"Upon my word, you draw a very bad picture of the world: you colour highly; and, by the way, I observe that whenever you find any man committing a roguish action, instead of calling him a scoundrel, you show those great teeth of yours, and chuckle out 'A man of the world! a man of the world!"'
"To be sure, your honour; the proper name, too. 'Tis your green-horns who fly into a passion, and use hard words. You see, Sir, there's one thing we larn afore all other things in the world—to butter bread. Knowledge of others, means only the knowledge which side bread's buttered. In short, Sir, the wiser grow, the more take care of oursels. Some persons make a mistake, and, in trying to take care of themsels, run neck into halter—baugh! they are not rascals—they are would-be men of the world. Others be more prudent, (for, as I said afore, Sir, discretion is a pair of stirrups;) they be the true men of the world."
"I should have thought," said Walter, "that the knowledge of the world might be that knowledge which preserves us from being cheated, but not that which enables us to cheat."
"Augh!" quoth the Corporal, with that sort of smile with which you see an old philosopher put down a sounding error from the lips of a young disciple who flatters himself he has uttered something prodigiously fine,—"Augh! and did not I tell you, t'other day, to look at the professions, your honour? What would a laryer be if he did not know how to cheat a witness and humbug a jury?—knows he is lying,—why is he lying? for love of his fees, or his fame like, which gets fees;—Augh! is not that cheating others?—The doctor, too, Master Fillgrave, for instance?—" "Say no more of doctors; I abandon them to your satire, without a word."
"The lying knaves! Don't they say one's well when one's ill—ill when one's well?—profess to know what don't know?—thrust solemn phizzes into every abomination, as if larning lay hid in a—? and all for their neighbours' money, or their own reputation, which makes money—augh! In short, Sir—look where will, impossible to see so much cheating allowed, praised, encouraged, and feel very angry with a cheat who has only made a mistake. But when I sees a man butter his bread carefully—knife steady—butter thick, and hungry fellows looking on and licking chops—mothers stopping their brats—'See, child—respectable man—how thick his bread's buttered!—pull off your hat to him:'—When I sees that, my heart warms: there's the true man of the world—augh!"
"Well, Bunting," said Walter, laughing, "though you are thus lenient to those unfortunate gentlemen whom others call rogues, and thus laudatory of gentlemen who are at best discreetly selfish, I suppose you admit the possibility of virtue, and your heart warms as much when you see a man of worth as when you see a man of the world?"
"Why, you knows, your honour," answered the Corporal, "so far as vartue's concerned, there's a deal in constitution; but as for knowledge of the world, one gets it oneself!"
"I don't wonder, Bunting—as your opinion of women is much the same as your opinion of men—that you are still unmarried."
"Augh! but your honour mistakes!—I am no mice-and-trope. Men are neither one thing nor t'other—neither good nor bad. A prudent parson has nothing to fear from 'em—nor a foolish one any thing to gain—baugh! As to the women creturs, your honour, as I said, vartue's a deal in the constitution. Would not ask what a lassie's mind be—nor what her eddycation;—but see what her habits be, that's all—habits and constitution all one—play into one another's hands."
"And what sort of signs, Bunting, would you mostly esteem in a lady?"
"First place, Sir—woman I'd marry, must not mope when alone!—must be able to 'muse herself; must be easily 'mused. That's a great sign, Sir, of an innocent mind, to be tickled with straws. Besides, employments keeps 'em out of harm's way. Second place, should obsarve, if she was very fond of places, your honour—sorry to move—that's a sure sign she won't tire easily; but that if she like you now from fancy, she'll like you by and by from custom. Thirdly, your honour, she should not be avarse to dress—a leaning that way shows she has a desire to please: people who don't care about pleasing, always sullen. Fourthly, she must bear to be crossed—I'd be quite sure that she might be contradicted, without mumping or storming;—'cause then, you knows, your honour, if she wanted any thing expensive—need not give it—augh! Fifthly, must not be over religious, your honour; they pyehouse she-creturs always thinks themsels so much better nor we men;—don't understand our language and ways, your honour: they wants us not only to belave, but to tremble—bother!"
"I like your description well enough, on the whole," said Walter, "and when I look out for a wife, I shall come to you for advice."
"Your honour may have it already—Miss Ellinor's jist the thing."
Walter turned away his head, and told Bunting, with great show of indignation, not to be a fool.
The Corporal, who was not quite certain of his ground here, but who knew that Madeline, at all events, was going to be married to Aram, and deemed it, therefore, quite useless to waste any praise upon her, thought that a few random shots of eulogium were worth throwing away on a chance, and consequently continued.
"Augh, your honour—'tis not 'cause I have eyes, that I be's a fool. Miss Ellinor and your honour be only cousins, to be sure; but more like brother and sister, nor any thing else. Howsomever, she's a rare cretur, whoever gets her has a face that puts one in good-humour with the world, if one sees it first thing in the morning—'tis as good as the sun in July—augh! But, as I was saying, your honour—'bout the women-creturs in general—" "Enough of them, Bunting; let us suppose you have been so fortunate as to find one to suit you—how would you woo her? Of course, there are certain secrets of courtship, which you will not hesitate to impart to one, who, like me, wants such assistance from art—much more than you can do, who are so bountifully favoured by Nature."
"As to Nature," replied the Corporal, with considerable modesty, for he never disputed the truth of the compliment—"'tis not 'cause a man be six feet without's shoes, that he's any nearer to lady's heart. Sir, I will own to you, howsomever it makes 'gainst your honour and myself, for that matter—that don't think one is a bit more lucky with the ladies for being so handsome! 'Tis all very well with them ere willing ones, your honour—caught at a glance; but as for the better sort, one's beauty's all bother! Why, Sir, when we see some of the most fortunatest men among she-creturs—what poor little minnikens they be! One's a dwarf—another knock-kneed—a third squints—and a fourth might be shown for a hape! Neither, Sir, is it your soft, insinivating, die-away youths, as seem at first so seductive; they do very well for lovers, your honour; but then it's always rejected ones! Neither, your honour, does the art of succeeding with the ladies 'quire all those finniken, nimini-pinimi's, flourishes, and maxims, and saws, which the Colonel, my old master, and the great gentlefolks, as be knowing, call the art of love—baugh! The whole science, Sir, consists in these two rules—'Ask soon, and ask often.'"
"There seems no great difficulty in them, Bunting."
"Not to us who has gumption, Sir; but then there is summut in the manner of axing—one can't be too hot—can't flatter too much—and, above all, one must never take a refusal. There, Sir, now—if you takes my advice—may break the peace of all the husbands in Lunnun—bother—whaugh!"
"My uncle little knows what a praiseworthy tutor he has secured me in you, Bunting," said Walter, laughing: "And now, while the road is so good, let us make the most of it."
As they had set out late in the day, and the Corporal was fearful of another attack from a hedge, he resolved, that about evening, one of the horses should be seized with a sudden lameness, (which he effected by slily inserting a stone between the shoe and the hoof,) that required immediate attention and a night's rest; so that it was not till the early noon of the next day that our travellers entered the village in which Mr. Jonas Elmore resided.
It was a soft, tranquil day, though one of the very last in October; for the reader will remember that Time had not stood still during Walter's submission to the care of Mr. Pertinax Fillgrave, and his subsequent journey and researches.
The sun-light rested on a broad patch of green heath, covered with furze, and around it were scattered the cottages and farm-houses of the little village. On the other side, as Walter descended the gentle hill that led into this remote hamlet, wide and flat meadows, interspersed with several fresh and shaded ponds, stretched away towards a belt of rich woodland gorgeous with the melancholy pomp by which the "regal year" seeks to veil its decay. Among these meadows you might now see groups of cattle quietly grazing, or standing half hid in the still and sheltered pools. Still farther, crossing to the woods, a solitary sportsman walked careless on, surrounded by some half a dozen spaniels, and the shrill small tongue of one younger straggler of the canine crew, who had broke indecorously from the rest, and already entered the wood, might be just heard, softened down by the distance, into a wild, cheery sound, that animated, without disturbing, the serenity of the scene.
"After all," said Walter aloud, "the scholar was right—there is nothing like the country!"
"'Oh, happiness of sweet retired content, To be at once secure and innocent!'"
"Be them Verses in the Psalms, Sir?" said the Corporal, who was close behind.
"No, Bunting; but they were written by one who, if I recollect right, set the Psalms to verse:—[Denham.] I hope they meet with your approbation?"
"Indeed, Sir, and no—since they ben't in the Psalms, one has no right to think about 'em at all."
"And why, Mr. Critic?"
"'Cause what's the use of security, if one's innocent, and does not mean to take advantage of it—baugh! One does not lock the door for nothing, your honour!"
"You shall enlarge on that honest doctrine of yours another time; meanwhile, call that shepherd, and ask the way to Mr. Elmore's."
The Corporal obeyed, and found that a clump of trees, at the farther corner of the waste land, was the grove that surrounded Mr. Elmore's house; a short canter across the heath brought them to a white gate, and having passed this, a comfortable brick mansion of moderate size stood before them.
A SCHOLAR, BUT OF A DIFFERENT MOULD FROM THE STUDENT OF GRASSDALE.—NEW PARTICULARS CONCERNING GEOFFREY LESTER.—THE JOURNEY RECOMMENCED.
