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Lavengro - The Scholar, The Gypsy, The Priest
by George Borrow
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'And them that don't finds, loses,' said I; 'no, I don't wish to play.'

'Why not, my lord?'

'Why, in the first place, I have no money.'

'Oh, you have no money, that of course alters the case. If you have no money, you can't play. Well, I suppose I must be seeing after my customers,' said he, glancing over the plain.

'Good-day,' said I.

'Good-day,' said the man slowly, but without moving, and as if in reflection. After a moment or two, looking at me inquiringly, he added, 'Out of employ?'

'Yes,' said I, 'out of employ.'

The man measured me with his eye as I lay on the ground. At length he said, 'May I speak a word or two to you, my lord?'

'As many as you please,' said I.

'Then just come a little out of hearing, a little farther on the grass, if you please, my lord.'

'Why do you call me my lord?' said I, as I arose and followed him.

'We of the thimble always calls our customers lords,' said the man; 'but I won't call you such a foolish name any more; come along.'

The man walked along the plain till he came to the side of a dry pit, when, looking round to see that no one was nigh, he laid his table on the grass, and, sitting down with his legs over the side of the pit, he motioned me to do the same. 'So you are in want of employ?' said he, after I had sat down beside him.

'Yes,' said I, 'I am very much in want of employ.'

'I think I can find you some.'

'What kind?' said I.

'Why,' said the man, 'I think you would do to be my bonnet.'

'Bonnet!' said I, 'what is that?'

'Don't you know? However, no wonder, as you had never heard of the thimble and pea game, but I will tell you. We of the game are very much exposed; folks when they have lost their money, as those who play with us mostly do, sometimes uses rough language, calls us cheats, and sometimes knocks our hats over our eyes; and what's more, with a kick under our table, cause the top deals to fly off; this is the third table I have used this day, the other two being broken by uncivil customers: so we of the game generally like to have gentlemen go about with us to take our part, and encourage us, though pretending to know nothing about us; for example, when the customer says, "I'm cheated," the bonnet must say, "No, you ain't, it is all right"; or, when my hat is knocked over my eyes, the bonnet must square, and say, "I never saw the man before in all my life, but I won't see him ill-used"; and so, when they kicks at the table, the bonnet must say, "I won't see the table ill-used, such a nice table, too; besides, I want to play myself"; and then I would say to the bonnet, "Thank you, my lord, them that finds, wins"; and then the bonnet plays, and I lets the bonnet win.'

'In a word,' said I, 'the bonnet means the man who covers you, even as the real bonnet covers the head.'

'I just so,' said the man; 'I see you are awake, and would soon make a first-rate bonnet.'

'Bonnet,' said I, musingly; 'bonnet; it is metaphorical.'

'Is it?' said the man.

'Yes,' said I, 'like the cant words—'

'Bonnet is cant,' said the man; 'we of the thimble, as well as all cly- fakers and the like, understand cant, as, of course, must every bonnet; so, if you are employed by me, you had better learn it as soon as you can, that we may discourse together without being understood by every one. Besides covering his principal, a bonnet must have his eyes about him, for the trade of the pea, though a strictly honest one, is not altogether lawful; so it is the duty of the bonnet, if he sees the constable coming, to say, The gorgio's welling.'

'That is not cant,' said I, 'that is the language of the Rommany Chals.'

'Do you know those people?' said the man.

'Perfectly,' said I, 'and their language too.'

'I wish I did,' said the man; 'I would give ten pounds and more to know the language of the Rommany Chals. There's some of it in the language of the pea and thimble; how it came there I don't know, but so it is. I wish I knew it, but it is difficult. You'll make a capital bonnet; shall we close?'

'What would the wages be?' I demanded.

'Why, to a first-rate bonnet, as I think you would prove, I could afford to give from forty to fifty shillings a week.'

'Is it possible?' said I.

'Good wages, ain't they?' said the man.

'First-rate,' said I; 'bonneting is more profitable than reviewing.'

'Anan?' said the man.

'Or translating; I don't think the Armenian would have paid me at that rate for translating his Esop.'

'Who is he?' said the man.

'Esop?'

'No, I know what that is, Esop's cant for a hunchback; but t'other?'

