ePub 版

rather an ill-used man. He has been kept back in his profession through certain jealousies and cabals, in which I understand theatres abound. I have been told by judges that Quaintly has talent. For my own part, I have often thought his humour was richer off the stage than on the boards, though unintentional and of the driest kind."

Mr. Brunt and the person spoken of had meantime fallen into conversation, marked by Mr. Quaintly's peculiarities so strongly that I could scarce resist an open laugh. Mr. Brunt was bald on the forehead, and to this circumstance Mr. Quaintly's regards were directed. Of the army?" said he, interrogatively, to his new friend.

"No, sir."

"Of the navy?" "No, sir." "Then," laying his hand on Mr. Brunt's forehead," wherefore this paucity of knob-thatch?" Mr. Brunt was some moments before he could comprehend this last singular compound word; when he did, it is but justice to say, his laugh resembled that of a jolly cyclops, whose sense of humour had been with difficulty tickled, but, when it was, was sufficiently resonant to

wake the woods and rocks around.

When we had pretty well recovered from the effects of this vociferous mirth, Mrs. Pope expressed her delight and admiration by one of her three notes of admiration-" Astonishing!" "By-the-bye, Quaintly," said Benvolere, "I perceived by the papers that the other night you played a new and original part; did you meet with success in it?"

Mr. Quaintly's naturally comic visage elongated at this home question, which the questioner had made in all innocence and simplicity. He answered rather curtly-"Of recognition that was satisfactory much was not heard." "Wonderful!" ejaculated Mrs. Pope, a livelydisposed old lady, who, on hearing that Mr. Quaintly was an actor, evidently anticipated much amusement—an expectation to which the comedian, who had not the slightest intention of being funny off the stage, did not seem likely to respond.

After waiting a few minutes in hopes of a flash of wit, Mrs. Pope presently resumed her dinner, keeping nevertheless her attention and her ears briskly alive against the time when the actor should say something good. He opened his mouth once more:

"Of beer that is mild a glass I will take," quoth Mr. Quaintly, addressing nobody in particular.

"Astonishing!" from Mrs. Pope.

"Eh! what's that?" said Mr. Pope, who thought he was losing the fun, and wanted some one to explain it.

"That gentleman, my dear," Mrs. Pope screamed into her husband's ear, "asked for some beer, and he did so, you understand, in so truly comical a way, that it was for all the world like being at a farce."

"Been at a fair!" answered Mr. Pope, who

[ocr errors]

never caught more than the last word, and usu ally misunderstood that. "No, I can't say I ever was at one. Does that gentleman perform at fairs?

Benvolere was convulsed with laughter at this contretemps, but Mr. Quaintly was highly indignant. He addressed himself to poor unconscious Mr. Pope, who was harmlessly smiling over his dinner:

"At theatres only that are patent, sir, I have acted all my life. Of strollers or their booths no experience have I had."

But Mr. Brunt had been silent too long for his own liking. He struck in with a torrent of words, uttered thick and fast, as if he feared interruption.


"Of all the humbugs of this life the theatres are the most barefaced. I, too, sir, have been an actor in my time. I joined a strolling com pany when I was a young man, looking for truth in the bottom of a well; and I repeat, all the precious impostors this world boasts, I found the British drama to be the worst. Why, sir, they commit the greatest absurdities on the stage: and then the players are for everlastingly talking about holding the mirror up to na ture,' and so forth. I've seen a man arrested for murder, tried, convicted, and sentenced in the open street (with a mob of stage peasants to look on) by two watchmen and a magistrate; and I've heard a man say, 'By Jove, sir, if you do not do your duty, and hang the culprit, I will go and appeal for justice to the king! Stuff and nonsense! Does anybody in actual life kick up a row of that kind with a judge? Does a magistrate try criminal causes? or should I rush off to Buckingham Palace or Carlton House, and knock at the door, saying to

old George, or the Prince Regent, Here, I say, there's a murder been done down in Ratcliffe Highway, and the judge won't hang the rascal; just come and adjudicate, will you, please your Majesty, or your Royal Highness? Why, I should be tied up in no time-gagged, sir-put in prison; and yet they do these things every day on the stage, and tell you with unblushing impudence they are giving a matterof-fact representation of real life!"

I can give Mr. Brunt's words: I wish I could paint his manner also, as with vehement speech, and authority not to be beat in any argument, be wound up his peroration to a climax.

"On an art little understood, to vent sarcasm is easy," said Mr. Quaintly, politely inferring that the commentator knew nothing about the matter."