Upon inquiring for Mr. Elmore, Walter was shown into a handsome library, that appeared well-stocked with books, of that good, old-fashioned size and solidity, which are now fast passing from the world, or at least shrinking into old shops and public collections. The time may come, when the mouldering remains of a folio will attract as much philosophical astonishment as the bones of the mammoth. For behold, the deluge of writers hath produced a new world of small octavo! and in the next generation, thanks to the popular libraries, we shall only vibrate between the duodecimo and the diamond edition. Nay, we foresee the time when a very handsome collection may be carried about in one's waistcoat-pocket, and a whole library of the British Classics be neatly arranged in a well-compacted snuff-box.
In a few minutes Mr. Elmore made his appearance; he was a short, well-built man, about the age of fifty. Contrary to the established mode, he wore no wig, and was very bald; except at the sides of the head, and a little circular island of hair in the centre. But this defect was rendered the less visible by a profusion of powder. He was dressed with evident care and precision; a snuff-coloured coat was adorned with a respectable profusion of gold lace; his breeches were of plum-coloured satin; his salmon-coloured stockings, scrupulously drawn up, displayed a very handsome calf; and a pair of steel buckles in his high-heeled and square-toed shoes, were polished into a lustre which almost rivalled the splendour of diamonds. Mr. Jonas Elmore was a beau, a wit, and a scholar of the old school. He abounded in jests, in quotations, in smart sayings, and pertinent anecdotes: but, withal, his classical learning, (out of the classics he knew little enough,) was at once elegant, but wearisome; pedantic, but profound.
To this gentleman Walter presented a letter of introduction which he had obtained from a distinguished clergyman in York. Mr. Elmore received it with a profound salutation—"Aha, from my friend, Dr. Hebraist," said he, glancing at the seal, "a most worthy man, and a ripe scholar. I presume at once, Sir, from his introduction, that you yourself have cultivated the literas humaniores. Pray sit down—ay—I see, you take up a book, an excellent symptom; it gives me an immediate insight into your character. But you have chanced, Sir, on light reading,—one of the Greek novels, I think,—you must not judge of my studies by such a specimen."
"Nevertheless, Sir, it does not seem to my unskilful eye very easy Greek."
"Pretty well, Sir; barbarous, but amusing,—pray continue it. The triumphal entry of Paulus Emilius is not ill told. I confess, that I think novels might be made much higher works than they have been yet. Doubtless, you remember what Aristotle says concerning Painters and Sculptors, 'that they teach and recommend virtue in a more efficacious and powerful manner, than Philosophers by their dry precepts, and are more capable of amending the vicious, than the best moral lessons without such aid.' But how much more, Sir, can a good novelist do this, than the best sculptor or painter in the world! Every one can be charmed by a fine novel, few by a fine painting. 'Indocti rationem artis intelligunt, indocti voluptatem.' A happy sentence that in Quinctilian, Sir, is it not? But, bless me, I am forgetting the letter of my good friend Dr. Hebraist. The charms of your conversation carry me away. And indeed I have seldom the happiness to meet a gentleman so well-informed as yourself. I confess, Sir, I confess that I still retain the tastes of my boyhood; the Muses cradled my childhood, they now smooth the pillow of my footstool—Quem tu, Melpomene, are not yet subject to gout, dira podagra: By the way, how is the worthy Doctor since his attack?—Ah, see now, if you have not still, by your delightful converse, kept me from his letter—yet, positively I need no introduction to you, Apollo has already presented you to me. And as for the Doctor's letter, I will read it after dinner; for as Seneca—" "I beg your pardon a thousand times, Sir," said Walter, who began to despair of ever coming to the matter which seemed lost sight of beneath this battery of erudition, "but you will find by Dr. Hebraist's letter, that it is only on business of the utmost importance that I have presumed to break in upon the learned leisure of Mr. Jonas Elmore."
"Business!" replied Mr. Elmore, producing his spectacles, and deliberately placing them athwart his nose,
"'His mane edictum, post prandia Callirhoen, etc.
"Business in the morning, and the ladies after dinner. Well, Sir, I will yield to you in the one, and you must yield to me in the other: I will open the letter, and you shall dine here, and be introduced to Mrs. Elmore;—What is your opinion of the modern method of folding letters? I—but I see you are impatient." Here Mr. Elmore at length broke the seal; and to Walter's great joy fairly read the contents within.
"Oh! I see, I see!" he said, refolding the epistle, and placing it in his pocket-book; "my friend, Dr. Hebraist, says you are anxious to be informed whether Mr. Clarke ever received the legacy of my poor cousin, Colonel Elmore; and if so, any tidings I can give you of Mr. Clarke himself; or any clue to discover him will be highly acceptable. I gather, Sir, from my friend's letter, that this is the substance of your business with me, caput negotii;—although, like Timanthes, the painter, he leaves more to be understood than is described, 'intelligitur plus quam pingitur,' as Pliny has it."
"Sir," said Walter, drawing his chair close to Mr. Elmore, and his anxiety forcing itself to his countenance, "that is indeed the substance of my business with you; and so important will be any information you can give me that I shall esteem it a—" "Not a very great favour, eh?—not very great?"
"Yes, indeed, a very great obligation."
"I hope not, Sir; for what says Tacitus—that profound reader of the human heart,—'beneficia eo usque loeta sunt,' favours easily repaid beget affection—favours beyond return engender hatred. But, Sir, a truce to trifling;" and here Mr. Elmore composed his countenance, and changed,—which he could do at will, so that the change was not expected to last long—the pedant for the man of business.
"Mr. Clarke did receive his legacy: the lease of the house at Knaresborough was also sold by his desire, and produced the sum of seven hundred and fifty pounds; which being added to the farther sum of a thousand pounds, which was bequeathed to him, amounted to seventeen hundred and fifty pounds. It so happened, that my cousin had possessed some very valuable jewels, which were bequeathed to myself. I, Sir, studious, and a cultivator of the Muse, had no love and no use for these baubles; I preferred barbaric gold to barbaric pearl; and knowing that Clarke had been in India, from whence these jewels had been brought, I showed them to him, and consulted his knowledge on these matters, as to the best method of obtaining a sale. He offered to purchase them of me, under the impression that he could turn them to a profitable speculation in London. Accordingly we came to terms: I sold the greater part of them to him for a sum a little exceeding a thousand pounds. He was pleased with his bargain; and came to borrow the rest of me, in order to look at them more considerately at home, and determine whether or not he should buy them also. Well, Sir, (but here comes the remarkable part of the story,) about three days after this last event, Mr. Clarke and my jewels both disappeared in rather a strange and abrupt manner. In the middle of the night he left his lodging at Knaresborough, and never returned; neither himself nor my jewels were ever heard of more!"
"Good God!" exclaimed Walter, greatly agitated; "what was supposed to be the cause of his disappearance?"
"That," replied Elmore, "was never positively traced. It excited great surprise and great conjecture at the time. Advertisements and handbills were circulated throughout the country, but in vain. Mr. Clarke was evidently a man of eccentric habits, of a hasty temper, and a wandering manner of life; yet it is scarcely probable that he took this sudden manner of leaving the country either from whim or some secret but honest motive never divulged. The fact is, that he owed a few debts in the town—that he had my jewels in his possession, and as (pardon me for saying this, since you take an interest in him,) his connections were entirely unknown in these parts, and his character not very highly estimated,—(whether from his manner, or his conversation, or some undefined and vague rumours, I cannot say)—it was considered by no means improbable that he had decamped with his property in this sudden manner in order to save himself that trouble of settling accounts which a more seemly and public method of departure might have rendered necessary. A man of the name of Houseman, with whom he was acquainted, (a resident in Knaresborough,) declared that Clarke had borrowed rather a considerable sum from him, and did not scruple openly to accuse him of the evident design to avoid repayment. A few more dark but utterly groundless conjectures were afloat; and since the closest search—the minutest inquiry was employed without any result, the supposition that he might have been robbed and murdered was strongly entertained for some time; but as his body was never found, nor suspicion directed against any particular person, these conjectures insensibly died away; and being so complete a stranger to these parts, the very circumstance of his disappearance was not likely to occupy, for very long, the attention of that old gossip the Public, who, even in the remotest parts, has a thousand topics to fill up her time and talk. And now, Sir, I think you know as much of the particulars of the case as any one in these parts can inform you."
We may imagine the various sensations which this unsatisfactory intelligence caused in the adventurous son of the lost wanderer. He continued to throw out additional guesses, and to make farther inquiries concerning a tale which seemed to him so mysterious, but without effect; and he had the mortification to perceive, that the shrewd Jonas was, in his own mind, fully convinced that the permanent disappearance of Clark was accounted for only by the most dishonest motives.
"And," added Elmore, I am confirmed in this belief by discovering afterwards from a tradesman in York who had seen my cousin's jewels—that those I had trusted to Mr. Clarke's hands were more valuable than I had imagined them, and therefore it was probably worth his while to make off with them as quietly as possible. He went on foot, leaving his horse, a sorry nag, to settle with me and the other claimants.
"I, pedes quo te rapiunt et aurae!"
"Heavens!" thought Walter, sinking back in his chair sickened and disheartened, "what a parent, if the opinions of all men who knew him be true, do I thus zealously seek to recover!"
The good-natured Elmore, perceiving the unwelcome and painful impression his account had produced on his young guest, now exerted himself to remove, or at least to lessen it; and turning the conversation into a classical channel, which with him was the Lethe to all cares, he soon forgot that Clarke had ever existed, in expatiating on the unappreciated excellences of Propertius, who, to his mind, was the most tender of all elegiac poets, solely because he was the most learned. Fortunately this vein of conversation, however tedious to Walter, preserved him from the necessity of rejoinder, and left him to the quiet enjoyment of his own gloomy and restless reflections.
