Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 132.djvu/582

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576
THE "DREADFUL PEOPLE" WHO GO TO COURT.

rendered by persons not of gentle birth. Aristocracy has now no special duties. It would be wonderful, therefore, if it long retained any special rights. Its members perhaps still enjoy certain undefined social privileges; but as these are no longer paid for, they are in danger of extinction, and will, of a certainty, be extinguished. Prestige lasts for a certain time, but it does not endure forever. Something has to be done periodically to renew its lease of life, or it expires; and as aristocracy in England now does nothing which plutocracy cannot and does not do, the two will eventually be completely confounded. There is nothing save savoir faire, which can only be inculcated in early youth, to distinguish them even now; and though to some of us this may be a very important and telling distinction, it will not operate effectually with the multitude for any length of time. New rich people, seeing that old rich people are of importance chiefly by reason of their riches, naturally insist upon sharing their importance. The crown is still the fountain of honor, and to be "presented" is to gain at least a ticket of admission into the outer circles of "society," though you may not be treated with great consideration when you get there, or be assigned a first place. But to be even only just inside the charmed ring is better than to be standing out in the cold and wanting to be inside; moreover, once inside, it only requires vigilance, audacity, and luck to push to the front. Many people lament levees en masse as another sign of the advance of democracy; but these are shallow observers. Once there no longer exists a real aristocracy, but in its stead only a plutocracy, the greater the number of plutocrats you satisfy and whose vanity you tickle by treating them as though they were aristocrats, the greater naturally the size of the garrison which defends the social fortress. They may be hired troops; but all troops are hired in these days; feudal service — in other words, real aristocratic service — is extinct. Mr. Disraeli found Conservative voters in Mr. Bright's residuum; similarly, the crown may have found its most courtly defenders in "those dreadful people."




Pouring Oil on Troubled Waters. — The effect of oil in stilling troubled waters has been so long known, remarks Iron, that it has been constituted the basis of a proverbial phrase. A very small quantity of oil thus used has frequently overcome a very powerful sea. Not many years ago a case occurred in which a ship's crew was enabled, during a severe storm, to escape on shore by the help of a few gallons of oil. A similar and equally successful employment of the same substance is reported to have been made off the "Cape of Storms" last summer. The "King Cenric," a vessel of fourteen hundred and ninety tons, left Liverpool in June last for Bombay. When off the Cape of Good Hope she encountered a heavy gale from the north-west, which continued for some time. Tremendous seas broke over the ship, bursting in the mainhatch, washing away the hatch-houses and boats, smashing in the front of the cabin, and destroying the captain's and officers' stores and clothing. The gale lasted for nearly five days, and though the vessel stood it very well, it was impossible to repair any of the damage, as the waves were continually sweeping her decks. At length the chief officer suggested the trial of throwing oil upon the water. Two canvas clothes-bags were obtained, and into each two gallons of fine oil were poured, the bags being punctured slightly, and flung one over each quarter in tow of the vessel. The effect was magical; the waves no longer broke over the poop and sides of the ship, but several yards away, where the oil had spread itself over the surface, and around the poop, in the wake of the vessel, was a large circuit of calm water. The crew were thus able to repair the damage with greater ease, and the ship was relieved from the tremendous shocks she had previously received from the heavy seas. The two bags lasted two days, after which — the worst fury of the gale having expended itself — no more oil was used.