THE PRIVILEGE OF GENIUS.—LESTER'S SATISFACTION AT THE ASPECT OF EVENTS.—HIS CONVERSATION WITH WALTER.—A DISCOVERY.
"Alc.—I am for Lidian: This accident no doubt will draw him from his hermit's life!
"Lis.—Spare my grief, and apprehend What I should speak." —Beaumont and Fletcher.—The Lovers' Progress.
In the course of the various conversations our family of Grassdale enjoyed with their singular neighbour, it appeared that his knowledge had not been confined to the closet; at times, he dropped remarks which shewed that he had been much among cities, and travelled with the design, or at least with the vigilance, of the observer; but he did not love to be drawn into any detailed accounts of what he had seen, or whither he had been; an habitual though a gentle reserve, kept watch over the past—not indeed that character of reserve which excites the doubt, but which inspires the interest. His most gloomy moods were rather abrupt and fitful than morose, and his usual bearing was calm, soft, and even tender.
There is a certain charm about great superiority of intellect, that winds into deep affections which a much more constant and even amiability of manners in lesser men, often fails to reach. Genius makes many enemies, but it makes sure friends—friends who forgive much, who endure long, who exact little; they partake of the character of disciples as well as friends. There lingers about the human heart a strong inclination to look upward—to revere: in this inclination lies the source of religion, of loyalty, and also of the worship and immortality which are rendered so cheerfully to the great of old. And in truth, it is a divine pleasure to admire! admiration seems in some measure to appropriate to ourselves the qualities it honours in others. We wed,—we root ourselves to the natures we so love to contemplate, and their life grows a part of our own. Thus, when a great man, who has engrossed our thoughts, our conjectures, our homage, dies, a gap seems suddenly left in the world; a wheel in the mechanism of our own being appears abruptly stilled; a portion of ourselves, and not our worst portion, for how many pure, high, generous sentiments it contains, dies with him! Yes! it is this love, so rare, so exalted, and so denied to all ordinary men, which is the especial privilege of greatness, whether that greatness be shewn in wisdom, in enterprise, in virtue, or even, till the world learns better, in the more daring and lofty order of crime. A Socrates may claim it to-day—a Napoleon to-morrow; nay, a brigand chief, illustrious in the circle in which he lives, may call it forth no less powerfully than the generous failings of a Byron, or the sublime excellence of the greater Milton.
Lester saw with evident complacency the passion growing up between his friend and his daughter; he looked upon it as a tie that would permanently reconcile Aram to the hearth of social and domestic life; a tie that would constitute the happiness of his daughter, and secure to himself a relation in the man he felt most inclined, of all he knew, to honour and esteem. He remarked in the gentleness and calm temper of Aram much that was calculated to ensure domestic peace, and knowing the peculiar disposition of Madeline, he felt that she was exactly the person, not only to bear with the peculiarities of the Student, but to venerate their source. In short, the more he contemplated the idea of this alliance, the more he was charmed with its probability.
Musing on this subject, the good Squire was one day walking in his garden, when he perceived his nephew at some distance, and remarked that Walter, on seeing him, was about, instead of coming forward to meet him, to turn down an alley in an opposite direction.
A little pained at this, and remembering that Walter had of late seemed estranged from himself, and greatly altered from the high and cheerful spirits natural to his temper, Lester called to his nephew; and Walter, reluctantly and slowly changing his purpose of avoidance, advanced and met him.
"Why, Walter!" said the uncle, taking his arm; "this is somewhat unkind, to shun me; are you engaged in any pursuit that requires secrecy or haste?"
"No, indeed, Sir!" said Walter, with some embarrassment; "but I thought you seemed wrapped in reflection, and would naturally dislike being disturbed."
"Hem! as to that, I have no reflections I wish concealed from you, Walter, or which might not be benefited by your advice." The youth pressed his uncle's hand, but made no reply; and Lester, after a pause, continued:—
"You seem, Walter, I am most delighted to think, entirely to have overcome the little unfavourable prepossession which at first you testified towards our excellent neighbour. And for my part, I think he appears to be especially attracted towards yourself, he seeks your company; and to me he always speaks of you in terms, which, coming from such a quarter, give me the most lively gratification."
Walter bowed his head, but not in the delighted vanity with which a young man generally receives the assurance of another's praise.
"I own," renewed Lester, "that I consider our friendship with Aram one of the most fortunate occurrences in my life; at least," added he with a sigh, "of late years. I doubt not but you must have observed the partiality with which our dear Madeline evidently regards him; and yet more, the attachment to her, which breaks forth from Aram, in spite of his habitual reserve and self-control. You have surely noted this, Walter?"
"I have," said Walter, in a low tone, and turning away his head.
"And doubtless you share my satisfaction. It happens fortunately now, that Madeline early contracted that studious and thoughtful turn, which I must own at one time gave me some uneasiness and vexation. It has taught her to appreciate the value of a mind like Aram's. Formerly, my dear boy, I hoped that at one time or another, she and yourself might form a dearer connection than that of cousins. But I was disappointed, and I am now consoled. And indeed I think there is that in Ellinor which might be yet more calculated to render you happy; that is, if the bias of your mind should ever lean that way."
"You are very good," said Walter, bitterly. "I own I am not flattered by your selection; nor do I see why the plainest and least brilliant of the two sisters must necessarily be the fittest for me."
"Nay," replied Lester, piqued, and justly angry, "I do not think, even if Madeline have the advantage of her sister, that you can find any fault with the personal or mental attractions of Ellinor. But indeed this is not a matter in which relations should interfere. I am far from any wish to prevent you from choosing throughout the world any one whom you may prefer. All I hope is, that your future wife will be like Ellinor in kindness of heart and sweetness of temper."
"From choosing throughout the world!" repeated Walter; "and how in this nook am I to see the world?"
"Walter! your voice is reproachful!—do I deserve it?"
Walter was silent.
"I have of late observed," continued Lester, "and with wounded feelings, that you do not give me the same confidence, or meet me with the same affection, that you once delighted me by manifesting towards me. I know of no cause for this change. Do not let us, my son, for I may so call you—do not let us, as we grow older, grow also more apart. Time divides with a sufficient demarcation the young from the old; why deepen the necessary line? You know well, that I have never from your childhood insisted heavily on a guardian's authority. I have always loved to contribute to your enjoyments, and shewn you how devoted I am to your interests, by the very frankness with which I have consulted you on my own. If there be now on your mind any secret grievance, or any secret wish, speak it, Walter:—you are alone with the friend on earth who loves you best!"
Walter was wholly overcome by this address: he pressed his good uncle's hand to his lips, and it was some moments before he mustered self-composure sufficient to reply.
"You have ever, ever been to me all that the kindest parent, the tenderest friend could have been:—believe me, I am not ungrateful. If of late I have been altered, the cause is not in you. Let me speak freely: you encourage me to do so. I am young, my temper is restless; I have a love of enterprise and adventure: is it not natural that I should long to see the world? This is the cause of my late abstraction of mind. I have now told you all: it is for you to decide."
Lester looked wistfully on his nephew's countenance before he replied—
"It is as I gathered," said he, "from various remarks which you have lately let fall. I cannot blame your wish to leave us; it is certainly natural: nor can I oppose it. Go, Walter, when you will!"
The young man turned round with a lighted eye and flushed cheek.
"And why, Walter?" said Lester, interrupting his thanks, "why this surprise? why this long doubt of my affection? Could you believe I should refuse a wish that, at your age, I should have expressed myself? You have wronged me; you might have saved a world of pain to us both by acquainting me with your desire when it was first formed; but, enough. I see Madeline and Aram approach,—let us join them now, and to-morrow we will arrange the time and method of your departure.
"Forgive me, Sir," said Walter, stopping abruptly as the glow faded from his cheek, "I have not yet recovered myself; I am not fit for other society than yours. Excuse my joining my cousin, and—"
"Walter!" said Lester, also stopping short and looking full on his nephew, "a painful thought flashes upon me! Would to heaven I may be wrong!—Have you ever felt for Madeline more tenderly than for her sister?"
Walter literally trembled as he stood. The tears rushed into Lester's eyes:—he grasped his nephew's hand warmly—
"God comfort thee, my poor boy!" said he, with great emotion; "I never dreamt of this."
Walter felt now that he was understood. He gratefully returned the pressure of his uncle's hand, and then, withdrawing his own, darted down one of the intersecting walks, and was almost instantly out of sight.
THE STATE OF WALTER'S MIND.—AN ANGLER AND A MAN OF THE WORLD.—A COMPANION FOUND FOR WALTER.
"This great disease for love I dre, There is no tongue can tell the wo; I love the love that loves not me, I may not mend, but mourning mo." —The Mourning Maiden.
"I in these flowery meads would be, These crystal streams should solace me, To whose harmonious bubbling voice
I with my angle would rejoice." —Izaac Walton.
When Walter left his uncle, he hurried, scarcely conscious of his steps, towards his favourite haunt by the water-side. From a child, he had singled out that scene as the witness of his early sorrows or boyish schemes; and still, the solitude of the place cherished the habit of his boyhood.
Long had he, unknown to himself, nourished an attachment to his beautiful cousin; nor did he awaken to the secret of his heart, until, with an agonizing jealousy, he penetrated the secret at her own. The reader has, doubtless, already perceived that it was this jealousy which at the first occasioned Walter's dislike to Aram: the consolation of that dislike was forbid him now. The gentleness and forbearance of the Student's deportment had taken away all ground of offence; and Walter had sufficient generosity to acknowledge his merits, while tortured by their effect. Silently, till this day, he had gnawed his heart, and found for its despair no confidant and no comfort. The only wish that he cherished was a feverish and gloomy desire to leave the scene which witnessed the triumph of his rival. Every thing around had become hateful to his eyes, and a curse had lighted upon the face of Home. He thought now, with a bitter satisfaction, that his escape was at hand: in a few days he might be rid of the gall and the pang, which every moment of his stay at Grassdale inflicted upon him. The sweet voice of Madeline he should hear no more, subduing its silver sound for his rival's ear:—no more he should watch apart, and himself unheeded, how timidly her glance roved in search of another, or how vividly her cheek flushed when the step of that happier one approached. Many miles would at least shut out this picture from his view; and in absence, was it not possible that he might teach himself to forget? Thus meditating, he arrived at the banks of the little brooklet, and was awakened from his reverie by the sound of his own name. He started, and saw the old Corporal seated on the stump of a tree, and busily employed in fixing to his line the mimic likeness of what anglers, and, for aught we know, the rest of the world, call the "violet fly."
