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the French cocagne; to the rustic mind the capital, whether Paris or London, is the abode of plenty; London is the English cocagne, and the inhabitant of Cocagne is the Cockney. I am aware that there is a legend of a Londoner who visited the country for the first time, and next morning was awakened by the crowing of chanticleer. He is said to have exclaimed later in the day to his host, 'This morning I heard a cock neigh!' But I pass over the origin of the word as too derogative of the intelligence of Londoners.
I used above the expression à propos de bottes, and as I am bound in this paper to mind my p's and q's I will endeavour to throw some light on that subject. It is an abbreviation of 'à propos de bottes, combien l'aune de fagots?' Now this is an absurd question, on the face of it, for faggots are not sold by the ell. But then aune is also the French for elder tree, the timber of which might be sold by the ell, and afterwards split up into faggots; and again, se fagoter is to dress in a slovenly manneras we say, to look like a bundle of rags, and rags might be sold by the ell. Wonderful combinations of ideas are evolved from proverbial phrases. Boots have ever played an important part in modern languages; we speak of seven-leagued boots, a reminiscence of Tom Thumb and the Ogre; we talk of sock and buskin as synonyms of tragedy and comedy; graisser ses bottes is to prepare for a long journey, and, by extension of meaning, to die; and to die in one's shoes' is a vulgar euphuism for being hanged.
To mind our p's and q's, again. Why must we be careful of those letters more than of others? Because in the olden days the host kept his customers' scores in chalk on the panels of the doors. P stood for pint, and Q for quart, and it behoved the guest to watch his score lest he should exceed his proper number of p's and q's. The printer, too, must needs be careful of the two letters, which in type are so very much alike. To suit, or to fit, to a T is a plain allusion to the carpenter's T, which is much used in mechanics and drawings.
There is an immense number of words and expressions which we use in daily conversation without reflecting on their original meaning, and of which the history is both instructive and amusing; but I will now only explain the French saying Chacun a sa marotte,' equivalent to 'Every man has his hobby. Hobby is a contraction of hobby-horse, the wooden creature on which a
VOL. X.-NO. 55, N.S.
small boy rides round the nursery, or the animal which prances at fairs and village feasts. I have not gone into the derivation of hobby, but I would suggest that it may be au bois-wooden; or from abbey, because popular entertainments in the Middle Ages were chiefly provided by the regular clergy.
Marotte is literally the fool's bauble, and is a contraction of Marionette, which is, of course, a familiar form of Marie, the chief female figure in the old Mysteries; the little figure on the bauble is a baby or doll; the Scotch bawbee, or halfpenny, received that name because it was first struck to commemorate the birth of Mary, Queen of Scots; bawbee reminds us of the cognate poupée and the Italian bambino-p and b being interchangeable letters; even our doll may be only another form of poll and moll, both of which are diminutives of Mary. Again, we have the word puppet, an English form of poupée. The Italians have popazza for doll, and the North American Indians papoose for babe.
One of the gravest pages of English history records how the Speaker's mace was stigmatised as 'that bauble;' by implication that brutal phrase classed the Speaker Lenthall with the majority of mankind (see Carlyle).
The hobby, or marotte, of many profound thinkers is philology; therefore I need make no excuse for having endeavoured to explain some of our small ignorances of words and expressions.
A FINANCIAL OPERATION.
It was nearly twelve o'clock on a bright spring morning. Yet Colonel Punter was still busily employed in his bachelor rooms in Piccadilly. The Colonel was a fresh-complexioned, somewhat portly man, of about fifty years of age, with grizzled hair and moustache and a vigour of eye and form which, although he had retired, gave ample evidence that he was blessed with plenty of strength and energy, and would be quite ready for hard service should his country require it of him. On this morning he was correcting the proofs of a pamphlet that was shortly to appear, entitled 'The Proper Formations in Savage Warfare.' This pamphlet was looked forward to in military circles with a good deal of interest, for Colonel Punter was a very well-known man, and was highly thought of as a scientific soldier. He had been at work on these proofs for two hours, and had just made up his mind that it was time to walk down to his club, when his servant entered the room and, presenting a card, said that the lady would be very much obliged if Colonel Punter would grant her an interview.
