« PreviousContinue »
' With all my heart. Whither ??
• Use that necromantic power you speak of to summon hither each survivor of the dead whose grief was sharpest at their loss, and let them look upon their hearts' idols now. You would then indeed have life and death, present, past, and future, each revealing its own wonders.'
'A goodly company you have provided,' said I, and so numerous withal, that I should lack accommodation ; for it were a stinted allowance to assign but three such mourners to each one here, were we to make our reckoning coincident with the burial ; but were we to commence it now, and summon those alone who are mourners still in the solitude of their own thoughts, I fear there would be room to spare. The world soon transforms weepers round a
grave to merry laughers.'
• Were it possible,' replied my friend, 'to do this thing, you would fly in horror and amazement from your own work.' I do not think so. At all events, I wish I could be
to the trial, -] would cheerfully take my chance for whatever might follow. í
don't know how or why it is, but all my life I have had a strange . longing to know something of the secrets of the charnel.house. I
remember, as a boy, entering into a very solemn compact with a friend of my own age, that whichever of us survived the other should, if we could, (an important item of our bargain, you will say,) come back, and have communication with the survivor. At a later period of our lives, this friend went to India, and before we parted we renewed our compact. He died there on the field of battle ; and for a long time I expected the fulfilment of his promise. It never was fulfilled, and I suppose never will be now; for it is upwards of twenty years since he fell; but I relinquished my expectation most reluctantly, and at times tried to persuade myself the report of his death must have been premature. However, as I have heard no. thing of him either alive or dead during that long period, I presume the only reasonable conclusion I can come to is, that if spirits have ever visited this world, the power to do so does not rest with themselves.'
'So I should guess,' answered my friend, or there would be sad work occasionally with the living. But come, we have been long enough in this gloomy place ; let us return to the cheerful light of day.'
With a lingering step and unwilling spirit I followed my friend; and now, methought, the sun, the flowers, the verdant slopes, the singing of birds, and the straight lines of upright grave.stones, were still more intolerable, from the harsh violence of their contrast with the saddened feelings which the catacombs had produced. There was no harmony between me and them, but a most jarring discord; and I was glad to find myself once more in the Cemetery Omnibus, even with three insides' more than the inside was made for-an encroachment upon my rights which I bore with the greatest forti. tude, because it compelled me to appropriate my knees as a seat for a very pretty young lady.
Stanley's Introduction to the House of Commons. Being anxious to take his seat as soon as possible, Stanley prepared to return to town the following day. Amelia earnestly begged to be allowed to accompany him She assured him that, notwithstanding the fatigue she had undergone, she was perfectly well able to bear the journey; and with feelings of the deepest affection portrayed the delight she should derive from merely going down to the House with him in the carriage, to see him enter for the first time that which she fondly conceived to be the theatre of his glory. Stanley, however, contended for the imprudence of such a course, and came up with Sir William alone.
Having performed the distance with great expedition, they had an early dinner, and then went at once to the house. Sir William had previously explained how slight was the ceremony which had to be performed; still Stanley, as he entered, felt tremulous, and could not help wishing that the process of introduction had been over.
With the exception, however, of being extremely pale, he appeared selfpossessed, and after having been presented, took the oaths prescribed, and was greeted with loud cheers on taking his seat.
The House and its forms were quite new to him : he had never been previously, even as a 'stranger,' within its walls, and it must be confessed that his first impression was not of the most favourable character. He felt disappointed. The scene failed altogether to realise his anticipations; indeed, as he watched the preliminary proceedings, he could not but deem them in the last degree absurd. Petitions were presented, and when their titles had been proclaimed they were thrust without any further ceremony under the table. Bills were read for the third time, nominally-bills of great importance, affecting the interests of millions-and passed as if they were valueless; for they were utterly disregarded by the members generally, who appeared to be determined to uphold the reputation of the House as a deliberative assembly, by deliberating in knots upon matters of a purely private nature.
* Order !-order! exclaimed the Speaker, whenever the buzz became in his judgment rather too loud, and as a matter of courtesy on all such occasions it was for a moment subdued; but it swelled again gradually until it resembled that murmur which floats upon the air of a well-conducted national school, when the Speaker again cried, • Order !-order!' in a tone of great beauty and depth.
"Well,' said Sir William, who sat next to Stanley, 'how do you feel in your new position ?'
Disappointed,' replied Stanley. • Why, what did you expect ?'
• More dignity, more solemnity, more attention on the part of the members instead of this levity and noise. It seems to me to be rather an odd way of conducting the business of the nation.'
Sir William smiled, and having observed that the business had not
yet commenced in reality, told him to suspend his judgment until after the debate.
When the third reading of bills, the presentation of petitions, and a variety of other little unimportant matters had been disposed of, an honourable member rose to open a subject which led to a long and animated discussion, during which an immense amount of bitterness was displayed and applauded far more loudly than anything which absolutely bore upon the question at issue.