"Ha! master,—at my day's work, you see:—fit for nothing else now. When a musquet's halfworn out, schoolboys buy it—pop it at sparrows. I be like the musket: but never mind—have not seen the world for nothing. We get reconciled to all things: that's my way—augh! Now, Sir, you shall watch me catch the finest trout you have seen this summer: know where he lies—under the bush yonder. Whi—sh! Sir, whi—sh!"
The Corporal now gave his warrior soul up to the due guidance of the violet-fly: now he shipped it lightly on the wave; now he slid it coquettishly along the surface; now it floated, like an unconscious beauty, carelessly with the tide; and now, like an artful prude, it affected to loiter by the way, or to steal into designing obscurity under the shade of some overhanging bank. But none of these manoeuvres captivated the wary old trout on whose acquisition the Corporal had set his heart; and what was especially provoking, the angler could see distinctly the dark outline of the intended victim, as it lay at the bottom,—like some well-regulated bachelor who eyes from afar the charms he has discreetly resolved to neglect.
The Corporal waited till he could no longer blind himself to the displeasing fact, that the violet-fly was wholly inefficacious; he then drew up his line, and replaced the contemned beauty of the violet-fly, with the novel attractions of the yellow-dun.
"Now, Sir!" whispered he, lifting up his finger, and nodding sagaciously to Walter. Softly dropped the yellow-dun upon the water, and swiftly did it glide before the gaze of the latent trout; and now the trout seemed aroused from his apathy, behold he moved forward, balancing himself on his fins; now he slowly ascended towards the surface; you might see all the speckles of his coat;—the Corporal's heart stood still—he is now at a convenient distance from the yellow-dun; lo, he surveys it steadfastly; he ponders, he see-saws himself to and fro. The yellow-dun sails away in affected indifference, that indifference whets the appetite of the hesitating gazer, he darts forward; he is opposite the yellow-dun,—he pushes his nose against it with an eager rudeness,—he—no, he does not bite, he recoils, he gazes again with surprise and suspicion on the little charmer; he fades back slowly into the deeper water, and then suddenly turning his tail towards the disappointed bait, he makes off as fast as he can,—yonder,—yonder, and disappears! No, that's he leaping yonder from the wave; Jupiter! what a noble fellow! What leaps he at?—a real fly—"Damn his eyes!" growled the Corporal.
"You might have caught him with a minnow," said Walter, speaking for the first time.
"Minnow!" repeated the Corporal gruffly, "ask your honour's pardon. Minnow!—I have fished with the yellow-dun these twenty years, and never knew it fail before. Minnow!—baugh! But ask pardon; your honour is very welcome to fish with a minnow if you please it."
"Thank you, Bunting. And pray what sport have you had to-day?"
"Oh,—good, good," quoth the Corporal, snatching up his basket and closing the cover, lest the young Squire should pry into it. No man is more tenacious of his secrets than your true angler. "Sent the best home two hours ago; one weighed three pounds, on the faith of a man; indeed, I'm satisfied now; time to give up;" and the Corporal began to disjoint his rod.
"Ah, Sir!" said he, with a half sigh, "a pretty river this, don't mean to say it is not; but the river Lea for my money. You know the Lea?—not a morning's walk from Lunnun. Mary Gibson, my first sweetheart, lived by the bridge,—caught such a trout there by the by!—had beautiful eyes—black, round as a cherry—five feet eight without shoes—might have listed in the forty-second."
"Who, Bunting!" said Walter smiling, "the lady or the trout?"
"Augh!—baugh!—what? Oh, laughing at me, your honour, you're welcome, Sir. Love's a silly thing—know the world now—have not fallen in love these ten years. I doubt—no offence, Sir, no offence—I doubt whether your honour and Miss Ellinor can say as much."
"I and Miss Ellinor!—you forge yourself strangely, Bunting," said Walter, colouring with anger.
"Beg pardon, Sir, beg pardon—rough soldier—lived away from the world so long, words slipped out of my mouth—absent without leave."
"But why," said Walter, smothering or conquering his vexation,—"why couple me with Miss Ellinor? Did you imagine that we,—we were in love with each other?"
"Indeed, Sir, and if I did, 'tis no more than my neighbours imagine too."
"Humph! your neighbours are very silly, then, and very wrong."
"Beg pardon, Sir, again—always getting askew. Indeed some did say it was Miss Madeline, but I says,—says I,—'No! I'm a man of the world—see through a millstone; Miss Madeline's too easy like; Miss Nelly blushes when he speaks;'scarlet is love's regimentals—it was ours in the forty-second, edged with yellow—pepper and salt pantaloons! For my part I think,—but I've no business to think, howsomever—baugh!"
"Pray what do you think, Mr. Bunting? Why do you hesitate?"
"'Fraid of offence—but I do think that Master Aram—your honour understands—howsomever Squire's daughter too great a match for such as he!"
Walter did not answer; and the garrulous old soldier, who had been the young man's playmate and companion since Walter was a boy; and was therefore accustomed to the familiarity with which he now spoke, continued, mingling with his abrupt prolixity an occasional shrewdness of observation, which shewed that he was no inattentive commentator on the little and quiet world around him.
"Free to confess, Squire Walter, that I don't quite like this larned man, as much as the rest of 'em—something queer about him—can't see to the bottom of him—don't think he's quite so meek and lamb-like as he seems:—once saw a calm dead pool in foren parts—peered down into it—by little and little, my eye got used to it—saw something dark at the bottom—stared and stared—by Jupiter—a great big alligator!—walked off immediately—never liked quiet pools since—augh, no!"
"An argument against quiet pools, perhaps, Bunting; but scarcely against quiet people."
"Don't know as to that, your honour—much of a muchness. I have seen Master Aram, demure as he looks, start, and bite his lip, and change colour, and frown—he has an ugly frown, I can tell ye—when he thought no one nigh. A man who gets in a passion with himself may be soon out of temper with others. Free to confess, I should not like to see him married to that stately beautiful young lady—but they do gossip about it in the village. If it is not true, better put the Squire on his guard—false rumours often beget truths—beg pardon, your honour—no business of mine—baugh! But I'm a lone man, who have seen the world, and I thinks on the things around me, and I turns over the quid—now on this side, now on the other—'tis my way, Sir—and—but I offend your honour."
"Not at all; I know you are an honest man, Bunting, and well affected to our family; at the same time it is neither prudent nor charitable to speak harshly of our neighbours without sufficient cause. And really you seem to me to be a little hasty in your judgment of a man so inoffensive in his habits and so justly and generally esteemed as Mr. Aram."
"May be, Sir—may be,—very right what you say. But I thinks what I thinks all the same; and indeed, it is a thing that puzzles me, how that strange-looking vagabond, as frighted the ladies so, and who, Miss Nelly told me, for she saw them in his pocket, carried pistols about him, as if he had been among cannibals and hottentots, instead of the peaceablest county that man ever set foot in, should boast of his friendship with this larned schollard, and pass a whole night in his house. Birds of a feather flock together—augh!—Sir!"
"A man cannot surely be answerable for the respectability of all his acquaintances, even though he feel obliged to offer them the accommodation of a night's shelter."
"Baugh!" grunted the Corporal. "Seen the world, Sir—seen the world—young gentlemen are always so good-natured; 'tis a pity, that the more one sees the more suspicious one grows. One does not have gumption till one has been properly cheated—one must be made a fool very often in order not to be fooled at last!"
"Well, Corporal, I shall now have opportunities enough of profiting by experience. I am going to leave Grassdale in a few days, and learn suspicion and wisdom in the great world."
"Augh! baugh!—what?" cried the Corporal, starting from the contemplative air which he had hitherto assumed. "The great world?—how?—when?—going away;—who goes with your honour?"
"My honour's self; I have no companion, unless you like to attend me;" said Walter, jestingly—but the Corporal affected, with his natural shrewdness, to take the proposition in earnest.
"I! your honour's too good; and indeed, though I say it, Sir, you might do worse; not but what I should be sorry to leave nice snug home here, and this stream, though the trout have been shy lately,—ah! that was a mistake of yours, Sir, recommending the minnow; and neighbour Dealtry, though his ale's not so good at 'twas last year; and—and—but, in short, I always loved your honour—dandled you on my knees;—You recollect the broadsword exercise?—one, two, three—augh! baugh!—and if your honour really is going, why rather than you should want a proper person who knows the world, to brush your coat, polish your shoes, give you good advice—on the faith of a man, I'll go with you myself!"
This alacrity on the part of the Corporal was far from displeasing to Walter. The proposal he had at first made unthinkingly, he now seriously thought advisable; and at length it was settled that the Corporal should call the next morning at the manor-house, and receive instructions as to the time and method of their departure. Not forgetting, as the sagacious Bunting delicately insinuated, "the wee settlements as to wages, and board wages, more a matter of form, like, than any thing else—augh!"
THE LOVERS.—THE ENCOUNTER AND QUARREL OF THE RIVALS.
Two such I saw, what time the laboured ox In his loose traces from the furrow came. —Comus.
Pedro. Now do me noble right. Rod. I'll satisfy you; But not by the sword. —Beaumont and Fletcher.—The Pilgrim.
While Walter and the Corporal enjoyed the above conversation, Madeline and Aram, whom Lester soon left to themselves, were pursuing their walk along the solitary fields. Their love had passed from the eye to the lip, and now found expression in words.
"Observe," said he, as the light touch of one who he felt loved him entirely rested on his arm,—"Observe, as the later summer now begins to breathe a more various and mellow glory into the landscape, how singularly pure and lucid the atmosphere becomes. When, two months ago, in the full flush of June, I walked through these fields, a grey mist hid yon distant hills and the far forest from my view. Now, with what a transparent stillness the whole expanse of scenery spreads itself before us. And such, Madeline, is the change that has come over myself since that time. Then, if I looked beyond the limited present, all was dim and indistinct. Now, the mist had faded away—the broad future extends before me, calm and bright with the hope which is borrowed from your love!"
We will not tax the patience of the reader, who seldom enters with keen interest into the mere dialogue of love, with the blushing Madeline's reply, or with all the soft vows and tender confessions which the rich poetry of Aram's mind made yet more delicious to the ear of his dreaming and devoted mistress.
