The evening of this hospitable day concluded with a ball to the neighbouring families, and all was graceful and animated enjoyment. My host had travelled much in early life, and had brought home some fine pictures and valuable sculptures. He was an accomplished classical scholar—a quality which I found in some degree fashionable among the leading personages of the time, and which unquestionably added much to the high tone of conversation among the parliamentary circles. In his magnificent mansion an artist might have found studies, a scholar learning, a philosopher wisdom, and a man of the world all the charms of polished life. How soon, and how fearfully, were they all to be extinguished! How bitterly were all who honoured and esteemed that generous and highly-gifted nobleman, to feel what shadows we are, and what shadows we pursue!
Our mornings were chiefly spent in hunting over the fine landscape which spread, in all the various beauty of vegetation, within view of the mansion. On one of those days the attention of the field was caught by the fierce riding of a singular-looking man, scarcely above the peasant in his general appearance, and yet mounted on one of the finest English horses that I had ever seen. He rode at every thing, managed his horse with practised skill, and soon became an object of general emulation. To "ride up" to the "wild horseman," was found to be a task not easily accomplished, and at length all was a trial of speed with this dashing exhibitor. A glance which, when on the point of one of his most desperate leaps, he threw back at me, seemed to be a kind of challenge, and I rushed on at speed. The Irish hunter matchless at "topping" stone walls, but his practice has not lain much among rivers; and the English horse is sometimes his master at the deep and rapid streams which, running between crumbling banks, are perhaps the severest trials to both horse and rider. The majority of the hunt pulled up at the edge of one of those formidable chasms, and I was by no means unwilling to follow their example; but the look of the strange rider had a sneer along with it, which put me on my mettle, and I dashed after him. The hounds had scrambled through, and we rode nearly abreast through a broken country, that mixture of bog and firm ground which occurs frequently in newly cleared land, and over which nothing but the most powerful sinews can make way. We had now left every one behind us, were struggling on through the dimness of a hazy day, sinking into twilight. Suddenly my mysterious rival turned his horse full upon me, and to my utter amazement discharged a pistol at my head. The discharge was so close that I escaped only by the swerving of my horse at the flash. I felt my face burn, and in the impulse of the pain made a blind blow at him with my whip. He had drawn out another pistol in an instant, which the blow luckily dashed out of his hand. No words passed between us, but I bounded on him to seize him. He slipped away from my grasp, and, striking in the spur, galloped madly forward, I in pursuit. The twilight had now deepened, and he plunged into a lane bounded on both sides by steep hedges, and which, from some former hunting in this quarter, I knew to be a cul-de-sac. This doubled my determination to make myself master of the assassin; and even in the hurry of the moment I formed some conception of my having seen his face before, and that the attempt to put me out of the way was connected, in some way or other, with public affairs. This question was soon decided. He reached the end of the lane, which was shut in with a wall of about the height of a man. His horse shied at the obstacle. The rider, with an oath and a desperate exertion, pushed him to it again. I was now within a few yards of him, and arrived just in time to see the animal make a convulsive spring, touch with his hind feet on the top of the wall, and roll over. My Irish horse cleared it in the native style, and I found my enemy crushed under his hunter, and evidently in the pangs of death. He had been flung on a heap of stones, and the weight of the falling horse had broken his spine. I poured some brandy down his throat, relieved him from the incumbrance of the hunter—attempted to give him hope—but he told me that it was useless; that he felt death coming on, and that I was the last man who should wish him to live, "as he had pledged himself to my extinction." For a while, his recollections were wild, and he talked of events in France and Spain, where he seemed to have done some deeds which affected him with peculiar horror in the prospect of dissolution. But, after a brief period of those terrible disclosures, his pains totally ceased, his mind grew clear; and he acknowledged that he was one of the leading agents of a National Conspiracy to republicanize Ireland. "You are too kind," said he to me, "to one who now sees the madness of the design, and is sensible of the guilt of taking away the lives of honourable men." A lapse of weakness here tied his tongue; and I brought him a draught of water from a spring which gurgled beside the wall. He thanked me, and proceeded to say, that my "character for vigilance and activity had alarmed the principal conspirators, and that he, thinking all crimes meritorious in a popular cause, had resolved to signalize the commencement of his services, by putting the English secretary to death on the first occasion." For this purpose, he had followed my steps for some time in the metropolis, but without finding a fit opportunity. The intelligence of my hunting days in the north gave him renewed expectations, and he had followed me in various disguises; had been present at dinners and balls, where I was the principal guest; had even frequently conversed with me on public and foreign topics; in fact, had haunted me with a case of pistols constantly in his bosom; yet had never been able to find the true opportunity of despatching me without eclat. He had, at last, determined to give up the object as altogether hopeless; and had already prepared to act on a bolder scale by heading open rebellion, when he heard of my intending to hunt on this day. It was to be his last experiment; "and how rejoiced I am," said he, "that it has failed!" He now remained for a while in apparent meditation, and then suddenly raising himself on his hand, said, in a full and manly tone—"One thing I still can do in this world, if it may not be too late. Leave me here; I must die; go back in all haste to your friends, and tell them to prepare either to fly or defend their lives. This is the night appointed for the breaking out of the insurrection. Fifty thousand men are already armed in the mountains, and ready for the signal to march on the principal towns. The few troops in the country are to be made prisoners in their barracks. The government stores are to be divided among the people. Before twelve hours are over we shall have a force of a hundred thousand men on foot; and a republic will be proclaimed."
The intelligence was startling, but not wholly unexpected. I demanded the names of the leaders; but on this head he refused to make any answer. I next enquired, whether the rebel directory had any hope of assistance from the Continent. "That I can fully answer," said he, now almost at his last gasp. "I myself was the negotiator. It is but a month since I was in Paris. The government agreed to send seven sail of the line, with ten thousand troops, and Hoche, the favourite general of the republic, to the north; or, in case of unexpected obstacles, to the south of Ireland. I have been looking out for their flag from hour to hour." The man sank back on the ground. I prepared to run for help, if there were any to be found in that desolate place. He grasped my hand; his was icy. "No," said he, "I must now be left alone; I am dying, and I am not sorry to die. I am free from your blood, and I shall not share in the horrors which I see at hand. Men in health, and men dying think differently of those things. Farewell!" He gave my hand a convulsive clasp, and expired.
My situation was an anxious one. Night had fallen, and the hour was full of peril to those whom I had left behind; it was even possible that the insurrection might have already broken out. Sounds, which seemed to me, in the stillness of the hour, to be the signals of the peasantry—the echoes of horns, and trampling of bodies of horse—began to rise upon the gust, and yet I was unwilling to leave my unfortunate victim on the ground. A length a loud shout, and the firing of musketry on the skirts of the wood, awoke me to a sense of the real danger of my situation. I forced my way through the thickets, and saw a skirmish between a large mass of armed men, and a picket of troops in a village on the borders of the wood. There was now no time to be lost. I returned to the spot where the body lay, placed my hand on its forehead, to ascertain whether any remnant of life lingered there; found all cold; and, remounting my horse, wound my dreary and difficult way back to the mansion.
To my surprise, I found the windows blazing with lights, carriages arriving, and all the signs of a night of gala. I had forgotten that this was my noble entertainer's birthday, and that the whole circle of the neighbouring nobles and gentlemen had been for the last month invited. There were to be private theatricals, followed by a ball and supper. The whole country continued to pour in. Full of my disastrous intelligence, my first enquiry was for the noble host; he was not to be seen. I was at length informed under the seal of secrecy by his secretary, that some information of popular movements within a few miles, having been conveyed to him late in the day, he had put himself at the head of a squadron of his yeomanry to ascertain the nature of the disturbance, and as it was then too late to countermand the invitations to the ball, had given strict orders that the cause of his absence should be concealed, and that the entertainments should go on as if he were present.
Agreeing that this was the wisest thing which could be done, to avoid unnecessary alarm, which paralyses action beforehand, and renders all ridiculous after, I seldom felt it more difficult to play my part than on this occasion. As a minister, any thing in the shape of solicitude on my part, was sure to be magnified into actual disaster, and I was forced to keep an unembarrassed countenance. I immediately sent out servants in every direction to bring intelligence of the actual state of affairs, and above all, to ascertain what had detained their master. Though all this was done with the utmost secrecy, it was impossible to suppress the growing impression that something extraordinary must have occurred, to withdraw from his own hospitable roof, and so long detain, the lord of the mansion, distinguished as he was for the most polished courtesy. As the hour waned, the enquiries became more urgent, the dance languished, and the showy crowd forming into groups, and wandering through the saloons, or gathered to the windows, had evidently lost all the spirit of festivity. To my astonishment, strong opinions began to find utterance, and I discovered that his lordship, in his general and lofty disregard of the shades of popular sentiment, had among his guests some individuals whose rank and wealth had not preserved them from the taint of republicanism. As it was not my purpose to make a ball-room the scene of a political squabble, and as I felt it due to my official position to avoid any unnecessary entanglement in the obscure follies of provincial partizanship, I first tried to laugh down the topic. But a young orator, a handsome and fluent enthusiast, recently returned from a continental excursion, gave so stirring a picture of the glories of French independence, and the glittering advantages which must accrue to all countries following the example, that I was forced to stand on my defence. The gallant republican was not to be repelled; he poured out upon me, as he warmed with the theme, so vast a catalogue of public injuries, in language so menacing, yet so eloquent, that I was forced to ask whether I was standing in the midst of a Jacobin club—whether his object was actually to establish a democracy, to govern by the guillotine, to close up the churches, and inscribe the tombs with—death is an eternal sleep; to swear to the extinction of monarchy, and proclaim universal war. Our dispute had now attracted general notice. He answered with still more vehement and elaborate detail. I had evidently the majority on my side, but some few adhered to him, and those, too, men of consequence, and obvious determination.
