"What an angel!" he mentally exclaimed; "upon such a form I could continue to gaze enraptured for"——
How long he never said, for ere he had time to give utterance to the thought, he stumbled over one of the surrounding mole-hills, and staggering forward several paces with extended arms, he ultimately fell prostrate on the ground, close by the side of the innocent yet moving cause of his misadventure, and with such force, as to bury the whole of his countenance in the soft heavings of a similar hillock to the one he had so inadvertently tripped over.
Luckily for him, the place his physiognomy alighted upon was of so soft and yielding a nature, that though he stamped a perfect model of his features in the clay, the features themselves were unimpaired, otherwise than by the earthy colouring communicated to them by so pressing a contact, which perfectly satisfied the fair equestrians (who had the kindness to pull up and express their hopes that he was not seriously hurt) that the actual damage sustained was of a very superficial nature.
"And I suppose you intend to say that this is all for the best?" observed Vernon in rather a rueful tone, as, the ladies having ridden on, he was attempting to rub off the dirt from his face with his pocket handkerchief—the first wipe of which was sufficient to show him how much the effects of his tumble had changed the natural hue of his complexion.
"To be sure I do," answered Frank "and any man less unreasonable than yourself would say so too."
"What! say it was all for the best for him, like an awkward booby, to fall sprawling in the dirt, thereby making himself a laughing-stock to that beautiful, angelic creature? Oh! only look, my dear Frank, only look—see her—see both of them! Why, as I live, they are almost ready to fall off the very backs of their horses from the laughter my blundering awkwardness has excited. Oh, it's really dreadful—I must turn my head another way. I can bear the sight of it no longer!"
"But only think how much worse it would have been if your phiz, instead of the soft earth, had encountered one of the hard spar-stones that are so plentifully strewed about here?"
"And supposing it had—wouldn't it have been better, at the cost of little pain and suffering, to have excited the compassion, instead of the laughter of that heavenly creature?"
"But hardly at the sacrifice of your nose, I should say," rejoined Frank, "which, from the deep impression it has made in the clay, must have been smashed flat as a pancake had it battled out the matter with the stones."
The young poet had a great regard for his nose, and his companion's remarks upon the subject were so palpable, that he was not only silenced but convinced.
"I say here, my man. Here, Jan, Jan, I say," bawled out our friend Frank, to what he was pleased to style a straw-yard savage in the disguise of a gentleman's servant on horseback, who, whilst engaged in the pleasant employment of munching an apple, had allowed the ladies he was attending to canter off some distance a-head, and was then in the act of passing, at a very moderate pace, close by our two heroes, but pulled up his nag at the summons, and, touching his hat, replied, in the singing accent of the western Cornishmen—" Your sarvant, gen'lmen both; what 'ud ye plaze to have, sir?—though my name b'aint Jan, plaze yer honours."
"What is it then?—Bill, Dick, Tom, Harry, Ben, Jim, Nic, Mike, Mathey, or Peter?"
"Neither, maester, plaze your honour, sir," said the man, with a grin that denoted he was entering into the humour of the thing, and who, as well as Frank, was a bit of a wag in his way. "Timothy's my name, at your sarvice, gen'lmen—what 'ud your honours plaze to have of I?"
"What I would have, Timothy," answered Frank, "is for you to tell me who those two young ladies are that you are in attendance upon?"
"Maester's two dafters," replied Timothy.
"And who's maester?" asked Frank.
"The squire, to be sure," answered his man.
"And what's squire's name?" inquired Frank.
"Potts—Squire Potts," replied Timothy—at which announcement Vernon Wycherley lifted up both eyes and hands in unfeigned amazement.
"And the young ladies?" resumed the questioner.
"Lor, sir! I ha'n't a got time to bide and tell'ee no more. See they be 'most out of sight a'ready, and I shall have to ride a brave pace to catch mun again—and most dead wi' thest, too, I be's a'ready."
Frank, who plainly saw Timothy's drift, dived his hand into the deep recesses of his trousers' pockets.—Timothy, who witnessed the act, not altogether an unexpected one, drew nearer and nearer, and when close alongside of Frank, cramming the remainder of the apple into his mouth, he dropped the hand that had conveyed it there, as if by the merest accident in the world, within easy reach of the interrogator's, who, slipping into it a coin of sufficient importance, small as it was, to raise a grin of delight in the groom's countenance, again asked him the names of the two young ladies.
"Heerken, and I'll tell'ee," he answered. "She with the light hair and eyes, she's Miss Bessie; and she with the dark hair and eyes, she's called Miss Molly—that's she's name." And having so said, Timothy rode off at a rapid pace.
"Can it be possible!" exclaimed Vernon Wycherley—"can it be possible that so lovely a being—one who seems too beautiful to tread the earth"——
"And so rides on horseback over it; is that what you mean?" interrupted Frank.
"No, you know very well it is not what I mean," answered Vernon petulantly. "My wonder is, how one so elegant could be called by such a name as that knave uttered."
"What! Molly Potts, eh? that I believe was the name he mentioned?" interposed Frank.
"Pshaw, nonsense!" retorted his companion; "it can't be her name. The idea's too preposterous to be true. That insolent clown has dared to try to hoax us; for which I promise him, if I were his master, I'd break every bone in his good-for-nothing body. Molly Potts! It never can be so. The thing's quite out of the question—utterly impossible!"
"Impossible or not, I don't see that it's likely to make much difference either to you or me," observed Frank; "for the chances are, we never set eyes upon either of them again."
"Then," said Vernon, "I almost wish that I, at least, had never set eyes upon one of them at all. To know that such an angel moves about on earth, and to think that I may never see her more, must ever form a source of deep regret; and yet it seems strange—very strange—that I—I—who have ever looked upon the fairest of the sex unmoved, should be so struck as I was here by a mere glance."
"A very hard hit, certainly," said Frank: "I never saw a fellow more completely floored."
"Better book that to tell again," retorted vernon; "it really is so seldom you do say a witty thing, that it's a pity it should be lost upon these dull moors."
"Then, unless we intend to follow the fate of my wit," resumed Frank, "we must step out a little faster to get out of them; which we sha'n't do under a couple of miles' walk more, I promise you."
Frank Trevelyan's statement proved tolerably correct as to distance, for little more than two miles brought our travellers clear of the rugged moorlands; when, after ascending the brow of a steep hill, a sight broke suddenly upon them, which, though unlike the scenery they had previously passed over, presented if possible a more dreary picture. As far as the eye could reach, nothing could be discerned but one vast wilderness of undulating sandy hillocks, totally devoid of vegetation, except a kind of coarse rush, which, in spite of the shifting nature of the soil, had here and there contrived to spring up and take root; and now to add to this cheerless aspect, the sky, which hitherto had been bright and clear, began to lower with those dark threatening clouds which form the sure forerunner of a heavy squall of wind and rain—no pleasant thing for two lightly-clad pedestrians to be overtaken with in a bleak open country on a chill November day. Even Frank, who, with his merry chat, had latterly kept his companion's spirits alive, the latter of whom had begun to complain both of hunger and fatigue—even Frank felt disconcerted at the desolate prospect before him, as well as disappointed at not discovering the mining village, containing the snug little public-house, which he had been informed he should fall in with at the termination of the stony moorlands. Resolved however to put the best face he could upon the matter, our little hero assured his tall comrade that another half hour would be sure to bring them to the desired spot, where he was certain they would obtain both rest and refreshment—two things they much needed—having walked on unceasingly for several hours since their early morning's meal without having eaten or drunk any thing, and the sun by this time had begun to sink low in the horizon. Scarcely, however, had they crossed the narrow valley that divided these two barren wastes from each other, and had commenced ascending the steep beaten path that passed through the sandy desert, than the storm, which had been previously brewing, burst forth with relentless fury, the rain descending in torrents, accompanied by fierce gusts of wind, that, whirling aloft the loose drifting sands, swept them onwards in dense clouds before the gale, forming an overpowering and blinding deluge that perplexed our tourists exceedingly.
"This is all for the best, I suppose," suggested Vernon Wycherley, who, uncomfortable as he was, couldn't help enjoying the luxury of having a hit at his fellow-traveller, and thus proving himself for once at any rate to have been on the right side of the argument.
"All for the best, did you say?" replied Frank. "All for the best?—ay, to be sure it is—though we ourselves may perhaps be too short-sighted to see the drift of it."
"See the drift!" interposed Vernon—"See the drift! Why, we not only see it, but feel it. The benefit to be derived from it is what I want you to convince me of, Master Frank."
The truth of Vernon's observation was too palpable to be denied; for both he and his companion were half-choked and nearly blinded by the clouds of sand that, in the course they were pursuing, blew directly in their faces, and which even the rain seemed to have no effect in allaying; till as last the peppering became so severe, that our travellers were actually compelled to turn their backs upon the enemy. Hardly, however, had they done this, ere Frank joyfully exclaimed—"It is all for the best after all, and that I'll soon convince you of, Master Vernon. Cast your piercing peepers through the thick of it, and you'll see the very place we want to find, which, if the storm hadn't compelled us to face to the right about, we should have passed by without discovering, concealed as it is in the narrow gorge we have just crossed. So cheer up, I say, old fellow, and let us both put our best foot foremost, and see how soon we can get there."
