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Chambers, William / Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, No. 456 Volume 18, New Series, September 25, 1852
CHAMBERS' EDINBURGH JOURNAL

CONDUCTED BY WILLIAM AND ROBERT CHAMBERS, EDITORS OF 'CHAMBERS'S
INFORMATION FOR THE PEOPLE,' 'CHAMBERS'S EDUCATIONAL COURSE,' &c.


No. 456. NEW SERIES. SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 1852. PRICE 1-1/2_d._




MRS CHISHOLM.


This lady will be ranked with the memorable persons of the age; her
enthusiastic and ceaseless endeavours to do good, the discretion and
intelligence with which she pursues her aims, and her remarkable
self-sacrifices in the cause of humanity, placing her in the category
of the Mrs Frys and other heroic Englishwomen. The history of Mrs
Chisholm's labours up to the present time is worthy of being fully
told.

Caroline Jones, as this lady was originally called, is the daughter of
William Jones, a respectable yeoman of Northamptonshire; and when
about twenty years of age, she was married to Captain A. Chisholm of
the Madras army. Two years after this event, she removed with her
husband to India, where she entered upon those movements of a public
nature that have so eminently distinguished her. Shocked with the
depravities to which the children of soldiers are exposed in the
barrack-rooms, she rested not till she had established a School of
Industry for girls, which became eminently successful, and, under an
extended form, has continued to be of great social importance to
Madras. The pupils were taught to sew, cook, and otherwise manage
household affairs; and we are told, that on finishing their
education, they were eagerly sought for as servants, or wives, by
non-commissioned officers. In this career of usefulness, Mrs Chisholm
employed herself until 1838, when, for the benefit of her husband's
health, and that of her infant family, she left India for Australia,
the climate of which seemed likely to prove beneficial. At the end of
the year, she arrived in Sydney, where, besides attending to family
matters, there was plenty of scope for philanthropic exertion. Drawing
our information from a small work purporting to present a memoir of
Mrs Chisholm,[1] it appears that 'the first objects that came under
her notice, and were benefited by her benevolence, were a party of
Highland emigrants, who had been sent to the shores of a country where
the language spoken was to them strange and unknown, and without a
friend to assist or guide them in that path of honourable labour which
they desired. As a temporary means of relief, Mrs Chisholm lent them
money to purchase tools and wheelbarrows, whereby they might cut and
sell firewood to the inhabitants. The success of this experiment was
gratifying both to the bestower and receiver; in the one it revived
drooping hopes, the other it incited to larger enterprises of
humanity.'

In 1840, Captain Chisholm returned to his duties in India, leaving his
wife and family to remain some time longer in Sydney; and from this
period may be dated her extraordinary efforts for meliorating the
condition of poor female emigrants. What fell under her notice in
connection with these luckless individuals was truly appalling.
Huddled into a barrack on arrival; no trouble taken to put girls in
the way of earning an honest livelihood; moral pollution all around;
the government authorities and everybody else too busy to mind whether
emigration was rightly or wrongly conducted--there was evidently much
to be done. In January 1841, Mrs Chisholm wrote to Lady Gipps, the
wife of the governor, on the subject; tried to interest others; and
although with some doubts as to the result, all expressed themselves
interested. Much jealousy and prejudice, however, required to be
overcome. Bigotry was even brought into play. There might be some deep
sectarian scheme in the pretended efforts to serve these young and
unprotected females. We need hardly speak in the language of
detestation of this species of obstructiveness, which prevents
hundreds of valuable schemes of social melioration from being entered
into. Fortunately, Mrs Chisholm treated with scorn or indifference the
various means adopted to retard her benevolent operations. She
persevered until she had organised the Female Emigrants' Home. She
says: 'I appealed to the public for support: after a time, this appeal
was liberally met. There were neither sufficient arrangements made for
removing emigrants into the interior, nor for protecting females on
their arrival. A few only were properly protected, while hundreds were
wandering about Sydney without friends or protection--great numbers of
these young creatures were thrown out of employment by new arrivals. I
received into the Home several, who, I found, had slept out many
nights in the government domain, seeking the sheltered recesses of the
rocks rather than encounter the dangers of the streets. It was
estimated that there were 600 females, at the time I commenced,
unprovided for in Sydney. I made an offer to the government of
gratuitously devoting my time to the superintendence of a Home of
Protection for them in the town, and also to exert myself to procure
situations for them in the country.'

