Christie Johnstone by Charles Reade
LORD IPSDEN had soon the mortification of discovering that this Mr. — — was a constant visitor at the house; and, although his cousin gave him her ear in this man's absence, on the arrival of her fellow-enthusiast he had ever the mortification of finding himself de trop.
Once or twice he demolished this personage in argument, and was rewarded by finding himself more de trop.
But one day Lady Barbara, being in a cousinly humor, expressed a wish to sail in his lordship's yacht, and this hint soon led to a party being organized, and a sort of picnic on the island of Inch Coombe; his lordship's cutter being the mode of conveyance to and from that spot.
Now it happened on that very day Jean Carnie's marriage was celebrated on that very island by her relations and friends.
So that we shall introduce our readers to
THE RIVAL PICNICS.
We begin with Les gens comme il faut.
PICNIC NO. 1.
The servants were employed in putting away dishes into hampers.
There was a calm silence. "Hem!" observed Sir Henry Talbot.
"Eh?" replied the Honorable Tom Hitherington.
"Mamma," said Miss Vere, "have you brought any work?"
"No, my dear."
"At a picnic," said Mr. Hitherington, isn't it the thing for somebody — aw — to do something?"
"Ipsden," said Lady Barbara, "there is an understanding between you and Mr. Hitherington. I condemn you to turn him into English."
"Yes, Lady Barbara; I'll tell you, he means — -do you mean anything, Tom?"
Hitherington. "Can't anybody guess what I mean?"
Lady Barbara. "Guess first yourself, you can't be suspected of being in the secret."
Hither. "What I mean is, that people sing a song, or run races, or preach a sermon, or do something funny at a picnic — aw — somebody gets up and does something."
Lady Bar. "Then perhaps Miss Vere, whose singing is famous, will have the complaisance to sing to us."
Miss Vere. "I should be happy, Lady Barbara, but I have not brought my music."
Lady Bar. "Oh, we are not critical; the simplest air, or even a fragment of melody; the sea and the sky will be a better accompaniment than Broadwood ever made."
Miss V. "I can't sing a note without book."
Sir H. Talbot. "Your music is in your soul — not at your fingers' ends."
Lord Ipsden, to Lady Bar. "It is in her book, and not in her soul."
Lady Bar., to Lord Ips. "Then it has chosen the better situation of the two."
Ips. "Miss Vere is to the fine art of music what the engrossers are to the black art of law; it all filters through them without leaving any sediment; and so the music of the day passes through Miss Vere's mind, but none remains — to stain its virgin snow."
He bows, she smiles.
Lady Bar., to herself. "Insolent. And the little dunce thinks he is complimenting her."
Ips. "Perhaps Talbot will come to our rescue — he is a fiddler."
Tal. "An amateur of the violin."
Ips. "It is all the same thing."
Lady Bar. "I wish it may prove so."
[Note: original has music notation here]
Miss V. "Beautiful."
Mrs. Vere. "Charming."
Ips. "You are aware that good music is a thing to be wedded to immortal verse, shall I recite a bit of poetry to match Talbot's strain?"
Miss V. "Oh, yes! how nice."
Ips. (rhetorically). "A. B. C. D. E. F. G. H. I. J. K. L. M. N. O. P. Q. R. S. T. U. V. W. X. Y. Z. Y. X. W. V. U. T. S. O. N. M. L. K. J. I. H. G. F. A. M. little p. little t."
Lady Bar. "Beautiful! Superb! Ipsden has been taking lessons on the thinking instrument."
Hither. "He has been perdu among vulgar people."
Tal. "And expects a pupil of Herz to play him tunes!"
Lady Bar. "What are tunes, Sir Henry?"
Tal. "Something I don't play, Lady Barbara."
Lady Bar. "I understand you; something we ought to like."
Ips. "I have a Stradivarius violin at home. It is yours, Talbot, if you can define a tune."
Tal. "A tune is — everybody knows what."
Lady Bar. "A tune is a tune, that is what you meant to say."
Tal. "Of course it is."
