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The next letter contains even more amusing and equally sound advice:
Child, I heard that the players are gon down to Oxford, but I am unwilling that you should go to see them act, for fear on your coming out of the hot play house into the cold ayer, you should catch harm, for as I did once coming out of the Theatre at a publick Act when it was very full and stiaming hot, and walkin a Broad in the cold, and gave me sutch a cold that it had Likt to a cost me my Life. Your best way in Sutch a cold is to go hom to your own Chamber directly from the play house, and drink a glass of Sack, therefour Be sure you send your Servant At your hand for a bottle of the Best VOL. LXIX. 50
dies, and Act, or Commemoration, as it is now called, is put off. In the autumn the scholar gets into trouble. His tutor writes that he comes not to afternoon lecture, and will give no reasons. Still worse, he "lay out of the College on Wednesday night last." In fact, it is clear that the authorities were reluctantly going to send him down, when the small-pox breaks out again, the whole college is dismissed, and Mr. Verney's particular matter blows over. He goes up again with his father's advice to avoid "Damed Company," gets his accounts into disorder, strains his arm wrestling, buys "a Cravat Ribbon of any modest color," wants to learn "Chymistry" (which his father confuses with alchemy), does learn to fence and exercise the pike and musket, and forgets to send home the desired news of Magdalen College, then, in the days of James the Second's persecution, the cynosure of every political eye. The happy, careless life, so little different in essentials from the undergraduate life of our own day, comes to a sad and sudden end. The elder Edmund dies suddenly in his sleep. His estate is in disorder. and the tale of his debts draws words of unusual bitterness from the austere and mortified Sir Ralph:
I finde yr Brother died very much in debt [Sir Ralph writes again to John], but as yet I cannot say how
much, therefore in my opinion it will be the best way to bury him privately in the night-time, without Escutcheons, or inviting of Neighbours to attend with their Coaches, which is very troublesome & signifies nothing.
The younger Edmund comes home to take up the burden of his inheritance, but in less than two years he, too, is dead of a fever caught in town. And so old Sir Ralph has outlived two generations of those who should have been his heirs when the day comes for him who so long has been the mainstay and prop of his family and his country to receive his own quietus. He has left The Academy.
orders for a very private burial, but they hang with black "the entry from the Hall door to the Spicery door, and the best Court Porch, likewise the Brick Parlor from top to bottom," and "the rooms looked very handsomely, though the Heavens wept with all his relations at the funeral."
So ends one of the books fullest of humanity and entertainment with which we are acquainted. We trust that the good old Verney habit of keeping private letters did not end with the seventeenth century, and that Lady Verney will some day trace for us the fortunes of this typical English family through yet another age.
THE DESERTED HOUSE.
Lo! the spirit has filed, and only the casket is left
Of voices and feet, of laughter and sorrow bereft,
In the glory of noon, if open the shutters you throw,
Flooding chambers to gold,
The silence will breathe of a past that we never may know: 'Tis a tale that is told!
Much more when the moon is hallowing woodland and hill Shall we start at each sound:
At the whirr of a moth, at a mouse, our heart will stand still In the silence profound.
In a mirror's pale gleam we shrink from an awe-stricken face,
And we strain sharpened ears;
But 'tis haunted alone by the ghosts of Days dead, is this
With their laughter and tears.
F. B. Doveton.
I happened about this time to be acting as president of an insurance company on Canal street. Summer was coming in again. One hot, sunny day, when the wind was high and gusty, the secretary was remarking to me what sad ruin it might work if fire should start among the frame tenement cottages which made up SO many neighborhoods that were destitute of water-mains, when right
at our ear the gong sounded for just such a region, and presently engine after engine came thundering and smoking by our open windows. Fire had broken out in the street where Manouvrier's new house stood, four squares from that house, but straight to windward of it.
We knew only too well, without being there to witness, that our firemen would find nothing with which to fight the flames except a few shallow wells of surface-water and the wooden rainwater cisterns above ground, and that both these sources were almost worthless owing to a drouth. I seemed to see streets populous with the sensationseeking crowd: sidewalks and alleys filled with bedding, chairs, bureaus, baskets of crockery and calico clothing with lamps spilling into them, cheap looking-glasses unexpectedly answering your eye with the boldness of an outcast girl, broken tables, pictures of the Virgin, overturned stoves, and all
From Strong Hearts. By George W. Cable. Charles Scribner's Sons, publishers. Price,
the dear mantel-piece trash which but an hour before had been the pride of the toiling housewife, and the adornment of the laborer's home.
I found the shop in St. Peter's street shut, and went on to the new residence. As I came near it, its beauty seemed to me to have consciously increased under the threatenings of destruction.
In the front gate stood the brotherin-law's widow, full of gestures and distressful smiles, as she leaned out with nervously folded arms and looked up and down the street. "Manouvrier? He is ad the fire since a whole hour. He will break his heart if dat fire ketch to dat 'ouse here. He cannot know 'ow 'tis in danger! Ah! sen' him word? I sen' him five time'-he sen' back I stay right there an' not touch nut'n! Ah! my God! I fine dat varrie te-de-ous, me, yass!"
"Is his wife with him?”
"Assuredly. You see, dey git 'fraid 'bout dat 'ouse of de Sister', you know?" "No; where is it?"
"No? You dunno dat lill' 'ouse where de Sister' keep dose orphelin' ba-bee'juz big-inning sinse 'bout two week' ago-round de corner-one square mo' down town-'alf square mo' nearer de swamp? Well, I think 'f you pass yondeh you fine Pastropbon."
