Page images
PDF
EPUB

Two Sons.

I.

the same;

I HAVE two sons, wife,
Two, and

yet
Both are only one, wife,

Bearing but one name:
The one is bearded, sunburnt, grim, and fights across the sea;
The other is a little child who sits upon your knee.

II.

Only one is here, wife,

Free from scaith and harm;
I can hear his voice, wife,

All about the farm.
The other is a great strong man, wherever he may be;
But this one, shadowy and dim, is sitting on your knee.

III.
One is fierce and cold, wife,

With a wayward will;
He has passed through fire, wife,

Knowing good and ill;
He has tried our hearts for many a year,—not broken them; for he
Is still the stainless little one that sits upon your knee.

a

IV.

One did wilful wrong, wife,

Bringing us to shame;
Darkened all the farm, wife;

Blotted our good name;
And when our hearts were big with grief, he sailed across the sea;-
But still we keep the little son that sits upon your knee.

V.

One was rash and dark, wife,

Would have say for say;
Furious when chid, wife,

He went his wilful way;
His voice in sinful rage was loud within the farm; but he
Remained the crowing little one who sat upon your knee.

VI.

One

may fall in fight, wife

Is he not our son?
Pray with all your heart, wife,

For the wayward one;
Pray for the dark rough soldier who fights across the sea,
Because

you

love the little one who smiles upon your knee.

VII.

One in sinful fight, wife,

As I speak may fall;
But this one at home, wife,

Cannot die at all.
They both are only one; and how thankful we should be
That we cannot lose the darling son who sits upon your knee!

W. B.

Mr. Quedlingburg's Commission.

BY GEORGE AUGUSTUS SALA.

а

“ AHA!" my shrewd friend Tom Owlet says to me, with a wise wag of the head, whenever I hazard an observation on the strange secrets of which lawyers are often the custodians. “Secrets, my dear fellow ! There is a class of men who are every day made acquainted with mysteries which, if revealed, would cause your hair to stand on end. Don't tell me about your musty old solicitors, burrowing, like maggots, in Inns of Court, and keeping skeletons in their tin-boxes, and the ghosts of buried hopes in their green-ferret-tied bundles of papers. They're all nothing, absolutely nothing, compared with the strange and awful phantoms which, if he so chose, that smug, clean-shaven, sanctimonious-looking secretary to an insurance-office, who lives at Brixton, and plays the double-bass at an amateur musical society, could summon from the vasty deep of inquiry-forms and lapsed policies."

Secrets! Of what kind ?”

“Every kind : pitch-and-toss up to manslaughter; petty larceny up to poisoning; battle, murder, arson, et cetera, et cetera." Thus Tom Owlet. “All the horrible crimes which for years may lie dormant in a man’s breast, and are roused at last by the demon of avarice. Ask Dr. Alfred Swaine Taylor how many of those hideous pickle-jars, containing 'the stomach and viscera of the deceased,' which are sent to him for analysis, might, with grim propriety, have a policy-stamp on the outside. Secrets! Why, Keyham Close, of the Inscrutable Fire and Life, knows enough to hang half London if he told all.”

“Why doesn't he tell ?”

“Humph! The Inscrutable people are wise in their generation. They like to stand well with the insurers; and an office with a habit of bringing up these ugly little matters very soon gets a bad name, and you

get rid of that without heavily increasing the advertisements. The Implacable, Fire-you remember; it amalgamated with the Inexorable, Life, on Ludgate Hill, close to the Old Bailey-made the signal mistake of hanging two claimants in one year,—a pair of miserable cases of corrosive-sublimate and burning down an oil-shop. What was the result? The premiums declined; the policy-holders died off rapidly, frightened to death by the proceedings of the Implacable, which at last came to grief; and the British Tolerant—who never took notice of any thing under strychnine, and seldom prosecuted for incendiarism unless more than two jars of turpentine were found in the ruins of the front-parlour—took up the Implacable policies, and are driving a roaring trade. No, no. Depend upon it, my dear boy, a still tongue makes a wise head.”

As the worldly-wise Owlet pursued his way, lately, after discoursing to me in manner aforesaid, I began to reflect upon the strange and occult

[ocr errors]

a

things with which not only life-office secretaries and solicitors, but professional men of almost every kind, become, in the course of their vocation, cognisant.