Vernon required no further persuasion, and the desired house of entertainment was soon reached. Here our wet and weary travellers had the good fortune to meet with that comfort of all comforts to persons so situated—a blazing kitchen-fire, which afforded them an opportunity of drying their wet clothes, and at the same time to enjoy the sight of the cookery of some tempting rashers and eggs, which, with the unequalled accompaniment of fried potatoes, was soon after duly set out for them in the sole parlour the house afforded, where they found a good fire had been prepared for their reception.
"Would you like a bottle of Guinness's porter with your dinners, gen'lmen?" asked a very pretty and tidily dressed young woman, who waited upon them.
"To be sure we would, my pretty Mary," replied Mr Vernon Wycherley, "and thank you for the hint into the bargain; I'm sure I should never have dreamt of meeting with Dublin stout amidst the wilds of Cornwall."
"Us do always kip it," observed Mary.
"Then a bottle of it, if you please, my pretty girl," resumed the poet. "Ay, that's right, out with the cork—never mind the froth, Mary—never mind the froth."
"It is indeed prime stuff!" he added, replacing his empty glass upon the table; "and upon my life, Frank, this is a perfect feast; and never did I enjoy one more. Things really have turned out a great deal better than I expected."
"Or, in other words, have turned out all for the best," observed Frank, looking up for a moment from his plate, the contents of which had previously absorbed his whole attention; and elevating his glass as a signal for Mary to fill it with the tempting beverage, which she, well understanding, instantly obeyed; and having drained every drop of it, he resumed—"So you see, Master Vernon, you stand convicted by your own confession, that your former doubts and misgivings were without foundation; added to which, you can't help agreeing with me, that our present gratification is still further enhanced by the few trivial difficulties we just before met with."
Vernon was not inclined to concede to all his companion had just said, and, in fact, was mentally arranging the proper language in which to express his dissent, when a fresh arrival of piping-hot rashers turned the current of his thoughts towards the eggs and bacon, about which, instead of saying any thing, he quietly helped himself to, and then handed over the dish to his friend.
"I feel rather tired with my walk to-day," observed Mr Vernon Wycherley, who, having at last eaten to his heart's content, had pressed an extra chair into his service, for the purpose of resting his long and wearied legs thereupon. "Every thing here," he continued, glancing his eye around the tidily furnished little room—"every thing here looks clean and comfortable. I wonder if we could get accommodated with beds, instead of having to tramp it three miles further over the sandbanks in this uncertain weather, in order to reach our original destination at the next village?"
"I wish we could, with all my heart," answered Frank; "and here comes Mary with some more stout, who can tell us all about it." And so the handmaiden was questioned accordingly, who replied, in a tone of evident disappointment, "Lar bless ee, sir, there b'aint a bed to be had in the whole place; fay there b'aint, I can assure ee not, if ye'd offer pounds o' gold for 'un; for ever since Wheal Costly, just handy by here, has turned out so rich, there's no quarters to be had for the sight of folks that be employed about her. There's only seven beds in all this here housen; and, besides the family, there be no less than sex-and-thirty miners a quartering here; they takes sex out o' the seven beds, and mistus and I and all the childer do fill the t'othern all night, and when us do turn out, then maister and his comarade do turn in—and 'tis the same all through town—an' by ma fath an' troth, I zem there b'aint, at this very moment, a bed without a pair in 'un for miles round."
"But how do the folks here contrive to pig it away together six in a bed?" inquired Mr Vernon Wycherley. "Your beds must be very large, otherwise I should fancy such close stowage to be hardly possible."
"O na, sir, you don't onderstand," replied the maid, hardly able to restrain herself from laughing outright at the stranger's gross ignorance of mining habits; "not pair o' six all to bed together to one time; you da see miners do work to bal eight hours to a spell, and has sexteen to stay 'bove ground; so one and his comarade sleeps their first eight hours 'bove ground, and then turns out for the next pair; and so they goes on, one pair in and t'other pair out, so that between sex on 'um, the bed's never to say quite empty."
"And can never, of course, require a warming-pan," remarked Frank.
"Lar! tha b'est a queer little chap," thought Mary; but being too polite to say as much, she merely smiled pleasantly at the remark, as she tripped out of the room.
"Well, as we must toddle further, it's of little use to put so grave a face upon it, old fellow," observed Frank to his poetical friend, who was indulging in a reverie, with his eyes fixed in vacancy towards the burning embers in the grate.
"Eh! what?" demanded Vernon, with the usual start of an absent literary man, whose attention is suddenly awakened. Frank repeated his previous remark.
"My thoughts were far, far away from hence," said Mr Vernon Wycherley; "the subject of them was my comedy, which, as you know, I intend to offer for the prize at the Haymarket."
"Your comedy be hanged!" interrupted Frank.
"I fear that even a direr fate than that awaits it," resumed its author. "Oh! if I had but seen her before I arranged my female characters—have carried her beauteous image in my mind, as now I mentally behold her"—
"What! Molly Potts?" interposed Mr Frank Trevelyan, with a look of arch innocence—such a funny look it was, as no man living but Frank himself could possibly have given.
"Pshaw," said Vernon impatiently, "how can you find the heart to mention her name, if such indeed it be, in that disagreeable tone and manner? It is enough to drive away every poetic idea connected with her. If you can only mention her name in that cold tone of contempt, I'd thank you to hold your tongue about her altogether."
With this remark, the poet took a manuscript book from a pocket in his blouse, and with contracted brow, he made an entry there in pencil of some happy thought the moment had just then suggested, which occupying some minutes, his companion in the interval walked to the window to examine into the appearance of the weather, and perceiving that the rain had ceased, and one bright star already twinkled in the sky, he suggested the propriety of preparing for their immediate departure, in order that they might get over as much of their ground as they possibly could before dark.
Having been directed to the path they were to pursue, which was a different one from that they had gone over when overtaken by the storm, though apparently leading in the same direction, our travellers again resumed their route. There was still good light when they started, and as long as it continued—but which was a very short time—the novelty of the surrounding desert of sand imparted some degree of interest to the scene; but, in proportion as the darkness closed in, the spirits of the pedestrians began to flag. Still, however, Frank strove to cheer up his companion, who was by far the most weary and dispirited of the two, and, as a never-failing remedy, began to talk to him about his intended comedy—its plot, and some of the most striking scenes and characters. The result was just as he had anticipated, and its author, who just before had dragged himself along in moody silence, or only replied in listless monosyllables, began to chat away upon the much-loved topic in the most animated manner possible; and so much were both engrossed with the subject, as not to perceive that, whilst traversing one of those level pieces of turf that few and far between formed a kind of tiny oasis in this desert, they had altogether missed the footpath.
Just at this unfortunate crisis it had become exceedingly dark, and the heavy clouds fast gathering overhead promised another shower; which promise was fulfilled even more speedily than they anticipated, and down came the rain pouring away in hissing torrents upon our pedestrians, who, unable to regain the lost footpath, strolled on for some time without the remotest notion of the direction they ought to take. They were not, however, very long in finding that they had again gotten amongst the loose sandbanks, which, being dispersed around in steep undulating hillocks, were exceedingly fatiguing to traverse even by daylight; it is needless, then, to say how much this difficulty was increased when the traveller was involved in darkness, and at the same time ignorant of the direction he ought to pursue. Nor was this the worst evil to which our two wanderers were exposed. A considerable number of mines had been opened in these wastes, and though the working of them had been abandoned for several years, yet the shafts were still open, many of them wholly unprotected either by rail or embankment, and the aperture being even with the surface, and not wider than the mouth of an ordinary-sized well, no one could possibly discern his danger in a night so dark as it then was. A more fatal snare for entrapping a benighted traveller could scarcely have been devised. But neither Vernon nor Frank had the remotest suspicion of this danger; or, in fact, any fears beyond the dread of spending the night in this howling wilderness.
At last, to their great relief, the rain subsided, and the clouds breaking away disclosed the great bear and polar star, which afforded them an unerring point to steer by, and raised strong hopes that if the sky remained clear, and their legs would only hold out long enough against the excessive fatigue of scrambling over the steep hillocks, they might, by pursuing a perfectly straight course, at last get clear of this desert spot, and reach a better kind of country, where they might meet with some habitation or other that would at least afford them rest and shelter until daybreak.
