"Part III." by Horatia Katharine Frances Gatty (1846- )
YET, how few believe such doctrine springs
From a poor root,
Which all the winter sleeps here under foot,
And hath no wings
To raise it to the truth and light of things;
But is stil trod
By ev'ry wand'ring clod.
O Thou! Whose Spirit did at first inflame
And warm the dead,
And by a sacred incubation fed
With life this frame,
Which once had neither being, forme, nor name;
Grant I may so
Thy steps track here below,
That in these masques and shadows I may see
Thy sacred way;
And by those hid ascents climb to that day
Which breaks from Thee,
Who art in all things, though invisibly.
"The Hidden Flower."–HENRY VAUGHAN.
NE of the causes which helped to develop my sister's interest in flowers was the sight of the fresh ones that she met with on going to live in New Brunswick after her marriage. Every strange face was a subject for study, and she soon began to devote a note-book to sketches of these new friends, naming them scientifically from Professor Asa Gray's "Manual of the Botany of the Northern United States," whilst Major Ewing added as many of the Melicete names as he could glean from Peter, a member of the tribe, who had attached himself to the Ewings, and used constantly to come about their house. Peter and his wife lived in a small colony of the Melicete Indians, [Page 48] which was established on the opposite side of the St. John River to that on which the Reka Dom stood. Mrs. Peter was the most skilful embroiderer in beads amongst her people, and Peter himself the best canoe-builder. He made a beautiful one for the Ewings, which they constantly used; and when they returned to England his regret at losing them was wonderfully mitigated by the present which Major Ewing gave him of an old gun; he declared no gentleman had ever thought of giving him such a thing before!
Julie introduced several of the North American flowers into her stories. The Tabby-striped Arum, or Jack-in-the-Pulpit (as it is called in Mr. Whittier's delightful collection of child-poems *), appears in "We and the World," † where Dennis, the rollicking Irish hero, unintentionally raises himself in the estimation of his sober-minded Scotch companion Alister, by betraying that he "can speak with other tongues," from his ability to converse with a squaw in French on the subject of the bunch of Arums he had gathered, and was holding in his hand.
This allusion was only a slight one, but Julie wrote a complete story on one species of Trillium, having a special affection for the whole genus. Trilliums are amongst the North American herbaceous plants which have lately become fashionable, and easy to be bought in England; but ere they did so, Julie made some ineffectual attempts to transplant tubers of them into [Page 49] English soil; and the last letter she received from Fredericton contained a packet of red Trillium seeds, which came too late to be sown before she died. The species which she immortalised in "The Blind Hermit and the Trinity Flower," * was T. erythrocarpum. The story is a graceful legend of an old Hermit whose life was spent in growing herbs for the healing of diseases; and when he, in his turn, was struck with blindness, he could not reconcile himself to the loss of the occupation which alone seemed to make him of use in the world. "They also serve who only stand and wait," was a hard lesson to learn; every day he prayed for some Balm of Gilead to heal his ill, and restore his sight, and the prayer was answered, though not in the manner that he desired. First he was supplied with a serving-boy, who became eyes and feet to him, from gratitude for cures which the Hermit had done to the lad himself; and then a vision was granted to the old man, wherein he saw a flower which would heal his blindness:–
"And what was the Trinity Flower like, my Father ?" asked the boy.
"It was about the size of Herb Paris, my son," replied the Hermit. "But instead of being fourfold every way, it numbered the mystic Three. Every part was threefold. The leaves were three, the petals three, the sepals three. The flower was snow-white, but on each of the three parts it was stained with crimson stripes, like white garments dyed in blood."
A root of this plant was sent to the Hermit by a heavenly messenger, which the boy planted, and anxiously watched the growth of, cheering his master with the hope, –"Patience, my Father, thou shalt see yet !"
Meantime greater light was breaking in upon the Hermit's soul than had been there before: [Page 50]
"My son, I repent me that I have not been patient under affliction. Moreover, I have set thee an ill example, in that I have murmured at that which God–Who knoweth best–ordained for me."
And, when the boy ofttimes repeated, "Thou shalt yet see," the Hermit answered, "If God will. When God will. As God will."
And at last, when the white bud opens, and the blood-like stains are visible within, he who once was blind sees, but his vision is opened on eternal Day.
In AUNT JUDY'S MAGAZINE for 1877 there is another Flower Legend, but of an English plant, the Lily of the Valley. Julie called the tale by the old-fashioned name of the flower, "Ladders to Heaven." The scenery is pictured from spots near her Yorkshire home, where she was accustomed to seeing beautiful valleys blackened by smoke from iron-furnaces, and the woods beyond the church, where she liked to ramble, filled with desolate heaps of black shale, the refuse left round the mouths of disused coal and ironstone pits. I remember how glad we were when we found the woolly-leaved yellow mullein growing on some of these dreary places, and helping to cover up their nakedness. In later years my sister heard with much pleasure that a mining friend was doing what he could to repair the damages he made on the beauty of the country, by planting over the worked-out mines such trees and plants as would thrive in the poor and useless shale, which was left as a covering to once rich and valuable spots.