The ladies shrank affrighted, as the contest grew more angry; and the usual and unhappy result of political discussion in Ireland, an exchange of cards, was about to take place, when one of the servants brought me a small packet of papers which had been found on the body of the assassin. Glancing over them, I saw a list of the leaders of the insurrection, and the first name in the paper that of my antagonist. I crushed the document in my hand, and beckoned him to a window. There, alone, and out of hearing of the guests, who, however, followed us anxiously with their eyes, I charged him with his guilt. He denied it fiercely. I gave him five minutes to consider whether he would confess or abide the consequences. His countenance visibly exhibited the perturbations of his mind; he turned pale and red alternately, shuddered, then braced himself up with desperate resolution, and finally ended by denying and defying every thing. It was not in my nature to press upon this moment of agony; but telling him, that nothing but compassion prevented my ordering his arrest on the spot, I again warned him to make his peace in time with the government, by a solemn abjuration of his design.
I have the whole scene before me still. This man was destined to a memorable and melancholy fate. I never remember a countenance more expressive of intellectual refinement; but there was a look of strange and feverish restlessness in his large grey eye, almost ominous of his future career. He was still young, though he had already gone through vicissitudes enough to darken the longest life. He had been, a few years before, called to the bar, the favourite profession of the Irish gentry, where he had exhibited talents of a remarkable order; but an impatience of the slow success of this profession drove him to the hazards of political change. He had married, and this increased his difficulties, until party came athwart him with its promises of boundless honour and rapid fortune. His sanguine nature embraced the temptation at once; but the parliamentary opposition was too deliberate and too frigid for his boiling blood; he plunged into the deeper and wilder region of conspiracy, took the lead, which is so soon assigned to the brilliant and the bold, and became the soul of the tremendous faction which was ready to proclaim the separation of the empire.
He had but now returned from France, with a commission in the army of the Republic, and a plan agreed on with the Directory for the invasion of Ireland; but these were discoveries to be made hereafter. On this night I saw nothing but a gallant enthusiast, filled with classic recollections, inflamed with the ardour of early life, and deluded by the dreams of political perfection. My sense of the utter ruin which he was preparing for himself was so strong, that I pressed him from point to point, until he was forced to take refuge in flight, and, rushing from me, burst open a door which led to the demesne. While I paused, not unwilling to give him the opportunity to escape, I heard a wild burst of wailing, and a confusion of voices outside. In the next moment, I saw the fugitive return, with a tottering step, a bloodless countenance, and a look of horror. Without a word, he pointed to the door; I followed the direction, and saw what might well justify his feelings. The troop of yeomanry had been attacked on their return from patrolling the country; an ambuscade had been laid for them by a large force of the insurgents, in one of the narrow roads which bordered the demesne, and where, from its vicinity, they had imagined themselves secure. As they moved down this defile with their noble commandant at their head, a heavy fire of musketry assailed them from both sides; and as the assailants were unapproachable, they had no resource but to gallop on. But they had no sooner reached the wider part of the road, than they found themselves fired on again from behind a barricade of carts and waggons drawn across the road. The affair now seemed desperate; the muzzles of the muskets almost touched their breasts, and every shot told. Their pistols could only keep up a random fire, and their sabres were wholly useless. They were now falling helplessly and fast, when the earl ordered them to charge the insurgents in front, and force their way over the barricade at all risks. He bravely led the way, and they burst through under a volley from the rebels. A ball fatally struck him as he was in the act of cheering on his men, and he dropped dead from his horse without a groan. The troop, furious at their loss, had taken a desperate revenge, cleared the road, and had now brought the dead body of their lord to that mansion, where he had so long presided as the example of every high-toned quality, and which his fate was now to turn into a scene of terror and woe.
The melancholy tidings could not now be suppressed, and the ball-room was filled with screams and faintings. The corpse was brought in, borne on the arms of the yeomanry, most of them wounded, and looking ghastly from loss of blood and the agitation of the encounter. The guests crowded round the sofa on which the body was laid, with all the varieties of sorrow and strong emotion conceivable, under the loss of a common and honoured friend. Tears fell down many a manly cheek; sobs were heard on every side, mingled with outcries of indignation against the rebellious spirit by which so deep a calamity had been produced. But all other considerations were quickly absorbed in the sense of general danger. A tremendous shout was heard round the mansion, followed by the discharge of musketry and the clashing of pikes. All rushed to the windows, and we saw the hills in a blaze with fires, and the demesne crowded with the armed thousands of the insurrection.
THE GOD OF NEW-YEAR'S DAY, FROM THE FASTI OF OVID.
Behold with omens blithe and bright, on festive New-Year's Day, First in the year old Janus comes, and foremost in my lay! Twin-headed god, source of the year that silent glides away, Who only of the Olympian throng canst thine own back survey; Bless thou our noble chiefs, whose arms have purchased gentle peace To fruitful Earth, and lent the wave from pirate-chase release; On senators and people smile, who call Quirinus god, All temples bright, in shining white, fly open at thy nod! A lucky sun doth shine; nor voice, nor thought of ill, be stirr'd To tempt the time; the happy day demands the happy word. No brawls assail the ear; cease now the harsh-vex'd forum's hum, And calumny with eager tongue, for once thy spite be dumb! Lo! where the pure and fragrant flame from every altar round Upwreathes, while ears devout receive the saffron's crackling sound! The wandering flame, far darting, strikes the golden-fretted roof, And with the tremulous ray aloft, it weaves a shining woof. In stately pomp, the people wend up the Tarpeian slope, All brightly, on a bright day clad, the pure white robes of hope; New axes shine, and in the sun new purple bravely sports, And greeted-far the curule chair new weight of worth supports; New oxen come that lately cropp'd the sweet Faliscan grass, And yield to Jove their willing necks on which no yoke did pass. He, from his starry throne sublime, looks East and West; and lo! He sees but Rome, and Rome's domain, in all he sways below. Hail happy day, and still return to bless with happier face The sons of Romulus, lords of Earth, not thankless for thy grace! But who art thou, strange biform god, and what thy power? for Greece With all her gods of thee and thine hath bade her Muses cease; This say; and say why thou alone of all celestial kind, Dost forwards still look steadfastly and also gaze behind? Thus with myself I mused, and held my tablets to indite, When sudden through the room there shone an unaccustom'd light, And in the light the double shape of Janus hoar appear'd, And 'fore my view with fix'd regard his double face he rear'd. I stood aghast, each rigid hair erect rose on my head, And through my frame with freezing touch the creeping terror sped. He in his right hand held a staff, and in his left a key, And with the mouth to-me-ward turn'd these words he spake to me— "Fear not, pains-taking bard, whose pen doth chronicle the days, Receive my word with faithful ear, and sound it in thy lays. When earth was young, primeval speech first call'd me Chaos; I Am no birth of to-day—a name of hoar antiquity. This lucid air, and the other three, which elements ye class, Fire, water, earth, were then one rude and undigested mass; But soon within the mingled heap a secret strife did brew, And to self-chosen homes anon the hostile atoms flew. First rose the flame sublime, the air assumed the middle berth, And to the central base were bound strong ocean, and firm earth. Then I, till then a mass confused, a huge and shapeless round, New features worthy of a god, and worthy members found; Still of my primal shapeless bulk remain'd the little trace, That I alone have no true back, but show both ways a face. One cause thou hast; another hear, and with my figure know, My virtue and my power above, my office here below. Whate'er thou see'st, the earth, the sea, the air, the fiery cope, At my command they shut their gates, at my command they ope. I of the vasty universe do hold the secret key, The hinge of every thing that turns is turn'd alone by me. Peace, when I please to send her forth from her secure retreats, Walks freely o'er the unfenced fields, and treads free-gated streets; The mighty globe would quake convulsed by blood and murderous din, Did not my brazen bolt confine the store of strife within. The gates of Heaven are mine; I watch there with the gentle Hours, That Jove supreme must wait my time in the Olympian bowers. Thence my name Janus; thence the priest who on my altar places The salted cake, the sacred meal, with strange-mouth'd titles graces My hoary deity; thence you hear Patulcius now, and now Clusius, crown the votive gift, and seal the mystic vow. Thus rude antiquity at first its simple creed confess'd, And with twin words the functions twain of one same god express'd. My power you know—the god of gates—now for my figure, why? The cause is plain, and may be read by half a poet's eye. There is no door but looks two ways; into the busy street This way, and that way back towards the quiet Lar's retreat; And as the porter whom you place to keep watch at