'You should know,' said I.

'Never saw the man in all my life.'

'Yes, you have,' said I, 'and felt him too; don't you remember the individual from whom you took the pocket-book?'

'Oh, that was he; well, the less said about that matter the better; I have left off that trade, and taken to this, which is a much better. Between ourselves, I am not sorry that I did not carry off that pocket- book; if I had, it might have encouraged me in the trade, in which had I remained, I might have been lagged, sent abroad, as I had been already imprisoned; so I determined to leave it off at all hazards, though I was hard up, not having a penny in the world.'

'And wisely resolved,' said I; 'it was a bad and dangerous trade, I wonder you should ever have embraced it.'

'It is all very well talking,' said the man, 'but there is a reason for everything; I am the son of a Jewess, by a military officer'—and then the man told me his story. I shall not repeat the man's story, it was a poor one, a vile one; at last he observed, 'So that affair which you know of determined me to leave the filching trade, and take up with a more honest and safe one; so at last I thought of the pea and thimble, but I wanted funds, especially to pay for lessons at the hands of a master, for I knew little about it.'

'Well,' said I, 'how did you get over that difficulty?'

'Why,' said the man, 'I thought I should never have got over it. What funds could I raise? I had nothing to sell; the few clothes I had I wanted, for we of the thimble must always appear decent, or nobody would come near us. I was at my wits' ends; at last I got over my difficulty in the strangest way in the world.'

'What was that?'

'By an old thing which I had picked up some time before—a book.'

'A book?' said I.

'Yes, which I had taken out of your lordship's pocket one day as you were walking the streets in a great hurry. I thought it was a pocket-book at first, full of bank-notes, perhaps,' continued he, laughing. 'It was well for me, however, that it was not, for I should have soon spent the notes; as it was, I had flung the old thing down with an oath, as soon as I brought it home. When I was so hard up, however, after the affair with that friend of yours, I took it up one day, and thought I might make something by it to support myself a day with. Chance or something else led me into a grand shop; there was a man there who seemed to be the master, talking to a jolly, portly old gentleman, who seemed to be a country squire. Well, I went up to the first, and offered it for sale; he took the book, opened it at the title-page, and then all of a sudden his eyes glistened, and he showed it to the fat, jolly gentleman, and his eyes glistened too, and I heard him say "How singular!" and then the two talked together in a speech I didn't understand—I rather thought it was French, at any rate it wasn't cant; and presently the first asked me what I would take for the book. Now I am not altogether a fool, nor am I blind, and I had narrowly marked all that passed, and it came into my head that now was the time for making a man of myself, at any rate I could lose nothing by a little confidence; so I looked the man boldly in the face, and said, "I will have five guineas for that book, there ain't such another in the whole world." "Nonsense," said the first man, "there are plenty of them, there have been nearly fifty editions, to my knowledge; I will give you five shillings." "No," said I, "I'll not take it, for I don't like to be cheated, so give me my book again"; and I attempted to take it away from the fat gentleman's hand. "Stop," said the younger man; "are you sure that you won't take less?" "Not a farthing," said I; which was not altogether true, but I said so. "Well," said the fat gentleman, "I will give you what you ask"; and sure enough he presently gave me the money; so I made a bow, and was leaving the shop, when it came into my head that there was something odd in all this, and, as I had the money in my pocket, I turned back, and, making another bow, said, "May I be so bold as to ask why you gave me all this money for that 'ere dirty book? When I came into the shop, I should have been glad to get a shilling for it; but I saw you wanted it, and asked five guineas." Then they looked at one another, and smiled, and shrugged up their shoulders. Then the first man, looking at me, said, "Friend, you have been a little too sharp for us; however, we can afford to forgive you, as my friend here has long been in quest of this particular book; there are plenty of editions, as I told you, and a common copy is not worth five shillings; but this is a first edition, and a copy of the first edition is worth its weight in gold."'

'So, after all, they outwitted you,' I observed.

'Clearly,' said the man; 'I might have got double the price, had I known the value; but I don't care, much good may it do them, it has done me plenty. By means of it I have got into an honest, respectable trade, in which there's little danger and plenty of profit, and got out of one which would have got me lagged, sooner or later.'

