The Contributors' Club

IN this Club I suppose we may have our little private fling at the editors. They will probably never read it. And besides, they doubtless have an Editors’ Club somewhere, in secret, where they relieve their minds about us con-

tributors, and so get their revenge. There are two grievances I wish to mention : First, the apparent assumption by the editors that we are going to be vexed, or feel injured, at receiving back our small contributions of unactive through having so much of this to do, — by being, as it were, a kind of returning board. But there really is no reason for its being ridden constantly by dark imaginings of our raving round our apartments, tearing our expensive note paper and saying disagreeable words. There may be exceptions, but certainly as a rule we do not do it. We feel only the meekest emotions when we take out of our post-office boxes these too, too thick envelopes, with the neat print of the magazine’s address in the upper corner. Sometimes we almost wish this tell-tale print had been omitted ; so much do we suspect the sprightly postmistress of having mentally registered the correspondence, and the number of stamps on the rejoinder. As we look with an air of unconsciousness at the trivial remainder of our mail, edging our way unobtrusively through the knot of villagers who loiter about the postoffice door, we wonder if she is looking out through the glass boxes, and reading our innermost reflections in the expression of our back.

So far from feeling shocked or outraged at the verdict, we do not even feel any surprise; unless it be a small sense of guilty surprise that we should have had the temerity to send away the things at all. So far from hating the editor, we always feel that he has done a kindly and Christian act in sending back our little unavailable efforts. Why should he ? The green-grocer does not send back to the farmer his load of undesired pumpkins; nor does the farmer send away to the depot in his best spring wagon the peddler whose wares he did not wish to buy. Why should the editor be obliged to return the basketfuls — or what might have fitly become basketfuls — of offered pumpkins from Parnassus that are not “ some,” or the prose peddler’s tinsel finery ?

The second grievance is that the editors seem to fear that we shall not enjoy the printed circular that sometimes so courteously accompanies our trembling manuscript home. But there are many painful situations in life where the least said the soonest mended. When Barnardine, in Measure for Measure, refused absolutely to “ rise and be hanged,” protesting, “ You rogue, I am not fitted for ’t,” it was no doubt because the communication was made too effusively personal. If Abhorson had sent in a neat circular, he would probably have felt very differently about it. There may, again, be exceptions, even outside of boarding-schools and asylums for the mildly insane ; but I avow that, so far as my own observation extends, we contributors prefer the editors’ communications to be “yea, yea,” or “nay, nay.” I mean, of course, on that particular subject of our Rejected Addresses. On other topics, we should prize the largest utterance possible.

When we shall become very famous personages, and receive the distinguished pilgrim to smoke pipes with us in our awful attic sanctum, while the faithful wife keeps off the vulgar who stand without, then we may wish to talk and be talked to about our literary offspring. But oh ! not now ! Have we not studied whole nights on short methods for changing the subject, when approached on the theme of our modest productions ? Only last month, when the magazines came to the book-store, did we not practice thirteen new ways of suddenly seizing on the subject of the weather ?

— It seemed very like the theatre, as at the entrance designed for the public were presented little octagonal bits of pasteboard with printed inscriptions: “ Entrée pour une personne. Chambre des Députés. Gallerie D.” Still more did it seem so when our tickets were torn in two, a coupon returned to us, and we passed on by one scarlet and black menial to another till we reached Gallerie D. At the top of the staircase our theatrical illusion was by no means disD. At the top of the staircase our theatrical illusion was by no means dissipated ; for there we were received by yet another scarlet and black menial, who held the door of Gallerie D tightly closed while he said in exactly the tone of a Porte Saint Martin’s ouvreuse, intent upon pour-boires, “ Will you not relieve yourselves of your mantles, mesdames ? It is very hot in there. There is a great crowd.”

There was a crowd. The gallery above us, like our own, was thronged. The séance of the day before had been so stormy that cards of admission had been in great demand for this afternoon’s continuation of the same discussion. This subject was l’interpellation of the government upon the condition of its magistracy in the island of Corsica. This subject does not smell of fire and brimstone to the natural mind. It proved, however, a perfect mine of gunpowder among French legislators. It exploded parties out of all natural relations to each other, and resulted in the queerest of combinations : fragments of the,extreme Left in affiliation with the extreme Right; Bonapartist and Radical embracing each other ; Paul de Cassagnac and the fiercest Intransigeant falling on each other’s necks, and if not. exactly kissing each other, at least ceasing to bite.