Now, when matters have become very bad, any change for the better, however slight it be, imparts some cheering influence; and the relief our drenched pedestrians felt from the mere ceasing of the rain, and exchanging the dull lowering sky for the clear dark-blue starlight, proved enough to renovate their drooping hearts, and to excite them to make the best use they could of their limbs; so that by persevering they at last reached a part of the waste where the travelling became less irksome, the drifting sand having, in this particular part, formed itself into larger hills, which, in course of time, had become coated with short grass, and thus afforded very pleasant ground to walk over. But this relief from fatigue was attended with increased peril to the erring wanderers, who were now in the very midst of abandoned mines, whose shafts yawned around them in every direction, many of which they passed almost within a hair's-breadth of, unaware of the dangers that thus lay in their path, and only congratulating themselves on the improved state of the ground they had to walk over.
Now Vernon Wycherley, who had been for some short time turning the matter over in his mind, began to fancy he had found a poser for his fellow-traveller, to whom he remarked, that however fortunate they might consider themselves when they got out of their present difficulties, there could be no possible advantage whatever in their having gotten into them.
"I don't agree with you even there," said Frank; "one advantage there will be on the score of experience, as it cannot fail to furnish us with an accurate knowledge of what a person's sensations are when he loses his way in a wilderness of sandbanks in a dark and stormy night in November."
"And is that all the advantage you can point out?" interposed Mr Vernon Wycherley.
"All? No, not one-half," resumed Frank. "Will it not supply both of us with everlasting materials for spinning yarns to match other travellers' tales, as well as furnish you with an endless topic for your poetic and dramatic pen? And besides, I've no doubt there are lots of other advantages we shall eventually derive benefit from, though they may for ever remain hidden amongst the many mysteries that man is never designed to know."
"You really are the most extraordinary fellow I ever met with," rejoined Vernon, "striving, as you ever do, to cook up good of some kind or other out of the most evil materials; and every misfortune, by some wonderful philosophy hatched up by your ingenious brain, you pretend to convert into a benefit. Why, old fellow, Mansel of Trinity actually told me—mind I've only his word for it, perhaps not the best authority in the world either—but he positively assured me, that you tried to convince him that your being taken ill on the third day of your examination, which was thus cut short in the middle, and which caused you to rank far lower than you otherwise would have done amongst the wranglers, was the most fortunate event that possibly could have happened to you."
"And that is my firm conviction still," said Frank, with the utmost coolness.
"What!" exclaimed Vernon in amazement, "you surely cannot be in earnest in what you say?"
"Indeed I am," resumed Frank; "for, had I taken higher honours my dear old governor would never have rested satisfied unless I had devoted myself either to study of the law or politics, both of which I hate, instead of permitting me, at some future time, to become a quiet country parson.—But what extraordinary light is that?" he exclaimed, on perceiving a narrow stream of fire, apparently at no great distance, shoot up above the brow of a low hill just before them?"
"A singular kind of meteor, certainly," observed the poet. "I never saw one like it before."
"Very like a sky-rocket; wasn't it?" observed Frank; "and a sky-rocket I've no doubt it was; and as this happens to be the night of the 5th of November, I dare say it proceeds from the very village to which we are bound—an important place too, it should seem, from sporting sky-rockets. Ah! there goes another. Huzza! we shall soon be amongst them.—Oh! merciful Heaven!" he exclaimed, as his companion suddenly vanished from his sight, having stepped inadvertently into the mouth of one of those dangerous shafts we have before alluded to. A heavy sound denoted the fearful depth to which he had been precipitated, which was shortly followed by a loud, hollow crash, caused by a fall of some fragments of detached earth, which, from the great depth it had to descend, occupied several seconds ere it reached the bottom of this deep abyss.
Frank Trevelyan, almost petrified with horror at the dreadful catastrophe, which there was just then sufficient light to enable him to discern the nature of, remained for some moments riveted to the spot from whence he had witnessed its occurrence; but soon partially recovering his bewildered faculties, he fell upon his hands and knees, and approaching the mouth of the shaft, called out, in a tone of agonizing anxiety to his companion, but with scarcely a hope of being responded to, when a faint voice, though from an awful depth, assured him he was yet alive; but, it was to be feared, dreadfully injured; and, in plain truth, he was in a situation of even greater danger than his fellow-traveller was then aware of. Poor Vernon Wycherley had fallen upwards of sixty feet perpendicularly, and had alighted on a projection of the ground, occasioned by a drift that had been made in the workings, which alone prevented him from being hurled to the bottom of the pit, which was of vast depth, though partially filled with water. As it was, his situation was so perilous, that it seemed only to add to the agony of impending death, with a very remote prospect of deliverance. Every thing depended upon his being able to secure himself upon the point of ground where he then rested; and this being loosened by the force with which he had fallen upon it, was gradually crumbling from beneath him, every particle of which, as it gave way, splashing in the water at the bottom of the shaft produced a deafening crash, which sound rendered him fearfully conscious of the probability of the whole mass, upon which his sole chance for safety depended, sinking under him, before the necessary assistance could arrive. This it soon did to such a degree, that, in spite of all his efforts, he gradually sank lower and lower, until, unable longer to retain a footing, his legs were overhanging the awful gulf, and he was rapidly sliding off, when, by a desperate effort, he threw up his feet, so that they reached the opposite side of the shaft, whilst his body still remained on the projecting drift, against which he firmly planted his back, and with his feet on the opposite side, he was thus enabled to gain a stationary position; yet, even then, the soil continually crumbling away, rendered it doubtful how long he might be able to retain it.
Frank Trevelyan was, however, as we before mentioned, unaware of the full extent of his friend's peril, and only dreading the effects of what had already occurred, he no sooner heard the welcome sound of his voice, than, bidding him keep up a good heart, for that he plainly heard the voices of a number of persons at no great distance, from some of whom he should be able to procure all the aid he required. Having so said, he started off at speed towards the spot from whence he could still hear the humming noise of many voices, indicating an assemblage of a large company of persons no great way off—and so towards this spot he ran at a rapid pace, regardless of the risk he incurred in thus racing along, as it were blindfold, in so dangerous a locality. But the fact is, a thought of his own personal safety never once entered his head: Vernon's accident, and its probable consequences, engrossed his every thought. Another rocket served to show him he was taking the right direction; and at so rapid a pace did he proceed, that the enlivening sounds of voices became more and more distinct, when, topping the brow of the hill, a blue light, most opportunely lighted up, disclosed to him at a very short distance on the opposite side of the valley, a substantial gentleman's house, in front of which a motley and mixed medley of some couple of hundred people or more—some of them gentlemen, but the majority consisting of miners and agricultural labourers—were assembled, either as actors, assistants, or lookers-on, at a display of various kinds of fire-works that was then going forward.
A sight so welcome to our little hero's hopes imparted fresh vigour to his limbs; and he darted down the steep declivity at the imminent danger of his neck, but happily reached the bottom in safety, just as the light which had aided him in his descent expired, which then made every thing appear even darker than before. Consequently, Frank, not espying the brook that intervened betwixt himself and the object he was striving to reach, tumbled over head and ears into one of its deepest pools; but being a swimmer, and the stream but narrow though the pool was deep, he soon attained the summit of the opposite bank; when a hedge, almost close at hand, alone seemed to separate him from the people whose assistance he was so anxious to secure. The hedge was easily clambered over, though an impediment he had not anticipated awaited him on the other side, in the form of a small fishpond, into which he bundled, and so got a second ducking. But as this pond, or rather that portion of it into which he had fallen, was not deep, he soon splashed across it, to the amazement of the assembled party who witnessed the feat, which a fresh blue-light, just then ignited, afforded them ample means of doing—the heavy souse he had made in tumbling in, and the splutter he made in floundering out again, having already attracted their attention to the spot—which, as he seemed to have selected the very widest part of the whole pool, was the very last of all others any one could have suspected an entry to have been made on the premises.
Unconscious of the surprise he had thus excited, Frank Trevelyan rushed forward into the midst of the assembled group, and seizing hold upon a stout little old gentleman who seemed to be the leading man of the party, endeavoured, as well as his exhausted state would permit, to explain the fearful misadventure which had just occurred. The intelligence excited an exclamation of horror from all who heard it.
"What a dreadful death!" exclaimed the old gentleman.
"Oh! don't say so, for heaven's sake," cried Frank—"He may be, and I fear is, much hurt; but I trust he may yet be saved."
"Impossible!" said half a dozen voices. "Why, the shaft's hundreds of feet deep."
"But my companion is yet far from the bottom of it," resumed Frank—"Something or other has interposed to prevent his falling lower. He spoke, and told me so—Oh! for mercy's sake make haste, and you may yet preserve his life."
"What a horrible situation!" exclaimed the old gentleman; "but no time must be lost in talking about it, or inquiring into the why or the wherefore. So here you, Timothy, John Clarke, Harris, Tom Carpenter, run for your lives, every man Jack of you to the farm, where you'll find plenty rope;—and here, miners, my dear men—do you bestir yourselves—succeed or not, I'll pay you well. Could any thing be more fortunate?" continued the old gentleman, soliloquising to himself—"could any thing be more fortunate than our show of fire-works bringing all the miners of the parish about our ears; the very best hands in the world, from woeful experience in like matters, to render aid in an accident of this kind."
