Mystery of the Marsh

J.F. Smith’s Mystery of the Marsh — Seventeenth Instalment

Old newspapers are not much cared about and are often applied to undignified functions, recalling Dryden:

From dusty shops neglected authors come,
Martyrs of pies, and relics of the bum.

(‘Mac Flecknoe’)

or tossed on the rubbish heap, as in Joyce:

About that original hen. Midwinter (fruur or kuur?) was in the offing and Premver a promise of a pril when, as kischabrigies sang life’s old sahatsong, an iceclad shiverer, merest of bantlings observed a cold fowl behaviourising strangely on that fatal midden or chip factory or comicalbottomed copsjute (dump for short) afterwards changed into the orangery […]

(Finnegans Wake, Ch. 5)

Biddy the hen scratches up an old letter in the rubbish heap, which stands for Finnegans Wake the novel itself, or the Bible, or even the substance of universal human history. Mere “bits and scraps” (Samuel Beckett) though they may be, they are impregnated with the world in which they were manufactured, and which decays along with them. Note that as Biddy scratches and pecks on the letter, she creates marks and holes that later exegetes interpret as part of the original message.

This project of raising Smith’s penny novel is achievable thanks to the work accomplished by scholars and librarians such as those who established the Trove digital archives of the National Library of Australia, from where I’ve obtained the original serials of The Mystery of the Marsh.

Convenient, comprehensive and flexible a resource as Trove is, we find many instances where the text breaks down in one way or another, presenting a jigsaw puzzle. Figure 1 shows a fundamental type of this problem. Here there are two horns of the dilemma: i) the easier, where a librarian needed to piece together the paper, like an actual jigsaw; and ii) where the text, to varying degrees, becomes difficult to read, either because of damage to the original, or because of a problem in the copying process. For example:

Figure 1. Sample of torn and blurred copy.

Here is how the machine-reader deals with the text in Figure 1, extending from “His friend gave a short, dry cough”:

had ^g^. calLad..Ojp)6n ^tb jBssent tr- a proposition
– ‘ Heidi I ‘ fie eiBonlatedl . ”Jtmx -^nidn ts
:f&nn4id~ cmL .«.? Ealt trutlL. Tt A* ar6 m- pldea

After “There are two sides”, it seems to give up and omit the rest as a smudge.

Very Wake-esque but unedifying. Usually the machine-read copy is useful in piecing together a rough cut and saving a fair amount of keying-in, though every word still needs to be checked against one or both of the (digitalized) original copies.

Thankfully there are two different copies of the serial, appearing in different publications, originally separated by about eight years, and edited by different editors. When the earlier “fair” copy is damaged (so-termed because it is closer to the author and has proven itself reliable), the later “foul” copy can provide clarification.

At the same time, the editor of the foul copy sometimes slaps things together cavalierly. This is understandable — they’re not handling a manuscript of Shakespeare’s or the Dead Sea scrolls. Their job is to fill up available space in the most economical way. But in so doing, they often fiddle about with points of spelling, grammar and lexicon, probably aiming to make the story “more readable,” but sometimes achieving the opposite.

Figure 2 demonstrates one of a couple of befuddling gaffes on the part of the foul editor this fortnight:

Figure 2. Editorial gaffe from the foul copy.

Perhaps you’ve spotted the problem already: there is no such word as “obinsensible”. At the end-of-line hyphen the text jumps to somewhere unrelated to the original scene: from Goliah and William’s reunion, to Benoni’s apprehension by the villains (in the previous chapter of the fair copy), where it stays for the rest of the chapter, hopelessly throwing out the entire narrative and requiring all sorts of calisthenics to get back on track. It’s interesting to observe how the editor’s fast moving eye has been deceived by an illusion of continuity created by the references in both scenes to two characters conversing, and by the formatting. The reader glides on blithely — and suddenly thinks, “What the blazes is going on?!”

The sample in Figure 3 presents a satisfying teaser.

Figure 3. Sample of blurred word in fair copy.

This is from the scene where William finally meets his love-interest Lady Kate again, when they are both being driven in carriages in London’s Hyde Park — a popular Sunday recreation of the well-to-do.  We can clearly see that Kate “involuntarily pulled” something that stops the carriage, but what? The words are not quite clear enough to be confident without further reference.