Through smoke, under falling cinders, and by distracted and fleeing households I went. The moment I turned the second corner I espied the house. It was already half a square
from the oncoming fire, but on the northern side of the street, just out of its probable track and not in great danger except from sparks. But it was old and roofed with shingles: a decrepit Creole cottage sitting under dense cedars in a tangle of rose and honeysuckle vines, and strangely beautified by a flood of smoke-dimmed yellow sunlight.
As I hurried forward, several men and boys came from the opposite direction at a run, and an engine followed them, jouncing and tilting across the sidewalk opposite to the little asylum, into a yard, to draw from a fresh well. Their leader was a sight that drew all eyes. He was coatless and hatless; his thin cotton shirt, with its sleeves rolled up to the elbows, was torn almost off his shaggy breast; his trousers were drenched with water, and a rude bandage round his head was soaked with blood. He carried an axe. The throng shut him from my sight, but I ran to the spot and saw him again standing before the engine horses, with his back close to their heads. A strong, high board fence shut them off from the ell, and against it stood the owner of the property, pale as death, guarding the precious water with a shotgun at full cock. I heard him say:
"The first fellow that touches this fence "
But he did not finish. Quicker than his gun could flash and bang harmlessly in the air the man before him had dropped the axe and leaped upon him with the roar of a lion. The empty gun flew one way and its owner another, and almost before either struck the ground the axe was swinging and crashing into the fence.
As presently the engine rolled through the gap and shouting men backed her to the edge of the well, the big axeman paused to wipe the streaming sweat from his begrimed face with his arm. I clutched him.
He turned a quick, wild look at the fire, seized me by the arm, and with a gaze of deepest gratitude, asked:
"You tryin' save her?"
"Oh, dass right!" His face was full of mingled joy and pain. "You go yondeh-mek yo' possible." We were hurrying to the street-"Oh, yass, faw God's sake go, mek yo' possible!"
"But, Manouvrier, you must come too! Where's your wife? The chief danger to your house isn't here, it's where the fire's between it and the wind."
His answer was a look of anguish. "Good God! my fran'. We come yondeh so quickly as we can! But-foudre tonnere!-look that house here fill' with ba-bee'! What we goin' do? Those Sister' can't climb on roof with bocket' wateh. You see I got halfdozen boy' up yondeh; if I go 'way they dis-cend and run off at the fire, spark fall on roof an'-" his thumb flew out. "Sparks! Heavens! Manouvrier, your house is in the path of the flames!"
The man flew at me and hung over me, his strong locks shaking, his great black fist uplifted, and the only tears in his eyes I ever saw there. "Damnession! She's not mine. I trade her to God faw these one! Go! tell him she's his; he kin burn her if he feel like'!" He gave a half laugh, fresh witness of his distress, and went into the gate of the asylum.
I smiled-what could I do?-and was turning away, when I saw the chief of the fire department. It took but one moment to tell him my want, and in another he had put the cottage roof under the charge of four of his men, with instructions not to leave it till the danger was past of the house
burning. The engine near us had drawn the well dry and was coming away. He met it, pointed to where, beneath swirling billows of black smoke, the pretty gable of the taxidermist's house shone like a white sail against a thundercloud, gave orders and disappeared.
The street was filling with people. A row of cottages across the way was being emptied. The crackling flames were but half a square from Manouvrier's house. I called him once more to come. He waved his hand kindly to imply that he knew what I had done. He and his wife were in the Sisters' front garden walk, conversing eagerly with the Mother Superior. They neared the gate. Suddenly the Mother Superior went back, the lay-sister guarding the gate let the pair out and the three of us hurried off together.
We found ourselves now in the uproar and vortex of the struggle. Only at intervals could we take our attention from the turmoil that impeded or threatened us, to glance forward at the white gable or back-as Manouvrier persisted in doing to the Sisters' cottage. Once I looked behind and noticed, what I was loath to tell, that the firemen on its roof had grown busy; but as I was about to risk the truth, the husband and wife, glancing at their own roof, in one breath groaned aloud. Its gleaming gable had begun to smoke.
"Ah! that good God have pity on us!" cried the wife, in tears; but as she started to run forward I caught her arm and bade her look again. A strong, white stream of water was falling on the smoking spot and it smoked no
The next minute, with scores of others, choking and blinded with the smoke, we were flying from the fire. The wind had turned.
"It is only a gust," I cried, "it will swing round again. We must turn the
next corner and reach the house from the far side." I glanced back to see why my companions lagged, and lo! they had vanished.
I reached the house just in time to save its front grounds from the invasion of the rabble. The wind had not turned back again. The brother-inlaw's widow was offering prayers of thanksgiving. The cisterns were empty and the garden stood glistening in the afternoon sun like a May queen drenched in tears; but the lovely spot was saved.
I left its custodian at an upper window, looking out upon the fire, and started once more to find my friends. Half-way round to the Sisters' cottage I met them. With many others I stepped aside to make a clear way for the procession they headed. The sweet, clean wife bore in her arms an infant; the tattered, sooty, bloody-headed husband bore two; and after them, by pairs and hand in hand, with one gray sister in the rear, came a score or more of pink-frocked, motherless little girls. An amused rabble of children and lads hovered about the diminutive column, with leers and jests and happy antics; and the wife smiled foolishly and burned red with her embarrassment; but in the taxidermist's face shone an exaltation of soul greater than any I had ever seen. I felt too petty for such a moment, and hoped he would go by without seeing me; but he smiled an altogether new smile and said:
"My fran', God Almighty, he know a good bargain well as anybody!" I ran ahead, with no more shame of the crowd than Zaccheus of old. I threw open the gate, bounded up the steps and spread wide the door. In the hall, the widow, knowing naught of this, met me with wet eyes, crying:
"Ah! Ah! de 'ouse of de orphelin' is juz blaze up h-all over h-at once!" and hushed in amazement as the procession entered the gate.