While making arrangements for conducting the establishment for female
emigrants, Mrs Chisholm acquired a consciousness that male emigrants
of a humble class likewise required some degree of attention. Great
numbers, for want of proper information, did not know what to do with
themselves on arrival. 'At the time labourers were required in the
interior, there were numbers idle in Sydney, supported at the expense
of the government. Things wore a serious aspect; mischief-making
parties, for some paltry gain, fed the spirit of discontent. The
Irish lay in the streets, looking vacantly, and basking in the sun.
Apart from them, Englishmen, sullen in feature, sat on gates and
palings, letting their legs swing in the air. Another group was
composed of Scotchmen, their hands thrust into their empty pockets,
suspiciously glancing at everything and everybody from beneath their
bushy eyebrows. Mrs Chisholm ventured to produce a change; she
provided for the leaders first, shewed how she desired to be the
friend of the industrious man, and went with numbers in search of
employment, far into the country. She undertook journeys of 300 miles
into the interior with families; and the further she went, the more
satisfactory was the settlement of the parties accompanying this brave
lady. "When the public had an opportunity of judging of the effect of
my system," writes Mrs Chisholm, "they came forward, and enabled me to
go on. The government contributed, in various ways, to the amount of
about L.150. I met with great assistance from the country committees.
The squatters and settlers were always willing to give me conveyance
for the people. The country people always supplied provisions. Mr
William Bradley, a native of the colony, authorised me to draw upon
him for money, provisions, horses, or anything I might require; but
the people met my efforts so readily, that I had no necessity to draw
upon him for a sixpence. At public inns, the females were sheltered,
and I was provisioned myself without charge: my personal expenses,
during my seven years' service, amounted to only L.1, 18s. 6d. As
numbers of the masters were afraid, if they advanced the money for the
conveyance by the steamers, the parties would never reach the
stations, I met the difficulty by advancing the fare, confiding in the
good feeling of the man that he would keep to his agreement, and to
the principle of the master that he would repay me. Although in
hundreds of cases the masters were then strangers to me, I only lost
L.16 by casualties. At times, I have paid as much as L.40 for
steamers, and, from first to last, in following out my system, I have
been the means of settling 11,000 souls. The largest number that ever
left Sydney under my charge, at one time, was 147; but from accessions
on the road, they increased considerably. The longest journey of this
kind occupied five weeks, three weeks of which were passed on the
road."'

One cannot but admire the enthusiasm with which all this was gone
through. The whole thing was a labour of love, and carried through, as
will be observed, not without vast personal toil, and some degree of
pecuniary outlay. Mrs Chisholm says she lost only L.16; but how few
people in her rank, and with as comparatively moderate means, would
give L.16 to promote any benevolent project whatsoever! The bulk of
mankind content themselves with contributing criticism. They applaud
or censure according as the thing looks in the eye of the world: when
money is spoken of, they keep discreetly aloof.

In her enterprise to put female emigrants on the road to fortune, Mrs
Chisholm met with some curious cases of presumption. Many applications
were made by young women who professed to be governesses, but were
utterly incompetent for the situation. Among others came one who
offered herself as a nursery governess, who, on inquiry, could neither
read nor write nor spell correctly. Another wished for the situation
of housekeeper, and with her the following dialogue took place:--'"Can
you wash your own clothes?" "Never did such a thing in my life." "Can
you make a dress?" "No." "Cook?" "No." "What _can_ you do?" "Why,
ma'am, I could look after the servants; I could direct them: I should
make an excellent housekeeper." "You are certain?" "Yes, or I would
not say so." "Do you know the quantity of the different ingredients
wanted for a beefsteak-pie of the size of that dish, and a
rice-pudding of the same size?" "O no, ma'am--that's not what I meant:
_I'd see that the servants did it!_" "But there might be great waste,
and you not know it; besides, all, or nearly all, the servants sent to
this colony require teaching."