The foul copy doesn’t help: the cavalier editor doesn’t seem to know either, or maybe thinks their readership won’t, and treats the incident thus:

The former recognised her protector in an instant, and involuntarily, for it was the impulse of gratitude, called the driver to stop the carriage.

However, calling the driver to stop is not really an involuntary action in the sense that physically pulling on a device that automatically stops the carriage may be considered. Such a device enables the chain of action to occur in an instant: the sighting; the recognition; and her involuntarily activating the device, which automatically stops the carriage.

The device in question is found in Dearden’s Miscellany (1839): a “check string”, an invention that causes the reins to be pulled up automatically from inside the carriage in case of an emergency. Why on earth did the foul editor muck up Smith’s perfectly good line? The term was used in Australia, as its occurrence in Caroline Leakey’s novel Broad Arrow (1859) evidences.


The Tables Begin to Turn — Lady Kate Meets Her Protector — A Lawyer’s Plot, but an Honest One

It is a sad thing when parents, by dishonourable practices, give their children the right to despise them. The natural law is sure to avenge the violation of the divine one; for, with respect, filial love gradually dies — fading like some young tree planted in an ungenial soil; first indifference, then contempt usurps its place. In rough, uncultivated natures a worse tyranny is not unfrequently exercised over the erring parents who have no moral force to resist it, and they either sink into the slaves of the offspring their example has corrupted, or consent to pander to their vices.

No doubt this is a terrible picture, but, alas! it is a true one; and may be seen, allowing for difference in tone and colour, in almost every grade of society — the highest as well as the lowest. In the former, the veil of a flimsy refinement hides the more revolting traits; but they exist. The facts are there. In the latter, they stare you in the face in all their cynical deformity.

Viscount and Lady Allworth were beginning to feel the truth of this. The fashionable season had once more commenced in London, but Lord Bury never appeared at any of his father’s parties. He ceased to frequent the club of which they were both members, in order to avoid meeting him. Occasionally, however, it was unavoidable; but when society threw them together he treated him merely with that formal respect which, in some instances, is more cutting than downright rudeness, and far more painful to receive than positive insult. The more polished the weapon the deeper the wound.

What made the conduct of the young nobleman still more mortifying to his father, was that he never failed to attend the receptions of Lady Montague, who had returned to town for the season. Sir George Meredith and his daughter were her ladyship’s guests; they had accepted an invitation to spend the season with her, to the great delight of Kate and Clara, who become warm friends.

The fashionable world, which is far more observant than outsiders give it credit for, soon began to notice this polite estrangement between father and son; and the viscount, who was not wanting in tact, resolved to have an explanation with Bury. Half a dozen times he had called at his chambers, but never found him at home. ‘Absent,’ ‘On duty,’ or ‘In the country,’ were the answers he received from the obsequious porter, as he respectfully received his lordship’s card and placed it on the rack In his office. The aged roué knew that the fellow was lying, and almost respected him for the grace with which he did it.

An actor himself, he could appreciate good acting in others.

So he muttered, as he drove from the Albany —

‘Bury has taken his part and seems resolved to carry it out. Let him — cursedly ungrateful, though. I hate ingratitude. I first suggested Meredith’s girl — he ought to remember that, and not feel so resentful at the Chellston affair.’

That any higher principle had actuated his lordship’s conduct never entered into the imagination of the worldly-minded man.

Lady Allworth already began to discern this painful truth; in forfeiting the respect of her son she had lost all hold on his affection, which had never been very strong. From Dinant, a small town in Brittany, to which he had retired on recovering from his wound, he was continually writing for money to supply his vulgar extravagance, and yet the allowance made him was a liberal one. In answer to a letter refusing to send additional funds, he wrote back threatening to return to England and expose her share in the attempt to force Lady Kate into a clandestine marriage; if he could not rob, he would disgrace her.

The reply of her ladyship was characteristic and laconic:

‘Return without my permission, and I will not only reduce the allowance I promised, but disinherit you. You cannot scare me.’