your gate, Sees who goes out and who comes in at early hour and late, Thus I, the warden of the sky, from heaven's wide-tented blue, Look forth, and scan both east and west with comprehensive view. The triform image you have seen, and any where may see, Of Hecate standing at the point where one road parts in three; Thus I, lest turning of my neck my function might delay, The motive world on either side without a move survey." Thus spake the god with friendly mien and eye, that seem'd to say— "If wish be yours to question more, command me; I obey." Due thanks I gave; strong fear no more my eager tongue possess'd, And with a look that sought the ground, the immortal I address'd. "This would I know, why frosty days and storms begin the year, Which flowery spring had usher'd in with more auspicious cheer; Then all things flourish—all things then of youth and freshness tell, The juicy vine begins to flow, the bud begins to swell; With fresh green leaves the tree is clad, a virgin sheen appears, The bursting seed above the ground the fresh green blade uprears. With fresh full-throated warblings then the blithe birds stir the air, And lamb and lambkin in the mead their frisking sports prepare. Then suns are mild; its south retreat the stranger swallow leaves, And skilful builds the well-known clay beneath the lofty eaves. Then walks the ploughman forth; the clod yields to the sturdy steer; Soothly the fittest time was this to omen in the year." My words were many, but in words few and well-chosen, He, Within the compass of two lines, thus made reply to me. "What time the sun that sunk before mounts loftier to the view, This fitliest closed the parting year, and usher'd in the new." I ask'd again, "Why on this day the forum's strife should end Only in part."—"The cause," said he, "I will explain; attend. The young year's starting day I made but partial holiday, Lest labourless begun, the year might run to the end in play; Each cunning hand on Janus' feast makes prelude to his trade, Of all the rest a timely test on New-Year's day is made." Then I, this further—"Tell me why, when I bring frankincense To Jove or any other god, with thee I still commence?" "Because of things in heaven and earth I hold the sacred key, The first approach to all the gods is made alone through me." "But on thy kalends, why are men, so harsh on other days, Keen to return the kindly look, and change the friendly phrase?" To this the god, his strong right hand upon his good staff leaning, "All ominous things when first observed speak out their fateful meaning. To the first voice of things that cry, ye lend a trembling ear, And the first flight of bodeful wings fills pious hearts with fear. The ears are open of the gods, to catch on New-Year's day What random words, or thoughtless prayer, a hasty fool may say." Thus ceased the god; nor slow was I the broken thread to join, But of the last words that he spake, thus trode the heels with mine. "But what have dates to do with thee, and wrinkled figs, this tell, And what the honey dew that drops pure from its snowy cell?" "Here, too, an omen lies," he said; "the cause is passing clear, That from sweet things a savour sweet may relish the whole year." Thus taught, the cause I understood of dates, and figs, and honey; "But tell me now, wise god!" I said, "what means the piece of money?" He smiled. "Alas! how much thy age deceives thy wit," he said; "As if sweet honey by the touch of gold were sweeter made. Even in good Saturn's day, 'twas hard to find a heart all pure, From the infection of base gain, and gainful lust secure. Small at the birth, it grew apace the thirst of yellow ore, Till heap on heap ye pile so high, that ye can pile no more. Not so the measure was of wealth in Rome's primeval time, When all was poor that now is rich, and low that's now sublime; When a small hut was all that held the son of Mars divine, And gather'd reeds were all the couch on which he drain'd the wine; When Jove within his narrow cell erect could scarcely stand, An earthen Jove, and of base clay the bolt that arm'd his hand. When with wild-flowers the fane was deck'd that now with jewels gleams, And his own sheep the senator fed near the rural streams; When gently woo'd by healthy sleep the rustic warrior lay On straw, and praised above all down a truss of bristling hay; When to give laws to Rome the peasant consul left the plough, And gold was then as great a crime as 'tis a virtue now. But when our fates were lifted high, and to the stars sublime, Perch'd on her base of seven-hill'd state proud Rome had learn'd to climb; Wealth grew with power, and lust of wealth, a madness of the brain, And still the more that they possess'd, the more they sought to gain. Eager to make that they might spend, spending to make anew, Change nursed by change of fell extremes to monstrous nature grew; Thus he whose sickly body swells with water in the veins, The more he drinks, the more within the thirsty fever reigns. All things are prized by price; to wealth all honours now are sure; Wealth buys the rich man friends; forlorn and friendless pines the poor. If now you ask why copper coins are chiefly my delight, The ancient brass of Rome should I, the ancient Janus, slight? Brass was their wealth of old; though now the better omen's gold, And the new metal from the field has fairly beat the old. Myself, though simple and severe, approve a golden shrine— This metal hath a majesty that suits a power divine. We praise the ancients, and 'tis well; but use our modern ways— All fashions in due time and place are worthy of our praise." Thus ceased the god; but I, to set all rising doubts at rest, The hoar key-bearer of the sky thus with meek words address'd:— "Much I have learn'd; but tell me this—why of our copper coin Does one side bear a ship, and one a double head like thine?" "That head is mine; you might have known the likeness of the face But that hoar age and wear have dull'd the sharpness of the trace. As for the ship, attend: the god that bears the scythe whilcome Far-wandering in the Tuscan flood at length had ceased to roam. Well I remember when he came, and hold the memory dear— Saturn, by Jove expell'd from heaven, and kindly welcom'd here. Thence was the land Saturnia call'd; and Latium still we name The part where ancient Saturn lurk'd in safety when he came. Our pious sires upon the brass the sacred ship impress'd, Whose keel to blest Ausonian shores had borne the Olympian guest. Then on that spot I made my home where Tiber's waters glide, And eat the yielding banks away with sandy-rolling tide. Here, where Rome stands, wild copse green grew; the busy forum now Was then a peaceful glen, disturb'd by wandering oxen's low. My fortress then was that same hill which pious Rome reveres Even now, and thinks on Janus when Janiculum she hears. Here I was king, when holy earth of heavenly guests could tell, And in the haunts of men the gods were not ashamed to dwell; Ere Justice, shrinking from the sight of human guilt and crime, Last of immortals left the earth, and sought the starry clime; When hearts were sway'd by love, and held by bonds of holy awe, And light the labour was to shape for willing hearts the law. Stern war I knew not, and the gates I held were gates of peace; While in my hand the key declared—Let garner'd stores increase!" Here closed the god his lips; but I, not bashful, open'd mine, And with the mortal voice again unseal'd the voice divine. "Since many gates are thine in Rome, say why dost thou appear In perfect shape and size nowhere but at the forums here?" Whereto the god, with gentle hand stroking his long beard hoary, Forthwith recounted in my ear OEbalian Tatius' story; And how, by Sabine gauds ensnared, the fair and faithless maid The path that to the Capitol leads to the Sabine lord betray'd. "As there is now, so then there was, a slope by which you go Steep from the citadel to the plain, and forum stretch'd below; And now the twain had reach'd the gate where Juno's partial ward The only bolts that closed their way propitiously unbarr'd, When I, too wise with Saturn's seed in open fight to join, Contrived a scheme that baffled hers, a plan entirely mine; I oped (in opening lies my strength) a gate where waters slept, And from the solid rock straightway a stream impetuous leapt; To the hot spring such sulphurous steams my timely aid supplied That eager Tatius quail'd and shrunk back from the rolling tide. The Sabines fled; the gushing fount miraculous ceased to flow; Nor pious Rome to own the power that sent such aid was slow; A little altar on a shrine not large to Janus' name Was raised; there sprinkled meal and cake smokes mingled with the flame." "But this say further,—why thy gates in war are open, why In peace are closed?" whereto the god thus gave the prompt reply; "That till her sons fierce war have quench'd, and crush'd the crude revolt, Rome to receive the homeward host may keep unbarr'd the bolt; In peace my locks are closed, that none may causeless leave his home, Nor few the years I shall be closed while Caesar reigns in Rome." Thus spake the god; and lifting high his head of diverse view, Scann'd east and west, and all that's spread beneath the ethereal blue; And peace rein'd o'er wide earth; ev'n where i' the north, with surly wave, The rebel Rhine to Caesar's arms their latest triumph gave; Peace, hoary Janus, make thou sure for ever; and may they Who purchased peace embrace the globe with everlasting sway.
TO A BLIND GIRL.
I do not sigh as some may sigh, To see thee in thy darkness led Along the path where sunbeams lie, And bloom is shed.
I do not weep as some may weep, Upon thy rayless brow to look; A boon more rare 'twas thine to keep, When light forsook.
A glorious boon! Thou shalt not view One treasure from the earth depart— Its starry buds, its pearls of dew, Lie in thy heart.
No need to heed the frosty air, No need to heed the blasts that chafe, The scatter'd sheaf, the vintage spare— Thy hoard is safe.
Thou shalt not mark the silent change That falls upon the heart like blight, The smile that grows all cold and strange.— Bless'd is thy night!
Thou shalt not watch the slow decay, Nor see the ivy clasp the fane, Nor trace upon the column gray The mildew stain.
Ours is the darkness—thine the light. Within thy brow a glory plays; Shrine, blossom, dewdrop, all are bright With quenchless rays.
THE FORCED SALE.