"There is one circumstance," said Aram, "which casts a momentary shade on the happiness I enjoy—my Madeline probably guesses its nature. I regret to see that the blessing of your love must be purchased by the misery of another, and that other, the nephew of my kind friend. You have doubtless observed the melancholy of Walter Lester, and have long since known its origin."
"Indeed, Eugene," answered Madeline, "it has given me great pain to note what you refer to, for it would be a false delicacy in me to deny that I have observed it. But Walter is young and high-spirited; nor do I think he is of a nature to love long where there is no return!"
"And what," said Aram, sorrowfully,—"what deduction from reason can ever apply to love? Love is a very contradiction of all the elements of our ordinary nature,—it makes the proud man meek,—the cheerful, sad,—the high-spirited, tame; our strongest resolutions, our hardiest energy fail before it. Believe me, you cannot prophesy of its future effect in a man from any knowledge of his past character. I grieve to think that the blow falls upon one in early youth, ere the world's disappointments have blunted the heart, or the world's numerous interests have multiplied its resources. Men's minds have been turned when they have not well sifted the cause themselves, and their fortunes marred, by one stroke on the affections of their youth. So at least have I read, Madeline, and so marked in others. For myself, I knew nothing of love in its reality till I knew you. But who can know you, and not sympathise with him who has lost you?"
"Ah, Eugene! you at least overrate the influence which love produces on men. A little resentment and a little absence will soon cure my cousin of an ill-placed and ill-requited attachment. You do not think how easy it is to forget."
"Forget!" said Aram, stopping abruptly; "Ay, forget—it is a strange truth! we do forget! the summer passes over the furrow, and the corn springs up; the sod forgets the flower of the past year; the battle-field forgets the blood that has been spilt upon its turf; the sky forgets the storm; and the water the noon-day sun that slept upon its bosom. All Nature preaches forgetfulness. Its very order is the progress of oblivion. And I—I—give me your hand, Madeline,—I, ha! ha! I forget too!"
As Aram spoke thus wildly, his countenance worked; but his voice was slow, and scarcely audible; he seemed rather conferring with himself, than addressing Madeline. But when his words ceased, and he felt the soft hand of his betrothed, and turning, saw her anxious and wistful eyes fixed in alarm, yet in all unsuspecting confidence, on his face; his features relaxed into their usual serenity, and kissing the hand he clasped, he continued, in a collected and steady tone,
"Forgive me, my sweetest Madeline. These fitful and strange moods sometimes come upon me yet. I have been so long in the habit of pursuing any train of thought, however wild, that presents itself to my mind, that I cannot easily break it, even in your presence. All studious men—the twilight Eremites of books and closets, contract this ungraceful custom of soliloquy. You know our abstraction is a common jest and proverb: you must laugh me out of it. But stay, dearest!—there is a rare herb at your feet, let me gather it. So, do you note its leaves—this bending and silver flower? Let us rest on this bank, and I will tell you of its qualities. Beautiful as it is, it has a poison."
The place in which the lovers rested, is one which the villagers to this day call "The Lady's-seat;" for Madeline, whose history is fondly preserved in that district, was afterwards wont constantly to repair to that bank (during a short absence of her lover, hereafter to be noted), and subsequent events stamped with interest every spot she was known to have favoured with resort. And when the flower had been duly conned, and the study dismissed, Aram, to whom all the signs of the seasons were familiar, pointed to her the thousand symptoms of the month which are unheeded by less observant eyes; not forgetting, as they thus reclined, their hands clasped together, to couple each remark with some allusion to his love or some deduction which heightened compliment into poetry. He bade her mark the light gossamer as it floated on the air; now soaring high—high into the translucent atmosphere; now suddenly stooping, and sailing away beneath the boughs, which ever and anon it hung with a silken web, that by the next morn, would glitter with a thousand dew drops. "And, so," said he fancifully, "does Love lead forth its numberless creations, making the air its path and empire; ascending aloof at its wild will, hanging its meshes on every bough, and bidding the common grass break into a fairy lustre at the beam of the daily sun!"
He pointed to her the spot, where, in the silent brake, the harebells, now waxing rare and few, yet lingered—or where the mystic ring on the soft turf conjured up the associations of Oberon and his train. That superstition gave licence and play to his full memory and glowing fancy; and Shakspeare—Spenser—Ariosto—the magic of each mighty master of Fairy Realm—he evoked, and poured into her transported ear. It was precisely such arts, which to a gayer and more worldly nature than Madeline's might have seemed but wearisome, that arrested and won her imaginative and high-wrought mind. And thus he, who to another might have proved but the retired and moody Student, became to her the very being of whom her "Maiden meditation" had dreamed—the master and magician of her fate.
Aram did not return to the house with Madeline; he accompanied her to the garden gate, and then taking leave of her, bent his way homeward. He had gained the entrance of the little valley that led to his abode, when he saw Walter cross his path at a short distance. His heart, naturally susceptible to kindly emotion, smote him as he remarked the moody listlessness of the young man's step, and recalled the buoyant lightness it was once wont habitually to wear. He quickened his pace, and joined Walter before the latter was aware of his presence.
"Good evening," said he, mildly; "if you are going my way, give me the benefit of your company."
"My path lies yonder," replied Walter, somewhat sullenly; "I regret that it is different from yours."
"In that case," said Aram, "I can delay my return home, and will, with your leave, intrude my society upon you for some few minutes."
Walter bowed his head in reluctant assent. They walked on for some moments without speaking, the one unwilling, the other seeking an occasion, to break the silence.
"This to my mind," said Aram at length, "is the most pleasing landscape in the whole country; observe the bashful water stealing away among the woodlands. Methinks the wave is endowed with an instinctive wisdom, that it thus shuns the world."
"Rather," said Walter, "with the love for change which exists everywhere in nature, it does not seek the shade until it has passed by 'towered cities,'and 'the busy hum of men.'"
"I admire the shrewdness of your reply," rejoined Aram; "but note how far more pure and lovely are its waters in these retreats, than when washing the walls of the reeking town, receiving into its breast the taint of a thousand pollutions, vexed by the sound, and stench, and unholy perturbation of men's dwelling-place. Now it glasses only what is high or beautiful in nature—the stars or the leafy banks. The wind that ruffles it, is clothed with perfumes; the rivulet that swells it, descends from the everlasting mountains, or is formed by the rains of Heaven. Believe me, it is the type of a life that glides into solitude, from the weariness and fretful turmoil of the world.
'No flattery, hate, or envy lodgeth there, There no suspicion walled in proved steel, Yet fearful of the arms herself doth wear, Pride is not there; no tyrant there we feel!'"
"I will not cope with you in simile, or in poetry," said Walter, as his lip curved; "it is enough for me to think that life should be spent in action. I hasten to prove if my judgment be erroneous."
"Are you, then, about to leave us?" inquired Aram.
"Yes, within a few days."
"Indeed, I regret to hear it."
The answer sounded jarringly on the irritated nerves of the disappointed rival.
"You do me more honour than I desire," said he, "in interesting yourself, however lightly, in my schemes or fortune!"
"Young man," replied Aram, coldly, "I never see the impetuous and yearning spirit of youth without a certain, and it may be, a painful interest. How feeble is the chance, that its hopes will be fulfilled! Enough, if it lose not all its loftier aspirings, as well as its brighter expectations."
Nothing more aroused the proud and fiery temper of Walter Lester than the tone of superior wisdom and superior age, which his rival assumed towards him. More and more displeased with his present companion, he answered, in no conciliatory tone, "I cannot but consider the warning and the fears of one, neither my relation nor my friend, in the light of a gratuitous affront."
Aram smiled as he answered,
"There is no occasion for resentment. Preserve this hot spirit, and high self-confidence, till you return again to these scenes, and I shall be at once satisfied and corrected."
"Sir," said Walter, colouring, and irritated more by the smile than the words of his rival, "I am not aware by what right or on what ground you assume towards me the superiority, not only of admonition but reproof. My uncle's preference towards you gives you no authority over me. That preference I do not pretend to share."—He paused for a moment, thinking Aram might hasten to reply; but as the Student walked on with his usual calmness of demeanour, he added, stung by the indifference which he attributed, not altogether without truth, to disdain, "And since you have taken upon yourself to caution me, and to forebode my inability to resist the contamination, as you would term it, of the world, I tell you, that it may be happy for you to bear so clear a conscience, so untouched a spirit as that which I now boast, and with which I trust in God and my own soul I shall return to my birth-place. It is not the holy only that love solitude; and men may shun the world from another motive than that of philosophy."
It was now Aram's turn to feel resentment, and this was indeed an insinuation not only unwarrantable in itself, but one which a man of so peaceable and guileless a life, affecting even an extreme and rigid austerity of morals, might well be tempted to repel with scorn and indignation; and Aram, however meek and forbearing in general, testified in this instance that his wonted gentleness arose from no lack of man's natural spirit. He laid his hand commandingly on young Lester's shoulder, and surveyed his countenance with a dark and menacing frown.
"Boy!" said he, "were there meaning in your words, I should (mark me!) avenge the insult;—as it is, I despise it. Go!"
So high and lofty was Aram's manner—so majestic was the sternness of his rebuke, and the dignity of his bearing, as he now waving his hand turned away, that Walter lost his self-possession and stood fixed to the spot, absorbed, and humbled from his late anger. It was not till Aram had moved with a slow step several paces backward towards his home, that the bold and haughty temper of the young man returned to his aid. Ashamed of himself for the momentary weakness he had betrayed, and burning to redeem it, he hastened after the stately form of his rival, and planting himself full in his path, said, in a voice half choked with contending emotions,
"Hold!—you have given me the opportunity I have long desired; you yourself have now broken that peace which existed between us, and which to me was more bitter than wormwood. You have dared,—yes, dared to use threatening language towards me. I call on you to fulfil your threat. I tell you that I meant, I designed, I thirsted to affront you. Now resent my purposed—premeditated affront as you will and can!"
There was something remarkable in the contrasted figures of the rivals, as they now stood fronting each other. The elastic and vigorous form of Walter Lester, his sparkling eyes, his sunburnt and glowing cheek, his clenched hands, and his whole frame, alive and eloquent with the energy, the heat, the hasty courage, and fiery spirit of youth; on the other hand,—the bending frame of the student, gradually rising into the dignity of its full height—his pale cheek, in which the wan hues neither deepened nor waned, his large eye raised to meet Walter's bright, steady, and yet how calm! Nothing weak, nothing irresolute could be traced in that form—or that lofty countenance; yet all resentment had vanished from his aspect. He seemed at once tranquil and prepared.