Not a word of affection. She felt that he had none. She could not appeal to his honor; it had too long been forfeited. It was to his selfish fears that she addressed her answer, and it proved successful. Clarence Marsham knew his mother too well to doubt for an Instant that, if further provoked, she would execute her threats. He was entirely at her mercy, and he knew it. It was a bitter pill for him to swallow, but after a brief struggle with his passionate temper and sundry profane curses he did swallow it, sat down and wrote a penitential letter, declaring that he was drunk when he made his insolent demand, and asking her forgiveness, which in due time was coldly accorded.

Lady Allworth was what the world would call a strong-minded woman; if any real strength can be found in evil, undoubtedly she merited the designation. Up to the present period her life had been a series of successes, purchased by sacrifices which will appear hereafter in all their questionable details. The crowning scheme — the marriage of her worthless son with Lady Kate Kepple — had hitherto proved a failure which discouraged without inducing her to change her purpose, which remained fixed as ever, although at times, when dwelling on the future, she began to discern faint outlines of that dark shadow which from the first step into crime follows one’s footsteps. Sometimes it appeared to be drawing nearer, frowning menacingly; then it would disappear, and courage revive again.

We must not forget William Whiston, the hero of our tale, who had passed his first year at Cambridge, where to the great delight of his uncle, he had obtained two scholarships — one in mathematics and one in classics, and was now in London for the vacation.

William Powell Frith (1836-8), attrib. Douglas Cowper.

It was not the trifling income derived from this success that gratified his guardian; that was a matter of perfect indifference to him. It was the proof that his nephew had used his time at college wisely. Tutors had written most encouragingly respecting him, predicting his future success.

Still the old lawyer did not feel quite satisfied; the pale cheeks and certain dark circles round the eyes of the tired student alarmed him, and the first thing he did on his arrival was to send for a physician.

‘Overwork,’ said the man of science. ‘No organic disease.’

The uncle breathed more freely.

‘We will soon remedy this,’ he observed. ‘The boy is up for the long vacation, and shall work only six hours per day.’

Dr. Canton shook his head.

‘What! You think that too much? Four, then.’

‘Not one,’ replied the doctor emphatically.

‘I have frequently observed that you lawyers,’ he added, ‘astute enough in your own profession, are like children when they wander out of it — bewildered and unreliable in their judgment. I would as soon consult my tailor on a plea in chancery,’ he added, ‘as a lawyer on a point of hygiene.’

His friend gave a short dry cough — a habit he had when called upon to assent to a proposition that did not appear quite clear to him.

‘Hem!’ he ejaculated. ‘Your opinion is founded on a half truth. There are two sides to the question. I am not so incapable of judging as you suppose. Have you forgotten how I cured my carriage horse after Harrassian, the prince of veterinaries, had pronounced that nothing could be done?’

‘And pray, how did you treat your horse?’ demanded Canton, with a half-suppressed twinkle in his eyes, for he felt that he had cornered him.

‘Very simply,’ replied his friend. ‘Took off his shoes and turned him loose.’

‘Excellent!’ exclaimed the doctor. ‘Exactly what I have been prescribing. Take off your nephew’s shoes — in other words, lock up his books — and turn him out to grass. The result will be the same.’

With these words the friendly physician took his leave.

‘Canton is right!’ exclaimed the man of law, after a few minutes’ reflection. ‘I was a fool not to perceive it at first. The boy’s brain has been overtaxed. No more work till the end of the vacation. What a terrible error I was about to fall into! He shall enjoy himself. Won’t let him go to Deerhurst, though.’

Two days afterwards our hero was delighted by the arrival of his faithful friend, Goliah. Knowing their attachment to each other, Lawyer Whiston had arranged that the two young men should spend a month together in London. There was nothing selfish in the old man’s affection for his nephew. He knew that the sympathies of youth require youth to draw them forth. The wisdom of age, however the young may venerate it, sometimes appears dry to them. Paradox as it may seem, hearts sometimes require weakness instead of strength to lean upon.

For several instants the long separated friends sat silently grasping each other’s hand. The honest rustic was the first to speak.