A large red brick house, with a multitude of gable-ends, and rows of small, dingy-looking windows, had hidden itself for many generations in a clump of fine old trees in a large green field—almost qualified to take rank as a park—at a distance of six or seven miles from St Paul's. In the days of the good Queen Anne, the city lay comfortably huddled up round the cathedral church, and looked upon her sister of Westminster as too far removed, and of too lofty a rank, to be visited except on rare occasions. London was then contained within reasonable limits, and it was easy to walk round her boundaries; you could even point out the precise spot at which the town ended and the country began. The inhabitants of the large brick house, known by the name of Surbridge Hall, at rare intervals, and then only to visit the shops, undertook the journey into the city; and, unless in the stillest of autumn evenings, when the enormous tongue of the metropolitan clock made itself audible on the Surbridge lawn, they might have forgotten that such a place as the capital was within fifty miles. That generation died off; and London had begun to put out feelers in all directions, and had outgrown the ancient limits. Streets began to move out a little way into the country for change of air; and, in making their usual shopping-visits to the great city, the inhabitants of Surbridge Hall had now to drive through a short row of houses, where the elders of the party remembered nothing but a hedge. That generation also died out; and the city, like an old dowager who has once been a beauty, and boasted of a waist, grew out of all shape. There were squares and crescents rising in every quarter and the white tops of chimneys, and the blue dinginess of roofs, became visible from the upper windows of Surbridge Hall. The proprietor, terrified perhaps by the approach of such neighbours, advertised the Hall for sale, speedily found a purchaser, and, somewhere about the beginning of this century, the old family name of the Walronds disappeared from the country, and Surbridge Hall became the property of William Wilkins, Esq. We may observe that, much about the same time, the name of the senior partner disappeared from the door of a dingy-looking house in Riches Court, and the firm of Wilkins & Roe was deprived of its larger half. The old lion-rampant, that had stood on its hind-legs for so many years on the top of one of the piers of the entrance gates, as if in act to spring upon the deer that lay ruminating on the top of the other, was now displaced; and, in a few days, his position was taken by a plaster-of-Paris cast of Hebe, benevolently holding forth an empty goblet towards the thirsty statue of Apollo which did duty on the other side. The floors in the old hall were new laid, the windows fitted with plate glass, the painting and decoration put into the hands of a Bond-street finisher, who covered the walls with acres of gilding, and hung chandeliers from the ceilings, and placed mirrors upon the walls, till the rooms looked like the show galleries of an upholsterer, and very different from the fine solid habitable apartments they used to be in the time of the late proprietor. And a change nearly as remarkable took place on Mr Wilkins himself as in his house. He attended county meetings, and became learned in rents and agriculture. He built new houses for his tenants, and only regretted he had never learned to ride, or he would have followed the hounds. But though he was no Nimrod, he dressed like one of his sons, and encased his thick legs in top-boots, and generally carried a whip. At last, by dint of good dinners, and voting on the right side at the elections, he became a magistrate; and if Mrs Wilkins had had the politeness to die, he would have married Lady Diana O'Huggomy, the daughter of an Irish earl; but Mrs Wilkins did not die, and Lady Diana ran away with a dancing-master. His son had been eighteen years at the bar, and never had had a brief; his daughters had been twenty years on the world, and never had had an offer; but he still expected to see Richard lord chancellor, and his three girls peeresses. A country gentleman, a county magistrate, perfectly healthy and tolerably rich, was there any thing wanting to Mr Wilkins's felicity? Yes. Alexander the Great was wretched when he had conquered the world, and was ten times happier when he was breaking-in Bucephalus; and Mr Wilkins, if the truth must be told, was very like Alexander the Great, at least in his discontent, and was never so gay as he used to be in the dingy mansion in Riches Court. The dinners he gave were formal, cold affairs, where he never felt at his ease: he could not help thinking that the neighbours quizzed and looked down on him; and, in short, he felt out of his element, and longed sometimes for the free-and-easy dinners he had relished so much in the city. His farm-houses were at last all built, his improvements all completed, and there was no further occupation for either himself or his money. He sometimes drove into Harley Street to see his son, but he found that gentleman also on the rack of idleness, and went home again, wondering how Roe was getting on in the old premises, though never venturing to go near him—for his family had insisted on a dead cut between the partners, and could not endure the thoughts of Mr Roe coming between the wind and their newly acquired nobility. Time wore on. Old Wilkins grew older. He used to sit at the window of his drawing-room and look towards London, fancying to himself the bustle and stir that were going on, the crowding in Fleet Street, the crush at the Bank; and occasionally imagination conjured up to him the image of an active citizen bustling down towards the Exchange, radiant with success, and filled with activity and hope; and he could scarcely recognise his own identity with that joyous citizen, the William Wilkins of that happier time. The flood of building, which had only reached to within three miles of Surbridge when the Walronds retired to the ark of some estate they retained in Yorkshire, had now increased to such a degree, as to have submerged many of the fields and orchards that lay at very short distance from the Hall. "Willars," with Italian fronts and little greenhouses at the side, took post all along the road, and, from the open windows, sounded in summer evenings the Battle of Prague, or God save the King, so that you walked amidst perpetual music, for no house was so ungenteel as to be without a piano. Surbridge Hall itself ran a great risk of becoming a suburban villa at no distant time; and Mr Wilkins was in some hopes that his family would allow him to consider himself an inhabitant of London once more, and no longer doom him to the cold nothingness of squireship and gentility. But whether they might have relented in this respect can never be known; for while he was meditating a renewal of his acquaintance with his late partner, and an occasional dive into Riches Court, he changed his bed at the Hall for the family vault (newly built) in Surbridge church, and his great-coat and riding-whip for a Roman toga and a long gilt baton, with which he pointed to heaven from the top of a splendid monument near the south wall. Richard now succeeded to the family honours; and as he had married a Miss Gillingham—a name which he preferred to his ancestral appellation—he did her the honour to take it to himself, and was duly enrolled in the list of justices as Wilkins Gillingham, Esq. His son was sent to Christchurch, and his three daughters to a fashionable boarding-school. His mother and sisters retired to Tunbridge Wells, and they all began to persuade themselves that Surbridge had been in the family from the time of the Conquest. By way of strengthening their claims to county consideration, it was wisely determined to oppose the building invasion as powerfully as they could. Several farms and fields were bought, plantations were skilfully placed, two or three feet were added to the height of the walls all round the property; and it was hoped that some impression was made on the advancing architectural enemy; for in the speculative year of 1819, a dozen or two of builders were removed to the Queen's Bench, and whole rows of houses were left looking up to heaven, in vain expectation of a roof. Wilkins Gillingham served the office of High Sheriff, caught a surfeit in entertaining the judges, and in a few weeks gave place to his heir. Augustus had passed two years at Oxford—had then married a beauty—the daughter of a country surgeon of the name of Howard; and as he inherited his father's tastes, along with his property, he changed his family name; and poor old Widow Wilkins, who still survived, enlivened the tea-tables of the Wells with anecdotes and descriptions of her grandson, Gillingham Howard. Death seemed entirely to have forgotten the relict of the original William. She stood like an ancient pillar, to point out where the building it once belonged to was placed; and was looked upon by her descendants pretty much as a native American looks upon a venerable squaw of some Indian nation—the connecting link between New York and the woods. The widow was the sole point of union left between Surbridge Hall and Riches Court. Whether her grandson did not relish the reminiscence, or from what cause no one can hazard more than a guess, certain it is that on the death of his wife, who left him with two daughters, four or five years old, he did not summon his venerable ancestor from the Wells, but installed one of her daughters—Aunt Susannah—in the temporary charge of his house. By some secret arrangement, into the causes of which we have no time to enquire, such a change took place in Aunt Susannah, that though she left Tunbridge, having secured her place in the inside of the coach in the name of Miss S. Wilkins, she was brought out from London in Mr Howard's carriage in the name of Miss S. Gillingham; and there was no person of the name of Wilkins in the whole of the establishment. Aunt Susannah was not a person to hesitate long as to a change of name. It had been the whole object of her life, till five-and-thirty years of disappointment had almost made her despair of succeeding in her object, by the help of special license or even vulgar banns; and she accordingly made no scruple in adopting the more euphonious Gillingham, and sinking all mention of the other. Mr Gillingham Howard followed the example of his predecessors. He was a bona fide country gentleman, with the one drawback to his otherwise stupendous respectability, of being the greatest drawer of the long-bow since the days of Mendez Pinto. He added two feet more to the height of his boundary walls, and bought all the disposable land round his estate; but if he had transplanted a couple of miles of the Chinese wall to Surbridge, he could no more have kept off the intrusion of the barbarian villa-builders than the Celestials have been able to shut out the same pushing, bustling, active, energetic, unabashable individuals from the Flowery land. Architecture went on, and now the gigantic city had stuck her arms so majestically on either hip, that one of her elbows actually came into contact with the park of Surbridge Hall. There was a gentle elevation—in those flat regions honoured with the name of a hill—which lay at one side of the Surbridge lands. It was a beautifully wooded little property of thirty or forty acres, which it had always been the ambition of the Surbridge owners to buy; but it was so involved with lawsuits or doubtful titles, that it had hitherto been impossible to get possession of it for love or money. The upper part of it rose high above the glades of Surbridge park, and the clump of trees on the summit formed a very fine object in the view from the drawing-room windows. It was all laid down in the richest pasture, and would have formed the most valuable addition to the property, both in making it compact and keeping it secluded. The owner of it died at last in the Fleet, and it was advertised for sale, with a perfect title and immediate possession. The sale was by auction, and the day drew rapidly near. Mr Gillingham Howard went carefully over the ground, examined the condition of his credit—for his surplus cash was gone—had the property valued; and determined to give a thousand more than its worth, to prevent it falling into any one else's hands. When the day of sale arrived, he placed himself in front of the auctioneer, and determined, by the fierceness of his "bids," to frighten any competitor from the field. The room was crowded, and the sale began. All the eloquence of the celebrated Puff was displayed on this occasion; and when he paused after his glowing description, and asked any gentleman to be kind enough to name a sum to begin with—suggesting, at the same time, four thousand pounds. "Gentlemen, shall we say four thousand guineas?" Mr Gillingham Howard, in a voice that was calculated to show that he was in earnest, and did not stand upon trifles, nodded his head, and said "seven!" The auctioneer himself was overcome with the success of his oratory, and there was a dead silence among the spectators. "Thank you, sir—seven thousand guineas," he said, "Will any gentleman make an advance?" looking round, at the same time, as if he considered it useless to waste any breath in endeavouring to enhance the price. His hammer mechanically went up, and was on the point of falling, when a weak voice near the orator's pulpit whispered "eight."
The voice proceeded from an old man wrapped up in a thick great-coat, though it was a warm day in June—a clear-eyed, small-featured, diminutive old man, who had sat the whole time, taking no apparent interest in the proceedings. All eyes were turned upon him in a moment, and he quietly repeated the awful monosyllable—"eight!" Mr Gillingham Howard looked at the old gentleman with detestation in every feature, for he felt that the person, whoever he was, was actually robbing him of a thousand pounds; and he would have had very few scruples in sending the culprit to Botany Bay for so tremendous an outrage. A sort of smile ran round the assemblage at seeing the sudden alteration produced on his countenance; and though he had determined not to give more than the original seven, he was ashamed to be cowed by an unknown individual at once; and after a few minutes' pause, and a glance of ineffable hatred at the little old man, who had relapsed into his state of contented unconcern, he looked at the auctioneer, and said, "Five hundred more!" Saying this, he put his hands into his pockets, and kept his eye fixed on his competitor. Without a moment's hesitation, the old gentleman nodded his head once more, and said, "Mr Puff, I'm in a hurry. Will this gentleman give ten thousand guineas? I will!"
The auctioneer gave one look to Mr Gillingham Howard, and saw, from the blank expression of that gentleman's countenance, that competition was at an end. The hammer fell, and seemed like a great rock on Mr Gillingham Howard's heart.
"Your name, if you please, sir," said Mr Puff.
The little old gentleman rose up and said, "Give me a pen and ink. I'll write an order for the money. My name is Thomas Roe, No. 20, Riches Court."
