Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

twenty-four hours, at nineteen years of age, a large concern that had puzzled the most eminent mining engineers in England for more than six months.

I returned to London and called upon my friend the chairman; we prepared our report together; it was a most elegant composition. I contributed the facts and figures, the chairman contributed the style, and by the time it was finished most of the facts and figures had lost their original significance; but it read splendidly. " There, my boy," said the chairman, "the board will meet on Wednesday next; you will be present, and if you read that steadily out it will cast oil upon the troubled waters." I took it home and read it to my parents. My mother thought it quite a charming piece of English composition; my father withheld his commendation, but borrowed the manuscript.

Strange to say, the board of directors took a very different view of my performance. I received an indignant letter, telling me that gold-mines could not be disposed of in this off-hand manner, and that if I could devise no experiments of my own I must at any rate remain on the spot, and perform such experiments as they should dictate to me by letter. I was more than willing to do so. The spot was healthy and picturesque, and the miners not bad company, and the experiments turned out to be of a simple and amusing nature. Every morning's post would suggest a new one, which was conscientiously carried through; but as for gold, no more was seen after the production of that first famous 3s. 6d. button. These amateur tests soon became a joke. Being of a lively turn, I had a facetious way of conducting them, which endeared me much to my rude friends, and we had on the whole a very pleasant time of it. So we went on for about six weeks, when one day several of the directors came down in a body, and satisfied themselves that everything had been done by me that they had suggested that there was indeed no gold in the mine; whereupon we all dined together at the hotel, and a very pleasant and lively dinner it was. The wise and worldly chairman actually sang a comic song; another gentleman, who was an M.P., and possessed a sweet tenor voice, warbled a plaintive ditty about "Little Nell" in a manner that made me shed tears. I contributed my share to the night's amusement by performing feats of strength and agility: they seemed to consider me a simple and engaging youth, and to be rather fond of me than otherwise; I made them feel like boys again, they said. Later on in the evening the chairman confided to me that, although a wealthy man, he had one sorrow. He had no son, and felt particularly drawn towards me: after which he told me to call upon him in London before the end of the week, so that we might together prepare a report of my proceedings for the benefit of the shareholders, and we then parted with warm expres- me by the arm, and a firm voice shouted, sions of mutual regard. "Silence!" It was my father's. He said,

By the following Wednesday he had prepared for me another document of a far simpler and sterner nature, in which facts and figures preponderated, and style was left to take care of itself. This composition he instructed me to read instead of the former one. Fathers come before chairmen; I promised to obey. He accompanied me to the office of the Barathea Gold and Copper Mine, where it was evident that a very stormy meeting was being held. There were shareholders in the street, in the lobby, in the ante-room, in the board-room itself. My two great confrères were there, who had analyzed the mine before I did, and found such promise of gold in it. I was introduced to them, although they did not seem to perceive it. My appearance seemed to give comfort to such of the directors as had come down to the mine. The gentleman who sang "Little Nell" winked at me. The chairman made an impressive speech, mostly about myself, although I was too nervous to understand much of its flattering import. He then called upon me to read my report. I did so with a tolerably firm voice, amidst perfect silence. It was very short, and the effect it produced was terrible. Rage and hatred gleamed out on me from the eyeballs of the chair and the rest of the board; the faces of my confrères were livid; a storm of hisses and curses rose from people standing about and in the next room. I almost thought I should have to display more feats of strength and agility. Suddenly a firm hand grasped

Next day I bade farewell to the Bara-Gentlemen, my son's time is precious. thea; she had a sad demoralized expres- If you wish to ask him any questions, pray sion. The miners had evidently made up do so at once." The people standing about their minds that it was all over with her, wanted to ask all manner of questions, and seemed inclined to desert her in a and terrible confusion prevailed. The body for her unostentatious neighbours. chairman called us all to order, but in

vain. I felt that it was inconsistent with the dignity of science that I, one of its votaries, should remain any longer in such a scene. So we bowed ourselves out of the room with as much haste and as good a grace as we could.