‘This be like old times ag’in,’ he observed. ‘Deerhurst has been mortal dull without thee. Willie,’ he added, ‘thee do look pale and tired like.’

‘A little over-worked. Nothing more,’ replied the student. ‘I shall soon get over it.’ My uncle is very kind to me, and I have done my best to please him.’

‘Kind to thee?’ repeated his friend. ‘How can he help being kind to thee? Thee hast such a curious way of making a home in the hearts of all who know thee.’

‘Not all,’ said Willie, with something like a sigh.

‘All!’ added Goliah emphatically. ‘And those who don’t love thee don’t know thee. But never mind that now. I be come to spend a whole month with thee. The hay be all in, and Uncle Whiston settled it all right with mother.’

His hearer heard the arrangement with almost as much surprise as pleasure. It was an additional proof of the place he had won in the regard of his relative.

It was dinner-time before the lawyer made his appearance in Soho Square. He brought Bunce with him. The appearance of the poor tramp was so improved that Goliah scarcely recognised him.

‘Why, thee do look like a born gentleman!’ he exclaimed, at the same time shaking hands with him cordially. ‘They wouldn’t know thee at Deerhurst,’ he added.

‘You are as true a gentleman as I am,’ observed the wanderer. ‘Probably more so.’

‘I see thee be poking fun at me.’

‘Not so,’ replied his former acquaintance. ‘Fine clothes do not make a gentleman, or the ruffian upon whose face you left the mark of your whip would be the better gentleman of the three. It is the heart that gives the title. The rest is the mere gilding of the surface.’

‘There be some truth in that,’ said the honest rustic, thoughtfully.

His hearers remarked with pleasure that considerable improvement had taken place less in the language than the manners of the speaker. He was far more quiet. His rough, boisterous fits of laughter no longer jarred upon the ears. If occasionally they broke forth, they were quickly suppressed. Mr. Whiston and Bunce felt more surprised than our hero did at the change. He thought of Susan, and understood it. His own recollections of Kate — the influence they had exercised upon his mind, although he still ignored her rank and fortune — explained it to him.

Love is a great beautifier. The fable of Cymon and his nymph contains a delicate truth. Few of us, we suspect, but have learnt the lesson.

‘Not at home to any one,’ said the lawyer, as the butler placed the dessert upon the table, ‘and do not disturb me unless I ring.’

The well-trained domestic withdrew.

‘And now, boys,’ continued the speaker, ‘as my nephew is enjoying his vacation, I think it only fair that I should take mine for an evening or two at least. Impossible to take more. The affairs of others might suffer.’

‘How stand affairs at Deerhurst?’ he added, addressing himself to Goliah. ‘Commence with Farmer Hurst, his wife and the pretty Susan.’

At the last name his visitor coloured slightly and looked embarrassed, till a smile from Willie encouraged him to proceed.

‘Farmer Hurst is a changed man,’ he replied. ‘He do miss his nephew sadly. For the matter of that, so do the whole village. I don’t think,’ he added, ‘the grey mare be the best horse in the stable as it wor once. The filly ha’ taken her place. Not altogether,’ he added thoughtfully; ‘wish she had; but in a great many things.’

‘You mean to say that Peggy has not so much her own way as she used to have,’ observed the lawyer.

‘That’s it. How clever thee do put it.’

‘Mere practice,’ observed the man of law. ‘You, too, Goliah, are becoming a logician in your way.’

‘What be that?’ demanded the latter. ‘Nothing to do with law, I hope.’

‘More than you imagine, I expect,’ answered Mr. Whiston, with a smile. ‘But never mind that now. What is the news from Deerhurst?’

‘Schoolmaster Blackmore and his son Benoni ha’ left the place. Neighbours began to look coldly on them, so they started off, bag and baggage, without a word to any one; and a good riddance, too.’

‘And where are they gone? To London?’

‘Not so far as that,’ continued the lad. ‘Leastways Benoni has been seen several times in the village. He do come mostly at nights. People do say they be livin’ at their old home in the Marsh.’

The lawyer and Bunce exchanged glances.

