"It may be that it is permitted to such a demon to put on what shape he thinks proper," replied Stevens; "but even if it is not, yet this would not be the subject of any difference—it would scarcely prevent the prosecution of this evil purpose. You are to remember, Mr. Cross—"
"John Cross—plain John Cross, Alfred Stevens," was the interruption of the preacher.
"You are to remember," Stevens resumed, "that when the heart is full of sin, the eyes are full of blindness. The people who believe in these evil beings are incapable of seeing their deformities."
"That is true—a sad truth."
"And, again," continued Stevens, "there are devices of mere mortal art, by which the deformities and defects of an individual may be concealed. One of these brothers, I am told, is never to be seen except seated in one position at the same desk, and this desk is so constructed, as to hide his lower limbs in great part, while still enabling him to prosecute his nefarious work."
"It's clear enough, Brother Cross," exclaimed the widow Cooper, now thoroughly convinced—"it's clear enough that there's something that he wants to hide. Lord help us! but these things are terrible."
"To the weak and the wicked, Sister Cooper, they are, as you say, terrible, and hence the need that we should have our lamps trimmed and lighted, for the same light which brings us to the sight of the Holy of Holies, shows us the shape of hatefuless, the black and crouching form of Satan, with nothing to conceal his deformity. Brother Stevens has well said that when the heart is full of sin, the eyes are full of blindness; and so we may say that when the heart is full of godliness, the eyes are full of seeing. You can not blind them with devilish arts. You can not delude them as to the true forms of Satan, let him take any shape The eye of godliness sees clean through the mask of sin, as the light of the sun pierces the thickest cloud, and brings day after the darkest night."
"Oh! what a blessed thing to hear you say so."
"More blessed to believe, Sister Cooper, and believing, to pray with all your heart for this same eye of godliness. But we should not only pray but work. Working for God is the best sort of prayer. We must do something in his behalf: and this reminds me, Sister Cooper, that if there is so much evil spread abroad in these books, we should look heedfully into the character of such as fall into the hands of the young and the unmindful of our flock."
"That is very true; that is just what I was thinking of, Brother Cross. You can not look too close, I'm thinking into such books as you'll find at the house of Widow Thackeray. I can give a pretty 'cute guess where she gets all that sort of talk, that seems so natural at the end of her tongue."
"Verily, I will speak with Sister Thackeray on this subject," responded the pastor—"but your own books, Sister Cooper, and those of your daughter Margaret—if it is convenient, I should prefer to examine them now while I am here."
"What! Margaret's books! examine Margaret's books!"
"Even so, while I am present and while Brother Stevens is here, also, to give me his helping counsel in the way of judgment."
"Why, bless us, Brother Cross, you don't suppose that my daughter Margaret would keep any but the properest books? she's too sensible, I can tell you, for that. She's no books but the best; none, I'll warrant you, like them you'll find at Widow Thackeray's. She's not to be put off with bad books. She goes through 'em with a glance of the eye. Ah! she's too smart to be caught by the contrivances of those devils, though in place of four brothers there was four thousand of 'em. No, no! let her alone for that—she's a match for the best of 'em."
"But as Brother Stevens said," continued John Cross, "where sin gets into the heart, the eye is blinded to the truth. Now—"
"Her eye's not blinded, Brother Cross, I can tell you. They can't cheat her with their books. She has none but the very best. I'll answer for them. None of them ever did me any harm; and I reckon none of them'll ever hurt her. But I'm mistaken, if you don't have a real burning when you get to Mrs. Thackeray's."
"But, Sister Cooper—" commenced the preacher.
"Yes, Brother Cross," replied the dame.
"Books, as I said before, are of two kinds."
"Yes, I know—good and bad—I only wonder there's no indifferent ones among 'em," replied the lady.
"They should be examined for the benefit of the young and ignorant."
"Oh, yes, and for more besides, for Mrs. Thackeray's not young, that's clear enough; and I know there's a good many things that she's not ignorant of. She's precious knowing about many things that don't do her much good; and if the books could unlearn her, I'd say for one let her keep 'em. But as for looking at Margaret's books—why, Brother Cross, you surely know Margaret?"
The preacher answered meekly, but negatively.
"Ain't she about the smartest girl you ever met with?" continued the mother.
"God has certainly blessed her with many gifts," was the reply, "but where the trust is great, the responsibility is great also."
"Don't she know it?"
"I trust she does, Sister Cooper."
"You may trust every bit of it. She's got the smartness, the same as it is in books—"
"But the gift of talents, Sister Cooper, is a dangerous gift."
"I don't see, Brother Cross, how good things that come from God can be dangerous things."
"If I could see the books, Sister Cooper;—I say not that they are evil—"
John Cross began in tones that denoted something like despair; certainly dissatisfaction was in them, when Alfred Stevens, who had long since tired of what was going on, heard a light footfall behind him. He turned his eyes and beheld the fair maiden, herself, the propriety of whose reading was under discussion, standing in the doorway. It appeared that she had gathered from what had reached her ears, some knowledge of what was going on, for a smile of ineffable scorn curled her classic and nobly-chiselled mouth, while her brow was the index to a very haughty volume. In turning, Alfred Stevens betrayed to her the playful smile upon his own lips—their eyes met, and that single glance established a certain understanding between them.
Her coming did not avail to stifle the subject of discussion. John Cross was too resolute in the prosecution of his supposed duty, to give up the cause he had once undertaken. He had all the inveteracy of the stout old puritan. The usual introduction over and he resumed, though he now addressed himself to the daughter rather than the mother. She scarcely heard him to the end.
"The books were my father's, Mr. Cross; they are valuable to me on that account. They are dear to me on their own. They are almost my only companions, and though I believe you would find nothing in them which might be held detrimental, yet I must confess, if there were, I should be sorry to be made acquainted with the fact. I have not yet discovered it myself, and should be loath to have it shown by another."
"But you will let me see them, Margaret?"
"Yes, sir, whenever you please. I can have no objection to that, but if by seeing them you only desire an opportunity to say what I shall read and what not, I can only tell you that your labor will be taken in vain. Indeed, the evil is already done. I have not a volume which I have not read repeatedly."
It is needless to add that Brother Cross was compelled to forego his book examination at the widow Cooper's, though strongly recommended there to press it at Widow Thackeray's. Alfred Stevens was a mute observer during the interview, which did not last very long after the appearance of Margaret. He was confirmed in all his previous impressions of her beauty, nor did the brevity of the conference prevent him from perceiving her intense self-esteem, which under certain influences of temperament is only another name for vanity. Besides they had exchanged glances which were volumes, rendering unnecessary much future explanation. She had seen that he was secretly laughing at the simple preacher, and that was a source of sympathy between them. She was very much in the habit of doing the same thing. He, on the other hand, was very well satisfied that the daughter of such a mother must be perverse and vain; and he was moralist enough to know that there is no heart so accessible to the tempter as the proud and wilful heart. But few words had passed between them, but those were expressive, and they both parted, with the firm conviction that they must necessarily meet again.
HOW THE TOAD GRINS UPON THE ALTAR.
Shall we go the rounds with our pastor? Shall we look in upon him at Mrs. Thackeray's, while, obeying the suggestion of the widow Cooper, he purges her library of twenty volumes, casting out the devils and setting up the true gods? It is scarcely necessary. Enough to know that, under his expurgatorial finger, our beloved and bosom friend, William Shakspere, was the first to suffer. Plays! The one word was enough. Some lying histories were permitted to escape. The name of history saved them! Robinson Crusoe was preserved as a true narrative; and Swift's Tale of a Tub escaped, as it was assumed (there being no time to read any of the books, and in this respect John Cross showed himself much more of a professional critic than he conjectured) to be a treatise on one branch of the cooperage business, and so, important to domestic mechanics in a new country. The reader will remember the manner in which the library of the knight of La Mancha was disposed of. He would err, however, if he supposed that John Cross dismissed the books from the window, or did anything farther than simply to open the eyes of Mrs. Thackeray to the bad quality of some of the company she kept. That sagacious lady did not think it worth while to dispute the ipse dixit of a teacher so single-minded, if not sagacious. She bowed respectfully to all his suggestions, promised no longer to bestow her smiles on the undeserving—a promise of no small importance when it is remembered that, at thirty-three, Mrs. Thackeray was for the first time a widow—and that night she might have been seen laughing heartily with Mesdames Ford and Quickly at the amorous pertinacity of the baffled knight of Eastcheap.
Under the paternal wing of John Cross, Alfred Stevens obtained the desired entree into the bosom of the flock. He was everywhere admitted with gladness—everywhere welcomed as to a home; and the unsophisticated old teacher by whose agency this was effected, congratulated his congregation and himself, on leaving the village, that he had left in it a person so full of grace, and one who, with the blessing of God, was so likely to bring about the birth of grace in others. The good old man bestowed long and repeated counsels upon his neophyte. The course of study which he prescribed was very simple. The Bible was the Alpha and the Omega—it was the essential whole. It would be well to read other books if they could be had—Clarke and Wesley were, of course, spoken of—but they could be done without. The word of God was in the one volume, and it needed no help from commentators to win its way and suffice the hungering and thirsting soul.
