« PreviousContinue »
the west, with the fresh breeze in his face, and his cigarette only kept alight by a violent puff now and then, listening to the lively chatter. How vacant it was-about this one and that one; about So-and-so's peculiarities; about things not even made clear, which each understood at half a word, which made them laugh. Good heavens, at what? Not at the wit of it, for there was no wit. At some ludicrous image involved, which to the listener was dull, dull as the village chatter on the other side; but more dull, more vapid in its artificial ring. How they echoed each other, chiming in; how they remembered anecdotes to the discredit of their friends; how they ran on in the same circle endlessly, with jests that were without point even to Frances, who sat listening in an eager tension of interest, but could not keep up to the height of the talk, which was all about people she did not know-and still more without point to Waring, who had known, but knew no longer, and who was angry and mortified and bitter, feeling his supremacy taken from him in his own house, and all his habits shattered, yet knew very well that he could not resist, that to show his dislike would only make him ridiculous; that he was once more subject to Society, and dare not show his contempt for
After a while, he flung his half-finished cigarette over the wall, and stalked away, with a brief, Excuse me, but I must say good-night.' Markham sprang up from his chair; but his stepfather only waved his hand to the little party sitting in the evening darkness, and went away, his footsteps sounding upon the marble floor through the salone and the anteroom, closing the doors behind him. There was a little silence as he disappeared.
'Well,' said Markham with a long-drawn breath, that's over, Con; and better than might have been expected.'
'Better! Do you call that better? I should say almost as bad as could be. Why didn't you stand up to him and have it out?'
'My dear, he always cows me a little,' said Markham. I remember times when I stood up to him, as you say, with that idiotcy of youth in which you are so strong, Con; but I think I generally came off second best. Our respected papa has a great gift of language when he likes.'
'He does not like now; he is too old; he has given up that sort of thing. Ask Frances. She thinks him the mildest of pious fathers.'
'If you please,' said the little voice of Frances out of the gloom, with a little quiver in it, 'I wish you would not speak about papa so, before
It is perhaps quite right of you, who have no feeling for him, or don't know him very well; but with me it is quite different. Whether you are right or wrong, I cannot have it, please.'
"The little thing is quite right, Con,' said Markham.-'I beg your pardon, little Fan. I have a great respect for papa, though he has none for me.-Too old! He is not so old as I
am, and a much more estimable member of society. He is not old enough-that is the worst of itfor you and me.'
'I am not going to encourage her in her nonsense,' said Constance, as if one's father or
mother was something sacred, as if they were not just human beings like ourselves. But apart from that, as I have told Frances, I think very well of papa.'
SEED AND SOIL.
FARMERS with their seed sown are so completely at the mercy of the weather, that they have not inaptly been compared to sailors who before they left port had to set their sails, and were thereafter debarred from altering them till the voyage was ended. When farmers do suffer from unfavourable weather, the public are ready to give them practical sympathy; but if it could be shown that 'bad weather' is the scapegoat of very many failures which by skill and industry could be averted, then much of their grumbling would have to cease.
In 1877, which it may be remembered was rather a bad year for farmers, an investigation was made, at the instance of the government, into the circumstances which affected the growth of wheat, oats, and barley; and some curious facts were brought out to show that, besides weather, the character of soil and seed have more to do with the harvest than has been generally supposed, even by farmers themselves. Though the general character of the soil can be little altered, yet, by thorough and skilful cultivation, the farmer is able to make the most of its natural resources. In one case which was investigated, two neighbouring farms, under the same conditions as regards soil and climate, and also, it may be added, valued and taxed alike, were found to yield totally different results. The one was properly and thoroughly tilled, and yielded per acre fifty bushels of oats, weighing forty-three pounds each; while the other, which had a thin slice of its surface turned over annually, yielded only at the rate of ten bushels, of twenty-two pounds each, per acre. Here was a loss of nearly two thousand pounds of oats through what was probably little else than slovenly farming.