Lady Bar. "Be reasonable, Ipsden; no man can do two things at once; how can the pupil of Herz condemn a thing and know what it means contemporaneously?"
Ips. "Is the drinking-song in 'Der Freischutz' a tune?"
Lady Bar. "It is."
Ips. "And the melodies of Handel, are they tunes?"
Lady Bar. (pathetically). "They are! They are!"
Ips. "And the 'Russian Anthem,' and the 'Marseillaise,' and 'Ah, Perdona'?"
Tal. "And 'Yankee Doodle'?"
Lady Bar. "So that Sir Henry, who prided himself on his ignorance, has a wide field for its dominion.
Tal. "All good violin players do like me; they prelude, not play tunes."
Ips. "Then Heaven be thanked for our blind fiddlers. You like syllables of sound in unmeaning rotation, and you despise its words, its purposes, its narrative feats; carry out your principle, it will show you where you are. Buy a dirty palette for a picture, and dream the alphabet is a poem."
Lady Bar., to herself. "Is this my cousin Richard?"
Hither. "Mind, Ipsden, you are a man of property, and there are such things as commissions de lunatico."
Lady Bar. "His defense will be that his friends pronounced him insane.
Ips. "No; I shall subpoena Talbot's fiddle, cross-examination will get nothing out of that but, do, re, mi, fa."
Lady Bar. "Yes, it will; fa, mi, re, do."
Tal. "Violin, if you please."
Lady Bar. "Ask Fiddle's pardon, directly."
Sound of fiddles is heard in the distance.
Tal. "How lucky for you, there are fiddles and tunes, and the natives you are said to favor, why not join them?"
Ips. (shaking his head solemnly). "I dread to encounter another prelude."
Hither. "Come, I know you would like it; it is a wedding-party — two sea monsters have been united. The sailors and fishermen are all blue cloth and wash-leather gloves."
Miss V. "He! he!"
Tal. "The fishwives unite the colors of the rainbow — "
Lady Bar. "(And we all know how hideous they are) — to vulgar, blooming cheeks, staring white teeth, and sky-blue eyes."
Mrs. V. "How satirical you are, especially you, Lady Barbara."
Here Lord Ipsden, after a word to Lady Barbara, the answer to which did not appear to be favorable, rose, gave a little yawn, looked steadily at his companions without seeing them, and departed without seeming aware that he was leaving anybody behind him.
Hither. "Let us go somewhere where we can quiz the natives without being too near them."
Lady Bar. "I am tired of this unbroken solitude, I must go and think to the sea," added she, in a mock soliloquy; and out she glided with the same unconscious air as his lordship had worn.
The others moved off slowly together.
"Mamma," said Miss Vere," I can't understand half Barbara Sinclair says."
"It is not necessary, my love," replied mamma; "she is rather eccentric, and I fear she is spoiling Lord Ipsden."
"Poor Lord Ipsden," murmured the lovely Vere, "he used to be so nice, and do like everybody else. Mamma, I shall bring some work the next time."
"Do, my love."
PICNIC NO. 2.
In a house, two hundred yards from this scene, a merry dance, succeeding a merry song, had ended, and they were in the midst of an interesting story; Christie Johnstone was the narrator. She had found the tale in one of the viscount's books — it had made a great impression on her.
The rest were listening intently. In a room which had lately been all noise, not a sound was now to be heard but the narrator's voice.
"Aweel, lasses, here are the three wee kists set, the lads are to chuse — the ane that chuses reicht is to get Porsha, an' the lave to get the bag, and dee baitchelars — Flucker Johnstone, you that's sae clever — are ye for gowd, or siller, or leed?"
1st Fishwife. "Gowd for me!"
2d ditto. "The white siller's my taste."
Flucker. "Na! there's aye some deevelish trick in thir lassie's stories. I shall ha to, till the ither lads hae chused; the mair part will put themsels oot, ane will hit it off reicht maybe, then I shall gie him a hidin' an' carry off the lass. You-hoo!"
Jean Carnie. "That's you, Flucker."