"You designed to affront me!" said he; "it is well—it is a noble confession;—and wherefore? What do you propose to gain by it?—a man whose whole life is peace, you would provoke to outrage? Would there be triumph in this, or disgrace?—A man whom your uncle honours and loves, you would insult without cause—you would waylay—you would, after watching and creating your opportunity, entrap into defending himself. Is this worthy of that high spirit of which you boasted?—is this worthy a generous anger, or a noble hatred? Away! you malign yourself. I shrink from no quarrel—why should I? I have nothing to fear: my nerves are firm—my heart is faithful to my will; my habits may have diminished my strength, but it is yet equal to that of most men. As to the weapons of the world—they fall not to my use. I might be excused by the most punctilious, for rejecting what becomes neither my station nor my habits of life; but I learnt this much from books long since, 'hold thyself prepared for all things:'—I am so prepared. And as I can command the spirit, I lack not the skill, to defend myself, or return the hostility of another." As Aram thus said, he drew a pistol from his bosom; and pointed it leisurely towards a tree, at the distance of some paces.
"Look," said he, "you note that small discoloured and white stain in the bark—you can but just observe it;—he who can send a bullet through that spot, need not fear to meet the quarrel which he seeks to avoid."
Walter turned mechanically, and indignant, though silent, towards the tree. Aram fired, and the ball penetrated the centre of the stain. He then replaced the pistol in his bosom, and said:—
"Early in life I had many enemies, and I taught myself these arts. From habit, I still bear about me the weapons I trust and pray I may never have occasion to use. But to return.—I have offended you—I have incurred your hatred—why? What are my sins?"
"Do you ask the cause?" said Walter, speaking between his ground teeth. "Have you not traversed my views—blighted my hopes—charmed away from me the affections which were more to me than the world, and driven me to wander from my home with a crushed spirit, and a cheerless heart. Are these no cause for hate?"
"Have I done this?" said Aram, recoiling, and evidently and powerfully affected. "Have I so injured you?—It is true! I know it—I perceive it—I read your heart; and—bear witness Heaven!—I felt for the wound that I, but with no guilty hand, inflict upon you. Yet be just:—ask yourself, have I done aught that you, in my case, would have left undone? Have I been insolent in triumph, or haughty in success? if so, hate me, nay, spurn me now."
Walter turned his head irresolutely away.
"If it please you, that I accuse myself, in that I, a man seared and lone at heart, presumed to come within the pale of human affections;—that I exposed myself to cross another's better and brighter hopes, or dared to soften my fate with the tender and endearing ties that are meet alone for a more genial and youthful nature;—if it please you that I accuse and curse myself for this—that I yielded to it with pain and with self-reproach—that I shall think hereafter of what I unconsciously cost you with remorse—then be consoled!"
"It is enough," said Walter; "let us part. I leave you with more soreness at my late haste than I will acknowledge, let that content you; for myself, I ask for no apology or—."
"But you shall have it amply," interrupted Aram, advancing with a cordial openness of mien not usual to him. "I was all to blame; I should have remembered you were an injured man, and suffered you to have said all you would. Words at best are but a poor vent for a wronged and burning heart. It shall be so in future, speak your will, attack, upbraid, taunt me, I will bear it all. And indeed, even to myself there seems some witchcraft, some glamoury in what has chanced. What! I favoured where you love? Is it possible? It might teach the vainest to forswear vanity. You, the young, the buoyant, the fresh, the beautiful?—And I, who have passed the glory and zest of life between dusty walls; I who—well, well, fate laughs at probabilities!"
Aram now seemed relapsing into one of his more abstracted moods; he ceased to speak aloud, but his lips moved, and his eyes grew fixed in reverie on the ground. Walter gazed at him for some moments with mixed and contending sensations. Once more, resentment and the bitter wrath of jealousy had faded back into the remoter depths of his mind, and a certain interest for his singular rival, despite of himself, crept into his breast. But this mysterious and fitful nature, was it one in which the devoted Madeline would certainly find happiness and repose?—would she never regret her choice? This question obtruded itself upon him, and while he sought to answer it, Aram, regaining his composure, turned abruptly and offered him his hand. Walter did not accept it, he bowed with a cold respect. "I cannot give my hand without my heart," said he; "we were foes just now; we are not friends yet. I am unreasonable in this, I know, but—"
"Be it so," interrupted Aram; "I understand you. I press my good will on you no more. When this pang is forgotten, when this wound is healed, and when you will have learned more of him who is now your rival, we may meet again with other feelings on your side."
Thus they parted, and the solitary lamp which for weeks past had been quenched at the wholesome hour in the Student's home, streamed from the casement throughout the whole of that night; was it a witness of the calm and learned vigil, or of the unresting heart?
THE FAMILY SUPPER.—THE TWO SISTERS IN THEIR CHAMBER. —A MISUNDERSTANDING FOLLOWED BY A CONFESSION.—WALTER'S APPROACHING DEPARTURE AND THE CORPORAL'S BEHAVIOUR THEREON.— THE CORPORAL'S FAVOURITE INTRODUCED TO THE READER.—THE CORPORAL PROVES HIMSELF A SUBTLE DIPLOMATIST.
So we grew together Like to a double cherry, seeming parted, But yet an union in partition. —Midsummer Night's Dream.
The Corporal had not taken his measures so badly in this stroke of artilleryship.—Tristram Shandy.
It was late that evening when Walter returned home, the little family were assembled at the last and lightest meal of the day; Ellinor silently made room for her cousin beside herself, and that little kindness touched Walter. "Why did I not love her?" thought he, and he spoke to her in a tone so affectionate, that it made her heart thrill with delight. Lester was, on the whole, the most pensive of the group, but the old and young man exchanged looks of restored confidence, which, on the part of the former, were softened by a pitying tenderness.
When the cloth was removed, and the servants gone, Lester took it on himself to break to the sisters the intended departure of their cousin. Madeline received the news with painful blushes, and a certain self-reproach; for even where a woman has no cause to blame herself, she, in these cases, feels a sort of remorse at the unhappiness she occasions. But Ellinor rose suddenly and left the room.
"And now," said Lester, "London will, I suppose, be your first destination. I can furnish you with letters to some of my old friends there: merry fellows they were once: you must take care of the prodigality of their wine. There's John Courtland—ah! a seductive dog to drink with. Be sure and let me know how honest John looks, and what he says of me. I recollect him as if it were yesterday; a roguish eye, with a moisture in it; full cheeks; a straight nose; black curled hair; and teeth as even as dies:—honest John shewed his teeth pretty often, too: ha, ha! how the dog loved a laugh. Well, and Peter Hales—Sir Peter now, has his uncle's baronetcy—a generous, open-hearted fellow as ever lived—will ask you very often to dinner—nay, offer you money if you want it: but take care he does not lead you into extravagances: out of debt, out of danger, Walter. It would have been well for poor Peter Hales, had he remembered that maxim. Often and often have I been to see him in the Marshalsea; but he was the heir to good fortunes, though his relations kept him close; so I suppose he is well off now. His estates lie in—shire, on your road to London; so, if he is at his country-seat, you can beat up his quarters, and spend a month or so with him: a most hospitable fellow."
With these little sketches of his cotemporaries, the good Squire endeavoured to while the time; taking, it is true, some pleasure in the youthful reminiscences they excited, but chiefly designing to enliven the melancholy of his nephew. When, however, Madeline had retired, and they were alone, he drew his chair closer to Walter's, and changed the conversation into a more serious and anxious strain. The guardian and the ward sate up late that night; and when Walter retired to rest, it was with a heart more touched by his uncle's kindness, than his own sorrows.
But we are not about to close the day without a glance at the chamber which the two sisters held in common. The night was serene and starlit, and Madeline sate by the open window, leaning her face upon her hand, and gazing on the lone house of her lover, which might be seen afar across the landscape, the trees sleeping around it, and one pale and steady light gleaming from its lofty casement like a star.
"He has broken faith," said Madeline: "I shall chide him for this to-morrow. He promised me the light should be ever quenched before this hour."
"Nay," said Ellinor in a tone somewhat sharpened from its native sweetness, and who now sate up in the bed, the curtain of which was half-drawn aside, and the soft light of the skies rested full upon her rounded neck and youthful countenance—"nay, Madeline, do not loiter there any longer; the air grows sharp and cold, and the clock struck one several minutes since. Come, sister, come!"
"I cannot sleep," replied Madeline, sighing, "and think that yon light streams upon those studies which steal the healthful hues from his cheek, and the very life from his heart."
"You are infatuated—you are bewitched by that man," said Ellinor, peevishly.
"And have I not cause—ample cause?" returned Madeline, with all a girl's beautiful enthusiasm, as the colour mantled her cheek, and gave it the only additional loveliness it could receive. "When he speaks, is it not like music?—or rather, what music so arrests and touches the heart? Methinks it is Heaven only to gaze upon him—to note the changes of that majestic countenance—to set down as food for memory every look and every movement. But when the look turns to me—when the voice utters my name, ah! Ellinor, then it is not a wonder that I love him thus much: but that any others should think they have known love, and yet not loved him! And, indeed, I feel assured that what the world calls love is not my love. Are there more Eugenes in the world than one? Who but Eugene could be loved as I love?"
"What! are there none as worthy?" said Ellinor, half smiling.
"Can you ask it?" answered Madeline, with a simple wonder in her voice; "Whom would you compare—compare! nay, place within a hundred grades of the height which Eugene Aram holds in this little world?"
"This is folly—dotage;" said Ellinor, indignantly: "Surely there are others, as brave, as gentle, as kind, and if not so wise, yet more fitted for the world."
"You mock me," replied Madeline, incredulously; "whom could you select?"
Ellinor blushed deeply—blushed from her snowy temples to her yet whiter bosom, as she answered,
"If I said Walter Lester, could you deny it?"
"Walter!" repeated Madeline, "the equal to Eugene Aram!"
