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either of authority or of reason- or empty frivolity. On her able comfort. In this organ- trivial excursions she would isation of business, the peculiar be accompanied by her young product of the Victorian age, children, which exposed their the sense of responsibility slipped delicate immaturity to cold from the directors as from the at the hours when it should directed: it
not their have been fortified by sleep. concern, so they argued, if The husband and father, no employees were underpaid or longer finding in his home the public cheated; all that the companionship craved by was done was in the name and his brief hours of relaxation, the interests of the shareholders. sought it with better success These, in their turn, passing at one of the gaudy publicback their consciences to the houses, whose lights at the directors, were satisfied to cloak corner of every street attested their vicarious wickedness with the vices and the misfortunes a convenient ignorance.
of the poor. The happy home While the fires of ambition of the British plebeian passed were extinguished in the breasts from a reality to a proverb of the lower, and the voice of and from a proverb to a fable, conscience silenced among the and the fair picture of the past higher, circles of commerce, a gave place to a blur of drunkparticular corruption was re- enness, indolence, and disease. served for the
consumers. The prevailing deterioraThe wives of artisans and tion, which did not overlook labourers had hitherto looked the lowest, fastened greedily to their own industry for the upon the highest ranks of the clothing of themselves and population. The Court, as a their children, as the smaller standard of polite manners, conveniences of the slender had almost ceased to exist. The household had been made in retired life of the venerable Vicmoments of leisure by the toria during her later years left labour of the husband. The the leadership of fashion vacant, new methods of trading cheap- and the landed nobility was too ened everything, and especially impoverished, as well as too clothing, to a price within the proud, to struggle for the vicecompass of the poorest ; but in gerency. The field of so-called doing so it rudely broke the society was left open to any tie which bound the lower adventurer with the effrontery classes to their homes. The to usurp it.
Thus arose an inwife, who had been wont to ner circle of fashion, or, to call pass the evening in the man- it by its contemporary and more ufacture of garments for her appropriate name, of smartness, children, now bought them at based neither upon birth nor some great emporium; and, elegance of manners, nor even emancipated at once from the invariably upon wealth, but necessity of work and
and the rather upon a bold and clever practice of frugality, devoted arrogance, and supported in the evenings to idle gossip the general estimation mainly by brazen advertisement. An education, the social standing, aristocracy of birth
be un- as the monetary rewards, of intelligent, but it has usually authorship increased in equal fixed and sustained a high proportion; but this cause, while
, standard of deportment and, it lowered the standard of taste, within certain limitations, of at once inflamed the cupidity conduct. But a society like and diverted the ambitions of that of London, where the loud- men of letters; and what once est voice was the most eagerly had been a single-minded delistened to, was immediately votion degenerated into a trade, fatal to every canon of propriety pursued rather for its accidental and good taste. In effrontery emoluments than for its inof demeanour, in licence of trinsic charm. The rates of speech, in gaudiness of dress, pay of novelists were quoted by in the very use of paints and the agents like the prices of cosmetics, the English women stock on the Exchange, or the of fashion drifted farther and chances of a horse-race; and he farther from their fathers' mod- who, by economising his genius, est ideal of a lady; till at length might have been a master, there was not wanting the final squandered his stores in profuse scandal of women with honest over-production. With the plereputations studying and imi- thora of books came a surfeit tating, with a too easy fidelity, of commentaries on work which the costumes and allurements juster canons would have left of the most notorious French to the revision of posterity. courtesans.
A cloud of critics, of anthoThe love of letters might have logists, and of log-rollers darkbeen expected to oppose a bar- ened the face of letters, and rier to the all-conquering vul- upon the decline of genius soon garity of the age. It was dif- followed the corruption of taste. fused over every class of society; The last outrage upon the the commonest labourers had language of Shakespeare and acquired a taste for reading: Fielding was a swarm of periTennyson and Hall Caine were odical leaflets concocted of ilthe theme of dissertations in literate novelettes, unmeaning the mining centres of the north statistics, American jests, and and the pulpits of dissenting infantile puzzles: they were chapels. Never had books been consumed in prodigious quantiso abundantly published or so ties by the lower orders, and, widely read; the general aver- by ruining the business of those age of literary merit had never who purveyed sincere if not been so high; but this age of masterly compositions, contribmediocrity passed away without uted more than any other cause having produced a single writer to the debasement and final exof original genius, or who ex- tinction of English letters. celled in the arts of elegant With the proud spirit of composition. With the vast empire sunk into the narrow increase of readers promoted greed of the shareholder; with by the spread of elementary physical force at its ebb, sports
corrupted, and martial spirit but men were wanting within tamed; with domestic business it. Vulgarity, mediocrity, and so organised that it stifled in- cheapness had warped and dividuality and fostered dis- stunted the most generous nahonest miserliness umong trad- tures. The minds of all were ers, and invited the depravity reduced to the same level, the of customers ; with elegant high spirit of empire evapormanners and polite letters a ated, and little interests, with tasteless echo of the half-for- sordid emotions, inspired every gotten past—the British Empire soul. Civilisation had entered upon the twentieth pleted its work in the supprescentury under the gloomiest sion of the individual, and the auspices. To the acuter eyes British, the most virile of barof succeeding generations that barians, the most forward and gloom is heightened by the re- energetic of mankind, were disflection that the mutterings of sipated by their very virtues as the coming earthquake were all the first to experience the dire unheard by contemporaries; results of its consummation. that they prided themselves on The diminutive stature of manthe greatness of their dominion, kind was daily sinking below and hugged the specious per- the old standard ; Britain was fection of their civilisation. Yet indeed peopled by a race of decline was already accom- pigmies, and the puny breed plished and irremediable, and awaited only the onset of the fall was but too surely impend- first crisis to become the woeful ing. The fair city still stood, patient of defeat and ruin. ...
