« PreviousContinue »
a friend said: 'My dear fellow, you are looking thin; idleness does not agree with you.' 'Well, no,' instantly replied the grocer; I don't weigh so much as I did.'
Another tradesman, a Quaker, who sold hats, was asked by a rustic the price of one. 'Fifteen shillings,' was the reply. The intending purchaser offered twelve shillings.
'As I live,' said the Quaker, 'I cannot afford to give it thee at that price.'
'As you live!' exclaimed the countryman; 'then live more moderately, my friend.'
A tailor and his son were doing a day's work at a farmhouse. The prudent housewife, to secure a good day's work, lighted candles when daylight began to fade. The tailor looked at his son and said: 'Jock, confound them that invented working by candlelight!' 'Ay,' replied young snip, or daylight either!'-'You have no idea of the hard work there is in this business,' said a canvasser to a shopkeeper. 'I tell you it is either talking or walking from morning till night.' 'Beg pardon,' replied the victim. 'I have a pretty distinct idea of the talking part of your programme. Now, please favour me with an exhibition of the walking part.'
A sarcastic question may sometimes do duty for the severest of replies. I never consider a dinner perfect without soup,' said one man to another; I always have soup when I dine.' 'And do you ever have anything else?' returned the other.A punning retort is also at times very effective. I had no time to stuff the chicken,' apologised a landlady. Never mind, madam; it's tough enough as it is,' quickly replied the boarder.Another landlady, who tried to be smart, was as effectually silenced. 'I think the goose has the advantage of you,' she remarked to an expert boarder who was carving. 'Guess it has, mum, in age,' was the ready retort.
'Here, waiter; what do you call this you've brought me?' inquired a customer.
Waiter. 'Ham, sir; you ordered ham.' Customer. When was it cooked?' Waiter (snappishly). 'I don't know, sir; we don't put tags on with the date and time of cooking!'
'Well you see, Messieurs,' explained the waiter -'two francs for the tea and toast, and seven francs for the eggs.'
'Ah, then, eggs are very scarce about here?'
said a husband to his angry wife.
Equally pertinent was the answer given by
The customer does not at all times have the victory; sometimes it falls to the waiter. A bustling, fussy 'commercial,' waiting impatiently for his dinner, called out to the waiter: John, how long will that steak of mine be?' 'Why,' replied John quietly, 'about the usual length, sir -about eight inches.'
Customer. You ought to. This ham was a great musical composer to a remark. When cooked thirty or forty years ago. Bring me a youth, he was clerk to a very rich but some that was cooked this year.' exceedingly commonplace, in fact stupid employer. One day, an acquaintance commiserated the clever lad on his position, saying: 'What a pity it is that you are not the master, and he your clerk.'-'Oh, my friend,' returned the youth, 'do not say that. If he were my clerk, what on earth could I do with him?'
Two American gentlemen in the course of their travels stopped at a small café in the suburbs of Paris, for refreshments. Their repast was a light one, consisting of tea, toast, and eggs; but the bill was a heavy one-nine francs in all. 'Garçon,' exclaimed one of the tourists, 'how's this? Please, explain.'
Even clergymen cannot always hope to meet with the courtesy that draws the line at sharp rejoinders. 'If you can't keep awake,' said a parson to one of his hearers, when you feel drowsy, why don't you take a pinch of snuff?' 'I think,' was the shrewd reply, the snuff should be put into the sermon.'-Some years ago, we are told, the Isle of Sheppey being an inconsiderable parish, and the income not very large, the vicar came there but once a month. The parishioners being much displeased at this, desired their clerk, who was that year churchwarden also, to remonstrate with him as to his negligence. The clerk
told the vigan the wishes of the parishioners • and
The replies given by impulsive children when scolded and so forth, are often as apt as they are entertaining. In the country, for instance, a bright little girl was sent to get some eggs, and on her way back stumbled and fell, making sad havoc among the contents of her basket. 'Won't you catch it when you get home though!' exclaimed her companion. No; indeed I won't,' she answered; 'I've got a grandmother.'—' Sophy, if you don't be quiet, I shall have to whip you,' said the father of a large family, who always left the disagreeable duty of punishing the unruly to his wife. Pooh!' contemptuously retorted the little incorrigible he addressed, tossing her curly head-'you ain't the mother.'-'How old are you, my little man?' asked a gentleman of a youngster of three years, to whom he was being introduced. 'I'm not old,' replied the little man; I'm almost new.'