A week had passed, and Mr Gillingham Howard nursed his wrath, like Tam O'Shanter's wife, to keep it warm. The name of the successful purchaser had struck him with a feeling of horror; for as silence had brooded for fifty years over the history of his grandfather—and as the misty period preceding the purchase of Surbridge had given rise to a whole mythology of ancestry like to the anti-historic periods of Greece, and other imaginative nations—he looked upon the appearance of the veritable contemporary of that fabulous age in the same way as Romulus would have regarded any surviving friend and companion of the real bona fide robber or pig-driver to whom he probably owed his birth. It is needless, therefore, to say, that over all other feelings fear and disgust predominated. He determined to withdraw himself into still more aristocratic seclusion than before, and on no account to recognise the existence of his new neighbour. A month or two passed on, and no steps seemed taken on the part of the purchaser to avail himself of his new acquisition. Day after day Mr Gillingham Howard looked up to the tuft of trees that crowned the beautiful field beyond his park, and on seeing no symptoms of cutting down, nor other preparations for house-building, began to indulge in the pleasing anticipation that the old gentleman had no intention of the kind; and by cherishing this idea for some time, he succeeded at last in believing, that if he did in reality turn his ground to any such a purpose, he would be guilty of a fresh injustice. Three months had elapsed, and the beautiful colours of Autumn just unfurled themselves in order to be struck at the first broadside of a November frost—the sun was shining so warmly, that the leaves had every reason to be ashamed of their yellow complexions; and a young lady—like a butterfly awakened by the brightness of the day—fluttered forward from the porch of Surbridge Hall, dressed in all the hues of the rainbow. A green bonnet, a pink pelisse, a red shawl, and lilac parasol, were scarcely in keeping with the sylvan scene on which she hurriedly entered. She was very tall and very thin, and had been taught to walk by a Parisian promeneuse at a guinea a lesson; so that the tail of her gown described a half circle every time she stept, and her progress was apparently on the principle of the propeller screw. A small sketch-book was under her arm, and across her wrist she bore a supernumerary shawl. "If he should be there again," she thought, "he will surely speak. He looked as if he wished to do it last time. But he's bashful, perhaps, to a person of my rank. Poor fellow—how handsome he looked as he turned away!" The thought seemed to be a pleasant one, for a sort of smile rose to her thin lips as she dwelt on it, and she increased her pace. She opened a little gate, and moved rapidly on towards an ornamental poultry-house near the boundary of the estate. The extra shawl was soon spread upon the stump of a tree, the sketch-book opened, and with her eye intently fixed on the fantastic chimney of the hen-house, she listened for every sound. She moved the pencil as if busily engaged in sketching; but, strange to say, the figure produced by her touch, took (involuntarily as it were) the appearance of a very handsome young man, for whose bright eyes and smiling countenance there was no warrant in the twisted bricks and oddly shaped cans of the original. As if her drawing had been the mystic configurations of a conjurer, the spirit came when she did call for it; and with a side glance of her eye, she perceived at no great distance from her a young man, who seemed to be gazing at her with great earnestness, and was only prevented from addressing her by the awe, that formed of course the body-guard of a daughter of Mr Gillingham Howard. There are many ways in which it is possible to show that the said body-guard may be broken through, without subjecting the culprit to the penalties of high-treason. A short cough, as if preparatory to a conversation—a hurried look, and then a scarcely perceptible smile—a sort of fidgety uneasiness, as if the stump of the tree was something rather different from an air-cushion—such were the methods pursued by Miss Arabel Howard on the present occasion with complete success. The stranger combated with his respect, and going near to where the sketcher—again utterly unconscious of his presence, was putting in a tuft of ivy—he took off his hat and bowed—
"Ha!" exclaimed Miss Arabel, in a state of most becoming surprise.
"I hope I do not alarm you, madam," said the stranger; "though my sudden presence here requires an apology."
"Oh!—I beg—I feel sure—any gentleman—my father will be most happy to"——
"You are very kind. I perceive you appreciate the beauty of this situation as much as I do. You are sketching the gable and chimney"——
"Yes—but pray don't look."
But before she had time to close the page and clasp the book, he had caught a view of a well drawn hat, and very tastefully touched whiskers.
The stranger smiled.
"It is indeed a beautiful little work," he continued.
"And the building so very picturesque. Grandpapa pulled down a row of cottages that the poor people lived in, and built this romantic little hermitage."
"So I have heard."
"Oh, have you? Grandpapa improved this place very much. Think how the view must have been spoilt by a row of nasty cottages, and a crowd of horrid poor people."
"It was very near the church for the cottagers."
"Oh! but papa is going to get the horrid old church removed to the other end of the parish, and have a beautiful building instead of the present tumble-down old ruin."
"Taste seems hereditary in your family."
"It is indeed: ages ago great improvements were made by papa's grandfather. He got quit of all the cottages except the row that stood here—for what can be more horrid than the sight of a set of dirty ignorant people in such beautiful scenery? They should all live in a common, or hide themselves in some dark streets in London. Don't you think so?"
"A great many of them do; but, if I were a sketcher, I think I could make a very interesting subject out of a poor man's cottage, with his little children playing about the garden."
"Not real poor children!" exclaimed Miss Arabel, "nor a real poor man—no. I have made sketches myself of papa and the Misses Warrible—Sir Stephen Warrible's daughters—dressing them in fancy rags, and filling the garden they played in with flowers from our conservatory, and giving the cottage French windows and a trellis-work veranda. He stands leaning on a spade, with silver buckles in his shoes, and the children are playing La Grace with the hoops, covered with pink ribands. I called it 'The Poor Man's Joy;' and Lord Moon has begged me to give it to an engraver."
"I hope you will comply with his lordship's request."
"I would if I could escape the publicity of the thing. Papa would be so angry if he thought I was so nearly professional as to be the author of a published sketch."
"I am afraid your father is too particular. No scruple of the kind fettered the genius of one of the princesses of France."
"Ah, but she was one of the new people! There was no artist in the elder branch. Papa can't endure Louis Philippe, and says they are all very low."
The gentleman was attacked with a slight cough, and after a pause renewed the conversation.
"I think I have seen you engaged on this subject for some time."
"It takes a long time to get in all these twists and corners," replied Miss Arabel with a smile of satisfaction, to find that the recontre was not more one of chance on his side than her own.
"Do you devote yourself entirely to sketching?"
"Oh no! I paint as well. We have a large gallery at home, and it is an excellent school. The family portraits are, many of them, very fine."
"Does it go far back in the English school?"
"Oh, you should see the great wigs of the Charleses and jack-boots of the cavaliers! We were all cavaliers, I suppose, for I don't see a single roundhead among them."
"And the ladies?"
"Oh, such hoops and farthingales! such pyramids of muslin on their heads, and pillars of red leather upon their heels!"
"And is the painting good of that ancient date? How do you like it compared to the modern?"
"We have very few modern portraits; and none of any ladies later than George II."
"No?" enquired the young man anxiously. "No lady later than that? Ah, then I have been misinformed!" he added in a disappointed tone.
"Had you heard of our collection, then?"
"Yes—no—that is—I believe, in most old family houses, there is a regular series of portraits that may enable the student to trace the alterations of the English school from its very commencement."
"Oh—a student—are you?—that is—have I the pleasure of speaking to a painter?" enquired Miss Arabel with great dignity.
"Oh no, madam; only an admirer of the art."
"And you are disappointed at the want of recent female portraits," said Arabel more graciously, the faintest possible hope springing to her heart that he was disappointed at the absence of her own.
"I should like to have heard the opinion of a competent judge on so interesting a subject. A comparison between Kneller for instance and Sir Joshua would be worthy of your taste."
"Oh, Kneller by all means, and Lely better than both! I believe, now that you put me in mind of it, there is a pale colourless Sir Joshua in the nursery—the school-room I mean."
"A lady?" enquired the stranger.
"A person," replied Miss Arabel, who never allowed lady's rank to any one whose status she did not know—"with long hair falling about her face, and a little boy lying asleep in her lap. Whether she was a lady or not, I don't know, but I rather think not, for I never heard of her being connected with our family. Perhaps she was a nurse."
"And are you sure it is a Sir Joshua?"
"Oh, yes!—His name is written on the back; and Mr Ochre, my drawing-master, says it is all out of proportion, and of no merit at all. But why are you so anxious about the daub? Mr Ochre wishes to be allowed to retouch it."
"If he lays a brush on it"—the stranger began in a furious tone, but checked himself—"if he lays a brush on it, he will spoil an old master."
"A master!" said Miss Arabel with a contemptuous giggle. "I only wish you could see it."
"I wish I could," replied the young gentleman; "but I am afraid I shall never be so happy."
"Oh!"—The young lady did not say any thing more, but looked at the stranger, as if taking measure of his respectability to see if an entree to Surbridge Hall was really above his hopes. He was tall, well made, with an air such as she had not seen in any of the visitors at that aristocratic mansion.
"I'm sure," she repeated, looking down and speaking with interesting hesitation, "my papa would be happy to show his gallery to any gentleman in the neighbourhood. Perhaps you know papa?"
"I have not the honour, but since I know what a treasure he possesses, I should think it a great happiness to make his acquaintance."
The lady said nothing, but thought it the most neatly turned compliment she ever heard in her life.
"I am on a visit to a family near this," he continued, "and may perhaps have the opportunity of meeting Mr Howard.
"Oh, where is it?" exclaimed Miss Arabel. "What is their name? We know every body in the neighbourhood—that is, of course, you know"——
"Every body that's worth knowing," said the stranger with a smile.
"Exactly. Is it the Rayleighs of Borley Castle, we know them very well; or the Manbys of Flixley Abbey, delightful people, we are quite intimate with them; or the Sundridges of Fairley Manor, there are no pleasanter people in the world—so good, so ladylike, and yet they say Mrs Sundridge's father was something very low, a Calcutta merchant, or India director, or something of that sort. Is it any of these?"
"No! It is with a gentleman who has lately taken a small villa in the neighbourhood, and I am afraid he will think I have been absent from him too long. Do you sketch here every day?"
"Till I have finished this tiresome building," replied Miss Arabel. "I must avail myself of the fine weather, and not miss a single morning."
The gentleman smiled, and so did the lady. With another apology for having intruded, he bowed and withdrew.
Miss Arabel continued where she was, till she lost his graceful figure among the windings of the shrubbery.
"He is a charming man," she thought, "and might easily manage to get acquainted with papa if he chose. Who can he be?—he's very clever and very accomplished—and walks so nobly. I wonder if he is in the Guards."
She opened her sketch-book once more, and was busy with her pencil, and her thoughts at the same time. She had not seen what necessity there was for taking his leave so hurriedly, and perhaps a faint idea came to her, that it was not impossible he might return. While she was new-pointing her pencil, and recalling all that the stranger had said, she heard a footstep coming through the plantation.