In another case, the good effect of drainage was plainly shown. The oats which grew on two adjoining fields-the one drained, and the other undrained, but otherwise under similar conditions -were examined, and it was found that the former yielded four hundred and thirty-eight pounds of oats, and of a superior quality, more than the latter, besides a considerable weight of straw. As additional proof of the value of thorough tillage and drainage, the result of experiment is that without them there is no hope of the success of the recently much-talked-of continuous growth of corn; but by their means, on good land, success seems to have been wellnigh attained. At Sawbridgeworth, Mr Prout farms five hundred acres by steam, sells off the whole produce, and spends fifty shillings per acre on artificial manures; and it was found that the fourth crop of wheat-which was the ninth corn-crop in direct succession-was at the
rate of forty-eight bushels, of sixty-two pounds each, to the acre.
Another important item, but one to which too little attention seems to be given, is the selection of that seed most likely to utilise all the previous labour of tillage. Carelessness in this particular annually causes immense loss and much disappointment. When it is remembered that wheat, oats, and barley-corn-producing grasses-have been by cultivation brought to their present state, and also how much power we have over plants, the wonder is that farmers generally seem to be content with the progress made in this branch, while so much trouble is taken to have live-stock converted into improved' producers of meat. The difference between the return from good seed suitable for the soil and climate, and bad and unsuitable seed, is remarkable. In the investigation referred to, two fields similarly situated as to soil, climate, and management, but the one sown with a good and suitable, and the other with an unsuitable, variety of wheat, were found to yield at the rate of sixty bushels of sixty-three pounds, and forty bushels of sixty-four pounds, per acre respectively; which, valued at two pounds per quarter, showed that the farmer by the use of unsuitable seed suffered a loss of five pounds per acre. In the case of oats, the difference between the yield from good and bad seed sown under similar conditions seems to be even more marked. In one case examined, the good seed yielded thirty-five bushels, worth three shillings each; while the bad seed gave a return of only twenty-two bushels, worth about eighteenpence each. The selection of a suitable seed cannot, however, be made once for all; for if the seed be grown and sown on the same farm year after year, it gradually becomes less productive; while if it be sown in a different soil and climate, the yield is considerably increased. Why this so-called 'change of seed' should be so beneficial, is as yet a mystery. Professor Tanner suggests that the conditions of growth as regards soil and climate are seldom perfect, and thus any imperfection in the seed is becoming annually more marked; but a change seems to rectify these imperfections, and to give an increased vigour of growth, just as a change of food and air does for an invalid. To prove the value of 'change of seed,' the produce of a field grown from changed seed, and that of another grown from seed grown on the same farm for some length of time, were examined; and it was found that though the conditions under which both specimens were grown were fairly equal, yet the produce in the first case exceeded that of the second by nine hundred and fifty-four pounds of grain per acre.
Though, under proper conditions, seed will keep for almost any length of time, yet, kept as it ordinarily is, some of the seeds yearly lose their vitality. At the New York Agricultural Experiment Station, Dr Sturtevant found that of turnipseed one year old a hundred per cent. germinated, and ninety per cent. vegetated; while of seed twelve years old, only thirty-six per cent. germinated, and six per cent. vegetated. In the case of swedes, new seed seems to grow with greater rapidity than that two or three years old, but at a sacrifice of good form, and, what is worse, of feeding-value. Considerations like these, it may be suggested, should lead farmers to form for
themselves small experimental plots, and so be able to judge of the value of manures, seeds, &c., before risking many pounds in the purchase of them, while they are uncertain of their suitability.
A CHANGE IN THE CAST.
MR JOSIAH JOWITT of the detective police force was universally allowed, by those best able to judge of such matters, to be at the top of the proverbial tree in his avocation. When any transgression of the laws of the land had taken place, and the statute-breaker was known to possess artfulness above the average of his class in eluding the vigilance of the vindicators of justice, the order that went forth from the chief at Scotland Yard was, 'Jowitt must take this case in hand,' whereupon the iniquitous career of the malefactor who happened to be 'wanted' was considered to be drawing to a very rapid close. The personal appearance of this astute unraveller of criminal Gordian knots could not, strictly speaking, be called prepossessing. He was under the average height; had reddish hair; a nose of abnormal size separated a pair of small, but keen and twinkling gray eyes; and his thin hatchet face was entirely innocent of any appendages of a hirsute nature.
