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Why Wives and Daughters should stay at Home.
“ astonied" like Daniel, though if they are garçons or kellner, not "for the space of one hour," no foreign waiter could afford to lose so much time. After staring a minute or so the said garçons and kellner answer in very fair English. The same farce is repeated by the daughters at every stage of the journey with the same results ; and so their French and German turns out to be like that of the Irishman who thought he was master of French, because he could utter“ parlez vous Français ; ” and when the answer was “ Oui, Monsieur,” he went on, “ Then will
lind me the loan of a gridiron.” As for the unhappy father of a family himself, who three or four times a day assists at the burial of the French of the household,-lucky man if when his boys come home from Eton, he does not find them as ignorant of Horace and Xenophon,--as for this woful man, we are bound to say that he often cuts a better figure abroad than the rest of his following. He sometimes knows a little French. He can wade through a few plain phrases in that tongue, though he cannot swim. Sometimes too he is not quite at sea in German; and though he makes sad blunders, still with all his floundering, putting his foot in it, as the saying is, at every step he makes abroad,—though he orders “ jambes de mouton” for his dinner, utterly ignoring "gigots,”—still we say he is often a good fellow and good company; and so it is that we mean to take him with us on his foreign travels, and are ungallant enough to leave his wife and daughters at home. They will we know be ready to scratch out our eyes; but our comfort is that they do not know us, that they will be much happier down in Devonshire at pleasant Ilfracombe, or at Weymouth with its many bills besides that enormous Bill of Portland, or Eastbourne which is so healthy that none of the residents ever die either of marsh feverorscarlatina, though such accidents sometimes happen to “visitors," or Scarborough where like Dieppe you bathe before all the world, but unlike Dieppe you must do so in the condition of Adam and Eve in Paradise, Scarborough where a man must bathe nude, and yet dare not swim out lest he should be carried out by the tide; Scarborough, ever haunted by excursionists who often sleep in bathing-machines, and where if you are going to have an early dip on Monday morning, you will probably find an excursionist man and his wife, or perhaps two wandering bachelors, sound asleep in your machine. To each and all of these charming places our friend's family are heartily welcome, but as for him we mean to take him with us and show him foreign parts.
To do him justice he is at first rather unwilling to trust himself with us. How can he a man of middle age leave wife and children at the dull sea-side ? What will the Smiths say who
you can. Did
live over the way? Smith never leaves his wife; why should he? Then who will look after the children, take care that they do not get into scrapes, see that the boys bathe before breakfast, and do not eat more than forty unripe pears every day, who will save them if they fall overboard out fishing ? Our answer is, Let Smith be good enough to mind his own business. No doubt he has good reasons for never leaving his wife, as good perhaps as you have for leaving yours just this once. We have heard that Smith when younger was a sad dog, kept late hours, was always at his club, had two latch-keys for he was always telling Mrs. Smith that he kept the spare one to lend it to a friend in case he lost his own; often stayed at the Great Saurian Society till three o'clock in the morning; was an original member of “ The Anthropomorphic,” which only opens at one o'clock in the morning, one of their great days being one A.M. on Monday morning. All which fables the unhappy Mrs. Smith believed till her eyes were opened. Now Smith never leaves her. So much for Smith. As for the children, it is no insult
that your wife can look after them much better than
you ever see a cock looking after his wife's chickens ? No, nor ever will. Small care takes a tom-cat for his offspring, and yet the world rolls on from day to day, and children, chickens, and kittens, all grow up together under their mother's eye. As for saving them when they fall overboard, we do not believe you can swim, and as for jumping overboard we know good swimmers who would think twice before doing such a rash, cold blooded thing. Certain it is, we would rather trust a mother who could not swim to jump overboard after her children, than a father who could. So let us have no nonsense; you will be better for leaving them, and they will do very well without you; come along, præbe te hominem, don't be ever dangling at your wife's apron-string. And so our friend is parted from house and home, and stands ready to go with us whithersoever we please.
We said we would give him a complete change, and so we will. We don't know whether he is a good sailor. He says he is, but seeing is believing, and there are many good sailors on the sunny side of Pall-Mall, or in bonnie Princes' Street, whose heart and head fail them ere they reach the Nore, or are well past the Bass. He can ride—in Rotten-Row; he can swim-at Brill's bath at Brighton, or Portobello. So we will take him, as the summer is hot, and he wants cooling after a town-life, to the North. We would take him to Denmark, and so on to Norway, show him Hamburg, that most dissolute of cities, where Smith once was; Kiel that key of the Baltic for which Prussia is making a lock, or a deadlock in Sleswig; Copenhagen that Why we cannot go to Denmark and Norway. 291 city of palaces, the Queen of the Sound, the centre of so much literary life and such warm honest hearts; Christiania that would be a capital; Bergen reeking with tar, where the air is full of "ancient and fish-like smells,” and where each hardy fisherman, who clutches your hand in his iron gripe, is sure to drop it covered with fish-scales ; Drontheim with its noble cathedral,- yes ! Norway, with all its firths and fells, we would have shown him up to Hammerfest and the North Cape. He says he can throw a fly. He should have had a chance though it is late in the year; still there is an after-season in Norway; and then too he might have gone up on the Fjeld after rein-deer, and crept along on his belly like the accursed serpent, over the snow and stones for a weary while, and slept like a cony in holes and crannies of the rocks, and had glorious fun, and borne great cold and hunger for hours and days, and at last seen the deer; and just as “we” were raising our breech-loader to bring down a stag, up our friend would have started and scared away the deer; and there as we two were alone in the fell with only an uncouth Norse Bonde for our guide, grim thoughts that killing a man at such provocation was no murder, would have crossed our minds, and we should hardly have withheld ourselves from discharging that ball through his stupid carcase; but we would have repented when we thought of his wife and children down at the sea-side, and reflected that after all the guide would have been witness against us; and as to conceal the dark deed of vengeance, it would be necessary to slay the guide too, the guiltless with the guilty, our hand would have been stayed, and we would have contented ourselves with sending him down from the Fjeld with the guide, and so stalked our game alone till nightfall, and yet never again seen the noble quarry.
