NF: a letter about ragged schools 1853



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NF: A letter about ragged schools – 1853

There are hundreds of poor children who have either no home to go to, or such an one as you would fear to enter; that many pass the night under arches, or on the steps of doors, or where they can- poor unhappy little beings! Oh! When you pray for yourselves, and ask God to bless your father and mother, your brothers and sisters, then do not forget to ask Him also to help the poor outcasts.

Now, Ragged Schools have been set on foot by kind and Christian people on purpose to do good to these unhappy children. They are brought to these schools, and there they have their torn, dirty clothes taken off, and after being washed, and made nice and clean, they have others put on to wear all day, but at night they are obliged to have their dirty ones put on again, because their parents are so wicked, that if they went home in good clothes they would take from them and sell them, and spend the money on something to drink. Then they would send the children out again in miderable and filthy rags, or nearly without clothes at all; so the kinds people at the schools take care of the clean clothing for them at night. The children stay at school all day and have good provided for them. Sometimes they have one thing, sometimes another. The day I was at Dr Guthrie’s school, they had each a basin of nice hot soup and a good-sized piece of bread. What a treat for these poor, neglected, hungry things! Perhaps you, my young friends, never knew what it was to want a morsel of bread. It is a terrible thing to be very hungry and to have nothing to eat; a terrible thing to see the shop windows full of nice bread, and cakes, etc; to be very, very hungry, and to have no means of obtaining anything but by stealing.

Hard Times- Charles Dickens.

'Girl number twenty,' said Mr. Gradgrind, squarely pointing with his square forefinger, 'I don't know that girl. Who is that girl?'

'Sissy Jupe, sir,' explained number twenty, blushing, standing up, and curtseying.

'Sissy is not a name,' said Mr. Gradgrind. 'Don't call yourself Sissy. Call yourself Cecilia.'

'It's father as calls me Sissy, sir,' returned the young girl in a trembling voice, and with another curtsey.

'Then he has no business to do it,' said Mr. Gradgrind. 'Tell him he mustn't. Cecilia Jupe. Let me see. What is your father?'

'He belongs to the horse-riding, if you please, sir.'
Mr. Gradgrind frowned, and waved off the objectionable calling with his hand.

'We don't want to know anything about that, here. You mustn't tell us about that, here. Your father breaks horses, don't he?'

'If you please, sir, when they can get any to break, they do break horses in the ring, sir.'

'You mustn't tell us about the ring, here. Very well, then. Describe your father as a horsebreaker. He doctors sick horses, I dare say?'

'Oh yes, sir.'

'Very well, then. He is a veterinary surgeon, a farrier, and horsebreaker. Give me your definition of a horse.'

(Sissy Jupe thrown into the greatest alarm by this demand.)

'Girl number twenty unable to define a horse!' said Mr. Gradgrind, for the general behoof of all the little pitchers. 'Girl number twenty possessed of no facts, in reference to one of the commonest of animals! Some boy's definition of a horse. Bitzer, yours.'

The square finger, moving here and there, lighted suddenly on Bitzer, perhaps because he chanced to sit in the same ray of sunlight which, darting in at one of the bare windows of the intensely white-washed room, irradiated Sissy. For, the boys and girls sat on the face of the inclined plane in two compact bodies, divided up the centre by a narrow interval; and Sissy, being at the corner of a row on the sunny side, came in for the beginning of a sunbeam, of which Bitzer, being at the corner of a row on the other side, a few rows in advance, caught the end. But, whereas the girl was so dark-eyed and dark-haired, that she seemed to receive a deeper and more lustrous colour from the sun, when it shone upon her, the boy was so light-eyed and light-haired that the self-same rays appeared to draw out of him what little colour he ever possessed. His cold eyes would hardly have been eyes, but for the short ends of lashes which, by bringing them into immediate contrast with something paler than themselves, expressed their form. His short-cropped hair might have been a mere continuation of the sandy freckles on his forehead and face. His skin was so unwholesomely deficient in the natural tinge, that he looked as though, if he were cut, he would bleed white.

'Bitzer,' said Thomas Gradgrind. 'Your definition of a horse.'

'Quadruped. Graminivorous. Forty teeth, namely twenty-four grinders, four eye-teeth, and twelve incisive. Sheds coat in the spring; in marshy countries, sheds hoofs, too. Hoofs hard, but requiring to be shod with iron. Age known by marks in mouth.' Thus (and much more) Bitzer.

'Now girl number twenty,' said Mr. Gradgrind. 'You know what a horse is.'

An extract from a speech by Charles Dickens-1857

Conspicuous on the card of admission to this dinner is the word “Schools.” This set me thinking this morning what are the sorts of schools that I don’t like. I found them on consideration, to be rather numerous. I don’t like to begin with, and to begin as charity does at home — I don’t like the sort of school to which I once went myself — the respected proprietor of which was by far the most ignorant man I have ever had the pleasure to know; one of the worst-tempered men perhaps that ever lived, whose business it was to make as much out of us and put as little into us as possible, and who sold us at a figure which I remember we used to delight to estimate, as amounting to exactly 2 pounds 4s. 6d. per head. I don’t like that sort of school, because I don’t see what business the master had to be at the top of it instead of the bottom, and because I never could understand the wholesomeness of the moral preached by the abject appearance and degraded condition of the teachers who plainly said to us by their looks every day of their lives, “Boys, never be learned; whatever you are, above all things be warned from that in time by our sunken cheeks, by our poor pimply noses, by our meagre diet, by our acid-beer, and by our extraordinary suits of clothes, of which no human being can say whether they are snuff-coloured turned black, or black turned snuff-coloured, a point upon which we ourselves are perfectly unable to offer any ray of enlightenment, it is so very long since they were undarned and new.” I do not like that sort of school, because I have never yet lost my ancient suspicion touching that curious coincidence that the boy with four brothers to come always got the prizes. In fact, and short, I do not like that sort of school, which is a pernicious and abominable humbug, altogether. Again, ladies and gentlemen, I don’t like that sort of school — a ladies’ school — with which the other school used to dance on Wednesdays, where the young ladies, as I look back upon them now, seem to me always to have been in new stays and disgrace — the latter concerning a place of which I know nothing at this day, that bounds Timbuctoo on the north-east — and where memory always depicts the youthful enthraller of my first affection as for ever standing against a wall, in a curious machine of wood, which confined her innocent feet in the first dancing position, while those arms, which should have encircled my jacket, those precious arms, I say, were pinioned behind her by an instrument of torture called a backboard, fixed in the manner of a double direction post. Again, I don’t like that sort of school, of which we have a notable example in Kent, which was established ages ago by worthy scholars and good men long deceased, whose munificent endowments have been monstrously perverted from their original purpose, and which, in their distorted condition, are struggled for and fought over with the most indecent pertinacity. Again, I don’t like that sort of school —


and I have seen a great many such in these latter times — where the bright childish imagination is utterly discouraged, and where those bright childish faces, which it is so very good for the wisest among us to remember in after life — when the world is too much with us, early and late 22 — are gloomily and grimly scared out of countenance; where I have never seen among the pupils, whether boys or girls, anything but little parrots and small calculating machines. Again, I don’t by any means like schools in leather breeches, and with mortified straw baskets for bonnets, which file along the streets in long melancholy rows under the escort of that surprising British monster — a beadle, whose system of instruction, I am afraid, too often presents that happy union of sound with sense, of which a very remarkable instance is given in a grave report of a trustworthy school inspector, to the effect that a boy in great repute at school for his learning, presented on his slate, as one of the ten commandments, the perplexing prohibition, “Thou shalt not commit doldrum.” Ladies and gentlemen, I confess, also, that I don’t like those schools, even though the instruction given in them be gratuitous, where those sweet little voices which ought to be heard speaking in very different accents, anathematise by rote any human being who does not hold what is taught there. Lastly, I do not like, and I did not like some years ago, cheap distant schools, where neglected children pine from year to year under an amount of neglect, want, and youthful misery far too sad even to be glanced at in this cheerful assembly.



