Изображения страниц

(when the other was out of the way), and so lamented to have anything at all to say about cash-by compulsion of the other-also both, when met together, were so large and reckless, and not to be insulted by a thought of payment; that it came to pass that my money did nothing but run away between them.

This was not their fault at all; but all my own, for being unable to keep my secret about the great nugget. The Major had told me not to speak of this, according to wise experience; and I had not the smallest intention of doing an atom of mischief in that way; but somehow or other it came out one night when I was being pitied for my desolation. And all the charges against me began to be doubled from that moment.

If this had been all I should not have cared so much, being quite content that my money should go as fast as it came in to me. But there was another thing here which cost me as much as my board and lodgings, and all the rest of my expenses. And that was the iron pump in European Square. For this pump stood in the very centre of a huddled district of famine, filth, and fever. When once I had seen from the leads of our house the quag of reeking life around, the stubs and snags of chimney-pots, the gashes among them entitled streets, and the broken blains called houses, I was quite ashamed of paying anything to become a Christian.

Betsy, who stood by me, said that it was better than it used to be, and that all these people lived in comfort of their own ideas, fiercely resented all interference, and were good to one another in their own rough way. It was more than three years since there had been a single murder among them, and even then the man who was killed confessed that he deserved it. She told me also, that in some mining district of Wales well known to her, things were a great deal worse than here, although the people were not half so poor. And finally, looking at a ruby ring which I had begged her to wear always, for the sake of her truth to me, she begged me to be wiser than to fret about things that I could not change. "All these people, whose hovels I saw, had the means of grace before them, and if they would not stretch forth their hands it was only because they were vessels of wrath. Her pity was rather for our poor black brethren who had never enjoyed no opportunities, and therefore must be castaways."

Being a stranger, and so young, and accustomed to receive my doctrine (since first I went to America), I dropped all intention of attempting any good in places where I might be murdered. But I could not help looking at the pump which was in front, and the poor things who came there for water, and most of all the children. With these it was almost the joy of the day, and perhaps the only joy, to come into this little open space and stand, and put their backs up stiffly, and stare about, ready for some good luck to turn up-such as a horse to hold, or a man coming out of the docks with a halfpenny to spare-and then, in failure of such golden hope, to dash about, in and out, after one another,

splashing, and kicking over their own cans, kettles, jars, or buckets, and stretching their dirty little naked legs, and showing very often fine white chests, and bright teeth wet with laughter. And then, when this chivy was done, and their quick little hearts beat aloud with glory, it was pretty to see them all rally round the pump, as crafty as their betters, and watching with sly humour each other's readiness to begin again.

Then suddenly a sense of neglected duty would seize some little body with a hand to its side, nine times out of ten a girl, whose mother, perhaps, lay sick at home, and a stern idea of responsibility began to make the buckets clank. Then might you see, if you cared to do so, orderly management have its turn, a demand for pins and a tucking up of skirts, (which scarcely seemed worthy of the great young fuss), large children scolding little ones not a bit more muddy than themselves, the while the very least child of all, too young as yet for chivying, and only come for company, would smoothe her comparatively clean frock down, and look up at her sisters with condemnatory eyes.

Trivial as they were, these things amused me much, and made a little chequer of reflected light upon the cloud of selfish gloom, especially when the real work began, and the children, vying with one another, set to at the iron handle. This was too large for their little hands to grasp, and by means of some grievance inside, or perhaps through a cruel trick of the plumber, up went the long handle every time small fingers were too confiding, and there it stood up like the tail of a rampant cow, or a branch inaccessible, until an old shawl or the cord of a peg-top could be cast up on high to reduce it. But some engineering boy, "highly gifted," like Uncle Sam's self, "with machinery," had discovered an ingenious cure for this. With the help of the girls he used to fasten a fat little thing, about twelve months old, in the bend at the middle of the handle, and there (like a ham on the steel-yard) hung this baby and enjoyed see-saw, and laughed at its own utility.