'But,' said I, 'you ought to remember that the thing was not yours; you took it from me, who had been requested by a poor old apple-woman to exchange it for a Bible.'

'Well,' said the man, 'did she ever get her Bible?'

'Yes,' said I, 'she got her Bible.'

'Then she has no cause to complain; and, as for you, chance or something else has sent you to me, that I may make you reasonable amends for any loss you may have had. Here am I ready to make you my bonnet, with forty or fifty shillings a week, which you say yourself are capital wages.'

'I find no fault with the wages,' said I, 'but I don't like the employ.'

'Not like bonneting,' said the man; 'ah, I see, you would like to be principal; well, a time may come—those long white fingers of yours would just serve for the business.'

'Is it a difficult one?' I demanded.

'Why, it is not very easy: two things are needful—natural talent, and constant practice; but I'll show you a point or two connected with the game'; and, placing his table between his knees as he sat over the side of the pit, he produced three thimbles, and a small brown pellet, something resembling a pea. He moved the thimble and pellet about, now placing it to all appearance under one, and now under another; 'Under which is it now?' he said at last. 'Under that,' said I, pointing to the lowermost of the thimbles, which, as they stood, formed a kind of triangle. 'No,' said he, 'it is not, but lift it up'; and, when I lifted up the thimble, the pellet, in truth, was not under it. 'It was under none of them,' said he, 'it was pressed by my little finger against my palm'; and then he showed me how he did the trick, and asked me if the game was not a funny one; and, on my answering in the affirmative, he said, 'I am glad you like it; come along and let us win some money.'

Thereupon, getting up, he placed the table before him, and was moving away; observing, however, that I did not stir, he asked me what I was staying for. 'Merely for my own pleasure,' said I; 'I like sitting here very well.' 'Then you won't close?' said the man. 'By no means,' I replied; 'your proposal does not suit me.' 'You may be principal in time,' said the man. 'That makes no difference,' said I; and, sitting with my legs over the pit, I forthwith began to decline an Armenian noun. 'That ain't cant,' said the man; 'no, nor gypsy either. Well, if you won't close, another will, I can't lose any more time,' and forthwith he departed.

And after I had declined four Armenian nouns, of different declensions, I rose from the side of the pit, and wandered about amongst the various groups of people scattered over the green. Presently I came to where the man of the thimbles was standing, with the table before him, and many people about him. 'Them who finds, wins, and them who can't find, loses,' he cried. Various individuals tried to find the pellet, but all were unsuccessful, till at last considerable dissatisfaction was expressed, and the terms rogue and cheat were lavished upon him. 'Never cheated anybody in all my life,' he cried; and, observing me at hand, 'didn't I play fair, my lord?' he inquired. But I made no answer. Presently some more played, and he permitted one or two to win, and the eagerness to play with him became greater. After I had looked on for some time, I was moving away: just then I perceived a short, thick personage, with a staff in his hand, advancing in a great hurry; whereupon, with a sudden impulse, I exclaimed—

Shoon thimble-engro; Avella gorgio.

The man, who was in the midst of his pea-and-thimble process, no sooner heard the last word of the distich than he turned an alarmed look in the direction of where I stood; then, glancing around, and perceiving the constable, he slipped forthwith his pellet and thimbles into his pocket, and, lifting up his table, he cried to the people about him, 'Make way!' and with a motion with his head to me, as if to follow him, he darted off with a swiftness which the short, pursy constable could by no means rival; and whither he went, or what became of him, I know not, inasmuch as I turned away in another direction.



CHAPTER LIV

Mr. Petulengro—Rommany Rye—Lil-writers—One's own horn—Lawfully-earnt money—The wooded hill—A great favourite—The shop window—Much wanted.

And, as I wandered along the green, I drew near to a place where several men, with a cask beside them, sat carousing in the neighbourhood of a small tent. 'Here he comes,' said one of them, as I advanced, and standing up he raised his voice and sang:—

'Here the Gypsy gemman see, With his Roman jib and his rome and dree— Rome and dree, rum and dry Rally round the Rommany Rye.'

It was Mr. Petulengro, who was here diverting himself with several of his comrades; they all received me with considerable frankness. 'Sit down, brother,' said Mr. Petulengro, 'and take a cup of good ale.'

