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Again, in social matters. It is all very
well to wonder who invents slang phrases,
referential to Mr. Ferguson or any such
mythological personage, but the wonder does
not stop there. It extends into Belgravia.
Saint James's has its slang, and a great deal
of it. Nobody knows who first drawled,
languidly, that so and so, or such and such a
thing, was "good fun," or "capital fun," or
"athe best fun in the world, I'm told"—
but some fine gentleman or lady did so, and
accordingly a thousand do. They don't know
why. We have the same mysterious
authority for enquiring, in our faint way, if
Cawberry is a nice personif he is a superior
personfor a romance being so charmingly
horrible, or a woman so charmingly uglyfor
the Hippopotamus being quite charming in
his bath, and the little Elephant so charmingly
like its motherfor the glass palace being (do
you know) so charming to me that I
absolutely bore every creature with itfor those
horrid sparrows not having built in the dear
gutters, which are so charmingly ingenious
for a great deal more, to the same very
charming purpose.

When the old stage-coaches ran, and
over-turns took place in which all the passengers
were killed or crippled, why was it invariably
understood that no blame whatever was
attributable to the coachman? In railway
accidents of the present day, why is the
coroner always convinced that a searching
enquiry must be made, and that the Railway
authorities are affording every possible facility
in aid of the elucidation of this unhappy
disaster? When a new building tumbles into
a heap of ruin, why are architect, contractor,
and materials, always the best that could be
got for money, with additional precautions
as if that splendid termination were the
triumph of construction, and all buildings that
don't tumble down were failures? When a boiler
bursts, why was it the very best of boilers;
and why, when somebody thinks that if the
accident were not the boiler's fault it is likely
to have been the engineer's, is the engineer
then morally certain to have been the steadiest
and skilfullest of men? If a public servant
be impeached, how does it happen that there
never was such an excellent public servant as
he will be shown to be by Red-Tape-osophy?
If an abuse be brought to light, how does it
come to pass that it is sure to be, in fact, (if
rightly viewed) a blessing? How can it be
that we have gone on, for so many years,
surrounding the grave with ghastly, ruinous,
incongruous, and inexplicable mummeries, and
curtaining the cradle with a thousand ridiculous
and prejudicial customs?

All these things are conventionalities. It
would be well for us if there were no more
and no worse in common use. But, having
run the gauntlet of so many, in a breath, we
must yield to the unconventional necessity of
taking breath, and stop here.




ABOUT forty years ago, on a windy, rainy
afternoon, though in the middle of summer, a
procession of mourners was returning from
a funeral through the main street of the town
of Windsor. At the head of the party walked
the undertaker, with a slow and solemn step,
in spite of the rain. Next behind him was a
tall, strongly built man, of perhaps forty years
of age, leading a little boy, and struggling with
a large umbrella, which, with such a wind
blowing, might have carried away a man of
slighter make. Following him were twelve
women, wrapped in black silk scarfs and
hoods, each looking down, with a white
handkerchief held up to the face. The
procession crossed the bridge over the Thames,
and, proceeding down the High Street of the
adjoining town of Eton, stopped at an old
house, with the inscription over the door,
"Widow Chester, licensed dealer in tobacco,
pepper, and snuff." There was no shop front
to the house, and, the shutters on the little
square window being fastened, this was the
only intimation that the late proprietor had
dealt in those articles: neither, when the
party had gained admission by the street-door,
which opened at once into the principal room,
could they observe much indication of the
business which had been suddenly arrested by
the death of Widow Chester. The window was
small in itself, and was divided by a leaden
framework into innumerable little squares.
Against it, on wooden shelves, were some
smoky-looking glass pickle-bottles filled with
sticks of barley-sugar and other sweetmeats,
cakes, bird-seed, mustard, and balls of cotton.
On another shelf, at the side, were some
lemons in a net, a few shrivelled apples, and
a large brown jar, labelled "Hardham's 37;"
and, to complete the inventory of the stock,
was a piece of bacon hanging from a beam in
the smoky ceiling. The floor was bare, but
the room was well stocked with old-fashioned
furniture. The mantel-piece was ornamented
with china images of shepherds and
shepherdesses, and poodle-dogs; besides some
bottles, with little pictures pasted on to the
glass inside, and filled up with salt for a white
back-ground. On the wall above was a large
picture of a barge, sailing on a river,
purporting to be a correct representation of the
"Mary Chester of Eton."

The female mourners were seen, on coming
out of their cloaks and hoods, to be all
old women. One of their number, who
appeared to be more familiar with the place
than the rest, administered to each some
refreshments, of which she partook herself, with
a remark upon the unwholesome state of
the weather, by way of apology. But the
man, refusing to eat or drink, sat apart, with
his face resting on his hand, and holding the