"There's a mistake again," said Mr. Brunt, catching up the subject as if someone was 66 Sarabout to tear it from him piecemeal. casm's not easy. People say every day to me, 'Oh, as easy as wearing your glove': now a glove may be too tight-how can it be easy? It may split in half when you put it on-it is not easy to wear then; yet you're told this every day! A man said to me the other day, when I was demonstrating to him a certain diffi culty to be overcome, 'Pooh ! pooh! it's as easy

"Galvanized it, my dear fellow, you mean!" said Mr. Brunt, laughing loudly at himself. Mr. Quaintly, who, for a jester by profession, had the faintest perception of a jest I ever saw in a humorist, became dignified instantly. " "Appreciation of my tragic powers," he said, "has never been vouchsafed."

as shoeing a cat with walnut-shells'! I had, plied to him (Quaintly), he should have elechim, sir, directly. I proved in no time it is not trified London. easy to shoe a cat with walnut-shells. First of all, common walnut-shells won't do at all: you must procure the large double sort-not easily got then you must crack the nut to a nicety, or they split; then you must scrape them smooth inside a difficult and a delicate operation-and then you must consider how you're to fit them on the animal's feet. Glue won't do: wax is of no use. You must bore holes, and tie them on the cat's feet, with strings which probably come undone; and twenty to one but the cat bites and scratches all your skin off before she is shod! Now, there is a demonstration that it's not an easy matter to shoe a cat; and yet a man says coolly of a difficulty, 'Oh, it's as easy as shoeing a cat with walnut-shells'!"

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

'Into a hackney coachman, madam, who his fare o'ercharged, I pitched-that is, I unto him a drubbing gave, and he upon my ears retaliated with a cuff. A noise that was rushing ensued, and henceforth as well as ever did I hear."

"Terrible!" said Mrs. Pope.

After that Mr. Quaintly grew less laconic over his brandy-and-water, and waxed loud on certain grievances connected, it appeared, with his profession, which he asserted had a tendency to keep true merit in the back-ground.

"Stuff!" said the realist: "you acting fellows all think you are individually the great A's of the dramatic alphabet. You get hold of a part, and you spout and mouth, and a sweep in the shilling gallery, who knows nothing about the matter, says, 'Brayvo, Higgins'! and you wake up next morning and believe you're famous. Nothing of the sort: the public don't care for any one of you out of ten. You should just say to yourselves, 'I ain getting my bread and cheese, or my mutton-chop, and half-and-half, by learning a quantity of rubbish, and mouthing it out to the British public every night, and must do it, or starve; and the quicker it is got over the better-and there's an end of it."

Mr. Quaintly would not subscribe to this view of the case. He could personally instance how genius was kept back; for example, on an occasion when the great actor of the day was, from some occurrence not uncommon, unable to appear in his celebrated character of Richard, if the manager, instead of running to minor houses after noodles, had in the dilemma ap

[ocr errors]

"And never will," interposed Mr. Benvolere. Quaintly, you can play to the life one of Will Shakespere's fools: let that content you don't aspire to his heroes. When Nature denied you the heroic element, she made you able to inspire mirth. Thank her for the gift: it is no mean privilege to make dull men laugh!'

"Of brandy-and-water that is warm I will take half a glass more," said Mr. Quaintly, suddenly changing the topic.

And doubtless many of my readers will exclaim at my old master's devoting the Sabbath evenings to hospitality and social intercourse. I know not that he needs defence. Both he and his sister, with many of their friends, were of the Catholic religion, which holds that, when the duties of the day are over, there is no harm in thus spending its remainder. And Benvolere himself, though professing the tenets of the Romish Church, was truly catholic in spirit, and believed every good Christian of any creed as near to heaven as himself. He had no touch of asceticism in his gentle, joyous nature. Stung as he had been in early youth by a great sorrow, infirm and paralyzed as he was, he yet enjoyed life fully even to the endThe end-alas !

[blocks in formation]

When on the grey broke saffron streaks and white,
And soaring from his nest, the happy lark
Left the pink clover-blooms to dew and night,
I caught a voice betwixt the light and dark:
It told a tale of love and of despair;

Of a short passionate strife with crushing fate;
And then a hurried footstep trod the stair,


And some one pushed without the garden-gate.
said my prayers, and sought the room below;
The morning sunshine beat upon the blind;
The window-plants were all in brightest glow;
No trace of change or sorrow could I find.
But in the hooded porch there lay a glove;

The ground was white with jasmine-stars new

And down the lane, and in the little grove,

The mocking echoes said-" Where is he gone?"
And I had dreamed that night such happy dreams
Now when the lake is lit by white moonbeams,
(Perhaps, dear love, you kissed me in my sleep),

And wind-swept shadows float, I watch and weep.
They sought him in the wood, and on the wold,
'Neath the dread tarn where pale drowned forms

have lain ;

Oh! break, worn heart-life's weary hours be told
For he is gone is gone-nor co:nes again!