All this he should have seen, and why not? Because between us and Copenhagen lies that ravaging German host, whose heart is set on robbing the King of Denmark of his own, and because we will not go to Denmark at all unless we can go by Hamburg, Kiel, and the Danish Islands, sailing over that lovely summer sea between chalk cliffs and tall beechen groves. We will not go thither at all, if we have to sail round the Skaw. No, we shake our clenched fists with a malison on the king and kaiser who have revived a hideous German Faustrecht in this our nineteenth century, and pass by on the other side.
And yet we will take him North after all. He shall go to Iceland. “To Iceland,” says the easy-going man; “why should I go to Iceland, and how can I go to Iceland ? I don't know the way." Why you should go to Iceland will be best answered when you come back full of the wonders of that island. Reserve your reasons, and utter them with your raptures on your return. For the rest let me remark that so long as you are there
you will never see a newspaper, never have a letter, and scarcely see bread. Think of that. No news, either public or private, and no indigestion, for that is the meaning of bakers' bread. If your shares fall in the city you will not care, for you will not know it; equally ignorant will you be and equally heedless of the death of your best friend. In Iceland you will realize and in Iceland alone the truth of the line
“ Where ignorance is bliss,” etc., and when with this is coupled want of bread, and therefore of new bread, and therefore of indigestion, you will see at once that Iceland is the true place for such a careworn, share-ridden, dyspeptic fellow as yourself. Cease therefore to ask, “Why should I go to Iceland ?” “How shall I go ?” is a wiser question. Five or six times in the year a steamer leaves Copenhagen for Iceland, calling at Grangemouth by the way. As you are no true Scot, you don't know where Grangemouth is. Lucky for you that you are not twenty years younger. If you were you would probably be competitively examined once a week for several years. In these examinations, Geography of the British Isles fills deservedly the first place, and any man who cannot write a good clear hand, as clear as ours for instance, does not know the latitude and longitude of Aberdeen, cannot solve satisfactorily that awful sum in Rule of Three known to the students of Walkingame in days of yore as “Pigs of Lead,” and though last not least, cannot fill in the place of Grangemouth in a blank skeleton map--is "plucked,” or “ spun,” or fails to pass without hope of mercy. But out of compassion, we will tell you that Grangemouth is a thriving town in Stirlingshire, on the Firth of Forth, close to the Carron Iron-Works, and at the mouth of the Forth and Clyde Canal. If after this explanation you are not enlightened as to your geographical darkness, you must go to Mr. “Wiseass,” or some other professor in that branch of learning, from us you shall learn nothing more.
Well to make a long story short, behold my friend and me at Euston Square, booked by the limited mail to Edinburgh, on what ought to be a mild summer night in July, but which as the year is supposed to be past we may abuse as one of the greatest impostures ever palmed off on the British public under the pretence of summer. On the platform lies our baggage, tents, packsaddles, and boxes, to hang on either side of a pony's back, equally weighted, for besides the want of bread so satisfactorily explained above, there are no roads or carriages in Iceland, and all travelling is there performed on horseback.
Food too of different kinds you must take with you, guns and rods, the means of getting food as well, for as the island is a good deal bigger than Ireland, is in a state of nature, and nature bountiful though she may be in other lands, only finds her guests in Iceland in hot and cold water, the said guests must shift for themselves in divers ways, and so have renewed opportunities of finding that change of scene which we are anxious to provide for our friend.
Now the train is off, and we get down to "Auld Reekie” without much to attract attention, except the wonderful selfishness of a well-known London banker, who snugly seated in a warm corner of the carriage, with his back to the engine, insists on having both windows open on this bitter night, when as we have said suinmer had set in with its usual severity. On the seat opposite to him sits a delicate lady, and it is with some difficulty, and not without one or two pointed observations, that we actually prevail on this son of Plutus to allow one window to be closed. Once too in the night, when all slept, he stealthily lets down the pane, but he was foiled by the sensitiveness of our friend who wakes up at the draught and indignantly draws up the window, while our banker pretends the sleep of innocence. In Edinburgh we have of course a warm welcome from our friends, buy ourselves Mackintoshes and long sea-boots, and so go on to Grangemouth where we find the good ship“ Arcturus” awaiting us.
It always blows in Edinburgh. It has blown there ever since the boyhood of Sydney Smith, and we believe it always will blow there. What would be a mighty rushing wind elsewhere is but a gentle breeze under the Calton Hill. The wind too is generally Kingsley's “ wind of God” from the east “airt.” It blows north-east as we reach Edinburgh and so it blows as we depart. The trees in the Princes Street Gardens wave to and fro a fitful farewell to us as we glide by in the train. In Edinburgh we think nothing of the wind. At Grangemouth we look about us and see the little harbour fretted with pockmarks by the bitter blast, while far away beyond the narrow ribbon, woven out of the waters of the Grange Burn, the Carron, and the Canal, which winds towards the Forth, we see the Firth angry and gurly with the gusts which smite it on the face. This will be no cheerful night beyond the Isle of May, but the brave Captain Andresen has his steam up, and as the sun sets we steam softly down to the Firth. This way of going to sea out of a tiny river is most insidious. It is something like sea-bathing, only there you can draw back your foot, here you cannot. Once off you must stand by the ship so long as she stands by you. First you crawl along by help of