As we now behold Mr Josiah Jowitt pacing to and fro in a less crowded part of the London, Brighton, and South Coast platform at London Bridge terminus, his face certainly indicates a somewhat perplexed state of the detective mind. Occasionally, he knits his brows and appears to be addressing the ground, so intent is he in bending his eyes in a downward direction. Presently, he is joined by a youthful-looking man, who seemed to spring up from nowhere in particular.
Well, Dixon?' interrogated Mr Jowitt in a sharp tone.
"Missed him; bother it!' replied the individual. I believe in this way, sir
'Never mind how you missed him—you did; that is more than enough for me,' interrupted the renowned one, in a tone of voice evidently meant to impress his subordinate with the intense disgust which he doubtless inwardly experienced.
After a moment or two occupied in seeking inspiration out of the hard flagstones, he turned sharply to the crestfallen young man by his side and said: 'Now, you are quite certain about the information? He was to leave this particular station by an early morning train. Consider a moment now; might it not have been Victoria, for instance?'
I am quite sure the place named was London Bridge, and no other,' emphatically answered the man, and with an air which seemed to lend conviction to his utterance.
'That will do, then, for the present; but be in readiness later on-I may want you;' and Josiah Jowitt dismissed his subordinate with a curt nod.
Ah, if I didn't think something would be wrong!' soliloquised the irritated little man, as he resumed his exercise. 'What a fool I was not to come down myself! But there; what's the good of me talking like that! A man can't cut
his body in two pieces and have a head and brains to each! Now, I wonder if the woman has sold us? I don't think so; she seemed to be too much in earnest, and too unmistakably jealous of some lady, she said, that the fellow had got in with by some means or other. Ah, well it's now eleven-thirty, and no train on to that branch line till two-thirty. It is no use me waiting till that time here, as far as I can see. Not much use, either, telegraphing. Too many passengers at a time like this, even for so small a place as it is. I'll just'
'Hold, enough! came in sonorous tones from a burly individual whom the detective had run up against.
What, Mully, my boy!' exclaimed Josiah, as he recovered himself and looked up at his accoster. "Tis myself-Marcus Mulford, and none other,' replied that individual, assuming an intensely theatrical air.
And how does the world use you?' inquired Mr Jowitt.
'Hum! ha pretty much in the old style, Josiah. And how wags it with you, my lord? Still successful in tracking the bandit to his cave-or, in the plain language of a prosaic age, I take it you have lost none of your ancient cunning in bringing to justice criminals who are "wanted," eh ?'
'Well, well, I still manage to keep my hand in,' modestly answered the detective with a quiet smile. But,' continued he, let us adjourn to the refreshment room; it will not be quite so cold there.'
'You are right, Josial; and a trifle of something on a keen day like this will do no harm to my inner man; therefore, "lead on-I'll follow thee."
The two acquaintances having reached the proposed friendly shelter, each was soon engaged in consuming what he liked best; the disciple of Thespis indulged in a glass of rum, while the detective contented himself with a modest draught of beer.
time when we used to inflict our stage-struck ravings upon our friends in the little room in Jerringham Street?'
'I do well remember it,' replied the actor, with a solemn shake of the head. It is a long time ago. "Thus creeps on our petty pace," as the great William truthfully has it.'
'And what sort of a performance do you expect, eh?'
A tolerably tidy one. I have great faith in the ladies and gentlemen who take part in it. The piece is that legitimate and sterling comedy, Still Waters Run Deep. The principal characters will be well sustained. Young Mr Dobsonwhom I am privileged to call by his Christian name, Samuel-will be, from what I have seen at rehearsals, a capital John Mildmay; while as for the captain-Hawksley, you know, the forger
he will be represented by about the most fitting man, professional and amateur, for the part that it has ever been my lot to come across. Yes, my boy, Mr Frederick Delancy is '
"Eh?' exclaimed the detective with much enhanced interest, as the name fell from his friend's lips. Then quickly reassuming his previous air of ordinary attention, he said: 'Good actor, I suppose, this this Mr what-d'ye-callhim?'
'I was about to observe,' said Mr Mulford, that Mr Frederick Delancy is an A one Captain Hawksley.'