A DAUGHTER OF THE MUHAMMADANS.
A STUDY FROM THE LIFE.
“Swift through the sky the vessel of the Suras
Sails up the fields of ether like an Angel ;
Tenderness, truth and purity and meekness,
Love and devotement.
Proud of the charge, thou voyagest rejoicing ;
- The Curse of Kehama.
THE sunset hour had come in my eyes, dazzling me, and as I passed up the narrow track thus I saw but dimly the figure that skirted the river - bank, that crossed the path in front with a mob of villagers at my of me, heading for the running heels, -old men who had seen water on my right. Silhoumany strange things in the wild etted blackly against the burndays before the coming of the ing disc in the west, it appeared white men, dull peasants who to be the form of a woman, seemed too stolid and stupid to bowed nearly double beneath have ever seen anything at all, the weight of a burden slung and swaggering youngsters, in a cloth across her back-a grown learned in the mysteries burden far too heavy for her of reading and writing, fresh strength. This, alas! is a sight from our schools, and prepared only too common in Asiatic at a moment’s notice to teach lands; for if man must idle, the wisest of the village elders women must work as well as the only proper manner in which weep until at last the time an egg may be sucked. The comes for the long, long sleep, rabble which every Malay vil- under the spear-blades of the lage spews up nowadays when lalang and the love - grass, in one chances to visit it is always some shady nook in the little composed of these elements, - peaceful village burial-ground. the old men, whose wisdom is Therefore I took no special their own, and of its kind deep notice of the figure moving and wide; the middle-aged til- painfully athwart the sun-glare lers of the soil, who have no ahead of me, until my arm was wisdom and desire none; the violently seized by the headman men of the younger generation, who was walking just behind me. whose knowledge is borrowed “ Have
care, Taan," he and is extraordinarily imperfect cried.
“ Have a
It is of its kind.
Mînah and her man. It is the The glaring Eastern sun, sickness that is not good, the sinking to its rest, blazed full evil sickness. Go not nigh to
her, Túan, lest some evil thing under her right armpit. Out befall.”
of the bundle, just above the The instinct of the white base of the woman's own neck, man always bids him promptly there protruded a head which disregard every warning that lolled backwards as she moved a native may give to him, and -grey white in colour, hairless, act in a manner diametrically sightless, featureless, formless, opposed to that which a native an object of horror and repulmay advise.
This propensity sion. Near her shoulders two has added considerably to the stumps, armed with ugly bosses figures that represent the Euro- at their tips, protruded from pean death - rate throughout the bundle, motiveless limbs Asia, and, incidentally, it has that swayed and gesticulated led to many of the acts of hero- loosely; near her own hips two ism that have won for English- similar members hung down men their Eastern empire. It almost to the ground, dangling has also set the native the hard limply as the woman walkedtask of deciding whether he is limbs that showed grey in the most astonished at the courage evening light, and ended in five or the stupidity of the men whitish patches where the toes who rule him. I have lived should have been. long enough among natives to leper far gone in the disease know that there is generally a whom the woman was carrying sound reason for any warnings riverwards. She did not pause that they may be moved to when I spoke to her, rather she give; but Nature, as usual, was seemed to quicken her pace, and stronger than
common - sense, presently she and her burden, so I shook my arm free from the shapeless head and limbs of the headman's grip, and walked the latter bobbing impotently up to the figure in front of me. as the jolts shook them, disap
It was, as I had seen, that of a peared down the shelving bank woman bowed beneath a heavy in the direction of the running burden—a woman still young, water. not ill - looking, and with the I stood still where she had truest, most tenderly feminine left me, horrified at what I had eyes that I think I have ever seen,—for lepers, or indeed dechanced upon. I only noticed formed people of any kind, are this later, and perhaps a remarkably rare
among the knowledge of her story helped healthy Malay villagers, and them to quicken my percep- the unexpected encounter had tions,—but at the moment my shocked and sickened me. Of attention was completely ab- the men in the group
behind sorbed by the strange bundle me, some laughed, one or two which she bore. It was
uttered a few words of cheap shapeless thing wrapped in an jeer and taunt, every one of them old cloth, soiled and tattered turned aside to spit solemnly in and horribly stained, which was token that some unclean thing
the woman's left had been at hand, and the shoulder, across her breast, and headman, newly appointed and