The arrival of H.M.S.- -at Jaffa gave her officers an opportunity of visiting the Holy City, and the various localities of sacred interest by which it is surrounded. Before entering on a detailed account of the proceedings of the tourist party, of which the writer of this sketch made one, it may not be out of place to say a few words descriptive of Jaffa; or rather, to make some short account of its history, appearance, &c., serve as the first chapter of these personal recollections of localities, the interest in which seems to be almost as undying as the manners and customs of the inhabitants are unchanged.

The town of Jaffa, or Yaffa, was anciently called Joppa, and of its antiquity there can be no doubt, seeing that it dates back to the distribution made by Joshua, when it was allotted to the tribe of Dan.

The writer of the Maccabees, and later still Josephus, make mention of Joppa. The history of the Crusades-were there no other record extant-gives celebrity to a town then called Joppa. Modern history tells us that few places obtained a more enviable notoriety than this locality did, when, during the career of Napoleon, a garrison numbering twelve hundred Turks were put to death, on the pretext of having broken their parole. Here, too, the monster crime of poisoning the sick and wounded soldiers of the French army took place, under plea of its being feared they might fall into the hands of a barbarous enemy; although it seems difficult to imagine what worse fate could await them, even in the event of such contingency. It is not, however, with the Joppa of ancient times nor yet the Jaffa of later days this sketch has to do, but with the Jaffa of the year of grace 186-, and how it looked as starting point or departure stage of the writer's tour in


"All eastern towns are the same," some wiseacre may exclaim, and exclaim with some modicum of truth I admit; and yet Jaffa and every other eastern town possesses-notwithstanding a general resemblance to its neighbours-distinctive characteristics; and of the truth of this statement any objector would be convinced, on visiting the locality in question. Our party consisted of some ten or twelve officers of varying ages, and got up in all the endless variety of that costume designated by naval officers "plain clothes." As soon as we had mustered on deck we descended into the cutter that lay ready

manned to take us on shore, and were soon rowed to the landing-place.

The time required for the transit from our float. ing home to terra firma was barely sufficient to admit of our observing the commanding nature of the ground on which the town is built, and of speculating upon the extent of view attainable by an ascent of the tower which ornaments the eminence. Passing through a narrow chan nel we reached a pier built on wooden piles, and prepared to disembark-a proceeding in which our movements were accelerated by the assist ance of some two or three good-humoured hamauls or porters, who eagerly stretched forth a helping hand. The region in the immediate neighbourhood was sui generis, being a wide space opposite trading stores, and seemed equally to afford reposing ground to sleeping porters and weary donkeys, with here and there a camel couchant to diversify the foreground. A foreign vessel had just landed her cargo, but for which event the appearance of trade presented by the unhoused bales of merchandise would have been absent. Scarcely had we emerged from the port ere our arrival became kuown to the more ragged of the population; and shoals of beggars and other idlers congre gated around us, the former whining out the oftrepeated solicitation "Howadgi, miskin !”—miskin, Howadgi !" which being interpreted means "Traveller, a poor creature!-a poor creature, traveller!" the poor creature meanwhile suggest ing by look and tone of voice, as well as by the stretching forth of his leather-coloured palm, that the miskin expected the howadgi would bestow some alms upon the suppliant. It is to be feared that the benedictions with which we were at first welcomed by the Jaffa mendicants were slightly modified ere we succeeded in extri cating ourselves from the circle they formed; but be this as it may, we soon got clear of them, and under the guidance of a small native boy wended our way to the house of Mr. Kayat, her Majesty's consul. Whilst the preliminaries as to hiring of horses and engaging a dragoman, for the expedition to Jerusalem were being con ducted to a successful issue, the Consul's son kindly conducted us to the "House of Simon the Tanner." In order to reach this, the great show antiquity of the locality, we had to traverse countless steep rugged dirty streets. Turning at length into the doorway of a projecting arched court, we were told we had entered the House of Simon! Modern travellers are, I believe, agreed as to this being-if any is-the house of Simon the Tanner; it is, at all events, the one always shown as such, and presents more claim than

any other, not the least part of which seems to be, that the Mahometans regard it as a sacred spot. The well, pointed out as the tan-pit, presents unmistakable evidence of great antiquity in the deep furrows in its stone coping, since ages must have elapsed ere the hempen or grass rope used to raise water from it could have left such traces of its friction.