"Brothers of Pity" * (AUNT JUDY'S MAGAZINE, 1877) shows a deep
St. Mary's Church, Ecclesfield.
[Page 52] and minute insight into the feelings of a solitary child, which one fancies Julie must have acquired by the process of contrast with her own surroundings of seven brethren and sisters. A similar power of perception was displayed in her verses on "An Only Child's Tea-party." *
She remembered from experiences of our own childhood what a favourite game "funerals" is with those whose "whole vocation" is yet "endless imitation"; and she had watched the soldiers' children in camp play at it so often that she knew it was not only the bright covering of the Union Jack which made death lovely in their eyes, "Blind Baby" enjoyed it for the sake of the music; and even civilians' children, who see the service devoid of sweet sounds, and under its blackest and most revolting aspect, still are strangely fascinated thereby. Julie had heard about one of these, a lonely, motherless boy, whose chief joy was to harness Granny to his "hearse" and play at funeral processions round the drawing-room, where his dead mother had once toddled in her turn.
The boy in "Brothers of Pity" is the principal character, and the animals occupy minor positions. Cock-Robin only appears as a corpse on the scene; and Julie did not touch much on bird pets in any of her tales, chiefly because she never kept one, having too much sympathy with their powers and cravings for flight to reconcile herself to putting them in cages. The flight and recapture of the Cocky in "Lob" were drawn from life, though the bird did not belong to her, but her descriptions of how he stood on the window-sill "scanning the summer sky with his fierce eyes, and flapping himself in the breeze, . . . bowed his yellow crest, spread his noble wings, and sailed out into the æther"; . . . and his "dreams of liberty in the tree-tops," all show the light in which she viewed the practice of keeping birds in confinement. Her verses on "Three Little Nest-Birds" † and her tale of the Thrush in "An Idyl of the Wood" ‡ bear witness to the same feeling. Major Ewing remembers how often she used to wish, when passing bird-shops, that she could "buy the whole collection and set them all free,"–a desire which suggests [Page 53] a quaint vision of her in Seven Dials, with a mixed flock of macaws, canaries, parrots, and thrushes shrieking and flying round her head; but the wish was worthy of her in (what Mr. Howells called) "woman's heaven-born ignorance of the insuperable difficulties of doing right."
In this (1877) volume of AUNT JUDY'S MAGAZINE there is a striking portrait of another kind of animal pet, the "Kit" * who is resolved to choose her own "cradle," and not to sleep where she is told. It is needless to say that she gets her own way, since,
There's a soft persistence about a catShe has, however, the grace to purr when she is pleased, which all kits and cats have not!
That even a little kitten can show.
I'm happy in ev'ry hair of my fur,
They may keep the hamper and hay themselves.
There are three † other sets of verses in the volume, and all of them were originally written to old woodcuts, but have since been re-illustrated by Mr. André, and published by the S. P. C. K.
"A Sweet Little Dear" is the personification of a selfish girl, and "Master Fritz" of an equally selfish boy; but his sister Katerina is delicious by contrast, as she gives heed to his schemes:–
And if you make nice feasts every day for me and Nickel, and never keep us waiting for our food,
And always do everything I want, and attend to everything I say, I'm sure I shall almost always be good.
And if I'm naughty now and then, it'll most likely be your fault: and if it isn't, you mustn't mind;
For even if I seem to be cross you ought to know that I mean to be kind.
An old-fashioned fairy tale, "The Magician turned Mischief-maker," ‡came out in 1877; and a short domestic tale called "A Bad Habit"; but [Page 54] Julie was unable to supply any long contributions this year, as in April her seven-years' home at Aldershot was broken up in consequence of Major Ewing being ordered to Manchester, and her time was occupied by the labour and process of removing.
She took down the motto which she had hung over her hearth to temper her joy in the comfort thereof,–Ut migraturus habita,–and moved the scroll on to her next resting-place. No one knew better than she the depth of Mrs. Hemans's definition,–"What is home,–and where,–but with the loving? " and most truly can it be said that wherever Julie went she carried "Home" with her; freedom, generosity, and loving welcome were always to be found in her house,–even if upholstery and carpets ran short! It was a joke amongst some of her friends that though rose-coloured curtains and bevelled-edged looking-glasses could be counted upon in their bed-rooms, such commonplace necessities as soap might be forgotten, and the glasses be fastened in artistic corners of the rooms, rather than in such lights as were best adapted for shaving by!
South Camp, Aldershot.
Julie followed the course of the new lines in which her lot was cast most cheerfully, but the "mighty heart" could not really support the "little body"; and the fatigue of packing, combined with the effects of the relaxing climate of Bowdon, near Manchester, where she went to live, acted sadly upon her constitution. She was able, however, after settling in the North, to pay more frequent visits to Ecclesfield than before; and the next work that she did for AUNT JUDY'S MAGAZINE bears evidences of the renewal of Yorkshire associations.