At length the time touched upon dinner; Elmore, starting up, adjourned to the drawing-room, in order to present the handsome stranger to the placens uxor—the pleasing wife, whom, in passing through the hall, he eulogized with an amazing felicity of diction.
The object of these praises was a tall, meagre lady, in a yellow dress carried up to the chin, and who added a slight squint to the charms of red hair, ill concealed by powder, and the dignity of a prodigiously high nose. "There is nothing, Sir," said Elmore, "nothing, believe me, like matrimonial felicity. Julia, my dear, I trust the chickens will not be overdone."
"Indeed, Mr. Elmore, I cannot tell; I did not boil them."
"Sir," said Elmore, turning to his guest, I do not know whether you will agree with me, but I think a slight tendency to gourmandism is absolutely necessary to complete the character of a truly classical mind. So many beautiful touches are there in the ancient poets—so many delicate allusions in history and in anecdote relating to the gratification of the palate, that if a man have no correspondent sympathy with the illustrious epicures of old, he is rendered incapable of enjoying the most beautiful passages, that—Come, Sir, the dinner is served:
"'Nutrimus lautis mollissima corpora mensis.'"
As they crossed the hall to the dining-room, a young lady, whom Elmore hastily announced as his only daughter, appeared descending the stairs, having evidently retired for the purpose of re-arranging her attire for the conquest of the stranger. There was something in Miss Elmore that reminded Walter of Ellinor, and, as the likeness struck him, he felt, by the sudden and involuntary sigh it occasioned, how much the image of his cousin had lately gained ground upon his heart.
Nothing of any note occurred during dinner, until the appearance of the second course, when Elmore, throwing himself back with an air of content, that signified the first edge of his appetite was blunted, observed, Sir, the second course I always opine to be the more dignified and rational part of a repast—
"'Quod nunc ratio est, impetus ante fuit.'" [That which is now reason, at first was but desire.]
"Ah! Mr. Elmore," said the lady, glancing towards a brace of very fine pigeons, "I cannot tell you how vexed I am at a mistake of the gardener's: you remember my poor pet pigeons, so attached to each other—would not mix with the rest—quite an inseparable friendship, Mr. Lester—well, they were killed by mistake, for a couple of vulgar pigeons. Ah! I could not touch a bit of them for the world."
"My love," said Elmore, pausing, and with great solemnity, "hear how beautiful a consolation is afforded to you in Valerius Maximus:—'Ubi idem et maximus et honestissimus amor est, aliquando praestat morte jungi quam vitae distrahi;' which being interpreted, means, that wherever, as in the case of your pigeons, a thoroughly high and sincere affection exists, it is sometimes better to be joined in death than divided in life.—Give me half the fatter one, if you please, Julia."
"Sir," said Elmore, when the ladies withdrew, "I cannot tell you how pleased I am to meet with a gentleman so deeply imbued with classic lore. I remember, several years ago, before my poor cousin died, it was my lot, when I visited him at Knaresborough, to hold some delightful conversations on learned matters with a very rising young scholar who then resided at Knaresborough,—Eugene Aram. Conversations as difficult to obtain as delightful to remember, for he was exceedingly reserved."
"Aram!" repeated Walter.
"What, you know him then?—and where does he live now?"
"In—, very near my uncle's residence. He is certainly a remarkable man."
"Yes, indeed he promised to become so. At the time I refer to, he was poor to penury, and haughty as poor; but it was wonderful to note the iron energy with which he pursued his progress to learning. Never did I see a youth,—at that time he was no more,—so devoted to knowledge for itself.
'Doctrin' pretium triste magister habet.'"
"Methinks," added Elmore, "I can see him now, stealing away from the haunts of men,
'With even step and musing gait,'—
across the quiet fields, or into the woods, whence he was certain not to re-appear till night-fall. Ah! he was a strange and solitary being, but full of genius, and promise of bright things hereafter. I have often heard since of his fame as a scholar, but could never learn where he lived or what was now his mode of life. Is he yet married?"
"Not yet, I believe; but he is not now so absolutely poor as you describe him to have been then, though certainly far from rich."
"Yes, yes, I remember that he received a legacy from a relation shortly before he left Knaresborough. He had very delicate health at that time: has he grown stronger with increasing years?"
"He does not complain of ill health. And pray, was he then of the same austere and blameless habits of life that he now professes?"
"Nothing could be so faultless as his character appeared; the passions of youth—(ah! I was a wild fellow at his age,) never seemed to venture near one.
'Quem casto erudit docta Minerva sinu.'
Well, I am surprised he has not married. We scholars, Sir, fall in love with abstractions, and fancy the first woman we see is—Sir, let us drink the ladies."
The next day Walter, having resolved to set out for Knaresborough, directed his course towards that town; he thought it yet possible that he might, by strict personal inquiry, continue the clue that Elmore's account had, to present appearance, broken. The pursuit in which he was engaged, combined, perhaps, with the early disappointment to his affections, had given a grave and solemn tone to a mind naturally ardent and elastic. His character acquired an earnestness and a dignity from late events; and all that once had been hope within him, deepened into thought. As now, on a gloomy and clouded day he pursued his course along a bleak and melancholy road, his mind was filled with that dark presentiment—that shadow from the coming event, which superstition believes the herald of the more tragic discoveries, or the more fearful incidents of life; he felt steeled, and prepared for some dread denouement,—to a journey to which the hand of Providence seemed to conduct his steps; and he looked on the shroud that Time casts over all beyond the present moment with the same intense and painful resolve with which, in the tragic representations of life, we await the drawing up of the curtain before the last act, which contains the catastrophe—that while we long, we half shudder to behold.
Meanwhile, in following the adventures of Walter Lester, we have greatly outstript the progress of events of Grassdale, and thither we now return.
ARAM'S DEPARTURE.—MADELINE.—EXAGGERATION OF SENTIMENT NATURAL IN LOVE.—MADELINE'S LETTER.—WALTER'S.—THE WALK.— TWO VERY DIFFERENT PERSONS, YET BOTH INMATES OF THE SAME COUNTRY VILLAGE.—THE HUMOURS OF LIFE, AND ITS DARK PASSIONS, ARE FOUND IN JUXTA-POSITION EVERYWHERE.
Her thoughts as pure as the chaste morning's breath, When from the Night's cold arms it creeps away, Were clothed in words. —Sir J. Suckling—Detraction Execrated
"You positively leave us then to-day, Eugene?" said the Squire.
"Indeed," answered Aram, "I hear from my creditor, (now no longer so, thanks to you,) that my relation is so dangerously ill, that if I have any wish to see her alive, I have not an hour to lose. It is the last surviving relative I have in the world."
"I can say no more, then," rejoined the Squire shrugging his shoulders: "When do you expect to return?"
"At least, ere the day fixed for the wedding," answered Aram, with a grave and melancholy smile.
"Well, can you find time, think you, to call at the lodging in which my nephew proposed to take up his abode,—my old lodging;—I will give you the address,—and inquire if Walter has been heard of there: I confess that I feel considerable alarm on his account. Since that short and hurried letter which I read to you, I have heard nothing of him."
"You may rely on my seeing him if in London, and faithfully reporting to you all that I can learn towards removing your anxiety."
"I do not doubt it; no heart is so kind as yours, Eugene. You will not depart without receiving the additional sum you are entitled to claim from me, since you think it may be useful to you in London, should you find a favourable opportunity of increasing your annuity. And now I will no longer detain you from taking your leave of Madeline."
The plausible story which Aram had invented of the illness and approaching death of his last living relation, was readily believed by the simple family to whom it was told; and Madeline herself checked her tears that she might not, for his sake, sadden a departure that seemed inevitable. Aram accordingly repaired to London that day,—the one that followed the night which witnessed his fearful visit to the "Devil's Crag."
It is precisely at this part of my history that I love to pause for a moment; a sort of breathing interval between the cloud that has been long gathering, and the storm that is about to burst. And this interval is not without its fleeting gleam of quiet and holy sunshine.
It was Madeline's first absence from her lover since their vows had plighted them to each other; and that first absence, when softened by so many hopes as smiled upon her, is perhaps one of the most touching passages in the history of a woman's love. It is marvellous how many things, unheeded before, suddenly become dear. She then feels what a power of consecration there was in the mere presence of the one beloved; the spot he touched, the book he read, have become a part of him—are no longer inanimate—are inspired, and have a being and a voice. And the heart, too, soothed in discovering so many new treasures, and opening so delightful a world of memory, is not yet acquainted with that weariness—that sense of exhaustion and solitude which are the true pains of absence, and belong to the absence not of hope but regret.
"You are cheerful, dear Madeline," said Ellinor, "though you did not think it possible, and he not here!"
"I am occupied," replied Madeline, "in discovering how much I loved him."
We do wrong when we censure a certain exaggeration in the sentiments of those who love. True passion is necessarily heightened by its very ardour to an elevation that seems extravagant only to those who cannot feel it. The lofty language of a hero is a part of his character; without that largeness of idea he had not been a hero. With love, it is the same as with glory: what common minds would call natural in sentiment, merely because it is homely, is not natural, except to tamed affections. That is a very poor, nay, a very coarse, love, in which the imagination makes not the greater part. And the Frenchman, who censured the love of his mistress because it was so mixed with the imagination, quarrelled with the body, for the soul which inspired and preserved it.