Dear, dear me! if we all told what we knew! What dismal tragedies might not the doctors relate; what startling melodramas the monthly nurses! Yonder demure schoolmistress would have marvellous legends to narrate of young ladies confided to her to have their “neglected education" improved in confidence; of curious guardians and eccentric wards; of nieces with uncles to whom they offered not the faintest family resemblance. As for the secrets in the keeping of the physician and the surgeon,-secrets inviolably kept,—their name is legion. The Inspector of Police knows a great deal; the eminent Mr. Charles Frederick Field, and the discreet Mr. Ignatius Pollaky, could doubtless, were they so minded, and were it in accordance with professional etiquette, make a few revelations, grounded on their “private inquiries," which would slightly astonish our weak nerves. There is scarcely a hall-porter at a theatrical stagedoor, or a West-End club, but could relate some thrilling romance of real life. The rector of the parish is a man of many secrets; the districtvisitor, the Bible-woman, and the City-missionary could many a tale unfold of borror, misery, and despair; the pawnbroker could ofttimes write the plot for a three-volume novel on the back of a duplicate; and the news. paper-editor freeze the very marrow in your bones were he to disentomb the contents of his waste-paper basket for your behoof. Who, indeed, is there but knows a great deal more about things in general and people in particular than he feels it wise, or knows it safe, to tell?

But there is something stranger than a secret. There is the mystery you cannot make out,--that baffles the most pertinacious inquiry, that mocks you like a will-of-the-wisp, and flies the fleeter the nearer you seem to approach to it. There is the half-unravelled enigma, the charade of which you have the first, second, and third, but of which the whole is lacking; the Chubb's lock, of which you alone are the possessor, but whose key is non-forthcoming. Such a mystery, such a wheel within a wheel, such an incomplete charade, was the history of Mr. Quedlingburg's Commission.

I purpose to tell you all about it,-at least, so far as I know, which is very nearly all, but not quite. Mr. Quedlingburg has been dead many, many years, and there is no indiscretion in talking about him. the remaining personage in the little drama I am about to narrate, I never knew who she was ; nor, perhaps, shall I or will you ever be further enlightened about her. She came like a shadow, and so departed, in manner following:

Mr. Quedlingburg was an artist,-a portrait-painter of the old school, —and, what is more, a Royal Academician. He was a thoroughly respectable man. To have worn a slouched bat or a long beard, or to have smoked a short pipe, even in bis student-days, he would have deemed monstrous and unpardonable. The country of Bohemia was not

As for

discovered when Mr. Quedlingburg was a young man,-or rather that debatable land was called Alsatia, and the persons who inhabited it were less pieturesque than infamous. Mr. Quedlingburg was the son of a substantial auctioneer in the Poultry, who flourished his hammer in the early part of the reign of George the Third. Perceiving that little Josh his son had early manifested a turn for drawing, and was devoted to illustrating his father's catalogues of modern furniture with highly-coloured cartoons, old Mr. Quedling burg took him off to Sir Joshua Reynolds, the great face-painter in Leicester Square, who had been good enough to stand his sponsor at the baptismal font, and who, glancing at his rough, uncouth drawings, was good enough to pass upon them his usual criticism of “ Pretty, pretty, pretty!” and to inform the delighted auctioneer that the lad gave signs of promise of future proficiency. Mr. Benjamin West, the American history-painter, then fast rising into fame, blandly expressed the same opinion, and strongly recommended the youth to study the antique ; but Mr. Barry, who was then occupied on his huge classical pieces at the Society of Arts house, in the Adelphi, and who owed the Poultry auctioneer a trifle of money on some drafts of exchange over due, savagely flung away Josh's sketches when they were submitted to him, and, while confessing that they showed marked ability, cried out in a rage, “Put a broom in the boy's hand, and make a scavenger of him. 'Twere better for bim to rake kennels or crack stones than to devote himself to what can only end in a poorhouse, a madhouse, or a gaol."

Upon which Mr. Barry (who had a strong Irish accent) drank off the best part of a pot of porter, and began to ply his brush again, furiously.

Young Joshua Quedlingburg, however, was determined to be a painter. He devoted himself with unwearied assiduity to drawing, both from the round and the life; was admitted a student of the Royal Academy, where he had the benefit of instruction from those great artists, Mr. Zoffany, Mr. Cosway, and Mr. Michael Moser, and was very nearly gaining the gold medal for his painting of “Orpheus pursued by the Furies,”-the model of Orpheus being Mr. Bowmanoir, a handsome young fiddler at Vauxhall Gardens, and the Furies studied from Mrs. O'Meager, his landlady, taken in three separate phases of expression, -as demanding her rent, refusing a latch-key, and objecting to the youth and comeliness of Mr. Joshua's washerwoman's daughter. When our art-student was about two-and-twenty years of age, his father, the worthy auctioneer in the Poultry, died, leaving him a pretty penny in the Funds and house-property; and when the mourning was over, nothing would suit young Joshua but to betake himself to Italy, and study his art in the great galleries of Rome and Florence. He came back at the end of his appointed term, with a memory well stored with devices of colour and tricks of handling, and with a complete virtuoso and connoisseur's vocabulary at the end of his tongue; but I don't think he was a much better painter than when he first set sail, in the Earl of Sandwich packet, from Falmouth to Leghorn. Providence had given him considerable aptitude,

« EelmineJätka »