'Nothing, observes Mrs Chisholm, but my faith in Providence, that
there must be a place fitting for every body in society, enabled me to
bear such inflictions: this faith made me labour in seeking some
suitable employment for each, and had I not possessed it, but turned
them out, their fate would have been inevitable and horrible.'

The business of attending to the 'Home,' and finding places for
everybody, was not without some pleasant excitement. Mrs Chisholm was
sometimes asked to find wives as well as servants; and as a specimen
of applications on this delicate head, she gives the following amusing
epistle, which is printed as she received it:--

'"REVEREND MADAM--I heard you are the best to send to for a servant,
and I heard our police magistrate say, it was best to leave all to
you; and so I'll just do the same, as his honour says it's the best. I
had a wife once, and so she was too good for me by the far, and it was
God's will, ma'am; but I has a child, ma'am, that I wouldn't see a
straw touch for the world; the boy's only four yeare old: and I has a
snug fifty-acre farm and a town 'lotment, and I has no debts in the
world, and one teem and four bullocks; and I'se ten head oh cattle,
and a share on eight hundred sheep, so I as a rite to a desent
servant, that can wash and cook and make the place decant; and I don't
mind what religion she bey, if she is sober and good, only I'se a
Protestant myself; and the boy I have, I promised the mother on her
death-bed should be a Catholic, and I won't, anyhow, have any
interference in this here matter. That I do like in writing nothing
else, I wouldn't, mam, on any account in the world, be bound to marry;
but I don't wish it altogether to be left out. I'll ge her fourteen
wages, and if she don't like me, and I don't like her, I'll pay her
back to Sydney. I want nothing in the world but what is honest, so
make the agrement as you like, and I'll bide by it. I sends you all
the papers, and you'l now I'm a man wot's to be trusted. I sends you
five pounds; she may get wages first, for I know some of the gals, and
the best on um, to, are not heavy we boxes; and supposing anything
should happen, I would not like it to be said she come here in rags. I
wants, also, a man and his wife; he must be willing to learn to
plough, if he don't now how, and do a good fair day's work at
anything; his wife must be a milker, and ha dustrious woman; I'll give
them as much as they can eat and drink of tea and milk, and, whatever
wages you set my name down for, I'll be bound to pay it. With all the
honer in the world, I'se bound to remain your servant till death."
There was something, remarks Mrs Chisholm, in the character of this
honest bushman, during his colonial residence, to admire; he had
gained his freedom, sent home money to his parents, and, during a long
and tedious illness of twenty months, had attended his sick wife with
patient care. Who would not get up an hour earlier to serve such a
man?--I did, for I knew that early in the morning is the _best_ time
to choose a wife. I went first into the governess-room--all asleep; I
unlocked the Home-door--some dressed, others half-dressed, some too
very cross: I have often remarked, that early in the day is the best
time to judge of a woman's temper; but I wish this to be kept a
secret. I remained half an hour in the Home; I then went through the
tents, could not suit myself, and returned. At the Home-door, I found
a girl at the wash-tub; she was at work with spirit; she was rather
good-looking, very neat and tidy. I went into my office, and
ascertained that, on board ship, her character was good. I desired the
matron never to lose sight of her conduct, and report the same to me.
Day after day passed, and I was at last fully determined to place her
within reach of my applicant in the bush--that is, in a respectable
family in his near neighbourhood; but I was able to arrange better,
for I found that, amongst the families wanting situations, there was
one related to her. I immediately engaged them as the bushman's
servants; they were a respectable couple; the man a very prudent
person. I told them to take the girl with them, and get her service
near them, and on no account to allow her to live with a bachelor. I
gave the girl three letters to respectable ladies, and she was engaged
by one the fourth day after her arrival at ----. About a fortnight
after, the bushman wrote to thank me for sending him the married
couple; and concluded by saying: "With regard to that _other_ matter,
upon my word you have suited me exactly; and as soon as our month is
up, we is to be married." I received, says Mrs Chisholm, forty-one
applications of this kind; but the above is the only girl I ever sent
into the country with a _direct_ matrimonial intention.'

