Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

never forgotten the devastating troops of Mon- their old-fashioned office, and it was beliered the trose, were occupied by the local rank and fash- editor rather liked their intricacies, as they afion of two hundred years ago. Since then, they forded no encouragement to the visits of strangers. have experienced the usual gradations of inhat Whether owing to that cause or not, the office itants, from anxious business down to reckless was rarely visited; but to one of the opposite poverty. As the Voults is a kind of thorough- neighbours at least it was an object of ceaseless fare between two principal streets, some rem interest and admiration, and that was James nants of the former are still observable; but so Wotherspoon. James was deservedly looked up late as the commencement of the present centu- to by the humble circle of his acquaintances, on ry, it was one of the busiest and most important account of superior attainments in the two great localities in the burgh. At that time, which topics of their mental world - politics and thehappens to be the period of our story, the lower ology: none could give a fuller account of the flats in some of the cellars were appropriated to Sunday's sermon, or more clearly interpret a shops and offices, whilst the upper afforded hab- newspaper paragraph: he was acquainted with itations to operatives of every description, in- every popular work on divinity that had been cluding the handloom weavers of linen cloth, published north of the Tweed for the last two which branch of industry was then new among centuries; could estimate the abilities and orthe manufactures of Dundee.

thodoxy of every preacher between Tay and Don, The men of the loom in that neighbourhood and knew the political bias of all the notables of were an industrious, intelligent class, though his time, from Pitt to the author of the · Rights reckoned somewhat curious, and inclined to of Man.' Nor was his knowledge of those matgossip; but there was no better specimen of ters so surprising as it appeared to his simple these united characteristics in the order to which companions, considering that the only hours of he belonged than James Wotherspoon the wid his waking existence which he spent off the loom ower, who, with his only son and loom, abode were devoted to what he called “studying the for more than forty years in an attic room of divines,” on which earnest pursuit a walk of ten Serymgeour's Land, opposi'e the Hostel. Both miles to borrow an unread volume, or bear these buildings are long ago numbered among a celebrated preacher, was in his esteem as the things that have been, but they were con- nothing; and the only coin he could or would spicuous at the period of which we speak. The spare, besides the purchase of life's daily necesformer was a tall timber house of five stories, saries, was espended in subscribing for the with an outside stair and balcony, said to have Saturday Express, which he read every week, been erected by a branch of the once powerful from the title to the last advertisement, at the fımily of Serymgeour before the Reformation, but rate of so many columns per day, to the great in its last days inhabited by the poorer class. of edification of his son and enlightenment of his artisans; and the latter a lower but larger and neighbours, most of whom were content to remore solid stone fabric, traditionally reported to ceive the news of the day second-hand, and have served the different purposes of a chapter- with explanatory notes by either of the pair. house, a mansion of the Lindsay family, and an A closely-resembling pair they were — that inn kept by a Flemish refugee, when there was father and son ; and the Voults, in general, no other inn in Scotland.

graphically expressed their sense of the only From the last-mentioned circumstance was visible distinction by styling the one Big, and derived the name which it retained through the other Wee Jamie, as their Christian Dames many a change of service, till at length, when happened to be the same. Big Jamie was forty, the first French Revolution gave the news-read- and Wee Jamie was fourteen; but in size alone ing world an impetus such as it never knew be- they were dissimilar: both were thin, muscular, fore, nor ever wanted since, the proprietor of a and somewhat withered, with grave but curious weekly paper, in high repute among local politi- faces, on which hard work, harder thought, and cians, found more than sufficient accommodation spare living, appeared legibly written. for his establishment in the Hostel. A queer church each sat with the same reverent though old place it was, with narrow windows, wain- watchful attention; in the streets each had the scotted rooms, and supernumerary doors in same cautious but rapid walk; and in the attic, every corner, leading to winding passages and where the one plied the shuttle, and the other stairs, as if modes of egress and entrance had wound the pirns or bobbins which supplied the been the only study of the builders; but some wool, each wrought with the same air of deterof them were permanently locked up, and some mined and tireless industry. In modes of exforgotten through the disuse of years. The pression, shakings of bead, and elevation of people engaged about the · Saturday Express' brows, the father and son were complete imivere thorou ghly acquainted with the ways of tations of each other. The boy was a model

