monster
grape-vine, with its myriads of clusters of grapes, all of which Her
Gracious Majesty is supposed to devour; and then they return to their
dinner beneath some giant chestnut-tree in the park. The cloth is
spread at the foot of the huge trunk; the gashed joints of the
Sunday's baked meats, flanked by a very mountainous gooseberry pie,
with crusty loaves and sections of cheese and pats of butter, cut a
capital figure among the heterogeneous contribution of pitchers,
preserve-jars, tin-cans, mugs and jugs, shankless rummers and
wineglasses, and knives and forks of every size and pattern, from the
balance handles and straight blades of to-day, to the wooden haft and
curly-nosed cimeter of a century back. Their sharpened appetites make
short work of the cold meats and pies. Treble X of somebody's own
corking fizzes forth from brown jar and black bottle, and if more is
wanted, it is fetched from the neighbouring tavern. Dinner done, the
fiddle strikes up, and a dance on the greensward by the young people,
while the old ones, stretched under the trees, enjoy a quiet gossip
and a refreshing pipe, fills up the afternoon. There is always
somebody at this crisis who is neither too old to dance nor too young
to smoke a gossipping pipe, and so he does both at intervals--rushing
now into the dance, drawn by the irresistible attraction of the
fiddle, and now sidling back again to his smoke-puffing chums,
impelled by the equally resistless charms of tobacco. Then and
therefore he is branded as a deserter, and a file of young lasses lay
hands on him, and drag him forth in custody to the dance; and after a
good scolding from laughing lips, and a good drubbing from white
handkerchiefs, they compromise the business at last by allowing him to
dance with his pipe in his mouth.

By five o'clock, Mrs Grundy has managed, with the connivance of Jack
the driver, somehow or other to boil the kettle, and a cup of tea is
ready for all who are inclined to partake. The young folks for the
most part prefer the dance: they can have tea any day--they will not
dance on the grass again till next year perhaps; so they make the most
of their time. By and by, the fiddler's elbow refuses to wag any
longer: he is perfectly willing himself, as he says, 'to play till
all's blue; but you see,' he adds, 'bones won't do it.' 'Never mind,'
says the Beau Nash of the day: 'sack your badger, old boy, and go and
get some resin. Now, then, for kiss in the ring!' Then while the
fiddler gets his resin, which means anything he likes to eat or drink,
the whole party, perhaps amounting to three or four van-loads in all,
form into a circle for 'kiss in the ring.' The ring is one uproarious
round of frolic and laughter, which would 'hold both its sides,' but
that it is forced to hold its neighbours' hands with both its own,
under which the flying damsel who has to be caught and kissed bobs in
and out, doubling like a hare, till she is out of breath, and is
overtaken at last, and led bashfully into the centre of the group, to
suffer the awful penalty of the law. While this popular pastime is
prolonged to the last moment, the van is getting ready to return; the
old folks assist in stowing away the empty baskets and vessels; and an
hour or so before sun-down, or it may be half an hour after, the whole
party are remounted, and on their way home again, where they arrive,
after a jovial ride, weary with enjoyment, and with matter to talk
about for a month to come.

At Epping Forest, the scene is very different, but not a whit the less
lively. There are no picture-galleries or pleasure-gardens, but there
is the Forest to roam in, full of noble trees, in endless sinuous
avenues, crowned with the 'scarce intruding sky,' among which the
joyous holiday-makers form a finer picture than was ever painted yet.
Then there are friendly foot-races and jumping-matches, and
leap-frogging, and black-berrying, and foot-balling, and
hockey-and-trapping, and many other games besides, in addition to the
dancing and the ring-kissing. Epping and Hainault Forests are
essentially the lungs of Whitechapel and Spitalfields. Their leafy
shades are invaded all the summer long by the van-borne hosts of
laborious poverty. Clubs, whose members invest but a penny a week,
start into existence as soon as the leaves begin to sprout in the
spring; with the first gush of summer, the living tide begins to flow
into the cool bosom of the forest; and until late in the autumn,
unless the weather is prematurely wintry, there is no pause for a day
or an hour of sunshine in the rush of health-seekers to the green
shades. The fiat has gone forth from the government for the
destruction of these forests, for the felling of the trees and the
enclosure of the land. Will the public permit the execution of the
barbarous decree? We trust not.