That 'Providence has a place for everybody' is an axiom that cannot be
too strongly insisted on. The difficulty, however, is to know where
that place is. It will help considerably to relieve us of trouble on
this score, if we bear in mind that we are not limited in our choice
of country. If every place is filled in this old and settled
territory, by all means go away to new regions which lie invitingly
open for trial. In short, go to America, or go to Australia, and in
either of these find your proper place. There can be no doubt of your
discovering it, provided you but look for it. Great in this faith has
Caroline Chisholm laboured. First, she helped women into situations in
Australia; then she similarly helped men; next, she fell on the
expedient of bringing wives and families to join husbands who longed
for their society; and lastly, she organised plans for sending out
young women to the colony, with a view to balance the inequality of
the sexes. To execute her designs in a proper manner, she required to
know the real wants and condition of settlers; and, will it be
credited, that she set out on long and painful journeys in a covered
spring-van, and did not desist till she had gathered six hundred
biographies!

In 1845, Mrs Chisholm was joined by her husband from India, and she
prepared to return to England. Five years of earnest and successful
endeavour had wonderfully altered the general opinion respecting her
operations. There was no longer any fault-finding. Jealousies had been
overcome. It was now the fashion to speak well of plans that were once
viewed with apathy or suspicion. 'In February 1846, a public meeting
was held at Sydney, for the purpose of taking into consideration the
presenting to Mrs Chisholm, then on the eve of her departure for
England, a testimonial of the estimation in which her labours on
behalf of the emigrant population were viewed by the colonists. Some
idea may be formed of the respect felt for the admirable lady, and
acknowledgment of her public services, when eight members of the
Legislative Council, the mayor of Sydney, the high-sheriff, thirteen
magistrates, and many leading merchants, formed themselves into a
committee to carry the wishes of the meeting into effect. The amount
of each subscription was limited.' In a short time 150 guineas were
raised, and presented with a laudatory address. 'Mrs Chisholm accepted
the testimonial, in order to expend it in further promoting
emigration, in restoring wives to husbands, and children to parents.
In the course of her answer, she said: "It is my intention, if
supported by your co-operation, to attempt more than I have hitherto
performed." She left Australia in 1846, bearing with her the warm
prayers of the working colonists, whose confidence and gratitude, both
bond and free, she had thoroughly secured, charged with the
self-imposed mission of representing in England the claims of those
powerless classes who have neither honour nor pensions to bestow on
their advocates.'

Since 1846, Mrs Chisholm has resided near London, and devoted herself
to the promotion of her last great scheme. This is to send emigrants
to Australia, in what are called Family Groups, under the auspices of
the Family Colonisation Loan Society. The main features of the plan
are these: suitable and well-recommended persons are enrolled as
members on paying a small fee; and they are sent out on paying
two-thirds of the passage-money--the remaining third being paid as a
loan by the society, which loan is to be repaid from wages received in
the colony. No security is required for the loan. The society reckon
on the integrity and gratitude of the emigrants, and on the principle
of associating parties into groups, the members of which exercise a
mutual supervision. A group consists of twelve adults. Friendless
young women are introduced to and grouped with families. These
introductions usually take place at Mrs Chisholm's residence once
every week, when the groups are addressed in a friendly manner, and
furnished with hints for their government on board ship.

Another important feature in these operations, is to help poor
emigrants to remit small sums to friends at home, the difficulty of
making such remittances having formerly been very considerable. To
organise a proper system of remitting, Captain Chisholm has returned
to Australia, and, according to an account given by Mrs Chisholm in a
letter to the _Times_, it appears that the system is realising all
reasonable expectation. We copy the substance of this letter as a
fitting conclusion to our sketch.

'This is the first organised attempt of enabling the English emigrants
in Australia to imitate the generous devotion of the Irish settled in
the United States. While contemplating with admiration the laborious
devotion proved by the remittance of millions sterling from the
American Irish to remove their relations from a land of low wages and
famine, I have always had a firm belief that the English emigrants in
Australia only required the opportunity to imitate the noble example,
and the "remittance-roll" is evidence of the correctness of my
opinion.

'Until very recently, there have been no channels through which the
Australian settler could safely and cheaply remit small sums to
England.