This story, "We and the World," * was specially intended for boys, and the "law of contrast" in it was meant to be drawn between the career [Page 55] which Cripple Charlie spent at home, and those of the three lads who went out into "the World" together. Then, too, she wished, as I mentioned before, to contrast the national types of character in the English, Scotch, and Irish heroes, and to show the good contained in each of them. But the tale seemed to have been begun under an unlucky star. The first half, which came out in the first six numbers of the MAGAZINE for 1878, is excellent as a matter of art; and as pictures of North-country life and scenery nothing can be better than Walnut-tree Farm and Academy, the Miser's Funeral, and the Bee-master's Visit to his Hives on the Moors, combined with attendance at Church on a hot Sunday afternoon in August (it need scarcely be said that the church is a real one). But, good though all this is, it is too long and "out of proportion," when one reflects how much of the plot was left to be unravelled in the other half of the tale. "The World" could not properly be squeezed into a space only equal in size to that which had been devoted to "Home." If Julie had been in better health, she would have foreseen the dilemma into which she was falling, but she did not, and in the autumn of 1878 she had to lay the tale aside, for Major Ewing was sent to be stationed at York. "We" was put by until the following volume; but for this (1878) one she wrote two other short contributions,–"The Yellow Fly; a Tale with a Sting in It," * and "So-so."
To those who do not read between the lines, "So-so" sounds (as he felt) "very soft and pleasant," but to me the tale is in Julie's saddest strain, because of the suspicion of hopelessness that pervades it,–a spirit which I do not trace in any of her other writings. So-so was only the widow's House Dog, but he represents the sadly large class of those who are "neither hot nor cold," and whom Dante saw as
–the melancholy souls of those
Who lived withouten infamy or praise,
Commingled are they with that caitiff choir
Of Angels, who have not rebellious been,
Nor faithful were to God, but were for self.
The heavens expelled them, not to be less fair;
Nor them the nethermore abyss receives,
For glory none the damned would have from them.
. . . .[Page 56]
These have no longer any hope of death;
And this blind life of theirs is so debased,
They envious are of every other fate.
No fame of them the world permits to be,
Misericord and Justice both disdain them.
Let us not speak of them, but look and pass.
"Be sure, my child," said the widow to her little daughter, that you always do just as you are told."
"Very well, mother."
"Or at any rate do what will do just as well," said the small house-dog, as he lay blinking at the fire.
. . . . . .
"For the future, my child," said the widow, "I hope you will always do just as you are told, whatever So-so may say."
"I will, mother," said little Joan. (And she did.) But the house-dog sat and blinked. He dared not speak, he was in disgrace.
"I do not feel quite sure about So-so. Wild dogs often amend their ways far on this side of the gallows, and the Faithful sometimes fall; but when any one begins by being only so-so, he is very apt to be so-so to the end. So-so's so seldom change."
Before turning from the record of my sister's life at Manchester, I must mention a circumstance which gave her very great pleasure there. In the summer of 1875 she and I went up from Aldershot to see the Exhibition of Water-Colours by the Royal Society of Painters, and she was completely fascinated by a picture of Mr. J. D. Watson's, called "A Gentleman of the Road." It represented a horseman at daybreak, allowing his horse to drink from a stream, whilst he sat half-turned in the saddle to look back at a gallows which was visible on the horizon against the beams of rising light. The subject may sound very sensational, but it was not that aspect of it which charmed my sister; she found beauty as well as romance in it, and after we returned to camp in the evening she became so restless and engrossed by what she had seen, that she got up during the night, and planned out the headings of a story on the picture, adding–characteristically–a moral or "soul" to the subject by a quotation from Thomas à Kempis,–Respice finem. "In all things remember the end."
This "mapped-out" story, I am sorry to say, remains unfinished. The manuscript went through many vicissitudes, was inadvertently torn up and thrown into the waste-paper basket, whence it was rescued and the pieces carefully enclosed in an envelope ready for mending; but afterwards lost again for many months in a box that was sent abroad, and now it must ever remain amongst the unwritten. [Page 57]
This incident will, however, serve to show what a strong impression the picture had made upon Julie's mind, so it will readily be imagined how intensely delighted she was when she unexpectedly made the acquaintance, at Manchester, of Mr. Galloway, who proved to have bought Mr. Watson's work, and he was actually kind enough to lend the treasure to her for a considerable time, so that she could study it thoroughly and make a most accurate copy of it. Mr. Galloway's friendship, and that of some other people whom she first met at Bowdon, were the brightest spots in Julie's existence during this period.