Christie Johnstone. "And div ye really think we are gawn to let you see a' the world chuse? Na, lad, ye are putten oot o' the room, like witnesses."
Flucker. "Then I'd toss a penny; for gien ye trust to luck, she whiles favors ye, but gien ye commence to reason and argefy — ye're done!"
Christie. "The suitors had na your wit, my manny, or maybe they had na a penny to toss, sae ane chused the gowd, ane the siller; but they got an awfu' affront. The gold kist had just a skull intil't, and the siller a deed cuddy's head!"
Chorus of Females. "He! he! he!"
Ditto of Males. "Haw! haw! haw! haw! Ho!"
Christie. "An' Porsha puttit the pair of gowks to the door. Then came Bassanio, the lad fra Veeneece, that Porsha loed in secret. Veeneece, lasses, is a wonderful city; the streets o' 't are water, and the carriages are boats — that's in Chambers'."
Flucker. "Wha are ye making a fool o'?"
Christie. "What's wrang?"
Flucker. "Yon's just as big a lee as ever I heerd."
The words were scarcely out of his mouth ere he had reason to regret them; a severe box on the ear was administered by his indignant sister. Nobody pitied him.
Christie. "I'll laern yet' affront me before a' the company."
Jean Carnie. "Suppose it's a lee, there's nae silver to pay for it, Flucker."
Christie. "Jean, I never telt a lee in a' my days."
Jean. "There's ane to begin wi' then. Go ahead, Custy."
Christie. "She bade the music play for him, for music brightens thoucht; ony way, he chose the leed kist. Open'st and wasn't there Porsha's pictur, and a posy, that said:
'If you be well pleased with this, And hold your fortune for your bliss; Turn you where your leddy iss, And greet her wi' a loving — "' (Pause).
"Kess," roared the company.
Chorus, led by Flucker. "Hurraih!"
Christie (pathetically). "Flucker, behave!"
Sandy Liston (drunk). "Hur-raih!" He then solemnly reflected. "Na! but it's na hurraih, decency requires amen first an' hurraih afterward; here's kissin plenty, but I hear nae word o' the minister. Ye'll obsairve, young woman, that kissin's the prologue to sin, and I'm a decent mon, an' a gray-headed mon, an' your licht stories are no for me; sae if the minister's no expeckit I shall retire — an' tak my quiet gill my lane."
Jean Carnie. "And div ye really think a decent cummer like Custy wad let the lad and lass misbehave thirsels? Na! lad, the minister's at the door, but" (sinking her voice to a confidential whisper) "I daurna let him in, for fear he'd see ye hae putten the enemy in your mooth sae aerly. (That's Custy's word.)"
"Jemmy Drysel," replied Sandy, addressing vacancy, for Jemmy was mysteriously at work in the kitchen, "ye hae gotten a thoughtfu' wife." (Then, with a strong revulsion of feeling.) "Dinna let the blackguard* in here," cried he, "to spoil the young folk's sporrt."
* At present this is a spondee in England — a trochee in Scotland The pronunciation of this important word ought to be fixed, representing, as it does, so large a portion of the community in both countries.
Christie. "Aweel, lassies, comes a letter to Bassanio; he reads it, and turns as pale as deeth."
A Fishwife. "Gude help us."
Christie. "Poorsha behooved to ken his grief, wha had a better reicht? 'Here's a letter, leddy,' says he, 'the paper's the boedy of my freend, like, and every word in it a gaping wound.'"
A Fisherman. "Maircy on us."
Christie. "Lad, it was fra puir Antonio, ye mind o' him, Lasses. Hech! the ill luck o' yon man, no a ship come hame; ane foundered at sea, coming fra Tri-po-lis; the pirates scuttled another, an' ane ran ashore on the Goodwins, near Bright-helm-stane, that's in England itsel', I daur say. Sae he could na pay the three thoosand ducats, an' Shylock had grippit him, an' sought the pund o' flesh aff the breest o' him, puir body."
Sandy Liston. "He would na be the waur o' a wee bit hiding, yon thundering urang-utang; let the man alane, ye cursed old cannibal."