In

of the man even in the matters of theology and waylıid, and catechised by the junior partner polities; and a more regular, praise worthy, but touching the possibilities of success in case such singular pair could not be found among the pro an enterprise were attempted, at some indefinite verbially well-instructed artisans of their coun- time; and his replies being satisfactory, the father try. But there was one yearning which troub- and son rose from their loom at an unusually led the quiet of the Wotherspoons' days, like early hour on Saturday, equipped themselves as the repinings of Russelas in the Happy Valley. much in Sunday fashion as they considered ad

The Saturday Express was their oracle -- it was visable on a week-lay, and proceeded to put a Whig, and so were the two Jamies; they had their design into execution. read it with faith and understanding, week after The Hostel was their goal; but by way of week, from the first number, but they had never avoiding observation, and giving their courage seen the interior of the printing office. " It's time to rise, they trotted the whole length of the the temple o' science!" old Wotherspoon would Voults and sundry adjoining streets, till at last, exclaim, as he cast an adoring look from the making a final sweep, they entered the mystic attic window on the smoking chimney of the precincts in the train of a running newsman. Hostel — " the temple o' science, an’I may say Keeping close behind him, the Jamies passed the high place of knowledge, from whence its through a long wide gallery a couple of empty glorious light is dispersed on all the nation. No rooms, and a light of stairs with a door at the but that there's mony mair of sic fortresses built top, which admitted them to a large dusty apartagain' ignorance in Glasgow and Edinburgh, ment, where the broad and now wet sheets lay ne'er speakin' o' Lun’on an' the distant capitals in piles, beside which several men and boys o' Europe; but it fears me there's few papers were at work, some folding, others putting on filled wi' truth an' sincerity like the Saturday the covers, a pair of clerks were writing at a Express; an' to think that that mighty engine table in the centre, an:) a red-faced gentleman, the Press is doin' its work for unborn genera- loudly exhorting to haste, was pacing up and tions at the tither side o' the Voults, an’us ne'er down when they made their appearance. saw the powers o' printin’in actual operation !” It was near the hour for issuing the paper,

" Mr. Moodie's gay ill-willie to let in stran- and all engaged on the Saturday Express were gers,” responded his son to one of these outbursts. that day unusually hurried : the arrangements • Sie folks shouldna be in places o power an' of newspaper offices were not then so perfect as trust ; but Hirslin' Jock, the deevil, telt me, in at present; some delay had occurred in the the speerit o' confidence, for clearing up to him transmission of intelligence; the compositors had how his majesty George III. had gaen clean wud, blundered beyond correction in the leading arthat his temper's amazingly molified sin the plun-ticle; and Mr. Moodie, his official duties done, derin' o' Loretto; and we might hae a chance to but still the temper evoked by these trials, see the work in a' its glory, if we wud jist step turned his eye on the elder Wotherspoon as he in some Saturday forenoon an' comport oursels stood wondering at the scene, and demanded discreetly."

“What's your business? ” “ We'll try it, Jamie; we'll try it,” said his “My son an' me,” said Jamie, bowing reverfather with an emphasis that indicated resolution. ently in the presence of literature, but still true " Mr. Moodie can do nae waur than refuse." to his resolution, “jist cam in to see the glorious

It may be requisite to remark that Mr. Moodie mystery o' printin'.” was the gentleman in command at the Hostel, " There's no time to let you see it now,” interwhose partiality for the absence of visitors has rupted the editor. “ The hour of publication been already noted; but after a long and minute is almost rast, and we are trying to get out a discussion of the information imparted by Hirs- supplement.” ling Jock — such being the Voult's sobriquet of a “Weel, I'm sorry," responded Wotherspoon. boy in the establishment - it was at length ar “I hae been'a subscriber an' constant reader for ranged between the greater and smaller Jamie a year and three-quarters." that a bold attempt to see “the dispenser of Ah, indeed !” said Mr. Moodie, manifestly knowledge,” as the former styled the press, softening. “Well, just have the goodness to reshould be made on the following Saturday. turn in an hour or two, and you'll see it quite

It was Wednesday when they came to this comfortably. Good-morning, sir." high resolve, and many a determined but anx Good-morning, and mony thanks,” said Jaious look was cast towards the Hostel from that mie, stepping, as he believed, to the door of till the appointed day: none of their neighbors entrance, which closed behind him and his son were informed of the project — the Wotber- the next moment with a bang; and they hurried spoons were too prudent for that, as they knew down the steps, determined to wait the leisure that failure was possible; but Jock had been l of the press in some of the rooms below. But

us.

ye

both thought the staircase wonderfully darker “ Jamie, dear, I doot there's nae earthly help for than when they ascended.

Do ken whar we are ?" “ I’ts lang to get doon ; an' guid guide ‘us, “In the heart o' the auld monk's voults, there's nae room here,” said the boy, as they faither,” said Jamie.“ Listen, yon's the street reached the last step, and found themselves at above us;” and the pair could now hear a rumbthe entrance of a narrow and dingy passage. ling sound overhead, like broken and distant

“I doubt we're aff the gaet. They say the thunder. auld place is fu' o' holes and bores. But we'll “Well, if it's the Lord's wull, there will be no gang back to yon ill-grained craytor till the a way of escape for us : let us pray to him," said time's up. There's surely some door to be got ?” | the father. And scarcely had he uttered this said his father.

pious sentiment, when a faint gleam of light apWith this comfortable hope they entered the peared in the distance, but only sufficient to passage. It was long and dimly lighted by give a dim idea of the vast extent around them. small slit-like windows near the roof, which were “ There must be some outlet, some chink thickly covered with cobwebs; and, as old Woth- there," cried Wotherspoon ; and his son uttered erspoon remarked, “ nane of the place was owre a cry of joy, which became dreadful in its echoes. clean.” But it grew darker towards the end ; " Lord grant we may win till't,” continued the and pressing forward with a kind of desperate old man, and both pressed on. Feeble as the fear, both felt, for they could not see, that their light was - in fact the merest glimmer- it further progress was opposed by a strong and served as a sort of beacon for their sight, now in fast shut door. The father seized the handle, some degree accustomed to the darkness; but and attempted to turn it with all his strength; suddenly Jamie felt his father plunge forward, but it would not move.

"Deil a bit o' us can and at the same moment grapple at him with get out,” said he, planting his feet more firmly on both his arms.

The weight dragged him down, the floor, to give greater force to his second ef- and the boy felt himself literally stretched on the fort; but a cry of terror and amazement burst ground, the extremities of his body resting on at once from father and son as the boards be- firm earth, and the middle portion grasped by neath them suddenly gave way, and both were the arins of his father over a deep circular precipitated fathoms deep into the darkness be- chasm, in which the old man hung suspended. low. Fortunately, the surface they reached " It's a well, Jamie !” cried the old man, tlingwas damp earth, and the boy’s fall was broken ing out his feet on all sides, in search of some by alighting on his father's breast.

resting-place, no matter how small; but in vain. • Guid be praised, there's nane o' yer banes The mouth of the pit through which he had broken!” was the first exclamation of poor fallen was evidently covered with a large flag, Wotherspoon, as his son, recovering from the having an orifice of something less than three first shock, scrambled up. “But whar in a' the feet in diameter in the middle. This the boy worl' are we?”

ascertained with his hands, which were still free; It was a most natural inquiry under the cir- and a dripping sound far below, as of dust cumstances. They were in utter darkness; but shaken down by their exertions, falling in deep by that keen perception which necessity some water, proved too plainly that Wotherspoon's times calls forth in extraordinary situations, they first idea was correct, and that he hung sussoon discovered that the dull damp atmosphere pended over a deep old well. which surrounded them was that of a wide and "If I let you go, Jamie, do you think you silent cavern or cellar, for whose bounds they could fin' your ain way to the light, lad ? Do sought in vain. Hand in hand the father and you see it still ?” son groped and stumbled on, in liopes of meeting The boy replied with a shout of such wild and with either door or steps; but nothing could they horror-stricken entreaty for his father to hold on, reach but the damp earthen floor, with here and that the vaults replied as if with a hundred there a loose stone, a fragment of crumbling voices. wood, varied with old bottles and pieces of * Weel, Jamie," said the father, when the broken pottery. All fear of Mr. Moodie and fearful sounds died away, “I canna hand lang; his subordinates was by this time swallowed up but the Lord might help us yet;" and both by greater terror. They raised their voices, earnestly invoked that Providence on which the and called for help with all their might; but the last hope of human nature hangs under all forms hollow and prolonged echoes that followed their of faith and fortune. shouts had something in them so overpower "I see whar the light comes fra: it's in at a ingly fearful that they were soon terrified into chink aboon a great stone pillar just beside us," silence.

cried Jamie, interrupting a petition ; " an' here's “Lord have mercy on us!” said his father. a hole in it you could run a stick up just at my

very fingers. Losh! but it's like the speaker's esteem in which the Wotherspoons were held, pipe in the wall o' Ramsay's Land."

was evinced by the eagerness of their neighbours “Squeal up it Jamie — squeal up it!” vocife- for their assistance. But the most efficient help rated his father; and with an exhortation to was that of the pressman already mentioned, keep a guid grip, the boy writhed himself round who pointed out the door by which the pair had so as to reach the orifice, and bawled with all his made their exit. The staircase and passage bestrength, “ Ilelp! help! my faither's droonin’!” yond were speedily explored, and the light of

“ What's that ?" cried the editor's clerk, who some dozen lamps and torches cast on a wide still remained in the business room with a couple trap-door, which still yawned above a broken of pressmen, winding up the last of the week's and long disused ladder. More certain means of work, and rather anxious to get finished, as descent were soon procured, and a considerable again and again from under his desk came a party went down into what was supposed to be shrill whistling cry of “ Help! help! my faither's an old wine cellar, divided from the great vaults droonin!”

by old partition walls, which in many places had " It maun be the deil,” said the oldest of the fallen away, leaving what seemed a boundless men, making a stride towards the door. The extent of “darkness visible.” The lights reachclerk sprung to his feet and seized the desk, ed Jamie's eye first, and the shouts of him and which was fortunately movable; the other man his father guided the searchers to where the forlent his assistance; but the voice still sounded mer lay literally across the mouth of an ancient on, and the clerk saw the paper, which happen- draw-well, supposed to be as old as the Hostel ed to be loose on the wall, vibrate with the itself, and more than a hundred feet in depth; sound. He tore it off in an instant, and dis whilst the latter, with his arms tightly clasped covered plainly the small circular opening of a round his son, hung suspended within a few feet speaking-tube in the lath and plaster, from which of the water, which was afterwards found to octhe cry proceeded.

cupy more than half its depth, having accumu" That weaver and his son have n't come lated there, it was supposed, for centuries. back yet,” said the clerk, as an indefinite idea By means of ropes and willing hands, the of the unused doors and the places to which pair were extricated from their perilous situathey might lead crossed him.

tion, and Jamie the younger pointed out the “No yet?” said the elder pressman, letting speaking-tube in the pillar, which had been go the handle of the door. “ Do ye ken, sir,' the means of their deliverance. Why its openhe continued, pointing to one situated almost be- ing was situated so near the ground, or what bind it, “ whar that leads ? As I'm a leevin' communications it was originally intended to man they went out of it; but Mr. Moodie was convey, were mysteries which employed the sae awfu', I ne'er mintit to speak.”

speculations and surmises of the whole Voults “ Then God help them, they have got into for some time; but the constructors had left the old cellar, or maybe the vaults!" said the no record, and the most ingenious conjectures clerk; "and how will we find them ? Run and were hazarded regarding the convenient proxtell Mr. Moodie, or the police. Hollo! where imity of the well to the wine barrels in the days are you," he shouted down the tube.

of the good Fleming, from whose occupation the Never did a sound, of all the news they had Hostel received its name : yet a complete soluheard in the course of their mortal exi tince tion was never obtained. impart such joy to the hearts of the two Jamies By special command of the proprietor, that as that brief inquiry. The father uttered a pi- unlucky door in the printing-office was finally ous thanksgiving, and the son replied, “ Ilingin' nailed up; and after the tale of the Wotherowre a well, and near the droonin', in the heart spoons' mischances became public, Mr. Moodie, o'the auld monks' voults!"

to his entire satisfaction, was relieved of the “ Hold on, then, as long as you can,” respond- visits of the curious. It was some days before ed the clerk, "for there's help coming." James Wotherspoon and his son recovered from

Jamie uttered an earnest exhortation to all the exhaustion and injury consequent on that sorts of hurry, but none replied; the clerk had Saturday's adventure, but neither ever again gone after his two assistants to alarm the neigh- returned to the temple of science.” It was bourhood. In a short time the more public even remarked in afterlife that both entertained parts of the Hostel were filled with the sur an unaccountable horror of printing-offices in rounding population, some with lights, some with general; and when such matters were mentionladders, and others with various weapons to ed, the father was wont to observe, with a long break through walls and doors. The news had and deep inspiration, “ The press ! ou ay, it's a spread like wildfire “ that Big and Wee Jamie mighty engine o'knowledge; but we had a merwere smotherin' in the Voults;" and the general | cifu' escape.” — Chambers' Edinburgh Journal.

THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF OLIVER GOLDSMITH.

The Life and Allventures of Oliver Goli-, has been aimed at (and, we think, successfully:)

smith. A Biography: in Four Books. for history, by Thierry, and Michelet, and LaBy John FORSTER, author of " Lives of martine, and in our country by Carlyle : to Statesmen of the Commonwealth." raise up a view of past transactions, and infuse

into the dry bones of chartularies and the cataCompelled to peruse numerous biographies logue of defunct proceedings a true vitality: to ancompiled rather than written, it has often been imate with the powers of the poet and the dramthe subject of cur hope that some writer with atist the mere lifeless facts collected by what is original powers, a lively fancy, and above all termed history; to adhere, with a glowing fancy a dramatic genius, might be induced to cultivate and inspired imagination, to the cold circumthis branch of literature. We read the Lives, scription of the rigid fossils that remain to tell as they are termerl, of men, and retain only of the past: and to extract truth from ashes, remembrances of battles and treaties, negotia- and pictures from relies, is a triumph of genius tions or intrigues; if literary men, of the suc- only hoped for in modern times. To do this for cess of their publications, their bargains with biography has been felt to be more parti: ularly booksellers, and their introduction to patrons. desirable. Such an exposition of individual buIndeed, it has been a stereotyped phrase from manity would be more interesting, perhaps more Rowe downwards, that there is nothing to tell of serviceable, than of concrete humanity. literary men beyond their place of birth, list of Every writer of judgment, every mind of publications, and time of death. Matters, prob- taste, and every lover of truth, has continually ably for this reason, made the subject of most present to him the inexorable nature of time tedious discussions, and swelled into an absurd Ilow little escapes : how fastly into his abyss-like importance. This treatment of literary genius wallet all things are thrown : how everything is of a piece with the conduct awarded to them on withers and receives the taint that is left by his all occasions. To the regular student and com noxious steps. It seems, when contemplated mon sense men of the world, they are a kind of closely, an impossible effort to wring anything in “lusus naturæ,” and how they produce their a perfect state from his ruthless grasp; but the works is as great a mystery as their individual immortal mind struggles with him, and in spite, existence. Indeed, we have heard it said, and preserves something. Art alone wages successthat by some who had a right to rank amongst ful war with him: and Art — potent in literathem, that this mystery was desirable, and that ture as in marble — will still preserve some lineto know their works is sufficient. To some ex aments of the departed great. How dimly, with tent this may be true. If we are only to have how much distortion, with what imperfection, a few isolated actions, or a few doubtful and un mere events are stated, daily experience shows important facts palmed off by glozing phrase- us; and the comparison of any description, with ology, and a loose chronology, as that involved any reality, will tell us how little we can rely on and intricate mass of emotion and thought — the such narrative. Art alone, then, can give a reslife of a man; then, let us take the utterances urrection to the departed, and reproduce the in an author's works as his existence, and leave extended idea that once was a man. It is not the the fleshy frivolities to return to the dust from collecting but the distillation of the facts that which they sprang. But more than this may be gives them force. It is not the mere recombinadone; and more than this the heart as well as tion of them into a coherent appearance that the intellect desires; and we have works in our renders them valuable, but the reuniting the own, and more especially in the French and fragments into a whole, which shall be in acGerman, which contain fair portraits of men. cordance with the few notes that remain of the The impertinence of Boswell has preserved to intricate score that was once a harmony. The us one man with a “ taxidermistical” fidelity un patient investigation, the large acquirements, the equalled; and which, by the aid of other helps, intimate knowledge of the surrounding facts, the probably brings us as near to a truthful judg- capacity to appreciate every allusion, the fancy ment as one human being can have of another. to illustrate, the imagination to combine such To give, however, a whole length portrait of materials, and perhaps, more than all, the skill a life, with all the minuteness of a Mieris, and to express to the general comprehension, in the strength and breadth of a Titian, is a task clear language, the compound image thus raised, almost unattempted. To do for biography what are qualities not likely to frequently meet in

« PoprzedniaDalej »