Yet we do not say that Madeline was so possessed by the confidence of her love, that she did not admit the intrusion of a single doubt or fear; when she recalled the frequent gloom and moody fitfulness of her lover—his strange and mysterious communings with self—the sorrow which, at times, as on that Sabbath eve when he wept upon her bosom, appeared suddenly to come upon a nature so calm and stately, and without a visible cause; when she recalled all these symptoms of a heart not now at rest, it was not possible for her to reject altogether a certain vague and dreary apprehension. Nor did she herself, although to Ellinor she so affected, ascribe this cloudiness and caprice of mood merely to the result of a solitary and meditative life; she attributed them to the influence of an early grief, perhaps linked with the affections, and did not doubt but that one day or another she should learn its secret. As for remorse—the memory of any former sin—a life so austerely blameless, a disposition so prompt to the activity of good, and so enamoured of its beauty—a mind so cultivated, a temper so gentle, and a heart so easily moved—all would have forbidden, to natures far more suspicious than Madeline's, the conception of such a thought. And so, with a patient gladness, though not without some mixture of anxiety, she suffered herself to glide onward to a future, which, come cloud, come shine, was, she believed at least, to be shared with him.
On looking over the various papers from which I have woven this tale, I find a letter from Madeline to Aram, dated at this time. The characters, traced in the delicate and fair Italian hand coveted at that period, are fading, and, in one part, wholly obliterated by time; but there seems to me so much of what is genuine in the heart's beautiful romance in this effusion, that I will lay it before the reader without adding or altering a word.
"Thank you, thank you, dearest Eugene! I have received, then, the first letter you ever wrote me. I cannot tell you how strange it seemed to me, and how agitated I felt on seeing it, more so, I think, than if it had been yourself who had returned. However, when the first delight of reading it faded away, I found that it had not made me so happy as it ought to have done—as I thought at first it had done. You seem sad and melancholy; a certain nameless gloom appears to me to hang over your whole letter. It affects my spirits—why I know not—and my tears fall even while I read the assurances of your unaltered, unalterable love—and yet this assurance your Madeline—vain girl!—never for a moment disbelieves. I have often read and often heard of the distrust and jealousy that accompany love; but I think that such a love must be a vulgar and low sentiment. To me there seems a religion in love, and its very foundation is in faith. You say, dearest, that the noise and stir of the great city oppress and weary you even more than you had expected. You say those harsh faces, in which business, and care, and avarice, and ambition write their lineaments, are wholly unfamiliar to you;—you turn aside to avoid them,—you wrap yourself up in your solitary feelings of aversion to those you see, and you call upon those not present—upon your Madeline! and would that your Madeline were with you! It seems to me—perhaps you will smile when I say this—that I alone can understand you—I alone can read your heart and your emotions;—and oh! dearest Eugene, that I could read also enough of your past history to know all that has cast so habitual a shadow over that lofty heart and that calm and profound nature! You smile when I ask you—but sometimes you sigh,—and the sigh pleases and soothes me better than the smile.
"We have heard nothing more of Walter, and my father begins at times to be seriously alarmed about him. Your account, too, corroborates that alarm. It is strange that he has not yet visited London, and that you can obtain no clue of him. He is evidently still in search of his lost parent, and following some obscure and uncertain track. Poor Walter! God speed him! The singular fate of his father, and the many conjectures respecting him, have, I believe, preyed on Walter's mind more than he acknowledged. Ellinor found a paper in his closet, where we had occasion to search the other day for something belonging to my father, which was scribbled with all the various fragments of guess or information concerning my uncle, obtained from time to time, and interspersed with some remarks by Walter himself, that affected me strangely. It seems to have been from early childhood the one desire of my cousin to discover his father's fate. Perhaps the discovery may be already made;—perhaps my long-lost uncle may yet be present at our wedding.
"You ask me, Eugene, if I still pursue my botanical researches. Sometimes I do; but the flower now has no fragrance—and the herb no secret, that I care for; and astronomy, which you had just begun to teach me, pleases me more;—the flowers charm me when you are present; but the stars speak to me of you in absence. Perhaps it would not be so, had I loved a being less exalted than you. Every one, even my father, even Ellinor, smile when they observe how incessantly I think of you—how utterly you have become all in all to me. I could not tell this to you, though I write it: is it not strange that letters should be more faithful than the tongue? And even your letter, mournful as it is, seems to me kinder, and dearer, and more full of yourself, than with all the magic of your language, and the silver sweetness of your voice, your spoken words are. I walked by your house yesterday; the windows were closed—there was a strange air of lifelessness and dejection about it. Do you remember the evening in which I first entered that house? Do you—or rather is there one hour in which it is not present to you? For me, I live in the past,—it is the present—(which is without you,) in which I have no life. I passed into the little garden, that with your own hands you have planted for me, and filled with flowers. Ellinor was with me, and she saw my lips move. She asked me what I was saying to myself. I would not tell her—I was praying for you, my kind, my beloved Eugene. I was praying for the happiness of your future years—praying that I might requite your love. Whenever I feel the most, I am the most inclined to prayer. Sorrow, joy, tenderness, all emotion, lift up my heart to God. And what a delicious overflow of the heart is prayer! When I am with you—and I feel that you love me—my happiness would be painful, if there were no God whom I might bless for its excess. Do those, who believe not, love?—have they deep emotions?—can they feel truly—devotedly? Why, when I talk thus to you—do you always answer me with that chilling and mournful smile? You would make religion only the creation of reason—as well might you make love the same—what is either, unless you let it spring also from the feelings?
"When—when—when will you return? I think I love you now more than ever. I think I have more courage to tell you so. So many things I have to say—so many events to relate. For what is not an event to US? the least incident that has happened to either—the very fading of a flower, if you have worn it, is a whole history to me.
"Adieu, God bless you—God reward you—God keep your heart with Him, dearest, dearest Eugene. And may you every day know better and better how utterly you are loved by your
The epistle to which Lester referred as received from Walter, was one written on the day of his escape from Mr. Pertinax Fillgrave, a short note, rather than letter, which ran as follows.
"My dear Uncle, I have met with an accident which confined me to my bed;—a rencontre, indeed, with the Knights of the Road—nothing serious, (so do not be alarmed!) though the Doctor would fain have made it so. I am just about to recommence my journey, but not towards London; on the contrary, northward.
"I have, partly through the information of your old friend Mr. Courtland, partly by accident, found what I hope may prove a clue to the fate of my father. I am now departing to put this hope to the issue. More I would fain say; but lest the expectation should prove fallacious, I will not dwell on circumstances which would in that case only create in you a disappointment similar to my own. Only this take with you, that my father's proverbial good luck seems to have visited him since your latest news of his fate; a legacy, though not a large one, awaited his return to England from India; but see if I am not growing prolix already—I must break off in order to reserve you the pleasure (may it be so!) of a full surprise!
"God bless you, my dear Uncle! I write in spirits and hope; kindest love to all at home.
"P. S. Tell Ellinor that my bitterest misfortune in the adventure I have referred to, was to be robbed of her purse. Will she knit me another? By the way, I encountered Sir Peter Hales; such an open-hearted, generous fellow as you said! 'thereby hangs a tale.'"
This letter, which provoked all the curiosity of our little circle, made them anxiously look forward to every post for additional explanation, but that explanation came not. And they were forced to console themselves with the evident exhilaration under which Walter wrote, and the probable supposition that he delayed farther information until it could be ample and satisfactory.—"Knights of the Road," quoth Lester one day, "I wonder if they were any of the gang that have just visited us. Well, but poor boy! he does not say whether he has any money left; yet if he were short of the gold, he would be very unlike his father, (or his uncle for that matter,) had he forgotten to enlarge on that subject, however brief upon others."
"Probably," said Ellinor, "the Corporal carried the main sum about him in those well-stuffed saddle-bags, and it was only the purse that Walter had about his person that was stolen; and it is probable that the Corporal might have escaped, as he mentions nothing about that excellent personage."
"A shrewd guess, Nell: but pray, why should Walter carry the purse about him so carefully? Ah, you blush: well, will you knit him another?"
"Pshaw, Papa! Good b'ye, I am going to gather you a nosegay."
But Ellinor was seized with a sudden fit of industry, and somehow or other she grew fonder of knitting than ever.
The neighbourhood was now tranquil and at peace; the nightly depredators that had infested the green valleys of Grassdale were heard of no more; it seemed a sudden incursion of fraud and crime, which was too unnatural to the character of the spot invaded to do more than to terrify and to disappear. The truditur dies die; the serene steps of one calm day chasing another returned, and the past alarm was only remembered as a tempting subject of gossip to the villagers, and (at the Hall) a theme of eulogium on the courage of Eugene Aram.
"It is a lovely day," said Lester to his daughters, as they sate at the window; "come, girls, get your bonnets, and let us take a walk into the village."
"And meet the postman," said Ellinor, archly.
"Yes," rejoined Madeline in the same vein, but in a whisper that Lester might not hear, "for who knows but that we may have a letter from Walter?"
How prettily sounds such raillery on virgin lips. No, no; nothing on earth is so lovely as the confidence between two happy sisters, who have no secrets but those of a guileless love to reveal!
As they strolled into the village, they were met by Peter Dealtry, who was slowly riding home on a large ass which carried himself and his panniers to the neighbouring market in a more quiet and luxurious indolence of action than would the harsher motions of the equine species.