Notwithstanding all that has been said, and so justly said, of the
notorious improvidence of the poor, it will be seen from the above
hasty sketches, that they yet can and do help themselves to many
things which are undeniably profitable and advantageous to them: they
only want, in fact, a motive for so doing--a foregone conviction that
the thing desiderated is worth having. Now, here is ground for
hope--an opening, so to speak, for the point of the wedge. That the
very poor may be taught to practise self-denial, in the prospect of a
future benefit, these clubs have proved; and we may confess to a
prejudice in their favour, not merely from what they have
accomplished, but from a not unreasonable hope, that they may
perchance foster a habit which will lead to far better things than
even warm chimney-corners, greenwood holidays, roast geese, and


In the Annuaire of the _Bureau des Longitudes_, recently published in
Paris, appears a paper by the distinguished astronomer Arago--'On the
Observations which have made known the Physical Constitution of the
Sun and of different Stars; and an Inquiry into the Conjectures of the
Ancient Philosophers, and of the Positive Ideas of Modern Astronomers
on the Place that the Sun ought to occupy among the Prodigious Number
of Stars which stud the Firmament'--in which all that appertains to
the subject is so ably condensed, as to afford material for a popular
summary, which we purpose to convey in the present article. The
eclipse of the sun of last July, by enabling observers to repeat
former observations and test their accuracy, furnished some of the
results which serve to complete the paper in question, and which may
be considered as settled, owing to the improvements continually taking
place in the construction of instruments. Although astronomy is the
exactest of sciences, its problems are not yet all fully solved; and
for the determination of some of these, observers have to wait for
years--in certain instances, for a century or more, until all the
circumstances combine for a favourable observation. From the days of
the Epicurean philosopher, who, judging from appearances, declared the
sun to be no more than a foot in diameter, to those of living
calculators, who give to the orb a diameter of 883,000 miles, there
has been a marvellous advance. In these dimensions, we have a sphere
one million four hundred thousand times larger than the earth.
'Numbers so enormous,' says M. Arago, 'not being often employed in
ordinary life, and giving us no very precise idea of the magnitudes
which they imply, I recall here a remark that will convey a better
understanding of the immensity of the solar volume. If we imagine the
centre of the sun to coincide with that of the earth, its surface
would not only reach the region in which the moon revolves, but would
extend nearly as far again beyond.' By the transit of Venus in 1769,
it was demonstrated that the sun is 95,000,000 miles from the earth;
and yet, distant as it is, its physical constitution has been
determined; and the history of the successive steps by which this
proof has been arrived at, forms one of the most interesting chapters
in the progress of science.

It was in 1611 that Fabricius, a Dutch astronomer, first observed
spots on the eastern edge of the sun, which passed slowly across the
disk to the western edge, and disappeared after a certain number of
days. This phenomenon having been often noted subsequently, the
conclusion drawn therefrom is, that the sun is a spherical body,
having a movement of rotation about its centre, of which the duration
is equal to twenty-five days and a half. These dark spots, irregular
and variable, but well defined on their edge, are sometimes of
considerable dimensions. Some have been seen whose size was five times
that of the earth. They are generally surrounded by an aureola known
as the _penumbra_, and sensibly less luminous than the other portions
of the orb. From this penumbra, first observed by Galileo, many
apparently singular deductions have been made: namely, 'The sun is a
dark body, surrounded at a certain distance by an atmosphere which may
be compared to that of the earth, when the latter is charged with a
continuous stratum of opaque and reflecting clouds. To this first
atmosphere succeeds a second, luminous in itself, called the
_photosphere_. This photosphere, more or less remote from the inner
cloudy atmosphere, would determine by its outline the visible limits
of the orb. According to this hypothesis, there would he spots on the
sun every time that there occurred in the two concentric atmospheres
such corresponding clear spaces as would allow of our seeing the dark
central body uncovered.'