Boys retorts are, as may be expected, generally of the rude kind; as when a woman said to a youngster who had been impudent to her: 'Little boy, have you a mother?' 'No; but Dad wouldn't marry you if there wasn't a housekeeper in the whole blessed land,' was the reply.
Charley,' said a mother to her seven-year-old boy, 'you must not interrupt me when I am talking with ladies. You must wait till we stop, and then you can talk.' 'But you never stop! retorted the boy.-Little Tommy was having his hair combed by his mother, and he grumbled at the operation. 'Why, Tommy, you oughtn't to make such a fuss. I don't, when my hair is combed.' 'Yes; but your hair ain't hitched to your head.'
give me ten pounds a year more, I will come to see them once a fortnight; and be sure to let me know their answer the next time I come.' The next time he did come, he accordingly asked, and the clerk answered: Sir, they say as how if you will excuse them ten pounds a year in their tithes, they will dispense with your coming at all!' Members of the cloth are not always above severely criticising one another's failings. It is related of that most eloquent of English clergymen, Robert Hall, that he once-disgusted by the egotism and conceit of a preacher who, with a mixture of self-complacency and impudence, challenged his admiration of a sermon-was provoked to say: 'Yes; there was one very fine passage of your discourse, sir.' 'I am rejoiced to hear you say so; which was it?' 'Why, sir, it was the passage from the pulpit to the vestry.'
The legal profession may naturally be expected to develop the powers of repartee. There is a well-known anecdote of a judge saying, 'One at a time, gentlemen,' when a donkey brayed outside the court just as a lawyer was eloquently holding forth; and that the lawyer retaliated later on by remarking, 'There was a strange echo in court,' on the judge, when interrupted, absently inquiring the cause of the very same noise.
Another story, in which the same too often despised animal figures, may not be so well known. A country Laird, who had lately been elected to the office of a county magistrate, meeting a clerical gentleman on horseback, attempted jocularity by remarking that he was more ambitious than his Master, who was content to ride upon an ass. They canna be gotten noo,' said the minister; 'for they're a' made justices of the peace.'
Even lawyers, with all their smartness and assurance, don't always come off best in a wordy duel. An attorney said to an Irishman, his client: Why don't you pay me that six-and-eightpence?' 'Why, faith, because I do not owe it to you.' 'Not owe it to me? Yes, you do; it's for the opinion you had of me.' "That's good, indeed,' rejoined Pat, when I never had any opinion of you in all my life.'-Equally good was the retort made to Serjeant Cockle by a witness. In a trial of a right of fishery, he asked the witness: Don't you love fish?' 'Ay,' replied the witness, with a grin; 'but I dunna like Cockle sauce with it!'
An agent canvassing a voter and getting many evasive replies to his cross-examination, at last exclaimed sharply: Confound your quibbling! Tell me, then, what your opinions are-your conscientious opinions, I mean.'-'They are the same as my landlord's.'-'And what are your landlord's opinions?'-'Faix, his opinion is that I won't pay him the last half-year's rent; and I'm of the same opinion myself.'
The Irishman who on asking an intruder in his cabin what he wanted, and receiving the answer, 'Nothing,' said he would find it in the jug where the whisky was, had an equal in prompt ness in a New-Yorker, whom an uncertain' acquaintance addressed as follows: 'I'm a little short, and would like to ask you conundrum in mental arithmetic.'-'Proceed,' observed the gentleman.-Well,' said the 'short' man, 'suppose you had ten dollars in your pocket, and I should ask you for five dollars, how much would remain?'-Ten dollars,' was the prompt answer.