I sat down. 'Your health, gentlemen,' said I, as I took the cup which Mr. Petulengro handed to me.

'Aukko tu pios adrey Rommanis. Here is your health in Rommany, brother,' said Mr. Petulengro; who, having refilled the cup, now emptied it at a draught.

'Your health in Rommany, brother,' said Tawno Chikno, to whom the cup came next.

'The Rommany Rye,' said a third.

'The Gypsy gentleman,' exclaimed a fourth, drinking.

And then they all sang in chorus:—

'Here the Gypsy gemman see, With his Roman jib and his rome and dree— Rome and dree, rum and dry Rally round the Rommany Rye.'

{picture:'Here the Gipsy gemman see.': page304.jpg}

'And now, brother,' said Mr. Petulengro, 'seeing that you have drunk and been drunken, you will perhaps tell us where you have been, and what about?'

'I have been in the Big City,' said I, 'writing lils.'

'How much money have you got in your pocket, brother?' said Mr. Petulengro.

'Eighteenpence,' said I; 'all I have in the world.'

'I have been in the Big City, too,' said Mr. Petulengro; 'but I have not written lils—I have fought in the ring—I have fifty pounds in my pocket—I have much more in the world. Brother, there is considerable difference between us.

'I would rather be the lil-writer, after all,' said the tall, handsome, black man; 'indeed, I would wish for nothing better.'

'Why so?' said Mr. Petulengro.

'Because they have so much to say for themselves,' said the black man, 'even when dead and gone. When they are laid in the churchyard, it is their own fault if people ain't talking of them. Who will know, after I am dead, or bitchadey pawdel, that I was once the beauty of the world, or that you Jasper were—'

'The best man in England of my inches. That's true, Tawno—however, here's our brother will perhaps let the world know something about us.'

'Not he,' said the other, with a sigh; 'he'll have quite enough to do in writing his own lils, and telling the world how handsome and clever he was; and who can blame him? Not I. If I could write lils, every word should be about myself and my own tacho Rommanis—my own lawful wedded wife, which is the same thing. I tell you what, brother, I once heard a wise man say in Brummagem, that "there is nothing like blowing one's own horn," which I conceive to be much the same thing as writing one's own lil.'

After a little more conversation, Mr. Petulengro arose, and motioned me to follow him. 'Only eighteenpence in the world, brother?' said he, as we walked together.

'Nothing more, I assure you. How came you to ask me how much money I had?'

'Because there was something in your look, brother, something very much resembling that which a person showeth who does not carry much money in his pocket. I was looking at my own face this morning in my wife's looking-glass—I did not look as you do, brother.'

'I believe your sole motive for inquiring,' said I, 'was to have an opportunity of venting a foolish boast, and to let me know that you were in possession of fifty pounds.'

'What is the use of having money unless you let people know you have it?' said Mr. Petulengro. 'It is not every one can read faces, brother; and, unless you knew I had money, how could you ask me to lend you any?'

'I am not going to ask you to lend me any.'

'Then you may have it without asking; as I said before, I have fifty pounds, all lawfully-earnt money, got by fighting in the ring—I will lend you that, brother.'

'You are very kind,' said I; 'but I will not take it.'

'Then the half of it?'

'Nor the half of it; but it is getting towards evening, I must go back to the Great City.'

'And what will you do in the Boro Foros?'

'I know not,' said I.

'Earn money?

'If I can.'

'And if you can't?'

'Starve!'

'You look ill, brother,' said Mr. Petulengro.

'I do not feel well; the Great City does not agree with me. Should I be so fortunate as to earn some money, I would leave the Big City, and take to the woods and fields.'

'You may do that, brother,' said Mr. Petulengro, 'whether you have money or not. Our tents and horses are on the other side of yonder wooded hill, come and stay with us; we shall all be glad of your company, but more especially myself and my wife Pakomovna.'

'What hill is that?' I demanded.

And then Mr. Petulengro told me the name of the hill. 'We shall stay on t'other side of the hill a fortnight,' he continued; 'and, as you are fond of lil-writing, you may employ yourself profitably whilst there. You can write the lil of him whose dock gallops down that hill every night, even as the living man was wont to do long ago.'