In September, 1878, the Ewings removed to Fulford, near York, and, on their arrival, Julie at once devoted herself to adorning her new home. We were very much amused by the incredulous amazement betrayed on the stolid face of an elderly workman, to whom it was explained that he was required to distemper the walls of the drawing room with a sole colour, instead of covering them with a paper, after the manner of all the other drawing-rooms he had ever had to do with. But he was too polite to express his difference of taste by more than looks;–and some days after the room was finished, with etchings duly hung on velvet in the panels of the door,–the sole-coloured walls well covered with pictures, whence they stood out undistracted by gold and flowery paper patterns,–the distemperer called, and asked if he might be allowed, as a favour, to see the result of Mrs. Ewing's arrangements. I forget if he expressed anything by words, as he stood in the middle of the room twisting his hat in his fingers–but we had learned to read his face, and Julie was fully satisfied with the fresh expression of amazement mixed with admiration which she saw there.
One theory which she held strongly about the decoration of houses was, that the contents ought to represent the associations of the inmates, rather than the skill of their upholsterer; and for this reason she would not have liked to limit any of her rooms to one special period, such as Queen Anne's, unless she had possessed an old house, built at some date to which a special kind of furniture belonged. She contrived to make her home at York a very pretty one; but it was of short duration, for in March, 1879, Major Ewing was despatched to Malta and Julie had to begin to pack her Lares and Penates once more.
It may, perhaps, be wondered that she was allowed to spend her time and strength on the labour of packing, which a professional worker would have done far better,–but it is easier to see the mistakes of [Page 58] others than to rectify our own! There were many difficulties to be encountered, not the least of these being Julie's own strong will, and bad though it was, in one sense, for her to be physically over-tired, it was better than letting her be mentally so; and to an active brain like hers "change of occupation" is the only possible form of "rest." Professional packers and road and rail cars represent money, and Julie's skill in packing both securely and economically was undeniably great. This is not surprising if we hold, as an old friend does, that ladies would make far better housemaids than uneducated women do, because they would throw their brains as well as muscles into their work. Julie did throw her brains into everything, big or little, that she undertook; and one of her best and dearest friends,–whose belief in my sister's powers and "mission" as a writer were so strong that she almost grudged even the time "wasted" on sketching, which might have been give to penning more stories for the age which boasts Gordon as its hero,–and who, being with Julie at her death, could not believe till the very End came that she would be taken, whilst so much seemed to remain for her to do here,–confessed to me afterwards she had learned to see that Julie's habit of expending her strength on trifles arose from an effort of nature to balance the vigour of her mind, which was so much greater than that of her body.
During the six months that my sister resided in York she wrote a few contributions for AUNT JUDY'S MAGAZINE. To the number for January, 1879, she gave "Flaps," a sequel to "The Hens of Hencastle."
The latter story was not written by her, but was a free adaptation which Colonel Yeatman-Biggs made from the German of Victor Blüthgen. Julie had been greatly amused by the tale, but, finding that it ended in a vague and unsatisfactory way, she could not be contented, so took up her pen and wrote a finale, her chief aim being to provide a happy ending for the old farm-dog, Flaps himself, after whom she named her sequel. The writing is so exactly similar to that of "The Hens," that the two portions can scarcely be identified as belonging to different writers. Julie used often to reproach me for indulging in what John Wesley called "the lust of finishing," but in matters concerning her own art she was as great an offender on this score as any one else! Her inability to leave the farm-yard question undecided reminds me of the way in which Dr. Hullah's pupils at the Charterhouse used to tease him when they were finishing their music-lessons, by ending off the piece they had practiced on the chord of the dominant seventh, and then banging, boy-like, out of the [Page 59] room, but waiting outside to listen to the Doctor as he quickly advanced to the piano, whilst the notes were still vibrating, and gently resolved the chord into the tonic!
Julie gave a set of verses on "Canada Home" to the same number as "Flaps," and to the March (1879) number she gave some other verses on "Garden Lore." In April, the second part of "We and the World" began to appear, and a fresh character was introduced, who is one of the most important and touching features of the tale. Biddy Macartney is a real old Irish melody in herself, with her body tied to a coffee-barrow in the Liverpool docks, and her mind ever wandering in search of the son who had run away to sea. Jack, the English hero, comes across Biddy in the docks just before he starts as a stowaway for America, and his stiff, crude replies to her voluble outpourings are essentially British and boy-like:–
"You hope Mickey'll come back, I suppose ?"
"Why wouldn't I, acushla ? Sure, it was by reason o' that I got bothered with the washin' after me poor boy left me, from my mind being continually in the docks instead of with the clothes. And there I would be at the end of the week, with the captain's jerseys gone to old Miss Harding, and his washing no corricter than hers, though he'd more good-nature in him over the accidents, and iron-moulds on the table-cloths, and pocket handkerchers missin', and me ruined intirely with making them good, and no thanks for it, till a good-natured sowl of a foreigner that kept a pie-shop larned me to make the coffee, and lint me the money to buy a barra, and he says, 'Go as convenient to the ships as ye can, mother: it'll ease your mind. My own heart,' says he, laying his hand to it, 'knows what it is to have my body here, and the whole sowl of me far away.'"