"If you could lay hands upon the book of sermons written by Brother Peter Cummins, which his wife had printed, I'm thinking it would serve, next to God's own blessed word, to put you in the right way. It's been a great helping to me, Alfred Stevens, that same book of sermons; and, I reckon it's because it's so good a book that it's not printed now. I don't see it much about. But I'll get you one if I can, and bring or send it to you, soon enough to help you to the wisdom that you're a seeking after. If it only wakes the spirit in you as it did in me—if it only stirs you up with the spirit of divine love—you'll find it easy enough to understand the teachings of the holy volume. All things become clear in that blessed light. By its help you read, and by its working you inwardly digest all the needful learning. The Lord be with you, Alfred Stevens, and bring to perfect ripening your present undertaking."
"Amen!" was the solemn response of the hypocrite, but we need not say what an irreverent and unholy thought lay at the bottom of his mind in making this ejaculation.
Before the departure of John Cross, the latter had made terms with Squire Hinkley for the board and lodging of Brother Stevens and his horse. Hinkley would have preferred taking nothing, considering the praiseworthy purpose of the supposed theological student; but Stevens shrunk from receiving such an obligation with a feeling of pride, which yet had no scruples at practising so wretched an imposture. He insisted upon making compensation, or upon leaving the house; and, not to incur this risk, Hinkley consented to receive a weekly sum in payment; but the charge was considerably smaller, as we may suppose, than it would have been had the lodger simply appeared as an inoffensive traveller, practising no fraud and making no professions of religion.
Having effected all these arrangements, to his own satisfaction and seemingly that of all others, John Cross departed once more into the wilderness on his single-hearted ministry of love. A sturdy and an honest worker was he in the tabernacle, with a right mind if not a very wise one; and doing more good in his generation, and after the fashion of his strength, than is often permitted to the stall-fed doctors of his vocation.
The reader will suppose that the old man has been already gone some seven days. Meanwhile, the young student has fairly made himself at home in Charlemont. He has a snug room, entirely to himself, at Squire Hinkley's, and, by the excellent care of the worthy dame, it is provided with the best bedding and the finest furniture. Her own hands sweep it clean, morning and night, for the incipient parson; she makes up the bed, and, in customary phrase, puts it in all respects to rights. His wants are anticipated, his slightest suggestion met with the most prompt consideration; and John Cross himself, humble and unexacting as he was, might have felt some little twinges of mortal envy could he have known that his protege promised to become a much greater favorite than himself.
This, indeed, seemed very likely to be the case. A good young man in the sight of the ladies is always a more attractive person than a good old man. Dame Hinkley, though no longer young herself, remembered that she had been so, and preserved all her sympathies, in consequence, for young people. She thought Alfred Stevens so handsome, and he smiled so sweetly, and he spoke so genty, and, in short, so great had been his progress in the affections of his hostess in the brief space of a single week, that we are constrained to confess ourselves rejoiced that she herself was an old woman, as well on her own account as on that of her worthy spouse.
Her good man was very well satisfied, whether from confidence or indifference, that such should be the case. Her attentions to the young stranger probably diverted them from himself. But not so with William Hinkley—the son. We have already had some glimpses of the character of this young man. We may now add that the short week's residence of Stevens in Charlemont had increased the soreness at his heart. In that week he had seen fairly established that intimacy between his rival and the lady of his love which seemed to give the death-blow to any pretensions of his. He had seen them meet; had seen them go forth together; beheld their mutual eyes, and, turning his own inward, saw how deeply his heart was concerned in the probable sympathies of theirs. Then, to turn to his own habitation, and to behold THAT, mother and all, devoted to the same absolute stranger; to pass unheeded in the presence of those whom he best loved—over whom natural ties gave him inalienable rights; to feel himself put aside for one only known of yesterday; to look with yearning, and meet eyes only of disregard and indifference! Such being the suggestions of his jealous and suffering nature, it is surely no matter of wonder that the youth grew melancholy and abstracted.
Our adventurer was snugly seated in the little but select chamber which had been given him in the house of Squire Hinkley. A table, neatly spread with a cotton cover, stood before him: a travelling-portfolio was opened beneath his hand, with a broad sheet of paper, already well written over, and waiting nothing but his signature, and perhaps the postscript. He was absorbed unusually in his cogitations, and nibbled into bits the feathery end of the gray goosequill of which he had been making such excellent use. While he meditates, unseeing, we will use the liberty of an old acquaintance to scan the letter—for such it is—which he has been writing. Perhaps we shall gather from it some matters which it may concern us yet to know:—
"Dear Barnabas: The strangest adventure—positively the very strangest—that ever happened to a son of Murkey's, will keep me from the embraces of the brethren a few weeks longer. I am benighted, bewildered, taken with art-magic, transmuted, TRANSMOGRIFIED, not myself nor yet another, but, as they say in Mississippi, 'a sort of betweenity.' Fancy me suddenly become a convert to the bluest presbyterianism, as our late excellent brother Woodford became, when he found that he could not get Moll Parkinson on any other terms—and your guess will not be very far from the true one. I am suddenly touched with conviction. I have seen a light on my way from Tarsus. The scales have fallen from my eyes. I have seen the wickedness of my ways, and yours too, you dog; and, having resolved on my own repentance, I am taking lessons which shall enable me to effect yours. Precious deal of salt will it need for that! Salt river will fall, while its value rises. But the glory of the thing—think of that, my boy! What a triumph it will be to revolutionize Murkey's!—to turnout the drinkers and smokers, and money-changers; to say, 'Hem! my brethren, let us pay no more taxes to sin in this place!' There shall be no more cakes and ale. Ginger shall have no heat i' the mouth there; and, in place of smoking meats and tobacco, give you nothing but smoking methodism! Won't that be a sight and a triumph which shall stir the dry bones in our valley—ay, and bones not so dry? There shall be a quaking of the flesh in sundry places. Flam will perish in the first fit of consternation; and if Joe Burke's sides do not run into sop and jelly, through the mere humor of the thing, then prophecy is out of its element quite.
"Seriously, you dog, I have become a theological student! Don't you see proofs of my progress in my unctuous phraseology. I was taken suddenly upon the highway—a brand plucked from the burning—and to be stuck up on high, still lighted, however, as a sort of lantern and lighthouse to other wayfarers—wandering rogues like yourself, who need some better lights than your own if it only be to show you how to sin decently. I am professedly a convert to the true faith, though which that is, I think, has not well been determined among you at Murkey's, or, indeed, anywhere else. I believe the vox populi, vox Dei, still comprises the only wholesome decision which has yet been made on the subject. The popular vote here declares it to be methodism; with you it is baptism or presbytenanism—which? I am a flexible student, however, and when I meet you again at Murkey's, shall be prepared to concur with the majority.
"But, in sober fact, I am a professor—actually recognised by my neighbors as one of the elect—set apart to be and do mighty things. How I came so, will call for a long story, which I defer to another occasion. Enough to tell you that an accidental rencontre with a silly old preacher (whose gullet I filled with raw brandy, which I recommended to him, under another name, as a sovereign remedy against flatulence, and which nearly strangled him he took such a premeditated swallow), brought me into one of the loveliest little villages in all this western country, and there I saw many things—among others—a woman!—
"A woman!—that one word, you dog, will explain the mystery—will show you why I am thus transmuted, TRANSMOGRIFIED, and in 'a state of betweenity.' Nothing less, I assure you, could make me disguise myself after the present fashion; wear the sanctimonious and sour phiz which the common law of modern religion prescribes, and keep me much longer from the pleasanter communion of such glorious imps, as I suppose, are, even now, beginning to gather in the dingy smoke-room of our sovereign Murkey. But this woman, you will ask. Ay, ay, but you shall have no answer yet. It shall be enough for you that she is a queen of Sheba, after her own fashion. A proud, imperious, passionate creature—tall, really beautiful—and so majestic! You should see the flashing of her eyes to know what sort of a thing is moral lightning. Her face kindles up in an instant. She is an intensifier, and like most such, cursedly smart. Young too—scarce eighteen, I think; queer too—almost tyrannical at times—but full of blood, of unregulated passions, moody, capricious, and, of course, easy game, if the sportsman knows anything of the habits of the bird. She is a country-girl, but no hoyden. Her intensity of character, her pride and great self-esteem, have made her a solitary. Unsophisticated in some respects, she is yet not to be surprised. In solitude, and a taste for it, she has acquired a sort of moral composure which makes her secure against surprise. I am really taken with the girl, and COULD love her, I tell you—nay, do love her—so long as love can keep himself—out of a state of bondage! I do not think, at this moment, that I shall violate any of the laws of the conventicle, like small-witted Brother Woodford; though, so far as the woman is concerned, I should leave it without argument to the free vote of all the Lads of Fancy that ever gather round Murkey's round table, if my justification for turning traitor, would not prove immeasurably more complete than his.
