« PreviousContinue »
Oh! who that loves the pleasure-barque,
By summer breezes fann'd,
Terrifically grand ? .
Each torn sail closely furl'd;
Knows whither she is hurld! And who shall tell the agony
Of those confined beneath, Who in the darkness dread to die
How unprepared for death! Who, loathing, to each other cling
When every hope hath ceased, And beat against their prison door,
And shriek to be released!
She never more will float.
Be steady-man the boat,
The merciful, the brave;-
There still is time to save!
The captain and the crew ?
With mad delight they view.
The convict ship away!
Impatient for his prey!
In thunder sweeps the deck;
The vessel is a wreck!
There comes a fearful cry;
To struggle, and to die !
Left by the ebbing tide;
Lie number'd, side by side!
Comes floating from the wreck ;
So fondly round her neck!
No vessel on the deep;
Lies in a gloomy heap:
Our tranquil homes to warm,
That perish'd in the storm!
INHABITANTS OF A COUNTRY TOWN.
· BY MISS MITFORD. .
No. II.-Peter JENKINS, THE POULTERER. As I prophesied, so it fell out: Mr. Stephen Lane became parishofficer of Sunham. I did not, however, foresee that the matter would be so easily and so speedily settled; neither did he. Mr. Jacob Jones, the ex-ruler of that respectable hamlet, was a cleverer person than we took him for; and, instead of staying to be beaten, sagely preferred to “ evacuate Flanders," and leave the enemy in undisputed possession of the field of battle. He did not even make his appearance at the vestry, nor did any of his partizans. Stephen had it all his own way; was appointed overseer, and found himself, to his great astonishment, carrying all his points, sweeping away, cutting down, turning out, retrenching, and reforming so as never reformer did before ;—for in the good town of B- , although eventually triumphant, and pretty generally successful in most of his operations, he had been accustomed to play the part, not of a minister who originates, but of a leader of opposition who demolishes measures ; in short, he had been a sort of check, a balancewheel in the borough machinery, and never dreamt of being turned into a main spring, so that, when called upon to propose his own plans, his success disconcerted him not a little. It was so unexpected, and he himself so unprepared for a catastrophe which took from him his own dear, fault-finding ground, and placed him in the situation of a reviewer who should be required to write a better book than the one under dissection, in the place of cutting it up.
Our good butcher was fairly posed, and, what was worse, his adversary knew it. Mr. Jacob Jones felt his advantage, returned with all his forces (consisting of three individuals, like “ a three-tailed bashaw”') to the field which he had abandoned, and commenced a series of skirmishing guerrilla warfare, affairs of posts, as it were, which went near to make his ponderous, and hitherto victorious enemy, in spite of the weight of his artillery and the number and discipline of his troops, withdraw in his turn from the position which he found it so painful and so difficult to maintain. Mr. Jacob Jones was a great man at a quibble. He could not knock down like Stephen Lane, but he had a real talent for that sort of pulling to pieces which, to judge from the manner in which all children, before they are taught better, exercise their little mischievous fingers upon flowers, would seem to be instinctive in human nature. Never did a spoilt urchin of three years old demolish a carnation more completely than Mr. Jacob Jones picked to bits Mr. Lane's several propositions. On the broad question, the principle of the thing proposed, our good ex-butcher was pretty sure to be victorious; but in the detail, the clauses of the different measures, Mr. Jacob Jones, who had a wonderful turn for perplexing and puzzling whatever question he took in hand, a real genius for confusion, generally contrived (for the gentleman was a “ word-catcher who lived on syllables”) by expunging half a sentence in one place, and smuggling in two or three words in another, by alterations that were anything but amendments, and amendments
that overset all that had gone before, to produce such a mass of contradictions and nonsense, that the most intricate piece of special pleading that ever went before the Lord Chancellor, or the most addle-headed bill that ever passed through a Committee of the whole House, would have been common sense and plain English in the comparison. The 'man had eminent qualities for a debater, too, especially a debater of that order,-incorrigible pertness, intolerable pertinacity, and a noble contempt of right and wrong. Even in that matter which is most completely open to proof, a question of figures, he was wholly inaccessible to conviction; show him the fact fifty times over, and still he returned to the charge, still was his shrill squeaking treble heard above and between the deep sonorous bass of Stephen,-still did his small narrow person whisk and flitter around the “ huge rotundity" of that ponderous and excellent parish-officer, buzzing and stinging like some active hornet or slim dragon fly about the head of one of his own oxen. There was no putting down Jacob Jones.
