Page images
PDF

man encouraged hini to do this deed."

"i knew it," repeated the old man. speaking quite quietly. "Why should i not! I was present when he came. No one must climb the hill without the offering. But hear me," and he faced the Governor and his soldiers without flinching. "Before the white man came this place was holy. When the men came out of the sea 1 this hill was here. As our fathers worshipped while the trees grew and the rivers began to run, so do we worship. We may go, but the Great Fetish may still be here. Take us: we do not fight."

Not even the baldness of the Government interpreter's English could altogether spoil the effect of the old man's words, and for a little while there was silence. Then the Governor gave the order, and the long line of priests, wtih their hands tied behind them, descended the hill, and were marched through the crowd of awestricken people. For the first time since its institution the abode of the Big Fetish was left lonely and deserted, bereft of its votaries.

There was one more scene on the top of Krobo Hill, and it was enacted a month after the arrest of the priests. A gallows stood on the dancing-floor, and at eight o'clock, before the rays of the morning sun had time to reach it, a 7-pounder gun boomed out, and two bodies dangled sky-high. For a full hour the arch-priest and his black-bearded assistant—the two men whom fate had ordered to bear the penalty of practising a worn-out religion—hung dangling in the sun, blown backwards and forwards against the sky-line in plain sight of the late worshippers below, part of 'whom wailed, while part exulted.

When the hour was up they were taken down and buried, and then the

r A Undine to a belief among the tribes that the coast-line was originally peopled by men walking oat of the sea.

people, satisfied by ocular proof that the power of the Big Fetish was gone forever, rushed forward, a shouting mob, to the plunder of the temple and treasure-houses upon the hill. So eager were they, and so mad with the lust of loot, that they overwhelmed the guard of Hausas at the foot, and forced their way half-way up before their rush could be checked. A fight took place that threatened to quickly become a serious riot. The soldiers scrambled up on each other's shoul ders, while others, forcing their way through the press with the buttsof their carbines, joined their comrades standing above the noisy flood of natives, pushing them over the hillside and repelling them with the bayonet. But the fighting grew heavier, as those from the outskirts pushed up closer, thrusting the swarm farther and higher, till it seemed as though the Hausas must either be pushed over the edge or literally trodden into the path itself. it was indeed fortunate for all concerned that day that the Governor knew the people over whom he ruled, and had made his preparations accordingly. While the tumult was at its height, and before the issua of the struggle was clear, there sounded a noise like the breaking of great waves. A mighty bonfire burst into flame, and with a freshening breeze drove across the hill, showering a rain of soot and ashes both on those fighting on the hillside and on those on the plain below, and the people, shrieking, turned and ran. For three days the mass burnt before it turned black, and the fire died down. One more day and with the last sparks the great fetish house with its countless treasures and curiosities, the accumulation of centuries, the homes of the girls and the abodes of the priests with all their paraphernalia and property, the storehouses and barns packed with the late offerings, vanished. Not a vestige remained. The hilltop was a mass of black slag and powder.

When the ground cooled parties of men with axes and mallets were bidden ascend and cut down such stumps of the fetish grove as the fire had not utterly destroyed and throw them from the cliff. With spades and ropes they dragged the ashes to the edge

ltlm-kwood's Mat-azttM-.

and flung them to the winds. Before the sun sank that night the rock was bare as the palm of a man's hand.

The work done, the soldiers and men descended and departed through an awed and speechless countryside. The stars shone upon a lonely and deserted rock.

Krobo Hill was finished.

W. Ii. AAtimn.

SCENT AND MEMORY.

Of all chance wishing-carpets, a sudden scent is the most wayward and carries those who meet it on the longest journeys. Miles of distance and decades of years vanish at the touch; memory steps over the interval straight into forgotten gardens, to seashores of which there is no vision. Are there any other memories so separate or so far off? You do not know how distant a remembrance can be, or from how far out of the past it can come, until perhaps in some old-fashioned garden, perhaps in the wet depth of a wood, there blows a sudden air which belongs to another garden or another wood, and that garden and that wood belong to the earliest knowledge of all. lt might be a pleasant byway for some leisured man of science to wander down to try to discover which of the thousand scents of gardens and fields and woods is the first, so to speak, to strike home, which is part of the earliest recollection, which becomes first separated as a scent associated always with a particular flower or season. Doubtless there would be no exact conclusions to such a search, but it might give the opportunity of asking some interesting questions. The searcher would constitute himself into a Commission empowered to take evidence on leading points such as: What is the scent which seems to you to belong to your earliest recollections? What associa

any scents bring you unhappy recollections? and if so, what arc they? Of the commonest scents which all know. in what order would you put your first recollection of them? lt would lead to a good deal of correction of memories, but something would emerge worth studying.

