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"How could It How could anybody? Now let us go in, and attend to Uncle Sam. He thinks of everybody before himself." "And I think of everybody after myself. Is that what you mean, Erema?"
"To be sure! If you like; you may put any meaning on my words that you think proper. I am accustomed to things of that sort, and I pay no attention whatever, when I am perfectly certain that I am right."
"I see," replied Firm, applying one finger to the side of his nose, in deep contemplation, which, of all his manners, annoyed me most, that nose being slightly crooked; "I see how it is; Miss Rema is always perfectly certain that she is right, and the whole of the rest of the world quite wrong. Well, after all, there is nothing like holding a first-rate opinion of oneself."
"You are not what I thought of you," I cried, being vexed beyond bearance by such words, and feeling their gross injustice; "if you wish to say anything more, please to leave it until you recover your temper. I am not quite accustomed to rudeness."
With these words, I drew away and walked off, partly in earnest and partly in joke, not wishing to hear another word. And when I looked back, being well out of sight, there he sat still, with his head on his hands; and my heart had a little ache for him.
However, I determined to say no more, and to be extremely careful. I could not in justice blame Ephraim Gundry for looking at me very often. But I took good care not to look at him again, unless be said something that made me laugh, and then I could scarcely help it. He was sharp enough very soon to find out this; and then he did a thing which was most unfair, as I found out long afterwards. He bought an American jest-book, full of ideas wholly new to me, and these he committed to heart, and brought them out as his own productions. If I had only known it, I must have been exceedingly sorry for him. But Uncle Sam used to laugh, and rub his hands, perhaps for old acquaintance sake; and when Uncle Sam laughed, there was nobody near who could help laughing with him. And so I began to think Firm the most witty and pleasant of men, though I tried to look away.
But perhaps the most careful and delicate of things was to see how Uncle Sam went on. I could not understand him at all just then, and thought him quite changed from my old Uncle Sam; but afterwards, when I came to know, his behaviour was as clear and shallow as the water of his own river. He had very strange ideas about what he generally called "the female kind." According to his ideas (and, perhaps they were not so unusual among mankind, especially settlers), all "females" were of a good, but weak, and consistently inconsistent sort. The surest way to make them do whatever their betters wanted, was to make them think that it was not wanted, but was hedged with obstacles beyond their power to overcome; and so to provoke and tantalise them to set their hearts upon doing it. In accordance with this idea (than which there can be none more mistaken), he took the greatest pains to keep me from having
a word to say to Firm, and even went so far as to hint with winks and nods of pleasantry, that his grandson's heart was set upon the pretty Miss Sylvester, the daughter of a man who owned a herd of pigs, much too near our saw-mills, and herself a young woman of outrageous dress, and in a larger light contemptible. But when Mr. Gundry, without any words, conveyed this piece of news to me, I immediately felt quite a liking for gaudy but harmless Pennsylvania, for so her parents had named her, when she was too young to help it, and I heartily hoped that she might suit Firm, which she seemed all the more likely to do, as his conduct could not be called noble. Upon that point, however, I said not a word, leaving him purely to judge for himself, and feeling it a great relief that now he could not say anything more to me. I was glad that his taste was so easily pleased; and I told Suan Isco how glad I was.
This I had better have left unsaid; for it led to a great explosion, and drove me away from the place altogether, before the new mill was finished, and before I should otherwise have gone from friends who were so good to me, not that I could have stayed there much longer, even if this had never come to pass; for week by week, and month by month, I was growing more uneasy. Uneasy, not at my obligations, or dependence upon mere friends (for they managed that so kindly that I seemed to confer the favour), but from my own sense of lagging far behind my duty.
For now the bright air, and the wholesome food, and the pleasure of goodness around me, were making me grow, without knowledge or notice, into a tall and not altogether to be overlooked young woman. I was exceedingly shy about this, and blushed if any one spoke of it; but yet my heart I felt that it was so, and how could I help it? And when people said, as rough people will, and even Uncle Sam sometimes, "handsome is as handsome does," or "beauty is only skin deep," and so on, I made it my duty not to be put out, but to bear it in mind, and be thankful. And though I had no idea of any such influence at the moment, I hope that the grandeur of nature around, and the lofty style of everything, may have saved me from dwelling too much on myself, as Pennsylvania Sylvester did.