"Hush! He is coming again. He can't stay away."
"Servant, young mum—servant, and all that," said a voice close behind her;—"Scratch! scratch! there you go, painting bricks as if they was Christians, and all that."
"Sir! Are you aware this is private property. Papa would be very angry if"——
"He heard I was here. I dassay he would, and all that—but I don't intend to wait for him here. I'll beat up his quarters at the hall—I will—and all that."
Miss Arabel had a profound contempt for old people and little people; and the person who at present addressed her was both little and old. He wore a short flaxen wig, and a spenser over a long-tailed blue coat; grey nether habiliments, with four or five inches of a white worsted stocking visible between his knee and his gaiter. It was a very well-shaped leg, and the owner thereof seemed to know it.
"You will not find papa at home," said Miss Arabel. "He has gone out to a magistrate's meeting."
"I didn't say I was going there to-day, did I?—and he don't go justicing every day in the week, I hope. I'll see him soon, depend on't, and make acquaintance with his young 'uns, and all that. How many is there of you?"
"My sister and myself—if you enquire as to the number of Mr Gillingham Howard's family," replied Miss Arabel.
"What! ha'n't ye picked up ne'er a man yet? ne'er a one on you? Is your sister any thing like yourself?"
Miss Arabel cast a look of haughty indignation on her questioner; but disdained a reply.
"Pr'aps you're looking out for a juke or a bernet, or some regular nobleman, and all that—for I hear you carries all your heads uncommon high—whereby it wouldn't be unagreeable to pull 'em down a bit, and all that. Come, come, don't pout nor be sulky. Be friendly, young 'oman, now that we're going to be neighbours, and all that."
"Friendly, indeed!" said Miss Arabel, with a toss of her head that would have snapped a martingale in fifty pieces. "Pray walk on, sir. I am a lady, and papa would be very indignant at your impertinence."
"I dassay he would; but not a bit more than I have been at his'n this many a long day. Why, I've dandled him on my knee a hundred times."
"Have you? Perhaps you were his nurse's husband, or the butler. If you come to the servants' hall"——
"Indeed! What to do? To see fine ladies' maids give themselves airs, and disgust people with their insolence and affectation. Much obliged to you all the same; but when I wants to see sights like that, I'll come into the drawing-room."
"I don't know what you mean, and beg you'll retire. Papa put an Irish beggar into prison for three weeks for insulting my aunt."
"What! old Susie—old Two-to-the-Pound, and all that. He must have been very much of an Irishman to insult the old Roman."
"What do you mean, sir? Do you know my aunt Susannah?"
"Ay, to be sure. Ain't I one of her elders? Lord love ye, I've known old Susie since she was just up to my knee—and a reg'lar speciment she was. We always called her Two-to-the-Pound. Many's the laugh her father and I has had about her dumpiness, and all that."
"Papa's grandfather? Did you know him, sir?" enquired Miss Arabel, examining her companion at the same time to see if he was not the Wandering-Jew or St Leon; for she considered her papa's grandfather as the principal personage of a very remote historical era; and would have been little more surprised to hear that the old gentleman before her had smoked cigars with Sir Walter Raleigh. "Did you know my great-grandfather, sir?"
"Didn't I? There wasn't a bigger snob, though I says it, in all England; and just about two-and-forty years ago, him and me was as thick as two thieves, though only one of us was a thief. He was a old man then, and I was a young 'un, and all that. Your father was summut about eight years old, and my daughter was born the very month afore he bought this here estate. So you see it ain't no great time to talk about, seeing my daughter aint a old 'oman yet, though she has a girl twenty year old."
"I don't understand what you say," repeated Miss Arabel.
"Old Susie will understand me better, and so will little Gus."
"Who is Gus?"
"Gus is your father—Augustus he was christened; but we always called him Gus. Well, it's quite pleasant, I declare, to be among old friends; and I'm glad I've took a willa so close."
The sound of the word "willa," even with the initial "w," attracted Miss Arabel's attention. Could it be possible that this was the old gentleman with whom the handsome stranger was on a visit?
"If you live so near, you can, of course, have an opportunity of seeing papa."
"Seeing him? yes, and telling him a bit of my mind. I'll see every thing in the house—from old Susie Two-to-the-Pound, down to the last born kitten. You keeps cats of course, and all that? Susie must be pleased to see me. Sich laughs, to be sure, we had about her and a young man of the Excise. He was about seven feet high, and she wa'n't above four and a half, so we always called him her young man of the extra size. Wasn't it funny? But he died of a decline; and I hear she's a broad as she's long. Well, we must all die!"
"I must wish you good-day, sir. I'm going home," said Miss Arabel, rising to go away, and assuming as much dignity as she could.
"Well, good-day, and good-luck to you," said the old man. "Why, how tall you are! and the wick not half covered. You wouldn't do credit to old Bill Wilkins's manufacture, though I says it as shouldn't. You ain't much better than one of the single dips. I'll call on your father one of these fine days; for now that I've come to the neighbourhood, I've little better to do than pay off old scores—and interest's been running on for two-and-forty years. Tell him he had better set a price on Surbridge, and prepare to move, for I want to buy the estate for a friend of mine."
"I beg, sir—I insist—I don't know you, sir," said the agitated and angry Arabel.
"He does though. He knows me precious well; and, what's more, you may tell him my name if you like."
"I will tell him, sir, that he may send you to prison for your impertinence. He's a magistrate."
"I know all about him. He's a boastful blockhead. Tell him I told you so. My name is Mr Thomas Roe, 20, Riches Court."
The account given by Miss Arabel of her interview with the hateful purchaser of the coveted meadows, was so confused, that to persons less interested in the matter than Mr Gillingham Howard and Miss Susannah Wilkins, (or Gillingham by brevet,) it would have been altogether unintelligible. But before these two terror-struck individuals rose a vision of their detected boasts and overthrown pretensions, that filled them with dismay. What! Mr Gillingham Howard exposed in all quarters as the descendant of a tallow-chandler, and the censorious Miss Susan as having been known from her childhood by the name of Two-to-the-Pound? Could they silence the accuser by making him their friend?—or could they repel his revelations by dint of unhesitating, unqualified lying?—or finally, would it be necessary to quit the neighbourhood? Mr Gillingham Howard was a tall portly man, with his hair slightly grizzled, and an air of quiet assurance reposing on his somewhat coarse features, which his partial aunt considered the solemn dignity of virtue and high birth. To a less blinded observed his narrow brow and heavy chin showed strong indications of the animal preponderating over the intellectual in his organization, and his slow, solemn talk—always about himself—showed the importance he attached to the slightest incident that had occurred to so distinguished an individual. Not that Mr Gillingham Howard, as we remarked before, limited his narratives merely to what had actually occurred—they diffused themselves over every circumstance that had happened to any one else, and might by any possibility have happened to him. By this means he had an extraordinary fund of conversational anecdote; for whatever story he heard, or adventure he read, he immediately appropriated to himself; and thought nothing of killing his eight hundred ducks at one shot with Munchausen, or finding out false concords in a Greek play with the Bishop of London. His aunt was so used to hear his marvellous tales, that we must in charity suppose she believed some of them to be true; and in that persuasion she was called upon on all occasions to bear witness to the facts. She testified accordingly, with the most perfect readiness, to all his achievements in the rows at Oxford; his suggestions to the other magistrates, that were always approved; his courage in every danger; his mastery in every game, and his skill in every science. She was a little, vulgar-looking woman, with small cunning eyes, and a very round face, glistening and shining with its absurd obesity; and in shape and complexion bearing a close resemblance to a sun-flower stuck into a Dutch cheese. The awe with which she regarded her nephew arose partly from his size, but principally from the aristocratic loftiness of his birth—being the third in descent from the original founder of the family, while nothing stood between her and the tallow vat except the six years during which her father had enacted the country squire. What could be more appalling to these unhappy beings than the threatened visit, and long-delayed vengeance of the implacable Thomas Roe? In the mean time, Miss Arabel had only a confused notion of the meaning of all the threats and messages, the mere report of which wrought such anguish in the paternal breast. Her thoughts dwelt more constantly on the interview she had had with the mysterious stranger; and the speech he had made about the treasure he had heard of in Surbridge Hall, came every moment to her mind. It was so pretty a speech; and he looked so full of admiration when he said it! Was there no way of getting him introduced to papa? Not a word of the meeting could she mention to her sister; for Miss Arabel was one of those amiable beings not uncommon in ball-rooms, who will not risk the peace of mind of a friend by making her acquainted with a rich or fascinating partner on any account. And if this holds good with a friend, much more in the case of Miss Arabel did it hold good with a sister. So she sat in her own room and devised fifty expedients for legitimating her acquaintance with the interesting unknown.
But while Surbridge Hall is frightened from its propriety, let us pass over for a moment to the hostile camp, and see what is going on there. A beautiful young girl is sitting at a table, on which a number of maps and plans are laid out; and, while her eyes are busily running over the various lines and measurements, her small white hand is resting we are sorry to say, without making the smallest effort for liberty, within that of the very same young gentleman whose appearance we have already commemorated. Beautiful blue eyes they are, and fitter for other employment than to pore over architectural or horticultural designs; and so she seems to think, for she occasionally lifts them to those of her companion, and a sweet smile brightens over all her face. That is Fanny Smith, the granddaughter of Thomas Roe—the child of a Yorkshire parson, who had been lucky enough to win the heart of Mary Roe—and wise enough not to despise her father, though he lived in Riches Court.
"But grandpapa says it is of no use, Charles, to look at all these plans for houses. He'll never build on the new ground, for he says he is determined to establish us at Surbridge Hall."
"The old gentleman is too sanguine," replied Charles. "He will never persuade the present proprietor to leave it."
"Oh, he will, though! You don't know what a determined man grandpapa is. He'll weary them out—or shame them away."
"Shame!" enquired the other—"How do you think shame can have any effect in people so lost to truth, and so encased in ignorance and conceit?"
"But grandpapa will expose them—and, besides, he'll pay them handsomely to go. I don't the least despair of getting quit of them."