"So! so! There are bones enough for you to crunch, you professional bandog. I had not meant to tell you half so much. There is some danger that one may lose his game altogether, if he suffers his nose to point unnecessarily to the cover where it lies. I know what keen scents are in the club, some of which would be on my track in no time if they knew where to find me; but I shall baffle you, you villains. My post-town is fifty miles from the place where I pursue my theological studies; you are too wise to attempt a wild-goose chase. You may smack your chaps, Barney, with envy; bite them too if you please, and it will only whet my own sense of pleasure to fancy your confusion, and your hopeless denunciations in the club. I shall be back in time for term—meanwhile get the papers in readiness. Write to me at the post-town of Ellisland, and remember to address me as Alfred Stevens—nay, perhaps, you may even say, 'Rev. Alfred Stevens,' it will grace the externals of the document with a more unctuous aspect, and secure the recipient a more wholesome degree of respect. Send all my letters to this town under envelope with this direction. I wrote you twice from Somerville. Did I tell you that old Hunks has been deused liberal? I can laugh at the small terms, yet go to Murkey's and shine through the smoke with the best of you. I solicit the prayers of the Round Table.
"Faithfully, yours, &c."
So far our profligate had written to his brother profligate, when a tap was heard at the entrance of his chamber. Thrusting the written papers into his portfolio, he rose, and opening the door discovered his hostess at the entrance.
"I came, Brother Stevens," said the old lady, "if you not too busy in your studies, to have a little talk with you, and to get your counsel upon a subject that a little distresses me. But you look as if you were busy now—"
"Not too busy, Mrs. Hinkley, to oblige you in this or in any other respect," replied the guest with suitable suavity of expression—"shall I attend you down stairs."
"Oh! no! it won't need," said she. "I'll take a seat with you awhile. We shall be less liable to interruption here."
Stevens scarcely repressed his smile, but the seniority of the old lady made her proceedings very innocent, however much they might have been adverse to the rules. He threw wide the door, and without more hesitation she followed him at once into the chamber.
THE MOTHER'S GRIEFS.
The business upon which Mrs. Hinkley sought the chamber of her guest was a very simple one, and easily expressed. Not that she expressed it in few words. That is scarcely possible at any time with an ancient lady. But the long story which she told, when compressed into intelligible form, related to her son William. She had some maternal fears on his account. The lad was a decided melancholic. His appetite was bad; his looks were thin and unhappy; he lacked the usual spirit of youth; he lacked his own usual spirit. What was the cause of the change which had come over him so suddenly, she could not divine. Her anxiety was for the remedy. She had consulted Brother Cross on the subject before he departed; but that good man, after a brief examination of the patient, had freely admitted his inability to say what was the matter with him, and what was proper for his cure. To the object of this solicitude himself, he had given much good counsel, concluding finally with a recommendation to read devoutly certain chapters in Job and Isaiah. It appears that William Hinkley submitted to all this scrutiny with exemplary fortitude, but gave no satisfactory answers to any of the questions asked him. He had no complaints, he denied any suffering; and expressed himself annoyed at the inquisition into his thoughts and feelings. This annoyance had been expressed, however, with the subdued tones and language of one habitually gentle and modest. Whenever he was approached on the subject, as the good old lady assured her guest, he shook off his questioners with no little haste, and took to the woods for the rest of the day. "That day," said she, "you needn't look for William Hinkley to his dinner."
Stevens had been struck with the deportment of this youth, which had seemed to him haughty and repulsive; and, as he fancied, characterized by some sentiment of hostility for himself. He was surprised therefore to learn from the old lady that the lad was remarkable for his gentleness.
"How long has he been in this way, Mrs. Hinkley?" he asked with some curiosity.
"Well now, Brother Stevens, I can't tell you. It's been growing on him for some time. I reckon it's a matter of more than four months since I first seen it; but it's only been a few weeks that I have spoken to him. Brother Cross spoke to him only Monday of last week. My old man don't seem to see so much of it; but I know there's a great change in him now from what there used to be. A mother's eye sees a great way farther into the hearts of her children, Brother Stevens, than any other persons; and I can see plainly that William is no more the same boy—no! nor nothing like it—that he once was. Why, once, he was all life, and good humor; could dance and sing with the merriest among them; and was always so good and kind, and loved to do whatever would please a body; and was always with somebody, or other, making merry, and planning the prettiest sports. Now, he don't sing, nor dance, nor play; when you see him, you 'most always see him alone. He goes by himself into the woods, and he'll be going over the hills all day, nobody with him, and never seeming to care about his food, and what's more strange, never looking at the books that he used to be so fond of."
"He has been fond of books, then—had he many?"
"Oh, yes, a whole drawer of them, and he used to get them besides from the schoolmaster, Mr. Calvert, a very good man that lives about half a mile from the village, and has a world of books. But now he neither gets books from other people nor reads what he's got. I'm dubious, Brother Stevens, that he's read too much for his own good. Something's not right here, I'm a thinking."
The good old lady touched her head with her finger and in this manner indicated her conjecture as to the seat of her son's disease. Stevens answered her encouragingly.
"I scarcely think, Mrs. Hinkley, that it can be anything so bad. The young man is at that age when a change naturally takes place in the mind and habits. He wants to go into the world, I suspect. He's probably tired of doing nothing. What is to be his business? It's high time that such a youth should have made a choice."
"That's true, Brother Stevens, but he's been the apple to our eyes, and we haven't been willing that he should take up any business that would—carry him away from us. He's done a little farming about the country, but that took him away, and latterly he's kept pretty much at home, going over his books and studying, now one and now another, just as Mr. Calvert gave them to him."
"What studies did he pursue?"
"Well, I can't tell you. He was a good time at Latin, and then he wants to be a lawyer;—"
"Yes, he had a great notion to be a lawyer and was at his books pretty hard for a good year, constant, day by day, until, as I said before, about four months ago, when I saw that he was growing thin, and that he had put down the books altogether, and had the change come over him just as I told you. You see how thin he is now. You'd scarce believe him to be the same person if you'd seen him then. Why his cheeks were as full and as red as roses, and his eye was always shining and laughing, and he had the liveliest step, and between him and Ned Hinkley, his cousin, what with flute and fiddle, they kept the house in a constant uproar, and we were all so happy. Now, it isn't once a month that we hear the sound of the fiddle in the house. He never sings, and he never dances, and he never plays, and what little he lets us see of him, is always so sad and so spiritless that I feel heartsick whenever I look upon him. Oh! Brother Stevens, if you could only find out what's the matter, and tell us what to do, it would be the most blessed kindness, and I'd never forget it, or forget you, to my dying day."
"Whatever I can do, Mrs. Hinkley, shall surely be done. I will see and speak with your son."
"Oh! do—that's a dear good sir. I'm sure if you only talk to him and advise him it will do him good."
"Without being so sure, ma'am, I will certainly try to please you. Though I think you see the matter with too serious eyes. Such changes are natural enough to young people, and to old ones too. But what may be your son's age."
"Nineteen last April."
"Quite a man for his years, Mrs. Hinkley."
"He will do you credit yet."
"Ah! if I could believe so. But you'll speak to him, Brother Stevens? You'll try and bring all to rights?"
"Rely upon me to do what I can;—to do my best."
"Well, that's as much as any man can do, and I'm sure I'll be so happy—we shall all be so much indebted to you."
"Do not speak of it, my dear madam," said Stevens, bowing with profound deference as the old lady took her departure. She went off with light heart, having great faith in the powers of the holy man, and an equal faith in his sincerity.
"What a bore!" he muttered as he closed the door behind her. "This is one of the penalties, I suppose, which I must pay for my privileges. I shall be called upon to reform the morals and manners, and look into the petty cares of every chuckle-headed boor and boor's brat for ten miles round. See why boys reject their mush, and why the girls dislike to listen to the exhortations of a mamma, who requires them to leave undone what she has done herself—and with sufficient reason too, if her own experience be not wholly profitless. Well, I must submit. There are advantages, however; I shall have other pupils to tutor, and it shall go hard with me if all the grapes prove sour where the vines are so various."
The student of divinity, after these conclusions, prepared to make his toilet. Very few of these students, in their extreme solicitude for the well being of the inner man, show themselves wholly regardless of their externals. Even mourning, it appears, requires to be disposed by a fashionable costumer. Though the garments to which the necessities of travel limited Brother Stevens were not various, they were yet select. The good young man had an affection for his person, which was such certainly as to deserve his care. On this occasion he was more than usually particular. He did not scruple to discard the white cravat. For this he substituted a handkerchief which had the prettiest sprig of lilac, on a ground of the most delicato lemon color. He consulted complexions, and his mirror determined him in favor of this pattern. Brother Stevens would not have worn it had he been summoned, in his new vocation, to preach or pray at the conventicle; nor would he have dreamed of anything but a black stock had his business been to address the democracy from the top of a cider-barrel. His habits, under such necessities, would have been made to correspond with the principles (Qu?) which such a situation more distinctly called for.