Now the more I felt my grown-up age, and health, and buoyant vigour, the surer I knew that the time was come for me to do some good with them. Not to benefit the world in general, in a large and scattery way (as many young people set out to do, and never get any further), but to right the wrong of my own house, and bring home justice to my own heart. This may be thought a partial and paltry object to set out with ; and it is not for me to say otherwise. At the time, it occurred to me in no other light, except as my due business, and I never took any large view at all. But even now I do believe (though not yet in pickle of wisdom), that if everybody, in its own little space, and among its own little movements, will only do and take nothing without pure taste of the salt of justice, no reeking atrocity of national crimes could ever taint the heaven.
Such questions, however, become me not. I have only to deal with
very little things, sometimes too slim to handle well, and too sleezy to be woven; and if they seem below my sense and dignity to treat of, I can only say that they seemed very big at the time when I had to encounter them. For instance, what could be more important, in a little world of life, than for Uncle Sam to be put out, and dare even to think ill of me? Yet this he did; and it shows how shallow are all those theories of the other sex, which men are so pleased to indulge in. Scarcely anything could be more ridiculous from first to last, when calmly and truly considered, than the firm belief which no power of reason could, for the time, root out of him.
Uncle Sam, the dearest of all mankind to me, and the very kindest, was positively low enough to believe, in his sad opinion of the female race, that my young head was turned because of the wealth to which I had no claim, except through his own justice. He had insisted, at first, that the whole of that great nugget belonged to me, by right of sole discovery. I asked him whether, if any stranger had found it, it would have been considered his; and whether he would have allowed a "greaser," upon finding, to make off with it. At the thought of this, Mr. Gundry gave a little grunt, and could not go so far as to maintain that view of it. But he said that my reasoning did not fit; that I was not a greaser, but a settled inhabitant of the place, and entitled to all a settler's rights. That the bed of the river would have been his grave, but for the risk of my life; and therefore whatever I found in the bed of the river belonged to me, and me only.
In argument he was so much stronger than I could ever attempt to be, that I gave it up, and could only say that if he argued for ever, it could never make any difference. He did not argue for ever, but only grew obstinate and unpleasant, so that I yielded at last to own the half share of the bullion.
Very well. Everybody would have thought, who has not studied the nature of men, or been dragged through it heavily, that now there could be no more trouble between two people entirely trusting each other, and only anxious that the other should have the best of it. Yet instead of that being the case, the mischief, the myriad mischief of money set in; until I heartily wished sometimes that my miserable self was down in the hole which the pelf had left behind it.
For what did Uncle Sam take into his head (which was full of generosity and large ideas, so loosely packed that little ones grew between them, especially about womankind), what else did he really seem to think, with the downright stubbornness of all his thoughts, but that I, his poor debtor, and pensioner, and penniless dependant, was so set up and elated by this sudden access of fortune, that henceforth none of the sawing race was high enough for me to think of. It took me a long time to believe that so fair and just a man ever could set such construction upon And when it became too plain that he did so, truly I know not whether grief or anger was uppermost in my troubled heart.
“Guzman de Alfarache" and the Gusto Picaresco.