The memories of those who have always had access to gardens and wild places would probably lead to the more valuable comparisons. lt would be interesting to know what would be the proportion of those who believe their earliest memory of scent to be the cup of a tulip under an April sun. There is something to be said for the inherent likelihood of that being the first of remembered scents of flowers. A child learns from babyhood that flowers have scent; it is always being offered flowers and invited to .smell them, and the flowers it wants and is given are always bright flowers. Nobody would think of picking a violet or a primrose and asking a baby to smell it; perhaps a polyanthus is a flower which gets into the perambulator specially early; but in any case the earliest flowers offered could not be remembered any more than the other incidents of absolute babyhood. But the first flower which a child would smell for himself would probably be a tulip. it is one of the earliest of the spring flowers which are a child does not balance well enough to stoop as low as a crocus or a snowdrop; it is brightly colored, and would attract a child across a lawu to look at it; and it has a scent which is unlike any other flower, so that it would be remembered distinctly. Perhaps for many children the wallflower would occur as early as the tulip; the present writer cannot quite make up his mind between the tulip and the crocus, but that is because there were always purple crocuses growing on a rockery which were an even more convenient height for smelling than the tulips. After the tulips and crocuses come daisies, not only the scent of the flowers, but the smell of crushed, sappy stalks which is also the smell of white pine; the inference is the making of daisy-chains. Then an autumn smell, of a hot sun on wet brown leaves and ripe blackberries in a basket; the scent of the single fruit is thin and delicate, but hundreds hot in a basket exhale something musky and vinous; there must be a wine to be made from blackberries in a way not yet discovered. To the same indefinite period belongs the scent of mignonette and hot chalk that could only come from the garden of a seaside hotel; it carries tar with it, and candytuft, and perhaps broken geraninm-stalks. Rain on a clearing of a coppice carpeted with primroses comes later, with the green, bitter odor of dripping box-leaves, and the vigor of young larches and thick, drenched moss. That is the month in which the first search was made after blackbirds' nests in the wood.

tions does it bring to your mind? Do convenient height for smelling, for a

Those are some of the scents that belong to the vague, earlier spaces, and it is easy to see how some of the others group themselves round the years that follow and increase. No one who has ever swum in Thames water in the summer can smell the sun on the weeds and lilies without thinking of the stream tumbling green through

the weir-gates, the light through the water from below, and the bubbles dancing down to the broad, smooth surface below the lock. Cricket matches have their own scents of newmown grass and tobacco-smoke; you cannot combine the two without a memory of a pitch rolled hard and the redness and clearness of the first ball bowled. One of the most joyous of all pieces of writing about cricket, Join Nyren's description of the high feasting on Broad Halfpenny during one of the great Hambledou matches. and the Hambledon men and the Hambledon ale-punch, ends with the memory of a scent . "How strongly are all those scenes," writes Nyren. "of fifty years bygone, painted in my memory!—and the smell of that ale comes upon me as freshly as the new May flowers." He smelt it with the bluebells and orchids and primroses of the Hampshire border. Other sports have their own flowers. For those who have sailed the Welsh seacoast the breath of bedstraw brings back the sunniest hours of a dav's bass-flshing, with the wind off shore and the gulls screaming round the boat. Heather honey mixed with salt on a Western breeze carries a vision of red and white setters ranging the flank of a Scottish hill, of the neck of an old cock grouse poked up from the dry grass on the brow, and the warning, harsh and wary, "Go-back-go-biickgo-back," which is one of the six or seven sounds that those who know a Scottish moor would soonest wish to hear. Memories of English fields and highways are not always so clear. A mustard-field in September confuses itself with a field of turnip-seeds in May. One of the distinctest of English scents, perhaps, is the dry, choking vapor of a road inches deep in white dust, of nettles crushed by the roadside and somewhere a hint of dog-roses and heavy drops of rain in the dust. It helongs to the tramp of a battalion and the hum of August insects, and possibly to the home-trained English soldier sent abroad it might bring back his country as quickly as did the wattle round Lichtenberg to Mr. Kipling's New South Wales trooper: —

And l saw Sydney the same as ever,

The picnics and brass-bands; And the little homestead on Hunter River

And my new vines joining hands. It all came over me in one act

Quick as a shot through the brain— With the smell of the wattle round Lichtenberg,

Riding in, in the rain.