"Why, if people would only take the trouble to enquire into the actual facts of any part of their behaviour, and not take their own account of it—the boastful falsehoods of the nephew, the malicious insinuations of the aunt, their disregard of truth in serious affairs as well as in trifles, their selfishness, narrow-mindedness, and want of charity—they would hesitate before they countenanced such characters, in spite of the dinners they occasionally give, and the position they hold. But society winks on vices which it is the duty of society to punish, since the law takes no cognizance of them, though more hurtful and disgraceful than theft or swindling. And, I am afraid, even if your grandfather unmasks the solemn pretender, he will still carry his head as high as if he had a right from any quality but his wealth to mix with honest men."
"Oh, never fear!" said Fanny, laughing; "those boastful people are always easiest frightened, and a very short time will see us in Surbridge Hall."
"Ah, Fanny, that would be too much happiness! I've heard of nothing but Surbridge since I was a child; and if my father could but see me in it, living there, my own property, or yours, Fanny, which is the same thing, he would almost die with joy; but no, no, it is impossible."
"Impossible! deuce a bit of it!" exclaimed the old gentleman himself; bustling into the room. "I tell you that Surbridge is the house you will take Fanny home to. I've a great mind to say you sha'n't marry her at all unless she gives you Surbridge as part of her fortune."
"Oh, don't say that, sir!"
"No, don't say that, grandpapa, for you know those horrid people may be obstinate," said Fanny.
"I should like to see them," said the old man knitting his brow. "No, no, they must go. The bully is soon bullied. See, he has sent me a flag of truce already; a note asking if I will allow him to call on me at three o'clock to renew his old acquaintance."
"And will you let him?" enquired Fanny.
"To be sure I will; and I'll return his visit too; but he'll be here in a few minutes now. I think you had better take a walk, Charles, and leave Fanny and me to entertain them. You can go and take some more lessons in sketching, eh? Don't keep your teacher waiting."
Charles looked at his watch, and then at Fanny, and finally hurried away as he was ordered. The young lady also left the room.
The old man sat down, and sank in thought. He had his eye on the conduct of his partner's grandson for forty years, though little did that ostentatious individual suspect that any person saw within his pharisaical exterior, and knew him for the mass of selfishness, falsehood, and meanness, he actually was. Moreover the old gentleman knew that his victim was not so rich as he appeared, and had struggled in vain to better his fortunes by speculations of various kinds, and even (the last refuge of the sinking respectables) by thrusting himself into trusteeships. He felt an assurance, therefore, that his threatened exposures—united to an offer of the full value of the estate—would secure him the possession of Surbridge Hall; if it had not been for the enjoyment he anticipated in uncloaking the hypocrite, he might perhaps have contented himself with the acquisition of the land.
A knock was heard at the door, and Mr Gillingham Howard and his aunt walked into the room. Mr Gillingham Howard was very pale, and his eye evidently quailed as it met the glance of Mr Thomas Roe. The little fat Susannah was immensely red in the face, but whether from agitation of mind, or the exertion of climbing the hall steps, it is impossible to decide.
"I've called, my dear old friend, to take you by the hand," said Mr Gillingham Howard. "I've long wished, I assure you, to renew our acquaintance."
"That's a thumper!" replied the old man; "you have wished nothing of the kind. Oh, Gus, haven't you conquered the horrid habit of story-telling that used to make you the laughing-stock of all the young men in the shop. And you, my little Two-to-the-Pound, what a time it is since we've met, never since the exciseman died, I do believe. Well, you've not grown thin on't. Do you study the ninth commandment as much as you used to do?"
"The ninth commandment, sir," said the lady tossing her head. "I don't know what you mean."
"Yes, you do, Susan; the ninth commandment is the one about false witness, you know. And sich a gal as you used to be for slashing a character, or trying to make your kindest friends ridiculous, there wasn't in all the city. You were always so tremendously witty, you never had a good word for any body; for witty gals, as you used to be, thinks nothing funny that isn't what they calls severe. But you're a old woman now, and I hope you're improved."
Miss Susannah had never been called an old woman before. If she had seen Mr Gillingham Howard looking with his usual brazen assurance, she would have broken out in a torrent of invective against her merciless tormentor—but the fight was entirely out of that illustrious character, and he stood in trembling silence before his opponent.
"My dear sir," he said at last, "you are too severe on my aunt—but you were always a wag. I've heard my father say he never knew any one so full of humour."
"And I myself remember how good-natured you used to be when you visited my father in Harley Street."
"Ay, indeed—let me see. Had your father risen to be at the top of the profession by that time, with a promise of the chancellorship in his pocket when his father died?"
"My dear sir, I don't know what you mean—why—what"—
Haven't you been in the habit of telling your friends so after dinner?" enquired Mr Roe; "now, remember."
"Well! I may perhaps have said that he hoped to be chancellor."
"No, no—you have uniformly stated as a fact that he had the written promise of the office—and you have constantly appealed to your aunt for the truth of your statement."
"La! Mr Roe—how should I know about law and chancellorships? It isn't a lady's business."
"It is a lady's business not to corroborate a falsehood."
"Really, my good sir," said Mr Gillingham Howard, "you are too hard on a little after-dinner talk."
"Not a bit, not a bit—that after-dinner talk, as you call it, for forty years, day after day retailing falsehoods, and asseverating them so constantly, that you at last almost succeed in deceiving yourself, does away all the distinctions in your mind between truth and falsehood—and when once the boundary is broke down, there is no farther pause. A man may go on, and boast about his cricket and shooting till he would not stick at a false oath."
"Sir! I bear many things from an old friend of our family, but an imputation on my veracity is intolerable. Do I ever deviate from the truth, Aunt Susan?"
"You! Oh, no! if there's any quality you excel in more than another, it is your truth. Low people may tell lies, and of course do; but you! Mr Gillingham Howard!—you are a perfect gentleman, from the crown of your head to the sole of your foot."
"Omitting all the intermediate parts," replied Mr Roe. "You know very well what I mean, sir; and, moreover, you know that what I say is true—but I will spare you at present. I wish to purchase Surbridge Hall. I will give you the full price. Will you sell it or not?"
"Why, sir, a place that has been long in one's family"——
"I was nearly forty years old when it was bought—and hope to live few years yet," interposed Mr Roe.
"And I don't see what pleasure you could take in acquiring a place to which you have no hereditary ties—my poor father—and my dear grandfather"——continued Mr Gillingham Howard.
"Should have stuck to the melting tub, both of them—but it isn't for myself I want the property. I have a grandchild, sir; a grandson—but that has nothing to do with it. Will you let me have your answer soon? I will call on you, to hear your decision, to-morrow."
"Always happy to see an old friend."
"Provided he come with a new face," interposed Mr Roe; "but you don't much like the sight of my rough old phiz. At any rate, there's no deceit in it, and now we understand each other."
It was on the day succeeding this visit of reconciliation, that Miss Arabel and the stumpy Susannah pursued their way to the shrubbery walk, in a rapid and mysterious manner, as if they hoped to escape observation.
"Papa is so unreasonable, aunt," said the young lady. "Why should he wish to leave Surbridge, just when"——
"You think you have caught a lover," interposed the aunt; "don't be too sure. You've been deceived in that way before now."
"Oh, if you only saw him! He met me yesterday, and said he would see me again to-day; and paid such compliments, and looked so handsome."
"But who is he? Is he a gentleman?"
"Of course he is," replied Miss Arabel; "or do you think he would venture to speak to me?"
"Did he tell you his name?"
"No. All he has told me is—he is living with an old gentleman in one of the villas in the neighbourhood."
"An old gentleman," mused Miss Susannah, "in a villa—it must be the same—it must be old Roe's Grandson. If it is, and he takes a fancy to this girl, it will be all well yet. What has he ever called you? Did he ever say you were an angel?"
"No. He thought me one, though; and said he had heard of what a treasure Surbridge contained; and yesterday he repeated it, and said he would give the world to be able to call it his."
"That's something. You must get him to say something of the kind before a witness."
"But how? What witness can there be, when I can never bring him to the house?"
"Why not? Ah, how I recollect, in the back parlour," said Miss Susannah, her memory unconsciously wandering back to the love incidents of her youth.
"The back parlour?" enquired Miss Arabel.
"The back—I didn't say back parlour. I said black parlour—the oaken dining-room in my father's house."
"And what of it, aunt? What made you think of the black parlour now?"
"Oh, it was a picture," stammered Miss Susan, inventing an excuse for her mistake; "a beautiful old portrait—a sort of—I don't recollect what it was."
"Ah! that puts me in mind of what he speaks of often—the pictures in our house. I say, aunt," she continued, as if a thought had struck her.
"Suppose I were to invite him to come into the Hall and see the portraits?"
"Well, so you might. Your father would think he was as fond of drawing as you are; and if he be the person I think he is, your father will be delighted that you have made a friend of him."
"Indeed? Oh, I'm so happy! I'll ask him to the house this very day; and perhaps if he says anything, aunt, about the treasure, you can be in the way to hear it."
"That I will, and I'll bring your father, too. There's nothing like a father or brother in cases of the kind. If I had had a brother that would fight, I might have been married myself. Dear me, what an uncommon handsome young man in the avenue! I know him to be a lord by his walk."
Miss Arabel stretched her neck, and nearly strained her eyeballs in the effort to follow the direction of Susannah's eyes.
"That's he," she said; "go now, and leave me to get him into the house."
"He can't be any relation of Thomas Roe: he's too handsome for that," thought Miss Susannah; "but whoever he is, she'll be a lucky girl to catch him. My Sam was a foot or two taller, but very like him in every other respect—except the limp in the left leg."
As she turned back before entering the house, she saw the young people in full conversation in the shrubbery walk.
"Well, if he is old Thomas Roe's grandson, and Arabel can hook him into a marriage, there will be no occasion to leave Surbridge Hall. Does the monster wish us to be tallow-chandlers again?"
On hurrying to the drawing-room to communicate to her nephew the fact that Mr Roe's heir was desperately in love with Arabel, she found Mr Gillingham Howard endeavouring to carry on a conversation with the very individual she most dreaded to see. Mr Roe had walked up, accompanied by Fanny Smith, to return the visit of the day before.