Our good butcher fretted and fumed, and lifted his hat from his head, and smoothed down his shining hair, and wiped his honest face, and stormed, and thundered, and vowed vengeance against Jacob Jones, and finally threatened not only to secede with his whole party from the vestry, but to return to the Butter-market at B , and leave the management of Sunham, workhouse, poor-rates, highways, and all, to his nimble competitor. One of his most trusty adherents indeed, a certain wealthy yeoman of the name of Alsop, well acquainted with his character, suggested that a very little flattery on the part of Mr. Lane, or even a few well-directed bribes, would not fail to dulcify and even to silence the worthy in question; but Stephen had never flattered anybody in his life; it is very doubtful if he knew how; and held bribery of any sort in a real honest abhorrence, very unusual for one who had so much to do with contested elections and to bribe and flatter Jacob Jones! Jacob, whom the honest butcher came nearer to hating than ever he had to hating anybody! His very soul revolted against it. So he appointed Farmer Alsop, who understood the management of “ the chap," as he was wont to call his small opponent, deputy overseer, and betook himself to his private concerns in the conduct of his own grazing farm, in overseeing the great shop in the Butter-market, in attending his old clubs, and mingling with his old associates in B- ; and, above all, in sitting in his sunny summer-house during the sultry evenings of July and August, enveloped in the fumes of his own pipe and clouds of dust from the high-road, --which was his manner of enjoying the pleasures of the country. 3. Towards autumn, a new and a different interest presented itself to the mind of Stephen Lane in the shape of the troubles of one of his most intimate friends and most faithful and loyal adherents in the borough of B
Peter Jenkins, the poulterer, his next door neighbour in the Buttermarket, formed exactly that sort of contrast in mind and body to the gigantic and energetic butcher which we so often find amongst persons strongly attached to each other. Each was equally good and kind, and honest and true, but strength was the distinguishing characteristic of the one man, and weakness of the other. Peter, much younger than his friend and neighbour, was pale and fair, and slender and delicate, with
very light hair, very light eyes, a shy timid manner, a small voice, and a general helplessness of aspect. “ Poor fellow!” was the internal exclamation, the unspoken thought of everybody that conversed with him ; there was something so pitiful in his look and accent; and yet Peter was one of the richest men in B- , having inherited the hoards of three or four miserly uncles, and succeeded to the well-customed poultryshop in the Butter-market, a high narrow tenement, literally stuffed with geeese, ducks, chickens, pigeons, rabbits, and game of all sorts, which lined the doors and windows, and dangled from the ceiling, and lay ranged upon the counter in every possible state, dead or alive, plucked or unplucked, crowding the dark, old-fashioned shop, and forming the strongest possible contrast to the wide ample repository next door, spacious as a market, where Stephen's calves, and sheep, and oxen, in their several forms of veal, and beef, and mutton, hung in whole carcasses from the walls, or adorned in separate joints the open windows, or filled huge trays, or lay scattered on mighty blocks, or swung in enormous scales, strong enough to have weighed Stephen Lane himself in the balance. Even that stupendous flesh bazaar did not give greater or truer assurance of affluence than the high, narrow, crowded menagerie of dead fowl next door.
Yet still was Peter justly called “ Poor fellow !” In the first place, because he was, for a man, far over-gentle, much too like the inhabitants of his own feathery den, was not only “ pigeon-livered and lacked gall,”? but was actually chicken-hearted ;--in the next, because he was, so to say, chicken-pecked, and, although a stranger to the comforts of matrimony, was comfortably under petticoat government, being completely domineered over by a maiden sister.