It is, as we are often reminded, difficult to believe nowadays that there was a time when it took five days to travel from London to York. To anyone who subscribes to a lending library, reads the reviews, or even looks over the publishers' announcements, it will be scarcely less difficult to conceive a time when England produced no novels and subsisted entirely on imported fiction. We are so accustomed to the achievements of this branch of the national industry that it has ceased to excite in us any feeling of admiration or astonishment. We are immensely proud of our machinery. When we particularly want to impress, please, or puzzle any foreign potentate who visits us, we take him down to Woolwich, and show him how easily and quickly a Woolwich infant may be brought into the world; or to Birmingham or Manchester, where he sees a sheet of metal in the twinkling of an eye converted into steel pens, or some fluffy stuff passing through a mad whirl of wheels and coming out at the other end as shirting. Unhappily, it is not possible to exhibit the actual mechanical process which produces with such wonderful rapidity the enormous amount of fiction required by the British nineteenth-century public. There is, unfortunately, no way of astonishing Sultan, Seyyid, or Shah by presenting to his eyes an example of applied mechanics dealing with, for instance, a forged will, a false marriage, a family feud, a curate more or less Anglican, a guardsman more or less diabolical, or any similar raw material, and spinning, twisting, and weaving the whole into the article of commerce known by the trade as a novel of the season, three vols. octavo, price one pound eleven and sixpence. Nevertheless, the manufacture is a scarcely less remarkable triumph of modern skill and enterprise, more especially if we bear in mind that its present prodigious development is altogether a growth of our own days. The tremendous activity in the fiction market presents, indeed, a striking contrast to the sluggishness of business in those days when a few pieces of work turned out by a few irregular hands like Richardson, Fielding, Smollett, or Sterne amply sufficed to meet the demand for entertaining literature; not to speak of that remoter and still more backward age-the handloom period in the history of novel-weaving-when our simple ancestors were contented with the fabrics of Mrs. Aphra Behn and the ingenious Mrs. Manley, a coarse web according to our taste, but very fine in their uneducated eyes.
These, however, were at any rate English; but before the Restoration
native ingenuity does not appear to have been capable of even so moderate an effort as the fabrication of a serviceable intrigue, and the novel-readers of England were wholly dependent upon the productions of the foreigner. This was the age of those shabby folios with high-sounding titles upon which the explorer sometimes lights among the remoter shelves of an old country-house library-"Cassandra," "Clelia," "Astrea: a Romance," "Ibrahim; or, the Illustrious Bassa," "Artamanes; or, the Grand Cyrus," and the like; volumes for the most part describing themselves as written by eminent wits and englished by persons of quality," and in bulk, type, and appearance as unsuggestive of light reading as books well could be. It is in such company that Guzman de Alfarache is most frequently found in these days, but the proverb which makes company an index to character does not hold good in this case. The works of D'Urfé, Gomberville, La Calprenède, and the Scudérys, which gave employment to the translators and, it is to be presumed, entertainment to the readers of England about the middle of the seventeenth century, were all mere offshoots of the earlier forms of fiction, the romances of chivalry and the prose pastorals. As M. Demogeot says in his History of French Literature, "le bucher de Cervantes n'étouffa pas toute la race chevaleresque; le roman héroïque, malencontreux phénix, en sortit sain et sauf pour l'ennui du xviie siècle.” They were, in fact, nothing more than modifications of the old romances, and, like the old romances, they sought to lead the reader into a world as far removed as possible from the world of his experience, and to interest him by the representation of personages, incidents, sentiments, and motives of action as unlike those of real life as the author's imagination could make them. Guzman de Alfarache was constructed on a plan exactly the opposite of this. It was an example of the new form of fiction which had come into existence in the sixteenth century. The great movement of the time, the gravitation towards fact, which had made itself felt in theology, in philosophy, in science, and in art, extended even to fiction, and gave birth to a new species of romance; one that laid its scenes, not in vague regions peopled by impossible knights and shepherds, but in the crowded highways of everyday life, and appealed not to the sentimental instincts of the reader, but to his sympathy with the weaknesses, wants, and humours of flesh and blood.
The first essay in this direction was the little Spanish tale of Lazarillo de Tormes, the origin, character, and place in literature of which have been already dealt with in these pages. * Guzman de Alfarache, also a Spanish tale, was the next, or at least the next that has come down to us. At first sight it may seem strange that Spain, of all countries, should have been the one to take the initiative in substituting a realistic for a romantic school of fiction; but the reason is not far to seek. Spain was the country where the romantic fiction-not only the chivalric but also the pastoral-reached the highest pitch of luxuriance, and the only country where its effects upon
*Cornhill Magazine, June 1875.
VOL. XXXV.-No. 205.