The comparison of the power of scents to tear deep memories must be with the power of music. An air heard at a particular time or place, and perhaps not heard again for years, will bring back the hour when it first sounded with the sureness almost of actual return to the scene. Even the vulgarest tune of the pantomime can take on exotic graces if it has been heard most insistently in surroundings that belong to it only by accident of the day and the place. But there is a difference in the memories recalled. An air or a tune may recall a place as sharply as a scent, and with as deep and breaking a longing for what has

The Spectator.

been and can be no more, the desiderium that has no single word for it in English; but the very sharpness and suddenness and completeness of its call into the past make the difference between it and the power of scent. For the power of recalling what is bygone that belongs to scents can be something infinitely vague, often difficult and unintelligible. The music was n certain tune heard at a certain place at a certain time; you can date it all with clear precision. But the scent of sun in the chalice of a tulip belongs to all the distant, undatable beginnings of things,—to the queerest contradictions, to the most haphazard comings and goings; to the scent of pint-woods wrapped in a particular soap, and lackey moth caterpillars because they were once kept in soap-boxes; to the song of canaries always ringing through the smell of cobbler's-wax because the village cobbler's hobby was canaries. And if the power of scent has one more different property of its own, it is that its memories are almost certainly happy. Music can bring back such sadness that it cannot be heard. But a scent is much more intimately linked with the real grip of memory; and of many memories, it is the law that the sad are soonest forgotten, and the happy others remain.

GRAMMATICALS.

Who among us would have ventured to take Lord Acton to task over a simple rule of concord? Once, and probably not twice, a student of his class in Modern History might have done so. For. in the lecture on "Frederic the Great," Lord Acton says:—

The Saxon Army held out for some weeks, and was then forced to serve in the ranks of their conqueror. &c.

The shock of such a blunder is as grievous as the effort to explain it is embarrassing. We know, in the first place, how scrupulous Lord Acton was in the composition of his lectures; we know, in the second, from a beautiful description by Mr. John Pollock, how leisurely, emphatic and emotional he was in their delivery. "He pronounced each sentence as if he were feeling it. poising it lightly, and uttering it with measured deliberation." In what moment of intellectual oblivion did Lord Acton utter with measured deliberation a sentence in which a singular verb collides with a plural pronoun? Nor are we yet at the end of our bewilderment. Lord Acton writes the sentence in his study and reads it in the classroom; the lectures, after his death, are prepared for the Press, not by an editor, but by a brace of editors, lecturers at Cambridge. May they soon, in a second edition, find their chance of purgation!

Strange that so considerable a slight upon the language should disfigure the pages of so many writers of quality! Here it is again, in form still worse, in the fourth sentence of Mr. Stopford Brooke's delightful "Primer of English Literature":—

Every English man and woman has good reason to be proud of the work done by their forefathers in prose and poetry.

Ruskin, a more consummate rhetorician than either of these, can write thus:—

■ It is true that when perspective was first discovered everybody amused themselves with it.

Leslie Stephen writes of Charlotte Bronte:—

Nobody ever put so much of themselves into their work.

Charles Reade, in "Hard Cash":—

One fine afternoon everybody was on deck, amusing themselves as they could.

The truth is (and it is a truth to lay us all low) very few writers, whether of talent or of genins, are strictly and consistently loyal to grammar. Was it not R. L. Stevenson, the most conscientious and evenhanded stylist of his day, who said that, though some three

or four sentences might be compassed, a perfect page lay within no man's pen? Superior persons have been heard to protest that English is a language free from the shackles and conventions of grammar—meaning by this, no doubt, that we can all speak and write it properly without instruction. Alas for the superior, grammar then; is: and. by the breaches that we make therein, we know it. in a dozen easy laws of English grammar there lurk at least a dozen easy pitfalls.

it is nearly thirty years since a little book by Dr. William Hodgson, an Edinburgh professor, appeared posthumously under the title. "Errors in the Use of English." Dr. Hodgson says in his introduction:—

Acting on the principle that example is better than precept, the Spartans impressed upon their children the wisdom of sobriety by showing them the folly of intemperance in the person of the drunken Helot. Similarly this work is meant to set forth the merits of correctness in English composition by furnishing examples of the demerits of incorrectness—to bring home the abstract rule that "a sentence must be lucid in order and logical in sequence"—by citing such concrete specimens of obscure disorder as "The beaux of that day painted their faces as well as the women."

The blunder under which the bucks are seen painting their mistresses pink is fastened upon the elder Disraeli, but he is one only out of scores of famous writers whom Hodgson leads to the pillory. There they stand, pour encouru;nr lex autre* (and might not the rest of us stand with them?): Gibbon. Grote, Sir Henry Holland. Swift. Fielding. Smollet. Alison. Burke, Mill, Emerson. Hazlitt, Bulwer Lytton. Beaconsfield, .Tames Bryce, Kingsley. Farrar. G. H. Lewes. Lord Houghton. Moncure Conway, A. W. Ward. Wendell Holmes, Ruskin. Tiecky. .7. It. Lowell. Barnaul,

« PreviousContinue »