Miss Judith Jenkins was a single woman of an uncertain age, lean, skinny, red-haired, exceedingly prim and upright, slow and formal in her manner, and, to all but Peter, remarkably smooth-spoken. To him her accent was invariably sharp, and sour, and peevish, and contradictory. She lectured him when at home, and rated him for going abroad. The very way in which she called him, though the poor man flew to obey her summons, the method after which she pronounced the innocent dissyllable “ Peter," was a sort of taking to task. Having been his elder sister, (although nothing now was less palatable to her than any allusion to her right of primogeniture,) and his mother having died whilst he was an infant, she had been accustomed to exercise over him, from the time that he was in leading strings, all the privileges of a nurse and gouvernante, and still called him to account for his savings and spendings, his comings and goings, much as she used to do when he was an urchin in short coats. Poor Peter never dreamt of rebellion; he listened and he endured; and every year as it passed over their heads seemed to increase her power and his submission. The uncivil world, always too apt to attribute any faults of temper in an old maid to the mere fact of her old maidism, (whereas there really are some single women who are not more ill humoured than their married neighbours,) used to attribute this acidity towards poor Peter, of which, under all her guarded upper manner, they caught occasional glimpses, to her maiden condition. I, for my part, believe in the converse reason. I hold that, which seemed to them the effect of her single state, to have been, in reality, its main cause. And anybody who had happened to observe the change in
Miss Judith Jenkins? face, at no time over-beautiful, when, from the silent, modest, curtseying, shopwoman-like civility with which she had been receiving an order for a fine turkey poult, a sort of “butter won't melt in her mouth.” expression was turned at once into a “ cheese won't choke her” look and voice as, she delivered the order to her unlucky brother, could be much astonished that any of the race of bachelors should shrink from the danger of encountering such a look in his own person. Add to this, that the damsel had no worldly goods and chattels, except what she might have saved in Peter's house, and, to do her justice, she was, I believe, a strictly honest woman ; that the red-hair was accompanied by red eye-brows and eye-lashes, and eyes that, especially when talking to Peter, almost seemed red too; that her face was usually freckled ; and that, from her exceeding meagreness, her very fairness (if mere. whiteness may be called such) told against her by giving the look of bones starting through the skin; and it will be admitted that there was no immediate chance of the unfortunate poulterer's getting rid, by the pleasant and safe means called matrimony, of an encumbrance under which he groaned and bent, like Sinbad the Sailor when bestridden by that he-tormentor the Old Man of the Sea. ,
Thus circumstanced, Peter's only refuge and consolation was in the friendship and protection of his powerful neighbour, before whose strength and firmness of manner and character (to say nothing of his bodily prowess, which, although it can never be exerted against them, does yet insensibly influence all women) the prim maiden quailed amain. With Stephen to back him, Peter dared attend public meetings and private clubs; and when sorely put to it by Judith's lectures, would slip through the back way into Mrs. Lane's parlour, basking in the repose of her gentleness, or excited by her good husband's merriment, until all the evils of his home were fairly forgotten. Of course, the kind butcher and his sweet wife loved the kind and harmless creature whom they, and they alone, had the power of raising into comfort and happiness; and he repaid their affection by the most true and faithful devotion to Stephen in all affairs, whether election contests or squabbles of the corporation or the vestry. Never had leader of a party a more devoted adherent; and abating his one fault of weakness, a fault which brought its own punishment, he was a partizan who would have done honour to any cause, -honest, open, true, and generous, -and one who would have been thoroughly hospitable, if his sister would but have let
As it was, he was a good fellow when she was out of the way, and had, like the renowned Jerry Sneak, his own moments of half-afraid enjoyment,, on club-nights, and at Christmas parties; when, like the illustrious pinmaker, he sang his song and told his story with the best of them, and laughed, and rubbed his hands, and cracked his joke, and would have been quite happy, but for the clinging thought of his reception at home, where sat his awful sister, for, she would sit up for him, , “ Gathering her brows like gathering storm,
Nursing her wrath to keep it warm.".. However, Stephen generally saw him in, and broke the first fury of the tempest, and sometimes laughed it off altogether. With Stephen to