'What do you mean by standing there with your hands in your pockets?' asked an employer, addressing a rather indolent workman. Nothing much; 'spect you'd be making a noise if I had them in yours,' replied the incorrigible.-'Did you get her photo. when you were away?' said one Freshman to another. Well-ah!-the fact is,' returned his companion, she gave me her negative.'
How did you learn that graceful attitude?' said a gentleman to an intoxicated fellow leaning in a maudlin fashion against a post. 'I have been practising at a glass,' was the reply.Remarkable quickness at repartee was displayed by an actor at the Belleville theatre, when some one threw the head of a goose on the stage. Advancing to the front, the player said: 'Gentlemen, if any one amongst you has lost his head, do not be uneasy, for I will restore it at the conclusion of the performance.'
Not many would feel in much humour for joking, we should think, after the excitement of catching a thief in one's house, yet here is an instance to the contrary. A burglar was caught by a gentleman in the back drawing. room, and a policeman sent for at once. You ought to be grateful to me,' said the thief, instead of treating me like this 'ere. I only came in to tell you the front-door was open, and I was afeared you'd get robbed.'-'Excellent reasoning, no doubt, my friend,' said the householder; but on wrong premises, I fancy!'
A lady who asked a sailor why a ship was called 'she,' received the ungallant reply, that it was because her rigging cost so much.— Equally smart was the reply of the sea-captain who was invited to meet the Committee of a Society for the Evangelisation of Africa. When asked: 'Do the subjects of the king of Dahomey keep Sunday?' he replied: 'Yes, and everything else they can lay their hands on.'
Perhaps as much presence of mind as shown in any of the above instances was displayed on the following occasion. A young gentleman getting into a railway carriage, happened to press the foot of a young lady who was sitting next to the door. The damsel, contracting her pretty brow into a frown, ejaculated: You clumsy wretch! Many men would have looked foolish and apologised; but he exclaimed: 'My dear young lady, you should have feet large enough to be seen, and then they wouldn't be trodden upon.' Her frowns instantly changed into smiles, and the injury was forgotten.
FAIRYLAND AND FAIRIES. WHERE is Fairyland? There are no fingerposts anywhere pointing to it. It is not in Murray's Guides. But-how, we hardly knowwe are sometimes lucky enough to be taken thither by the poets and the children; for, oddly enough, the poets and the children are like each other, and often walk the same way. True, the Scientific Societies would reduce Fairyland to an exhalation of fancy, and blow the fairies off in vapour. But we object to seeing our most precious conceptions resolved into their original elements and then destroyed beyond help; though we shoul like to know, in the proper place and season, how those same conceptions originate, and even
Chambers's Journal, July 15, 1882.1
FAIRYLAND AND FAIRIES.
what stuff they are made of. So we leave the learned wights with their destructive crucibles; and as becomes pilgrims to Fairyland, choose our company among more ardent and simple folk-the poets and the children. Where, then, is Fairyland, and why does it exist?
Chaucer places the realm of Faery underground with Pluto and Proserpine. In the old days of romance, knights found it in the ocean island of Avalon, where, stepping ashore in darkness from wreck to wreck, they entered the lighted castle, peopled by beautiful maidens and men transformed by enchantment. In Spenser's time, this realm could not have been so far off, for he saw in it the shadow of England. A little later, Drayton imagined it high in air, poised by magic midway between the earth and the moon, with an aerial route, vid the moon, down to this world. His minute touch built up the palace with walls of deftly mortised spiders' legs; and all its architectural arrangements, chiefly of insect material, were the strangest ever imagined:
The windows, of the eyes of cats; And for the roof, instead of slats, Is covered with the skins of bats With moonshine that are gilded.