'When I was resident in Sydney, many emigrants were anxious to send
small sums to their friends "at home," and came to me with money for
that purpose; but I found that the banks charged as much for L.15 as
for L.50, and that they altogether declined to take the trouble of
remitting small amounts. On making a representation of this fact to
his excellency Sir George Gipps, he communicated with the banks
through the Colonial Secretary, and they consented to receive small
remittances from labouring people, if I personally accompanied the
depositor; but, with my other engagements, it was impossible for me to
spare many hours in the week to introducing shepherds and stockmen,
with their L.5 or L.10, to the cashiers of the banks. Many a man,
within my knowledge, has gone away on finding that he could not remit
his intended present to his relations, and spent the amount in a
drunken "spree." I therefore determined, that on my return to England,
I would endeavour to organise some plan which should render labourers
remitting their little tributes of affection to their friends nearly
as easy as posting a letter.

'As soon as the Family Colonisation Society was organised, Messrs
Coutts & Co. consented to appoint agents, and receive the remittances
due to the society. But in order to teach and encourage the labouring
colonists to take advantage of the power of remitting to England, my
husband saw that it was necessary that some one devoted to the work
should proceed to the colonies. The society was not rich enough to pay
an agent, or even to pay the expenses of an agent who would work
without salary; therefore we determined to divide our income, and
separate. My husband proceeded to the colony, to collect and remit the
loans of the society's emigrants, and the savings of those emigrants
who wished to be joined by parents, wives, children, brothers,
sisters, or other relations. I remained here to assist such relations
to emigrate in an economical, safe, and decent manner, as well as to
carry on the correspondence needful for discovering the relatives of
long-separated emigrants--often a difficult task. We determined to
work thus until the labourers' remittances should swell to such an
amount as would render it worth the attention of bankers as a matter
of business, if the society were not inclined to continue the trouble
and responsibility.

'I am happy to say, my faith in the generous and honest disposition of
British emigrants, English, Scotch, and Irish, has not been shaken,
and that I may look forward with confidence to a very early date when
the remittance connection of the Australian emigrants will be eagerly
competed for by the most respectable firms.

'My husband writes me, that the people are filled with joy at finding
that they can safely send their earnings, and secure the passage of
their friends. In seven weeks he received L.3000 in gold-dust or cash,
and confidently expects to remit L.15,000 within twelve months, and
could collect double that sum if he were able to visit the diggings.
These remittances are not only from the emigrants sent out by the
society, but from various persons of the humbler class who desire to
be joined by their relations, and wish them to come out under my ship
arrangements.

'It is my intention to return to Australia in the early part of next
year, and there endeavour to still further promote the reunion of
families. I have addressed this letter to your widely-spread and
influential columns, in order to call the attention of the commercial
world to the profits which may be obtained by ministering to a demand
which is arising among a humble class--in order to call the attention
of statesmen and philanthropists to a new element of peace, order, and
civilisation, more powerful than soldiers--to a golden chain of
domestic feeling, which is bridging the seas between England and
Australia. Many parents, wives, children, and brothers and sisters,
have received remittances for passages.'

More need hardly be said. As is generally known, ships are sailing
almost weekly with emigrants of the class for whom Mrs Chisholm has so
warmly interested herself; and we are glad to know from good
authority, that already large sums of the lent money have been repaid,
proving that the trust put in the honesty of the emigrants has not
been misplaced. A great scheme, auxiliary to ordinary emigration, is
therefore at work, and its usefulness is acknowledged, not only by the
press and the public at large, but by parties ordinarily less alive to
projects of social melioration--ministers of the crown. Every one may
well concur in paying honour to Caroline Chisholm!


FOOTNOTES:

[1] Memoirs Of Mrs Caroline Chisholm. London: Webb, Millington, & Co.
1852.




A GHOST OF A HEAD.