No one required to be told a second time; and almost ere the words were out of the worthy squire's mouth, every body had dispersed here and there to procure ropes, and whatever might be required; all of which were collected with a celerity almost incredible; and then off started plenty of able and willing hands, all in eager haste to accomplish the charitable object they were bent upon.
And now we must return to poor Vernon Wycherley, whom we left pent up in a narrow dungeon many feet beneath the surface, enveloped in darkness, and with difficulty sustaining an irksome and even painful position, by keeping his body jammed across, and, as it were, forming a kind of bridge over this awful chasm; whilst the loose soil, upon whose unstable foundation his only chance of safety depended, gradually crumbling away, kept his attention unceasingly alive to the certain fate that awaited him when unable longer to retain his hold; the horrors of which were still further augmented by the deafening din that thundered forth as each detached mass reached the water far, far below. Few men, indeed, could have sustained a sufficient degree of self-possession to have held on a minute under such trying circumstances; but our tall young hero was possessed of that true kind of courage, which, though disinclined to seek out danger for mere danger's sake, is never daunted by its approach, however fearful or unexpected it may be; and thus he was enabled to await his impending fate with calm resignation. Strange, too, as it may appear, his thoughts, notwithstanding his appalling situation, would now and then wander to common everyday matters. Even the events of that very afternoon occurred to him, and the beauteous form he had been so much struck with passed in fancy before his eyes. "Would she pity his fate?" he asked himself—"alas! no—how was she to know any thing about it? Poor Frank, too," he thought, "what can he say to my unexpected, and probably fatal accident? I fear all his philosophy will, at least this time, fail of convincing him;—it is all for the best, but better for myself, perhaps, than him, as far as chances of being saved go; for with his little legs, it must have been all over with him some time before this. But, gracious Heaven! may not such a catastrophe have already happened to him?"
The start this last thought excited had well nigh proved fatal—a large quantity of earth became detached even by this slight movement, and at the same time caused a change of position, which, though very slight, was yet sufficient to produce a fresh action on the muscles, previously cramped from the unusual strain upon then, and thereby causing so much pain, that the sufferer was nearly relaxing his hold, the retention of which became more arduous every moment; whilst the time thus occupied seemed prolonged to almost tenfold the term of its ordinary duration. Never, therefore, was sound more welcome to his ears, than the hoarse and agitated tone with which his friend, Frank Trevelyan, shouted out to him down the mouth of the shaft; whilst the cheers with which his reply was hailed from several persons who had already reached the spot, assured him that the much-wished-for relief was at hand. Nor was there, indeed, a moment then to lose; for even during the short time it took in adjusting the rope, and getting ready a light, with which an adventurous miner, well skilled in such matters, was about to descend, poor Vernon's strength was rapidly declining; and, conscious of his increasing weakness, he called out earnestly to those above to make haste, as he could hold on no longer, and that the ground was fast slipping away from under him. Anxiously indeed throbbed every breast during the interval occupied by the miner's descent, and breathless was the suspense with which each awaited the signal to pull away again upon the rope, which had scarcely been given, when a heavy rumbling sound, followed by a whirring noise, and terminating in a tremendous booming crash, whose fearful din and uproar it is impossible to describe, caused a thrill of horror to pass through the frame of every bystander; whilst Frank, uttering a loud cry, threw himself with his face upon the ground, and grasped the turf in all the frenzied agony of grief, till the loud cheers that made the welkin ring again, aroused him to a state of consciousness, when all his grief was turned into joy by discovering the friend whose loss he had just begun to deplore, again safely landed on the earth's surface, and apparently but little the worse for his extraordinary tumble.
The noise which had caused so much unnecessary alarm was produced by the projecting mass, which, loosened by Vernon's violent descent upon it, had given way the instant it lost the partial support caused by the pressure of his body against it.
Fortunately for the sufferer, there was no lack of medical aid. The village doctor, who had been present at the fire-works, had the humane, or business-like consideration to betake himself as speedily as possible from thence to the place where his services were so likely to be needed; whilst the old gentleman, who had taken so active a part in the late transaction, had himself also practised the healing art in the early part of his life. To the gratification of all present, these two gentlemen, after a cursory examination, reported that no bones were broken, and that although the right wrist was sprained, and the left leg much bruised, yet that the other injuries were of a very trifling nature; so much so indeed, that being helped on the back of the pony which had brought the old gentleman to the scene of action, the patient rode without much difficulty to the mansion from whence the assistance had been derived; and which, although then attained by a more circuitous route than the one Frank had previously gone, was less than a mile distant.
Nothing, indeed, could exceed the kind hospitality of the old gentleman, who, as Frank had supposed, turned out to be the proprietor of the house and grounds he had made his entry upon in so unusual and unexpected a manner. Determined to act out the character of the good Samaritan to the very letter, the squire, for so every body called him, would insist upon taking the patient to his own house, as well as that Frank should remain to assist in taking care of him; alleging that there was no other place for miles around where they could be properly accommodated; and if there was, they should not go there as long as he had a house to shelter them. Vernon was too glad to find any kind of resting-place to refuse so generous an offer, and it required very little pressing to induce Master Frank Trevelyan to accept the invitation; for, somehow or other, he had just at the very moment begun to fancy that the late occurrence was but the commencement of a series of adventures, which a further acquaintance with their new friend might lead to. But the reasons which induced him to take such a fancy into his head, we must for the present forbear mentioning.
Vernon Wycherley, in spite of all his late perils, enjoyed a good night's rest, and on awakening about daylight on the following morning, he found that, barring a little pain and a great deal of stiffness about his sprained wrist and bruised leg, combined with slight soreness all over, he was not much the worse for his accident, and so he told Frank, who just at that very moment had popped his head into the room to see how he was getting on.
"And really, friend Frank," observed the patient, "I ought to be thankful for the snug quarters I've fallen into, as well as for my providential and almost miraculous escape."
"Which," interrupted Frank, "your medical friends here say you must at present think as little about as you can, and not talk about at all."
"Well, well, old fellow, their advice is doubtless very good; but it shall not for all that prevent my indulging in feelings of thankfulness to heaven for my deliverance."
"Not an uncomfortable room this," observed Frank, looking around it.
"Can any thing convey an air of greater comfort?" said Vernon. "There's a look of cheerful cleanliness about it that's quite delightful; and as for the bed, I never rested my wearied limbs before on one I liked better."
"Ay," said Frank, "and all through the house, from attic to cellar, I'll venture to say you'll find things just the same."
"Why, you can scarcely have had sufficient time or opportunity to ascertain that yet, I should imagine," observed Vernon; "for, with all the modest assurance with which you are so superabundantly blessed, you can't have already been paul-prying, and poking that impudent nose of yours into every hole and corner of it."
"Certainly not," answered Frank, "but I've seen quite enough to form a pretty accurate judgment that the bulk will tally with the sample—a conclusion I can arrive at without the aid of my nasal organ. A fact may be ascertained without one's poking their nose to the bottom of it—a very unsatisfactory, as well as uncertain, mode of proceeding, take my word for it. Why, I wouldn't undertake to ascertain even the height or depth of a molehill by so uncertain a process."
"And will you never forget that unlucky blunder of mine?" asked Mr Vernon Wycherley.
"Never, I promise you," replied Frank.
"Well, then, if you can't forget it, I suppose you can cease talking about it; and, by way of a more pleasing subject, suppose you tell me something about the people here—the old gentleman, the only member of the family I've yet seen, appears to possess a very host of good-nature."
"And a very good-natured host he has proved," interrupted Frank.
"That's right," said Vernon;—"very well for you; so book it, to tell again, and make the most of it."
"I shall do no such thing," rejoined Frank, "as no words I can employ would do justice to our honest entertainer, who is without exception the happiest and merriest little fellow I ever met with, possessing a countenance full of mirth and good-humour, and a heart overflowing with benevolence—a downright hearty good fellow, a thorough trump—a regular brick, and no mistake at all about the matter, as our little friend, Major Rodd, would say. And I say, Vernon, you've no idea what a delightful evening I spent after I'd tuck'd you in for the night. I never in my life met so entertaining a man before—a mere glimpse of his good-natured face is sufficient to drive away a very legion of blue-devils, although, by the by, those are fiends that never haunt me; and then we had a famous spread by way of supper—jugged hare—a woodcock—the first I've yet seen for the season—and lots of snipes."
"All of which, I dare say, you did ample justice to," interposed Mr Vernon Wycherley.
"More than justice, friend Vernon—more than justice; for I ate the best portion of the woodcock, in addition to a fair allowance of the jugged hare I'd taken before—and then finished off with the snipes—the whole being accompanied with some excellent home-brewed ale."
"Well, enough about the supper; but tell me, was there nobody but yourself and the squire to partake of it?"
"Oh yes! the doctor staid to supper, but was obliged to start and visit a patient who had sent for him, which compelled him to commence a five miles' ride ere he had well time to finish his meal."
"You saw no ladies, then?"