‘Mind,’ added the speaker, ‘I don’t know that it is so. At any rate he took all his books there. Breeze and Howard helped to carry them. It be a queer place to live in, fit only for wild geese and teal. Justice’s clerk told mother that schoolmaster ha’ gotten a lease of the whole place from some great lord in London.’

The questioner brought the forefinger down to the palm of his hand — a habit he had when he wished to impress any fact or legal point upon his mind.

Goliah looked upon all this as mere love of gossip on the part of Richard Whiston. In his simple, honest heart he never once suspected that the shrewd man of law was putting him through a regular examination.

‘And is this all?’ he asked.

‘All as I can recollect,’ was the reply.

‘So Benoni came merely to visit his old friends,’ observed the lawyer.

‘Since he went back on Willie all the boys despise him — turned him out of the cricket club, thof he wor one of the best bowlers we had. Stay, I do recollect something. The first time he came wor to get some iron bars his father had ordered of Mottram, the blacksmith.’

A second finger was turned down.

‘And the next time?’ said the lawyer, insinuatingly.

‘He met Peggy Hurst at the Red Barn. I don’t think,’ added the speaker, ‘he will go near the farm again.’

‘And why not?’

‘I thrashed him,’ said Goliah, quietly. ‘I heard him tell Peggy that he wor in love wi’ her daughter, and I couldn’t stand that.’

‘Jealous,’ observed Willie.

‘Not a bit,’ answered his friend. ‘Susan despises him. What true-hearted girl could fancy a coward. I wor never jealous of any one but thee.’

‘And with quite as little reason,’ replied our hero. ‘It is quite true that Susan and I love each other; but it is only as brother and sister — nothing more.’

‘I know that,’ said the admirer of his cousin. ‘Thee told I so afore, and thee do allays speak the truth. It took such a lump off my heart; for what chance should I ha’ had again thee? Susan told I the same thing when I spoke my mind to her.’

‘And she answered —’

‘Nay, Willie, that beant fair,’ interrupted his friend. ‘There be two to that secret. When thee do fall in love thee will know all about it. P’raps she laughed at I — p’raps she did not; at any rate, she wor not very angry, though her mother is — she be dead set agin me. The farmer, I think, is all right, or soon will be.’

Our hero sighed, and mentally repeated the words of the speaker, ‘When thee do fall in love.’ The poor boy was already in love. The fair girl he had rescued had left her image in his young heart. The gift of the watch — and, still more, the simple words from Kate — had confirmed the impression. The desire of pleasing his uncle was not the only motive for his hard studies at the university; a yet stronger impulse inspired him — the thought of making himself worthy of her; for, without the slightest suspicion of her real rank or fortune, he felt they were superior to his.

‘Now, boys,’ said the lawyer, as he bade them good night, ‘amuse yourselves in the morning as you please. The carriage and horses are at your disposal. After lunch I would advise you to take a drive in Hyde Park. The season is at its height for equipages, beautiful girls, and remarkable personages. Europe has not a scene to equal it. I can’t accompany you; neither can I spare Bunce — most important case to come off. But we shall meet at dinner.’

‘And my studies, sir —’ suggested Willie.

‘Hang your studies!’ interrupted his uncle. ‘Of course I don’t exactly mean that; but merely for the present. Recollect that for the present,’ he added, laughingly, ‘I have taken off your shoes and turned you out to grass.’

Goliah slapped his thigh — a habit he had when greatly pleased — and exclaimed, triumphantly:

‘That be right, lawyer! It will soon bring back the colour to Willie’s cheeks, which those plaguey books ha’ stolen away. I opened one of ’em, and it made my eyes ache to look at the crooked lines and figgers; never seed anything like it, except in a conjuring book at fair time. Ecod!’ he added, ‘thee beest almost as sensible as a farmer.’

Richard Whiston bowed gravely; there was an amused expression on his face.

‘I fear you flatter me,’ he said.

Bunce and Willie laughed heartily.

Poor Goliah coloured to the roots of his hair; he was quite quick enough to perceive the ridiculous side of his speech, and hastened to amend it.

‘I meant about horses,’ he said. ‘I didn’t think thee knowed so much. Of course, in law, book-larning, and such things, thee do know a great deal more. Why don’t thee help I, Willie?’ he exclaimed, turning to his friend. ‘I always helped thee. Thee do know what I mean.’