Peter Leroux was a poor ploughman in the environs of Beaugeney. After
passing the day in leading across the fields the three horses which
were generally yoked to his plough, he returned to the farm in the
evening, supped without many words, with his fellow-labourers, lighted
his lantern, and then retired to bed in a species of shed
communicating with the stables. His dreams were simple, and little
coloured with the tints of imagination; his horses were for the most
part their principal subject. On one occasion, he started from his
slumbers in the midst of his fancied efforts to lift up the obstinate
mare, which had taken it into her head to be weak in the legs; another
time, the 'old gray' had entangled his hoof in the cords of the team.
One night, he dreamed that he had just put an entirely new thong to
his old whip, but that, notwithstanding, it obstinately refused to
crack. This remarkable vision impressed him so deeply, that, on
awaking, he seized the whip, which he was accustomed to place every
night by his side; and in order thoroughly to assure himself that he
was not stricken powerless, and deprived of the most gratifying
prerogative of the ploughman, he took to smacking it violently in the
dead of the night. At this noise, all the stable was in commotion; the
horses, alarmed, neighed, and ran one against the other, almost
breaking their cords; but, with some soothing words, Peter Leroux
managed to appease all this tumult, and silence was immediately
restored. This was one of those extraordinary events of his life which
he never failed to relate every time that a cup of wine had made him
eloquent, and he found a companion in the mood to listen to him.

About the same period, dreams of quite a different kind occupied the
mind of a certain M. Desalleaux, deputy of the public prosecutor in
the criminal court of Orleans. Having made a promising _début_ in that
office only a few months previously, there was no longer any position
in the magistracy which he believed too high for his future
attainment; and the post of keeper of the seals was one of the most
frequent visions of his slumbers. But it was particularly in the
intoxicating triumphs of oratory that his thoughts would revel in
sleep, when the whole day had been given to the study of some case in
which he was to plead. The glory of the Aguesseaux, and the other
celebrated names of the great days of parliamentary eloquence,
scarcely sufficed for his impatient ambition; it was in the most
distant periods of the past--the times of the marvellous eloquence of
Demosthenes--that he delighted to contemplate the likeness of his own
ideal future. The attainment of power by eloquence; such was the idea,
the text, so to speak, of his whole life--the one object for which he
renounced all the ordinary hopes and pleasures of youth.

One day, these two natures--that of Peter Leroux, lifted scarcely one
degree above the range of the brute, and that of M. Desalleux,
abstract and rectified to the highest pitch of intellectuality--found
themselves face to face. A little contest was going on between them.
M. Desalleux, sitting in his official place, demanded, upon evidence
somewhat insufficient, the head of Peter Leroux, accused of murder;
and Peter Leroux defended his head against the eloquence of M.
Desalleux.

Notwithstanding the remarkable disproportion of power which Providence
had placed in this duel, the accused, for lack of conclusive proofs,
would in all probability have escaped from the hands of the
executioner; but from that very scantiness in the evidence arose an
extraordinary opportunity for eloquence, which could not fail to be
singularly useful to the ambitious hopes of M. Desalleux. In justice
to himself, he could not neglect to take advantage of it.

In the next place, an unlucky circumstance presented itself for poor
Peter Leroux. Some days before the commencement of the trial, and in
the presence of several ladies, who promised themselves the pleasure
of being there to enjoy the spectacle, the young deputy had let fall
an expression of his firm confidence in obtaining from the jury a
verdict of condemnation. Every one will understand the painful
position in which he would be placed if his prosecution failed, and
Peter Leroux came back with his head upon his shoulders, to testify to
the weakness of M. Desalleux's eloquence. Let us not be too severe
upon the deputy of the public prosecutor: if he was not absolutely
convinced, it was his duty to appear so, and only the more meritorious
to utter such eloquent denunciations as for a century past had not
been heard at the bar of the criminal court of Orleans. Oh, if you
had been there to see how they were moved, those poor gentlemen of the
jury!--moved almost to tears, when, in a fine and most sonorous
peroration, he set before them the fearful picture of society shaken
to its foundations--the whole community about to enter upon
dissolution, immediately upon the acquittal of Peter Leroux! If you
had only heard the courteous eulogiums exchanged on both sides, when
the advocate of the accused, commencing his address, declared that he
could not go further without rendering homage to the brilliant powers
of oratory displayed by the deputy public prosecutor! If you had only
heard the president of the court, making the same felicitations the
text of his exordium, so well, that nothing would have persuaded you
that it was not an academical fête, and that they were not simply
awarding a prize for eloquence, instead of a sentence of death to a
fellow-creature. You would have seen, in the midst of a crowd of
'elegantly-attired members of the fair sex,' as the newspapers of the
province said, the sister of M. Desalleux, receiving the compliments
of all the ladies around her; while, at a little distance, the old
father was weeping with joy at the sight of the noble son and
incomparable orator whom he had given to the world.