"Did you pay him back ?" I asked. I spoke without thinking, and still less did I mean to be rude; but it had suddenly struck me that I was young and hearty, and that it would be almost a duty to share the contents of my leather bag with this poor old woman, if there were no chance of her being able to repay the generous foreigner.
"Did I pay him back ? " she screamed. "Would I be the black-hearted thief to him that was kind to me ? Sorra bit nor sup but dry bread-and-water passed me lips till he had his own again, and the heart's blessings of owld Biddy Macartney along with it."
I made my peace with old Biddy as well as I could, and turned the conversation back to her son.
"So you live in the docks with your coffee-barrow, mother, that you may be sure not to miss Micky when he comes ashore ?"
"I do, darlin'! Fourteen years all but three days ! He'll be gone fifteen if we all live till Wednesday week."
"Fifteen ? But, mother, if he were like me when he went, he can't be very like me now. He must be a middle-aged man. Do you think you'd know him ?"
This question was more unfortunate than the other, and produced such howling and [Page 60] weeping, and beating of Biddy's knees as she rocked herself among the beans, that I should have thought every soul in the docks would have crowded round us. But no one took any notice, and by degrees I calmed her, chiefly by the assertion,–"He'll know you, mother, any how."
"He will so, GOD bless him !" said she. "And haven't I gone over it all in me own mind, often and often, when I'd see the vessels feelin' their way home through the darkness, and the coffee staymin' enough to cheer your heart wid the smell of it, and the least taste in life of something betther in the stone bottle under me petticoats. And then the big ship would be coming in with her lights at the head of her, and myself would be sitting alone with me patience, GOD helping me, and one and another strange face going by. And then he comes along, cold, maybe, and smells the coffee. 'Bedad, but that's a fine smell with it,' says he, for Micky was mighty particular in his aitin' and drinkin'. 'I'll take a dhrop of that,' says he, not noticing me particular, and if ever I'd the saycret of a good cup he gets it, me consayling me face. 'What will it be ?' says he, setting down the mug. 'What would it be, Micky, from your mother ?' says I, and I lifts me head. Arrah, but then there's the heart's delight between us. 'Mother !' says he. 'Micky !' says I. And he lifts his foot and kicks over the barra, and dances me round in his arms. 'Ochone !' says the spictators; 'there's the fine coffee that's running into the dock.' 'Let it run,' says I, in the joy of me heart, 'and you after it, and the barra on the top of ye, now Micky me son's come home !'"
"Wonderfully jolly !" said I. "And it must be pleasant even to think of it."
There is another new character in the second part of "We," who is also a fine picture,–Alister, the blue-eyed Scotch lad, with his respect for "book-learning," and his powers of self-denial and endurance; but Julie certainly had a weakness for the Irish nation, and the tender grace with which she touches Dennis O'Moore and Biddy shines conspicuously throughout the story. In one scene, however, I think she brings up her Scotch hero neck-and-neck, if not ahead of her favourite Irishman.
This is in Chapter VII., where an entertainment is being held on board ship, and Dennis and Alister are called upon in turn to amuse the company with a song. Dennis gets through his ordeal well; he has a beautiful voice, which makes him independent of the accompaniment of a fiddle (the only musical instrument on board), and Julie describes his simpatico rendering of "Bendemeer's Stream" from the way in which she loved to hear one of our brothers sing it. He had learned it by ear on board ship from a fellow-passenger, and she was never tired of listening to the melody. When this same brother came to visit her whilst she was ill at Bath, and sang to her as she lay in bed,–"Bendemeer's Stream" was the one strain she asked for, and the last she heard.
Dennis O'Moore's performance met with warm applause, and then the boatswain, who had a grudge against Alister, because the Scotch [Page 61] captain treated his countryman with leniency, taunted the shy and taciturn lad to "contribute to the general entertainment."
I was very sorry for Alister, and so was Dennis, I am sure, for he did his best to encourage him.
"Sing 'GOD Save the Queen,' and I'll keep well after ye with the fiddle," he suggested. But Alister shook his head. "I know one or two Scotch tunes," Dennis added, and he began to sketch out an air or two with his fingers on the strings.
Presently Alister stopped him. "Yon's the Land o' the Leal ?"
"It is," said Dennis.
"Play it a bit quicker, man, and I'll try 'Scots, wha hae'."
Dennis quickened at once, and Alister stood forward. He neither fidgeted nor complained of feeling shy, but, as my eyes (I was squatted cross-legged on the deck) were at the level of his knees, I could see them shaking, and pitied him none the less that I was doubtful as to what might not be before me. Dennis had to make two or three false starts before poor Alister could get a note out of his throat; but when he had fairly broken the ice with the word "Scots !" he faltered no more. The Boatswain was cheated a second time of his malice. Alister could not sing in the least like Dennis, but he had a strong manly voice, and it had a ring that stirred one's blood, as he clenched his hands and rolled his R's to the rugged appeal:–Scots, wha hae wi' Wallace bled,
Scots, wham Bruce has aften led;
Welcome to your gory bed,
Or to victory!