"Yes, but I did though—that is, I saw the lady of the house; and much as I liked master, I don't know but I liked mistress more—such a dear, kind-hearted creature—and so good-looking, Vernon—one of the sort that would never look old, or grow ugly, even if she lived to the age of Methusalem. And her fondness for her old man is quite delightful—none of your my-dearing or my-loving nonsense, or anxiety about every thing he likes to eat and drink disagreeing with him; but good, downright, honest, hearty affection, which was beautifully displayed in the happy smile with which she regarded the old fellow, and witnessed how truly he seemed to be enjoying himself. That's what I'd recommend all wives to do who wish to preserve their good looks. A woman's beauty depends so much upon expression, that if that's spoilt, farewell to all her charms, and which nothing tends more to bring about than a countenance soured with imaginary cares, instead of lighted up with thankfulness for innumerable blessings—that's what makes half the women wither away into wrinkles so early in life; whilst nothing renders their beauty so lasting as that placid look of pure benevolence, which emanates from a heart full of thankfulness to God—affection for those nearest and dearest to them, and good-will towards all mankind."
"Thank ye, Frank—thank ye for these pretty little sentiments—very good remarks, certainly, and true; but I think you'd better keep them to bestow upon the future Mrs Trevelyan; I dare say you may find them useful then. And now, have you any further news to tell me this morning?"
"Yes, I believe I have. I was just going to tell you about the fair ladies we met on the downs yesterday; but I've a great mind not to do so."
"Eh? what? where?" interrupted Vernon. "Oh! do tell me—have you seen them?"
"No," answered Frank demurely, "I haven't seen even the shadow of their petticoats."
"Is this Squire Potts', then? eh!"
"Not impossible," rejoined Frank with most provoking coolness; "at least," he continued, "I know nothing to the contrary, for never having heard our worthy squire's cognomen, I see no reason why he may not be called Potts as well as any thing else."
"Pshaw," said Vernon impatiently, "and is that all you have to tell me? I really fancied you had heard or seen something."
"And so I have," rejoined Frank.
"Whom, then? eh! Do tell me!" demanded Vernon, eagerly.
"Timothy," replied Frank.
"Timothy!" reiterated the poet.
"Ay, Timothy, to be sure; what d'ye think of that, Mr Vernon Wycherley?"
"Why, it leads me to hope," replied that gentleman, "that we may meet the ladies themselves ere long, or"—
No or in the matter," interrupted Frank; "I've made up my mind to meet them both at breakfast this very morning; and no mistake, as our gallant little friend the major says—for I'm pretty certain those lovely birds of paradise roosted last night somewhere or other about the premises."
"But as you say you've seen Timothy, haven't you been able to get any thing out of him?"
"No," replied Frank; "for as all his business seems to be confined to out-of-doors work, he only came once or twice into the room where we were upon some trifling excuse or other; but, in reality, I've no doubt to have a peep at your humble servant, whom the rogue instantly recognised; and when no one was looking, he tipped me a sly wink of the eye, at the same time pointing with his thumb over his shoulder, and directing his eyes towards the ceiling, thereby indicating, as I thought, that those I wished the most to see had already betaken themselves to bed."
"Then I trust they were not packed off on purpose that you might not see them?" observed the young poet.
"Quite the reverse, Vernon, I assure you, for I'm quite confident they were so packed off in order that they mightn't see me."
"You surprise me indeed—can it be possible that one so affable and open-hearted as our squire here appears to be, should hesitate to let his daughters see so harmless a specimen of the human race as my particular friend Mr Francis Trevelyan? But ah! I see how it is," Vernon continued, and his countenance fell as he said so. "I see how it is—he doubts our being gentlemen; a circumstance quite sufficient to account for the absence of the young ladies."
"Don't let that notion trouble you," interposed our little hero; "your particular friend, Mr Francis Trevelyan, as you have been pleased to style him, has removed every unfavourable impression a first glance of your two yards of humanity might have produced—you know the old saying, 'Show me your associates and I'll tell you what you are.'"
"Then," interposed Vernon, "the impression here must be, that I'm one of the most impudent dogs living."
"Nothing of the kind," resumed Frank; "that is, if they judge of you by your humble servant, whom they consider an exceedingly modest young man, which was the sole reason the two girls were kept out of the way, and sent off so early to bed; though by the by I'm almost ashamed to say"—
"Don't talk of your shame, Frank," interrupted Vernon, "a very different kind of thing, though too often confounded with modesty. It's the latter—It's your modesty—I wish to hear about."
"Why, the plain state of the case," rejoined Frank, "was, that our good-natured friend the squire, from an imperfect knowledge of the natural boldness of my disposition, (call it impudence, if you will,) supposed me incapable of facing the battery of laughter my extraordinary appearance would have exposed me to, had I come within view of his fair daughters."
"Your appearance is queer enough at all times I must confess," observed Vernon, "and still more so in your travelling costume; but still hardly enough so, I should have thought, to have produced quite so powerful an effect as you have just mentioned."
"You wouldn't say so, or have thought so, either, had you seen the strange figure of fun I made. Just now for a moment fancy my limited proportions enveloped in the squire's ample toggery—(who more than makes up in breadth all he wants in height,)—only fancy me so attired and where could you look for a more complete personification of a living scarecrow?"
"I can fancy it all," said Vernon Wycherley, laughing exceedingly at the idea of his companion so arrayed; "but do tell me," he continued, "what could have induced you to put on so ridiculous a masquerade."
"What else could I do?" rejoined Frank, "unless I turned in supperless to bed, or had it brought up to me there, neither of which suited my inclination—for, you see, what the rain we encountered had left undone in the drenching way, the brook I blundered over head and ears into had completely effected; and though my subsequent souse just afterwards into the fishpond could make me no wetter, that deficiency was amply made up for in mud; and as I had thrown off my knapsack, I had no precise notion where, in order that I might run all the lighter without it, which has only just now been picked up and returned to me, and so not a dry rag of my own to help myself to, I was right glad to rig myself out in the squire's clothes, which, fitting me like what our friend the admiral would say, 'purser's shirt upon a handspike,' made me look for all the world like an unstuffed effigy of a Guy Fawkes—a figure so superlatively ridiculous, that two light-hearted young girls, who were unable to help wellnigh laughing themselves from off their horses' backs at the sight of a youthful poet employing his nose as a pick-axe, could scarcely be expected to look unmoved on so ludicrous an object as I was."
"Spare me, Frank—spare me!" exclaimed Vernon. "How shall I be able to remove the ridiculous association which must be connected with that unlucky tumble?"
"The more important one you made so shortly afterwards, I'll undertake to say, will produce the desired effect," said Frank.
"Oh! don't talk about that now, pray," interposed Vernon with a shudder, and turning pale at the sudden recollection of his recent peril; which Frank perceiving, and aware of the indiscretion he had so thoughtlessly committed by alluding to, and to avert his friend's mind from dwelling any longer upon it, he rattled on as fast as he could about various other matters, describing in glowing terms all he had seen, heard, or conjectured, about the place they were then in. "What a contrast," he said, "the mere separation of a narrow valley has made between the desolate wastes we have traversed for the last two days, and the fertile spot where we now are, which, though deficient in timber, is beyond measure fertile in corn, and contains, I am told, some excellent shooting—that is partridge shooting; for a pheasant is here a kind of rara avis in terris, and as little likely to be met with as the very black swan itself; but then it's a fine country for woodcocks, whilst the bottoms almost swarm with snipes; all of which the squire has promised to show me in the course of the day, and for days to come, if I feel so inclined; for he won't hear a word of our leaving for at least ten days, or a week at the very shortest."
"But how, my dear fellow, can we accept an invitation of this kind from an utter stranger, whom"——
"No stranger at all," interrupted Frank. "He tells me your governor is one of his oldest and most esteemed friends; and as for myself—but stay—hush!—hark! I hear the old gentleman's voice, and he's coming this way too, or I'm very much mistaken."
The squire was one of those persons who generally give audible notice of their approach as soon as they enter their house, or pass through from one part of it to another; and our two heroes heard him, whilst in the act of ascending the stairs, bawling out to the ladies above that it was high time for them to be up and moving; and hammering away at the first door he came to, he called out—"Come, come, young ladies, wake up, wake up—chase away your balmy slumbers, and kick Morpheus out of bed without further ceremony.
'Come Miss Mary, ["Her loved name!" exclaimed Vernon within. All contrary, How does your garden grow? With silver bells, And cockle shells And cockles all of a row.'
"Nothing like early rising for planting the roses in your cheeks—and if that argument," said he to himself, "won't make a young woman bundle herself from under the bed-clothes, I don't know what will." And then he walked on to the room in which Frank had slept, and which was the adjoining one to Vernon's, he began to drum away upon the door there; calling out, at the same time—"Come, Frank—Mr Trevelyan—if you intend to have a view of the sea before breakfast, as you proposed last evening, it's high time you should be up and stirring."
"I'm up and stirred already, sir," said Frank, popping his head out of the adjoining room door.