Extract from ‘Walks in and around London’ 1895

    A PLAYGROUND IN THE EAST OF LONDON, with its throng of children whirling in and out, and jostling one another in their uproarious merri­ment. It is a scene of constant mo­tion; but with just a little of sadness running through the whole. We seem to look through their merry play and see beyond into the home-life of many of these poor little ones. We, who revel in our cosy nurseries and play-rooms, who tread with slippered feet on soft carpeted floors, who feast our eyes with bright pictures and cheerful books, and who lie snugly tucked in with warm blankets on downy beds, know and feel the full meaning of the word ‘Home.’ But how different it is with many of these poor little ones of outcast London! To them ‘home’ is often full of bitterness. Shoeless feet, bare boards, perhaps a few shavings or bits of straw for bed, and rags for coverlets, are their home comforts. They are more used to kicks than kisses, to blows than fond embraces, to angry words and horrible oaths than gentle voices of love and prayer. Money enough is found for the gin and other ruin­ous drinks, but none for home joys or proper clothing. And the publican thrives, and his children live well and dress in fine clothes with the money that ought to feed and clothe these poor children. And too often, because the child­ren and the drink together cost too much money, and one or other must be given up, the poor children are driven from home. To such this playground is a paradise.
    A little while ago this bright spot was a sad, dull and melancholy waste. Maybe it was an old churchyard with every grave filled: its stones, in memory of folks long since forgotten, now crumbling with age; and railed in all round to keep out children, large and small. But ~vise and kind-hearted people have levelled and laid it out as a garden and playground for the little ones. Here, strolling along its sanded walks, which go winding a round beds of bright-look­ing and sweet-smelling flowers; or stopping to watch the jet of water flung into the air from the fountain and dropping back into the basin where the gold and silver fish dart to and fro; or leaning back in the comfortable seats like real ladies and gentlemen, the myriads of children from the courts and alleys around, as well as those just let out from school, come to forget the hardness of their life in the beauty and merriment of the playground.
    Some of you whose friends bring you so many grand toys, would not look at the things that bring these poor children such enjoyment. An old shuttle­cock with one solitary feather in it, picked up from some dust-heap, is batted into the air with a piece of cardboard. A paper Windmill bought for a farthing, which mother has squeezed out of her hard earnings, delights that little three-year-old boy as lie holds it tightly in his chubby fist. His clothes are ragged and torn, yet I’m sure his mother is kind to him. He has found out that by holding the mill straight in front of him, the wind catches the bright-coloured sails and spins them round till the colours run one into the other and he sees only a rainbow-

coloured ring in front of him. So, forgetting the big boots shaking about on his feet, he trots up and down, laughing so merrily.
    How admiringly one ragged little fellow looks on at the toy! He, poor boy, never had such a toy to make him happy. He likes to see the whizzing wheel; but rougher games amongst the courts and alleys suit him best. He is one of those little urchins who iii the dark days of winter startle us so with their shrill calls, or who so suddenly appear at our sides begging a ‘copper.’ If we speak to him, he will call us ‘general’ or ‘captain,’ at the same time saluting us while his eyes twinkle roguishly. Poor little chap! Of course lie gets his copper; for his life is a hard one. He dares not creep in to rest at night until the gin palaces are shut, and lie knows his parents are sleeping their drunken sleep. Still he looks for a bit of play in this playground. Bits of string picked from the shop sweepings and tied together, serve to start him: and in a twinkling he is the happy driver of a couple of boys who prance about as only carriage horses can; or the furious driver of a fire-engine; or managing the swift steeds in a race, just as fancy suits him.
    Here, with pale faces and wasted limbs, are the cripples, limping painfully along on crutches, admiring the lovely flowers; or seated to watch the joyous games of their companions. Breathing the air made sweet by the flowers, and drinking in the enjoyment of the others, their cheeks lose their paleness, their eyes their heaviness, and the sadness of their sufferings is forgotten in the glad­ness of the hour spent in the playground.
    Here, too, come the little mothers carrying babies, and looking after brothers and sisters with as much care and anxiety as though they were real mothers. And the little workers with busy fingers stitch and knit and crochet the articles which mother gets from the warehouse, and which must be worked at early and late to earn money enough to live.
    And so we leave this happy scene, glad that the poor children have this fine place of enjoyment. And when we romp about in our comfortable homes and play with our toys, we will think kindly of these poor little ones, and, when opportunity comes, will help them as best we can.

A letter to The Times newspaper 1842.

Sir, – I have not for many years read a paragraph in The Times which has afforded me greater pleasure than that which heads your “Police” report of this day, conveying Mr. Hardwick’s just complaint of, and directions to Inspector Baker, on the hoop nuisance. As a daily passenger along the crowded thoroughfares of London-bridge and Thames-street, where boys and even girls, drive their hoops as deliberately as if upon a clear and open common, I can bear witness to its danger and inconvenience. I have at this moment a large scar on one of my shins, the legacy of a severe wound, which festered, and was very painful for an entire month, inflicted a year ago by the iron hoop of a whey-faced, cadaverous charity-boy from Tower-hill, who on my remonstrating with him on his carelessness, added impudence to the injury, by significantly advancing his extended fingers and thumb to his nose and scampering off. Aware that I had no redress, that the police would not interfere, I was compelled to grin and bear it while I hobbled away. The nuisance calls loudly for the interference of the Police Commissioners.

    Your daily reader,

September 30.            A PEDESTRIAN.

Tom Brown’s school days- Thomas Hughes 1860
Tom was detained in school a few minutes after the rest, and on coming out into the quadrangle, the first thing he saw was a small ring of boys, applauding Williams, who was holding Arthur by the collar.

“There, you young sneak,” said he, giving Arthur a cuff on the head with his other hand, “what made you say that” —

“Hullo!” said Tom, shouldering into the crowd, “you drop that, Williams; you shan’t touch him.”

“Who’ll stop me?” said the Slogger, raising his hand again.

“I,” said Tom; and suiting the action to the word, struck the arm which held Arthur’s arm so sharply, that the Slogger dropped it with a start, and turned the full current of his wrath on Tom.

“Will you fight?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Huzza, there’s going to be a fight between Slogger Williams and Tom Brown!”

The news ran like wild-fire about, and many boys who were on their way to tea at their several houses turned back, and sought the back of the chapel, where the fights come off.

“Just run and tell East to come and back me,” said Tom to a small School-house boy, who was off like a rocket to Harrowell’s, just stopping for a moment to poke his head into the School-house hall, where the lower boys were already at tea, and sing out, “Fight! Tom Brown and Slogger Williams.”

Up start half the boys at once, leaving bread, eggs, butter, sprats, and all the rest to take care of themselves. The greater part of the remainder follow in a minute, after swallowing their tea, carrying their food in their hands to consume as they go. Three or four only remain, who steal the butter of the more impetuous, and make to themselves an unctuous feast.

In another minute East and Martin tear through the quadrangle carrying a sponge, and arrive at the scene of action just as the combatants are beginning to strip.

Tom felt he had got his work cut out for him, as he stripped off his jacket, waistcoat, and braces. East tied his handkerchief round his waist, and rolled up his shirt-sleeves for him: “Now, old boy, don’t you open your mouth to say a word, or try to help yourself a bit, we’ll do all that; you keep all your breath and strength for the Slogger.” Martin meanwhile folded the clothes, and put them under the chapel rails; and now Tom, with East to handle him and Martin to give him a knee, steps out on the turf, and is ready for all that may come: and here is the Slogger too, all stripped, and thirsting for the fray.

It doesn’t look a fair match at first glance: Williams is nearly two inches taller, and probably a long year older than his opponent, and he is very strongly made about the arms and shoulders; “peels well,” as the little knot of big fifth-form boys, the amateurs, say; who

stand outside the ring of little boys, looking complacently on, but taking no active part in the proceedings. But down below he is not so good by any means; no spring from the loins, and feebleish, not to say shipwrecky, about the knees. Tom, on the contrary, though not half so strong in the arms, is good all over, straight, hard, and springy from neck to ankle, better perhaps in his legs than anywhere. Besides, you can see by the clear white of his eye and fresh bright look of his skin, that he is in tip-top training, able to do all he knows; while the Slogger looks rather sodden, as if he didn’t take much exercise and ate too much tuck. The time-keeper is chosen, a large ring made, and the two stand up opposite one another for a moment, giving us time just to make our little observations.