'I daresay you're right, Mully my boy; and you've somewhat excited my curiosity. I should like to see this paragon of yours. Do you think you could manage it so that I could just have a peep at him, eh?'
'Hum! Well, you know'
'Oh, I do not have much concern in the matter; only, you may remember that Captain Hawksley was a part I was rather fond of attempting myself."
'Quite right, Jowitt.' 'Now, that's why I should like to get a peep away-being a trifle in my line, eh? I might learn a wrinkle, you know. Ha, ha!'
After some few minutes had been whiled by an interchange of observations on that grand old topic, the weather, and so forth, Mr Marcus Mulford pointed, with the substantial silverheaded cane he carried, to an advertisement frame which hung on the wall on the customers' side of the room. 'See that?' he asked of his companion.
Mr Jowitt nodded affirmatively.
"The legend inscribed thereon, you will observe,' continued Mr Mulford, is "Dobson & Co.'s noted Ales." I, though but a lowly individual, have the honour to be acquainted with Dobson & Co.; in fact, my dear Josiah, I am now on my way to the Dobsonian mansion-at least I shall be, when the two-thirty train steams out of this for Selwick.'
'Professionally?' inquired Josiah. 'Correct, my boy. The long and short of it is, sir, that at Hop Villa, the residence of Samuel Dobson, Esquire, an amateur performance is to take place to-night, and I am engaged for the responsible post of prompter. I have been down to the villa pretty frequently lately, and have met with the kindest treatment, sir; in fact, dear boy, I should not object to a similar engagement once a week the year round.'
'Amateurs, eh, Mully? Do you remember the
'I think I can manage that,' said Mr Mulford; so meet me at the Station Hotel at Selwick about six, and we will discuss the matter further.'
'I will be there. A train leaves here at fourthirty, arriving at five-thirty-five,' said Mr Jowitt, who had been apparently, during the last three or four minutes, amusing himself in turning over the leaves of a local time-table. And now,' he continued, glancing at the clock, Mully, my boy, I must leave you; I have a little affair to look after. Business, you know, eh?'
'I understand. Farewell, till we meet again.' 'Well, I'm in luck,' mused Mr Jowitt as he left the station. Ah, what a lot of chance there is in our profession! Only to think I should meet Mulford, after not having seen him for an age; and, stranger still, that he should happen to be in a position to put me direct on to the scent, after it had been lost by that stupid Dixon. Must be what they used to call in the old plays the "hand of fate!"'
It was a busy and exciting time behind the scenes of the mimic stage at Hop Villa for some two hours previous to the rising of the green
baize curtain upon the first scene of Still Waters in upon Mr Frederick Delancy, undoubtedly Run Deep. No expense had been spared in order as Captain Hawksley, the hero of the evening. that the first venture in the way of theatrical As the honoured guest of the house, he had entertainment as promoted by Sam Dobson, had apportioned a room to his own exclusive should appear in the best possible light in the use; and whilst in the other parts of the villa, sight of that young gentleman's numerous ac- anxiety and no small amount of irritability were quaintances, who had been invited to 'assist' at being displayed in various forms, he was calmly the representation. A real stage carpenter, who and self-complacently smoking a cigarette in the was temporarily out of employment, had been depths of a luxurious easy-chair before a cheerful retained to fit up the stage in as complete a fire. manner as limited space would allow of; whilst the scenery, which in the piece in question is not of a very complicated character, had been prepared by one of Sam's particular cronies, who was the artist' to a large firm of painters and decorators. The principal scene, a room with trellis-work opening on to a garden at the back, was unanimously voted to be of artistic excellence.
That important adjunct to a theatrical performance, the orchestra, had not been left out of calculation, and the organisation of an amateur Land had been intrusted to one who was allowed to be no mean performer on the pianoforte. The musicians who had volunteered their services were not many in number, seven being the total, all told, including the side drum and triangle; but any shortcoming in the matter of quantity was more than made good by the earnestness and ambition of the executants. Truly, they were ambitious, when they selected for the overture that of Semiramis. However, by dint of diligent practice-to the horror of the neighbours -at each other's houses in turns, they had so far managed to conquer the difficulty before them, that at the final grand rehearsal there were not more than a couple of bars' difference at the quickest passage between the piccolo and the first violin, the former making the running; and it was pronounced 'Not so bad, considering, don't you know!'