Applause didn't seem to steady his legs in the least, and he never moved his eyes from the sea, and his face only grew whiter by the time he drove all the blood to my heart with–Wha will be a traitor knave ?
Wha can fill a coward's grave ?
Wha sae base as be a slave ?
Let him turn and flee!
"GOD forbid!" cried Dennis, impetuously. "Sing that verse again, me boy, and give us a chance to sing with ye !" which we did accordingly; but as Alister and Dennis were rolling R's like the rattle of musketry on the word turn, Alister did turn, and stopped suddenly short. The Captain had come up unobserved.
"Go on !" said he, waving us back to our places.
By this time the solo had become a chorus. Beautifully unconscious, for the most part, that the song was by way of stirring Scot against Saxon, its deeper patriotism had seized upon us all. Englishmen, Scotchmen, and Sons of Erin, we all shouted at the top of our voices, Sambo's fiddle not being silent. And I maintain that we all felt the sentiment with our whole hearts, though I doubt if any but Alister and the Captain knew and sang the precise words:–Wha for Scotland's king and law
Freedom's sword will strongly draw,
Freeman stand, or freeman fa'?
Let him on wi' me !
The description of Alister's song, as well as that of Dennis, was to some extent drawn from life, Julie having been accustomed to hear "Scots, wha hae" rendered by a Scot with more soul than voice, who always "moved the hearts of the people as one man" by his patriotic fire.
My sister was greatly aided by two friends in her descriptions of the scenery in "We," such as the vivid account of Bermuda and the waterspout in Chapter XI., and that of the fire at Demerara in Chapter XII., and she owed to the same kind helpers also the accuracy of her nautical phrases and her Irish dialect. Certainly this second part of the tale is full of interest, but I cannot help wishing that the materials had been made into two books instead of one. There are more than enough characters and incidents to have developed into a couple of tales.
Julie has often said how strange it seemed to her, when people who had a ready pen for writing consulted her as to what they should write about! She suffered so much from over-abundance of ideas which she had not the physical strength to put on paper.
Even when she was very ill, and unable to use her hands at all, the sight of a lot of good German woodcuts, which were sent to me at Bath, suggested so many fresh ideas to her brain, that she only longed to be able to seize her pen and write tales to the pictures.
Before we turn finally away from the subject of her liking for Irish people, I must mention a little adventure which happened to her at Fulford.
There is one parish in York where a great number of Irish peasants live, and many of the women used to pass Julie's windows daily, going out to work in the fields at Fulford. She liked to watch them trudging by, with large baskets perched picturesquely on the tops of their heads, but in the town the "Irishers" are not viewed with equal favour by the inhabitants. One afternoon Julie was out sketching in a field, and came across one of these poor Irish women. My sister's mind at the time was full of Biddy Macartney, and she could not resist the opportunity of having a chat with this suggestive "study" for the character. She found an excuse for addressing the old woman about some cattle who seemed restless in the field, but quickly discovered, to her amusement, that when she alluded to Ireland, her companion, in the broadest brogue, stoutly denied having any connexion with the country. No doubt she thought Julie's prejudices would be similar to those of her town neighbours, but in a short time some allusion was inadvertently made to "me father's farm in Kerry," and the truth leaked out. After this they became more con- [Page 63] fidential; and when Julie admired some quaint silver rings on her companion's finger, the old woman was most anxious to give her one, and was only restrained by coming to the decision that she would give her a recipe for "real Irish whiskey" instead. She began with "You must take some barley, and put it in a poke–" but after this Julie heard no more, for she was distracted by the cattle, who had advanced unpleasantly near; the Irish woman, however, continued her instructions to the end, waving her arms to keep the beasts off, which she so far succeeded in doing, that Julie caught the last sentence:
"And then ye must bury it in a bog."
"Is that to give it a peaty flavor?" asked my sister, innocently.
"Oh, no, me dear !–it's because of the exciseman. "
When they parted, the old woman's original reserve entirely gave way, and she cried, "Good luck to ye ! and go to Ireland ! "
Julie remained in England for some months after Major Ewing started for Malta, as he was despatched on very short notice, and she had to pack up their goods; also–as she was not strong–it was decided that she should avoid going out for the hot summer weather, and wait for the healthier autumn season. Her time, therefore, was now chiefly spent amongst civilian friends and relations, and I want this fact to be specially noticed in connexion with the next contributions that she wrote for the MAGAZINE.
In February, 1879, the terrible news had come of the Isandlwana massacre, and this was followed in June by that of the Prince Imperial's death. My sister was, of course, deeply engrossed in the war tidings, as many of her friends went out to South Africa–some to return no more. In July she contributed "A Soldier's Children" *to AUNT JUDY, and of all her Child Verses this must be reckoned the best, every line from first to last breathing how strong her sympathies still were for military men and things, though she was no longer living amongst them:
Our home used to be in the dear old camp, with lots of bands, and trumpets, and bugles, and dead-marches, and three times a day there was a gun,
But now we live in View Villa, at the top of the village, and it isn't nearly such fun.