The interpellation originated in the Left wing of the Republican party, and its object in citing the ministry to show cause why its management of Corsican affairs should not be condemned was to overthrow the present cabinet for the chance of one of less conservative tendencies. An internecine fight in a party is of course the most delightful of spectacles to the opposition, which is therefore quite ready to help in every way to ferment the disorder. In this case poor Corsica was the bone of contention, and was so pulled and hauled about, so reviled and spat upon, by one side and another, in its morals and manners, that a Corsican deputy, M. Emmanuel Arene, whose seat was next to that of Corsica’s most active traducer, M. Andrieux, both of them of the extreme Left, kept jumping up all through his colleague’s speech, like a Jack-in-a-box, in a continual sputter of contradiction and recrimination. Thus we had the curious spectacle of a speaker contemptuously howled at by one section of his own party while applauded from the opposition benches; a member of the extreme Left receiving applause from Monseigneur Frappel.

One’s first impression of the Chamber is a very crimson one. But as the benches fill with deputies the upholstery disappears, and the Chamber becomes an arrangement in black and red. Its shape is a semicircle: the flat side is occupied by the president’s lofty chair and desk, the orator’s tribune below the president’s, with the reporters’ table below and in front of the orator’s tribune. The benches of the deputies rise amphitheatrically, the upper row scarcely an arm’s length below the lower of the two galleries devoted to spectators. The ministerial benches are the first three of the Centre, and are inscribed in large gold letters, “ Bancs des Ministres.”

There is little decoration except a large painting flanked by two rather superciliously smiling female statues above President Brisson’s bead, two gold-andgreen panels over the crimson-draped doors through which the deputies pass, and very light gold ornamentation upon the, white paint of the galleries.

Of course there were numerous clocks. We smiled in counting them. They reminded us of the four ticking away in our two rooms in the hotel, and striking all sorts of hours at all sorts of unreasonable times, in flat contradiction to every one of the countless timepieces striking in the rooms above, below, and each side of us. There were five clocks within our sight in the Chamber; we could only guess at the number there might be somewhere out of our sight.

Before the séance began we amused ourselves with various frivolous observations. Thus we decided that there were more blonds upon the Republican benches than elsewhere, and a greater luxuriance of whisker. The best furnished heads — that is, hirsutely furnished—’Were those of the Centre, and among them white was the color most in wear. Upon the benches of the Right baldness and shiningness seemed the rule, amid which baldness and shiningness the wonderful black crop of Paul de Cassagnac and the purple velvet cap of Archbishop Frapp el, always hobnobbing together, thrust themselves with striking effect. Archbishop Frappel is a fat old man in a black gown with red cords up the seams of the back of the body, and a purple scarf around the ample waist. He is decidedly a militant priest; too much so to be a selfpossessed and effective orator. Once when we heard him speak in the Chamber upon the question of substituting affirmation in place of the legal oath, he waxed into such a tremendous temper in the tribune, and consumed so many glasses of beer before our very eyes, that he reminded us much more of a war-horse prancing in among the captains, and shouting, “Ha! ha! ” than of a Christian priest. Paul de Cassagnac, the Creole swash-buckler, the unscarred hero of twenty duels, cannot get any further Right than he is, unless he moves out into the corridor. His seat is at the very end of the front row of bancs de droites. De Cassagnac was once a handsome man, so the tradition runs ; but to look at him now tradition seems greatly to have flattered him. His back is hugely broad ; not unshapely, but with the soft plumpness of encroaching flesh and retreating muscle. He is tall, swarthy, with ample mustache, and a marvelous black mane combed entirely back from his face, and of such dense blackness as to seem almost unnatural and unhuman. His skin and features are coarse, the ensemble that of a bully cultivated into the appearance and manners of a perfect man of the world. That he is as irrepressible as ever is proved by the fact that he was incessantly called to order during this séance by President Brisson, whose patience finally gave way to the extent of inflicting two fines upon him, avec inscription au procès verbal.

Monsieur le President Brisson, whose office is no sinecure, and whom we have sometimes heard with voice so broken by efforts to quell the noisy transports of the deputies that he could only whisper, is a tall, imposing-looking man in a dress coat. His head is gray, but his body is stalwart and vigorous; otherwise he would have been long ago forced into a better world, under the terrific physical strain of this. The little respect shown his authority by the more turbulent members is amazing to American eyes. The writer has seen him go through every dramatic expression of command, expostulation, entreaty, and finally even piteous supplication, extending his arms this side and that, crossing them despairingly upon his breast, striking his head, madly ringing his bell, beating the table with his knife; and all the time not a sound could be heard from his frantic pantomime, because of the howlings, screamings, vituperations, criminations, and recriminations raging upon the floor beneath him. During the recent debate upon the divorce bill the uproar at one time became so ungovernable that the president was forced to put on his hat and stand speechless and motionless before the astonished Chamber as evidence that nothing could be done with it, — that the séance was dissolved. At one time, during the séance at which we were present, M. le Comte Douville-Maillefeu, in a violent temper, stood, or rather raged to and fro, in the tribune. He had been called to order several times during the session, and was now attempting to expostulate against the president’s injustice in so doing while overlooking the interruptions of favorites. M. le Comte was so naive in his wrath, he banged and thrashed the tribune so like a passionate boy, was so generally infantile in his fury, that the whole house burst into uproarious merriment.