"Ay, and more than equal," said Ellinor, with spirit, and a warm and angry tone. "And indeed, Madeline," she continued, after a pause, "I lose something of that respect, which, passing a sister's love, I have always borne towards you, when I see the unthinking and lavish idolatry you manifest to one, who, but for a silver tongue and florid words, would rather want attractions than be the wonder you esteem him. Fie, Madeline! I blush for you when you speak, it is unmaidenly so to love any one!"
Madeline rose from the window, but the angry word died on her lips when she saw that Ellinor, who had worked her mind beyond her self-control, had thrown herself back on the pillow, and now sobbed aloud.
The natural temper of the elder sister had always been much more calm and even than that of the younger, who united with her vivacity something of the passionate caprice and fitfulness of her sex. And Madeline's affection for her had been tinged by that character of forbearance and soothing, which a superior nature often manifests to one more imperfect, and which in this instance did not desert her. She gently closed the window, and, gliding to the bed, threw her arms round her sister's neck, and kissed away her tears with a caressing fondness, that, if Ellinor resisted for one moment, she returned with equal tenderness the next.
"Indeed, dearest," said Madeline, gently, "I cannot guess how I hurt you, and still less, how Eugene has offended you?"
"He has offended me in nothing," replied Ellinor, still weeping, "if he has not stolen away all your affection from me. But I was a foolish girl, forgive me, as you always do; and at this time I need your kindness, for I am very—very unhappy."
"Unhappy, dearest Nell, and why?"
Ellinor wept on without answering.
Madeline persisted in pressing for a reply; and at length her sister sobbed out:
"I know that—that—Walter only has eyes for you, and a heart for you, who neglect, who despise his love; and I—I—but no matter, he is going to leave us, and of me—poor me, he will think no more!"
Ellinor's attachment to their cousin, Madeline had long half suspected, and she had often rallied her sister upon it; indeed it might have been this suspicion which made her at the first steel her breast against Walter's evident preference to herself. But Ellinor had never till now seriously confessed how much her heart was affected; and Madeline, in the natural engrossment of her own ardent and devoted love, had not of late spared much observation to the tokens of her sister's. She was therefore dismayed, if not surprised, as she now perceived the cause of the peevishness Ellinor had just manifested, and by the nature of the love she felt herself, she judged, and perhaps somewhat overrated, the anguish that Ellinor endured.
She strove to comfort her by all the arguments which the fertile ingenuity of kindness could invent; she prophesied Walter's speedy return, with his boyish disappointment forgotten, and with eyes no longer blinded to the attractions of one sister, by a bootless fancy for another. And though Ellinor interrupted her from time to time with assertions, now of Walter's eternal constancy to his present idol; now, with yet more vehement declarations of the certainty of his finding new objects for his affections in new scenes; she yet admitted, by little and little, the persuasive power of Madeline to creep into her heart, and brighten away its griefs with hope, till at last, with the tears yet wet on her cheek, she fell asleep in her sister's arms.
And Madeline, though she would not stir from her post lest the movement should awaken her sister, was yet prevented from closing her eyes in a similar repose; ever and anon she breathlessly and gently raised herself to steal a glimpse of that solitary light afar; and ever, as she looked, the ray greeted her eyes with an unswerving and melancholy stillness, till the dawn crept greyly over the heavens, and that speck of light, holier to her than the stars, faded also with them beneath the broader lustre of the day.
The next week was passed in preparations for Walter's departure. At that time, and in that distant part of the country, it was greatly the fashion among the younger travellers to perform their excursions on horseback, and it was this method of conveyance that Walter preferred. The best steed in the squire's stables was therefore appropriated to his service, and a strong black horse with a Roman nose and a long tail, was consigned to the mastery of Corporal Bunting. The Squire was delighted that his nephew had secured such an attendant. For the soldier, though odd and selfish, was a man of some sense and experience, and Lester thought such qualities might not be without their use to a young master, new to the common frauds and daily usages of the world he was about to enter.
As for Bunting himself, he covered his secret exultation at the prospect of change, and board-wages, with the cool semblance of a man sacrificing his wishes to his affections. He made it his peculiar study to impress upon the Squire's mind the extent of the sacrifice he was about to make. The bit cot had been just white-washed, the pet cat just lain in; then too, who would dig, and gather seeds, in the garden, defend the plants, (plants! the Corporal could scarce count a dozen, and nine out of them were cabbages!) from the impending frosts? It was exactly, too, the time of year when the rheumatism paid flying visits to the bones and loins of the worthy Corporal; and to think of his "galavanting about the country," when he ought to be guarding against that sly foe the lumbago, in the fortress of his chimney corner!
To all these murmurs and insinuations the good Lester seriously inclined, not with the less sympathy, in that they invariably ended in the Corporal's slapping his manly thigh, and swearing that he loved Master Walter like gunpowder, and that were it twenty times as much, he would cheerfully do it for the sake of his handsome young honour. Ever at this peroration, the eyes of the Squire began to twinkle, and new thanks were given to the veteran for his disinterested affection, and new promises pledged him in inadequate return.
The pious Dealtry felt a little jealousy at the trust imparted to his friend. He halted, on his return from his farm, by the spruce stile which led to the demesne of the Corporal, and eyed the warrior somewhat sourly, as he now, in the cool of the evening, sate without his door, arranging his fishing-tackle and flies, in various little papers, which he carefully labelled by the help of a stunted pen which had seen at least as much service as himself.
"Well, neighbour Bunting," said the little landlord, leaning over the stile, but not passing its boundary, "and when do you go?—you will have wet weather of it (looking up to the skies)—you must take care of the rumatiz. At your age it's no trifle, eh—hem."
"My age! should like to know—what mean by that! my age indeed!—augh!—bother!" grunted Bunting, looking up from his occupation. Peter chuckled inly at the Corporal's displeasure, and continued, as in an apologetic tone,
"Oh, I ax your pardon, neighbour. I don't mean to say you are too old to travel. Why there was Hal Whittol, eighty-two come next Michaelmas, took a trip to Lunnun last year—
"For young and old, the stout—the poorly,—The eye of God be on them surely."
"Bother!" said the Corporal, turning round on his seat.
"And what do you intend doing with the brindled cat? put'un up in the saddle-bags? You won't surely have the heart to leave'un."
"As to that," quoth the Corporal, sighing, "the poor dumb animal makes me sad to think on't." And putting down his fish-hooks, he stroked the sides of an enormous cat, who now, with tail on end, and back bowed up, and uttering her lenes susurros—anglicae, purr;—rubbed herself to and fro, athwart the Corporal's legs.
"What staring there for? won't ye step in, man? Can climb the stile I suppose?—augh!"
"No thank'ye, neighbour. I do very well here, that is, if you can hear me; your deafness is not so troublesome as it was last win—"
"Bother!" interrupted the Corporal, in a voice that made the little landlord start bolt upright from the easy confidence of his position. Nothing on earth so offended the perpendicular Jacob Bunting, as any insinuation of increasing years or growing infirmities; but at this moment, as he meditated putting Dealtry to some use, he prudently conquered the gathering anger, and added, like the man of the world he justly plumed himself on being—in a voice gentle as a dying howl, "What 'fraid on? come in, there's good fellow, want to speak to ye. Come do—a-u-g-h!" the last sound being prolonged into one of unutterable coaxingness, and accompanied with a beck of the hand and a wheedling wink.
These allurements the good Peter could not resist—he clambered the stile, and seated himself on the bench beside the Corporal.
"There now, fine fellow, fit for the forty-second;" said Bunting, clapping him on the back. "Well, and—a—nd—a beautiful cat, isn't her?"
"Ah!" said Peter very shortly—for though a remarkably mild man, Peter did not love cats: moreover, we must now inform the reader, that the cat of Jacob Bunting was one more feared than respected throughout the village. The Corporal was a cunning teacher of all animals: he could learn goldfinches the use of the musket; dogs, the art of the broadsword; horses, to dance hornpipes and pick pockets; and he had relieved the ennui of his solitary moments by imparting sundry accomplishments to the ductile genius of his cat. Under his tuition, Puss had learned to fetch and carry; to turn over head and tail, like a tumbler; to run up your shoulder when you least expected it; to fly, as if she were mad, at any one upon whom the Corporal thought fit to set her; and, above all, to rob larders, shelves, and tables, and bring the produce to the Corporal, who never failed to consider such stray waifs lawful manorial acquisitions. These little feline cultivations of talent, however delightful to the Corporal, and creditable to his powers of teaching the young idea how to shoot, had nevertheless, since the truth must be told, rendered the Corporal's cat a proverb and byeword throughout the neighbourhood. Never was cat in such bad odour: and the dislike in which it was held was wonderfully increased by terror; for the creature was singularly large and robust, and withal of so courageous a temper, that if you attempted to resist its invasion of your property, it forthwith set up its back, put down its ears, opened its mouth, and bade you fully comprehend that what it feloniously seized it could gallantly defend. More than one gossip in the village had this notable cat hurried into premature parturition, as, on descending at day-break into her kitchen, the dame would descry the animal perched on the dresser, having entered, God knows how, and gleaming upon her with its great green eyes, and a malignant, brownie expression of countenance.
Various deputations had indeed, from time to time, arrived at the Corporal's cottage, requesting the death, expulsion, or perpetual imprisonment of the favourite. But the stout Corporal received them grimly, and dismissed them gruffly; and the cat still went on waxing in size and wickedness, and baffling, as if inspired by the devil, the various gins and traps set for its destruction. But never, perhaps, was there a greater disturbance and perturbation in the little hamlet, than when, some three weeks since, the Corporal's cat was known to be brought to bed, and safely delivered of a numerous offspring. The village saw itself overrun with a race and a perpetuity of Corporal's cats! Perhaps, too, their teacher growing more expert by practice, the descendants might attain to even greater accomplishment than their nefarious progenitor. No longer did the faint hope of being delivered from their tormentor by an untimely or even natural death, occur to the harassed Grassdalians. Death was an incident natural to one cat, however vivacious, but here was a dynasty of cats! Principes mortales, respublica eterna!