But the thoughts of our worthy brother ran upon other objects. He was thinking of Margaret Cooper. He was about to pay that damsel a visit. His progress, we may suppose, had not been inconsiderable when we are told that his present visit was one of previous arrangement. They were about to go forth on a ramble together—the woods were so wild and lovely—the rocks surrounding Charlemont were so very picturesque;—there was the quietest tarn, a sort of basin in the bosom of the hills at a little distance, which she was to show him; and there was the sweetest stream in the world, that meandered in the neighborhood; and Brother Stevens so loved the picturesque—lakes embosomed in hills, and streams stealing through unbroken forests, and all so much the more devotedly, when he had such a companion as Margaret Cooper.
And Margaret Cooper!—she the wild, the impassioned. A dreamer—a muse—filled with ambitious thoughts—proud, vain, aspiring after the vague, the unfathomable! What was her joy, now that she could speak her whole soul, with all its passionate fullness, to understanding ears! Stevens and herself had already spoken together. Her books had been his books. The glowing passages which she loved to repeat, were also the favorite passages in his memory. Over the burning and thrilling strains of Byron, the tender and spiritual of Shelley, the graceful and soft of Campbell, she loved to linger. They filled her thoughts. They made her thoughts. She felt that her true utterance lay in their language; and this language, until now, had fallen dead and without fruit upon the dull ears of her companions in Charlemont. What was their fiddling and festivity to her! What their tedious recreations by hillside or stream, when she had to depress her speech to the base levels of their unimaginative souls! The loveliness of nature itself, unrepresented by the glowing hues of poetry, grew tame, if not offensive; and when challenged to its contemplation by those to whom the muse was nothing, the fancy of the true observer grew chilled and heavy, and the scenes of beauty seemed prostituted in their glance.
We have all felt this. Nothing can more annoy the soul of taste or sensibility than to behold its favorite scene and subject fail in awakening others to that emotion which it has inspired in ourselves. We turn away in haste, lest the object of our worship should become degraded by a longer survey. Enthusiasm recoils at a denial of sympathy; and all the worth of our companion, in a thousand other respects, fails to reconcile us to his coldness and indifference.
That Alfred Stevens had taste and talent—that he was well read in the volumes which had been her favorite study, Margaret Cooper needed no long time to discover. She soon ascribed to him qualities and tastes which were beyond his nature. Deceived by his tact, she believed in his enthusiasm. He soon discovered HER tastes; and she found equally soon that HIS were like her own. After this discovery, she gave him credit for other and more important possessions; and little dreamed that, while he responded to her glowing sentiments with others equally glowing—avowed the same love for the same authors, and concurred with her in the preference of the same passages—his feelings were as little susceptible of sympathy with hers as would have been those of the cold demon Mephistopheles! While her eye was flashing, her cheek flushed, her breast heaving with the burning thoughts and strains of the master to whom her beautiful lips were giving utterance, he was simply sensible to HER beauty—to its strange, wild charms—and meditating thoughts from which the soul of true poetry recoils with the last feelings of aversion. Even the passion which he felt while he surveyed her, foreign as it was to those legitimate emotions which her ambition and her genius would equally have tended to inspire in any justly-minded nature, might well be considered frigid—regarded as the result of deliberate artifice—the true offspring of an habitual and base indulgence.
It was to meet this unsophisticated, impassioned, and confiding girl, that Alfred Stevens bestowed such particular pains on his costume. He felt its deficiencies, and, accordingly, the necessity of making the most of it; for, though he perfectly well knew that such a woman as Margaret Cooper would have been the very last to regard the mere garment in which a congenial nature is arrayed, yet he also well knew that the costume is not less indicative of the tastes than the wealth of the wearer. You will see thousands of persons, men and women, richly dressed, and but one will be WELL dressed: that one, most generally, will be the individual who is perhaps of all others possessed of the least resources for dress, other than those which dwell in the well-arranged mind, the well-disposing taste, and the happy, crowning fancy.
His tasks of the toilet were at length ended, and he was preparing to go forth. He was about to leave the chamber, had already placed his hand upon the latch of the door, when he heard the voice of his hostess, on the stairway, in seeming expostulation with her son. He was about to forbear his purpose of departure as the parties had retired, when, remembering the solicitude of the lady, and thinking it would show that zest in her service which he really could not entertain, he determined at once to to join the young man, and begin with him that certain degree of intimacy without which it could scarcely be supposed that he could broach the subject of his personal affairs. He felt somewhat the awkwardness of this assumed duty, but then he recollected his vocation; he knew the paramount influence of the clergy upon all classes of persons in the West, and, with the conscious superiority derived from greater years and better education, he felt himself fortified in undertaking the paternal office which the fond, foolish mother had confided to his hands. Accordingly, descending the stairs briskly, he joined the two at the entrance of the dwelling. The son was already on the outside; the mother stood in the doorway: and, as Stevens appeared and drew nigh, William Hinkley bowed, and turned away as if to withdraw.
"If you have no objections, Mr. Hinkley," said Stevens, "I will join you. You seem to be about to go my way."
The young man paused with an air of reluctance, muttered something which was not altogether intelligible, but which Stevens construed into assent, and the two set forth together—the good old matron giving a glance of gratitude to the benevolent young student which her son did not fail to note, while, at the same time, a sentence which evidently conveyed some motherly rebuke, was addressed to his already-irritated ears.
Alfred Stevens, as he walked behind his young companion, observed him with a more deliberate survey than he had yet taken. Hitherto, the young man had challenged but little of his scrutiny. He had simply noted him for a tall youth, yet in the green, who appeared of a sulky, retiring nature, and whose looks had seemed to him on one or more occasions to manifest something like distaste for himself. The complacency of Stevens, however, was too well grounded to be much disturbed by such an exhibition. Perhaps, indeed, he would have derived a malicious sort of satisfaction in making a presumptuous lad feel his inferiority. He had just that smallness of spirit which would find its triumph in the success of such a performance.
He now observed that the youth was well formed, tall, not ungraceful—with features of singular intelligence, though subdued to the verge of sadness. His face was pale and thin, his eyes were a little sunken, and his air, expression, and general outside, denoted a youth of keen sensibilities, who had suffered some disappointment.
In making this examination, Alfred Stevens was not awakened to any generous purposes. He designed, in reality, nothing more than to acquit himself of the duty he had undertaken with the smallest possible exertion. His own mind was one of that mediocre character which the heart never informs. His scrutiny, therefore, though it enabled him to perceive that the young man had qualities of worth, was not such as to prompt any real curiosity to examine further. A really superior mind would have been moved to look into these resources; and, without other motive than that of bringing a young, laboring, and ardent soul out of the meshes of a new and bewildering thought or situation, would have addressed himself to the task with that degree of solicitous earnestness which disarms prejudice and invites and wins confidence. But, with his first impression, that the whole business was a "bore," our benevolent young teacher determined on getting through with it with the least possible effort. He saw that the youth carried a book under his arm, the externals of which, so uniform and discouraging as they appear in every legal library, could not well be questioned as belonging to some such venerable receptacle of barbarous phrase and rigid authority. The circumstance afforded him an occasion to begin a conversation, the opening of which, with all his coolness, was a subject of some awkwardness.
"You seem a student like myself, Mr. Hinkley, and, if I mistake not from the appearance of your book, you are taking up the profession which I am about to lay down."
"This is a law-book, sir," said Hinkley, in accents which were rather meek than cold; "it is Blackstone."
"Ah! I thought as much. Have you been long a student?"
"I may scarcely consider myself one yet. I have read, sir, rather than studied."
"A good distinction, not often made. But, do you incline to law seriously?"
"Yes, sir—I know no occupation to which I so much incline."
"The law is a very arduous profession. It requires a rare union of industry, talent, and knowledge of mankind to be a good lawyer."
"I should think so, sir."
"Few succeed where thousands fail. Young men are very apt to mistake inclination for ability; and to be a poor lawyer—"
"Is to be worse than poor—is to be despicable!" replied Hinkley with a half-sfnile, as he interrupted a speech which might have been construed into a very contemptuous commentary on his own pretensions. It would seem that the young man had so understood it. He continued thus:—
"It may be so with me, sir. It is not improbable that I deceive myself, and confound inclination with ability."
"Oh, pardon me, my dear young friend," said Stevens patronizingly; "but I do not say so. I utter a mere generality. Of course, I can know nothing on the subject of your abilities. I should be glad to know. I should like to converse with you. But the law is very arduous, very exacting. It requires a good mind, and it requires the whole of it. There is no such thing as being a good lawyer from merely reading law. You can't bolt it as we do food in this country. We must chew upon it. It must be well digested. You seem to have the right notion on this subject. I should judge so from two things: the distinction which you made between the reader and the student; and the fact that your appearance is that of the student. I am afraid, my young friend, that you overwork yourself. You look thin, and pale, and unhappy. You should be careful that your passion for study is not indulged in at the peril of your health."