The humour and pathos in the lines are so closely mixed, it is very difficult to read them aloud without tears; but they have been recited–as Julie was much pleased to know–by the "old Father" of the "Queer [Page 64] Fellows," to whom the verses were dedicated, when he was on a troopship going abroad for active service, and they were received with warm approbation by his hearers. He read them on other occasions, also in public, with equal success.
The crowning military work, however, which Julie did this year was "Jackanapes." This she wrote for the October number of AUNT JUDY; and here let me state that I believe if she had still been living at Aldershot, surrounded by the atmosphere of military sympathies and views of honour, the tale would never have been written. It was not aimed, as some people supposed, personally at the man who was with the Prince Imperial when he met his death. Julie would never have sat in judgment on him, even before he, too, joined the rank of those Dead, about whom no evil may be spoken. It was hearing this same man's conduct discussed by civilians from the standard of honour which is unhappily so different in civil and military circles, and more especially the discussion of it amongst "business men," where the rule of "each man for himself" is invariable, which drove Julie into uttering the protest of "Jackanapes." I believe what she longed to show forth was how the life of an army–as of any other body–depends on whether the individuality of its members is dead; a paradox which may perhaps be hard to understand, save in the light of His teaching, Who said that the saving of a man's life lay in his readiness to lose it. The merging of selfish interests into a common cause is what makes it strong; and it is from Satan alone we get the axiom, "Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life." Of "Jackanapes" itself I need not speak. It has made Julie's name famous, and deservedly so, for it not only contains her highest teaching, but is her best piece of literary art.
There are a few facts connected with the story which, I think, will be interesting to some of its admirers. My sister was in London in June, 1879, and then made the acquaintance of Mr. Randolph Caldecott, for whose illustrations to Washington Irving's "Bracebridge Hall," and "Old Christmas" she had an unbounded admiration, as well as for his Toy Books. This introduction led us to ask him, when "Jackanapes" was still simmering in Julie's brain, if he would supply a coloured illustration for it. But as the tale was only written a very short time before it appeared, and as the illustration was wanted early, because colours take long to print, Julie could not send the story to be read, but asked Mr. Caldecott to draw her a picture to fit one of the scenes in it. The one she suggested was a "fair-haired boy on a red-haired pony,'' having noticed [Page 65] the artistic effect produced by this combination in one of her own nephews, a skilful seven-year-old rider who was accustomed to follow the hounds.
This coloured illustration was given in AUNT JUDY'S MAGAZINE with the tale, but when it was republished as a book, in 1883, the scene was reproduced on a smaller scale in black and white only.
"Jackanapes" was much praised when it came out in the MAGAZINE, but it was not until it had been reissued as a book that it became really well known. Even then its success was within a hair's-breadth of failing. The first copies were brought out in dull stone-coloured paper covers, and that powerful vehicle "the Trade," unable to believe that a jewel could be concealed in so plain a casket, refused the work of J. H. E. and R. C. until they had stretched the paper cover on boards, and coloured the Union Jack which adorns it. No doubt "the Trade" understands its fickle child "the Public" better than either authors or artists do, and knows by experience that it requires tempting with what is pretty to look at, before it will taste. Certainly, if praise from the public were the chief aim that writers, or any other workers, strove after, their lives for the most part would consist of disappointment only, so seldom is "success" granted whilst the power to enjoy it is present. They alone whose aims are pointed above earthly praise can stand unmoved amidst neglect or blame, filled with that peace of a good conscience which the world can neither give nor take away.
I have spoken of "Jackanapes" as being my sister's best literary work, and will therefore here introduce some valuable notes which she communicated to my youngest brother on her method of working, as I feel sure they will be interesting, and may be useful to other authors:–
Some years ago I had several conversations with my sister, Mrs. Ewing, on the subject of literary composition, with special reference to that art as it ought to be employed in works of fiction, such as she herself produced. I, fortunately, at the time made a few notes of her remarks, and which may now be of interest, as elucidating in some measure the manner of construction employed in the works which she has bequeathed to the world. Referring generally to the subject of construction, she told me that she had been greatly indebted for her own education in such matters to the latter part of the third Letter in Mr. Ruskin's 'Elements of Drawing,' where the first principles of this great question are touched upon, in their application to music, poetry, and painting. It is unnecessary to reproduce here the masterly analyses of the Laws of Principality, Repetition, Continuity, Contrast, Harmony, [Page 66] &c., which are to be found in Mr. Ruskin's work. It is sufficient only to note that Mrs. Ewing felt keenly that they were equally essential to the art of writing as to that of painting; and she held that the great mass of English fiction does not fail to interest us so much for lack of stories to be told, as from the want of an artistic way of telling them. She remarked that the English writers are strangely behind the French in this particular, and that, however feeble the incidents in a French work of fiction often are, the constructive power is commonly of a high order.