“If Tom’ll only condescend to fight with his head and heels,” as East mutters to Martin, “we shall do.”

But seemingly he won’t, for there he goes in, making play with both hands. Hard all, is the word; the two stand to one another like men; rally follows rally in quick succession, each fighting as if he thought to finish the whole thing out of hand. “Can’t last at this rate,” say the knowing ones, while the partisans of each make the air ring with their shouts and counter-shouts, of encouragement, approval, and defiance.

“Take it easy, take it easy — keep away, let him come after you,” implores East, as he wipes Tom’s face after the first round with wet sponge, while he sits back on Martin’s knee, supported by the Madman’s long arms, which tremble a little from excitement.

“Time’s up,” calls the time-keeper.

“There he goes again, hang it all!” growls East as his man is at it again as hard as ever. A very severe round follows, in which Tom gets out and out the worst of it, and is at last hit clean off his legs, and deposited on the grass by a right-hander from the Slogger.

Loud shouts rise from the boys of Slogger’s house, and the School-house are silent and vicious, ready to pick quarrels anywhere.

An extract from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.1813


It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.

“My dear Mr. Bennet,” said his lady to him one day, “have you heard that Netherfield Park is let at last?”

Mr. Bennet replied that he had not.

“But it is,” returned she; “for Mrs. Long has just been here, and she told me all about it.”

Mr. Bennet made no answer.

“Do you not want to know who has taken it?” cried his wife impatiently.

“You want to tell me, and I have no objection to hearing it.”

This was invitation enough.

“Why, my dear, you must know, Mrs. Long says that Netherfield is taken by a young man of large fortune from the north of England; that he came down on Monday in a chaise and four to see the place, and was so much delighted with it, that he agreed with Mr. Morris immediately; that he is to take possession before Michaelmas, and some of his servants are to be in the house by the end of next week.”

“What is his name?”

“Bingley.”

“Is he married or single?”

“Oh! Single, my dear, to be sure! A single man of large fortune; four or five thousand a year. What a fine thing for our girls!”

“How so? How can it affect them?”

“My dear Mr. Bennet,” replied his wife, “how can you be so tiresome! You must know that I am thinking of his marrying one of them.”

“Is that his design in settling here?”

“Design! Nonsense, how can you talk so! But it is very likely that he may fall in love with one of them, and therefore you must visit him as soon as he comes.”

“I see no occasion for that. You and the girls may go, or you may send them by themselves, which perhaps will be still better, for as you are as handsome as any of them, Mr. Bingley may like you the best of the party.”

“My dear, you flatter me. I certainly have had my share of beauty, but I do not pretend to be anything extraordinary now. When a woman has five grown-up daughters, she ought to give over thinking of her own beauty.”

“In such cases, a woman has not often much beauty to think of.”

“But, my dear, you must indeed go and see Mr. Bingley when he comes into the neighbourhood.”

“It is more than I engage for, I assure you.”

“But consider your daughters. Only think what an establishment it would be for one of them. Sir William and Lady Lucas are determined to go, merely on that account, for in general, you know, they visit no newcomers. Indeed you must go, for it will be impossible for us to visit him if you do not.”

“You are over-scrupulous, surely. I dare say Mr. Bingley will be very glad to see you; and I will send a few lines by you to assure him of my hearty consent to his marrying whichever he chooses of the girls; though I must throw in a good word for my little Lizzy.”

“I desire you will do no such thing. Lizzy is not a bit better than the others; and I am sure she is not half so handsome as Jane, nor half so good-humoured as Lydia. But you are always giving her the preference.”

“They have none of them much to recommend them,” replied he; “they are all silly and ignorant like other girls; but Lizzy has something more of quickness than her sisters.”

“Mr. Bennet, how can you abuse your own children in such a way? You take delight in vexing me. You have no compassion for my poor nerves.”

“You mistake me, my dear. I have a high respect for your nerves. They are my old friends. I have heard you mention them with consideration these last twenty years at least.”

“Ah, you do not know what I suffer.”

“But I hope you will get over it, and live to see many young men of four thousand a year come into the neighbourhood.”

“It will be no use to us, if twenty such should come, since you will not visit them.”

“Depend upon it, my dear, that when there are twenty, I will visit them all.”

Mr. Bennet was so odd a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour, reserve, and caprice, that the experience of three-and-twenty years had been insufficient to make his wife understand his character. Her mind was less difficult to develop. She was a woman of mean understanding, little information, and uncertain temper. When she was discontented, she fancied herself nervous. The business of her life was to get her daughters married; its solace was visiting and news.


An extract from ‘Our Deportment’ by John H Young 1881

CHAPTER XVIII

Home Life and Etiquette.

Home is the woman's kingdom, and there she reigns supreme. To embellish1 that home, to make happy the lives of her husband and the dear ones committed to her trust, is the honored task which it is the wife's province2 to perform. All praise be to her who so rules and governs in that kingdom, that those reared beneath her roof "shall rise up and call her blessed."

[...]                             

The Wife a Helpmate.

A wife should act openly and honorably in regard to money matters, keeping an exact account of her expenditures,3 and carefully guarding against any extravagances;4 and while her husband is industriously5 at work, she should seek to encourage him, by her own frugality,6 to be economical, thrifty, enterprising and prosperous7 in his business, that he may be better enabled, as years go by and family cares press more heavily on each, to afford all the comforts and perhaps some of the luxuries of a happy home. No condition is hopeless when the wife possesses firmness, decision and economy, and no outward prosperity can counteract indolence,8 folly and extravagance at home. She should consult the disposition and tastes of her husband, and endeavor to lead him to high and noble thoughts, lofty aims, and temporal9 comfort; be ever ready to welcome him home, and in his companionship draw his thoughts from business and lead him to the enjoyment of home comforts and happiness. The influence of a good wife over her husband may be very great, if she exerts it in the right direction. She should, above all things, study to learn the disposition of her husband, and if, perchance, she finds herself united to a man of quick and violent temper, the utmost discretion,10 as well as perfect equanimity on her own part is required, for she should have such perfect control over herself as to calm his perturbed spirits.

A Husband's Duties.

It must not be supposed that it devolves upon the wife alone to make married life and home happy. She must be seconded in her noble efforts by him who took her from her own parental fireside and kind friends, to be his companion through life's pilgrimage. He has placed her in a new home, provided with such comforts as his means permit, and the whole current of both their lives have been changed. His constant duty to his wife is to be ever kind and attentive, to love her as he loves himself, even sacrificing his own personal comfort for her happiness. From his affection for her, there should grow out a friendship and fellowship, such as is possessed for no other person. His evenings and spare moments should be devoted to her, and these should be used for their intellectual, moral and social advancement.

The cares and anxieties of business should not exclude the attentions due to wife and family, while he should carefully keep her informed of the condition of his business affairs. Many a wife is capable of giving her husband important advice about various details of his business, and if she knows the condition of his pecuniary11 affairs, she will be able to govern her expenditures12 accordingly.

It is the husband's duty to join with his wife in all her endeavors to instruct her children, to defer all matters pertaining to their discipline to her, aiding her in this respect as she requires it. In household matters the wife rules predominant, and he should never interfere with her authority and government in this sphere. It is his duty and should be his pleasure to accompany her to church, to social gatherings, to lectures and such places of entertainment as they both mutually enjoy and appreciate. In fact he ought not to attend a social gathering unless accompanied by his wife, nor go to an evening entertainment without her. If it is not a fit place for his wife to attend, neither is it fit for him.

While he should give his wife his perfect confidence in her faithfulness, trusting implicitly to her honor at all times and in all places, he should, on his part, remain faithful and constant to her, and give her no cause of complaint. He should pass by unnoticed any disagreeable peculiarities13 and mistakes, taking care at the proper time, and without giving offense, to remind her of them, with the idea of having her correct them. He should never seek to break her of any disagreeable habits or peculiarities she may possess, by ridiculing them. He should encourage her in all her schemes for promoting the welfare of her household, or in laudable14 endeavors to promote the happiness of others, by engaging in such works of benevolence and charity as the duties of her home will allow her to perform.