Now the Corporal loved this creature better, yes better than any thing in the world, except travelling and board-wages; and he was sorely perplexed in his mind how he should be able to dispose of her safely in his absence. He was aware of the general enmity she had inspired, and trembled to anticipate its probable result, when he was no longer by to afford her shelter and protection. The Squire had, indeed, offered her an asylum at the manor-house; but the Squire's cook was the cat's most embittered enemy; and who can answer for the peaceable behaviour of his cook? The Corporal, therefore, with a reluctant sigh, renounced the friendly offer, and after lying awake three nights, and turning over in his own mind the characters, consciences, and capabilities of all his neighbours, he came at last to the conviction that there was no one with whom he could so safely entrust his cat as Peter Dealtry. It is true, as we said before, that Peter was no lover of cats, and the task of persuading him to afford board and lodging to a cat, of all cats the most odious and malignant, was therefore no easy matter. But to a man of the world, what intrigue is impossible?
The finest diplomatist in Europe might have taken a lesson from the Corporal, as he now proceeded earnestly towards the accomplishment of his project.
He took the cat, which by the by we forgot to say that he had thought fit to christen after himself, and to honour with a name, somewhat lengthy for a cat, (but indeed this was no ordinary cat!) viz. Jacobina. He took Jacobina then, we say, upon his lap, and stroking her brindled sides with great tenderness, he bade Dealtry remark how singularly quiet the animal was in its manners. Nay, he was not contented until Peter himself had patted her with a timorous hand, and had reluctantly submitted the said hand to the honour of being licked by the cat in return. Jacobina, who, to do her justice, was always meek enough in the presence, and at the will, of her master, was, fortunately this day, on her very best behaviour.
"Them dumb animals be mighty grateful," quoth the Corporal.
"Ah!" rejoined Peter, wiping his hand with his pocket handkerchief.
"But, Lord! what scandal there be in the world!"
"'Though slander's breath may raise a storm, It quickly does decay!'" muttered Peter.
"Very well, very true; sensible verses those," said the Corporal, approvingly; "and yet mischief's often done before the amends come. Body o' me, it makes a man sick of his kind, ashamed to belong to the race of men, to see the envy that abounds in this here sublunary wale of tears!" said the Corporal, lifting up his eyes.
Peter stared at him with open mouth; the hypocritical rascal continued, after a pause,—
"Now there's Jacobina, 'cause she's a good cat, a faithful servant, the whole village is against her: such lies as they tell on her, such wappers, you'd think she was the devil in garnet! I grant, I grant," added the Corporal, in a tone of apologetic candour, "that she's wild, saucy, knows her friends from her foes, steals Goody Solomon's butter; but what then? Goody Solomon's d—d b—h! Goody Solomon sold beer in opposition to you, set up a public;—you do not like Goody Solomons, Peter Dealtry?"
"If that were all Jacobina had done!" said the landlord, grinning.
"All! what else did she do? Why she eat up John Tomkins's canary-bird; and did not John Tomkins, saucy rascal, say you could not sing better nor a raven?"
"I have nothing to say against the poor creature for that," said Peter, stroking the cat of his own accord. "Cats will eat birds, 'tis the 'spensation of Providence. But what! Corporal!" and Peter hastily withdrawing his hand, hurried it into his breeches pocket—"but what! did not she scratch Joe Webster's little boy's hand into ribbons, because the boy tried to prevent her running off with a ball of string?"
"And well," grunted the Corporal, "that was not Jacobina's doing, that was my doing. I wanted the string—offered to pay a penny for it—think of that!"
"It was priced three pence ha'penny," said Peter.
"Augh—baugh! you would not pay Joe Webster all he asks! What's the use of being a man of the world, unless one makes one's tradesmen bate a bit? Bargaining is not cheating, I hope?"
"God forbid!" said Peter.
"But as to the bit string, Jacobina took it solely for your sake. Ah, she did not think you were to turn against her!"
So saying, the Corporal, got up, walked into his house, and presently came back with a little net in his hand.
"There, Peter, net for you, to hold lemons. Thank Jacobina for that; she got the string. Says I to her one day, as I was sitting, as I might be now, without the door, 'Jacobina, Peter Dealtry's a good fellow, and he keeps his lemons in a bag: bad habit,—get mouldy,—we'll make him a net: and Jacobina purred, (stroke the poor creature, Peter!)—so Jacobina and I took a walk, and when we came to Joe Webster's I pointed out the ball o'twine to her. So, for your sake, Peter, she got into this here scrape—augh."
"Ah!" quoth Peter laughing, "poor Puss! poor Pussy! poor little Pussy!"
"And now, Peter," said the Corporal, taking his friend's hand, "I am going to prove friendship to you—going to do you great favour."
"Aha!" said Peter, "my good friend, I'm very much obliged to you. I know your kind heart, but I really don't want any"—
"Bother!" cried the Corporal, "I'm not the man as makes much of doing a friend a kindness. Hold jaw! tell you what,—tell you what: am going away on Wednesday at day-break, and in my absence you shall—"
"What? my good Corporal."
"Take charge of Jacobina!"
"Take charge of the devil!" cried Peter.
"Augh!—baugh!—what words are those? Listen to me."
"I'll be d—d if I do!" quoth Peter sturdily. It was the first time he had been known to swear since he was parish clerk.
"Very well, very well!" said the Corporal chucking up his chin, "Jacobina can take care of herself! Jacobina knows her friends and her foes as well as her master! Jacobina never injures her friends, never forgives foes. Look to yourself! look to yourself! insult my cat, insult me! Swear at Jacobina, indeed!"
"If she steals my cream!" cried Peter—
"Did she ever steal your cream?"
"No! but, if—"
"Did she ever steal your cream?"
"I can't say she ever did."
"Or any thing else of yours?"
"Not that I know of; but—"
"Never too late to mend."
"Will you listen to me, or not?"
"Know then, that I wanted to do you kindness."
"Hold jaw! I taught Jacobina all she knows."
"More's the pity!"
"Hold jaw! I taught her to respect her friends,—never to commit herself in doors—never to steal at home—never to fly at home—never to scratch at home—to kill mice and rats—to bring all she catches to her master—to do what he tells her—and to defend his house as well as a mastiff: and this invaluable creature I was going to lend you:—won't now, d—d if I do!"
"Hold jaw! When I'm gone, Jacobina will have no one to feed her. She'll feed herself—will go to every larder, every house in the place—your's best larder, best house;—will come to you oftenest. If your wife attempts to drive her away, scratch her eyes out; if you disturb her, serve you worse than Joe Webster's little boy:—wanted to prevent this—won't now, d—d if I do!"
"But, Corporal, how would it mend the matter to take the devil in-doors?"
"Devil! Don't call names. Did not I tell you, only one Jacobina does not hurt is her master?—make you her master: now d'ye see?"
"It is very hard," said Peter grumblingly, "that the only way I can defend myself from this villainous creature is to take her into my house."
"Villainous! You ought to be proud of her affection. She returns good for evil—she always loved you; see how she rubs herself against you—and that's the reason why I selected you from the whole village, to take care of her; but you at once injure yourself and refuse to do your friend a service. Howsomever, you know I shall be with young Squire, and he'll be master here one of these days, and I shall have an influence over him—you'll see—you'll see. Look that there's not another 'Spotted Dog' set up—augh!—bother!"
"But what would my wife say, if I took the cat? she can't abide its name."
"Let me alone to talk to your wife. What would she say if I bring her from Lunnun Town a fine silk gown, or a neat shawl, with a blue border—blue becomes her; or a tay-chest—that will do for you both, and would set off the little back parlour. Mahogany tay-chest—inlaid at top—initials in silver—J. B. to D. and P. D.—two boxes for tay, and a bowl for sugar in the middle.—Ah! ah! Love me, love my cat! When was Jacob Bunting ungrateful?—augh!"
"Well, well! will you talk to Dorothy about it?"
"I shall have your consent, then? Thanks, my dear, dear Peter; 'pon my soul you're a fine fellow! you see, you're great man of the parish. If you protect her, none dare injure; if you scout her, all set upon her. For as you said, or rather sung, t'other Sunday—capital voice you were in too—
"The mighty tyrants without cause Conspire her blood to shed!"
"I did not think you had so good a memory, Corporal," said Peter smiling;—the cat was now curling itself up in his lap: "after all, Jacobina—what a deuce of a name—seems gentle enough."
"Gentle as a lamb—soft as butter—kind as cream—and such a mouser!"
"But I don't think Dorothy—"
"I'll settle Dorothy."
"Well, when will you look up?"
"Come and take a dish of tay with you in half an hour;—you want a new tay-chest; something new and genteel."
"I think we do," said Peter, rising and gently depositing the cat on the ground.
"Aha! we'll see to it!—we'll see! Good b'ye for the present—in half an hour be with you!"
The Corporal left alone with Jacobina, eyed her intently, and burst into the following pathetic address.
"Well, Jacobina! you little know the pains I takes to serve you—the lies I tells for you—endangered my precious soul for your sake, you jade! Ah! may well rub your sides against me. Jacobina! Jacobina! you be the only thing in the world that cares a button for me. I have neither kith nor kin. You are daughter—friend—wife to me: if any thing happened to you, I should not have the heart to love any thing else. Any body o' me, but you be as kind as any mistress, and much more tractable than any wife; but the world gives you a bad name, Jacobina. Why? Is it that you do worse than the world do? You has no morality in you, Jacobina; well, but has the world?—no! But it has humbug—you have no humbug, Jacobina. On the faith of a man, Jacobina, you be better than the world!—baugh! You takes care of your own interest, but you takes care of your master's too!—You loves me as well as yourself. Few cats can say the same, Jacobina! and no gossip that flings a stone at your pretty brindled skin, can say half as much. We must not forget your kittens, Jacobina;—you have four left—they must be provided for. Why not a cat's children as well as a courtier's? I have got you a comfortable home, Jacobina—take care of yourself, and don't fall in love with every Tomcat in the place. Be sober, and lead a single life till my return. Come, Jacobina, we will lock up the house, and go and see the quarters I have provided for you.—Heigho!"
As he finished his harangue, the Corporal locked the door of his cottage, and Jacobina trotting by his side, he stalked with his usual stateliness to the Spotted Dog.
Dame Dorothy Dealtry received him with a clouded brow, but the man of the world knew whom he had to deal with. On Wednesday morning Jacobina was inducted into the comforts of the hearth of mine host;—and her four little kittens mewed hard by, from the sinecure of a basket lined with flannel.
Reader. Here is wisdom in this chapter: it is not every man who knows how to dispose of his cat!
A STRANGE HABIT.—WALTER'S INTERVIEW WITH MADELINE.—HER GENEROUS AND CONFIDING DISPOSITION.—WALTER'S ANGER.—THE PARTING MEAL.—CONVERSATION BETWEEN THE UNCLE AND NEPHEW.— WALTER ALONE.—SLEEP THE BLESSING OF THE YOUNG.