It may be of interest to consider for a moment how the laws of construction just spoken of, can be traced in one of Mrs. Ewing's stories. For example, in the story of 'Jackanapes' the law of Principality is very clearly demonstrated. 'Jackanapes' is the one important figure. The doting aunt, the weak-kneed but faithful Tony Johnson, the irascible general, the punctilious postman, the loyal boy-trumpeter, the silent major, and the ever-dear, faithful, loving Lollo,–all and each of them conspire with one consent to reflect forth the glory and beauty of the noble, generous, recklessly brave, and gently tender spirit of the hero 'Jackanapes.' What aunt could fail to dote on such a boy ? What friend could resist making a hero of such an inspiring example ? What old general could be proof against the brave, dashing gallantry of such a lad ? What old soldier could help but be proud of such a cadet ? What village lad save himself from the irresistible influence of leaving his father's plough and following Jackanapes to the field of honour ? What brother-officer, however seared with sorrow, and made taciturn by trial, could hold that dying hand, and not weep for him who begged for the grace of Christ and the love of God as he passed away ? And Lollo, the faithful Lollo, who does not feel that all the sunlight which pours upon his ruddy coat is reflected from the joy of that dear boy's first gallop upon his back ?
This is indeed a very striking example of the law of Principality. All these life-like figures group around Jackanapes in subordinate positions, and in all they say, and do, and feel, they conspire to increase his pre-eminence.
The law of Repetition may also be very clearly traced in the same story. Again and again is the village-green introduced to the imagination. It is a picture of eternal peace and quietness, amidst the tragedies of our ever-changing life which are enacted around it. Mr. Ruskin remarks that Turner chiefly used the law of Repetition in his [Page 67] pictures where he wished to obtain an expression of repose. 'In general,' he says, 'throughout Nature, reflection and repetition are peaceful things.'
Another law which is very forcibly introduced into 'Jackanapes' is the law of Contrast. The peace of Nature upon the village-green, as I have just remarked, is sharply contrasted with the changes and chances in the human life around it. The idiotic gabblings of the goose are compared with the cowardly doctrines of the peace-at-any-price politician. The embryo gallant, with his clear blue eyes and mop of yellow curls, is placed vis-à-vis with the wounded hero of many battles, the victim of a glass eye and an artificial toilette. That 'yellow thing,' the captain's child, starts in pursuit of the 'other yellow thing,' the young gosling.
These points will be of interest to those who care to make themselves acquainted with the work of Mr. Ruskin, already referred to, and who try to see how the principles there laid down were, more or less, applied by Mrs. Ewing in her books.
Among her general axioms for the construction of stories may be mentioned the following. She thought it was best to fix first the entire plot of the whole story, as this helps the writer to determine the relative value of persons, places, incidents, &c., in the general idea. She considered, also, that at this stage the whole dramatis personæ should be settled upon and arranged into classes, those for the foreground, those for the middle distance, and those for the background. Another of her axioms was that no single word of conversation should ever be introduced which did not plainly (1) either develop the character speaking, or (2) forward the plot. She thought it well, too, to have a clear understanding of the amount to be ultimately written, and determine how much for each chapter,–and, indeed, for each phrase in the chapter.
With regard to the introduction of passion into stories, she remarked that it was most necessary, but that human feelings are elastic, and are soon over -strained, and that this kind of ammunition should be sparingly fired, with intervals of refreshment.
She was very careful to recommend the study of types of sentences and idioms, which give force and beauty, from the placing and repetition of words, &c. One of the most important doctrines she held, and in an extraordinary manner carried out, was, that if a writer could express himself clearly in one word he was not to use two.
* "Child Life." Edited by J. G. Whittier. (Nesbitt & Co.)
† "We and the World." (Bell & Sons.)
* "Monthly Packet." May, 1871.
* "Brothers of Pity, and other Tales of Beasts and Men." By J. H. Ewing. S. P. C. K.
* "An Only Child's Tea-party." By J. H. Ewing. Depicted by R. André. S. P. C. K.
† "AUNT JUDY'S MAGAZINE," 1874. "Three Little Nest-Birds," By J. H. Ewing. Depicted by R. André. S. P. C. K.
‡ "AUNT JUDY'S MAGAZINE," September, 1867. Reprinted in "The Brownies, and other Tales." Bell & Sons.
* "Kit's Cradle." Reprinted in "Baby, Puppy, and Kitty." By J. H. Ewing. Depicted by R. André.
†  "A Sweet Little Dear." By J. H. Ewing. Depicted by R. André. S. P. C. K.
 "Master Fritz." Ibid.
 "Boy and Squirrel." Reprinted in "Tongues in Trees." Ibid.
‡ "Old-fashioned Fairy Tales." S. P. C. K.
* "We, and the World." Bell & Son.
* Reprinted in "Baby, Puppy, and Kitty." By J. H. Ewing. Depicted by R. André. S. P. C. K.
* "A Soldier's Children." By J. H. Ewing. Depicted by R. André. S. P. C. K.