Christie. "Poorsha keepit her man but ae hoor till they were united, an' then sent him wi' a puckle o' her ain siller to Veeneece, and Antonio — think o' that, lassies — pairted on their wedding-day."
Lizzy Johnstone, a Fishwife, aged 12. "Hech! hech! it's lamentable."
Jean Carnie. "I'm saying, mairriage is quick wark, in some pairts — here there's an awfu' trouble to get a man."
A young Fishwife. "Ay, is there."
Omnes. "Haw! haw! haw!" (The fish-wife hides.)
Christie. "Fill your taupsels, lads and lasses, and awa to Veneece."
Sandy Liston (sturdily). "I'll no gang to sea this day."
Christie. "Noo, we are in the hall o' judgment. Here are set the judges, awfu' to behold; there, on his throne, presides the Juke."
Flucker. "She's awa to her Ennglish."
Lizzy Johnstone. "Did we come to Veeneece to speak Scoetch, ye useless fule?"
Christie. "Here, pale and hopeless, but resigned, stands the broken mairchant, Antonio; there, wi scales and knives, and revenge in his murderin' eye, stands the crewel Jew Shylock."
"Aweel," muttered Sandy, considerately, "I'll no mak a disturbance on a wedding day."
Christie. "They wait for Bell — I dinna mind his mind — a laerned lawyer, ony way; he's sick, but sends ane mair laerned still, and, when this ane comes, he looks not older nor wiser than mysel."
Flucker. "No possible!"
Christie. "Ye needna be sae sarcy, Flucker, for when he comes to his wark he soon lets 'em ken — runs his een like lightening ower the boend. 'This bond's forfeit. Is Antonio not able to dischairge the money?' 'Ay!' cries Bassanio, 'here's the sum thrice told.' Says the young judge in a bit whisper to Shylock, 'Shylock, there's thrice thy money offered thee. Be mairceful,' says he, out loud. 'Wha'll mak me?' says the Jew body. 'Mak ye!' says he; 'maircy is no a thing ye strain through a sieve, mon; it droppeth like the gentle dew fra' heaven upon the place beneath; it blesses him that gives and him that taks; it becomes the king better than his throne, and airthly power is maist like God's power when maircy seasons justice.'"
Robert Haw, Fisherman. "Dinna speak like that to me, onybody, or I shall gie ye my boat, and fling my nets intil it, as ye sail awa wi' her."
Jean Carnie. "Sae he let the puir deevil go. Oh! ye ken wha could stand up against siccan a shower o' Ennglish as thaat."
Christie. "He just said, 'My deeds upon my heed. I claim the law,' says he; 'there is no power in the tongue o' man to alter me. I stay here on my boend.'"
Sandy Liston. "I hae sat quiet! — quiet I hae sat against my will, no to disturb Jamie Drysel's weddin'; but ye carry the game ower far, Shylock, my lad. I'll just give yon bluidy-minded urang-utang a hidin', and bring Tony off, the gude, puir-spirited creature. And him, an' me, an' Bassanee, an' Porshee, we'll all hae a gill thegither."
He rose, and was instantly seized by two of the company, from whom he burst furiously, after a struggle, and the next moment was heard to fall clean from the top to the bottom of the stairs. Flucker and Jean ran out; the rest appealed against the interruption.
Christie. "Hech! he's killed. Sandy Liston's brake his neck."
"What aboot it, lassy?" said a young fisherman; "it's Antonio I'm feared for; save him, lassy, if poessible; but I doot ye'll no get him clear o' yon deevelich heathen.
"Auld Sandy's cheap sairved," added he, with all the indifference a human tone could convey.
"Oh, Cursty," said Lizzie Johnstone, with a peevish accent, "dinna break the bonny yarn for naething."
Flucker (returning). "He's a' reicht."
Christie. "Is he no dead?"
Flucker. "Him deed? he's sober — that's a' the change I see."
Christie. "Can he speak? I'm asking ye."