Fall. Out, out, unworthy to speak where he breatheth....
Punt. Well now, my whole venture is forth, I will resolve to depart. —Ben Jonson.—Every Man out of his Humour.
It was now the eve before Walter's departure, and on returning home from a farewell walk among his favourite haunts, he found Aram, whose visit had been made during Walter's absence, now standing on the threshold of the door, and taking leave of Madeline and her father. Aram and Walter had only met twice before since the interview we recorded, and each time Walter had taken care that the meeting should be but of short duration. In these brief encounters, Aram's manner had been even more gentle than heretofore; that of Walter's, more cold and distant. And now, as they thus unexpectedly met at the door, Aram, looking at him earnestly, said:
"Farewell, Sir! You are to leave us for some time, I hear. Heaven speed you!" Then he added in a lower tone, "Will you take my hand, now, in parting?"
As he said, he put forth his hand,—it was the left.
"Let it be the right hand," observed the elder Lester, smiling: "it is a luckier omen."
"I think not," said Aram, drily. And Walter noted that he had never remembered him to give his right hand to any one, even to Madeline; the peculiarity of this habit might, however, arise from an awkward early habit, it was certainly scarce worth observing, and Walter had already coldly touched the hand extended to him: when Lester carelessly renewed the subject.
"Is there any superstition," said he gaily, "that makes you think, as some of the ancients did, the left hand luckier than the right?"
"Yes," replied Aram; "a superstition. Adieu."
The Student departed; Madeline slowly walked up one of the garden alleys, and thither Walter, after whispering to his uncle, followed her.
There is something in those bitter feelings, which are the offspring of disappointed love; something in the intolerable anguish of well-founded jealousy, that when the first shock is over, often hardens, and perhaps elevates the character. The sterner powers that we arouse within us to combat a passion that can no longer be worthily indulged, are never afterwards wholly allayed. Like the allies which a nation summons to its bosom to defend it from its foes, they expel the enemy only to find a settlement for themselves. The mind of every man who conquers an unfortunate attachment, becomes stronger than before; it may be for evil, it may be for good, but the capacities for either are more vigorous and collected.
The last few weeks had done more for Walter's character than years of ordinary, even of happy emotion, might have effected. He had passed from youth to manhood, and with the sadness, had acquired also something of the dignity, of experience. Not that we would say that he had subdued his love, but he had made the first step towards it; he had resolved that at all hazards it should be subdued.
As he now joined Madeline, and she perceived him by her side, her embarrassment was more evident than his. She feared some avowal, and from his temper, perhaps some violence on his part. However, she was the first to speak: women, in such cases, always are.
"It is a beautiful evening," said she, "and the sun set in promise of a fine day for your journey to-morrow."
Walter walked on silently; his heart was full. "Madeline," he said at length, "dear Madeline, give me your hand. Nay, do not fear me; I know what you think, and you are right; I loved—I still love you! but I know well that I can have no hope in making this confession; and when I ask you for your hand, Madeline, it is only to convince you that I have no suit to press; had I, I would not dare to touch that hand."
Madeline, wondering and embarrassed, gave him her hand; he held it for a moment with a trembling clasp, pressed it to his lips, and then resigned it.
"Yes, Madeline, my cousin, my sweet cousin; I have loved you deeply, but silently, long before my heart could unravel the mystery of the feelings with which it glowed. But this—all this—it were now idle to repeat. I know that I have no hope of return; that the heart whose possession would have made my whole life a dream, a transport, is given to another. I have not sought you now, Madeline, to repine at this, or to vex you by the tale of any suffering I may endure: I am come only to give you the parting wishes, the parting blessing, of one, who, wherever he goes, or whatever befall him, will always think of you as the brightest and loveliest of human beings. May you be happy, yes even with another!"
"Oh, Walter!" said Madeline, affected to tears, "if I ever encouraged—if I ever led you to hope for more than the warm, the sisterly affection I bear you, how bitterly I should reproach myself!"
"You never did, dear Madeline; I asked for no inducement to love you,—I never dreamed of seeking a motive, or inquiring if I had cause to hope. But as I am now about to quit you, and as you confess you feel for me a sister's affection, will you give me leave to speak to you as a brother might?"
Madeline held her hand to him in frank cordiality: "Yes!" said she, "speak!"
"Then," said Walter, turning away his head in a spirit of delicacy that did him honour, "is it yet all too late for me to say one word of caution as relates to—Eugene Aram?"
"Of caution! you alarm me, Walter; speak, has aught happened to him? I saw him as lately as yourself. Does aught threaten him? Speak, I implore you,—quick?"
"I know of no danger to him!" replied Walter, stung to perceive the breathless anxiety with which Madeline spoke; "but pause, my cousin, may there be no danger to you from this man?"
"I grant him wise, learned, gentle,—nay, more than all, bearing about him a spell, a fascination, by which he softens, or awes at will, and which even I cannot resist. But yet his abstracted mood, his gloomy life, certain words that have broken from him unawares,—certain tell-tale emotions, which words of mine, heedlessly said, have fiercely aroused, all united, inspire me,—shall I say it,—with fear and distrust. I cannot think him altogether the calm and pure being he appears. Madeline, I have asked myself again and again, is this suspicion the effect of jealousy? do I scan his bearing with the jaundiced eye of disappointed rivalship? And I have satisfied my conscience that my judgment is not thus biassed. Stay! listen yet a little while! You have a high—a thoughtful mind. Exert it now. Consider your whole happiness rests on one step! Pause, examine, compare! Remember, you have not of Aram, as of those whom you have hitherto mixed with, the eye-witness of a life! You can know but little of his real temper, his secret qualities; still less of the tenor of his former life. I only ask of you, for your own sake, for my sake, your sister's sake, and your good father's, not to judge too rashly! Love him, if you will; but observe him!"
"Have you done?" said Madeline, who had hitherto with difficulty contained herself; "then hear me. Was it I? was it Madeline Lester whom you asked to play the watch, to enact the spy upon the man whom she exults in loving? Was it not enough that you should descend to mark down each incautious look—to chronicle every heedless word—to draw dark deductions from the unsuspecting confidence of my father's friend—to lie in wait—to hang with a foe's malignity upon the unbendings of familiar intercourse—to extort anger from gentleness itself, that you might wrest the anger into crime! Shame, shame upon you, for the meanness! And must you also suppose that I, to whose trust he has given his noble heart, will receive it only to play the eavesdropper to its secrets? Away!"
The generous blood crimsoned the cheek and brow of this high-spirited girl as she uttered her galling reproof; her eyes sparkled, her lip quivered, her whole frame seemed to have grown larger with the majesty of indignant love.
"Cruel, unjust, ungrateful!" ejaculated Walter, pale with rage, and trembling under the conflict of his roused and wounded feelings. "Is it thus you answer the warning of too disinterested and self-forgetful a love?"
"Love!" exclaimed Madeline. "Grant me patience!—Love! It was but now I thought myself honoured by the affection you said you bore me. At this instant, I blush to have called forth a single sentiment in one who knows so little what love is! Love!—methought that word denoted all that was high and noble in human nature—confidence, hope, devotion, sacrifice of all thought of self! but you would make it the type and concentration of all that lowers and debases!—suspicion—cavil—fear—selfishness in all its shapes! Out on you—love!"
"Enough, enough! Say no more, Madeline, say no more. We part not as I had hoped; but be it so. You are changed indeed, if your conscience smite you not hereafter for this injustice. Farewell, and may you never regret, not only the heart you have rejected, but the friendship you have belied." With these words, and choked by his emotions, Walter hastily strode away.
He hurried into the house, and into a little room adjoining the chamber in which he slept, and which had been also appropriated solely to his use. It was now spread with boxes and trunks, some half packed, some corded, and inscribed with the address to which they were to be sent in London. All these mute tokens of his approaching departure struck upon his excited feelings with a suddenness that overpowered him.
"And it is thus—thus," said he aloud, "that I am to leave, for the first time, my childhood's home."
He threw himself on his chair, and covering his face with his hands, burst, fairly subdued and unmanned, into a paroxysm of tears.
When this emotion was over, he felt as if his love for Madeline had also disappeared; a sore and insulted feeling was all that her image now recalled to him. This idea gave him some consolation. "Thank God!" he muttered, "thank God, I am cured at last!"
The thanksgiving was scarcely over, before the door opened softly, and Ellinor, not perceiving him where he sat, entered the room, and laid on the table a purse which she had long promised to knit him, and which seemed now designed as a parting gift.
She sighed heavily as she laid it down, and he observed that her eyes seemed red as with weeping.
He did not move, and Ellinor left the room without discovering him; but he remained there till dark, musing on her apparition, and before he went down-stairs, he took up the little purse, kissed it, and put it carefully into his bosom.
He sate next to Ellinor at supper that evening, and though he did not say much, his last words were more to her than words had ever been before. When he took leave of her for the night, he whispered, as he kissed her cheek; "God bless you, dearest Ellinor, and till I return, take care of yourself, for the sake of one, who loves you now, better than any thing on earth."
Lester had just left the room to write some letters for Walter; and Madeline, who had hitherto sat absorbed and silent by the window, now approached Walter, and offered him her hand.
"Forgive me, my dear cousin," she said, in her softest voice. "I feel that I was hasty, and to blame. Believe me, I am now at least grateful, warmly grateful, for the kindness of your motives."
"Not so," said Walter, bitterly, "the advice of a friend is only meanness."
"Come, come, forgive me; pray, do not let us part unkindly. When did we ever quarrel before? I was wrong, grievously wrong—I will perform any penance you may enjoin."
"Agreed then, follow my admonitions."
"Ah! any thing else," said Madeline, gravely, and colouring deeply.
Walter said no more; he pressed her hand lightly and turned away.
"Is all forgiven?" said she, in so bewitching a tone, and with so bright a smile, that Walter, against his conscience, answered, "Yes."
The sisters left the room. I know not which of the two received his last glance.