"Yes; you're up to any thing, I see," said the squire, good-humouredly extending his hand to his guest, as he entered the room; "and how's my patient this morning?" he continued, advancing towards the bed. "Ah!" he said, having felt Vernon's pulse, "just as I hoped, and indeed fully expected—you couldn't possibly be doing better; a little—very little care for a day or two, is all you seem to require. I looked in before this morning to see how you were getting on, and found you snoring away so comfortably, that, judging all was as it should be, I wouldn't disturb you with my inquiries."
"Snoring!" repeated Vernon, in alarmed surprise, looking exceedingly disconcerted, and doubting almost whether he had heard aright.
"Ay, snoring," resumed the squire; "but never mind that, my hearty fellow—the best men snore sometimes, take my word for it; and, I dare say, it wasn't loud enough to disturb the young ladies. It was pretty loud, though, I must confess; but still I think it could hardly reach so far, particularly when your door was shut."
"But I found it wide open," observed Frank, by no means ill-amused to see how annoyed his companion was at the conviction of having snored, and the possibility of such sounds having reached the ears of one so lovely. Oh, how Vernon longed to hurl his pillow, or even any harder missile within his reach, at the saucy little fellow's head who was looking so provokingly pleased with his distress, and which the presence of the squire alone restrained him from making a left-handed attempt at, for his right was, as we before mentioned, disabled for the present by his late accident. But Vernon was too good a judge to attempt any thing of the kind, or show any exhibition of displeasure before his kind entertainer who, telling him he must act as his doctor, having, as he said, been bred to, and practised for several years in the medical profession, examined into the state of his sprains and bruises, and told him he would soon be all right again, but that he must be content to spend a few hours longer in bed, where his breakfast of gruel should be sent up to him; and then, accompanied by Frank, he took his departure.
The old gentleman, however, gave the ladies a fresh hail as he passed by their bedroom door, to which two or three voices replied simultaneously, but in tones far less musical than Frank expected; and it seemed to him very different from what he had heard from the fair equestrians of the preceding day, when they kindly expressed their hopes that the sprawling poet had received no injury from his tumble.
"Ah! I see how it is," thought he to himself; "these pretty creatures, like too many of their sex, have a couple of tones to their voices—one for home, and the other for company. There's one-half of my admiration gone already." But wishing, at the same time, to put the best construction he could upon the matter, he tried to persuade himself that they must have taken cold, poor things! in consequence of having been caught in the heavy shower of the preceding day; and this it was which had caused the hoarseness of their voices. "I have known it have that effect before now on other people," he thought, "and why might not the same happen to these fair damsels; who, though lovely as angels, can scarcely escape from 'all the ills that flesh is heir to,' amongst which a cold, attended with hoarseness, can hardly be reckoned the worst?"
 Any collection of houses, or even a single farm-house, is termed a town in Cornwall.
 In Cornwall, any number beyond two is termed a pair.
 "Bal" signifies a mine.
A PEEP INTO THE WHIG PENNY POST-BAG.
MY DEAR MEMBER—I send you a powerful petition, For absolute, instant, entire abolition. This question our Chamber is taking a lead in Composed, as you know, of the Flowers of Dunedin, Intelligent Druggists, rhetorical Quakers, Broad acres—a few—but no want of wiseacres. All are perfectly clear that these horrid restrictions Are the proximate cause of our present afflictions, Obstructing the bowels, as 'twere, of the nation, And entirely deranging our whole circulation.
To expel these bad humours, we earnestly urge A dose, night and morning, of Russell's new Purge; Not the old wishy-washy affair of the fixture, But the new out-and-out Morisonian mixture.
In the mean time 'tis well that the Noble concoctor Has succeeded in ousting the family Doctor. Peel's a perfect old wife—twaddles on about diet, About exercise, air, mild aperients, and quiet; Would leave Nature alone to her vigour elastic, And never exhibit a drug that is drastic. Doctor Russell's the man for a good searching pill, Or a true thorough drench that will cure or will kill. For bleeding and blistering, and easy bravado, (Not to speak of hot water,) he passes Sangrado. He stickles at nothing, from simple phlebotomy, As our friend Sidney said, to a case of lithotomy: And I'll venture to say, that this latest specific, When taken, will prove to be no soporific. Might I just hint how happy 'twould make me to be Sole Agent down here for the great Patentee?
Entre nous, what can mean these unpleasant surmises? I scarce know what prognosis to form of the crisis: And our friends, quite perplex'd at this puzzling delay, Can't imagine how scruples should stand in the way. Must the grand Opus Magnum be brought to a fix, Because some jarring drugs are unwilling to mix? His lordship, I'm certain, would cut the thing shorter, If he'd borrow a touch of my pestle and mortar.
Ere we part, I must give you a hint of the truth: We Free Churchmen can't stomach your views of Maynooth. If you value your seat, as a friend I would urge ye, Steer clear of endowing the Catholic Clergy; A bolus (or bonus) so very unhallow'd Would in Scotland, I'm sure, not be easily swallow'd.
By an early reply we should all be elated, And 'twould tell if from Windsor again it were dated.
DEAR DRUGGIST—-You've open'd your jocular vein, And I fain would reply in the same pleasant strain; But let those laugh who win—I have only to say, That we are—as we were: and all done by Lord Grey— The most arrogant, wayward, capricious of men, (Though this last little sketch must not seem from my pen.) Only think of objecting that Palmerston's name In a fortnight would set East and West in a flame: About mere peace or war a commotion to make, When the Party's existence was plainly at stake! When office was offer'd, to cast it behind, And to talk of such trash as the good of mankind! It is clear, my good friend, such a crotchety prig Has but little pretence to the title of Whig.
On the part I have played in this luckless transaction, I confess I look back with unmix'd satisfaction. From the first I said this—and 'tis pleasant to feel Thus at ease with one's self—"I'm for total repeal. Stick to that, my Lord John, and all scruples I stifle: Any office, or none, is to me a mere trifle;" (Though, of course, my dear Mac, for the purest of ends, I was willing to help both myself and my friends.) "Any office I'll take, that can give you relief— From the Whip of the House to Commander-in-chief." Oh! If all of the party had acted as I did, In how noble a band would Lord John have presided!
But—"'tis best as it is:" we may grieve, yet we shouldn't: Peel can carry the measure—'tis certain we couldn't: Though we hoped, if our reign was once fairly begun, It might last till—we did what was not to be done.
I think, (though thus leaving old views in the lurch,) We should not have establish'd the Catholic Church. To speak for my colleagues, in me would be vanity: They might differ; but I should have thought it insanity.
In the hope that our friends in Auld Reeky are "brawly," I remain yours, in confidence, T. B. Mac——y.
EAST AND WEST.
Sweet is the song, whose radiant tissue glows With many a colour of the orient sky; Rich with a theme to gladden ear and eye— The love-tale of the Nightingale and Rose.
Nor speeds the lay less surely to the mark That paints in homely hues two neighbours sweet, Born on our own bleak fields, companions meet, The modest Mountain-daisy and the Lark.
The fond attachments of a flower and bird! That things so fair a mutual bond obey, And gladly bask in love's delightful ray, Who would deny, and doubt the poet's word?
Or who would limit love's and fancy's reign? Their hardy growth here springs as fresh and fair, Far from the sun and summer gale, as there Where Gul for Bulbul decks her gay domain.
'Tis poesy, whose hands with kindly art, Of kindred feelings weaves this mystic band, To knit the Scottish to the Iranian strand, And reach wherever beats a human heart.
AN APOLOGY FOR A REVIEW.
It is not our general practice to review books of travels; nor, in truth, in noticing these little volumes, do we introduce any exception to that general rule. Under what precise category in literature they may fall, would admit, as Sir Thomas Browne observes as to the song sung by the Sirens, of a wide solution. Plainly, however, in the ordinary sense of the term, travels they are not. They will form no substitute for Murray's admirable hand-books; for on the merits or demerits of competing hostelries, which Mr Murray justly regards as a question of vital importance—the very be-all, and often end-all of a tour—these volumes throw no light. In statistics they are barren enough. To the gentlemen of the rule and square, who think that the essential spirit of architecture can be fathomed by measurement, they will be found a blank. And though abounding in allusions, which betray, without obtruding, an intimate acquaintance with ancient literature, and sufficient in congenial minds to awaken a train of memories, classic or romantic, medieval or modern; they contain few dates, no dissertations, no discussion of vexed questions as to the ownership of statues, baths, temples, or circuses; or the other disputed points which have so long been the subject of strife in the antiquarian arena. And, really, when we consider the way in which, in the course of a century, all the old landmarks on the antiquarian map have been broken up, and the monuments of antiquity made to change hands; how Nibbi supersedes Winckelman, only to be superseded in turn; how a temple is converted into a senate-house; one man's villa into another; how Caracalla is driven from his circus to make way for Romulus; how Peace resigns her claim to a Pagan temple to make way for a Christian basilica of Constantine; how statues, arches, gardens, baths, forums, obelisks, or columns, are in a constant state of transition, so far as regards their nomenclature; and, to borrow the conceit of Quevedo, nothing about Rome remains permanent save that which was fugitive—namely, old Tiber himself; we rather feel grateful to the tourist who is content to take up the last theory without further discussion, and to spare us the grounds on which the last change of title has been adopted. What, indeed, matters it, in so far as the imagination is concerned, by what emperor, consul, or dictator, these mighty remains were reared or ruined? Whether these Titanian halls first echoed to the voices of Pagan or the chant of Christian priests? Whether this inexplicable labyrinth of vaults and cells, and buried gardens which overrun the Esquiline, where the work of art and nature is so strangely melted and fused together by "the alchymy of vegetation," really formed part of the golden house of the monstrous Nero; or of the baths of him, the gentlest of the Caesars, who, when he had gone to rest without doing a good action, regretted that he had lost a day? Equally they remain monuments of the grandeur of the minds which gave them birth; mysterious, suggestive—perhaps the more suggestive, the more awakening curiosity and interest, from the very obscurity in which their origin, purposes, or fortunes are shrouded. And if individual associations become dim or doubtful, they merge in the clear light which these gigantic fragments, betraying, even in ruin, their original beauty of proportion and grandeur of conception, throw upon the lofty and enduring character of the Roman people.