It is not intended to enter into what might be considered a tedious description of 'behind the scenes.' The subject has been about exhansted in one shape or other, and nearly everybody nowadays is more or less well acquainted with the seamy side' of the drama. The 'making up'-that is, causing the face to reflect, by the aid of various pigments, colours, burnt cork, &c, the characteristics of and resemblance to the person to be portrayed by the actor-is always, where a conscientious desire exists to be faithful to the author's ideas and intentions, a serious matter with your amateurs, especially young ones. Consequently, this part of the responsibilities of the night which were to be borne by Sam Dobson's dramatic corps, was not considered quite so pleasing as the other portion, involving as it did an almost constant call upon each other's good-nature and forbearance. It certainly was trying for young Smythe, the Markham of the evening, to be called upon by the irrepressible individual before alluded to, who was to appear as Dunbilk, to 'just come and put a nice fine line of Indian ink, me boy, underneath my lower eyelids,' when he (Smythe) was vigorously using the shaving-brush over the whole area of his smooth and round face.
'At last,' he said with a sigh of satisfaction, addressing the ornament on the chimney-pieceat last, I believe I am landed in good safe harbour. The old gentleman believes in me tremendously, in fact his confidence is truly touching; and as for the son, bah! he- Well, I have earned his eternal gratitude by assisting him to carry out the cherished wish of his aspiring career. As for the ladies'-and here the noble captain indulged in a smile of gratified vanity-why, I can only think I have scored my usual success; though, to be candid with myself, I really do not think the antiquated maiden aunt is particularly taken up with me. But what of that? When once I call the fair Aurelia mine-and I think I shall do her the honour of asking her to be my wife at the first opportune moment after this-this tomfoolery is over-I can afford to treat her with condescending pity. Yes, I think I am perfectly safe at last. I am now a respectable City man, and my credit is becoming better every day. When I am the son-in-law of the substantial Samuel Dobson, who knows to what pinnacle of commercial fame I may not attain? Why, one day I may actually become an alderman of the City of London. And yet I must not lull myself into a feeling of too absolute security; and somehow, to-night, although I consider the future horizon to be free from dark clouds, I have a peculiar-I scarcely know what to call it foreboding of ill, as superstitious fools would say. Bah! why should I fear? There is only one who could put the bloodhounds of the law on my track, and I flatter myself she loved me too well to betray me. regret only one thing-the not destroying these lovely bank-note plates. The best I ever handled!'
In this strain the gentlemanly forger and possible alderman of the future allowed his thoughts to wander during the playing of the overture; and all the while, Nemesis, in the shape of a wily officer of the law, was nearing him! Yes, Mr Josiah Jowitt had, as agreed, met his friend Marcus Mulford at the Station Hotel, which was situated about a mile from Hop Villa; and had satisfactorily arranged with that worthy-without raising the slightest suspicion in the prompter's breast as to his true motive-to obtain admittance behind the scenes; and in order to pass away the time, the detective solaced himself with sundry refreshments in the snug bar of the inn.
'Bravo! bravo!' cried the delighted and friendly critics, as the act-drop descended at the conclusion of the second act, the scene, known as the Office scene,' being the most dramatic one in the whole comedy; and the two principal characters in it, John Mildmay (Sam Dobson)
dispute the lawfulness of the proceedings For a few seconds a painful silence reigned upon the mimic stage and amongst the auditors, when it was broken by a faint cry coming from the back of the stage, in which direction, naturally, all eyes were at once directed; and it was observed that the elder of the Misses Dobson appeared to be very agitated, and a deathlike pallor, in spite of the slightest soupçon of rouge on her cheeks, showed itself in her face.
and Captain Hawksley (Frederick Delancy) had to come before the footlights and bow their acknowledgments in the orthodox manner. Undoubtedly, the performance so far was an unqualified success, and Master Samuel was congratulating himself and everybody else as well. Mr Delancy had proved himself to be an actor of considerable talent; and although great things had been expected of him, the result was a pleasant surprise. It was universally admitted that his finest efforts were those in the scene where the captain' encounters Mrs Sternhold, who has taken the place of Mrs Mildmay, in order to defeat Hawksley's insidious designs upon her niece. The fair Aurelia also came in for no small measure of praise for her really fine-Come, Aurelia, my dear; I will conduct you rendering of the trying part of Mrs Sternhold.