The husband, in fact, should act toward his wife as becomes a perfect gentleman, regarding her as the "best lady in the land," to whom, above all other earthly beings, he owes paramount allegiance. If he so endeavors to act, his good sense and judgment will dictate to him the many little courtesies which are due her, and which every good wife cannot fail to appreciate. The observance of the rules of politeness are nowhere more desirable than in the domestic circle, between husband and wife, parents and children.


An extract from ‘Daisy Miller’ by Henry James 1878

"They are very common," Mrs. Costello declared. "They are the sort of Americans that one does one's duty by not--not accepting."

"Ah, you don't accept them?" said the young man.

"I can't, my dear Frederick. I would if I could, but I can't."

"The young girl is very pretty," said Winterbourne in a moment.

"Of course she's pretty. But she is very common."

"I see what you mean, of course," said Winterbourne after another pause.

"She has that charming look that they all have," his aunt resumed. "I can't think where they pick it up; and she dresses in perfection--no, you don't know how well she dresses. I can't think where they get their taste."

"But, my dear aunt, she is not, after all, a Comanche savage."

"She is a young lady," said Mrs. Costello, "who has an intimacy with her mamma's courier."

"An intimacy with the courier?" the young man demanded.

"Oh, the mother is just as bad! They treat the courier like a familiar friend--like a gentleman. I shouldn't wonder if he dines with them. Very likely they have never seen a man with such good manners, such fine clothes, so like a gentleman. He probably corresponds to the young lady's idea of a count. He sits with them in the garden in the evening. I think he smokes."

Winterbourne listened with interest to these disclosures; they helped him to make up his mind about Miss Daisy. Evidently she was rather wild. "Well," he said, "I am not a courier, and yet she was very charming to me."

"You had better have said at first," said Mrs. Costello with dignity, "that you had made her acquaintance."

"We simply met in the garden, and we talked a bit."

"Tout bonnement! And pray what did you say?"

"I said I should take the liberty of introducing her to my admirable aunt."

"I am much obliged to you."

"It was to guarantee my respectability," said Winterbourne.

"And pray who is to guarantee hers?"

"Ah, you are cruel!" said the young man. "She's a very nice young girl."

"You don't say that as if you believed it," Mrs. Costello observed.

"She is completely uncultivated," Winterbourne went on. "But she is wonderfully pretty, and, in short, she is very nice. To prove that I believe it, I am going to take her to the Château de Chillon."

"You two are going off there together? I should say it proved just the contrary. How long had you known her, may I ask, when this interesting project was formed? You haven't been twenty-four hours in the house."

"I have known her half an hour!" said Winterbourne, smiling.

"Dear me!" cried Mrs. Costello. "What a dreadful girl!"

Extract from ‘In the year of the jubilee’ by George Gessing 1894


When the repast was nearly over, Mr. Lord glanced at his son and said unconcernedly:

'You have heard that Nancy wants to mix with the rag-tag and bobtail to-morrow night?'

'I shall take care of her,' Horace replied, starting from his reverie.

'Doesn't it seem to you rather a come-down for an educated young lady?'

'Oh, there'll be lots of them about.'

'Will there? Then I can't see much difference between them and the servant girls.'

Nancy put in a word.

'That shows you don't in the least understand me, father.'

'We won't argue about it. But bear in mind, Horace, that you bring your sister back not later than half-past eleven. You are to be here by half-past eleven.'

'That's rather early,' replied the young man, though in a submissive tone.

'It's the hour I appoint. Samuel Barmby will be with you, and he will know the arrangement; but I tell you now, so that there may be no misunderstanding.'

Nancy sat in a very upright position, displeasure plain upon her countenance. But she made no remark. Horace, who had his reasons for desiring to preserve a genial tone, affected acquiescence. Presently he and his sister went upstairs to the drawing-room, where they sat down at a distance apart--Nancy by the window, gazing at the warm clouds above the roofs opposite, the young man in a corner which the dusk already shadowed. Some time passed before either spoke, and it was Horace's voice which first made itself heard.

'Nancy, don't you think it's about time we began to behave firmly?'

'It depends what you mean by firmness,' she answered in an absent tone.

'We're old enough to judge for ourselves.'

'I am, no doubt. But I'm not so sure about you.'

'Oh, all right. Then we won't talk about it.'

Another quarter of an hour went by. The room was in twilight. There came a knock at the door, and Mary Woodruff, a wax-taper in her hand, entered to light the gas. Having drawn the blind, and given a glance round to see that everything was in order, she addressed Nancy, her tone perfectly respectful, though she used no formality.

'Martha has been asking me whether she can go out to-morrow night for an hour or two.'

'You don't wish to go yourself?' Miss. Lord returned, her voice significant of life-long familiarity.

'Oh no!'

And Mary showed one of her infrequent smiles.

'She may go immediately after dinner, and be away till half-past ten.'

The servant bent her head, and withdrew. As soon as she was gone, Horace laughed.

'There you are! What did father say?'

Nancy was silent.


Extract from the mayor of caster bridge by Thomas Hardy
"Will anybody buy her?" said the man.

"I wish somebody would," said she firmly. "Her present

owner is not at all to her liking!"

"Nor you to mine," said he. "So we are agreed about that.

Gentlemen, you hear? It's an agreement to part. She shall

take the girl if she wants to, and go her ways. I'll take

my tools, and go my ways. 'Tis simple as Scripture history.

Now then, stand up, Susan, and show yourself."

"Don't, my chiel," whispered a buxom staylace dealer in

voluminous petticoats, who sat near the woman; "yer good man

don't know what he's saying."

The woman, however, did stand up. "Now, who's auctioneer?"

cried the hay-trusser.

"I be," promptly answered a short man, with a nose

resembling a copper knob, a damp voice, and eyes like

button-holes. "Who'll make an offer for this lady?"

The woman looked on the ground, as if she maintained her

position by a supreme effort of will.

"Five shillings," said someone, at which there was a laugh.

"No insults," said the husband. "Who'll say a guinea?"

Nobody answered; and the female dealer in staylaces

interposed.

"Behave yerself moral, good man, for Heaven's love! Ah, what

a cruelty is the poor soul married to! Bed and board is dear

at some figures 'pon my 'vation 'tis!"

"Set it higher, auctioneer," said the trusser.

"Two guineas!" said the auctioneer; and no one replied.

"If they don't take her for that, in ten seconds they'll

have to give more," said the husband. "Very well. Now

auctioneer, add another."

"Three guineas--going for three guineas!" said the rheumy

man.


"No bid?" said the husband. "Good Lord, why she's cost me

fifty times the money, if a penny. Go on."

"Four guineas!" cried the auctioneer.

"I'll tell ye what--I won't sell her for less than five,"

said the husband, bringing down his fist so that the basins

danced. "I'll sell her for five guineas to any man that

will pay me the money, and treat her well; and he shall have

her for ever, and never hear aught o' me. But she shan't go

for less. Now then--five guineas--and she's yours. Susan,

you agree?"

She bowed her head with absolute indifference.

"Five guineas," said the auctioneer, "or she'll be

withdrawn. Do anybody give it? The last time. Yes or no?"

"Yes," said a loud voice from the doorway.

All eyes were turned. Standing in the triangular opening

which formed the door of the tent was a sailor, who,

unobserved by the rest, had arrived there within the last

two or three minutes. A dead silence followed his

affirmation.

"You say you do?" asked the husband, staring at him.

"I say so," replied the sailor.

"Saying is one thing, and paying is another. Where's the

money?"

The sailor hesitated a moment, looked anew at the woman,



came in, unfolded five crisp pieces of paper, and threw them

down upon the tablecloth. They were Bank-of-England notes

for five pounds. Upon the face of this he clinked down the

shillings severally--one, two, three, four, five.

Extract from a letter by Thomas Carlyle
I was on day through the iron and coal works of this neighbourhood, - a half-frightful scene! A space perhaps of 30 square miles, to the north of us, covered over with furnaces, rolling mills, steam engines and sooty men. A dense cloud of pestilential smoke hands over it forger, blackening even the brain that grows upon it; and at night the whole region burns like a volcano spitting fire from a thousand tubes of brick. But oh the wretched hundred and fifty thousand mortals that grind out their destiny there! In the coal mines they were literally naked, many of them, all but trousers; black as ravens; plashing about among the dripping caverns, or scrambling amid heaps of broken material; and thirsting unquenchably for beer.