This hypothesis is considered by the most competent judges to render a
very satisfactory account of the facts. But it has not been
universally adopted. Some writers of authority have lately represented
the spots as scoriĉ floating on a liquid surface, and ejected from
solar volcanoes, of which the burning mountains of the earth convey
but a feeble idea. Hence observations become necessary as to the
nature of the incandescent matter of the sun; and when we remember the
immense distance of that body, such an attempt may well appear to be
one of temerity.

The progress of optical science, however, has given us the means of
determining this apparently insoluble question. It is well known, that
physicists are enabled at present to distinguish two kinds of
light--natural light and polarised light. A ray of the former exhibits
the same properties on any part of its form; not so the latter. A
polarised ray is said to have sides, and the different sides have
different properties, as demonstrated by many interesting phenomena.
Strange as it may seem, these rays thus described as having sides,
could pass through the eye of a needle by hundreds of thousands
without disturbing each other. Availing themselves, therefore, of the
assistance of polarised light, and an instrument named the
polariscope, or polarising telescope, observers obtain a double image
of the sun, both alike, and both white; but on reflecting this image
on water, or a glass mirror, the rays become polarised; the two images
are no longer alike or white, but are intensely coloured, while their
form remains unchanged. If one is red, the other is green, or yellow
and violet, always producing what are called the complementary
colours. With this instrument, it becomes possible to tell the
difference between natural and polarised light.

Another point for consideration is, that for a long time it was
supposed, that the light emanating from any incandescent body always
came to the eye as natural light, if in its passage it had not been
reflected or refracted. But experiment by the polariscope shewed, that
the ray departing from the surface at an angle sufficiently small was
polarised; while at the same time, it was demonstrated that the light
emitted by any gaseous body in flame--that of street-lamps, for
instance--is always in the natural state, whatever be its angle of
emission. From these remarks, some idea will be formed of the process
necessary to prove whether the substance which renders the sun visible
is solid, liquid, or gaseous. On looking at the sun in the
polariscope, the image, as before observed, is seen to be purely
white--a proof that the medium through which the luminous substance is
made visible to us is gaseous. If it were liquid, the light would be
coloured; and as regards solidity, that is out of the question--the
rapid change of spots proves that the outer envelope of the sun is not
solid. On whatever day of the year we examine, the light is always
white. Thus, these experiments remove the theory out of the region of
simple hypothesis, and give certainty to our conclusions respecting
the photosphere.

Here an example occurs of the aids and confirmations which science may
derive from apparently trivial circumstances. Complaint was made at a
large warehouse in Paris, that the gas-fitters had thrown the light on
the goods from the narrow, and not from the broad side of the flame.
Experiments were instituted, which proved that the amount of light was
the same whether emitted from the broad or narrow surface. It was
shewn also, that a gaseous substance in flame appears more luminous
when seen obliquely than perpendicular, which explains what are known
as _faculĉ_ and _lucules_, being those parts of the solar disk that
shew themselves brighter than other portions of the surface. These are
due to the presence of clouds in the solar atmosphere; the inclined
portions of the clouds appearing brightest to the spectator. The
notion, that there were thousands on thousands of points
distinguishing themselves from the rest by a greater accumulation of
luminous matter, is thus disposed of.

Still, there remained something more to be determined. The existence
of the photosphere being proved, the question arose--was there nothing
beyond? or did it end abruptly? and this could only be determined at
the period of a total eclipse, at the very moment when the obscuration
of the sun being greatest, our atmosphere ceases to be illuminated.
Hence the interest felt in an eclipse of the sun of late years.

In July 1842, at a total eclipse of the sun visible in several parts
of the continent, the astronomers noticed, just as the sun was hidden
by the moon, certain objects, in the form of rose-coloured
protuberances, about two or three minutes high, astronomically
speaking, projected from the surface of the moon. These appearances
were variously explained: some supposed them to be lunar mountains;
others saw in them effects of refraction or diffraction; but no
precise explanation could be given; and mere guesses cannot be
accepted as science. Others, again, thought them to be mountains in
the sun, the summits stretching beyond the photosphere; but at the
most moderate calculation, their height would have been about 60,000
miles--an elevation which, as is said, the solar attraction would
render impossible. Another hypothesis was, that they were clouds
floating in a solar, gaseous atmosphere.