Flucker. "Yes, he can speak."
Christie. "What does he say, puir body?"
Flucker. "He sat up, an' sought a gill fra' the wife — puir body!"
Christie. "Hech! hech! he was my pupil in the airt o' sobriety! — aweel, the young judge rises to deliver the sentence of the coort. Silence!" thundered Christie. A lad and a lass that were slightly flirting were discountenanced.
Christie. "'A pund o' that same mairchant's flesh is thine! the coort awards it, and the law does give it.'"
A young Fishwife. "There, I thoucht sae; he's gaun to cut him, he's gaun to cut him; I'll no can bide." (Exibat.)
Christie. "There's a fulish goloshen. 'Have by a doctor to stop the blood.' — 'I see nae doctor in the boend,' says the Jew body."
Flucker. "Bait your hook wi' a boend, and ye shall catch yon carle's saul, Satin, my lad."
Christie (with dismal pathos). "Oh, Flucker, dinna speak evil o' deegneties — that's maybe fishing for yoursel' the noo! — -'An' ye shall cut the flesh frae off his breest.' — 'A sentence,' says Shylock, 'come, prepare.'"
Christie made a dash en Shylock, and the company trembled.
Christie. "'Bide a wee,' says the judge, 'this boend gies ye na a drap o' bluid; the words expressly are, a pund o' flesh!'"
(A Dramatic Pause.)
Jean Carnie (drawing her breath). "That's into your mutton, Shylock"
Christie (with dismal pathos). "Oh, Jean! yon's an awfu' voolgar exprassion to come fra' a woman's mooth."
"Could ye no hae said, 'intil his bacon'?" said Lizzie Johnstone, confirming the remonstrance.
Christie. "'Then tak your boend, an' your pund o' flesh, but in cutting o' 't, if thou dost shed one drop of Christian bluid, thou diest!'"
Jean Carnie. "Hech!"
Christie. "'Thy goods are by the laws Veneece con-fis-cate, confiscate!'"
Then, like an artful narrator, she began to wind up the story more rapidly.
"Sae Shylock got to be no sae saucy. 'Pay the boend thrice,' says he, 'and let the puir deevil go.' — 'Here it's,' says Bassanio. — Na! the young judge wadna let him. — 'He has refused it in open coort; no a bawbee for Shylock but just the forfeiture; an' he daur na tak it.' — 'I'm awa',' says he. 'The deivil tak ye a'.' — Na! he wasna to win clear sae; ance they'd gotten the Jew on the hep, they worried him, like good Christians, that's a fact. The judge fand a law that fitted him, for conspiring against the life of a citizen; an' he behooved to give up hoose an' lands, and be a Christian; yon was a soor drap — he tarned no weel, puir auld villain, an' scairtit; an' the lawyers sent ane o' their weary parchments till his hoose, and the puir auld heathen signed awa' his siller, an' Abraham, an' Isaac, an' Jacob, on the heed o' 't. I pity him, an auld, auld man; and his dochter had rin off wi' a Christian lad — they ca' her Jessica, and didn't she steal his very diamond ring that his ain lass gied him when he was young, an' maybe no sae hard-hairted?"
Jean Carnie. "Oh, the jaud! suppose he was a Jew, it was na her business to clean him oot."
A young Fishwife. "Aweel, it was only a Jew body, that's my comfort."
Christie. "Ye speak as a Jew was na a man; has not a Jew eyes, if ye please?"
Lizzy Johnstone. "Ay, has he! — and the awfuest lang neb atween 'em."
Christie. "Has not a Jew affections, paassions, organs?"
Jean. "Na! Christie; thir lads comes fr' Italy!"
Christie. "If you prick him, does he not bleed? if you tickle him, does na he lauch?"
A young Fishwife (pertly). "I never kittlet a Jew, for my pairt — sae I'll no can tell ye."
Christie. "If you poison him, does he not die? and if you wrang him" (with fury) "shall he not revenge?"
Lizzie Johnstone. "Oh! but ye're a fearsome lass."
Christie. "Wha'll give me a sang for my bonny yarn?"