The frame of the young man seemed to be suddenly agitated. His face was flushed, and a keen, quick, flash of anger seemed to lighten in his eyes as he looked up to the paternal counsellor and replied:—
"I thank you, sir, for your interest, but it is premature. I am not conscious that my health suffers from this or any other cause."
"Nay, my young friend, do not deceive yourself. You perhaps underrate your own industry. It is very difficult matter to decide how much we can do and how much we ought to do, in the way of study. No mere thinking can determine this matter for us. It can only be decided by being able to see what others do and can endure. In a little country village like this, one can not easily determine; and the difficulty may be increased somewhat by one's own conviction, of the immense deal that one has to learn. If you were to spend a year in some tolerably large community. Perhaps you meditate some such plan?".
"I do not, sir," was the cold reply.
"Indeed; and have you no desire that way?"
"Very strange! at your time of life the natural desire is to go into the great world. Even the student fancies he can learn better there than he can anywhere else—and so he can."
"Indeed, sir: if I may be so bold to ask, why, with this opinion, have you left the great city to bury yourself in a miserable village like Charlemont?"
The question was so quickly put, and with so much apparent keenness, that Stevens found the tables suddenly reversed. But he was in nowise discomposed. He answered promptly.
"You forget," he said, "that I was speaking of very young men, of an ambitious temper, who were seeking to become lawyers. The student of divinity may very well be supposed to be one who would withdraw himself from the scene of ambition, strifes, vanities, and tumultuous passions."
"You speak, sir, as if there were a material difference in our years?" said Hinkley inquiringly.
"Perhaps it is less than in our experience, my young friend," was the answer of the other, betraying that quiet sense of superiority which would have been felt more gallingly by Hinkley had he been of a less modest nature. Still, it had the effect of arousing some of the animal in his blood, and he responded in a sentence which was not entirely without its sneer, though it probably passed without penetrating such a buff of self-esteem as guarded the sensibilities of our adventurer.
"You are fortunate sir, if, at your time of life, you have succeeded in withdrawing your thoughts and feelings, with your person, from such scenes of ambition as you speak of. But I fancy the passions dwell with us in the country as well as with the wiser people in the town; and I am not sure that there is any pursuit much more free from their intrusion than that of the law."
"Your remark exhibits penetration, Mr. Hinkley. I should not be surprised if you have chosen your profession properly. Still, I should counsel you not to overwork yourself. Bear with me, sir; I feel an interest in your behalf, and I must think you do so. Allow me to be something of a judge in this matter. You are aware, sir, that I too have been a lawyer."
The youth bowed stiffly.
"If I can lend you any assistance in your studies, I will do so. Let me arrange them for you, and portion out your time. I know something about that, and will save you from injuring your health. On this point you evidently need instruction. You are doing yourself hurt. Your appearance is matter of distress and apprehension to your parents."
"To my parents, sir?"
"Your mother, I mean! She spoke to me about you this very morning. She is distressed at some unaccountable changes which have taken place in your manners, your health, your personal appearance. Of course I can say nothing on the subject of the past, or of these changes; but I may be permitted to say that your present looks do not betoken health, and I have supposed this to be on account of your studies. I promised your good mother to confer with you. and counsel you, and if I can be of any help—"'
"You are very good, sir!"
The young man spoke bitterly. His gorge was rising. It was not easy to suppress his vexation with his mother, and the indignation which he felt at the supercilious approaches of the agent whom she had employed. Besides, his mind, not less than his feelings, was rising in vigor in due degree with the pressure put upon it.
"You are very good, sir, and I am very much obliged to you. I could have wished, however, that my mother had not given you this trouble, sir. She certainly must have been thinking of Mr. John Cross. She could scarcely have hoped that any good could have resulted to me, from the counsel of one who is so little older than myself."
This speech made our adventurer elevate his eyebrows. He absolutely stopped short to look upon the speaker. William Hinkley stopped short also. His eye encountered that of Stevens with an expression as full of defiance as firmness. His cheeks glowed with the generous indignation which filled his veins.
"This fellow has something in him after all," was the involuntary reflection that rose to the other's mind. The effect was, however, not very beneficial to his own manner. Instead of having the effect of impressing upon Stevens the necessity of working cautiously, the show of defiance which he saw tended to provoke and annoy him. The youth had displayed so much propriety in his anger, had been so moderate as well as firm, and had uttered his answer with so much dignity and correctness, that he felt himself rebuked. To be encountered by an unsophisticated boy, and foiled, though but for an instant—slightly estimated, though but by a youth, and him too, a mere rustic—was mortifying to the self-esteem that rather precipitately hurried to resent it."
"You take it seriously, Mr. Hinkley. But surely an offer of service need not be mistaken. As for the trifling difference which may be in our years, that is perhaps nothing to the difference which may be in our experience, our knowledge of the world, our opportunities and studies."
"Surely, sir; all thece MAY be, but at all events we are not bound to assume their existence until it is shown."
"Oh, you are likely to prove an adept in the law, Mr. Hinkley."
"I trust, sir, that your progress may be as great in the church."
"Ha!—do I understand you? There is war between us then?" said Stevens, watching the animated and speaking countenance of William Hinkley with increasing curiosity.
"Ay, sir—there is!" was the spirited reply of the youth. "Let it be war; I am the better pleased, sir, that you are the first to proclaim it."
"Very good," said Stevens, "be it so, if you will. At all events you can have no objection to say why it should be so."
"Do you ask, sir?"
"Surely; for I can not guess."
"You are less sagacious, then, than I had fancied you. You, scarce older than myself—a stranger among us—come to me in the language of a father, or a master, and without asking what I have of feeling, or what I lack of sense, undertake deliberately to wound the one, while insolently presuming to inform the other."
"At the request of your own mother!"
"Pshaw! what man of sense or honesty would urge such a plea. Years, and long intimacy, and wisdom admitted to be superior, could alone justify the presumption."
The cheeks of Stevens became scalding hot.
"Young man!" he exclaimed, "there is something more than this!"
"What! would it need more were our positions reversed?" demanded Hinkley with a promptness that surprised himself.
"Perhaps not! would you provoke me to personal violence?"
"Ha! might I hope for that? surely you forget that you are a churchman?"
Stevens paused awhile before he answered. His eyes looked vacantly around him. By this time they had left the more thickly-settled parts of the village considerably behind them. But a few more dwellings lay along the path on which they were approaching. On the left, a gorge opened in the hills by which the valley was dotted, which seemed a pathway, and did indeed lead to one or more dwellings which were out of sight in the opposite valley. The region to which this pathway led was very secluded, and the eye of Stevens surveyed it for a few moments in silence. The words of Hinkley unquestionably conveyed a challenge. According to the practice of the country, AS A LAWYER, he would have been bound to have taken it as such. A moment was required for reflection. His former and present position caused a conflict in his mind. The last sentence of Hinkley, and a sudden glimpse which he just then caught of the residence of Margaret Cooper, determined his answer.
"I thank you, young man, for reminding me of my duties. You had nearly provoked the old passions and old practices into revival. I forgive you—you misunderstand me clearly. I know not how I have offended you, for my, only purpose was to serve your mother and yourself. I may have done this unwisely. I will not attempt to prove that I have not. At all events, assured of my own motives, I leave you to yourself. You will probably ere long feel the injustice you have done me!"
He continued on his way, leaving William Hinkley almost rooted to the spot. The poor youth was actually stunned, not by what was said to him, but by the sudden consciousness of his own vehemence. He had expressed himself with a boldness and an energy of which neither himself nor his friend, until now, would have thought him capable. A moment's pause in the provocation, and the feelings which had goaded him on were taken with a revulsion quite as sudden. As he knew not well what he had said, so he fancied he had said everything precisely as the passionate thought had suggested it in his own mind. Already he began to blame himself—to feel that he had done wrong—that there had been nothing in the conduct or manner of Stevens, however unpleasant, to justify his own violence; and that the true secret of his anger was to be found in that instinctive hostility which he had felt for his rival from the first. The more he mused, the more he became humbled by his thoughts; and when he recollected the avowed profession of Stevens his shame increased. He felt how shocking it was to intimate to a sworn non-combatant the idea of a personal conflict. To what point of self-abasement his thoughts would have carried him, may only be conjectured; he might have hurried forward to overtake his antagonist with the distinct purpose of making the most ample apology; nay, more, such was the distinct thought which was now pressing upon his mind, when he was saved from this humiliation by perceiving that Stevens had already reached, and was about to enter the dwelling of Margaret Cooper. With this sight, every thought and feeling gave place to that of baffled love, and disappointed affection. With a bitter groan he turned up the gorge, and soon shut himself from sight of the now hateful habitation.
THE MASTER AND HIS PUPILS.