'Certainly,' said the Colonel; then glancing at the card he muttered to himself: 'Mrs. Verner-I can't remember ever to have heard the name before. I wonder what she wants.' Then, being a kindly and courteous man, he rose from his writing-desk, pushed the proofs away, and took up the newspaper, so that he might not appear to have been interrupted at work. Scarcely had he completed this little manoeuvre when the door opened and a lady, well but quietly dressed, was shown into the room. She was tall and graceful, and wore a heavy veil, which, however, on the servant's retiring, she threw back, and, holding out her hand, advanced with a smile, saying:
'I am afraid, Colonel Punter, you will have forgotten me.'
The Colonel was quite equal to the occasion and returned her greeting cordially, racking his brains, in the meantime, to think where he could have seen that beautiful, sad face before. It was the face of a woman of about thirty-five years of age, or perhaps a little more, with dark hair and eyes, and an indefinable expres
sion of mirth beneath its sadness, indicating, as it seemed, a lightness of heart which the troubles of the world might have dimmed but could not obliterate. Observing, apparently, the Colonel's somewhat puzzled expression, she continued gaily:
'I see that, as I expected, I shall have to help your memory. Don't you remember Miss Maud Mervyn, when you were quartered at Dover more than twenty years ago? Why, Colonel Punter, you had just got your company then, and we used to dance together at the Dover balls.'
'Give me a moment, Mrs. Verner,' he replied; 'twenty years is a long time for an old man's memory to go back in a flash.'
'Now, don't deny it,' continued she, laughing. 'I see you don't remember me, but I am not at all offended, for, indeed, how should you? I was a slip of a girl then, and you were, if you will allow me to say so, a man of somewhere about thirty. I, no doubt, was an infinitely insignificant person to you then, as, on the other hand, you were a very important person to me. But, you see, I am obliged to plead our old acquaintance, Colonel Punter, as it is my only excuse for the liberty I have taken in calling on you.'
'Excuse of any kind is quite unnecessary,' said the Colonel with a slight bow and smile.
'It is very kind of you to say so,' she replied; and when you have heard my sad story, I think you will give me the advice which I have come to ask of you.'
'If it is a subject on which I am at all qualified to speak,' said he, 'I shall be most happy.'
'I think it is decidedly your subject, Colonel Punter,' she replied, for it is about my son, who is in the army, that I wish to ask your advice.'
"Your son-in the army!' exclaimed the Colonel with an inflexion of voice that was decidedly complimentary to the youthfulness of her appearance. May I ask his regiment?'
" The 60th Lancers.'
The 60th Lancers!'
repeated the Colonel. Why, Mrs. Verner, I know your son. His commanding officer is an old friend of mine, and I have a slight acquaintance with the whole regiment.'
This is very singular and very lucky,' said she. As you know my poor boy's regiment, I think you will be better able to understand and advise on the troubles and difficulties I am in
regarding him. Will you let me tell you my sad story from the beginning, or shall I be boring you?'
'Oh, pray don't think so for a moment, Mrs. Verner,' said the Colonel; and he would have liked to add, 'Nothing you could say would bore me,' but felt it would be unsuitable to the occasion.
'Well,' she continued with a sigh, 'my married life was a short and not a happy one. My husband's health was always bad, and for this reason we had to reside abroad. When we had been married two years my husband died and left me alone in the world with an infant boy.' She paused and seemed lost for a moment in sad memories, while the Colonel glanced sympathetically at her, but thought it well to say nothing. 'Well,' she continued, during the last twenty years I have lived almost entirely abroad, but I sent my son to be educated at Eton, and about two years ago he obtained a commission in the 60th Lancers. Words cannot tell what a comfort and joy my son has been to me during my lonely widowhood-I have been so proud of all his school triumphs, I have always been his confidante when he got into trouble. You see, Colonel Punter, I am sadly constrained to use the past tense, for I am grieved to say that since he entered the army his manner to me has gradually changed, until now, when I do see him, which is not often, he who used to be all frankness and love is all coldness and reserve-and-and- -if this goes on it will break my heart.' Here she fairly gave way and covered her face with her hands. Colonel Punter's soft heart was always much perturbed at the sight of a woman's tears. So he kept murmuring in his most soothing accents:
'Pray, madam, pray calm yourself. I am sure I will do all I can to help you.'
In a few minutes she recovered herself and said:
'You must excuse my breaking down. I know it always vexes a man to see a woman's tears. But I will promise not to do so again, and I dare say you are wondering what you can do to help me in this matter. Well, the fact is, I want to know the worst. I have heard rumours about my son which make me shudder whenever I think of them. I hear that he has given himself out in the regiment as the son of rich people who live abroad, and that he is living in most extravagant style; whereas it is, in truth, with considerable difficulty that his moderate allowance is regularly paid.'