“ I will not have you making fun of me! You have no right to grin while I am speaking!” screamed the tribune. Then more laughter from the deputies, more impotent rage from the tribune, till finally we saw M. Brisson, from his altitude above, bending down towards the tribune, whence M. Douville-Maillefeu reached up, both to every appearance shaking vicious fists in each other’s faces, while not a sound amid the universal uproar could be heard proceeding from them. “ They are going to fight! ” exclaimed the lady next us. And indeed it looked so.

The first speaker was M. Andrieux, deputy from Arbresle, a former préfet de police. Once his radicalism found Blanqui’s lukewarm ; to-day he speaks in the name of Law and Order against the license of a conservative Republican cabinet! He is a gray-haired man, of the thoroughly French type, sallow and black-eyed, of middle age and middle stature, with the red ribbon upon his breast. He spoke fluently from occasional notes, with voice both sonorous and penetrating. He was evidently well prepared with charges against the government’s administration in Corsica, and spoke two mortal hours, arraigning the ministry, — except at such intervals as he could not make himself heard, and calmly recuperated for another élan during the deafening uproar.

Sometimes an excited deputy would be laid hold of by a friend or two, and an animated private squabble would go on under the president’s hail of rebukes and amid the larger general clamor. Mingled with it all the sharp ding, ding, ding, of the president’s bell made confusion worse confounded, while unhappy M. Brisson varied his ordinarily more virile attitude by pathetic appeals.

“ Laissez parler, messieurs ! Je vous en supplie ! Laissez parler ! ”

“ Who would imagine these the lawmakers of a nation ! ” said an astonishedeyed American.

During this scene the ministers upon their central benches appeared to take no interest whatever in the proceedings. Jules Ferry, blasé and faded, looking older than his photographs, with a few hairs strained over the scalp and long, lax, tired-looking side whiskers, seemed half asleep. Beside him sat a gentleman, slightly more interested, — very slightly, — who made occasional languid notes. We thought him too young for a minister, and wondered to see him upon those benches. We wondered still more when, after M. Andrieux had descended, he calmly mounted the tribune to reply to him, and we discovered that this was the minister most virulently accused by the preceding speaker, the Minister of the Interior, M. Waldeck - Rousseau. M. Waldeck-Rousseau does not look more than thirty-five. His appearance is of striking elegance, without hint of foppishness; his manner cold, dignified and of perfectly haughty aplomb ; his type medium blond, his statúre above middle height, his figure moderately slender. He began to speak in a voice scarcely raised above conversational level, but was greeted by cries of “ Plus haut! ” from the Left benches. Notwithstanding this hint he made no apparent effort to be better heard, although by degrees his voice grew upon us, till its calm, dignified, even accents became infinitely more articulate to our foreign ears than the war-whoops of M. Douville-Maillefeu, the thick-tongued, halflisping boom of Paul de Cassagnac. The minister’s speech was chiefly a rebuttal of charges brought against the magistral administration in Corsica. The subject afforded no field for eloquence, even if M. Waldeck-Rousseau possesses that gift, which his passionless manner seems to deny. We followed his selfpossessed, easy diction with but scant interest, and certainly sympathized with the voluble lady near us who exclaimed exultantly, “ We have well done to come to-day.” A row is always more interesting than a debate.”

M. Waldeck-Rousseau was not obliged to submit to quite so many interruptions as his predeccssor, though those interruptions were numerous and vicious enough to disconcert almost anybody else than a French legislator.

It seemed curious to us that the deputies speaking from the tribune never address “ M. le President ” as English and American parliamentarians address “ Mr. Speaker.” The deputies address each other, and stand with the president not only above their heads, but behind their backs. When the occupant of the tribune speaks of or to another deputy he rarely says “ my honorable colleague from So and So,” or “ the member for This and That,” but speaks personally of or to each gentleman by name. During M. Waldeck-Rousseau’s occupancy of the tribune, M. Laguerre, a youthful and conspicuous deputy of twenty-six, ally and co-accuser with M. Andrieux called out,—

“ You know that is a calumny while you are saying it! ”

“ M. Laguerre,” called President Brisson, “you have used unparliamentary language. I call you to order! ”

“I will not allow a minister to slander me in the Chamber any more than I will in the discourses he makes while traveling about the country,” retorted M. Laguerre.