In the iron-mills it was little better; blast-furnaces were roaring like the voice of many whirlwinds all around; the fiery metal was hissing thro’ its mounds, or sparkling and spitting under hammers of a monstrous size, which fell like so many little earthquakes. Here they were wheeling charred coals, breaking their ironstone, and tumbling all into their fiery pit; there they were turning and boring cannon with a hideous shrieking noise such as the earth could hardly parallel; and through the whole, half naked demons pouring with sweat and besmeared with soot were hurrying to and fro in their red nightcaps and sheet iron breeches rolling or hammering or squeezing their glowing metal as if it had been wax or dough. They also has a thirst for ale. Yet on the whole I am told they are very happy: they make forty shillings or more per week, and few of them will work on Mondays. It is in a spot like this that one sees the sources of British power.

Death and disease
Lost Hearts by MR James 1895

The wind had fallen, and there was a still night and a full moon. At about ten o'clock Stephen was standing at the open window of his bedroom, looking out over the country. Still as the night was, the mysterious population of the distant moonlit woods was not yet lulled to rest. From time to time strange cries as of lost and despairing wanderers sounded from across the mere. They might be the notes of owls or water-birds yet they did not quite resemble either sound. Were not they coming nearer? Now they sounded from the nearer side of the water, and in a few moments they seemed to be floating about among the shrubberies. Then they ceased; but just as Stephen was thinking of shutting the window and resuming his reading of Robinson Crusoe, he caught sight of two figures standing on the graveled terrace that ran along the garden side of the Hall — the figures of a boy and girl, as it seemed: they stood side by side, looking up at the windows. Something in the form of the girl recalled irresistibly his dream of the figure in the bath. The boy inspired him with more acute fear.

   Whilst the girl stood still half smiling, with her hands clasped over her heart, the boy, a thin shape, with black hair and ragged clothing, raised his arms beginning of page 32 in the air with an appearance of menace and of unappeasable hunger and longing. The moon shone upon his almost transparent hands and Stephen saw that the nails were fearfully long and that the light shone through them. As he stood with his arms thus raised, he disclosed a terrifying spectacle. On the left side of his chest there opened a black and gaping rent, and there fell upon Stephen's brain, rather than upon his ear, the impression of one of those hungry and desolate cries that he had heard resounding over the woods of Aswarby all that evening. In another moment this dreadful pair had moved swiftly and noiselessly over the dry gravel, and he saw them no more.

   Inexpressibly frightened as he was, he determined to take his candle and go down to Mr. Abney's study, for the hour appointed for their meeting was near at hand. The study or library opened out of the front hall on one side, and Stephen, urged on by his terrors, did not take long in getting there. To effect an entrance was not so easy. It was not locked, he felt sure, for the key was on the outside of the door as usual. His repeated knocks produced no answer. Mr. Abney was engaged: he was speaking. What! why did he try to cry out? and why was the cry choked in his throat? Had he, too, seen the mysterious children? But now everything was quiet, and the door yielded to Stephen's terrified and frantic pushing.

Extract from The Mysteries of London GWM Reynolds
The grave-digger entered the cemetery, and cast a glance around him.

    That glance well expressed the man's thoughts; for he mentally asked himself, "Whose grave must I disturb now to make room for the new one?"

    At length he advanced towards a particular spot, considered it for a moment, and then struck his spade into the soil, as much as to say, "This will do."

    The place where he had now halted was only a few yards from the Bone-House. Taking a key from his pocket, he proceeded to unlock the door of that building.

    Entering the Bone-House he took from amongst a quantity of implements in one corner, a long flexible iron rod similar to those which we have already described as being used by the body-snatchers.

    Returning to the grave, he thrust the rod into the ground. It met with a little resistance from some substance a little harder than the soil; but the man pushed it downwards with a strong arm; and it sank at least twelve feet into the ground.

    Satisfied with this essay of the nature of the spot, the grave-digger drew back the rod; and from the deep but narrow aperture thus formed, issued a stench more pestiferous than that which ever came from the lowest knacker's yard.

    The man retreated rapidly to the Bone-House; that odour was too powerful even for one who had passed the greater portion of his life in that very grave-yard. 

    He now proceeded to light a fire in the Bone- House; and when be saw the huge logs which he heaped on the grate, blazing brightly, he covered  them with coke. The current of air from the open door fanned the flames, which roared up the chimney; and the grave-digger felt invigorated and cheered by the genial warmth that issued from the ample grate.

    After lingering for a few minutes in the Bone House, the grave-digger returned to the spot which he had previously marked for excavation.

    Baring his brawny arms to the very shoulders, he now set himself vigorously to work to dig the grave which was to receive a new-comer that after-noon.

    Throwing the earth up on either side, he had digged to a depth of about two feet, when his spade encountered a coffin. He immediately took his pickaxe, broke the coffin to pieces, and then separated with his shovel the pieces of wood and the human bones from the damp earth. The coffin was already so soft with decay that the iron rod had penetrated through it without much difficulty; and it therefore required but little exertion to break it up altogether.

    But the odour which came from the grave was now of the most nauseating kind - fetid, sickly, pestiferous - making the atmosphere heavy, and the human breath thick and clammy, as it were - and causing even that experienced grave-digger to retch as if he were about to vomit.

    Leaping from the grave, he began to busy himself in conveying the pieces of the broken coffin and the putrid remains of mortality into the Bone-House. where he heaped them pell-mell upon the fire.

    The flesh had not completely decayed all away from the bones; a thick, black, fatty-looking substance still covered those human relics; and the fire was thus fed with a material which made the flames roar and play half up the chimney.

    And from the summit of that chimney came a smoke-thick, dense, and dark, like the smoke of a gasometer or a manufactory, but bearing on its sable wing the odour of a pestilence.

    The man returned to the grave, and was about to resume his labour, when his eyes caught sight of a black object, almost embedded in the damp clay heaped up by the side. He turned it over with his spade: it was the upper part of the skull, with the long, dark hair of a woman still remaining attached to it. The grave-digger coolly took up the relic by that long hair which perhaps had once been a valued ornament; and, carrying it in this manner into the Bone-House, threw it upon the fire. The hair hissed for a moment as it burnt, for it was damp and clogged with clay ; then the voracious flames licked up the thin coat of blackened flesh which had still remained on the skull; and lastly devoured the bone itself.

    The grave-digger returned to his toils; and at a depth of scarcely one foot below the coffin thus exhumed and burnt, his shovel was again impeded for a moment - and by another coffin!

    Once more was the pickaxe put into requisition a second coffin was broken up; another decomposing, but not entirely decomposed, corpse was hacked,. and hewed, and rent to pieces by the merciless implement which was wielded by a merciless arm ;- and in a few moments, the fire in the Bone-House burnt cheerfully once more, the mouth of the chimney vomiting forth its dense and pest-bearing breath, the volume of which was from time to time lighted with sparks and flakes of fire.

    Thus was it that this grave-digger disposed of the old tenants of the cemetery in order to make room for new ones.

Extract from Mary Seacole’s autobiography
It was a fearful scene; but why repeat this remark. All death is trying to witness – even that of the good man who lays down his life hopefully and peacefully; but on the battlefield, when the poor body is torn and rent in hideous ways, and the scares spirit struggles to loose itself from the still strong frame that holds it tightly to the last, death is fearful indeed. It had come peacefully enough to some. They lay with half-opened eyes, and a quiet smile about the lips that showed their end to have been painless; others it has arrested in the heat of passion, and frozen on their pallid faces a glare of hatred and defiance that made your warm blood run cold. But little time has we to think of the dead, whose business it was to see after the dying, who might yet be saved. The ground was thickly cumbered with the wounded, some of them calm and resigned, others impatient and restless, a few filling the air with their cries of pain- all wanting water, and grateful to those who administed it, and more substantial comforts.