it, you have to climb many a hill and cross many a brawling torrent. It must have been the obscurest little city in the world, only known to the eagles and swallows who dance for ever over the valleys. One would suppose that a traveller might have Thus ended my connection with the looked for it in vain among the thousand Barathea, whose brief career as a gold- hills of the Himalaya, till his hair turned mine was brought to an untimely end by gray; and so, indeed, many a one might; my unlucky agency. Its affairs were but a different fate awaited it. An Engwound up, and I heard no more about it. lishman in search of a sanitarium found it, I do not know if many people were ruined, after it had hidden itself successfully for or what became of the other participators one does not like to say how many hunin its rise and fall-chairmen, directors, dred years; ay, found it, and within a few board, miners, machines and quicksilver years forced it to take a very prominent are all portions and parcels of the dreadful place among the pleasant places of the past as far as I am concerned. So, indeed, earth. The little town is now one of the is the profession which led to my making capitals of the greatest empire in the their acquaintance, for I did not prosper world. Subject princes, mighty western as an analytical chemist, and I have not nobles, and travellers from every country, seen a mine since. But I am still interested enough to wonder sometimes how that unhappy Barathea could thus deceive and take in, not only the public, not ouly responsible and wealthy gentlemen of position like my friend the chairman and his brother directors, but the two most respectable and best-known analytical chemists and mining engineers of the day, who had probed, and sounded, and tapped, and auscultated her, if I may so speak, from head to foot, and all to have her imposture revealed in twenty-four hours through the marplot stupidity of an ignorant hobbledehoy!

From Chambers' Journal.

AN OLD HIMALAYAN TOWN. FROM immemorial times, certain wild tracks through the mountains have served as a highway between the bleak steppes of Tibet and the sunny slopes of the lower ranges of the Himalaya. The wild herdsmen of the dimly known land beyond the snows cross to-day as they did before William the Conqueror landed in England, over the Niti Pass and the wild currents of the Sutlej, through the pretty villages of Nagkunda and Muthana, through the pineforest of Fagu, and over the Mashobra Hills, to exchange their butter and bearskins for grain and knives. On a mountain, warmly wrapped in pine and rhododendron, and honey-combed with deep valleys, stands a quaint, little, red, wooden town, wandering up a hill-side and running for some distance along its crest. It stands about fifty miles deep in the mountains from the nearest plains; and to reach

are seen in its narrow bazaars. Long lines of camels, and caravans of oxen-carts, are unceasingly, for six months of every year, pouring into it the luxuries of Hindustan, and the magnificent comforts of Europe. A thousand beautiful villas look down upon it from the surrounding hills; and on the splendid roads which lead from it in every direction may be seen, of a summer evening, a wonderful show of fashion and beauty- the crême de la crême of England in Asia. Amid all her greatness, however, Simla never forgets her origin, but still, as of old, barters with the simple shepherds of Tibet, supplying all the little luxuries they seek, and absorbing the primitive wares brought in exchange. Wild and unkempt-looking fellows are these Tibetans, with their long hair falling over their shoulders, and thin sheep-skins and woollen jackets hanging down a mass of rags and dirt. Their hairless faces, small squat noses, and upturned eyes plainly denote their race, and contrast strangely with the delicate Aryan features of the Punjab hillmen. Always smoking long wooden pipes - like those of the lower classes in Germany - smiling and pleased at everything, ever ready for any amount of conversation or food, they are great favourites with the mountaineers of the lower ranges; and, indeed, they have many very amiable and lovable qualities. They are eminently truthful, honest, and chaste, easily amused, easily satisfied, very sociable, and of great physical endurance. The women are not characterized by such strongly marked Tartar features as the men, and many of them are exceedingly pretty, though sadly dirty always.