As, pale and exhausted, the minister took his seat beside Jules Ferry, the volcanic Comte Douville-Maillefeu rushed into the vacated tribune. Fairly forced from it by the derisive laughter of the Chamber, he was followed by Paul de Cassagnac. De Cassagnac looked fat and slouchy in the tribune, of careless carriage and insouciant manner. He gave forth a thick-voiced grumble — “ full-throated,” but not in the least like “ laughter of the gods ” — against President Brisson for showing partiality toward M. Waldeck-Rousseau in permitting him liberties of speech restrained from M. Andrieux. Here was one of the curiosities of this séance ora(geuse, a member of the Extreme Right quarreling for the right of free speech for a member of the Extreme Left!

It was half past six when the séance was suspended. MM. les Députés rushed pell-mell from their places, like hungry schoolboys kept beyond their dinner hour. As we came out from Gallery D we saw the scarlet and black menial delivering cloaks and gathering in his harvest of francs. As we also presented our pour-boires and possessed ourselves of our umbrellas, we certainly seemed to be leaving some place of lively entertainment rather than a legislative assembly.

— A pleasant study in human nature is to ascertain the estimate formed of each other by any two persons of like mental and moral status. Commonly, such mutual reflectors are little in love with their mirrors. This was notably the case with the Two Georges. If similarity of trait and habit make for amity, there was every reason why these two should have been most favorably inclined each towards the other. On the principle that misery loves company, it might seem that the bond between them should have been indissoluble; though the question arises, Were they indeed miserable? On the theory that two of a trade cannot agree, the deeprooted prejudice which existed between them is more easily explicable, — though I am reminded that neither individual had ever mastered a trade.

The Two Georges — such was the joint title which they had acquired in their native village—were privileged characters of the roi fainéant order. Free and idle, with the civic irresponsibility of the sluggard king, they might have been seen, and were often seen, in all the favorite haunts of the village, among which were included the post-office, the grocery, the steps of the town hall, and a particular corner fence that had always afforded excellent leaning facilities to the possessors of bodies inert and spirits umveariedly speculative. The Two Georges, it must at length be said, belonged to that class of humanity which a rustic euphemism of mild negation characterizes as “not overly smart.” While there may have been those accounted of whole wit who found entertainment in “ bantering ” these “ halfwitted ” ones, the latter were generally treated with kindly consideration for their infirmity. But the odium existing between the two themselves was of an extreme degree, neither being able to put up with the feeble intellectual calibre of the other. " He’s a fool, and I can’t bear a fool, nohow ! ” George I. was wont to declare, referring to George II. This opinion was fully reciprocated by George II., who was known to have pronounced his compeer “ commompos mentis,” — an epithet which, I suspect, had been recommended by some one or other of the whole-witted.

It was remarked that this mutual antipathy affected the entire walk and conversation of the Two Georges. To cover with derision and discredit any statement made by the other was the particular delight of each ; if one expressed preference, the other was moved to excessive dislike towards the object in question; and the opinion of each regarding any matter of local interest was at once determined adversatively, upon learning what was the other’s view. While George I. was a strenuous supporter of Republican principles, George II. held as tenaciously to those of the Democratic party ; and I have heard it said that the two debated political measures with very nearly as great sagacity as was observable in many whose vote could never be “ challenged.”

In this singular feud there was that which resembled the nature of a profound attachment. When, in course of time, death took the one, the other exhibited every sign of the deepest melancholy ; but whether this melancholy should have been attributed to grief, or merely to the satiety of an existence no longer made relishable by antagonism, cannot, at this remove in time, be asserted with any certainty.

— I wonder why it is that blue flowers are so few in proportion to red, yellow, and white ones. It may seem as foolish to ask the reason of this simple natural fact as to question why the sky is blue or the grass green, and yet there must be æsthetic laws governing the production of beauty in the visible world. I think I am not mistaken about the fact of the comparative scarcity of blue flowers, either wild or cultivatedI have no very wide acquaintance with the flowers of the woods and fields, but according to my observation white, vivid red, and yellow are the prevailing colors, together with a smaller number of pink and purple blossoms. White and yellow flowers bloom all through the season, from the anemone and dandelion of early spring to the wild carrot and golden-rod of the later summer. There is surely an artistic design perceptible in the natural succession we see, which harmonizes the delicate tints of the early-coming flowers, the arbutus, laurel, wild azalea, and wild rose, with the tender green of spring foliage and the soft blue of spring skies, and again assimilates with the glowing sunshine and the richer green of summer the intenser tones of golden-rod and sumach berry, purple aster and thistle blossoms.