Lord Ipsden, who had been an unobserved auditor of the latter part of the tale, here inquired whether she had brought her book.
"Here's my music-book," said Jean, roughly tapping her head.
"And here's mines," said Christie, birdly, touching her bosom.
"Richard," said she, thoughtfully, "I wish ye may no hae been getting in voolgar company. Div ye think we hae minds like rinning water?"
Flucker (avec malice). "And tongues like the mill-clack abune it? Because if ye think sae, captain — ye're no far wrang!"
Christie. "Na! we hae na muckle gowd maybe; but our minds are gowden vessels."
Jean. "Aha! lad."
Christie. "They are not saxpenny sieves, to let music an' meter through, and leave us none the wiser or better. Dinna gang in low voolgar company, or you a lost laddy."
Ipsden. "Vulgar, again! everybody has a different sense for that word, I think. What is vulgar?"
Christie. "Voolgar folk sit on an chair, ane, twa, whiles three hours, eatin' an' abune drinkin', as still as hoegs, or gruntin' puir every-day clashes, goessip, rubbich; when ye are aside them, ye might as weel be aside a cuddy; they canna gie ye a sang, they canna gie ye a story, they canna think ye a thoucht, to save their useless lives; that's voolgar folk."
She sings. "A caaller herrin'!"
Jean. "A caaller herrin'!"
"Come buy my bonny caaller herrin', Six a penny caaller from the sea," etc.
The music chimed in, and the moment the song was done, without pause, or anything to separate or chill the succession of the arts, the fiddles diverged with a gallant plunge into "The Dusty Miller." The dancers found their feet by an instinct as rapid, and a rattling reel shook the floor like thunder. Jean Carnie assumed the privilege of a bride, and seized his lordship; Christie, who had a mind to dance with him too, took Flucker captive, and these four were one reel! There were seven others.
The principle of reel dancing is articulation; the foot strikes the ground for every accented note (and, by the by, it is their weakness of accent which makes all English reel and hornpipe players such failures).
And in the best steps of all, which it has in common with the hornpipe, such as the quick "heel and toe," "the sailor's fling," and the "double shuffle," the foot strikes the ground for every single note of the instrument.
All good dancing is beautiful.
But this articulate dancing, compared with the loose, lawless diffluence of motion that goes by that name, gives me (I must confess it) as much more pleasure as articulate singing is superior to tunes played on the voice by a young lady:
Or the clean playing of my mother to the piano-forte splashing of my daughter; though the latter does attack the instrument as a washerwoman her soapsuds, and the former works like a lady.
Or skating to sliding:
Or English verse to dactyls in English:
Or painting to daubing:
Or preserved strawberries to strawberry jam.
What says Goldsmith of the two styles? "They swam, sprawled, frisked, and languished; but Olivia's foot was as pat to the music as its echo." — Vicar of Wakefield.
Newhaven dancing aims also at fun; laughter mingles with agility; grotesque yet graceful gestures are flung in, and little inspiring cries flung out.
His lordship soon entered into the spirit of it. Deep in the mystery of the hornpipe, he danced one or two steps Jean and Christie had never seen, but their eyes were instantly on his feet, and they caught in a minute and executed these same steps.
To see Christie Johnstone do the double-shuffle with her arms so saucily akimbo, and her quick elastic foot at an angle of forty-five, was a treat.
The dance became inspiriting, inspiring, intoxicating; and, when the fiddles at last left off, the feet went on another seven bars by the enthusiastic impulse.
And so, alternately spinning yarns, singing songs, dancing, and making fun, and mingling something of heart and brain in all, these benighted creatures made themselves happy instead of peevish, and with a day of stout, vigorous, healthy pleasure, refreshed, indemnified, and warmed themselves for many a day of toil.
Such were the two picnics of Inch Coombe, and these rival cliques, agreeing in nothing else, would have agreed in this: each, if allowed (but we won't allow either) to judge the other, would have pronounced the same verdict:
"Ils ne savent pas vivre ces gens-l'a."