I attended to the wounds of many French and Sardinians, and helped to lift them into the ambulances, which came tearing up to the scene of action. I derived no little gratification from being about to dress the wounds of several Russians; indeed, they were as kindly treated as the others. One of them was badly shot in the lower jaw, and was beyond my or any human skill. Incautiously I inserted my finger into his mouth to feel where the ball had lodged, and his teeth closed upon it, in the agonies of death, so tightly that I had to call to those around to release it, which was not done until it has been bitten so deeply that I shall carry the scar with me to my grace. Poor fellow, he meant me no harm, for, as the near approach of death softened his features, a smile spread over his rough inexpressive face, and so he died.

Extract from Dorian Grey
He passed out of the room, and began the ascent, Basil Hallward following close behind. They walked softly, as men do instinctively at night. The lamp cast fantastic shadows on the wall and staircase. A rising wind made some of the windows rattle.
        When they reached the top landing, Dorian set the lamp down on the floor, and taking out the key turned it in the lock. "You insist on knowing, Basil?" he asked, in a low voice.
        "Yes."
        "I am delighted," he answered, smiling. Then he added, somewhat harshly, "You are the one man in the world who is entitled to know everything about me. You have had more to do with my life than you think:" and, taking up the lamp, he opened the door and went in. A cold current of air passed them, and the light shot up for a moment in a flame of murky orange. He shuddered. "Shut the door behind you," he whispered, as he placed the lamp on the table.
        Hallward glanced round him, with a puzzled expression. The room looked as if it had not been lived in for years. A faded Flemish tapestry, a curtained picture, an old Italian cassone, and an almost empty bookcase—that was all that it seemed to contain, besides a chair and a table. As Dorian Gray was lighting a half-burned candle that was standing on the mantel-shelf, he saw that the whole place was covered with dust, and that the carpet was in holes. A mouse ran scuffling behind the wainscoting. There was a damp odour of mildew.
        "So you think that it is only God who sees the soul, Basil? Draw that curtain back, and you will see mine."
        The voice that spoke was cold and cruel. "You are mad, Dorian, or playing a part," muttered Hallward, frowning.
        "You won't? Then I must do it myself," said the young man; and he tore the curtain from its rod, and flung it on the ground.
        An exclamation of horror broke from the painter's lips as he saw in the dim light the hideous face on the canvas grinning at him. There was something in its expression that filled him with disgust and loathing. Good heavens! it was Dorian Gray's own face that he was looking at! The horror, whatever it was, had not yet entirely spoiled that marvellous beauty. There was still some gold in the thinning hair and some scarlet on the sensual mouth.

The sodden eyes had kept something of the loveliness of their blue, the noble curves had not yet completely passed away from chiselled nostrils and from plastic throat. Yes, it was Dorian himself. But who had done it? He seemed to recognise his own brush-work, and the frame was his own design. The idea was monstrous, yet he felt afraid. He seized the lighted candle,

and held it to the picture. In the left-hand corner was his own name, traced in long letters of bright vermilion.
        It was some foul parody, some infamous, ignoble satire. He had never done that. Still, it was his own picture. He knew it, and he felt as if his blood had changed in a moment from fire to sluggish ice. His own picture! What did it mean? Why had it altered? He turned, and looked at Dorian Gray with the eyes of a sick man. His mouth twitched, and his parched tongue seemed unable to articulate. He passed his hand across his forehead. It was dank with clammy sweat.
        The young man was leaning against the mantel-shelf, watching him with that strange expression that one sees on the faces of those who are absorbed in a play when some great artist is acting. There was neither real sorrow in it nor real joy. There was simply the passion of the spectator, with perhaps a flicker of triumph in his eyes. He had taken the flower out of his coat, and was smelling it, or pretending to do so.
        "What does this mean?" cried Hallward, at last. His own voice sounded shrill and curious in his ears.
        "Years ago, when I was a boy," said Dorian Gray, crushing the flower in his hand, "you met me, flattered me, and taught me to be vain of my good looks. One day you introduced me to a friend of yours, who explained to me the wonder of youth, and you finished the portrait of me that revealed to me the wonder of beauty. In a mad moment, that, even now, I don't know whether I regret or not, I made a wish, perhaps you would call it a prayer...."
        "I remember it! Oh, how well I remember it! No! the thing is impossible. The room is damp. Mildew has got into the canvas. The paints I used had some wretched mineral poison in them. I tell you the thing is impossible."
        "Ah, what is impossible?" murmured the young man, going over to the window, and leaning his forehead against the cold, mist-stained glass.
        "You told me you had destroyed it."
        "I was wrong. It has destroyed me."

Extract from ‘She’ by H. Rider Haggard.


    Then followed a silence of a minute or so, during which _She_ appeared, if one might judge from the almost angelic rapture of her face — for she looked angelic sometimes — to be plunged into a happy ecstasy. Suddenly, however, a new thought struck her, and her expression became the very reverse of angelic.

    "Almost had I forgotten," she said, "that woman, Ustane. What is she to Kallikrates — his servant, or —  — " and she paused, and her voice trembled.

    I shrugged my shoulders. "I understand that she is wed to him according to the custom of the Amahagger," I answered; "but I know not."

    Her face grew dark as a thunder-cloud. Old as she was, Ayesha had not outlived jealousy.

    "Then there is an end," she said; "she must die, even now!"

    "For what crime?" I asked, horrified. "She is guilty of naught that thou art not guilty of thyself, oh Ayesha. She loves the man, and he has been pleased to accept her love: where, then, is her sin?"

    "Truly, oh Holly, thou art foolish," she answered, almost petulantly. "Where is her sin? Her sin is that she stands between me and my desire. Well, I know that I can take him from her — for dwells there a man upon this earth, oh Holly, who could resist me if I put out my strength? Men are faithful for so long only as temptations pass them by. If the temptation be but strong enough, then will the man yield, for every man, like every rope, hath his breaking strain, and passion is to men what gold and power are to women — the weight upon their weakness. Believe me, ill will it go with mortal woman in that heaven of which thou speakest, if only the spirits be more fair, for their lords will never turn to look upon them, and their Heaven will become their Hell. For man can be bought with woman's beauty, if it be but beautiful enough; and woman's beauty can be ever bought with gold, if only there be gold enough. So was it in my day, and so it will be to the end of time. The world is a great mart, my Holly, where all things are for sale to whom who bids the highest in the currency of our desires."

    These remarks, which were as cynical as might have been expected from a woman of Ayesha's age and experience, jarred upon me, and I answered, testily, that in our heaven there was no marriage or giving in marriage.

    "Else would it not be heaven, dost thou mean?" she put in. "Fie on thee, Holly, to think so ill of us poor women! Is it, then, marriage that marks the line between thy heaven and thy hell? but enough of this. This is no time for disputing and the challenge of our wits. Why dost thou always dispute? Art thou also a philosopher of these latter days? As for this woman, she must die; for, though I can take her lover from her, yet, while she lived, might he think tenderly of her, and that I cannot away with. No other woman shall dwell in my Lord's thoughts; my empire shall be all my own. She hath had her day, let her be content; for better is an hour with love than a century of loneliness — now the night shall swallow her."

    "Nay, nay," I cried, "it would be a wicked crime; and from a crime naught comes but what is evil. For thine own sake, do not this deed."

    "Is it, then, a crime, oh foolish man, to put away that which stands between us and our ends? Then is our life one long crime, my Holly, since day by day we destroy that we may live, since in this world none save the strongest can endure. Those who are weak must perish; the earth is to the strong, and the fruits thereof. For every tree that grows a score shall wither, that the strong one may take their share. We run to place and power over the dead bodies of those who fail and fall; ay, we win the food we eat from out of the mouths of starving babes. It is the scheme of things. Thou sayest, too, that a crime breeds evil, but therein thou dost lack experience; for out of crimes come many good things, and out of good grows much evil. The cruel rage of the tyrant may prove a blessing to the thousands who come after him, and the sweetheartedness of a holy man may make a nation slaves. Man doeth this, and doeth that from the good or evil of his heart; but he knoweth not to what end his moral sense doth prompt him; for when he striketh he is blind to where the blow shall fall, nor can he count the airy threads that weave the web of circumstance. Good and evil, love and hate, night and day, sweet and bitter, man and woman, heaven above and the earth beneath — all these things are necessary, one to the other, and who knows the end of each? I tell thee that there is a hand of fate that twines them up to bear the burden of its purpose, and all things are gathered in that great rope to which all things are needful. Therefore doth it not become us to say this thing is evil and this good, or the dark is hateful and the light lovely; for to other eyes than ours the evil may be the good and the darkness more beautiful than the day, or all alike be fair. Hearest thou, my Holly?"