In driving about these Connecticut uplands I have noticed this season several blossoming weeds I was not before familiar with, mostly of varying shades of yellow. One of these is the clustered blossom of the wild tansy ; another, having a delicate little head nodding like a columbine, on the slenderest of stems, I learn is called the “ fly-catcher,” or wild lady-slipper. Two others are as yet nameless for me: one with a bright canary-colored flower starred over a bush looking not unlike the English gorse, while the other, more rarely found, is brilliant with a clustered mass of reddish-orange or orange-red. The dwarf sunflower, which children sometimes not inaptly name “ Black-eyed Susan,” is blazing everywhere, and my favorite golden-rod, waving its graceful plumes,

“ fringes the dusty road with harmless gold.” Here and there appears a wild orange lily, and in almost every farmhouse “ yard ” tall groups of flaming “tiger” lilies, which have an excellent æsthetic value in juxtaposition with the soft gray of weather-painted old houses set back among the maple-trees. Nature orders that all these gorgeous yellows shall be contrasted with a due proportion of purple, in the wild aster (or “ Michaelmas daisy ” of England), the downy thistle blossom, the pinkish-purple lobelia, and other weeds whose names I have not discovered. To my great satisfaction, I lately came upon the royal-hued cardinal flower; at first but a single, half-opened spray, which it cost me a wetting to pluck from its moist bed. Since then I have found a glowing mass of it in the shadow of a wooded bank overhanging a little lake unromantically known as North Pond. Let me in passing pay a tribute to the picturesqueness of this sheet of water, connected with two larger ones by channels so narrow that a row-boat must work its slow way through by careful paddling and poling from either side. The longer of these channels throws light and shade in the most charming fashion, the clear brown water reflecting the tops of the tallest trees upon its edge. Each curve presents a new and lovely picture, — a tangle of wild greenery closing in about the base of thinstemmed, light-foliaged trees; here and there the bare gray trunk of one prone among the undergrowth, and clambered over with bright vines, or fast falling to decay and leaning across the stream to rest its bent head against a brother still erect and strong. One could fancy the little creek a Louisiana bayou; the scene, indeed, in its wildness and silence. might have been almost anywhere as well as in this old-settled State. It was just too late in the month for us to gather the beautiful white pond lilies from the lake, and the thickly wooded shores yielded the sight of no other blossom than the cardinal flower I have mentioned.

The love of flowers seems to be universal, and the cultivation of them in tiny garden patches or in a few pots upon a window ledge the sole æsthetic indulgence of thousands of poor folk in town and country. How one wishes that country people grasped more enjoyment from the beauty within their reach! A poet sings, —

“ I said it in the meadow path,
I said it on the mountain stairs,
The best things any mortal hath
Are those which every mortal shares.”

This is true, no doubt, yet with qualification. After the joys of the domestic affections, the love of natural beauty is a source of pure and unfailing delight, open to a greater number than perhaps any other; but this love does not spring up and grow in people without education, any more than the love of art does. In regard to either there must be a certain fund of native sensibility to work upon, and the rest is developed and refined by cultivation, by intimate acquaintance with the things which minister to the æsthetic sense. Hardworking farmer folk have small time to spare for anything beyond the routine labors of the day. Yet this one pleasure is within reach, if they but knew enough to seize it. Their imagination and their powers of reflection upon subjects not of direct practical importance are, however, so unused and undeveloped that it is safe to say the mass of them pay as little heed to the natural beauty about them as the oxen that draw their ploughs. It is not mere familiarity with the scene they live in that breeds this neglect of its beauty, but their eyes have never opened to see it. They feel in a half-conscious way the pleasantness of clear sunshine and soft airs, but do not pause in their sowing or reaping to look at the lovely gold-green light filtering through the tree branches, or the soft blue shadows over in the misty hollows of the hill, or the rich contrast of their yellow grain fields with the dark green of the wooded slope beyond. Could they only have learned to take in all this simple beauty, what a refreshment to mingle the sense of it with the toil of the working-day ! Would it not be a missionary labor worthy to absorb the life of a true lover of his kind to go and dwell among these people, whose existence is so narrowed and whose powers of enjoyment are so stunted and starved, and teach them to know this one unbought delight and make it theirs for the enlargement and refreshment of their minds and souls ?