M. Arago considers the last as the true explanation: it remained the
great point to be proved. If it could be ascertained, that these red
protuberances were not in actual contact with the moon, the
demonstration would be complete. Speculation was busy, but nothing
could be done in the way of verification until another eclipse took
place. There was one in August 1850 total to the Sandwich Islands, at
which, under direction of the French commandant at Tahiti,
observations were made, the result being that the red prominences were
seen to be separated by a fine line from the moon's circumference.
Here was an important datum. It was confirmed by the observations of
July 1851, by observers of different nations at different localities,
who saw that the coloured peaks were detached from the moon; thus
proving that they are not lunar mountains.

If it be further ascertained, that these luminous phenomena are not
produced by the inflexion of rays passing over the asperities of the
moon's disk, and that they have a real existence, then there will be a
new atmosphere to add to those which already surround the sun; for
clouds cannot support themselves in empty space.

We come next to that part of the subject which treats of the true
place of the sun in the universe. In the year 448 B.C., Archelaüs, the
last of the Ionian philosophers, without having made any measurements,
taught that the sun was a star, but only somewhat larger than the
others. Now, the nearest fixed star is 206,000 times further from us
than the sun: 206,000 times 95,000,000 of miles--a sum beyond all our
habits of thought. The light from the star _Alpha_ of the Centaur is
three years in its passage to the earth, travelling at the rate of
192,000 miles per second; and there are 86,400 seconds in a day, and
365 days in a year. Astounding facts! If the sun, therefore, were
removed to the distance of a Centauri, its broad disk, which takes a
considerable time in its majestic rising and setting above and below
the horizon, would have no sensible dimensions, even in the most
powerful telescopes; and its light would not exceed that of stars of
the third magnitude--facts which throw the guess of Archelaüs into
discredit. If our place in the material universe is thus made to
appear very subordinate, we may remember, as M. Arago observes, that
man owes the knowledge of it entirely to his own resources, and
thereby has raised himself to the most eminent rank in the world of
ideas. Indeed, astronomical investigations might not improperly excuse
a little vanity on our part.'

Among the stars, Sirius is the brightest; but twenty thousand millions
of such stars would be required to transmit to the earth a light equal
to that of the sun. And if it were difficult to ascertain the nature
and quality of the sun, it would appear to be still more so to
determine these points with regard to the stars; for the reason, that
the rays, coming from all parts of their disk, at once are
intermingled, and of necessity produce white. This difficulty did not
exist in similar investigations on the sun, because its disk is so
large, that the rays from any one part of it may be examined while the
others are excluded. Under these circumstances, further proof might
seem to be hopeless; but advantage was taken of the fact, that there
are certain stars which are sometimes light, sometimes dark, either
from having a movement of rotation on their own axis, or because they
are occasionally eclipsed by a non-luminous satellite revolving around
them. It is clear, that while the light is waxing or waning, it comes
from a part only of the star's disk; consequently, the neutralisation
of rays, which takes place when they depart from the whole surface at
once, cannot then occur; and from the observations on the portion of
light thus transmitted, and which is found to remain white under all
its phases, we are entitled to conclude, in M. Arago's words, that
'our sun is a star, and that its physical constitution is identical
with that of the millions of stars strewn in the firmament.'


It certainly appeared a most improbable circumstance, that any event
should occur worthy of being recorded, to vary the even tenor of life
which Mr and Mrs Norman enjoyed in the holy state of matrimony. They
were young folks--they had married from affection--and, moreover,
their union had been a strictly prudent one; for their income was more
than sufficient for all their unaspiring wants and tastes; and it was
also a 'certainty,' a great good in these days of speculation and
going ahead. Charles Norman held a government situation, with a small
but yearly increasing salary; his residence was at Pentonville; and
his domestic circle comprised, besides his good, meek helpmeet, two
little children, and an only sister, some years Charles's junior:
indeed, Bab Norman had not very long quitted the boarding-school. Bab
and Charles were orphans, and had no near relatives in the world;
therefore Bab came home to live with her dear brother and his wife
until she had a home of her own--a contingency which people whispered
need not be far off, if Miss Barbara Norman so inclined. This piece of
gossip perhaps arose from the frequent visits of Mr Norman's chosen
friend, Edward Leslie--a steady and excellent young man, who filled an
appointment of great trust and confidence in an old-established
commercial house. Edward Leslie was not distinguished for personal
attractions or captivating manners; but he was an honest, manly,
generous-hearted fellow, and sensitive enough to feel very keenly
sometimes that the pretty spoiled little Barbara laughed at and
snubbed him. Notwithstanding Bab's folly, however, it would have given
her great pain had Edward Leslie courted another. He was patient and
forbearing; and she fluttered and frisked about, determined to make
the most of her liberty while it lasted. 'Of course she meant to marry
some day,' she said with a demure smile, 'but it would take a long
time to make up her mind.'