* * * * *
These volumes, then, as we have said, will neither replace Murray, nor form a substitute for Eustace. Neither is their interest mainly owing to mere vivid or literal portraiture; by painting in words, as an artist would do by forms and colours, and enrolling before us a visible panorama, such as might present a clear image of the scenes described here to those who had never witnessed them. Their charm—for a charm, we trust, they will have to a considerable number of readers—arises simply from the truth with which they seize, and the happy expression in which they embody, the spirit of the spot; marking, by a few expressive touches, the moral as well as the physical aspect of the scene, and awakening in the reader a train of associations often novel in conception, as well as felicitous in expression; but which appear in general so congenial and appropriate, that we are willing to persuade ourselves they are a reproduction of thoughts, and dreams, and fancies, which had occurred to ourselves in contemplating the same objects. Hence it is to those, who have already witnessed the scenes described, that these volumes address themselves. They do not paint pictures, but revive impressions; they call up or steady imperfectly defined images; bring forward into light struggling memories;—and, by a union of brief description, classic or historical allusions, picturesque and significant epithets, and reflections hinted at, rather than wrought out, they very successfully accomplish their object—that of realizing to the eye of the mind that distinctive and prevailing expression which each aspect of nature, like each movement of the human face, wears in itself, and is calculated to awaken in others—cheerful, sombre, majestic, or awe-inspiring, according to the nature of the scene, the associations past and present with which it is surrounded, and the conditions, or, as a painter would term it, accidents under which it has been viewed.
While we say that Mr Whyte has generally been very successful in his aim, we must not be understood to express by any means an unqualified probation of the taste in which these volumes are conceived, or the plan on which they are constructed. The train of reflection is sometimes too obviously an afterthought—not spontaneously evoked at the moment by the influences of the scene, but evidently devised and wrought up into point and apparent application by a subsequent process. We have dreams which were never dreamt, and reveries which are any thing but involuntary. There are too many Tristram Shandy transitions, sundry cockneyisms in expression, (we use the word in a wide sense,) and one or two jokes which make the blood run cold. Lastly, we are compelled to say that we repose much more confidence in the writer's taste in architecture than in painting. It is enough to say that he evinces no feeling for the more simple and majestic compositions of Raphael; while the powerful contrasts, and magic of light and shadow displayed by Guercino and Tintoret, seem to exercise an undue fascination on his mind. It is only to the injurious effect produced by these blemishes that we can attribute the slender success with which the volumes have been attended; for at this moment we do not recollect having seen them noticed by any of those who assume to themselves the right of distributing the rewards and punishments of criticism.
Let us now look at one or two of Mr Whyte's sketches of Rome, or rather of the train of thought called up by wanderings among its ruins, tracing the broken sweep of its ancient walls, or wandering among the stately aqueducts and nameless tombs of its dreary Campagna.
_Fragments of Italy and the Rhineland._ London: 1841._
A Pilgrim's Reliquary. By the REV. T. H. WHYTE, M.A. London: 1845.
THE WALLS OF ROME.
"I wonder whether it be the fault of mine own inattention, or the absence of good taste in others, that I have heard and read so little of the Walls of Rome! To me they rank among the few, out of all the Wonders of the Eternal City that have exceeded my expectations. Solitude, their peculiar characteristic, has great charms for a companionless enthusiast like myself: it is, moreover, a description of solitude, the very reverse of melancholy. Mile after mile have I repeatedly roamed along the outer Pomoerium of those solitary rampires, and encountered perhaps a goatherd and his pretty flock, the tinkle of whose bells formed the only accompaniment to the honey notes of the blackbird:—or, perhaps, in sonorous solemnity, some great Bell would suddenly boom upon the silence, and be taken up in various tones from a hundred quarters, no vestige, mean time, of Minster or Monastery being visible; nothing but that enormous Adamantine Circlet rearing itself into the sky on one side, and the gateways and walls of villas and vineyards occupying the other. You might fancy those tolling chimes belonging to some City hidden by Enchantment.
"Still, as I have proceeded in my mood, half enjoying, half moralizing the scene, those hundred towers, like Titan warders placed around the Seven Hills, would each after each look down upon me from their high and silent stations; till, as I came to know them, they seemed to meet my gaze with the sedate and pleasant welcome of a venerable friend. They were the incessant associates of my solitude, and I was never wearied of them. Of a surety their vast Circuit (fifteen miles) gives ample time and space enough for rumination!
"Their colossal cubits are the most perfect exemplar of Architectural sublimity. Their dismantled Battlements have no Watchman but Antiquity, no Herald but Tradition, and hear no clamour louder than the Church or Convent bells, or the dirge which the wind wails over them through the melancholy Cypress and the moaning Pine. The broad old belt of short flowery turf at the base, the Violet, the Gilliflower, and the vermilion spotted Mignonette, on their breast, and the chaplet of wilding shrubs upon their brows, give them a charm in the most common-place observation. With me, truant as I have been to the Classic page, it seemed a natural process of my desultory mind, to revert from a contemplation of such pensive dreamy realities of waking enjoyment as I have described, to visions, startling in their august grandeur, of the everlasting past,—visions of their great Architect, Aurelian; of their greater Restorer, Belisarius!
"These monstrous walls! I cannot divest myself of a certain awe and fascination, as if of a supernatural appearance, which attracts and detains me about them; not even the Colosseum more. There seems something so ghastly, so spectral, in the mockery of their unnecessary circuit, their impregnable strength, their countless towers, arrogating to themselves the circumference of a day's journey—and all for what? To guard a city, which, once dropsied with grandeur, has now shrunk with the disease into comparative atrophy; a city, which, having boastfully demanded their aid, has now abandoned them for miles. It is as though one should wrap a triumphal robe about a corpse, or place a giant's helmet upon a skeleton's skull. It is no poetical figure to look upon them as an eternal satire upon the great littleness of empire. The melancholy pride of their dimensions needs not the hollow wind, which howls around their towers, or the wondering sun, which lingers over their shrubby ramparts, to proclaim in the ears of thrones and senates the warning of Rome's ambition, the moral of Rome's downfall! It is but a poor recompense to their present unhonoured solitude, that their melancholy battlements are emblazed at intervals with the pontifical escutcheons. Those triple tiaras and cross keys, so perpetually recurring, do not half so much consecrate as they are themselves consecrated by the lonely bulwarks of this desolated city of the Caesars!"
THE VILLA BORGHESE.
"With the exception of an ostentatious parade of paltry equipages, tarnished liveries, and wretched horses on the Corso, and a frantic attempt at an opera, Rome, in May, is a picturesque receptacle for monks, and goatherds, and nightingales, and bells. Like some haunted place, it appears to be beloved and frequented only by the apparitions of an obsolete race. Yet many minds will find it infinitely more congenial thus, than amidst all the popular splendours of its holy week.
"Her tranquillity, nay, her very desolation, is enchanting. The summer's-day circuit of the Seven Hills seems all your own. You wander whither you will, meeting few, and disturbed by none. In short, the very antiquity of the place is one perpetual novelty, and its grave monotony a serene recreation. I write this in the Villa Borghese, beneath groves of acacias, redolent with odours, and booming with myriads of bees, the yellow hay in aromatic quiles, pitched like pavilions below the old red walls of Rome, and nightingales and blackbirds contending in gushes of ecstatic song!