Henry Walter Bates (The naturalist on the River Amazons : a record of adventures, habits of animals, sketches of Brazilian and Indian life, and aspects of nature under the Equator, during eleven years of travel, 1880):

We often read, in books of travels, of the silence and gloom of the Brazilian forests. They are realities, and the impression deepens on a longer acquaintance. The few sounds of birds are of that pensive or mysterious character which intensifies the feeling of solitude rather than imparts a sense of life and cheerfulness. Sometimes, in the midst of the stillness, a sudden yell or scream will startle one ; this comes from some defenceless fruit - eating animal, which is pounced upon by a tiger-cut or stealthy boa-constrictor.. Morning and evening the howling monkeys make a most fearful and harrowing noise, under which it is difficult to keep up one's buoyancy of spirit. The feeling of inhospitable wildness which the forest is calculated to inspire is increased tenfold under this fearful uproar. Often, even in the still hours of midday, a sudden crash will be heard resounding far through the wilderness, as some great bough or entire tree falls to the ground. There are, besides, many sounds which it is impossible to account for. 

I found the natives generally as much at a loss in this respect as myself. Sometimes a sound is heard like the clang of an iron bar against a hard, hollow tree, or a piercing cry rends the air; these are not repeated, and the succeeding silence tends to heighten the unpleasant impression which they make on the mind. With the native it is always the Curupira, the wild man or spirit of the forest, which produces all noises they are unable to explain. For myths are the rude theories which mankind, in the infancy of knowledge, invent to explain natural phenomena. The Curupira is a mysterious being, whose attributes are uncertain, for they vary according to locality. Sometimes he is described as a kind of orang-otang, being covered with long shaggy hair, and living in trees. At others he is said to have cloven feet and a bright red face. He has a wife and children, and sometimes comes down to the rocas to steal the mandioca. At one time I had a mameluco youth in my service, whose head was full of the legends and superstitions of the country. He always went with me into the forest ; in fact, I could not get him to go alone, and whenever we heard any of the strange noises mentioned above, he used to tremble with fear. He would crouch down behind me, and beg of me to turn back ; his alarm ceasing only after he had made a charm to protect us from the Curupira. For this purpose he took a young palm-leaf, plaited it, and formed it into a ring, which he hung to a branch on our track. At length, after a six hours' walk, we arrived at our destination, the last mile or two having been again through second-growth forest.

Treasure Island
Chapter 14

14. The First Blow

I WAS so pleased at having given the slip to Long John that I began to enjoy myself and look around me with some interest on the strange land that I was in.
I had crossed a marshy tract full of willows, bulrushes, and odd, outlandish, swampy trees; and I had now come out upon the skirts of an open piece of undulating, sandy country, about a mile long, dotted with a few pines and a great number of contorted trees, not unlike the oak in growth, but pale in the foliage, like willows. On the far side of the open stood one of the hills, with two quaint, craggy peaks shining vividly in the sun.

I now felt for the first time the joy of exploration. The isle was uninhabited; my shipmates I had left behind, and nothing lived in front of me but dumb brutes and fowls. I turned hither and thither among the trees. Here and there were flowering plants, unknown to me; here and there I saw snakes, and one raised his head from a ledge of rock and hissed at me with a noise not unlike the spinning of a top. Little did I suppose that he was a deadly enemy and that the noise was the famous rattle.

Then I came to a long thicket of these oaklike trees-- live, or evergreen, oaks, I heard afterwards they should be called--which grew low along the sand like brambles, the boughs curiously twisted, the foliage compact, like thatch. The thicket stretched down from the top of one of the sandy knolls, spreading and growing taller as it went, until it reached the margin of the broad, reedy fen, through which the nearest of the little rivers soaked its way into the anchorage. The marsh was steaming in the strong sun, and the outline of the Spy-glass trembled through the haze.

All at once there began to go a sort of bustle among the bulrushes; a wild duck flew up with a quack, another followed, and soon over the whole surface of the marsh a great cloud of birds hung screaming and circling in the air. I judged at once that some of my shipmates must be drawing near along the borders of the fen. Nor was I deceived, for soon I heard the very distant and low tones of a human voice, which, as I continued to give ear, grew steadily louder and nearer.

This put me in a great fear, and I crawled under cover of the nearest live-oak and squatted there, hearkening, as silent as a mouse.

Another voice answered, and then the first voice, which I now recognized to be Silver's, once more took up the story and ran on for a long while in a stream, only now and again interrupted by the other. By the sound they must have been talking earnestly, and almost fiercely; but no distinct word came to my hearing.

At last the speakers seemed to have paused and perhaps to have sat down, for not only did they cease to draw any nearer, but the birds themselves began to grow more quiet and to settle again to their places in the swamp.

And now I began to feel that I was neglecting my business, that since I had been so foolhardy as to come ashore with these desperadoes, the least I could do was to overhear them at their councils, and that my plain and obvious duty was to draw as close as I could manage, under the favourable ambush of the crouching trees.

I could tell the direction of the speakers pretty exactly, not only by the sound of their voices but by the behaviour of the few birds that still hung in alarm above the heads of the intruders.

Crawling on all fours, I made steadily but slowly towards them, till at last, raising my head to an aperture among the leaves, I could see clear down into a little green dell beside the marsh, and closely set about with trees, where Long John Silver and another of the crew stood face to face in conversation.

Joseph Conrad – Heart of Darkness
"Going up that river was like traveling back to the earliest beginnings of the world, when vegetation rioted on the earth and the big trees were kings. An empty stream, a great silence, an impenetrable forest. The air was warm, thick, heavy, sluggish. There was no joy in the brilliance of sunshine. The long stretches of the waterway ran on, deserted, into the gloom of overshadowed distances. On silvery sandbanks hippos and alligators sunned themselves side by side. The broadening waters flowed through a mob of wooded islands; you lost your way on that river as you would in a desert, and butted all day long against shoals, trying to find the channel, till you thought yourself bewitched and cut off for ever from everything you had known once--somewhere--far away--in another existence perhaps. There were moments when one's past came back to one, as it will sometimes when you have not a moment to spare to yourself; but it came in the shape of an unrestful and noisy dream, remembered with wonder amongst the overwhelming realities of this strange world of plants, and water, and silence. And this stillness of life did not in the least resemble a peace. It was the stillness of an implacable force brooding over an inscrutable intention. It looked at you with a vengeful aspect. I got used to it afterwards; I did not see it any more; I had no time. I had to keep guessing at the channel; I had to discern, mostly by inspiration, the signs of hidden banks; I watched for sunken stones; I was learning to clap my teeth smartly before my heart flew out, when I shaved by a fluke some infernal sly old snag that would have ripped the life out of the tin-pot steamboat and drowned all the pilgrims; I had to keep a look-out for the signs of dead wood we could cut up in the night for next day's steaming. When you have to attend to things of that sort, to the mere incidents of the surface, the reality--the reality, I tell you--fades. The inner truth is hidden--luckily, luckily. But I felt it all the same; I felt often its mysterious stillness watching me at my monkey tricks, just as it watches you fellows performing on your respective tight-ropes for--what is it? half-a-crown a tumble--"

Extract from ‘Through the Dark Continent’ by Henry Morton Stanley


In these wild regions our mere presence excited the most furious passions of hate and murder, just as in shallow waters a deep vessel stirs up muddy sediments. It appeared to be a necessity, then why should we regret it ? Could a man contend with the inevitable ?

At 2 P.m., heralded by savage shouts from the wasp swarm, which from some cause or other are unusually exultant, we emerge out of the shelter of the deeply wooded banks in presence of a vast affluent, nearly 2000 yards across at the mouth. As soon as we have fairly entered its waters, we see a great concourse of canoes hovering about some islets, which stud the middle of the stream. The canoe-men, standing up, give a loud shout as they discern us and blow their horns louder than ever. We pull briskly on to gain the right bank, and come in view of the right branch of the affluent, when, looking up stream, we see a sight that sends the blood tingling through every nerve and fibre of the body, arouses not only our most lively interest, but also our most lively apprehensions—a flotilla of gigantic canoes bearing down upon us, which both in size and numbers utterly eclipse anything encountered hitherto ! Instead of aiming for the right bank, we form in line, and keep straight down river, the boat taking position behind. Yet after a moment's reflection, as I note the numbers of the savages, and the daring manner of the pursuit, and the apparent desire of our canoes to abandon the steady compact line, I give the order to drop anchor. Four of our canoes affect not to listen, until I chase them, and threaten them with my guns. This compelled them to return to the line, which is formed of eleven double canoes, anchored 10 yards apart. The boat moves up to the front, and takes position 50 yards above them. The shields are next lifted by the non-combatants, men, women, and children in the bows, and along the outer lines, as well as astern, and from behind these the muskets and rifles are aimed.

We have sufficient time to take a view of the mighty force bearing down on us, and to count the number of the war-vessels which have been collected from the Livingstone and its great affluent. There are fifty-four of them! A monster canoe leads the way, with two rows of upstanding paddles, forty men on a side, their bodies bending and swaying in unison as with a swelling barbarous chorus they drive her down towards us. In the bow, standing on what appears to be a platform, are ten prime young warriors, their heads gay with feathers of the parrot crimson and grey: at the stern, eight men, with long paddles, whose tops are decorated with ivory balls, guide the monster vessel; and dancing up and down from stem to stern are ten men, who appear to be chiefs. All the paddles are headed with ivory balls, every head bears a feather crown, every arm shows gleaming white ivory armlets. From the bow of the Canoe streams a thick fringe of the long white fibre of the Hyphene palm. The crashing sound of large drums, a hundred blasts from ivory horns, and a thrilling chant from two thousand human throats, do not tend to soothe our nerves or to increase our confidence. However, it is " neck or nothing." We have no time to pray, or to take sentimental looks at the savage world, or even to breathe a sad farewell to it. So many other things have to be done speedily and well.

Extract from ‘The Invisible Man’ by HG Wells


"I will tell you, Kemp, sooner or later, all the complicated processes. We need not go into that now. For the most part, saving certain gaps I chose to remember, they are written in cypher in those books that tramp has hidden. We must hunt him down. We must get those books again. But the essential phase was to place the transparent object whose refractive index was to be lowered between two radiating centres of a sort of ethereal vibration, of which I will tell you more fully later. No, not those Roentgen vibrations -- I don't know that these others of mine have been described. Yet they are obvious enough. I needed two little dynamos, and these I worked with a cheap gas engine. My first experiment was with a bit of white wool fabric. It was the strangest thing in the world to see it in the flicker of the flashes soft and white, and then to watch it fade like a wreath of smoke and vanish.

"I could scarcely believe I had done it. I put my hand into the emptiness, and there was the thing as solid as ever. I felt it awkwardly, and threw it on the floor. I had a little trouble finding it again.

"And then came a curious experience. I heard a miaow behind me, and turning, saw a lean white cat, very dirty, on the cistern cover outside the window. A thought came into my head. `Everything ready for you,' I said, and went to the window, opened it, and called softly. She came in, purring, -- the poor beast was starving, -- and I gave her some milk. All my food was in a cupboard in the corner of the room. After that she went smelling round the room, -- evidently with the idea of making herself at home. The invisible rag upset her a bit; you should have seen her spit at it! But I made her comfortable on the pillow of my truckle-bed. And I gave her butter to get her to wash."

"And you processed her?"

"I processed her. But giving drugs to a cat is no joke, Kemp! And the process failed."

"Failed!"

"In two particulars. These were the claws and the pigment stuff, what is it? -- at the back of the eye in a cat. You know?"

"Tapetum."

"Yes, the tapetum. It didn't go. After I'd given the stuff to bleach the blood and done certain other things to her, I gave the beast opium, and put her and the pillow she was sleeping on, on the apparatus. And after all the rest had faded and vanished, there remained two little ghosts of her eyes."

"Odd!"


"I can't explain it. She was bandaged and clamped, of course, -- so I had her safe; but she woke while she was still misty, and miaowed dismally, and someone came knocking. It was an old woman from downstairs, who suspected me of vivisecting, -- a drink-sodden old creature, with only a white cat to care for in all the world. I whipped out some chloroform, applied it, and answered the door. `Did I hear a cat?' she asked. `My cat?' `Not here,' said I, very politely.

She was a little doubtful and tried to peer past me into the room; strange enough to her no doubt, -- bare walls, uncurtained windows, truckle-bed, with the gas engine vibrating, and the seethe of the radiant points, and that faint ghastly stinging of chloroform in the air. She had to be satisfied at last and went away again."

"How long did it take?" asked Kemp.

"Three or four hours -- the cat. The bones and sinews and the fat were the last to go, and the tips of the coloured hairs. And, as I say, the back part of the eye, tough iridescent stuff it is, wouldn't go at all.

"It was night outside long before the business was over, and nothing was to be seen but the dim eyes and the claws. I stopped the gas engine, felt for and stroked the beast, which was still insensible, and then, being tired, left it sleeping on the invisible pillow and went to bed. I found it hard to sleep. I lay awake thinking weak aimless stuff, going over the experiment over and over again, or dreaming feverishly of things growing misty and vanishing about me, until everything, the ground I stood on, vanished, and so I came to that sickly falling nightmare one gets. About two, the cat began miaowing about the room. I tried to hush it by talking to it, and then I decided to turn it out. I remember the shock I had when striking a light -- there were just the round eyes shining green -- and nothing round them. I would have given it milk, but I hadn't any. It wouldn't be quiet, it just sat down and miaowed at the door. I tried to catch it, with an idea of putting it out of the window, but it wouldn't be caught, it vanished. Then it began miaowing in different parts of the room. At last I opened the window and made a bustle. I suppose it went out at last. I never saw any more of it.

"Then -- Heaven knows why -- I fell thinking of my father's funeral again, and the dismal windy hillside, until the day had come. I found sleeping was hopeless, and, locking my door after me, wandered out into the morning streets."

"You don't mean to say there's an invisible cat at large!" said Kemp.

"If it hasn't been killed," said the Invisible Man. "Why not?"

"Why not?" said Kemp. "I didn't mean to interrupt."

"It's very probably been killed," said the Invisible Man. "It was alive four days after, I know, and down a grating in Great Tichfield Street; because I saw a crowd round the place, trying to see whence the miaowing came."

He was silent for the best part of a minute.

An Extract from Charles Darwin’s autobiography


But no pursuit at Cambridge was followed with nearly so much eagerness or gave me so much pleasure as collecting beetles. It was the mere passion for collecting, for I did not dissect them, and rarely compared their external characters with published descriptions, but got them named anyhow. I will give a proof of my zeal: one day, on tearing off some old bark, I saw two rare beetles, and seized one in each hand; then I saw a third and new kind, which I could not bear to lose, so that I popped the one which I held in my right hand into my mouth. Alas! it ejected some intensely acrid fluid, which burnt my tongue so that I was forced to spit the beetle out, which was lost, as was the third one.

I was very successful in collecting, and invented two new methods; I employed a labourer to scrape during the winter, moss off old trees and place it in a large bag, and likewise to collect the rubbish at the bottom of the barges in which reeds are brought from the fens, and thus I got some very rare species. No poet ever felt more delighted at seeing his first poem published than I did at seeing, in Stephens' 'Illustrations of British Insects,' the magic words, "captured by C. Darwin, Esq." I was introduced to entomology by my second cousin W. Darwin Fox, a clever and most pleasant man, who was then at Christ's College, and with whom I became extremely intimate. Afterwards I became well acquainted, and went out collecting, with Albert Way of Trinity, who in after years became a well-known archaeologist; also with H. Thompson of the same College, afterwards a leading agriculturist, chairman of a great railway, and Member of Parliament. It seems therefore that a taste for collecting beetles is some indication of future success in life!

Mary Shelley: Frankenstein

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