No doubt it was from such a palace, but with more of beauty and less of the grotesque in its furniture, that Tom Hood's fairy, after two centuries and more, began to come down the moonbeam-path, bringing the dreams of little children. She uses the old road that Drayton found; but her lightness and brightness are beyond his fancy :
A little Fairy comes at night;
Her eyes are blue, her hair is brown, With silver spots upon her wings;
And from the moon she flutters down.
Drayton's courtiers and ladies of the Fairy court' were little creatures that could huddle together and hide in an empty nut-shell; and littleness and lightness are by this time permanent attributes of the fairy creation. But in the early history of Fairyland, its people were of larger growth. In the old Gallic and Breton romances, they were merely men and women possessed of magical powers; and in Brittany-a country intimately connected with the rise of Fairyland-the fairies, that are supposed to haunt the landes and glide round the Druidic stones by night, are not tricksy elves, but tall maidens of more than mortal stature, willing to enchant and marry mortal men.
Before the Elizabethan age, while the fairies were holding their own, and growing rather than dwindling in Western France, the merry sprites and elves were in England driving the fullgrown enchanters from the field. But with Shakspeare came a patent of immortality to the little harmless crew. He left the bounds of Fairyland indefinitely fixed; but he fixed for ever as the property of the poet the most picturesque parts of the popular belief. For evermore the shrewd and knavish' Puck was to be the merry wanderer of the night,' with an historic reputation for destroying the peace of village maids and housewives; tangling the skein of love among mortals; enjoying their discomfiture at his wiles, and even setting them astray when he means well. Evermore, Oberon and Titania will preserve in poetry their character for miffs and tiffs, love and
455 jealousy, almost in play-a bright-coloured reflection of human passions, without their depth or their sorrows. And evermore the fairies will have their allotted work to do, making elves' coats out of the leathern wings of bats, teasing away the owl that hoots and wonders at their revels, dewing the rings that are to be danced on at night, and killing cankers in the rosebuds; and henceforth they will always be small enough to creep into acorn-cups. By A Midsummer Night's Dream, Fairyland became an indestructible reality in the region of fancy; through poetry the cultured must know it for ever, even when the unlettered, who once believed in it most, may forget it completely.
The poets and the children have kept up this race of beautiful imaginary beings for the very same reason. Both have strong imagination; both in a different manner have an attraction towards wonders and bright fancies; to both the commonplace is but dull ground. The early poets and writers of romance embalmed the popular beliefs for the sake of the facility they afforded for exercising invention in describing the marvellous, and for the easy working out of stories of wonder. The children have the
same delight in the marvellous, and the same preference for a tale wherein the most startling wonders are possible. To the first writers who chronicled fairy achievements, in the time when Faery only signified something of 'glamour might,' this wonder-working was not so great a strain upon the fancy of reasoning minds, as it is now in these more scientific ages. In the same way the marvels of children's tales are interesting to the inexperienced listeners, because they do not seem so wildly impossible as to forbid interest. It has been well said that a little child in a garden would not be much astonished if a stone urn changed into a dragon among the grass; though in truth, science has greater wonders in store for the child yet, and travel has more beautiful sights to astonish him, than are to be found in any magic changes, or in the fancied picture of a fairy tale. Very strangely, too, we send the word back to its medieval meaning when we name many of the nursery stories, fairy tales; for stories like Red Riding Hood do not deal with fairies, but with marvels. Until the nature of children—that is, until human nature-changes, stories of wonder will be craved by the young; and until our ideas of poetic thought become completely altered, there will be space kept in the realms of poetry for the bright airy creatures that live in moonlight, familiar with flowers and insects.
From the maturer popular belief, they are fast fading away. Weakly and puny infants are no longer supposed to be fairy changelings, except in districts so remote that the newspapers cannot reach them, nor the new broom of the School Boards sweep them clean. Even the fairies of the Border, about whom Sir Walter Scott told us, and the fairies of the Sister Island-familiarly yet deferentially called 'the good people'-are fast vanishing for ever. It is Fairyland itself that cannot be destroyed, since the Midsummer Night's Dream is immortal with its quaint fancies, and human childhood with its needs. As for the Fairyland of the Christmas theatres, it is but an imperfect imitation of the original.
In the lath-and-canvas Fairyland, with stage carpenters, ropes and pulleys, lime-lights and ballet-girls, there is produced in the transformation scene a certain amount of beautiful scenery changing under many-coloured lights. But the moonlit elfin scene laid like a dream upon the green earth's lap,' is very different from the spectacle in glare and heat behind the footlights; the studied dance of the corps de ballet is not the circling roundel among grass and mushrooms; the artificial fairies are not like the happy sprites of Nature that do kind turns to drooping flowers, and have a speaking acquaintance with every insect.
life. The analysis of their name, or the questions of psychologists as to why man's mind invented them, after all leaves room for more poetic and more childlike musings about the bright tradition; and wherever they came from, but one thing is certain-that they belong in a peculiar manner to the poets and the small folk. These have appropriated Fairyland, for good reasons of their own, as we have seen; and in their possession the old tradition has yet to develop in the future, perhaps through inexhaustible phases of the fantastic and the beautiful.
And even when the poets, professionally socalled, have given up the fairies, and have ceased to wave magic wands over the land where fairies dwell, we feel sure the children
As unlike in the opposite extreme, but perfectly original and charming, was the well-known Fairyland in the cloud region above the 'Wicked World,' your only true poets,' as Macaulay saysdevised in contrast to the land of ballets, and as will remain faithful to the old beliefs; and little a shadow of a more real world off the boards eyes will sparkle, and little faces brighten as and beneath the clouds. 'A pleasant dreamy of old, when the beneficent fairy-form is once land, with no bright colour in it-a land where it more conjured up before them, to relieve some is always bright moonlight-a land where there persecuted hero in his sore distress, or to spread is nothing whatever to do but to sit and chat with protecting wings round some beautiful heroine good, pleasant-looking people, who like a joke, whom bad sisters hate, and ugly witch-women and can make one, and can take one too-a land seek to destroy. More than this, it would be where there is no such thing as hunger, sleep, wrong to deprive children of their fairy intimates, fatigue, illness, or old age-a land where no collars even had we the power to do so. It would or boots are worn-a land where there is no indeed be an act of positive cruelty. It would love-making, but plenty of innocent love ready- be depriving many a sensitive, imaginative child made.' This most pleasant of all invented Fairy- of its chief source of comfort and pleasurable lands is peopled by women supremely lovely-reflection amid the little cares, and tiny, but a return to the oldest Fairylands of romance, not less real vexations, of its child-life. The but with some difference of manners and customs. belief in the good spirits called Fairies is with "They wear long robes high in the throat, falling children a kind of religion-often more sincere loosely and gracefully to the very feet, and each and pure-hearted than much of our grown-up fairy has a necklace of the very purest diamonds. religion is; and the consciousness that these They have wings-large soft downy wings-six bright-eyed, sylph-like creatures, with their snowfeet high like the wings of angels;' and by some white drapery and their angel-wings, are spiritual contrivance, it is stated, these wings hovering around in love and tender pity, brings do not crackle or crumple under the fairies when hope and sweet comfort to the darker and they sit down. sadder hours of many a little life, and opens out the child-heart in its time of trouble as the sunshine of morning opens out the daisies.