Six weeks after this scene of family happiness, Peter Leroux,
accompanied by the executioner, mounted the condemned cart, which
waited for him at the door of the jail of Orleans. They proceeded
together to the Place du Martroie, which is the spot where executions
take place. Here they found a scaffold erected, and a considerable
concourse of persons expecting them. Peter Leroux, with the slow and
heavy ascent of a sack of flour going up by means of a pulley to the
top of a warehouse, mounts the steps of the scaffold. As he reached
the platform, a ray of sunlight, playing upon the brilliant and
polished steel of the instrument of justice, dazzled his eyes, and he
seemed about to stumble; but the executioner, with the courteous
attention of a host who knows how to do the honours of his house,
sustained him by the arm, and placed him upon the plank of the
guillotine. There Peter Leroux found the clerk of the court, who had
come for the purpose of reading formally the order for execution; the
gendarmes, who were charged to see that the public peace was kept
during the business about to be transacted; and the assistants of the
executioner, who, notwithstanding the ill name which has been given to
them, pointed out to him, with a complaisance full of delicate
consideration, the precise position in which to place himself under
the axe. One minute after, Peter Leroux's head was divorced from his
body, which operation was accomplished with such dexterity, that many
of those present at the spectacle asked of their neighbours if it was
already finished; and were told that it was; upon which they remarked,
that it was the last time they would put themselves so much out of the
way for so little.

Three months had passed since the head and body of Peter Leroux had
been cast into a corner of the cemetery, and, in all probability, the
grave no longer concealed aught but his bones, when a new session of
assizes was opened, and M. Desalleux had again to support a capital
indictment.

The day previous, he quitted at an early hour a ball to which he had
been invited with all his family, at a château in the environs, and
returned alone to the city, in order to prepare his case for the
morrow.

The night was dark; a warm wind from the south whistled drearily,
while the buzz of the gay scene that he had left seemed to linger in
his ears. A feeling of melancholy stole over him. The memory of many
people whom he had known, and who were dead, returned to his mind;
and, scarcely knowing why, he began to think of Peter Leroux.

Nevertheless, as he drew near the city, and the first lights of the
suburbs began to appear, all his sombre ideas vanished, and as soon as
he found himself again at his desk, surrounded by his books and
papers, he thought no longer of anything but his oration, which he had
determined should be even yet more brilliant than any that had
preceded it.

His system of indictment was already nearly settled. It is
singular, by the way, that French legal expression, a 'system of
indictment'--that is to say, an absolute manner of grouping an
_ensemble_ of facts and proofs, in virtue of which the prosecutor
appropriates to himself the head of a man--as one would say, 'a system
of philosophy'--that is, an _ensemble_ of reasonings and sophisms, by
the aid of which we establish some harmless truth, theory, or fancy.
His system of indictment was nearly completed, when the deposition of
a witness which he had not examined, suddenly presented itself, with
such an aspect as threatened to overturn all the edifice of his logic.
He hesitated for some moments; but, as we have already seen, M.
Desalleux, in his functions of deputy-prosecutor, consulted his vanity
at least as often as his conscience. Invoking all his powers of logic
and skill for turning words to his purpose, struggling muscle to
muscle with the unlucky testimony, he did not despair of finally
enlisting it in the number of his best arguments, as containing the
most conclusive evidence against the prisoner; but, unfortunately, the
trouble was considerable, and the night was already far advanced.