I never saw this, and the splashing and dribbling and play, and bright revelry of water, without forgetting all sad counsel and discretion, and rushing out as if the dingy pump were my own delicious Blue River. People used to look at me from the windows with pity and astonishment, supposing me to be crazed or frantic, especially the Germans. For to run out like this, without a pocket full of money, would have been insanity; and to run out with it, to their minds, was even clearer proof of that condition. For the money went as quickly as the water of the pump, on this side and on that it flew, each child in succession making deeper drain upon it, in virtue of still deeper woes. They were dreadful little story-tellers, I am very much afraid, and the long faces pulled, as soon as I came out, in contrast with all the recent glee and frolic, suggested to even the youngest charity suspicions of some inconsistency. However, they were so ingenious and clever that they worked my pockets like the pump itself, only with this unhappy difference, that the former had no inexhaustible supply.

And thus, by a reason (as cogent as any of more exalted nature), was I driven back to my head-quarters, there to abide till a fresh supply should come. For Uncle Sam, generous and noble as he was, did not mean to let me melt all away at once my share of the great Blue River nugget, any more than to make ducks and drakes of his own. Indeed that rock of gold was still untouched, and healthily reposing in a banker's cellar in the good town of Sacramento. People were allowed to go in and see it upon payment of a dollar, and they came out so thirsty from feasting upon it, that a bar was set up, and a pile of money made; all the gentlemen, and ladies even worse than they, taking a reckless turn about small moncy, after seeing that. But dear Uncle Sam refused every cent of the profit of all this excitable work. It was wholly against his wish that anything so artificial should be done at all, and his sense of religion condemned it. He said, in his very first letter to me, that even a heathen must acknowledge this champion nugget as the grandest work of the Lord yet discovered in America, a country more full of all works of the Lord than the rest of the world put together. And to keep it in a cellar, without any air or sun, grated harshly upon his ideas of right.

However, he did not expect everybody to think exactly as he did, and if they could turn a few dollars upon it they were welcome, as having large families. And the balance might go to his credit against the interest on any cash advanced to him. Not that he meant to be very fast with this, never having run into debt in all his life.

This, put shortly, was the reason why I could not run to the pump any longer. I had come into England with money enough to last me (according to the Sawyer's calculations) for a year and a half of every needful work; whereas, in less than half that time, I was arriving at my last penny. This reminded me of my dear father, who was nearly always in trouble about money (although so strictly upright); and at first I was proud to be like him about this, till I came to find the disadvantages.

It must not even for a moment be imagined that this made any difference in the behaviour of any one towards me. Mrs. Strauss, Herr Strouss, the lady on the stairs, and a very clever woman who had got no rooms, but was kindly accommodated everywhere, as well as the baron on the first floor front, and the gentleman from an hotel at Hanover, who looked out the other way, and even the children at the pump-not one made any difference towards me (as an enemy might, perhaps, suppose) because my last half-crown was gone. It was admitted upon every side that I ought to be forgiven for my random cast of money, because I knew no better, and was sure to have more in a very little time. And the children of the pump came to see me go away, through streets of a mile and a half, I should think; and they carried my things looking after one another, so that none could run away. And being forbidden at the platform gate, for want of respectability, they set up a cheer, and I waved my hat, and promised, amid great applause, to come back with it full of sixpences


The Rationale of Mythology.

BETWEEN the physical history of the Earth and the intellectual history of its chief inhabitant there are some striking features of resemblance. From the earliest period at which its history can be traced, the Earth has passed out of a condition of inorganic and lifeless confusion into one of organised and living order, mainly through the agency of two great opposing forces, the igneous and the aqueous. Swift and violent in its earliest manifestations, the igneous force originally reigned alone; dislocating and fusing the materials with which it had to deal, and upheaving them into huge and fantastic shapes. Slower and gentler in its operation, the aqueous force gradually acquired supremacy by disintegrating and degrading the constructions of its antagonist, depositing and accumulating the débris in an orderly series. These accumulations the igneous force again either forcibly disrupted or steadily upheaved, forming in the course of one process or the other various new combinations, destined in their turn to be divided and worn down by the aqueous force, which substituted the results of its methodical deposition. While thus opposed in their natures and modes of working, these forces have yet continually interacted harmoniously, uniting now in the spasmodic agency of earthquake and volcano, now in the gentle agency of thermal vapours and springs; further combining their functions to elaborate the vast scheme of physical variety, and adapt the manifold conditions of mountain and valley, plain and wood, sea and river, to the wants of their diverse inhabitants.