We should like to hear more tales of such Fairylands with fairies of homely name-Fairy Mary the Queen, and Mattie, and Kate; but so far, this is an excellent example of the breadth of invention possible in dealing with fairy nature, and the flights of fancy that yet may come when the name is merely used to suggest the fair and the marvellous in an unearthly creation. How it is that fairies in even the wildest fancies must be fair unless they be evil, is hinted as far back as the old romance of Lancelot du Lac, where we find the origin of their universal beauty. At that time, says the romance, all were called fays who dealt in charms and enchantments, and many such there were in Great Britain; and knowing the power and virtue that lies in wood, stones, and herbs, they were able to be young, beautiful, and richly dressed, just as they devised. It seems rather a pity to interfere with this beautiful race, and take their splendour to pieces, by disputing whether they were peris of Persia, or Hebrew spirits, or Roman Fates, or Gallic fées, in their first origin; whether they were the nymphs and fauns with which untaught races were wont to people the woods and fountains, and by whose doings they interpreted Nature's mysteries; or whether, as one theory goes, they were puny cave-men, who descended upon their civilised neighbours from seemingly mysterious regions, and from a still more mysterious
All Rights Reserved.
LITERATURE, SCIENCE, AND ART.
CONDUCTED BY WILLIAM AND ROBERT CHAMBERS.
No. 969.-VOL. XIX.
SATURDAY, JULY 22, 1882.
THE RACE ACROSS THE ATLANTIC. FORTY-FIVE years ago a steamer named the Great Western lay fitting out in the harbour of Bristol. She was of no great size according to our ideas, being only two hundred and twelve feet long; but the eyes of the mercantile world were directed to her, as she was the first steamer built for service on the Atlantic, and the interest was all the greater that the question was not, How long will she take to make the voyage to New York? but, Will she manage to steam across the Atlantic at all? There are still among us those who can tell of the eager expectation with which the result of the attempt was awaited; and the rejoicing that took place when the news at last reached our shores, that on the 23d April, 1838, the Great Western had arrived in safety at New York, and that the great problem of ocean steamnavigation was solved.
It is nearly half a century since then; but the interest taken by the British public in the doings of the Atlantic steamers has never flagged. Every fresh addition to the fleet of one of the leading Companies is honoured by a paragraph in the newspapers; the illustrated periodicals give woodcuts, showing the ship in question careering along in a rolling sea under full steam and with all sail set; she is opened for inspection, and thousands flock to admire her saloons and deck arrangements, or to gaze open-mouthed at her immense engines. She starts on her maiden voyage, and the shipping intelligence column is scanned day by day; and when eventually the news comes that she has, by some odd minutes, made the fastest run on record, it is echoed to the farthest extremities of the land.
high seas. This is in no case better illustrated than in that of the Atlantic steamship the Great Western, the clumsy appearance of which may be seen in the engravings of the period, bearing but little resemblance to the graceful outline of a modern liner. The steps by which this great change has come about we shall now attempt to follow.
It is this interest on the part of the public in the steamers of the great rival Companies that contest the honours of the ocean, which induces us at this time to give a slight sketch of the history of the Atlantic steamship traffic. Naval architecture is to a large extent an experimental
The Great Western of 1838 was a wooden paddle-steamer of twelve hundred tons, rigged with four masts and a very pronounced funnel, the standard type, however, of the period. Unlike most first attempts, she proved a both as to her sea-going qualities and financially. Forty guineas were readily paid as passage-money in her saloon; and five pounds per ton freight for goods was not at all out of the way; while the passage from Bristol to New York averaged sixteen days one hour, and the homeward run thirteen days seven and a half hours.
No sooner did it become evident that the navigation of the Atlantic by steam was a success, than the question of carrying the mails came forward. Tenders were asked; and that of Mr Cunard of Liverpool being accepted, four new steamers specially designed for the traffic were ordered. These four steamers were built on the Clyde; and in the summer of 1840, the first of them, the Britannia, began to run. Before long, a monthly steam-packet was despatched from Liverpool to Halifax, Nova Scotia. In these days the estimate of the requirements of the mail and passenger service between the two continents was decidedly moderate, as four steamships of only eleven hundred and forty tons each were thought sufficient. But before ten years had elapsed, the new Company, now celebrated as the Cunard Line,' had tripled the number of their vessels, increased the total tonnage fourfold, and established regular services to New York and Boston.
The year 1845 is memorable in the annals of Atlantic steam-navigation, as during it the first iron screw-steamer began to run. This was the