Charles quite doted on his pretty sister, and often could not find it
in his heart to rebuke her, because she was motherless, and had only
him and Cary to look to; and Cary's office was not to rebuke any one,
much less her dear little sister-in-law. So Barbara was spoiled and
humoured; while the children were kept in high order--a proper
discipline being exercised in the nursery, as became a well-regulated
and nicely-decorated house. Cary thought Bab a beauty, and so did
Charles; the young lady herself was not at all backward in estimating
her own charms; and it was a pity to see them so often obscured by
affectation, for Bab had a kind heart and an affectionate disposition.
One day when Charles returned home after business-hours were over, Bab
flew towards him with an unusually animated countenance, holding an
open letter in her hand, and exclaiming: 'Oh, dear Charles, read this!
You'll let me go--wont you? I never was at the sea-side in my life,
you know; and it will do me such a deal of good.'

Charles smiled, took the letter, and tapping his sister's dimpled rosy
cheek, he said fondly: 'I don't think, Bab, that you want "doing good
to" so far as health is concerned. The sea-air cannot improve these

'Well, well, Charles, never mind the roses--there's a dear. They only
ask me to go for a fortnight, and I should so like it; it will be so
nice to be with one's schoolmates at the sea. Bell and Lucy Combermere
are _such_ bathers, they say; and as for me, I do believe, Charles, I
shall drown myself for love of the sea! Oh, you must let me go--do!'

There was no resisting this coaxing; so Charles said he 'would see
about it, and talk the matter over with Caroline.'

'Cary thinks it will be delightful for me,' exclaimed Barbara: 'she's
always a good-natured darling.' And Bab felt sure of going, if Charles
talked the matter over with Cary; so she flew off in an ecstasy of
joy, dancing and singing, and forthwith commenced preparations, by
pulling off the faded pink ribbons which adorned her bonnet, and
substituting gay bright new streamers.

The invitation in question came from Mrs Combermere, who, with
her two unmarried daughters, were sojourning at a favourite
watering-place--always crowded during the season--and where Mr
Combermere, a rich citizen, could join his family every week, and
inhale a breath of pure air. Charles did not particularly like the
Combermeres. Mrs Combermere was a fussy woman, full of absurd
pretension, and with a weakness for forming aristocratic acquaintance,
which had more than once led her into extravagance, ending in
disappointment and mortification. The Misses Combermere inherited
their mamma's weakness; they were comely damsels, and expectant
sharers of papa's wealth, who was 'very particular' on whom he
bestowed his treasures. Bell and Lucy had been at school with Barbara
Norman, and a strong friendship--a school friendship--had been struck
up amongst the trio, whom the French dancing-master denominated 'the
Graces.' And now Barbara had received an invitation to stay with them
for a fortnight, a private postscript being inserted by Miss Bell, to
the effect that 'Bab must be sure to come very smart, for there were
most elegant people there, and _such_ beaux!'

Bab went accordingly on Saturday, escorted by Mr Combermere, who
always returned on the following Monday. Never before had Bab beheld
so gay a scene; never till now had she looked on the glorious ocean;
never had she promenaded to the sounds of such exhilarating music. Her
pretty little head was quite bewildered, though in the midst of all
her delight she wished for Charles and Cary, and the children; there
was such delicious bathing for the tiny ones; such digging with their
little spades in the golden sands! Innocent, happy gold-diggers they!

She found Mrs Combermere and the girls in the full swing of sea-side
dissipation--quite open-house kept, free-and-easy manners, which at
home would not have been tolerated. But it came only once a year, and
they could afford it. Quite established as an intimate, was a tall
young gentleman, with delicate moustache, who seemed to be on terms of
friendly familiarity with half the aristocracy of the nation. Mrs
Combermere whispered to Bab, that Mr Newton was a most 'patrician
person,' of the 'highest connections;' they had met with him on the
sands, where he had been of signal use in assisting Mrs Combermere
over the shingles on a stormy day. He was so gentlemanly and
agreeable, that they could not do otherwise than ask him in; he had
remained to tea, and since then had been a regular visitor.

Mr Newton had been at first treated with great coolness by Mr
Combermere; the latter gentleman did not like strangers, and always
looked on a moustache with suspicion. But Mr Newton was so
deferential, so unexceptionable in deportment, and prudent in his
general sentiments, warmly advocating Mr Combermere's political
opinions, that he had at last won the good opinion even of the father
of the family. Besides, he paid no particular attention to the Misses
Combermere: there was no danger of his making up to them--that was
clear; and Mrs Combermere, mother-like, felt a little mortified and
chagrined at such palpable indifference. But when pretty Bab Norman
appeared, the case was different: her brunette complexion and
sparkling dark eyes elicited marked admiration from the patrician Mr
Newton; and he remarked in an off-hand way--_sotto voce_, as if to
himself: 'By Jupiter! how like she is to dear Lady Mary Manvers.' Bab
felt very much flattered by the comparison, and immediately began to
like Mr Newton immensely; he was so distingué, so fascinating, so
refined. Bab did not add, that he had singled her out as an especial
object of attention, even when the fair dashing Misses Combermere
challenged competition.

The fortnight passed swiftly away--too swiftly, alas! thought little
Barbara Norman; for at the expiration of the term, Mrs Combermere did
not ask her to prolong the visit, but suffered her to depart, again
under the escort of Mr Combermere, without a word of regret at
parting. Cruel Mrs Combermere! she wished to keep Mr Newton's society
all to herself and her daughters! However, the young gentleman asked
Barbara for permission to pay his respects to her when he returned to
the metropolis; this had been accorded by Barbara, who, on her return
to Pentonville, for the first time found that comfortable home
'insufferably dull and stupid.' Edward Leslie, too--how dull and
stupid even he was, after the chattering perfumed loungers of the
elysium she had just quitted! Yet Edward was never considered either
dull or stupid by competent judges; but, quite the contrary--a
sensible, well-informed, gentlemanly personage. But, then, he had no
great friends, no patrician weaknesses; he knew nothing about racing,
or betting, or opera-dancers, or slang in general. In short, he seemed
flat and insipid to Bab, who had been compared to the beautiful Lady
Mary Manvers by the soft and persuasive tongue of Lady Mary Manvers's
dear friend. Yet, in her secret heart of hearts, Bab drew comparisons
by no means disadvantageous to Edward Leslie. 'Yes,' thought Bab, 'I
like Mr Newton best by the sea-side in summer-time, when harp-music
floats on the balmy air; then I should always like him, if summer was
all the year round. But for everyday life, for winter hours, for home,
in short, I'm sure I like Edward Leslie best--I'm sure I love Edward
Leslie;' and Bab blushed and hesitated, though she was quite alone.
Cary listened good-naturedly to all Bab's descriptions of the
happiness she had enjoyed; and Cary thought, from all Bab said, that
Mr Newton must be at least some great lord in disguise. She felt quite
nervous at the idea of his coming to such a humble house as theirs,
when he talked of parks, and four-in-hands, and baronial halls, as
things with which he was familiar, and regarded as matters of course.
Cary hoped that Charles and Edward Leslie would be present when Mr
Newton called, because they were fit to associate with royalty itself.
Cary had a very humble opinion of herself--sweet, gentle soul!

Pages: | 1 | | 2 | | 3 | | 4 | | Next |

Library mainpage -> Chambers, William -> Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, No. 441 Volume 17, New Series, June 12, 1852