Man, in like manner, from the earliest epoch at which his existence is indicated, has developed out of a state of dull and ignorant barbarism into one of keen and instructed civilisation by means of the conflict and interaction of his powers of Imagination and Reason, which, though not ordinarily opposed in an individual mind, display such a difference between their functions and modes of action as on a large scale necessarily has the aspect of antagonism. The tendency of the former is to discover the points of likeness between sensible objects and to unite them into novel combinations; that of the latter is to detect the points of unlikeness between them, and to classify them according to their divisions. The one selects and combines; the other divides and tabulates. From man's imaginative, or synthetic, power have arisen those vast social structures of Church and Empire, Creed and Philosophy, which uprise in the dawn of history, often violent in their birth, rapid in their growth, colossal and extravagant in their shapes. To his rational or analytic faculty are due the slow and minute

decay of those structures, the loosening of imperial cohesion by liberal ideas, of dogmatic authority by scepticism, and the gradual accumulation of political knowledge which has laid the foundations of commonwealths, of physical observation and experiment, which have been reduced into scientific laws. Disrupted by the explosive force of imagination—such, for example, as attended the birth of Christianity or Mahommedanism, and the rise of Napoleon's Empire-or more slowly modified by its influence, these rational processes have been awhile arrested, only to resume activity after a short-lived triumph of synthesis. In spite of their opposition, the powers of Reason and Imagination have perpetually interacted harmoniously, now combining in the development of Mythology, now in the several forms of Art, and have mutually assisted in producing that diversity of social ordinance and individual invention to which life is indebted for more than half its charm.

First among the products of the interaction of Imagination and Reason we have named Mythology. Their union in generating it may be recognised in the various theories respecting its constitution, of which six may be noted as possessing more or less claim to attention.

The Historical theory, which resolves mythology into the exaggerated distortion of fact, is known in one of its chief applications as Euhemerism, from the name of the ancient Sicilian sceptic, who elaborated a notion that apotheosis was the parent of theology. This suggestion was long since disposed of by the criticism that apotheosis itself pre-supposes the religious idea, and argument would be thrown away in exposing the untenability of Euhemerism as an abstract speculation. Legitimately applied, however, the Historical theory successfully explains a large proportion of ancient fictions; apparitions, glorious and terrible, in many a Pantheon and heroic age, the records of thaumaturgy, and the Acta Sanctorum. In the mere belief of a rude people that its earliest dynasty of strong-willed, strong-limbed monarchs had a divine origin, there is little. to be discerned beyond a simple process of induction, but the basis is rarely found without a superstructure of exaggeration. This, supposing it to be innocent, may result from the crude observations of intellects naturally uncritical and warped to foregone conclusions, or from the incorrect recital of imperfect narratives. More often, however, it is due to a dissatisfaction with the bare aspect of facts, which, necessitating artifice to attain ideal completeness, gives free scope to the exercise of invention. The Physical theory, which Wordsworth has versified in the Excursion (book iv.), may be more summarily dismissed. In attributing the antique conception of Satyrs to an optical illusion produced bywithered boughs grotesque,

Stripped of their leaves and twigs by hoary age.

And sometimes intermixed with stirring horns
Of the live deer, or goat's depending beard,


*This view has been felicitously expanded by a thoughtful writer on the Historical Alternation of Science and Art, in the Contemporary Review for February 1869.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »