Open main menu

Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 134.djvu/311

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
305
MISS MARY CARPENTER.

dle-aged man, with a bit of black cloth round his hat. But why should one recall these moments of extreme human misery? If it was necessary that Lady Sylvia should drink this bitter draught, if it was necessary that she should have pointed out to her something of what real and definite sorrows and agonies have to be borne in life, why should these things be put before any one else? The case of Lady Sylvia, as every woman must perceive, was quite exceptional. Is it for a moment to be admitted that there could be in England any other woman — or, let us say, any small number of other women — who, being far too fortunately circumstanced, must needs construct for themselves wholly imaginary grievances and purely monomaniacal wrongs, to the distress equally of themselves and their friends? The present writer, at all events, shrinks from the responsibility of putting forward any such allegation. He never heard of any such women. Lady Sylvia was Lady Sylvia; and if she was exceptionally foolish, she was undergoing exceptional punishment.

Indeed she was crying very bitterly, in a stealthy way, as the great ship on which we stood began to move slowly and majestically down the river. The small and noisy tender had steamed back to the wharf, its occupants giving us many a farewell cheer so long as we were within earshot. And now we glided on through a thick and thundery haze that gave a red and lurid tinge to the coast we were leaving. There was a talk about dinner; but surely we were to be allowed time to bid good-bye to England? Farewell — farewell! The words were secretly uttered by many an aching heart.

It was far from being a joyful feast, that dinner; though Von Rosen talked a great deal, and was loud in his praises of everything — of the quick, diligent service and pleasant demeanor of the stewards, of the quality of the hock, and the profusion of the carte. The vehement young man had been all over the ship; and seemed to know half the people on board already.

"Oh, the captain!" said he. "He is a famous fellow — a fine fellow — his name is Thompson. And the purser, too, Evans — he is a capital fellow — but he is in twenty places at once. Oh, do you know, Lady Sylvia, what the officers call their servant who waits on them?"

Lady Sylvia only looked her inquiry: the pale, beautiful face was dazed with grief.

"Mosquito! — I suppose because he plagues them. And you can have cold baths — salt water — every morning. And there will be a concert in a few evenings — for the Liverpool Seaman's Home — Bell, you will sing for the concert?"

And so the young man rattled on, doing his best to keep the women-folk from thinking of the homes they were leaving behind. But how could they help thinking, when we got up on deck after dinner, and stood in the gathering dusk? England had gone away from us altogether. There was nothing around us but the rushing water — leaden-hued — with no trace of phosphorescent fire in it; and the skies overhead were dismal enough. We stayed on deck late that night, talking to each other — about everything except England.




From The Spectator.

MISS MARY CARPENTER.

In Harriet Martineau's very vivid autobiography we receive an impression which is no doubt very much, and very naturally, in advance of the truth, of the effect produced by her writings on the legislative achievements of her day. Last week we had to record the loss of one whose life, though it had little influence on general politics, unquestionably gave rise to a far larger amount of definite and beneficent legislation of a particular kind than Miss Martineau, or, indeed, any other individual, however rich in personal gifts, could possibly have produced in that general political region in which the party-battles of political life are necessarily fought and won. To Miss Carpenter, more than to any one individual, — more in many respects even than to the late recorder of Birmingham, Mr. M. D. Hill himself, — far more certainly than to any other woman or all the other women of her day put together, is due that great series of moral and political efforts which has provided for children without homes, or with what are worse than no homes, homes of vice and crime, the best substitute for home life and for the education which every good home gives, the education of the affections, which can in the nature of things be provided. No one knew so well as Miss Carpenter that the organization and legislation for which she was in so large a degree responsible, consisted in providing "a very poor second-best for children who had no
LIVING AGE.VOL. XIX.956