Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

Cits

He walked with a swinging action, using a stick heavily shod with iron, which he struck loudly against the ground, producing as he went round the “Sand-walk" at Down, a rhythmical click which is with all of us a very distinct remembrance. As he returned from the midday walk, often carrying the waterproof or cloak which had proved too hot, one could see that the swinging step was kept up by something of an effort. Indoors his step was often slow and laboured, and as he went upstairs in the afternoon he might be heard mounting the stairs with a heavy footfall, as if each step were an effort. When interested in his work he moved about quickly and easily enough, and often in the middle of dictating he went eagerly into the hall to get a pinch of snuff, leaving the study door open, and calling out the last words of his sentence as he went. Indoors he sometimes used an oak stick like a little alpenstock, and this was a sign that he felt giddiness.

In spite of his strength and activity, I think he must always have had a clumsiness of movement. He was naturally awkward with his hands, and was unable to draw at all well.* This he always regretted much, and he frequently urged the paramount necessity of a young naturalist making himself a good draughtsman.

He could dissect well under the simple microscope, but I think it was by dint of his great patience and carefulness. It was characteristic of him that he thought many little bits of skilful dissection something almost superhuman. He used to speak with admiration of the skill with which he saw Newport dissect a humble bee, getting out the nervous system with a few cuts of a fine pair of scissors, held, as my father used to show, with the elbow raised, and in an attitude which certainly would render great steadiness necessary. He used to consider cutting sections a great feat, and in the last year of his life, with wonderful energy, took the pains to learn to

* The figure representing the aggregated cell-contents in ‘Insectivorous Plants' was drawn by him.

[merged small][ocr errors]

cut sections of roots and leaves. His hand was not steady enough to hold the object to be cut, and he employed a cominon microtome, in which the pith for holding the object was clamped, and the razor slid on a glass surface in making the sections. He used to laugh at himself, and at his own skill in section-cutting, at which he would say he was “speechless with admiration.” On the other hand, he must have had accuracy of eye and power of co-ordinating his movements, since he was a good shot with a gun as a young man, and as a boy was skilful in throwing. He once killed a hare sitting in the flower-garden at Shrewsbury by throwing a marble at it, and, as a man, he once killed a cross-beak with a stone. He was so unhappy at having uselessly killed the cross-beak that he did not mention it for years, and then explained that he should never have thrown at it if he had not felt sure that his old skill had gone from himn.

When walking he had a fidgetting movement with his fingers, which he has described in one of his books as the habit of an old man. When he sat still he often took hold of one wrist with the other hand; he sat with his legs crossed, and from being so thin they could be crossed very far, as may be seen in one of the photographs. He had his chair in the study and in the drawing-room raised so as to be much higher than ordinary chairs; this was done because sitting on a low or even an ordinary chair caused him some discomfort. We used to laugh at him for making his tall drawing-room chair still higher by putting footstools on it, and then neutralising the result by resting his feet on another chair.

His beard was full and almost untrimmed, the hair being grey and white, fine rather than coarse, and wavy or frizzled. His moustache was somewhat disfigured by being cut short and square across. He became very bald, having only a fringe cf dark hair behind.

His face was ruddy in colour, and this perhaps made people think him less of an invalid than he was. He wrote to Dr. Hooker (June 13, 1849), “Every one tells me that I look quite blooming and beautiful; and most think I am

shamming, but you have never been one of those.” And it must be reinembered that at this time he was miserably ill, far worse than in later years. His eyes were bluish grey under deep overhanging brows, with thick bushy projecting eyebrows. His high forehead was much wrinkled, but otherwise his face was not much marked or lined. His expression showed no signs of the continual discomfort he suffered.

When he was excited with pleasant talk his whole manner was wonderfully bright and animated, and his face shared to the full in the general animation. His laugh was a free and sounding peal, like that of a man who gives himself sym athetically and with enjoyment to the person and the thing which have amused him. He often used some sort of gesture with his laugh, lifting up his hands or bringing one down with a slap. I think, generally speaking, he was given to gesture, and often used his hands in explaining anything (e.g. the fertilisation of a flower) in a way that seemed rather an aid to himself than to the listener. He did this on occasions when most people would illustrate their explanations by means of a rough pencil sketch.