"A fine day, Peter: and what news at market?" said Lester.
"Corn high,—hay dear, your honour," replied the clerk.
"Ah, I suppose so; a good time to sell ours, Peter;—we must see about it on Saturday. But, pray, have you heard any thing from the Corporal since his departure?"
"Not I, your honour, not I; though I think as he might have given us a line, if it was only to thank me for my care of his cat, but—
'Them as comes to go to roam, Thinks slight of they as stays at home.'"
"A notable distich, Peter; your own composition, I warrant."
"Mine! Lord love your honour, I has no genus, but I has memory; and when them ere beautiful lines of poetry-like comes into my head, they stays there, and stays till they pops out at my tongue like a bottle of ginger-beer. I do loves poetry, Sir, 'specially the sacred."
"We know it,—we know it."
"For there be summut in it," continued the clerk, "which smooths a man's heart like a clothes-brush, wipes away the dust and dirt, and sets all the nap right; and I thinks as how 'tis what a clerk of the parish ought to study, your honour."
"Nothing better; you speak like an oracle."
"Now, Sir, there be the Corporal, honest man, what thinks himself mighty clever,—but he has no soul for varse. Lord love ye, to see the faces he makes when I tells him a hymn or so; 'tis quite wicked, your honour,—for that's what the heathen did, as you well know, Sir.
"'And when I does discourse of things Most holy, to their tribe; What does they do?—they mocks at me, And makes my harp a gibe.'
"'Tis not what I calls pretty, Miss Ellinor."
"Certainly not, Peter; I wonder, with your talents for verse, you never indulge in a little satire against such perverse taste."
"Satire! what's that? Oh, I knows; what they writes in elections. Why, Miss, mayhap—" here Peter paused, and winked significantly—"but the Corporal's a passionate man, you knows: but I could so sting him—Aha! we'll see, we'll see.—Do you know, your honour," here Peter altered his air to one of serious importance, as if about to impart a most sagacious conjecture, "I thinks there be one reason why the Corporal has not written to me."
"And what's that, Peter?"
"Cause, your honour, he's ashamed of his writing: I fancy as how his spelling is no better than it should be—but mum's the word. You sees, your honour, the Corporal's got a tarn for conversation-like—he be a mighty fine talker surely! but he be shy of the pen—'tis not every man what talks biggest what's the best schollard at bottom. Why, there's the newspaper I saw in the market, (for I always sees the newspaper once a week,) says as how some of them great speakers in the Parliament House, are no better than ninnies when they gets upon paper; and that's the Corporal's case, I sispect: I suppose as how they can't spell all them ere long words they make use on. For my part, I thinks there be mortal desate (deceit) like in that ere public speaking; for I knows how far a loud voice and a bold face goes, even in buying a cow, your honour; and I'm afraid the country's greatly bubbled in that ere partiklar; for if a man can't write down clearly what he means for to say, I does not thinks as how he knows what he means when he goes for to speak!"
This speech—quite a moral exposition from Peter, and, doubtless, inspired by his visit to market—for what wisdom cannot come from intercourse?—our good publican delivered with especial solemnity, giving a huge thump on the sides of his ass as he concluded.
"Upon my word, Peter," said Lester, laughing, "you have grown quite a Solomon; and, instead of a clerk, you ought to be a Justice of Peace, at the least: and, indeed, I must say that I think you shine more in the capacity of a lecturer than in that of a soldier."
"'Tis not for a clerk of the parish to have too great a knack at the weapons of the flesh," said Peter, sanctimoniously, and turning aside to conceal a slight confusion at the unlucky reminiscence of his warlike exploits; "But lauk, Sir, even as to that, why we has frightened all the robbers away. What would you have us do more?"
"Upon my word, Peter, you say right; and now, good day. Your wife's well, I hope? and Jacobina—is not that the cat's name?—in high health and favour."
"Hem, hem!—why, to be sure, the cat's a good cat; but she steals Goody Truman's cream as she sets for butter reg'larly every night."
"Oh! you must cure her of that," said Lester, smiling, "I hope that's the worst fault."
"Why, your gardiner do say," replied Peter, reluctantly, "as how she goes arter the pheasants in Copse-hole."
"The deuce!" cried the Squire; "that will never do: she must be shot, Peter, she must be shot. My pheasants! my best preserves! and poor Goody Truman's cream, too! a perfect devil. Look to it, Peter; if I hear any complaints again, Jacobina is done for—What are you laughing at, Nell?"
"Well, go thy ways, Peter, for a shrewd man and a clever man; it is not every one who could so suddenly have elicited my father's compassion for Goody Truman's cream."
"Pooh!" said the Squire, "a pheasant's a serious thing, child; but you women don't understand matters."
They had now crossed through the village into the fields, and were slowly sauntering by
"Hedge-row elms on hillocks green,"
when, seated under a stunted pollard, they came suddenly on the ill-favoured person of Dame Darkmans: she sat bent (with her elbows on her knees, and her hands supporting her chin,) looking up to the clear autumnal sky; and as they approached, she did not stir, or testify by sign or glance that she even perceived them.
There is a certain kind-hearted sociality of temper that you see sometimes among country gentlemen, especially not of the highest rank, who knowing, and looked up to by, every one immediately around them, acquire the habit of accosting all they meet—a habit as painful for them to break, as it was painful for poor Rousseau to be asked 'how he did' by an applewoman. And the kind old Squire could not pass even Goody Darkmans, (coming thus abruptly upon her,) without a salutation.
"All alone, Dame, enjoying the fine weather—that's right—And how fares it with you?"
The old woman turned round her dark and bleared eyes, but without moving limb or posture. "'Tis well-nigh winter now: 'tis not easy for poor folks to fare well at this time o' year. Where be we to get the firewood, and the clothing, and the dry bread, carse it! and the drop o' stuff that's to keep out the cold. Ah, it's fine for you to ask how we does, and the days shortening, and the air sharpening."
"Well, Dame, shall I send to—for a warm cloak for you?" said Madeline.
"Ho! thankye, young leddy—thankye kindly, and I'll wear it at your widding, for they says you be going to git married to the larned man yander. Wish ye well, ma'am, wish ye well."
And the old hag grinned as she uttered this benediction, that sounded on her lips like the Lord's Prayer on a witch's; which converts the devotion to a crime, and the prayer to a curse.
"Ye're very winsome, young lady," she continued, eyeing Madeline's tall and rounded figure from head to foot. "Yes, very—but I was as bonny as you once, and if you lives—mind that—fair and happy as you stand now, you'll be as withered, and foul-faced, and wretched as me—ha! ha! I loves to look on young folk, and think o' that. But mayhap ye won't live to be old—more's the pity, for ye might be a widow and childless, and a lone 'oman, as I be; if you were to see sixty: an' wouldn't that be nice?—ha! ha!—much pleasure ye'd have in the fine weather then, and in people's fine speeches, eh?"
"Come, Dame," said Lester, with a cloud on his benign brow, "this talk is ungrateful to me, and disrespectful to Miss Lester; it is not the way to—" "Hout!" interrupted the old woman; "I begs pardon, Sir, if I offended—I begs pardon, young lady, 'tis my way, poor old soul that I be. And you meant me kindly, and I would not be uncivil, now you are a-going to give me a bonny cloak,—and what colour shall it be?"
"Why, what colour would you like best, Dame—red?"
"Red!—no!—like a gypsy-quean, indeed! Besides, they all has red cloaks in the village, yonder. No; a handsome dark grey—or a gay, cheersome black, an' then I'll dance in mourning at your wedding, young lady; and that's what ye'll like. But what ha'ye done with the merry bridegroom, Ma'am? Gone away, I hear. Ah, ye'll have a happy life on it, with a gentleman like him. I never seed him laugh once. Why does not ye hire me as your sarvant—would not I be a favourite thin! I'd stand on the thrishold, and give ye good morrow every day. Oh! it does me a deal of good to say a blessing to them as be younger and gayer than me. Madge Darkman's blessing!—Och! what a thing to wish for!"
"Well, good day, mother," said Lester, moving on.
"Stay a bit, stay a bit, Sir;—has ye any commands, Miss, yonder, at Master Aram's? His old 'oman's a gossip of mine—we were young togither—and the lads did not know which to like the best. So we often meets, and talks of the old times. I be going up there now.—Och! I hope I shall be asked to the widding. And what a nice month to wid in; Novimber—Novimber, that's the merry month for me! But 'tis cold—bitter cold, too. Well, good day—good day. Ay," continued the hag, as Lester and the sisters moved on, "ye all goes and throws niver a look behind. Ye despises the poor in your hearts. But the poor will have their day. Och! an' I wish ye were dead—dead—dead, an' I dancing in my bonny black cloak about your graves;—for an't all mine dead—cold—cold—rotting, and one kind and rich man might ha' saved them all."
Thus mumbling, the wretched creature looked after the father and his daughters, as they wound onward, till her dim eyes caught them no longer; and then, drawing her rags round her, she rose, and struck into the opposite path that led to Aram's house.
"I hope that hag will be no constant visitor at your future residence, Madeline," said the younger sister; "it would be like a blight on the air."
"And if we could remove her from the parish," said Lester, "it would be a happy day for the village. Yet, strange as it may seem, so great is her power over them all, that there is never a marriage, nor a christening in the village, from which she is absent—they dread her spite and foul tongue enough, to make them even ask humbly for her presence."
"And the hag seems to know that her bad qualities are a good policy, and obtain more respect than amiability would do," said Ellinor. "I think there is some design in all she utters."
"I don't know how it is, but the words and sight of that woman have struck a damp into my heart," said Madeline, musingly.
"It would be wonderful if they had not, child," said Lester, soothingly; and he changed the conversation to other topics.
As concluding their walk, they re-entered the village, they encountered that most welcome of all visitants to a country village, the postman—a tall, thin pedestrian, famous for swiftness of foot, with a cheerful face, a swinging gait, and Lester's bag slung over his shoulder. Our little party quickened their pace—one letter—for Madeline—Aram's handwriting. Happy blush—bright smile! Ah! no meeting ever gives the delight that a letter can inspire in the short absences of a first love "And none for me," said Lester, in a disappointed tone, and Ellinor's hand hung more heavily on his arm, and her step moved slower. "It is very strange in Walter; but I am more angry than alarmed."
"Be sure," said Ellinor, after a pause, "that it is not his fault. Something may have happened to him. Good Heavens! if he has been attacked again—those fearful highwaymen!"
"Nay," said Lester, "the most probable supposition after all is, that he will not write until his expectations are realized or destroyed. Natural enough, too; it is what I should have done, if I had been in his place."
"Natural," said Ellinor, who now attacked where she before defended—"Natural not to give us one line, to say he is well and safe—natural; I could not have been so remiss!"
"Ay, child, you women are so fond of writing,—'tis not so with us, especially when we are moving about: it is always—'Well, I must write to-morrow—well, I must write when this is settled—well, I must write when I arrive at such a place;'—and, meanwhile, time slips on, till perhaps we get ashamed of writing at all. I heard a great man say once, that 'Men must have something effeminate about them to be good correspondents;' and 'faith, I think it's true enough on the whole."
"I wonder if Madeline thinks so?" said Ellinor, enviously glancing at her sister's absorption, as, lingering a little behind, she devoured the contents of her letter.
"He is coming home immediately, dear father; perhaps he may be here to-morrow," cried Madeline abruptly; "think of that, Ellinor! Ah! and he writes in spirits!"—and the poor girl clapped her hands delightedly, as the colour danced joyously over her cheek and neck.
"I am glad to hear it," quoth Lester; "we shall have him at last beat even Ellinor in gaiety!"
"That may easily be," sighed Ellinor to herself, as she glided past them into the house, and sought her own chamber.
A REFLECTION NEW AND STRANGE.—THE STREETS OF LONDON.—A GREAT MAN'S LIBRARY.—A CONVERSATION BETWEEN THE STUDENT AND AN ACQUAINTANCE OF THE READER'S.—ITS RESULT.
Rollo. Ask for thyself. Lat. What more can concern me than this? —The Tragedy of Rollo.
It was an evening in the declining autumn of 1758; some public ceremony had occurred during the day, and the crowd, which it had assembled was only now gradually lessening, as the shadows darkened along the streets. Through this crowd, self-absorbed as usual—with them—not one of them—Eugene Aram slowly wound his uncompanioned way. What an incalculable field of dread and sombre contemplation is opened to every man who, with his heart disengaged from himself, and his eyes accustomed to the sharp observance of his tribe, walks through the streets of a great city! What a world of dark and troublous secrets in the breast of every one who hurries by you! Goethe has said somewhere, that each of us, the best as the worst, hides within him something—some feeling, some remembrance that, if known, would make you hate him. No doubt the saying is exaggerated; but still, what a gloomy and profound sublimity in the idea!—what a new insight it gives into the hearts of the common herd!—with what a strange interest it may inspire us for the humblest, the tritest passenger that shoulders us in the great thoroughfare of life! One of the greatest pleasures in the world is to walk alone, and at night, (while they are yet crowded,) through the long lamplit streets of this huge metropolis. There, even more than in the silence of woods and fields, seems to me the source of endless, various meditation.
There was that in Aram's person which irresistibly commanded attention. The earnest composure of his countenance, its thoughtful paleness, the long hair falling back, the peculiar and estranged air of his whole figure, accompanied as it was, by a mildness of expression, and that lofty abstraction which characterises one who is a brooder over his own heart—a ponderer and a soothsayer to his own dreams;—all these arrested from time to time the second gaze of the passenger, and forced on him the impression, simple as was the dress, and unpretending as was the gait of the stranger, that in indulging that second gaze, he was in all probability satisfying the curiosity which makes us love to fix our regard upon any remarkable man.
At length Aram turned from the more crowded streets, and in a short time paused before one of the most princely houses in London. It was surrounded by a spacious court-yard, and over the porch, the arms of the owner, with the coronet and supporters, were raised in stone.
"Is Lord—within?" asked Aram of the bluff porter who appeared at the gate.
"My Lord is at dinner," replied the porter, thinking the answer quite sufficient, and about to reclose the gate upon the unseasonable visitor.
"I am glad to find he is at home," rejoined Aram, gliding past the servant, with an air of quiet and unconscious command, and passing the court-yard to the main building.
At the door of the house, to which you ascended by a flight of stone steps, the valet of the nobleman—the only nobleman introduced in our tale, and consequently the same whom we have presented to our reader in the earlier part of this work, happened to be lounging and enjoying the smoke of the evening air. High-bred, prudent, and sagacious, Lord—knew well how often great men, especially in public life, obtain odium for the rudeness of their domestics, and all those, especially about himself, had been consequently tutored into the habits of universal courtesy and deference, to the lowest stranger, as well as to the highest guest. And trifling as this may seem, it was an act of morality as well as of prudence. Few can guess what pain may be saved to poor and proud men of merit by a similar precaution. The valet, therefore, replied to Aram's inquiry with great politeness; he recollected the name and repute of Aram, and as the Earl, taking delight in the company of men of letters, was generally easy of access to all such—the great man's great man instantly conducted the Student to the Earl's library, and informing him that his Lordship had not yet left the dining-room, where he was entertaining a large party, assured him that he should be informed of Aram's visit the moment he did so.
Lord—was still in office: sundry boxes were scattered on the floor; papers, that seemed countless, lay strewed over the immense library-table; but here and there were books of a more seductive character than those of business, in which the mark lately set, and the pencilled note still fresh, showed the fondness with which men of cultivated minds, though engaged in official pursuits, will turn, in the momentary intervals of more arid and toilsome life, to those lighter studies which perhaps they in reality the most enjoy.
One of these books, a volume of Shaftesbury, Aram carefully took up; it opened of its own accord in that most beautiful and profound passage which contains perhaps the justest sarcasm, to which that ingenious and graceful reasoner has given vent.
"The very spirit of Faction, for the greatest part, seems to be no other than the abuse or irregularity of that social love and common affection which is natural to mankind—for the opposite of sociableness, is selfishness, and of all characters, the thorough selfish one—is the least forward in taking party. The men of this sort are, in this respect, true men of moderation. They are secure of their temper, and possess themselves too well to be in danger of entering warmly into any cause, or engaging deeply with any side or faction."
On the margin of the page was the following note, in the handwriting of Lord—.
"Generosity hurries a man into party—philosophy keeps him aloof from it; the Emperor Julian says in his epistle to Themistius, 'If you should form only three or four philosophers, you would contribute more essentially to the happiness of mankind than many kings united.' Yet, if all men were philosophers, I doubt whether, though more men would be virtuous, there would be so many instances of an extraordinary virtue. The violent passions produce dazzling irregularities."
The Student was still engaged with this note when the Earl entered the room. As the door through which he passed was behind Aram, and he trod with a soft step, he was not perceived by the Scholar till he had reached him, and, looking over Aram's shoulder, the Earl said:—"You will dispute the truth of my remark, will you not? Profound calm is the element in which you would place all the virtues."
"Not all, my Lord," answered Aram, rising, as the Earl now shook him by the hand, and expressed his delight at seeing the Student again. Though the sagacious nobleman had no sooner heard the Student's name, than, in his own heart, he was convinced that Aram had sought him for the purpose of soliciting a renewal of the offers he had formerly refused; he resolved to leave his visitor to open the subject himself, and appeared courteously to consider the visit as a matter of course, made without any other object than the renewal of the mutual pleasure of intercourse.
"I am afraid, my Lord," said Aram, "that you are engaged. My visit can be paid to-morrow if—" "Indeed," said the Earl interrupting him, and drawing a chair to the table, "I have no engagements which should deprive me of the pleasure of your company. A few friends have indeed dined with me, but as they are now with Lady—, I do not think they will greatly miss me; besides, an occasional absence is readily forgiven in us happy men of office—we, who have the honour of exciting the envy of all England, for being made magnificently wretched."
"I am glad you allow so much, my Lord," said Aram smiling, "I could not have said more. Ambition only makes a favourite to make an ingrate;—she has lavished her honours on Lord—, and see how he speaks of her bounty?"
"Nay," said the Earl, "I spoke wantonly, and stand corrected. I have no reason to complain of the course I have chosen. Ambition, like any other passion, gives us unhappy moments; but it gives us also an animated life. In its pursuit, the minor evils of the world are not felt; little crosses, little vexations do not disturb us. Like men who walk in sleep, we are absorbed in one powerful dream, and do not even know the obstacles in our way, or the dangers that surround us: in a word, we have no private life. All that is merely domestic, the anxiety and the loss which fret other men, which blight the happiness of other men, are not felt by us: we are wholly public;—so that if we lose much comfort, we escape much care."
The Earl broke off for a moment; and then turning the subject, inquired after the Lesters, and making some general and vague observations about that family, came purposely to a pause.
Aram broke it:—"My Lord," said he, with a slight, but not ungraceful, embarrassment, "I fear that, in the course of your political life, you must have made one observation, that he who promises to-day, will be called upon to perform to-morrow. No man who has any thing to bestow, can ever promise with impunity. Some time since, you tendered me offers that would have dazzled more ardent natures than mine; and which I might have advanced some claim to philosophy in refusing. I do not now come to ask a renewal of those offers. Public life, and the haunts of men, are as hateful as ever to my pursuits: but I come, frankly and candidly, to throw myself on that generosity, which proffered to me then so large a bounty. Certain circumstances have taken from me the small pittance which supplied my wants;—I require only the power to pursue my quiet and obscure career of study—your Lordship can afford me that power: it is not against custom for the Government to grant some small annuity to men of letters—your Lordship's interest could obtain for me this favour. Let me add, however, that I can offer nothing in return! Party politics—Sectarian interests—are for ever dead to me: even my common studies are of small general utility to mankind—I am conscious of this—would it were otherwise!—Once I hoped it would be—but—" Aram here turned deadly pale, gasped for breath, mastered his emotion, and proceeded—"I have no great claim, then, to this bounty, beyond that which all poor cultivators of the abstruse sciences can advance. It is well for a country that those sciences should be cultivated; they are not of a nature which is ever lucrative to the possessor—not of a nature that can often be left, like lighter literature, to the fair favour of the public—they call, perhaps, more than any species of intellectual culture, for the protection of a government; and though in me would be a poor selection, the principle would still be served, and the example furnish precedent for nobler instances hereafter. I have said all, my Lord!"
Nothing, perhaps, more affects a man of some sympathy with those who cultivate letters, than the pecuniary claims of one who can advance them with justice, and who advances them also with dignity. If the meanest, the most pitiable, the most heart-sickening object in the world, is the man of letters, sunk into the habitual beggar, practising the tricks, incurring the rebuke, glorying in the shame, of the mingled mendicant and swindler;—what, on the other hand, so touches, so subdues us, as the first, and only petition, of one whose intellect dignifies our whole kind; and who prefers it with a certain haughtiness in his very modesty; because, in asking a favour to himself, he may be only asking the power to enlighten the world?
"Say no more, Sir," said the Earl, affected deeply, and giving gracefully way to the feeling; "the affair is settled. Consider it utterly so. Name only the amount of the annuity you desire."
With some hesitation Aram named a sum so moderate, so trivial, that the Minister, accustomed as he was to the claims of younger sons and widowed dowagers—accustomed to the hungry cravings of petitioners without merit, who considered birth the only just title to the right of exactions from the public—was literally startled by the contrast. "More than this," added Aram, "I do not require, and would decline to accept. We have some right to claim existence from the administrators of the common stock—none to claim affluence."
"Would to Heaven!" said the Earl, smiling, "that all claimants were like you: pension lists would not then call for indignation; and ministers would not blush to support the justice of the favours they conferred. But are you still firm in rejecting a more public career, with all its deserved emoluments and just honours? The offer I made you once, I renew with increased avidity now."
"'Despiciam dites,'" answered Aram, "and, thanks to you, I may add, 'despiciamque famem.'"
THE THAMES AT NIGHT.—A THOUGHT.—THE STUDENT RE-SEEKS THE RUFFIAN.—A HUMAN FEELING EVEN IN THE WORST SOIL.
Clem. 'Tis our last interview! Stat. Pray Heav'n it be. —Clemanthes.
On leaving Lord ———'s, Aram proceeded, with a lighter and more rapid step, towards a less courtly quarter of the metropolis.
He had found, on arriving in London, that in order to secure the annual sum promised to Houseman, it had been necessary to strip himself even of the small stipend he had hoped to retain. And hence his visit, and hence his petition to Lord—. He now bent his way to the spot in which Houseman had appointed their meeting. To the fastidious reader these details of pecuniary matters, so trivial in themselves, may be a little wearisome, and may seem a little undignified; but we are writing a romance of real life, and the reader must take what is homely with what may be more epic—the pettiness and the wants of the daily world, with its loftier sorrows and its grander crimes. Besides, who knows how darkly just may be that moral which shows us a nature originally high, a soul once all a-thirst for truth, bowed (by what events?) to the manoeuvres and the lies of the worldly hypocrite?
The night had now closed in, and its darkness was only relieved by the wan lamps that vista'd the streets, and a few dim stars that struggled through the reeking haze that curtained the great city. Aram had now gained one of the bridges 'that arch the royal Thames,' and, in no time dead to scenic attraction, he there paused for a moment, and looked along the dark river that rushed below.
Oh, God! how many wild and stormy hearts have stilled themselves on that spot, for one dread instant of thought—of calculation—of resolve—one instant the last of life! Look at night along the course of that stately river, how gloriously it seems to mock the passions of them that dwell beside it;—Unchanged—unchanging—all around it quick death, and troubled life; itself smiling up to the grey stars, and singing from its deep heart as it bounds along. Beside it is the Senate, proud of its solemn triflers, and there the cloistered Tomb, in which as the loftiest honour, some handful of the fiercest of the strugglers may gain forgetfulness and a grave! There is no moral to a great city like the River that washes its walls.
There was something in the view before him, that suggested reflections similar to these, to the strange and mysterious breast of the lingering Student. A solemn dejection crept over him, a warning voice sounded on his ear, the fearful Genius within him was aroused, and even in the moment when his triumph seemed complete and his safety secured, he felt it only as
"The torrent's smoothness ere it dash below."
The mist obscured and saddened the few lights scattered on either side the water. And a deep and gloomy quiet brooded round;
"The very houses seemed asleep, And all that mighty heart was lying still."
Arousing himself from his short and sombre reverie, Aram resumed his way, and threading some of the smaller streets on the opposite side of the water, arrived at last in the street in which he was to seek Houseman.
It was a narrow and dark lane, and seemed altogether of a suspicious and disreputable locality. One or two samples of the lowest description of alehouses broke the dark silence of the spot;—from them streamed the only lights which assisted the single lamp that burned at the entrance of the alley; and bursts of drunken laughter and obscene merriment broke out every now and then from these wretched theatres of Pleasure As Aram passed one of them, a crowd of the lowest order of ruffian and harlot issued noisily from the door, and suddenly obstructed his way; through this vile press reeking with the stamp and odour of the most repellent character of vice was the lofty and cold Student to force his path! The darkness, his quick step, his downcast head, favoured his escape through the unhallowed throng, and he now stood opposite the door of a small and narrow house. A ponderous knocker adorned the door, which seemed of uncommon strength, being thickly studded with large nails. He knocked twice before his summons was answered, and then a voice from within, cried, "Who's there? What want you?"
"I seek one called Houseman."
No answer was returned—some moments elapsed. Again the Student knocked, and presently he heard the voice of Houseman himself call out, "Who's there—Joe the Cracksman?"
"Richard Houseman, it is I," answered Aram, in a deep tone, and suppressing the natural feelings of loathing and abhorrence.
Houseman uttered a quick exclamation; the door was hastily unbarred All within was utterly dark; but Aram felt with a thrill of repugnance, the gripe of his strange acquaintance on his hand.
"Ha! it is you!—Come in, come in!—let me lead you. Have a care—cling to the wall—the right hand—now then—stay. So—so"—(opening the door of a room, in which a single candle, wellnigh in its socket, broke on the previous darkness;) "here we are! here we are! And, how goes it—eh!"
Houseman, now bustling about, did the honours of his apartment with a sort of complacent hospitality. He drew two rough wooden chairs, that in some late merriment seemed to have been upset, and lay, cumbering the unwashed and carpetless floor, in a position exactly contrary to that destined them by their maker;—he drew these chairs near a table strewed with drinking horns, half-emptied bottles, and a pack of cards. Dingy caricatures of the large coarse fashion of the day, decorated the walls; and carelessly thrown on another table, lay a pair of huge horse-pistols, an immense shovel hat, a false moustache, a rouge-pot, and a riding-whip. All this the Student comprehended with a rapid glance—his lip quivered for a moment—whether with shame or scorn of himself, and then throwing himself on the chair Houseman had set for him, he said, "I have come to discharge my part of our agreement."
"You are most welcome," replied Houseman, with that tone of coarse, yet flippant jocularity, which afforded to the mien and manner of Aram a still stronger contrast than his more unrelieved brutality.
"There," said Aram, giving him a paper; "there you will perceive that the sum mentioned is secured to you, the moment you quit this country. When shall that be? Let me entreat haste."
"Your prayer shall be granted. Before day-break to-morrow, I will be on the road."
Aram's face brightened.
"There is my hand upon it," said Houseman, earnestly. "You may now rest assured that you are free of me for life. Go home—marry—enjoy your existence—as I have done. Within four days, if the wind set fair, I am in France."
"My business is done; I will believe you," said Aram, frankly, and rising.
"You may," answered Houseman. "Stay—I will light you to the door. Devil and death—how the d—d candle flickers."
Across the gloomy passage, as the candle now flared—and now was dulled—by quick fits and starts,—Houseman, after this brief conference, reconducted the Student. And as Aram turned from the door, he flung his arms wildly aloft, and exclaimed in the voice of one, from whose heart a load is lifted—"Now, now, for Madeline. I breathe freely at last."
Meanwhile, Houseman turned musingly back, and regained his room, muttering, "Yes—yes—my business here is also done! Competence and safety abroad—after all, what a bugbear is this conscience!—fourteen years have rolled away—and lo! nothing discovered! nothing known! And easy circumstances—the very consequence of the deed—wait the remainder of my days:—my child, too—my Jane—shall not want—shall not be a beggar nor a harlot."
So musing, Houseman threw himself contentedly on the chair, and the last flicker of the expiring light, as it played upward on his rugged countenance—rested on one of those self-hugging smiles, with which a sanguine man contemplates a satisfactory future.
He had not been long alone, before the door opened; and a woman with a light in her hand appeared. She was evidently intoxicated, and approached Houseman with a reeling and unsteady step.
"How now, Bess? drunk as usual. Get to bed, you she shark, go!"
"Tush, man, tush! don't talk to your betters," said the woman, sinking into a chair; and her situation, disgusting as it was, could not conceal the rare, though somewhat coarse beauty of her face and person.
Even Houseman, (his heart being opened, as it were, by the cheering prospects of which his soliloquy had indulged the contemplation,) was sensible of the effect of the mere physical attraction, and drawing his chair closer to her, he said in a tone less harsh than usual.
"Come, Bess, come, you must correct that d—d habit of yours; perhaps I may make a lady of you after all. What if I were to let you take a trip with me to France, old girl, eh? and let you set off that handsome face, for you are devilish handsome, and that's the truth of it, with some of the French gewgaws you women love. What if. I were? would you be a good girl, eh?"
"I think I would, Dick,—I think I would," replied the woman, showing a set of teeth as white as ivory, with pleasure partly at the flattery, partly at the proposition: "you are a good fellow, Dick, that you are."
"Humph!" said Houseman, whose hard, shrewd mind was not easily cajoled, "but what's that paper in your bosom, Bess? a love-letter, I'll swear."
"'Tis to you then; came to you this morning, only somehow or other, I forgot to give it you till now!"
"Ha! a letter to me?" said Houseman, seizing the epistle in question. "Hem! the Knaresbro' postmark—my mother-in-law's crabbed hand, too! what can the old crone want?"
He opened the letter, and hastily scanning its contents, started up.
"Mercy, mercy!" cried he, "my child is ill, dying. I may never see her again,—my only child,—the only thing that loves me,—that does not loath me as a villain!"
"Heyday, Dicky!" said the woman, clinging to him, "don't take on so, who so fond of you as me?—what's a brat like that!"
"Curse on you, hag!" exclaimed Houseman, dashing her to the ground with a rude brutality, "you love me! Pah! My child,—my little Jane,—my pretty Jane,—my merry Jane,—my innocent Jane—I will seek her instantly—instantly; what's money? what's ease,—if—if—" And the father, wretch, ruffian as he was, stung to the core of that last redeeming feeling of his dissolute nature, struck his breast with his clenched hand, and rushed from the room—from the house.
MADELINE, HER HOPES.—A MILD AUTUMN CHARACTERISED. —A LANDSCAPE.—A RETURN.
'Tis late, and cold—stir up the fire, Sit close, and draw the table nigher; Be merry and drink wine that's old, A hearty medicine 'gainst a cold, Welcome—welcome shall fly round! —Beaumont and Fletcher: Song in the Lover's Progress.
As when the Great Poet,—
Escaped the Stygian pool, though long detained In that obscure sojourn; while, in his flight Through utter and through middle darkness borne, He sang of chaos, and eternal night:—
As when, revisiting the "Holy Light, offspring of heaven first-born," the sense of freshness and glory breaks upon him, and kindles into the solemn joyfulness of adjuring song: so rises the mind from the contemplation of the gloom and guilt of life, "the utter and the middle darkness," to some pure and bright redemption of our nature—some creature of "the starry threshold," "the regions mild of calm and serene air." Never was a nature more beautiful and soft than that of Madeline Lester—never a nature more inclined to live "above the smoke and stir of this dim spot, which men call earth"—to commune with its own high and chaste creations of thought—to make a world out of the emotions which this world knows not—a paradise, which sin, and suspicion, and fear, had never yet invaded—where God might recognise no evil, and Angels forebode no change.
Aram's return was now daily, nay, even hourly expected. Nothing disturbed the soft, though thoughtful serenity, with which his betrothed relied upon the future. Aram's letters had been more deeply impressed with the evidence of love, than even his spoken vows: those letters had diffused not so much an agitated joy, as a full and mellow light of happiness over her heart. Every thing, even Nature, seemed inclined to smile with approbation on her hopes. The autumn had never, in the memory of man, worn so lovely a garment: the balmy and freshening warmth, which sometimes characterises that period of the year, was not broken, as yet, by the chilling winds, or the sullen mists, which speak to us so mournfully of the change that is creeping over the beautiful world. The summer visitants among the feathered tribe yet lingered in flocks, showing no intention of departure; and their song—but above all, the song of the sky-lark—which, to the old English poet, was what the nightingale is to the Eastern—seemed even to grow more cheerful as the sun shortened his daily task;—the very mulberry-tree, and the rich boughs of the horse chesnut, retained something of their verdure; and the thousand glories of the woodland around Grassdale were still chequered with the golden hues that herald, but beautify Decay. Still, no news had been received of Walter: and this was the only source of anxiety that troubled the domestic happiness of the Manor-house. But the Squire continued to remember, that in youth he himself had been but a negligent correspondent; and the anxiety he felt, assumed rather the character of anger at Walter's forgetfulness, than of fear for his safety. There were moments when Ellinor silently mourned and pined; but she loved her sister not less even than her cousin; and in the prospect of Madeline's happiness, did not too often question the future respecting her own.
One evening, the sisters were sitting at their work by the window of the little parlour, and talking over various matters of which the Great World, strange as it may seem, never made a part.
They conversed in a low tone, for Lester sat by the hearth in which a wood fire had been just kindled, and appeared to have fallen into an afternoon slumber. The sun was sinking to repose, and the whole landscape lay before them bathed in light, till a cloud passing overhead, darkened the heavens just immediately above them, and one of those beautiful sun showers, that rather characterize the spring than autumn, began to fall; the rain was rather sharp, and descended with a pleasant and freshening noise through the boughs, all shining in the sun light; it did not, however, last long, and presently there sprang up the glorious rainbow, and the voices of the birds, which a minute before were mute, burst into a general chorus, the last hymn of the declining day. The sparkling drops fell fast and gratefully from the trees, and over the whole scene there breathed an inexpressible sense of gladness—
"The odour and the harmony of eve."
"How beautiful!" said Ellinor, pausing from her work—"Ah, see the squirrel, is that our pet one? he is coming close to the window, poor fellow! Stay, I will get him some bread."
"Hush!" said Madeline, half rising, and turning quite pale, "Do you hear a step without?"
"Only the dripping of the boughs," answered Ellinor.
"No—no—it is he—it is he!" cried Madeline, the blood rushing back vividly to her cheeks, "I know his step!"
And—yes—winding round the house till he stood opposite the window, the sisters now beheld Eugene Aram; the diamond rain glittered on the locks of his long hair; his cheeks were flushed by exercise, or more probably the joy of return; a smile, in which there was no shade or sadness, played over his features, which caught also a fictitious semblance of gladness from the rays of the setting sun which fell full upon them.
"My Madeline, my love, my Madeline!" broke from his lips.
"You are returned—thank God—thank God—safe—well?"
"And happy!" added Aram, with a deep meaning in the tone of his voice.
"Hey day, hey day!" cried the Squire, starting up, "what's this? bless me, Eugene!—wet through too, seemingly! Nell, run and open the door—more wood on the fire—the pheasants for supper—and stay, girl, stay—there's the key of the cellar—the twenty-one port—you know it. Ah! ah! God willing, Eugene Aram shall not complain of his welcome back to Grassdale!"
AFFECTION: ITS GODLIKE NATURE.—THE CONVERSATION BETWEEN ARAM AND MADELINE.—THE FATALIST FORGETS FATE.
Hope is a lover's staff; walk hence with that, And manage it against despairing thoughts. —Two Gentlemen of Verona.
If there be any thing thoroughly lovely in the human heart, it is Affection! All that makes hope elevated, or fear generous, belongs to the capacity of loving. For my own part, I do not wonder, in looking over the thousand creeds and sects of men, that so many religionists have traced their theology,—that so many moralists have wrought their system from—Love. The errors thus originated have something in them that charms us even while we smile at the theology, or while we neglect the system. What a beautiful fabric would be human nature—what a divine guide would be human reason—if Love were indeed the stratum of the one, and the inspiration of the other! What a world of reasonings, not immediately obvious, did the sage of old open to our inquiry, when he said the pathetic was the truest part of the sublime. Aristides, the painter, created a picture in which an infant is represented sucking a mother wounded to the death, who, even in that agony, strives to prevent the child from injuring itself by imbibing the blood mingled with the milk. [Note: Intelligitur sentire mater et timere, ne mortuo lacte sanguinem lambat.] How many emotions, that might have made us permanently wiser and better, have we lost in losing that picture!
Certainly, Love assumes a more touching and earnest semblance, when we find it in some retired and sequestered hollow of the world; when it is not mixed up with the daily frivolities and petty emotions of which a life passed in cities is so necessarily composed: we cannot but believe it a deeper and a more absorbing passion: perhaps we are not always right in the belief.