"Though not new to me, I had little conception of the intrinsic loveliness of the Villa Borghese till to-day. Picture to yourself a large village of the most variegated and romantic character; Church, casino, albergo, and farm, scattered amidst the turfy glades of a forest; and that forest composed of such trees as the beech, the elm, the ilex, and, above all, the sovereign pinaster, whose enormous trunks seem to have condescended to arrange themselves into avenues; the most charmingly artificial glades of the glossiest verdure, and vistas haunted by legions of dim waning statues; hero or demigod, nymph or faun, for ever intermingling but never interfering with each other; their various places of rendezvous emblazed with flowers of a thousand colours, and flashing with fountains of the most graceful fancies possible; while every vista discloses some antique portico, or rotunda, or vestibule of those gems that men call temples! Picture these scenes on some such May-day as this,
'When God hath shower'd the earth;'
the dark evergreens rejoicing in the rain-drops, and the new-born leaves of silky green, transparent with the moisture, which had reluctantly ceased to shine on their delicate tapestries. Crown all this with a country palace, of lofty Italian magnificence, a treasure-house of antiquity, painting, and sculpture, disclosing the statues, frescoes, and gilding, of its noble facade and massive campaniles, at the extremity of its darkest grove of evergreens, glittering in this rainbow sunlight, and you may have some impression of the Villa Borghese.
"Such silence and solemnity, that you would never dream you were near the busy haunt of men, were it not, that a long linked diapason of bells, modulated by every possible inflection of their lofty language, convinced you that you were basking amidst all this voluptuous quiet, beneath the walls of a concealed city, and that city—ROME!"
THE RUINS.—THE CAMPAGNA.
"This afternoon we drove along the Via Appia Nova. The sun, rolling his chariot amidst a cavalcade of wild clouds, along the ruddy array of shattered arches, variegating the grassy plain with its uncouth palatial and sepulchral ruins, in ebony and gold, illuminated the purple and green recesses of the Sabine hills, and caressing with capricious fleetness their woody towers and towns, bequeathed to the north a calm blue vault, wherein, as in some regal hall of state, the dome of St Peter's, the rotunda of the Colosseum, the vast basilicas of Santa Maria Maggiore, and San Giovanni Laterana, that embattled sepulchre of Cecilia, and those lofty masses of the Pamfilipine, which hovered in the horizon like a feathery vapour, proclaim the illustrious domicile of Rome.
"The Temple of the Divus Rediculus (or whatever other title it may rejoice in) is one of those lovely little phantasies of architecture that one might imagine a London citizen would have coveted for a summer-house. The brilliant contrast between its vermilion pilasters and its pale yellow wall, the delicate moulding of its slender bricks and the elaborate elegance of its decoration, not to omit its pleasing, though diminutive proportions, arising from the wild green turf of this melancholy region, can scarcely fail of affecting with at least a spark of fancy, the flattest spirit of this work-day world. For my own part, I should be much less disposed to pronounce it a temple than a tomb; and, in fact, the whole appearance of this wide dull tract seems eminently adapted to sepulchral piles. It is most melancholy, most funereal; and even that glorious sun, and those majestic aqueducts, soaring, as they do, to salute his lustre, and to emulate his glory, cannot efface the feeling, that such a scene, and such memorials, should be visited only in the gloom of a sad and stormy sky; either amidst the sympathetic moans of an autumnal tempest, or the waning and mournful glimpses of an autumnal twilight."
"It was the twilight, that brief, that exquisite interval, which flings its purporoseate veil between the palace gates of day and night. You might have fancied it the car of Diana rolling on to some Olympian festival, and preceded by Venus, the only other planet visible in the sky. What a canopy!—Not the gaudiest velabrum that the ostentatious munificence of her Caesars extended above its gilded cordage, ever equalled the empyrean pomp of this soft sky. Never could the artificial rains of perfumed water surpass the dewy fragrance that steals around from evening's thousand urns.
"I say it was the twilight when we entered these gloomy corridors, whose solemn circuit uncoils its colonnades around the lordly pile; but before we had traversed half their extent night began her reign, and when we entered the arena it was difficult to say whether those faintly flushed skies, that single sparkling star, or the pallid hectic of the youthful moon produced the pathetic light that illuminated this enormous architecture.
"As it now stands, the Colosseum is indeed a wreck, rendered absolutely frightful by repair; and whether by sunlight or moonlight, compels you to lament the 'melancholy activity' which, utterly inadequate to the restoration of its pristine glory, has deprived it of all those adventitious ornaments, trees, and herbage, and a thousand beautiful flowers, which, if they could not conceal, at least served to soften its injuries, and which mitigated the desolation they were unable to repair.
"Of course a thousand imaginations and memories hunt each other through one's head and heart in such a place and at such an hour as this, but to-night there were realities, which, where they do not dispel, must always reinforce such phantasies.
"Before the steps of the great cross in the centre, garnished with all the emblems of the passion, knelt a respectably dressed group, apparently father, mother, and daughter, absorbed in a rapture of devotion. The lamps were lighted before the fourteen shrines, which Benedict the Fourteenth erected around the arena, and flung a dusky light upon the successive stagioni of our Saviour's sufferings, by which each is distinguished; and we saw a solitary peasant, in the dark costume of his country, evidently faint and toil-worn, rise from his oraisons at one shrine, only to sink upon his knees before another.
"Ah! it was at once a simple and sagacious stroke of that priestly sovereign, who, in these prophaned ruins, planted the Cross, and, by a mightier spell than the magician's wand, arrested the rapacity of its patrician plunderers!"
Do not sketches such as these revive for us all those feelings which Rome awakened in ourselves, bringing back the clime, the sky, the loneliness, the mingled feeling of grandeur and situation—the gentle melancholy with which the eternal city impresses even the least imaginative mind? To us they appear to embody more of the poetry of travel than many a work which figures under the mask of poesy.
How much has been written on Venice, from Schiller and Radcliffe to Madame de Stael and Madame Dudevant! and yet we hardly know if any one, with the exception of the last, has more completely imbued his mind with the peculiar spirit of Venice, or reflected its impressions with more truth than Mr Whyte. Schiller, indeed, and Mrs Radcliffe, had never witnessed the scenes they described; their portraiture is the result merely of reading and description, warmed and vivified by the glow of their own imagination. Hence the glimpses of Venice conveyed in Schiller's beautiful fragment of the Armenian, are mere general outlines—true enough so far as they go, but faintly drawn, and destitute, as we might say, of local colour. Mrs Radcliffe's moonlight landscapes—masques and music—exhibit with great beauty one aspect of the city, but only one.
Very different are the Venetian Sketches of Madame Dudevant. She has drunk in the inspiration of Venice on the spot, has penetrated the very heart of its mystery, and reproduces the impressions which an intimacy with its peculiarities produces, with a degree of truth, force, and poetical feeling, that impart the most captivating charm to her Venetian Letters. Mr Whyte's Fragments exhibit much of the same sensibility, the same just perception of the spirit of Venice; and though they have not that brilliancy of style which the pictures of the French authoress possess, there is often even in this respect great beauty both of thought and expression. Mr Whyte, indeed, took the right course to enable him thoroughly to understand and appreciate Venice. Instead of confining himself to the stately vision of the Grand Canal, or the wizard magnificence of St Mark's, he seems to have habitually traced all the lesser canals; the little Rii, which, like small veins, shoot off from the great arteries of the Grand Canal and the Giudecca, carrying the circulation of the Adriatic through this unique city; exploring their high, dark, and narrow recesses, pondering on the strange contrasts of misery and magnificence, squalid filth and luxurious ornament, which they present side by side; and heightening the impression thus created, by selecting all varieties of aspects, from the bright flashing sunshine pouring down into these dark chasms, as into a well, to the shadowy evening, the magic contrasts of moonlight, the gloom of wind and rain howling through the balconies, driving the ocean wave impetuously through these water-ways, and beating against their thousand bridges; or those thunder-storms—nowhere more magnificent than at Venice—where the gleam of the lightning forms so fearful a contrast with the Cimmerian gloom of the canal, and the peals are reverberated with such magnificence from those piles of masonry with which they are lined. There is, indeed, no spectacle that can be conceived, more impressive than some of these smaller canals, particularly if you enter them towards sundown. You glide into a gulf of buildings, rising high on each side—almost meeting above your head—most of them ruinous and dilapidated, sinking by piecemeal into the green element which they have displaced for centuries, but which, through the slow agency of the sap and mine, is visibly resuming his oozy empire. You pass some church with its unfinished marble face. Again, a set of poor rickety and mean edifices follow; when suddenly you come upon some pile of massy grandeur, looming gigantic in the twilight, in whose colossal, but beautiful proportions, you can trace the hand of Sammichele or Sansovino. You come nearer, and perceive the fretted windows broken, stuffed with rags, and patched with paper; rough boards nailed up against the gilded beams; grand portals, of which the doors have disappeared, allowing the eye to penetrate into a dark perspective within: perhaps a sign-board over-tops a glorious cornice of grim masks or armorial bearings; and from latticed windows, on which Palladio had lavished all the delicate beauty of his architecture, some flaunting and gaudy rags are hung out to dry. You enquire what is the building, and to whom it belongs, and you are answered: It is the palace of one of the classic nobility of ancient Venice—now tenanted by a Hebrew, who lets out the apartments at so many lire a month!