The course of the young rustic was pursued for half a mile further till he came to a little cottage of which the eye could take no cognizance from any part of the village. It was embowelled in a glen of its own—a mere cup of the slightly-rising hills, and so encircled by foliage that it needed a very near approach of the stranger before he became aware of its existence. The structure was very small, a sort of square box with a cap upon it, and consisted of two rooms only on a ground floor, with a little lean-to or shed-room in the rear, intended for a kitchen. As you drew nigh and passed through the thick fringe of wood by which its approach was guarded, the space opened before you, and you found yourself in a sort of amphitheatre, of which the cottage was the centre. A few trees dotted this area, large and massive trees, and seemingly preserved for purposes of shade only. It was the quietest spot in the world, and inspired just that sort of feeling in the contemplative stranger which would be awakened by a ramble among the roofless ruins of the ancient abbey. It was a home for contemplation—in which one might easily forget the busy world without, and deliver himself up, without an effort, to the sweetly sad musings of the anchorite.
The place was occupied, however. A human heart beat within the humble shed, and there was a spirit, sheltered by its quiet, that mused many high thoughts, and dreamed in equal congratulation and self-reproach, of that busy world from which it was an exile. The visit of William Hinkley was not paid to the solitude. A venerable man, of large frame, and benignant aspect, sat beneath an aged tree, paternal in its appearance like himself. This person might be between fifty and sixty years of age. His hair, though very thick and vigorous, was as white as driven snow. But there were few wrinkles on his face, and his complexion was the clear red and white of a healthy and sanguine temperament. His brow was large and lofty. It had many more wrinkles than his face. There were two large horizontal seams upon it that denoted the exercise of a very busy thought. But the expression of his eye was that of the most unembarrassed benevolence and peace. It was subdued and sometimes sad, but then it had the sweetest, playfullest twinkle in the world. His mouth, which was small and beautifully formed, wore a similar expression. In short he was what we would call a handsome old gentleman, whose appearance did not offend taste, and whose kind looks invited confidence. Nor would we mistake his character.
This person was the Mr. Calvert, the schoolmaster of the village, of whom Mrs. Hinkley spoke to Alfred Stevens in discussing the condition of her son. His tasks were over for the day. The light-hearted rabble whom he taught, released from his dominion which was not severe, were, by this time, scampering over the hills, as far from their usual place of restraint as the moderate strength of their legs could carry them. Though let loose, boys are not apt to feel their liberty in its prime and freshness, immediately in the neighborhood of the schoolhouse. The old gentleman left to himself, sat out in the open air, beneath a massive oak, the paternal stretching of whose venerable arms not unfrequently led to the employment of the shade below for carrying on the operations of the schoolhouse. There, squat on their haunches, the sturdy boys—germs of the finest peasantry in the world—surrounded their teacher in a group quite as pleasing as picturesque. The sway of the old man was paternal. His rod was rather a figurative than a real existence; and when driven to the use of the birch, the good man, consulting more tastes than one, employed the switch from the peach or some other odorous tree or shrub, in order to reconcile the lad, as well as he could, to the extraordinary application. He was one of those considerate persons, who disguise pills in gold-leaf, and if compelled, as a judge, to hang a gentleman, would decree that a rope of silk should carry out the painful requisitions of the laws.
Seated beneath his tree, in nearly the same spot and position in which he had dismissed his pupils, William Calvert pored over the pages of a volume as huge of size as it was musty of appearance. It was that pleasant book—quite as much romance as history—the "Knights of Malta," by our venerable father, Monsieur L'Abbe Vertot. Its dull, dim, yellow-looking pages—how yellow, dim, and dull-looking in comparison with more youthful works—had yet a life and soul which it is not easy to find in many of these latter. Its high wrought and elaborate pictures of strife, and toil, and bloodshed, grew vividly before the old man's eyes; and then, to help the illusion, were there not the portraits—mark me—the veritable portraits, engraved on copper, with all their titles, badges, and insignia, done to the life, of all those brave, grand, and famous masters of the order, by whom the deeds were enacted which he read, and who stared out upon his eyes, at every epoch, in full confirmation of the veracious narrative? No wonder that the old man became heedless of external objects. No wonder he forgot the noise of the retiring urchins, and the toils of the day, as, for the twentieth time, he glowed in the brave recital of the famous siege—the baffled fury of the Turk—the unshaken constancy and unremitted valor of the few but fearless defenders. The blood in his cheek might be seen hastening to and fro in accordance with the events of which he read. His eye was glowing—his pulse beating, and he half started from his seat, as, hearing a slight footstep, he turned to encounter the respectful homage of his former pupil, still his friend, our young acquaintance, William Hinkley.
The old man laid down his book upon the grass, extended his hand to his visiter, and leaning back against the tree, surrendered himself to a quiet chuckle in which there was the hesitancy of a little shame.
"You surprised me, William," he said; "when I read old Vertot, and such books, I feel myself a boy again. You must have seen my emotion. I really had got so warm, that I was about to start up and look for the weapons of war; and had you but come a moment later, you might have suffered an assault. As it was, I took you for a Turk—Solyman himself—and was beginning to ask myself whether I should attack you tooth and nail, having no other weapons, or propose terms of peace. Considering the severe losses which you—I mean his Turkish highness—had sustained, I fancied that you would not be disinclined to an arrangement just at this moment. But this very notion, at the same time, led me to the conclusion that I might end the struggle for ever by another blow. A moment later, my boy, and you might have been compelled to endure it for the Turk."
The youth smiled sadly as he replied: "I must borrow that book from you, sir, some of these days. I have often thought to do so, but I am afraid."
"Afraid of what, William?"
"That it will turn my head, sir, and make me dislike more difficult studies."
"It is a reasonable fear, my son; but there is no danger of this sort, if we will only take heed of one rule, and that is, to take such books as we take sweetmeats—in very small quantities at a time, and never to interfere with the main repast. I suspect that light reading—or reading which we usually call light, but which, as it concerns the fate of man in his most serious relations, his hopes, his affections, his heart, nay, his very people and nation—is scarcely less important than any other. I suspect that this sort of reading would be of great service to the student, by relieving the solemnity of more tedious and exacting studies, if taken sparingly and at allotted hours. The student usually finds a recreation of some kind. I would make books of this description his recreation. Many a thick-headed and sour parent has forced his son into a beer-shop, into the tastes for tobacco and consequently brandy, simply from denying him amusements which equally warm the blood and elevate the imagination. Studies which merely inform the head are very apt to endanger the heart. This is the reproach usually urged against the class of persons whom we call thorough lawyers. Their intense devotion to that narrow sphere of law which leaves out jury-pleading, is very apt to endanger the existence of feeling and imagination. The mere analysis of external principles begets a degree of moral indifference to all things else, which really impairs the intellect by depriving it of its highest sources of stimulus. Mathematicians suffer in the same way—become mere machines, and forfeit, in their concern for figures, all the social and most of the human characteristics. The mind is always enfeebled by any pursuit so single and absorbing in its aims as to leave out of exercise any of the moral faculties. That course of study is the only one to make a truly great man, which compels the mind to do all things of which it is capable."
"But how do you reconcile this, sir, with the opinion, so generally entertained, that no one man can serve two masters? Law, like the muse, is a jealous mistress. She is said to suffer no lachesse to escape with impunity."
"You mistake me. While I counsel one to go out of his profession for relief and recreation, I still counsel but the one pursuit. Men fail in their professions, not because they daily assign an hour to amusement, but because they halt in a perpetual struggle between some two leading objects. For example, nothing is more frequent in our country than to combine law and politics. Nothing is more apt to ruin the lawyer."
"Very true, sir. I now understand you. But I should think the great difficulty would be, in resorting to such pleasant books as this of Vertot for relief and recreation, that you could not cast him off when you please. The intoxication would continue even after the draught has been swallowed, and would thus interfere with the hours devoted to other employments."
"There is reason in that, William, and that, indeed, is the grand difficulty. But to show that a good scheme has its difficulties is not an argument for abandoning it."
"By no means, sir."
"The same individual whom Vertot might intoxicate, would most probably be intoxicated by more dangerous stimulants. Everything, however, depends upon the habits of self-control which a man has acquired in his boyhood. The habit of self-control is the only habit which makes mental power truly effective. The man who can not compel himself to do or to forbear, can never be much of a student. Students, if you observe, are generally dogged men—inflexible, plodding, persevering—among lawyers, those men whom you always find at their offices, and seldom see anywhere else. They own that mental habit which we call self-control, which supplies the deficiency in numerous instances of real talent. It is a power, and a mighty power, particularly in this country, where children are seldom taught it, and consequently grow up to be a sort of moral vanes that move with every change of wind, and never fix until they do so with their own rust. He who learns this power in boyhood will be very sure to master all his companions."
The darker expression of sadness passed over the countenance of the ingenuous youth.
"I am afraid," said he, "that I shall never acquire this habit."
"Why so? In your very fear I see a hope."
"Alas! sir, I feel my own instability of character. I feel myself the victim of a thousand plans and purposes, which change as soon and as often as they are made. I am afraid, sir, I shall be nothing!"