‘And so does my uncle,’ replied our hero. ‘He understands you even better than I do.’

‘Then he beant angry wi’ I?’ said the honest rustic.

‘Not in the least,’ said Mr. Whiston shaking hands with him before quitting the room. ‘We perfectly understand each other.’

‘Of course we does,’ observed Goliah, as the gentleman disappeared, ‘though Willie and Bunce both laughed at I.’

Rotten Row and Hyde Park Corner. c.1890-1900. Photomechanical print. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The following day our hero and his friend did not neglect the lawyer’s advice of driving in Hyde Park at the hour he named, when the scene appears most attractive, especially to those who contemplate it for the first time. No doubt there are spots in the world equally beautiful; a few, perhaps, still more so, but none more animated. The throng of equipages in which elderly persons take their ease whilst inhaling the fresh pure air, the crowd of lovely girls, all life and animation, cantering on well-trained steeds, attended by fathers, brothers and admirers, the former proud of their charge the latter trusting to win a smile from the lips that enthralled them.

Talk of the Isle of Calypso! The graceful fable of Fenelon never presented half its charms. His goddess and worshippers were a myth — those of Hyde Park are living realities, pure flesh and blood, fresh from the hand of nature.

Youth! youth! such are thy glorious visions! They haunt its dreams; nor are those of age entirely free from them, dimly seen, perhaps, through the falling mists of a once happy past. So great was the excitement of Goliah that Willie had to check his outspoken bursts of admiration, which more than once attracted attention; and yet there was nothing coarse in them. The heart of the honest rustic was too well guarded for that by the recollection of the pretty Susan.

Nothing like a pure, manly love to keep the lips and heart pure.

As they were about to quit the ring the carriage of the lawyer crossed the elegant barouche of Lady Montague. Fortunately its noble owner was not in it — only her niece and Clara Meredith. The former recognised her protector in an instant, and involuntarily pulled the check-string. We say involuntarily, for it was the impulse of gratitude. Nothing more! Of course not! Had the high-born girl taken time to reflect, the fashionable surroundings, the familiar faces passing and repassing, might have prevented her. We do not mean to say that it would, but merely possibly.

Mr. Whiston’s coachman — he had once been in the service of a lord chancellor — perfectly well understood what the drawing-up of Lady Montague’s equipage meant, and quietly drew up beside it. Clara Meredith looked on wonderingly. She could not understand the blushing, half-hesitating manner of her friend as she addressed our hero whose confusion equalled if it did not exceed her own.

A very few words explained it.

‘I cannot,’ she said, ‘suffer the opportunity to escape me of expressing my gratitude to those who so generously protected me from a very great danger; that I have not done so personally before has not been from heartlessness, but ignorance of his name and address.’

‘It is the happiest recollection of my life,’ answered Willie, modestly; ‘but I fear you overrate my services.’

‘What!’ exclaimed Goliah, upon whose sluggish brain the truth was slowly dawning. ‘Be thee the —’

‘Even so,’ interrupted Lady Kate, hastily, for she had an instinctive dread of what was about to follow. ‘Do you not recollect me?’

‘How should I?’ replied the former. ‘Not but I ha’ often thought on thee. When I seed thee afore thee wor —’

A violent nudge in the ribs, which, as the speaker declared, almost drove the breath out of him, gave him an unmistakable hint that he was treading on forbidden ground. Poor Willie was in agonies lest he should not take it.

‘So differently dressed,’ added the rustic, suppressing the allusion to her being disguised as a boy, which trembled upon his lips; ‘but that be only natteral; people don’t wear such fine clothes in the country as they do in London.’

His friend breathed more freely, and the burning blush which had risen to the cheeks of the agitated girl gradually receded as the words were so adroitly turned.

‘You will find me at the residence of my aunt and guardian, Lady Montague,’ observed Lady Kate, at the same time giving him her card, and accepting the one he proffered.

‘I ain’t got no card,’ observed Goliah; ‘but I can write my name if Willie will lend I a pencil; that’s if’ — a second nudge, equally emphatic with the first one, cut short the rest of his speech.

‘Home!’ said Kate, at the same time bowing her adieu.

The equipages separated, and for some minutes the ladies drove from the Park in silence.

‘O, Kate! Kate,’ said Clara Meredith, who was the first to speak.

‘You think I have acted wrongly?’

‘Incautiously, my love; wrongly, no — a hundred times no. Better, perhaps, to have let the recollection of the adventure fade from the memory of each.’

‘And endure the self-reproach of ingratitude?’ observed Kate.

‘Well, there is something in that,’ replied her companion. ‘I wonder what your dear old aunt will say — for, of course, you will tell her?’

‘Of course,’ was the reply.

‘Can you tell me, James,’ said Miss Meredith, addressing the coachman, ‘to whom the carriage in which those gentlemen were riding, belongs?’

‘Certainly, Miss,’ answered the man. ‘To Mr. Whiston, the great lawyer, who has the management of Lady Montague’s estates. The youngest of the gentlemen is his nephew, a great scholar, they say; and —’

‘Thank you, that will do.’

Lady Kate glanced furtively at the card.

‘It is the same name,’ she whispered.

‘Thank Heaven he is a gentleman,’ exclaimed Clara.

Her friend made no reply. She had never doubted it.

Our hero felt too much excited by the unexpected meeting which had set his young heart dreaming to pay much attention to his companion, who sat silently by his side, turning the affair over in his mind in the hope of finding a solution.

At last he broke into a low chuckle.

‘Ecod, Willie,’ he said, ‘thee beest a sly one.’

‘I do not understand you.’

‘Thee never told I about the — thee knowest who I mean. I can believe now,’ added the speaker, ‘that thee do love Susan only like a brother.’

‘Nonsense, Goliah! I have never seen the lady till this morning since we lost sight of her on Chandos-street. She is evidently far above me in rank as fortune. Her speaking to me was merely the result of gratitude, nothing more.’

His friend gave a knowing wink.

‘No, for thee do allays speak the truth when thee do know it. I ha’ learnt many things since thee was puzzling thee brains over them dreadful books that make my eyes ache to look at, and be wiser nor thee in some things.’

‘Not unlikely. Susan is a very clever girl,’ observed his friend, with a smile.

‘Never mind Susan now,’ added Goliah. ‘I tell ’ee thee girl is in love wi’ thee.’


‘’Diculous or not, be it so. Eyes don’t lie, though the tongue does.’

Somehow our hero did not feel quite as angry at the absurdity of the speaker as he ought perhaps to have done. During the rest of their ride to Soho Square he remained silent, chewing the cud, as Shakespeare says, of sweet and bitter fancies — a weakness we are all liable to, age as well as youth.

This edition © 2019 Furin Chime, Michael Guest


Finnegans Wake: For a pertinent site on the Wake, see Susie Lopez’s piece at Lithub, ‘Finnegan’s Wake at 80: In Defense of the Difficult: On the Pleasure of Annotating One of Literature’s Most Challenging Works’.

TroveTrove, National Library of Australia

Cymon and his Nymph: See John Dryden, ‘Cymon and Iphigenia‘, from Boccace, in Fables Ancient and Modern (1700).

Isle of Calypso: Reference to Angelica Kauffman’s painting, Telemachus and the Nymphs of Calypso (1782), showing a scene from François Fénelon’s novel The Adventures of Telemachus (1699).

Rotten Row and Hyde Park Corner (image): A likely site for Lady Kate and William to have crossed paths. See ‘Victorian London: Entertainment and Recreation’.  ‘Rotten Row’ is a corruption of Route du Roi, The King’s Road, which William III had built at the end of the seventeenth century as a safe route for him to travel between Kensington Palace and St. James’s Palace. In the image, Rotten Row is to the right; it was for saddle-horses only.

Ecod: Egad.

chewing the cud, as Shakespeare says: Common misquotation of As You Like It, 4.3: “Chewing the food of sweet and bitter fancy”.

Dearden’s Miscellaney (1839).  Jump to page on Internet Archive for ‘check string’ entry (under “Important Invention”, p.121).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s