A considerable number of these people remain in Simla during the whole summer,

finding employment as wood-cutters and | tongs. One or two large gold nose-rings coolies. Strings of them are always to be are lying near on a little tray, beside a seen carrying in enormous beams from the silver bangle or two, indicating the manuFagu forest. They fasten them behind factory and dépôt of a goldsmith. After by ropes suspended over their shoulders, every few minutes of exertion, the two old and go staggering along almost bowed to gentlemen cease from their labours, to the ground with the weight. You some-take a whiff from the tall hookahs standing near, and to exchange a friendly word with the carpenter who works in the little hole on the opposite side of the street. At present, this artisan is bending over a piece of wood he holds between his toes, and into which he is drilling an eyelet with an instrument that looks like a child's bow. Near him, his son, also sitting on his haunches, on the floor, and holding between his toes a half-made comb, is vigorously working with a tool, suggesting the idea of some horrible instrument of torture, but really acting in the capacity of a saw. Strewed about the floor are a plank or two; some unfinished pieces of work; a couple of long pipes; a small, naked, crawling child; and a piece of sugarcane.

times see a slight young girl carrying one of these huge logs - the best part of a young pine-tree, perhaps and, though bent double with the ponderous burden, looking quite contented and happy, and carrying in her hand a wooden pipe, to which she occasionally applies for comfort and solace. Or a whole family-papa and mamma, big brothers, little brothers and sisters -are all seen struggling along in single file, with loads proportioned to their respective sizes, all smoking, talking, and looking merry enough. These great pieces of timber not only stretch across the whole breadth of the road, but frequently stretch out far over the side, and sometimes, indeed, are of such length that the unhappy coolie has to sidle along with them the whole way from Fagu to Simla From a neighbouring shop, sounds of about eight or ten miles. When riding animated conversation strike upon the ear. quickly along this winding road, one some- A grain-merchant, surrounded by little times comes very awkwardly upon these bags of corn and boxes of flour, is sitting great timber barriers, stretching one be-in a remote corner of his shop, wrapped up hind the other, across the path; and not closely in a dirty-white cloth, and without unfrequently accidents have happened by moving his hands, is raising his head to this means; but, generally, the Tibetans suck the fragrant hookah. Half-a-dozen manage, by a twist of the body, to bring of his clients are attempting to bargain their beams in line with the road with as- with him, and sitting in a row on their tonishing celerity. But enough of the hams in front, are all talking at once. wood-carriers. The reader must come and Proudly conscious of his monopoly, he take a look at the principal bazaar or does not trouble himself to bandy idle street of the little town. words, but, with all the patience of the oriental, calmly waits till they have made up their minds to pay his price for whatever they may happen to want. In the opposite corner. an enormously obese old man is stretched out at full length, sound asleep. This is the shopkeeper's venerable parent, who has retired from active life and pensioned himself on his son. But we must peep into a tiny little place about the size of a rabbit-hutch, next door to the grain merchant's shop. An aged gentleman, with huge brass-rimmed spectacles, is fingering delicately with a wire forceps some hard, gray, little particles collected in an iron dish. Presently, he picks out one, and applies it to a very small grindstone the handle of which he turns with his great toe. This is a jeweller, as you can see by the little papers of green and yellow stone exposed on a board, lying beside him; and he is putting faces on rough garnets which have been brought to him by some of the neighbouring villagers.

A long, narrow, winding road, between wooden houses, stained dull red, and two stories in height, runs up a slight incline on a sharp hill-crest dividing two valleys. The lower story of every house has neither doors nor windows in front, but is a little cave merely, serving at once as warehouse and workshop. Passing through this busy little street, you see, in turn, every trade and occupation being carried on. There is a shop full of tailors, with high turbans on, busily at work; one of them is reading in a sing-song voice to the others some ancient tale of Mussulman prowess, or of the miraculous deeds of the Prophet. In the little adjoining cell, or shop, as we may call it by courtesy, is an old gray-bearded man, brooding over a little earthen stove, and blowing into flame a few lumps of charcoal, through a little brass tube, with all his might. Opposite to him is sitting another old fellow, who is picking and catching at something in the fire with a pair of tiny

His grandson, a fat little urchin, in sum- to be very merry or very dissipated, he never gets drunk, as a Scotchman does, but goes to a "mithai" shop, and makes himself ill with candied sugar.

mer costume -a yard of stringis sitting gravely in front of him, reading out of a very ancient-looking book in Hindi character. It is the whole library of the Now that we have shopped a little in family, and the old man has known it well the bazaar, let us take a stroll through it. since the day he first read it to his grand- It is thronged with natives, from the scarpapa in the same ancestral little shop. let and golden messenger of the British But still he appears to be interested, and government, to our old friends, the wild every now and then pauses in his work to dirty Tibetans. Sauntering in a bazaar is exclaim "Wah! wah!" as an incident of the summum bonum of life to a Hindu. peculiar interest is arrived at. To the Standing chatting in the middle of the castern mind novelty has no charms; and roadway, or smoking a pipe with some a book with which the reader is familiar is friends in a shop, or sitting on the edge regarded as an old tried friend, who will of the gutter, quietly contemplating the not disappoint by any unanticipated dull-passers-by, he is perfectly happy. Within ness, or disturb the mind by any unlooked-twenty yards is one of the grandest scenes for brilliancy. in the world - -a splendid panorama of We must visit one more shop in the hill and valley, with the eternal snows as a bazaar the largest and one of the most background on one side, while on the othimportant the sweet-meat shop. We er the view melts away into the distant had better not enter, though, as the floor plains across which the great Sutlej is is honey-combed with numerous little clay seen like a silver band. But to our brown ovens, and there would be no little danger friends such things possess no attraction. of being precipitated into a caldron of The bustle, the closeness, the smells, the liquid toffy. Four-dreadfully unclad- flies, the pariah dogs, the unowned chilmen, carefully oiled, to protect their skin dren of the kennel, and all the other against the great heat, are moving about attractions of the bazaar, are to them with long iron spoons, stirring here and more pleasing than the majestic tranquillity mixing there, or kneading into little fids of mountain, and valley, and far-off plain. various compounds of coarse sugar and But we ought not to be too severe on the rancid butter. The outcome of their la- bazaar; it has its spectacle and pretty obbours is exposed to view on a broad board. jects now and again. See that long line Candies, rocks, and toffies of every shape, of horsemen coming slowly along with the but all of the same light-brown colour, stout little gentleman riding in front. He buried in flies and wasps, both dead and is a mountain chieftain, whose home is a alive, are heaped up in brass dishes or lonely castle on a hill-side, over-looking a little wooden platforms. A stray child, great rich valley which is his own. One the colour of the confections, has got cannot help observing how gallantly he is mixed up with them, and is languidly suck-dressed; in gay, but well-matched colours, ing a column of "lump of delight" nearly and cloth of the richest material. The as big as its leg. Less fortunate youngsters horsemen behind are his suite. One is are seen hovering about, regaling them- probably his commander-in-chief (for he is selves with the savoury smells which issue sure to have an army, however small), anforth. Now and then, some big hill-man other the keeper of his privy purse, others purchases for a few little shells a block off lords in waiting, and so on. All fine little one of the dishes, and straightway goes gentlemen in their way, and men in auout into the road, seats himself on his heels, thority. Simla is "town" to them, the and devours it, to the great entertainment metropolis of civilization; the bazaar is of a swarm of naked little urchins and a Regent Street and Cheapside in one. As pariah dog or two. they pass, the shopkeepers come to their