"This is so kind," said Miss Susannah, "and so friendly to bring your pretty grandchild. Our girls will be delighted to be her friends."
"Fanny's a good girl," replied the old man; "and you mustn't spoil her. Gus was just going to tell me if he had made up his mind, when you came in. You've thought of my offer, Gus?"
"Certainly; any thing you say shall always have my best consideration. As far as I am concerned, I could settle in Bucks, where I have a small estate, with satisfaction; but my girls are enthusiastically attached to this place. Arabel would break her heart if we took her away from Surbridge."
"I warrant her heart against all breakage and other damages, save and except the ordinary wear and tear—as Puff says in letting a furnished house; and, if it only depends on the young lady, I think I'll answer for her being more anxious for the arrangement than I am. But here's company coming, and I must have your answer before I go."
Mr Gillingham Howard heard the carriage stop at the door. He felt it was impossible to present so rough-mannered a man as Mr Roe to any of his friends without a certainty of exposure, and he was strongly tempted to agree to his demand at once, if he would immediately leave the house; but before he had time to arrange his thoughts, the door opened, and the Rayleighs of Borley Castle were announced.
Mr Gillingham Howard, by a great effort, received them with his usual courtesy.
"I have brought Mr Tinter with me," said Mrs Rayleigh, "and I hope you will let him see your family portraits. We have told him so much of them, that he is anxious to see them himself. He is writing a description of the private collections in the county."
Mr Tinter bowed; and Mr Gillingham Howard, with an imploring look to Mr Roe, who sat resting his chin upon his walking-stick, professed himself highly honoured by Mrs Rayleigh's request.
"I believe you have portraits of the Sidney family, sir," said Mr Tinter, "as I hear from Mrs Rayleigh—you are nearly related to them; I should like very much to compare them with the pictures at Penshurst."
"Oh! Mr Howard says the Penshurst pictures are only copies of his," said Mrs Rayleigh.
"Did I, madam? Did I say all?"
"If not all, you said most of them; and also, that you had some originals of those in your distant relation, the Duke of Norfolk's gallery."
Mr Gillingham Howard felt that Mr Roe's appalling eye was fixed upon him, though he did not venture to look in the direction of where he sat.
"Mr Tinter will tell you at once which are the copies. You can do that, Mr Tinter?"
"I can guess at the age of the picture, and the name of the painter, if he is a master," replied Mr Tinter.
"Oh! but Mr Howard has some pictures that Sir Thomas Lawrence said were the finest in Europe. Didn't he say so, Mr Howard?"
"Why, ma'am—I think—at least, so I understood him. Didn't Sir Thomas Lawrence praise some of my pictures, aunt?"
"I really don't remember," said Miss Susannah, looking more at Mr Roe than at her nephew.
"Oh, I thought you told us last time we dined here, that Sir Thomas stayed with you weeks at a time, and copied five or six of them himself."
"P'r'aps I knows more of them family portraits," said Mr Roe with a wilful exaggeration of accent and magnanimous contempt of grammar—"than e'er a one on ye."
All eyes were immediately directed to the old man. Mrs Rayleigh, who was a fine lady, and had never seen so queer a specimen of a critic as Mr Roe, was a little alarmed at his uncouth pronunciation. And Mr Gillingham Howard made a feeble and unsuccessful effort to deaden the effect of his remarks.
"My friend is a remarkably good judge of the fine arts, but quite a character. An amazing humourist, and very much given to quizzing. You'll hear what fun he'll make of us all."
"Who is he?" enquired Mrs Rayleigh, in the same confidential whisper.
"A person who has grown very rich in some sort of trade. He was a protege of a relation of mine."
"And you bear with his eccentricities in hopes of his succession?"
"I minds the getting of the whole lot on 'em. I can give you the birth, parentage, and edication, of every one on 'em."
"Of the pictures, sir?" enquired Mr Tinter, taking out his note-book. "I shall be delighted with any information."
"But where is the gallery, Mr Howard?" enquired Mrs Rayleigh.
"Why, madam, many of the pictures—in fact, all the best of them are in London at the cleaner's; but in the passage to the Conservatory there are some remaining, but the place is dark. I hope you'll rather look at them some other time."
"Now's the best," said Mr Roe, starting up. "Let's see the family picters, Gus."
Mr Howard was forced by the entreaties of all the party, and led the way to the passage where his pictures were hung, followed by Mrs Rayleigh and her two daughters, and Mr Tinter, Mr Roe, and Fanny, and Aunt Susannah.
"That seems a portrait of Queen Anne's time," said Mr Tinter, pointing to a much bewigged old gentleman in an antique frame. "Pray, what is its history?"
"Isn't that your grandfather's uncle, the general who won the battle of Ramillies against Marlborough's orders?" enquired Mrs Rayleigh. "Do tell Mr Tinter all about it."
"I reminds all about it," said Mr Roe, before the agonized Mr Howard could make any reply. "One of our agents failed, and we seized on his furniture, and old Bill Wilkins took this'n 'cause of the oak frame. He was a grocer in the Boro', and his name was—was—but I forgets his name."
"Who took the furniture?" asked Mr Tinter, "and who was a grocer in the Boro'?"
"The man as had that picter, and a sight more besides. There's one on 'em; the young 'oman a holding an orange in her hand, and a parrot on her shoulder."
"I thought that was the Saccharissa, Mr Howard, that had been in your family ever since the time of Waller."
"I told you he was a wag," said Mr Howard, in the last desperate struggle to avoid detection.
"But who is he? He is a very impudent old man to be so free."
"He is rich; the succession, you know," replied the gentleman with a forced laugh; but before he could mumble any thing more, the party turned round one of the corners of the passage, and heard voices in earnest talk.
"How can I refuse, when you tell me your happiness depends on it?" came distinctly to the ears of all, in the sharp clear tones of Miss Arabel.
"You are too good," replied a voice, which Fanny Smith immediately recognized as that of Charles. "You will make my whole family proud and happy when they hear you have consented."
"But won't you think I yield too soon; and without having asked papa's consent?"
"Ah—yes—I don't know how he will bear the loss of such a treasure. But he will reconcile himself to the want of it when he knows how happy it makes another in the possession. Say, when may I call it mine?"
"Oh, now—this moment—any time"—said Arabel, who had heard a noise in the passage, and concluded it was aunt Susannah enacting the part of a witness.
"Again I thank you!"—exclaimed Charles. "I will take it in my arms this instant, and carry it down the shrubbery walk to Mr Roe's."
"As you please—and wherever you like," said Arabel, throwing herself upon his shoulder. "I'm your's."
"Why, what in the name of wonder is all this here?" cried Mr Roe, hurrying on, and pouncing on the pair. "Are you making love to this here gal in the very presence of Fanny Smith?"
"I, sir?"—said Charles, astonished at his situation, and still supporting Miss Arabel, who pretended to be in a faint. "I asked this young lady to show me the picture of my father's mother; and, to my great delight, she said she would give it me; and, when I expressed my gratitude, she flung herself upon my shoulder, and said she would give me herself."
"And was it not me you meant by the treasure you talked of?" said Miss Arabel, starting up.
"No, madam. 'Twas my grandmother's portrait, by Sir Joshua Reynolds."
"Now, that's all right," said Mr Roe. "This young gentleman is the one I talked of, Gus—that I wants to buy this house for. I don't think your daughter will care to give it up to poor Charles that she took such a fancy to"——
"They seem attached, sir," replied Mr Howard. "And if they like to marry"——
"Bah!—he's to be married next week to my little grandchild, Fanny Smith, and we'll include the pictures in the purchase-money, for one of them is a portrait that was left by mistake when Bill Wilkins bought the hall, and he would never give it back to the real owners. But, now that Charles Walrond is to be my grandson, I'll take good care he recovers his grandmother's likeness. Come—shall I go on and give these ladies the facts of some of your other stories, or will you close with my terms at once?"
Mr Gillingham Howard did not take long to decide, and a very short time saw Surbridge Hall once more in the ancient line; and old Mr Roe, in relating the means he used to expel the vainglorious descendant of his partner, generally concluded with the moral, if not the words of Shakspeare—"Men's pleasant vices make whips to scourge them."
VANITIES IN VERSE.
BY B. SIMMONS.
LETTERS OF THE DEAD.
How few the moons since last, immersed In thoughts of fev'rish, worldly care, My casket's heap'd contents reversed, I sought some scroll I wanted there; How died at once abstraction's air— How fix'd my frame, as by a spell, When on THY lines, so slight, so fair, My hurrying glance arrested fell!
My soul that instant saw thee far Sit in thy crown of bridal flowers, And with Another watch the star We watch'd in vanish'd vesper hours. And as I paced the lonely room, I wonder'd how that holy ray Could with its light a world illume So fill'd with falsehood and decay.
Once more—above those slender lines I bend me with suspended breath— The hand that traced them now reclines Clasp'd in th' unclosing hand of Death. The worm hath made that brow its own Where Love his wreath so lately set; And in this heart survive alone Forgiveness—pity—and regret.
'Twas 'mid the theatre's gay throng— Life's loveliest colours round me spread— That mid the pauses of a song, I caught the careless "She is dead!" The gaudy crowd—thy sudden grave— I shrank in that contrasting shock, Like midnight Listener by the wave, When splits some bark upon the rock.
This EARLY DEATH—within its pale Sad air each angry feeling fades— An evening haze, whose tender veil The landscape's harsher features shades. Ah, Scornful One—thy bier's white hue Stole every earth-stain from thy cheek, And left thee all to MEMORY'S view That HOPE once dared in thee to seek.
How graceful was that Grecian creed Which taught that tongues, of old, Dwelt in the mountain and the mead, And where the torrent roll'd, And that in times of sacred fear, With sweet mysterious moans, They spoke aloud, while some pale Seer Interpreted their tones.
And, LADY, why should we not deem That in each echoing hill, And sounding wood, and dancing stream, A language lingers still? No lovelier scenes round DELPHI spread Than round thee stretch divine; Nor Grecian maid bent brighter head By haunted stream than thine.