"Do not despond, my son," said the old man sympathizingly. "Your fear is natural to your age and temperament. Most young men at your time of life feel numerous yearnings—the struggle of various qualities of mind, each striving in newly-born activity, and striving adversely. Your unhappiness arises from the refusal of these qualities to act together. When they learn to co-operate, all will be easy. Your strifes will be subdued; there will be a calm like that upon the sea when the storms subside."
"Ah! but when will that be? A long time yet. It seems to me that the storm rather increases than subsides."
"It may seem so to you now, and yet, when the strife is greatest, the favorable change is at hand. It needs but one thing to make all the conflicting qualities of one's mind cooperate."
"What is that one thing, sir?"
"An object! As yet, you have none."
"None—or rather many—which is pretty much the same thing as having none."
"I am not sure, sir—but it seems to me, sir, that I have an object."
"Indeed, William! are you sure?"
"I think so, sir."
"Well, name it,"
"I have ambition, sir."
"Ah! that is a passion, not an object. Does your ambition point in one direction? Unless it does, it is objectless."
The youth was silent. The old man proceeded:—
"I am disposed to be severe with you, my son. There is no surer sign of feebleness than in the constant beginnings and the never performings of a mind. Know thyself, is the first lesson to learn. Is it not very childish to talk of having ambition, without knowing what to do with it? If we have ambition, it is given to us to work with. You come to me, and declare this ambition! We confer together. Your ambition seeks for utterance. You ask, 'What sort of utterance will suit an ambition such as mine?' To answer this question, we ask, 'What are your qualities?' Did you think, William, that I disparaged yours when I recommended the law to you as a profession?"
"No, sir! oh, no! Perhaps you overrated them. I am afraid so—I think so."
"No, William, unfortunately, you do not think about it. If you would suffer yourself to think, you would speak a different language."
"I can not think—I am too miserable to think!" exclaimed the youth in a burst of passion. The old man looked surprised. He gazed with a serious anxiety into the youth's face, and then addressed him:—
"Where have you been, William, for the last three weeks? In all that time I have not seen you."
A warm blush suffused the cheeks of the pupil. He did not immediately answer.
"Ask ME!" exclaimed a voice from behind them, which they both instantly recognised as that of Ned Hinkley, the cousin of William. He had approached them, in the earnestness of their interview, without having disturbed them. The bold youth was habited in a rough woodman's dress. He wore a round jacket of homespun, and in his hand he carried a couple of fishing-rods, which, with certain other implements, betiayed sufficiently the object of his present pursuit.
"Ask me!" said he. "I can tell you what he's been about better than anybody else."
"Well, Ned," said the old man, "what has it been? I am afraid it is your fiddle that keeps him from his Blackstone."
"My fiddle, indeed! If he would listen to my fiddle when she speaks out, he'd be wiser and better for it. Look at him, Mr. Calvert, and say whether it's book or fiddle that's likely to make him as lean as a March pickerel in the short space of three months. Only look at him, I say."
"Truly, William, I had not observed it before, but, as Ned says, you do look thin, and you tell me you are unhappy. Hard study might make you thin, but can not make you unhappy. What is it?"
The more volatile and freespoken cousin answered for him.
"He's been shot, gran'pa, since you saw him last."
"Yes, shot!—He THINKS mortally. I think not. A flesh wound to my thinking, that a few months more will cure."
"You have some joke at bottom, Edward," said the old man gravely.
"Joke, sir! It's a tough joke that cudgels a plump lad into a lean one in a single season."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean to use your own language, gran'pa. Among the lessons I got from you when you undertook to fill our heads with wisdom by applications of smartness to a very different place—among the books we sometimes read from was one of Master Ovid."
"Ha! ha! I see what you're after. I understand the shooting. So you think that the blind boy has hit William, eh?"
"A flesh wound as I tell you; but he thinks the bolt is in his heart. I'm sure it can and will be plucked out, and no death will follow."
"Well! who's the maiden from whose eyes the arrow was barbed?"
"Ah! indeed!" said the old man gravely.
"Do not heed him," exclaimed William Hinkley; but the blush upon his cheeks, still increasing, spoke a different language.
"I would rather not heed him, William. The passions of persons so young as yourself are seldom of a permanent character. The attractions which win the boy seldom compensate the man. There is time enough for this, ten years hence, and love then will be far more rational."
"Ah, lud!—wait ten years at twenty. I can believe a great deal in the doctrine of young men's folly, but I can't go that. I'm in love myself."
"Yes! I!—I'm hit too—and if you don't like it, why did you teach us Ovid and the rest? As for rational love, that's a new sort of thing that we never heard about before. Love was never expected to be rational. He's known the contrary. I've heard so ever since I was knee-high to the great picture of your Cupid that you showed us in your famous Dutch edition of Apuleius. The young unmarried men feel that it's irrational; the old married people tell us so in a grunt that proves the truth of what they say. But that don't alter the case. It's a sort of natural madness that makes one attack in every person's lifetime. I don't believe in repeated attacks. Some are bit worse than others; and some think themselves bit, and are mistaken. That's the case with William, and it's that that keeps him from your law-books and my fiddle. That makes him thin. He has a notion of Margaret Cooper, and she has none of him; and love that's all of one side is neither real nor rational. I don't believe it."
William Hinkley muttered something angrily in the ears of the speaker.
"Well, well!" said the impetuous cousin, "I don't want to make you vexed, and still less do I come here to talk such politics with you. What do you say to tickling a trout this afternoon? That's what I come for."
"It's too cool," said the old man.
"Not a bit. There's a wind from the south, and a cast of cloud is constantly growing between us and the sun. I think we shall do something—something better than talking about love, and law, where nobody's agreed. You, gran'pa, won't take the love; Bill Hinkley can't stomach the law, and the trout alone can bring about a reconciliation. Come, gran'pa, I'm resolved on getting your supper to-night, and you must go and see me do it."
"On one condition only, Ned."
"What's that, gran'pa?"
"That you both sup with me."
"Done for myself. What say you, Bill?"
The youth gave a sad assent, and the rattling youth proceeded:—
"The best cure of grief is eating. Love is a sort of pleasant grief. Many a case of affliction have I seen mended by a beefsteak. Fish is better. Get a lover to eat, rouse up his appetites, and, to the same extent, you lessen his affections. Hot suppers keep down the sensibilities; and, gran'pa, after ours, to-night, you shall have the fiddle. If I don't make her speak to you to-night, my name's Brag, and you need never again believe me."
And the good-humored youth, gathering up his canes, led the way to the hills, slowly followed by his two less elastic companions.
THE HISTORY OF A FAILURE.
The route, which conducted them—over a range of gently-ascending hills, through groves tolerably thick, an uncleared woodland tract comprising every variety of pleasant foliage, at length brought them to a lonely tarn or lake, about a mile in circumference, nestled and crouching in the hollow of the hills, which, in some places sloped gently down to its margin, at others hung abruptly over its deep and pensive waters. A thick fringe of shrubs, water-grasses, and wild flowers, girdled its edges, and gave a dark and mysterious expression to its face. There were many beaten tracks, narrow paths for individual wayfarers on foot, which conducted down to favorite fishing-spots. These were found chiefly on those sides of the lake where the rocks were precipitous. Perched on a jutting eminence, and half shrouded in the bushes which clothed it, the silent fisherman took his place, while his fly was made to kiss the water in capricious evolutions, such as the experienced angler knows how to employ to beguile the wary victim from close cove, or gloomy hollow, or from beneath those decaying trunks of overthrown trees which have given his brood a shelter from immemorial time.
To one of these selected spots, Ned Hinkley proceeded, leaving his companions above, where, in shade themselves, and lying at ease upon the smooth turf, they could watch his successes, and at the same time enjoy the coup d'oeil, which was singularly beautiful, afforded by the whole surrounding expanse. The tarn, like the dark mysterious dwelling of an Undine, was spread out before them with the smoothness of glass, though untransparent, and shining beneath their eyes like a vast basin of the richest jet. A thousand pretty changes along the upland slopes, or abrupt hills which hemmed it in, gave it a singular aspect of variety which is seldom afforded by any scene very remarkable for its stillness and seclusion. Opposite to the rock on which Ned Hinkley was already crouching, the hill-slope to the lake was singularly unbroken, and so gradual was the ascent from the margin, that one was scarcely conscious of his upward movement, until looking behind him, he saw how far below lay the waters which he had lately left.
The pathway, which had been often trodden, was very distinctly marked to the eyes of our two friends on the opposite elevation, and they could also perceive where the same footpath extended on either hand a few yards from the lake, so as to enable the wanderer to prolong his rambles, on either side, until reaching the foot of the abrupt masses of rock which distinguished the opposite margin of the basin. To ascend these, on that side, was a work of toil, which none but the lover of the picturesque is often found willing to encounter. Above, even to the eyes of our friends, though they occupied an eminence, the skies seemed circumscribed to the circumference of the lake and the hills by which it was surrounded; and the appearance of the whole region, therefore, was that of a complete amphitheatre, the lake being the floor, the hills the mighty pillars, and the roof, the blue, bright, fretted canopy of heaven.