Lester now returned with the letters. "There is one charge, my dear boy," said he, in concluding the moral injunctions and experienced suggestions with which the young generally leave the ancestral home (whether practically benefited or not by the legacy, may be matter of question)—"there is one charge which I need not entrust to your ingenuity and zeal. You know my strong conviction, that your father, my poor brother, still lives. Is it necessary for me to tell you to exert yourself by all ways and in all means to discover some clue to his fate? Who knows," added Lester, with a smile, "but that you may find him a rich nabob. I confess that I should feel but little surprise if it were so; but at all events you will make every possible inquiry. I have written down in this paper the few particulars concerning him which I have been enabled to glean since he left his home; the places where he was last seen, the false names he assumed, I shall watch with great anxiety for any fuller success to your researches."
"You needed not, my dear uncle," said Walter seriously, "to have spoken to me on this subject. No one, not even yourself, can have felt what I have; can have cherished the same anxiety, nursed the same hope, indulged the same conjecture. I have not, it is true, often of late years spoken to you on a matter so near to us both, but I have spent whole hours in guesses at my father's fate, and in dreams that for me was reserved the proud task to discover it. I will not say indeed that it makes at this moment the chief motive for my desire to travel, but in travel it will become my chief object. Perhaps I may find him not only rich,—that for my part is but a minor wish,—but sobered and reformed from the errors and wildness of his earlier manhood. Oh, what should be his gratitude to you for all the care with which you have supplied to the forsaken child the father's place; and not the least, that you have, in softening the colours of his conduct, taught me still to prize and seek for a father's love!"
"You have a kind heart, Walter," said the good old man, pressing his nephew's hand, "and that has more than repaid me for the little I have done for you; it is better to sow a good heart with kindness, than a field with corn, for the heart's harvest is perpetual."
Many, keen, and earnest were that night the meditations of Walter Lester. He was about to quit the home in which youth had been passed, in which first love had been formed and blighted: the world was before him; but there was something more grave than pleasure, more steady than enterprise, that beckoned him to its paths. The deep mystery that for so many years had hung over the fate of his parent, it might indeed be his lot to pierce; and with a common waywardness in our nature, the restless son felt his interest in that parent the livelier from the very circumstance of remembering nothing of his person. Affection had been nursed by curiosity and imagination, and the bad father was thus more fortunate in winning the heart of the son, than had he perhaps, by the tenderness of years, deserved that affection.
Oppressed and feverish, Walter opened the lattice of his room, and looked forth on the night. The broad harvest-moon was in the heavens, and filled the air as with a softer and holier day. At a distance its light just gave the dark outline of Aram's house, and beneath the window it lay bright and steady on the green, still church-yard that adjoined the house. The air and the light allayed the fitfulness at the young man's heart, but served to solemnize the project and desire with which it beat. Still leaning from the casement, with his eyes fixed upon the tranquil scene below, he poured forth a prayer, that to his hands might the discovery of his lost sire be granted. The prayer seemed to lift the oppression from his breast; he felt cheerful and relieved, and flinging himself on his bed, soon fell into the sound and healthful sleep of youth. And oh! let Youth cherish that happiest of earthly boons while yet it is at its command;—for there cometh the day to all, when "neither the voice of the lute or the birds"
[Quotation from Horace]
shall bring back the sweet slumbers that fell on their young eyes, as unbidden as the dews. It is a dark epoch in a man's life when Sleep forsakes him; when he tosses to and fro, and Thought will not be silenced; when the drug and draught are the courters of stupefaction, not sleep; when the down pillow is as a knotted log; when the eyelids close but with an effort, and there is a drag and a weight, and a dizziness in the eyes at morn. Desire and Grief, and Love, these are the young man's torments, but they are the creatures of Time; Time removes them as it brings, and the vigils we keep, "while the evil days come not," if weary, are brief and few. But Memory, and Care, and Ambition, and Avarice, these are the demon-gods that defy the Time that fathered them. The worldlier passions are the growth of mature years, and their grave is dug but in our own. As the dark Spirits in the Northern tale, that watch against the coming of one of a brighter and holier race, lest if he seize them unawares, he bind them prisoners in his chain, they keep ward at night over the entrance of that deep cave—the human heart—and scare away the angel Sleep!
THE MARRIAGE SETTLED.—LESTER'S HOPES AND SCHEMES.—GAIETY OF TEMPER A GOOD SPECULATION.—THE TRUTH AND FERVOUR OF ARAM'S LOVE.
Love is better than a pair of spectacles, to make every thing seem greater which is seen through it. —Sir Philip Sydney's Arcadia.
Aram's affection to Madeline having now been formally announced to Lester, and Madeline's consent having been somewhat less formally obtained, it only remained to fix the time for their wedding. Though Lester forbore to question Aram as to his circumstances, the Student frankly confessed, that if not affording what the generality of persons would consider even a competence, they enabled one of his moderate wants and retired life to dispense, especially in the remote and cheap district in which they lived, with all fortune in a wife, who, like Madeline, was equally with himself enamoured of obscurity. The good Lester, however, proposed to bestow upon his daughter such a portion as might allow for the wants of an increased family, or the probable contingencies of Fate. For though Fortune may often slacken her wheel, there is no spot in which she suffers it to be wholly still.
It was now the middle of September, and by the end of the ensuing month it was agreed that the spousals of the lovers should be held. It is certain that Lester felt one pang for his nephew, as he subscribed to this proposal; but he consoled himself with recurring to a hope he had long cherished, viz. that Walter would return home not only cured of his vain attachment to Madeline, but of the disposition to admit the attractions of her sister. A marriage between these two cousins had for years been his favourite project. The lively and ready temper of Ellinor, her household turn, her merry laugh, a winning playfulness that characterised even her defects, were all more after Lester's secret heart than the graver and higher nature of his elder daughter. This might mainly be, that they were traits of disposition that more reminded him of his lost wife, and were therefore more accordant with his ideal standard of perfection; but I incline also to believe that the more persons advance in years, the more, even if of staid and sober temper themselves, they love gaiety and elasticity in youth. I have often pleased myself by observing in some happy family circle embracing all ages, that it is the liveliest and wildest child that charms the grandsire the most. And after all, it is perhaps with characters as with books, the grave and thoughtful may be more admired than the light and cheerful, but they are less liked; it is not only that the former, being of a more abstruse and recondite nature, find fewer persons capable of judging of their merits, but also that the great object of the majority of human beings is to be amused, and that they naturally incline to love those the best who amuse them most. And to so great a practical extent is this preference pushed, that I think were a nice observer to make a census of all those who have received legacies, or dropped unexpectedly into fortunes; he would find that where one grave disposition had so benefited, there would be at least twenty gay. Perhaps, however, it may be said that I am taking the cause for the effect!
But to return from our speculative disquisitions; Lester then, who, though he so slowly discovered his nephew's passion for Madeline, had long since guessed the secret of Ellinor's affection for him, looked forward with a hope rather sanguine than anxious to the ultimate realization of his cherished domestic scheme. And he pleased himself with thinking that when all soreness would, by this double wedding, be banished from Walter's mind, it would be impossible to conceive a family group more united or more happy.
And Ellinor herself, ever since the parting words of her cousin, had seemed, so far from being inconsolable for his absence, more bright of cheek and elastic of step than she had been for months before. What a world of all feelings, which forbid despondence, lies hoarded in the hearts of the young! As one fountain is filled by the channels that exhaust another; we cherish wisdom at the expense of hope. It thus happened from one cause or another, that Walter's absence created a less cheerless blank in the family circle than might have been expected, and the approaching bridals of Madeline and her lover, naturally diverted in a great measure the thoughts of each, and engrossed their conversation.
Whatever might be Madeline's infatuation as to the merits of Aram, one merit—the greatest of all in the eyes of a woman who loves, he at least possessed. Never was mistress more burningly and deeply loved than she, who, for the first time, awoke the long slumbering passions in the heart of Eugene Aram. Every day the ardour of his affections seemed to increase. With what anxiety he watched her footsteps!—with what idolatry he hung upon her words!—with what unspeakable and yearning emotion he gazed upon the changeful eloquence of her cheek. Now that Walter was gone, he almost took up his abode at the manor-house. He came thither in the early morning, and rarely returned home before the family retired for the night; and even then, when all was hushed, and they believed him in his solitary home, he lingered for hours around the house, to look up to Madeline's window, charmed to the spot which held the intoxication of her presence. Madeline discovered this habit, and chid it; but so tenderly, that it was not cured. And still at times, by the autumnal moon, she marked from her window his dark figure gliding among the shadows of the trees, or pausing by the lowly tombs in the still churchyard—the resting-place of hearts that once, perhaps, beat as wildly as his own.
It was impossible that a love of this order, and from one so richly gifted as Aram; a love, which in substance was truth, and yet in language poetry, could fail wholly to subdue and inthral a girl so young, so romantic, so enthusiastic, as Madeline Lester. How intense and delicious must have been her sense of happiness! In the pure heart of a girl loving for the first time—love is far more ecstatic than in man, inasmuch as it is unfevered by desire—love then and there makes the only state of human existence which is at once capable of calmness and transport!
A FAVOURABLE SPECIMEN OF A NOBLEMAN AND A COURTIER.—A MAN OF SOME FAULTS AND MANY ACCOMPLISHMENTS.
Titinius Capito is to rehearse. He is a man of an excellent disposition, and to be numbered among the chief ornaments of his age. He cultivates literature—he loves men of learning, etc. —Lord Orrery: Pliny.
About this time the Earl of _, the great nobleman of the district, and whose residence was within four miles of Grassdale, came down to pay his wonted yearly visit to his country domains. He was a man well known in the history of the times; though, for various reasons, I conceal his name. He was a courtier;—deep—wily—accomplished; but capable of generous sentiments and enlarged views. Though, from regard to his interests, he seized and lived as it were upon the fleeting spirit of the day—the penetration of his intellect went far beyond its reach. He claims the merit of having been the one of all his co-temporaries (Lord Chesterfield alone excepted), who most clearly saw, and most distinctly prophesied, the dark and fearful storm that at the close of the century burst over the vices, in order to sweep away the miseries, of France—a terrible avenger—a salutary purifier.
From the small circle of sounding trifles, in which the dwellers of a court are condemned to live, and which he brightened by his abilities and graced by his accomplishments, the sagacious and far-sighted mind of Lord—comprehended the vast field without, usually invisible to those of his habits and profession. Men who the best know the little nucleus which is called the world, are often the most ignorant of mankind; but it was the peculiar attribute of this nobleman, that he could not only analyse the external customs of his species, but also penetrate their deeper and more hidden interests.