The villages are of immemorial antiquity; their names, their traditions, their hereditary offices have come down out of the dim past through countless generations. History sweeps over them with her trampling armies and her conquerors, her changing dynasties and her shifting laws—sweeps over them and leaves them unchanged.
The village is self-contained. It is a complete organism, protoplastic it may be, with the chlorophyll of age colouring its institutions, but none the less a perfect, living entity. It has within itself everything that its existence demands, and it has no ambition. The torment of frustrated hope and of supersession is unknown in the village. We who are always striving to roll our prospects and our office boxes up the hill to Simla may learn a lesson here:
Sisyphus in vita
quoque nobis ante oculos est
Qui petere a populo fasces saevasque secures
Imbibit et semper victus tristisque recedit.
Nam petere imperium quod inanest nec datur umquam,
Atque in eo semper durum sufferre laborem,
Hoc est adverse nixantem trudere monte
Saxum quod tamen e summojam vertice rusum
Volvitur et plani raptim petit sequora campi.
In this idyllic existence, in which, as I have said, there is no ambition, several other ills are also wanting. There is, for instance, no News in the village. The village is without the pale of intelligence. This must indeed be bliss. Just fancy, dear Vanity, a state of existence in which there are no politics, no discoveries, no travels, no speculations, no Garnet Wolseleys, no Gladstones, no Captain Careys, no Sarah Bernhardts! If there be a heaven upon earth, it is surely here. Here no Press Commissioner sits on the hillside croaking dreary translations from the St. Petersburg press; here no Pioneer sings catches with Sir John Strachey in Council. But here the lark sings in heaven for evermore, the sweet corn grows below, and the villager, amid these quiet joys with which the earth fills her lap, dreams his low life.—ALI BABA, K.C.B.
THE OLD COLONEL
[Illustration: THE OLD COLONEL—“Ripening for pension.”]
[November 15, 1879.]
The old Indian Colonel ripening for pension on the shelf of General Duty is an object at once pitiful and ludicrous. His profession has ebbed away from him, and he lies a melancholy derelict on the shore, with sails flapping idly against the mast and meaningless pennants streaming in the wind.
He has forgotten nearly everything he ever learnt of military duty, and what he has not forgotten has been changed. It is as much as he can do to keep up with the most advanced thoughts of the Horse Guards on buttons and gold lace. Yet he is still employed sometimes to turn out a guard, or to swear that “the Service is going,” &c.; and though he has lost his nerve for riding, he has still a good seat on a boot-lace committee.