All over India, sweetmeats are con-thresholds and make low salaams. The sumed as a substantial article of food. A native when travelling seldom eats any thing else; and between the two great meals, at all times, he whiles away the long noon of the Indian summer day by sucking lollipops or candy between the whiffs of his hookah. Large dishes of sweetmeats are very common presents to great army, drove back the Goorkhas, who make on religious festivals or domestic were hovering over the town, and then, red-letter days; and when a Hindu wants' out of mere light-heartedness, looted it

stout little prince who is passing is the representative of a family which for generations has been to their ancestors and themselves the ideal of greatness, the incarnation of power, the pink of nobility. Is it not recorded in their unwritten traditions how his grandfather, at the head of a

himself, and carried away its female popu- | der any master who could make it worth lation, to a woman; and how, when the their while to render unto Cæsar the carpenter and goldsmith and sweetmeat things that were not Cæsar's. With a few men went, as a deputation from the burgh- exceptions, the dispersed survivors of the ers, to expostulate with him, he relented, downfall are mere creatures out of place, and wept on their necks, and promised to who saved little or nothing from the spoils, give them back one-half of their wives and and who are doomed to end, as they bedaughters, on condition of receiving a sum gan, needy speculators in national misforof tribute-money yearly for ever; and how tune. Among the summer friends of they only got their grandmammas after all. prosperity and power, the Duc de Persigny With such legends living in their memory, shone out with a lustre all his own. He how can they help honouring and fearing was the Bayard of a class so well described those of their rajahs who are still left to in a melancholy passage of the Life of them. Julius Cæsar," in which the Imperial historian excuses and explains the character of his hero's associates. Although, according to Chamfort, the way to please a man of quality is not to save his life or his honour, but to "make him a genealogy," we shall not attempt to pay so thankless a posthumous compliment to the departed nobleman. That his paternal name was Fialin; that at one period of his versatile life he "resumed" the title of Viscount, which it seems his family had dropped, and dropped the name of Fialin, which his family had worn for a couple of centuries or so; that he was something of a Legitimist for a moment under the Restoration, and having entered the army was dismissed for insubordination; that he was a quasi Republican at the Revolution of July, and, like many other Republicans of that epoch, became an ardent convert to the Napoleonic Légende and a true believer in the Star; that he conspired and escaped at Strasburg; that he conspired and was caught at Boulogne, and was allowed to remain a prisoner on parole at Versailles; that in February, 1818, he was again at large, and again conspiring under all manner of official designations for his prince; and that in December, 1851, this fine career of public virtue was rewarded as it deserved, and the Mecca of this devout ambition was attained; - are not these things henceforth a part of the History of France which M. Guizot will probably decline to write for the edification of his grandchildren?

Look at those gaily dressed, fair, and pretty women; they come from the valleys immediately under the snowy range, to buy the nose-rings and bangles which their souls love. Although some of them have two or three real husbands, they are good and happy women, and have pleasant homes among those giant mountains of the Himalaya beyond the Sutlej. Theirs is a cool fruit-growing land, abounding in peaches, strawberries, walnuts, and grapes; and their fair pretty faces, and their merry, wholesome laughter, speak of the happy glens from which they come.

To all these people, Simla is just what it was before the irrepressible English found it. It is their own town still; and if the English left India to-morrow, it would go on making its nose-rings and sweet-meats; and, beyond a passing remark, the simple dwellers among the mountains would never note the change.

From The Pall Mall Gazette.
THE DUC DE PERSIGNY.

[ocr errors]

It would be gross injustice to deny to

DEATH had made a solitude around the Emperor Napoleon before the last calamities of his dynasty and his Empire had thinned the ranks of those flatterers and accomplices whose fidelity, like the dial, courts only the serene and sunny hours. Even at the full meridian of its glory, the Second Empire was said by its adepts to own but a single pure Bonapartist among its followers. M. de Morny and others M. de Persigny the singular honour of might be within the tables of Imperial having been the typical representative of consanguinity, but they were Imperialists the final avatar of Napoleonism. His by accident and luck rather than by princi- whole life was an adventure and a conspirple and conviction. As for the Rouhers, acy; but his peculiarity was that he conthe Billaults, the Magnes and the Baroches, trived to persuade himself that the pillage they were simply lawyers and men of of a State was the purest patriotism, and business who lent their tongues, their wits, the confiscation of law and property the and their consciences at a rate of interest perfection of ordered licence and of the proportioned to the risk of the security, science of enlightened administrationand who would have accepted service un-after the manner of Cartouche. He mis

-

« VorigeDoorgaan »