To Stanley it appeared that senators and actors were equally enamoured of applause ; that the vilest characteristics of both were strengthened and confirmed by the cheers which they elicited; and that as upon the stage, rant and most unnatural acting were certain to strike those who had the strongest lungs, so in the House, personalities and senseless rancour, so perfectly did they meet party views, were hailed with rapture by the superficial satellites of faction, to the utter discouragement of natural eloquence, useful discussion, and sound, sober sense.
Of course Stanley never intended to be a silent member; he had resolved from the first to make himself conspicuous by taking an active part in the debates, in the full conviction that by getting well up in his subjects, he must of necessity succeed, and that signally, seeing that he intended to introduce a new style of eloquence which would be at once natural, forcible, and suasive. The debate of that evening instead of shaking this high resolution had the direct effect of rendering it more firm; it excited his ambition in a greater degree than ever : he had no apprehension, he saw nothing to fear: he thought of nothing-dreamt of nothing, but speaking. He had the highest possible confidence in his own oratorical powers; he felt that he bad the game in his own hands, and being then in a position to distinguish himself, he determined on making the most of that posi. tion; to study deeply, and to prepare to take the country by storm.
In the mean time, those whom he had left with his honoured constituents to settle the expenses of his election, were favoured from morning till night with demands of the most ingenious and extraordinary character. Butchers, bakers, drapers, poulterers, tailors, ironmongers, haberdashers, blacksmiths, weavers, farriers, saddlers, tallow-chandlers, fruiterers, post-masters, printers; in short, bills were hourly lavished upon them by respectable members of almost every trade, and the honour which under those peculiar circumstances actuates tradesmen in the aggregate, is, in general, not only conspicuous but amazing.
The victuallers, however, were collectively the most aristocratic in their claims. Each assumed that he had a carte blanche, and felt strongly that in justice to himself, he ought, in filling it up, to have the highest regard to his own interest. The quantity of beer stated to have been consumed exceeded by several thousand gallons the entire stock of the town; and had the charges for spirituous liquors been submitted to the exciseman, it would have tended to convince him that both smuggling and private distillation had been carried on to an alarming extent under his very nose.
As many of the claims sent in were of a palpably gross and flagrant character, the chairman of the committee-notwithstanding the widow's desire that all demands should be satisfied-resisted them on the ground of their being monstrous. He was willing to satisfy all
just claims : he was willing to meet the demands, however exorbi tant, of all who had the slightest foundation to rest their demands upon ; but he refused to pay those who could have rendered no service, and by whom nothing could have been supplied.
I he immediate consequence of this refusal was a meeting of the malcontents, at which it was unanimously resolved that such resist. ance to those undoubted rights and privileges, which they and their forefathers generally had enjoyed by prescription from time immemorial, was unconstitutional and rotten: that the claims they had sent in were customary, and therefore correct; and that from these premises it resulted that they were bound, in strict justice to their wives and families, to call into action all the energies of which they were capable for the legitimate purpose of 'trying it on.'
Having carried this strong resolution nemine contradicente, they had glasses round with the view of polishing their brass, and then proceeded in a body to enforce their claims.
On entering the room in which the chairman of the committee and his secretary were on the point of winding up the affairs, Mr. Bouncewell — who, being a highly respectable man in his way, had been appointed spokesman-general on this occasion-said, with the air of a man conscious of the purity of his motives,
• We've come agin' about them there little accounts of ourn: question is, do you mean to settle 'em, or don't you?'
His colleagues, by whom he was backed, highly approved of this question, and winked and nodded with the view of intimating to each other that in their judgment that was the point.
Gentlemen,' said the chairman, with great calmness, in reply, 'I must say that I am somewhat astonished, after what transpired when you did me the honour
"We don't want no flummery here,' said Mr. Bouncewell, with very great impatience. "We didn't come here to have any long speeches; we aint to be done in that there way; we came here ex. pressly to give you another chance of settling them there little bills without any more bother, so all you've got to do is to say in a word, you know, whether you'll pay us or not.'
• If I thought for a moment that your demands were just, gentlemen, I would do so without hesitation; but as I feel quite certain that
you have no real claim, I must beg, as before, to decline.' • Then we'll law you !' exclaimed Mr. Bouncewell; and his friends with an expression of ferocity cried, “Ay! and you shall have lots on it!
'The law is open to you, gentlemen,' rejoined the chairman, with great suavity ; you must use your own discretion.'
• We'll smother you with actions, sir !' cried Mr. Bouncewell. We ain't a-going to be robbed, don't suppose it! Do you think you've got hold of a pack of fools? Do you think we're a.going to give away our substance for nothing? If you do, you was never in your life more mistaken. A pretty thing, indeed! he added, turning to his companions, who pouted and frowned with due significance, 'a very pretty thing! Here ! a lot of respectable tradesmen, here, swindled out of their substance, and then can't get paid! Did you ever in your born days hear of such a thing !'
Shame!-Shame!' cried his colleagues, with deep indignation, for they felt altogether disgusted. 'It's scandalous !--that it isscandalous !'