The clock had just struck three, and the lamp upon his table, burning
with a crust upon the wick, gave only a feeble light in the chamber.
Having trimmed it, and feeling somewhat excited with his labours, he
rose and walked to and fro, then returned and sat in his chair, from
which, leaning back in an easy attitude, and suspending his
reflections for awhile, he contemplated the stars which were shining
through a window opposite. Suddenly lowering his gaze, he encountered
what seemed to him two eyes staring in at him through the
window-panes. Imagining that the reflection of the lamp, doubled by
some flaw in the glass, had deceived him, he changed his place; but
the vision only appeared more distinct. As he was not wanting in
courage, he took a walking-stick, the only weapon within reach, and
opened the window, to see who was the intruder who came thus to
observe him at such an hour. The chamber which he occupied was high;
above and below, the wall of his house was perfectly perpendicular,
and afforded no means by which any one could climb or descend. In the
narrow space between himself and the balcony, the smallest object
could not have escaped him; but he saw nothing. He thought again that
he must have been the dupe of one of those hallucinations that
sometimes visit men in the night; and, with a smile, he applied
himself again to his labours. But he had not written twenty lines,
when he felt, before looking up, that there was something moving in a
corner of the chamber. This began to alarm him, for it was not natural
that the senses, one after the other, should conspire to deceive him.
Raising his eyes, and shading them with his hand from the glare of the
lamp beside him, he observed a dusky object advancing towards him with
short hops like those of a raven. As the apparition approached him,
its aspect became more terrifying; for it took the unmistakable form
of a human head separated from the trunk and dripping with blood; and
when at length, with a spring, it bounded upon the table, and rolled
about over the papers scattered on his desk, M. Desalleux recognised
the features of Peter Leroux, who no doubt had come to remind him that
a good conscience is of greater value than eloquence. Overcome by a
sensation of terror, M. Desalleux fainted. That morning, at daybreak,
he was found stretched out insensible on the floor near a little pool
of blood, which was also found in spots upon his desk, and on the
leaves of his pleadings. It was supposed, and he took care never to
contradict it, that he had been seized with a hemorrhage. It is
scarcely necessary to add, that he was not in a state to speak at the
trial, and that all his oratorical preparations were thrown away.

Many days passed before the recollection of that terrible night faded
from the memory of the deputy-prosecutor--many days before he could
bear to be alone or in the dark without terror. After some months,
however, the head of Peter Leroux not having repeated its visit, the
pride of intellect began again to counterbalance the testimony of the
senses, and again he asked himself, if he had not been duped by them.
In order more surely to weaken their authority, which all his
reasonings had not been able entirely to overcome, he called to his
aid the opinion of his physician, communicating to him in confidence
the story of his adventure. The doctor, who, by dint of long examining
the human brain, without discovering the slightest trace of anything
resembling a soul, had come to a learned conviction of materialism,
did not fail to laugh heartily on listening to the recital of the
nocturnal vision. This was perhaps the best manner of treating his
patient; for by having the appearance of holding his fancy in
derision, he forced, as it were, his self-esteem to take a part in the
cure. Moreover, as may be imagined, he did not hesitate to explain to
his patient, that his hallucination proceeded from an over-tension of
the cerebral fibre, followed by congestion and evacuation of blood,
which had been the causes of his seeing precisely what he had not
seen. Powerfully reassured by this consultation, and as no accident
happened to contradict its correctness, M. Desalleux by degrees
regained his serenity of mind, and gradually returned to his former
habits--modifying them simply insomuch that he laboured with an
application somewhat less severe, and indulged, at the doctor's
suggestion, in some of those amusements of life which he had hitherto
totally neglected.

M. Desalleux thought of a wife, and no man was more in a position than
he to secure a good match; for, without speaking of personal
advantages, the fame of his oratorical successes, and perhaps, more
still, the little anxiety which he displayed for any other kind of
success, had rendered him the object of more than one lady's ambition.
But there was in the bent of his life something too positive for him
to consent that even the love of a woman should find a place there
unconditionally. Among the hearts which seemed ready to bestow
themselves upon him, he calculated which was the particular one whose
good-will was best supported by money, useful relations, and other
social advantages. The first part of his romance being thus settled,
he saw without regret that the bride who would bring him all these,
was a young girl, witty, and of elegant exterior; whereupon he set
about falling in love with her with all the passion of which he was
capable, and with the approbation of her family, until at length a
marriage was determined upon.

Orleans had not, for a long time, seen a prettier bride than that of
M. Desalleux; nor a family more happy than that of M. Desalleux; nor a
wedding-ball so joyous and brilliant as that of M.



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Library mainpage -> Chambers, William -> Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, No. 456 Volume 18, New Series, September 25, 1852