The prompter tinkles his little bell, and the act-drop rises on the third and last act. Amidst the rapt attention of the audience, the concluding portion of the comedy is progressing in the same smooth manner as had marked the earlier part of it. The action of the piece had arrived at that point where the Mildmay household are receiving their guests for the dinner-party, and Gimlet, the detective in the play, had been hurriedly introduced as 'Mr Maxwell from the North,' and had retired to his position in the background. Then followed the entrance of Captain Hawksley, and the exciting episodes of the horsewhip and the proposed duel with pistols, one loaded, the other not, had duly enthralled the audience. John Mildmay then denounces Hawksley as a felon. A felon in this house! Where? Police! police!' cries old Potter. Mr Brownsmith was just about to step forward in his character of Gimlet and arrest the 'captain,' alias 'Burgess,' when a little thin man was observed to 'enter' quickly from the wings on the prompt side, and to push himself dexterously between Hawksley and Gimlet, at the same time saying, as he produced and snipped on to the wrists of Hawksley a pair of handcuffs: 'I arrest you, Frederick Delancy, alias Montague, alias Smithson!'
The thing was accomplished in so short a space of time, that both actors and audience had not recovered from their natural surprise at seeing a stranger walk on to the stage and take, as it were, another man's business into his own hands. During the few moments of breathless surprise following the above startling episode, and while the spectators were slowly beginning to realise the fact that something was happening which had evidently not been rehearsed, Josiah Jowitt whispered rapidly to Delancy: It's all up guv'nor-woman split got the plates and the paper; you'll go quietly, won't you? I've got a cab waiting at the door.'
"Those plates! curse me for an idiot!' muttered Delancy beneath his breath as he was being led
'Aurelia,' said the maiden aunt as she stepped on to the stage from the wings, where she had been standing, is a little overcome with the heat and the excitement, and at the sudden incident which we have just witnessed as well.
into the fresh air, which, no doubt, will speedily revive you;' and with this well-timed bit of tact, the elderly one took hold of her niece's arm and led her from the spot.
Mr Dobson, from his position amongst the spectators, had not failed to notice his daughter's perturbation, and he exclaimed beneath his breath: Can it be possible? Aurelia in love with that man! What a providential escape, to be sure! I shall be very careful in the future whom I introduce to my household. This comes of picking up chance acquaintances at luncheon bars.'
'Ahem!' coughed the detective. 'Ladies and gents all, I'm very sorry, I'm sure, to have interrupted your little amusement, but I need not tell you that duty is everything. I had learned from-well, from "information received," that my man was located here; so of course I came simply as a matter of business; and I think I may claim your indulgence, sir'-looking at Brownsmith-'for having necessitated at the last moment a change in the cast. Gents all, yours to command; good-night, and a happy new year when it comes.' And with this parting wish, Josiah Jowitt and his latest capture marched off the stage on their way to the vehicle which awaited them at the hall door.
This sensational termination to the Dobsonian theatricals formed a relishing topic of conver sation for many a night afterwards amongst Sam's friends and acquaintances; but Mr Dobson vowed that, as that had been the first stage-play enacted under his roof, so should it be the last. Samuel to this day considers his father's determination very arbitrary.
ALTHOUGH we have the reputation amongst foreigners of being the most eccentric of nations, perhaps there is nothing to which the average individual Englishman has a stronger objection than to being singular; and this is the more extraordinary when we consider that the performing of some feat which has never been performed by any one before holds out an especial attraction to most Englishmen. Thus, the same man who will put himself to any amount of trouble and expense, and will expose himself to all sorts of difficulties and dangers, in order to scale a virgin peak, or to plant the Union-jack on a spot where the human foot has never yet penetrated, is the most miserable and uncomfortable of beings if