He wore dark clothes, of a loose and easy fit. Of late years he gave up the tail hat even in London, and wore a soft black one in winter, and a big straw hat in summer. His usual out-of-doors dress was the short cloak in which Elliot and Fry's photograph represents him leaning against the pillar of the verandah. Two peculiarities of his indoor dress were that he almost always wore a shawl over his shoulders, and that he had great loose cloth boots lined with fur which he could slip on over his indoor shoes. Like most delicate people he suffered from heat as well as from chilliness; it was as if he could not hit the balance between too hot and too cold; often a mental cause would make him too hot, so that he would take off his coat if anything went wrong in the course of his work.

He rose early, chiefly because he could not lie in bed, and I think he would have liked to get up earlier than he did. He took a short turn before breakfast, a habit which began

[merged small][ocr errors]

when he went for the first time to a water-cure establishment. This habit he kept up till almost the end of his life. I used, as a little boy, to like going out with him, and I have a vague sense of the red of the winter sunrise, and a recollection of the pleasant companionship, and a certain honour and glory in it. He used to delight me as a boy by telling me how, in still earlier walks, on dark winter mornings, he had once or twice met foxes trotting home at the dawning.

After breakfasting alone about 7:45, he went to work at once, considering the it hour between 8 and 9:30 one of his best working times. At 9:30 he came into the drawing-room for his letters--rejoicing if the post was a light one and being sometimes much worried if it was not. He would then hear any family letters read aloud as he lay on the sofa. : The reading aloud, which also included part of a novel, lasted till about half-past ten, when he went back to work till twelve or a quarter past. By this time he considered his day's work over, and would often say, in a satisfied voice, I've done a good day's work.” He then went out of doors whether it was wet or fine; Polly, his white terrier, went with him in fair weather, but in rain she refused or might be seen hesitating in the verandah, with a mixed expression of disgust and shame at her own want of courage ; generally, however, her conscience carried the day, and as soon as he was evidently gone she could not bear to stay behind,

My father was always fond of dogs, and as a young man had the power of stealing away the affections of his sister's pets; at Cambridge, he won the love of his cousin W. D. Fox's dog, and this may perhaps have been the little beast which used to creep down inside his bed and sleep at the foot every night. My father had a surly dog, who was devoted to him, but unfriendly to every one else, and when he came back from the Beagle voyage, the dog remembered him, but in a curious way, which my father was fond of telling. He went into the yard and shouted in his old manner; the dog rushed out and set off with him on his walk, showing no more emotion or excitement than if the same thing had happened the day before, instead of five years ago. This story is made use of in the ' Descent of Man,' 2nd Edit., p. 74.

In my memory there were only two dogs which had much connection with my father. One was a large black and white half-bred retriever, called Bob, to which we, as children, were much devoted. He was the dog of whom the story of the “hot-house face" is told in the ‘Expression of the Emotions.'

But the dog most closely associated with my father was the above-mentioned Polly, a rough, white fox-terrier. She was a sharp-witted, affectionate dog; when her master was going away on a journey, she always discovered the fact by the signs of packing going on in the study, and became lowspirited accordingly. She began, too, to be excited by seeing the study prepared for his return home. She was a cunning little creature, and used to tremble or put on an air of misery when my father passed, while she was waiting for dinner, just as if she knew that he would say (as he did often say) that "she was famishing." My father used to make her catch biscuits off her nose, and had an affectionate and mocksolemn way of explaining to her before-hand that she must “be a very good girl.” She had a mark on her back where she had been burnt, and where the hair had re-grown red instead of white, and my father used to commend her for this tuft of hair as being in accordance with his theory of pangenesis; her father had been a red bull-terrier, thus the red hair appearing after the burn showed the presence of latent red gemmules. He was delightfully tender to Polly, and never showed any impatience at the attentions she required, such as to be let in at the door, or out at the verandah window, to bark at "naughty people," a self-imposed duty she much enjoyed. She died, or rather had to be killed, a few days after his death.*

* The basket in which she usually lay curled up near the fire in his study is faithfully represented in Mr. Parson's drawing, “ The Study at Down," facing this chapter.

« VorigeDoorgaan »