The tomb of Dorcas, which fairly vies with Simon's house as an object of interest to travellers, we did not visit; nor were we very much impressed with the importance of the question as to its being really such, or merely a tomb so called were the question of proof once mooted, it would be, we concluded, out of our power to establish either the affirmative or negative; and so we left it to future travellers to examine.

On returning to the house of the Consul we found all the preliminaries of our expedition had been satisfactorily arranged; and, as it was now sufficiently late in the day for the contemplated start, we were soon on the saddle. To the Syrian saddles the preposition in could not with any truth be applied, seeing that what is designated a saddle possesses no resemblance to the European article; but is simply a rude framework of wood, not unlike in shape to the roof of a miniature house. The angles of the frame are softened by a padding of hay, a piece of carpet or woolly sheepskin being thrown over all. From this nondescript contrivance are suspended two flat iron pans to serve as stirrups; these are used both as resting-places for the feet and for striking against the horse's flanks, to urge him to greater speed.

Thus mounted we made the start, and under guidance of a dragoman, who was to defray the whole expenses of the road at the rate of 20s. per diem from each officer of the party, we made our way through the narrow streets. The crowd of unwashed, that had assembled to see us set out, gradually fell off as we proceeded.

The population of Jaffa is large in proportion to the size of the town, and amounts now to about 15,000, besides the constant tide of pilgrims which ebbs and flows during the whole of the summer. That the chief export trade of this place consists of fruit, silk, and corn, is evident to the most casual observer, and fruit was to be seen on all sides until we reached the gate of the city. We observed at the gate several solemn-looking turbaned figures, that reminded us, as they sat on stone benches, of the judges or elders who were wont to dispense justice of old. These ancients gazed solemnly but motionless upon us, who were only able to make this passing remark as, emerging from the town, we halted, to muster our party and see that none were absent, before resuming the order of our march from the city whither Jonah repaired to flee from the presence of the Lord, and thence took ship to Tarshish.



A long sandy lane, fenced on either side by a hedge of prickly-pear, leads out from Jaffa to the open plain. The eastern sun was putting forth its strength in some force, late as the hour was, when we started; but the inconvenience of the heat was considerably lessened by the presence of a gentle breeze, that blew soft and lazily, as if burdened with the perfume from the orange groves, so numerous in the vicinity of the town. The fact that some of our party were midshipmen, and that a level road lay before them, was quite enough to suggest not the propriety, but the possibility of enjoying an equestrian race; and as if moved by instinct the juniors all scampered off simultaneously, leaving us "oldeters" to moralize upon the recollection that we were once young ourselves.

The plain of Sharon now lay before us, in all its extent and beauty, and we began to feel that we had, at length, entered upon our tour in good earnest. We saw naught, however, of the herds that fed in Sharon, nor even of its roses. All around us lay this rich plain, cultivated in some parts, capable of cultivation in many more, and in all exhibiting great evidence of fertility. As the road, if road it could be called, was level and stretched forth as far as the eye could reach, a general move was observable amongst our miscellaneous steeds, and with little need of persuasion they quickened their pace into a canter. But oh, those Turkish saddles! What genius could ever have invented such instruments of torture? On such a saddle a little galloping goes a long way, and many of our number were soon glad to subside again into a walking pace. This transition was not arrived at, however, without considerable inconvenience to the riders, owing to the series of convulsive jumps through which the horses subsided into a walk. On recovering the dignity of slow progression, we had time to observe the magnificence of the scene presented to our view, by the plain through which we rode; on the one hand stood the town of Ludd, conspicuous from its position; and on the other, an unbroken expanse of level country, all being bounded by a range of lofty mountains whose tops shone golden in the rich warmth of an eastern sunset. Ludd, the ancient Lydda, the scene of Eneas' restoration to sight by St. Peter, now consists of a few houses and a mosque: the latter derives some interest from the current belief that it was once a Christian church, and dedicated to St. George.

Admonished by the sunset that time was on the wing, we pushed on without delay, in order to reach Ramleh before night-fall. It had been already resolved to spend the night at Ramleb, where a Latin convent affords a hospitable shelter to all travellers; so a bright look-out was kept on the direction in which we hoped to descry it. Ere long the lofty tower, which with

The rising sun showed us a country the principal features of which closely resembled those of that through which we had ridden the day before. The early start, the desire of halting, and, above all, the sight of two baskets of provisions, which the dragoman had provided for breakfast by the way, created an unconquerable desire, especially on the part of the younger excursionists, to dismount and investigate the interior of the baskets in question. A level patch of ground protected by a rock, and further shaded by an overhanging fig-tree, made the question of breakfast irresistibly forcible; and so dismounting we fastened our horses, and prepared for the discussion of the viands that the dragoman was hastily spreading out on the


the general elevation gives to the town its | Sharon. The grey light of early morning imposing appearance, was sighted, and the sufficed us for mutual recognition as we rode cavalcade moved briskly on towards Ramleh, side by side, over the even ground for a mile or known in ancient times as Arimathea. The two after we had left Ramleh. monks, who had been apprised by a messenger of our intention of passing the night under their roof, came out to meet us, as soon as the noise of our horses' hoofs were heard on the pavement outside the convent. To enter the courtyard, dismount, and, committing the horses to the care of the dragoman and his attendants, to enter the hospitable doors of our entertainers, was but the work cf a few minutes; and, as we were all as hungry as hunters, there was a general inquiry as to the hour at which dinner might be expected. A lay-brother soon appeared, and satisfied our anxious minds with the information that having expected our coming there would be no delay. The refectory for strangers, a large inner room, was meanwhile being made ready for our accommodation; and when ushered into it we beheld a long table covered with a coarse white cloth, at which we were desired to seat ourselves. The dinner led off with a thin white soup, followed by two courses, the former of which consisted of eggs served up in the shells, and the latter of meat: after these came cheese, followed by coffee and fruits. We remained much longer at table than at dinner, and at length, after reflecting upon the necessity of an early start on the morrow, were unanimous in determining to retire for the night. A laybrother, belonging to the monastery, now conducted us to our respective dormitories, and with the usual "buona notte" left us to pass the night, if not to sleep. To sleep, however, was out of the question, as we quickly discovered; the hum of the mosquito giving us fair notice of his presence in a bold declaration of war. Tired nature tried in vain to cast the dream-of mantle around us; and, though for a time the effort seemed a success, soon a stinging sensation on the neck or wrist of the slumberer awoke

us to the realities of life, and the tantalizing consciousness that the enemy had betaken himself to flight by the time we had become aware of his assault. Tossing from side to side, we endured the long hours, snatching occasional respites, until daylight relieved us of a foe whose venom was so great, that, had his strength or size been at all proportioned to it, we must have been inevitably annihilated. Without waiting for breakfast we prepared to resume our journey as soon as morning had been duly announced to us by the dragoman. Before leaving the monastery, a donation was made to its funds by our attendant at the rate of a dollar for each of his party. This is not a fixed charge, nor is there, indeed, any demand made for renumeration; but the monks accept a pecuniary gift from travellers who can pay, to defray, it is said, the cost of entertaining poor pilgrims who cannot pay for their food or lodging. The sun had not arisen ere we were once more on the saddle and riding away from Ramleh, but still passing through the plain of

Talk of the glories of a déjeûner à la fourchette ! Ours was a déjeûner sans fourchette, and I hare grave doubts as to whether any given number of fourchettes would have enhanced our enjoy. is that cold fowls, hard-boiled eggs, and coarse ment of it. All I can remember of that collation brown bread, formed the chief components, and that we summed up with a cup of coffee. The important business of breakfast being over, we again mounted our steeds and prepared to resume our line of march. The face of the country began from this point to change very much for the worse; and the smooth sandy road of the plain became rough and unpleasant. Soon all traces of any civilized life disappeared, and we began to ride over what appeared to be an old water course, or the dry bed of a river, and huge stones, we concluded that it was in all judging from its uneven aspect and the presence probability the course by which mountain torrents descend in the winter.

tive way for some time, we at length emerged After pursuing our journey by this unattracfrom it, and were glad to find ourselves once more upon tolerably level ground. With the exception of an attempt made by a few halfclad Arabs to extort backsheesh, we did not meet with anything of the nature of an adventure by the way, but rode on calmly, till we came in sight of the Holy City.

The first sight of Jerusalem, even though the city is not seen in its best point of view from the Ramleh side, is one that cannot fail to impress the beholder, however careless. Within those walls, and in the immediate outward vicinity of them, were enacted scenes so fraught with interest to the whole human race! The most thoughtless must pause, as the whole tide of early teaching--the lessons of childhood-crowd upon the memory. I remained uncovered as I gazed upon the city, until the approach of my companions broke my reverie; when we all rode briskly forward, and, entering by the Jaffa Gate, dismounted on Mount Zion.

« 上一頁繼續 »