"I have missed you, my son, for some time past, and the beauty of the picture reminds me of what your seeming neglect has made me lose. When I was a young man I would have preferred to visit such a spot as this alone. But the sense of desolation presses heavily upon an old man under any circumstances; and he seeks for the company of the young, as if to freshen, with sympathy and memory, the cheerlessness and decay which attends all his own thoughts and fancies. To come alone into the woods, even though the scene I look on be as fair as this, makes me moody and awakens gloomy imaginations; and since you have been so long absent, I have taken to my books again, and given up the woods. Ah! books, alone, never desert us; never prove unfaithful; never chide us; never mock us, as even these woods do, with the memory of baffled hopes, and dreams of youth, gone, never to return again.
"I trust, my dear sir, you do not think me ungrateful. I have not wilfully neglected you. More than once I set out to visit you; but my heart was so full—I was so very unhappy—that I had not the spirit for it. I felt that I should not be any company for you, and feared that I would only affect you with some of my own dullness."
"Nay, that should be no fear with you, my dear boy, for you should know that the very sorrows of youth, as they awaken the sympathies of age, provide it with the means of excitement. It is the misfortune of age that its interest is slow to kindle. Whatever excites the pulse, if not violently, is beneficial to the heart of the old man. But these sorrows of yours, my son—do you not call them by too strong a name? I suspect they are nothing more than the discontents, the vague yearnings of the young and ardent nature, such as prompt enterprise and lead to nobleness. If you had them not, you would think of little else than how to squat with your cousin there, seeking to entrap your dinner; nay, not so much—you would think only of the modes of cooking and the delight of eating the fish, and shrink from the toil of taking it. Do not deceive yourself. This sorrow which distresses you is possibly a beneficial sorrow. It is the hope which is in you to be something—to DO something—for this DOING is after all, and before all, the great object of living. The hope of the heart is always a discontent—most generally a wholesome discontent—sometimes a noble discontent leading to nobleness. It is to be satisfied rather than nursed. You must do what it requires."
"I know not what it requires."
"Your DOING then must be confined at present to finding out what that is."
"Alas! sir, it seems to me as if I could no more THINK than I can DO"
"Very likely;—that is the case at present; and there are several reasons for this feebleness. The energies which have not yet been tasked, do not know well how to begin. You have been a favored boy. Your wants have been well provided for. Your parents have loved you only too much."
"Too much! Why, even now, I am met with cold looks and reproachful words, on account of this stranger, of whom nobody knows anything."
"Even so: suppose that to be the case, my son; still it does not alter the truth of what I say. You can not imagine that your parents prefer this stranger to yourself, unless you imagine them to have undergone a very sudden change of character. They have always treated you tenderly—too tenderly."
"Too tenderly, sir?"
"Yes, William, too tenderly. Their tenderness has enfeebled you, and that is the reason you know not in what way to begin to dissipate your doubts, and apply your energies. If they reproach you, that is because they have some interest in you, and a right in you, which constitutes their interest. If they treat the stranger civilly, it is because he is a stranger."
"Ay, sir, but what if they give this stranger authority to question and to counsel me? Is not this a cruel indignity?"
"Softly, William, softly! There is something at the bottom of this which I do not see, and which perhaps you do not see. If your parents employ a stranger to counsel you, it proves that something in your conduct leads them to think that you need counsel."
"That may be, sir; but why not give it themselves? why employ a person of whom nobody knows anything?"
"I infer from your tone, my son, rather than your words, that you have some dislike to this stranger.
"No, sir—"was the beginning of the young man's reply, but he stopped short with a guilty consciousness. A warm blush overspread his cheek, and he remained silent. The old man, without seeming to perceive the momentary interruption, or the confusion which followed it, proceeded in his commentary.
"There should be nothing, surely, to anger you in good counsel, spoken even by a stranger, my son; and even where the counsel be not good, if the motive be so, it requires our gratitude though it may not receive our adoption."
"I don't know, sir, but it seems to me very strange, and is very humiliating, that I should be required to submit to the instructions of one of whom we know nothing, and who is scarcely older than myself."
"It may be mortifying to your self-esteem, my son, but self-esteem, when too active, is compelled constantly to suffer this sort of mortification. It may be that one man shall not be older in actual years than another, yet be able to teach that other. Merely living, days and weeks and months, constitutes no right to wisdom: it is the crowding events and experience—the indefatigable industry—the living actively and well—that supply us with the materials for knowing and teaching. In comparison with millions of your own age, who have lived among men, and shared in their strifes and troubles, you would find yourself as feeble a child as ever yet needed the helping hand of counsel and guardianship; and this brings me back to what I said before. Your parents have treated you too tenderly. They have done everything for you. You have done nothing for yourself. They provide for your wants, hearken to your complaints, nurture you in sickness, with a diseasing fondness, and so render you incapable. Hence it is, that, in the toils of manhood, you do not know how to begin. You lack courage and perseverance."
"Courage and perseverance!" was the surprised exclamation of the youth.
"Precisely, and lest I should offend you, my son, I must acknowledge to you beforehand, that this very deficiency was my own."
"Yours, sir? I can not think it. What! lack courage?"
"Why, sir—did I not see you myself, when everybody else looked on with trembling and with terror, throw yourself in the way of Drummond's horses and save the poor boy from being dashed to pieces? There was surely no lack of courage there!"
"No! in that sense, my son, I labor under no deficiency. But this sort of courage is of the meanest kind. It is the courage of impulse, not of steadfastness. Hear me, William. You have more than once allowed the expression of a wonder to escape you, why a man, having such a passion for books and study, and with the appearance of mental resources, such as I am supposed to possess, should be content, retiring from the great city, to set up his habitation in this remote and obscure region. My chosen profession was the law; I was no unfaithful student. True, I had no parents to lament my wanderings and failures; but I did not wander. I studied closely, with a degree of diligence which seemed to surprise all my companions. I was ambitious—intensely ambitious. My head ran upon the strifes of the forum, its exciting contests of mind and soul—its troubles, its triumphs. This was my leading thought—it was my only passion. The boy-frenzies for women, which are prompted less by sentiment or judgment, than by feverish blood, troubled me little. Law was my mistress—took up all my time—absorbed all my devotion. I believe that I was a good lawyer—no pettifogger—the merely drilled creature who toils for his license, and toils for ever after solely for his petty gains, in the miserably petty arts of making gains for others, and eluding the snares set for his own feet by kindred spirits. As far as the teaching of this country could afford me the means and opportunity, I endeavored to procure a knowledge of universal law—its sources—its true objects—its just principles—its legitimate dicta. Mere authorities never satisfied me, unless, passing behind the black gowns, I could follow up the reasoning to the first fountains—the small original truths, the nicely discriminated requisitions of immutable justice—the clearly-defined and inevitable wants of a superior and prosperous society. Everything that could illustrate law as well as fortify it; every collateral aid, in the shape of history or moral truth, I gathered together, even as the dragoon whose chief agent is his sabre, yet takes care to provide himself with pistols, that may finish what the other weapon has begun. Nor did I content myself with the mere acquisition of the necessary knowledge. Knowing how much depends upon voice, manner and fluency, in obtaining success before a jury, I addressed myself to these particulars with equal industry. My voice, even now, has a compass which your unexercised lungs, though quite as good originally as mine, would fail entirely to contend with. I do not deceive myself, as I certainly do not seek to deceive you, when I say, that I acquired the happiest mastery over my person."
"Ah! sir—we see that now—that must have been the case!" said the youth interrupting him. The other continued, sadly smiling as he heard the eulogy which the youth meant to speak, the utterance of which was obviously from the heart.
"My voice was taught by various exercises to be slow or rapid, soft or strong, harsh or musical, by the most sudden, yet unnoticeable transitions. I practised all the arts, which are recommended by elocutionists for this purpose, I rumbled my eloquence standing on the seashore, up to my middle in the breakers. I ran, roaring up steep hills—I stretched myself at length by the side of meandering brooks, or in slumberous forests of pine, and sought, by the merest whispers, to express myself with distinctness and melody. But there was something yet more requisite than these, and this was language. My labors to obtain all the arts of utterance did not seem less successful. I could dilate with singular fluency, with classical propriety, and great natural vigor of expression. I studied directness of expression by a frequent intercourse with men of business, and examined, with the nicest urgency, the particular characteristics of those of my own profession who were most remarkable for their plain, forcible speaking. I say nothing of my studies of such great masters in discourse and philosophy, as Milton, Sliakspere, Homer, Lord Bacon, and the great English divines. As a model of pure English the Bible was a daily study of two hours; and from this noble well of vernacular eloquence, I gathered—so I fancied—no small portion of its quaint expressive vigor, its stern emphasis, its golden and choice phrases of illustration. Never did a young lawyer go into the forum more thoroughly clad in proof, or with a better armory as well for defence as attack."