'Who was he?' I demanded.

'Jemmy Abershaw,' said Mr. Petulengro; 'one of those whom we call Boro drom engroes, and the gorgios highway-men. I once heard a rye say that the life of that man would fetch much money; so come to the other side of the hill, and write the lil in the tent of Jasper and his wife Pakomovna.'

{picture:'Even as the living man was wont to do long ago.': page307.jpg}

At first I felt inclined to accept the invitation of Mr. Petulengro; a little consideration, however, determined me to decline it. I had always been on excellent terms with Mr. Petulengro, but I reflected that people might be excellent friends when they met occasionally in the street, or on the heath, or in the wood; but that these very people when living together in a house, to say nothing of a tent, might quarrel. I reflected, moreover, that Mr. Petulengro had a wife. I had always, it is true, been a great favourite with Mrs. Petulengro, who had frequently been loud in her commendation of the young rye, as she called me, and his turn of conversation; but this was at a time when I stood in need of nothing, lived under my parents' roof, and only visited at the tents to divert and to be diverted. The times were altered, and I was by no means certain that Mrs. Petulengro, when she should discover that I was in need both of shelter and subsistence, might not alter her opinion both with respect to the individual and what he said—stigmatising my conversation as saucy discourse, and myself as a scurvy companion; and that she might bring over her husband to her own way of thinking, provided, indeed, he should need any conducting. I therefore, though without declaring my reasons, declined the offer of Mr. Petulengro, and presently, after shaking him by the hand, bent again my course towards the Great City.

I crossed the river at a bridge considerably above that hight of London; for, not being acquainted with the way, I missed the turning which should have brought me to the latter. Suddenly I found myself in a street of which I had some recollection, and mechanically stopped before the window of a shop at which various publications were exposed; it was that of the bookseller to whom I had last applied in the hope of selling my ballads or Ab Gwilym, and who had given me hopes that, in the event of my writing a decent novel, or a tale, he would prove a purchaser. As I stood listlessly looking at the window, and the publications which it contained, I observed a paper affixed to the glass by wafers with something written upon it. I drew yet nearer for the purpose of inspecting it; the writing was in a fair round hand—'A Novel or Tale is much wanted,' was what was written.



CHAPTER LV

Bread and water—Pair play—Fashion—Colonel B——-Joseph Sell—The kindly glow—Easiest manner imaginable.

'I must do something,' said I, as I sat that night in my lonely apartment, with some bread and a pitcher of water before me.

Thereupon taking some of the bread, and eating it, I considered what I was to do. 'I have no idea what I am to do,' said I, as I stretched my hand towards the pitcher, 'unless (and here I took a considerable draught) I write a tale or a novel—That bookseller,' I continued, speaking to myself, 'is certainly much in need of a tale or a novel, otherwise he would not advertise for one. Suppose I write one, I appear to have no other chance of extricating myself from my present difficulties; surely it was Fate that conducted me to his window.

'I will do it,' said I, as I struck my hand against the table; 'I will do it.' Suddenly a heavy cloud of despondency came over me. Could I do it? Had I the imagination requisite to write a tale or a novel? 'Yes, yes,' said I, as I struck my hand again against the table, 'I can manage it; give me fair play, and I can accomplish anything.'

But should I have fair play? I must have something to maintain myself with whilst I wrote my tale, and I had but eighteenpence in the world. Would that maintain me whilst I wrote my tale? Yes, I thought it would, provided I ate bread, which did not cost much, and drank water, which cost nothing; it was poor diet, it was true, but better men than myself had written on bread and water; had not the big man told me so? or something to that effect, months before?

It was true there was my lodging to pay for; but up to the present time I owed nothing, and perhaps, by the time that the people of the house asked me for money, I should have written a tale or a novel, which would bring me in money; I had paper, pens, and ink, and, let me not forget them, I had candles in my closet, all paid for, to light me during my night work. Enough, I would go doggedly to work upon my tale or novel.

But what was the tale or novel to be about? Was it to be a tale of fashionable life, about Sir Harry Somebody, and the Countess something? But I knew nothing about fashionable people, and cared less; therefore how should I attempt to describe fashionable life? What should the tale consist of? The life and adventures of some one. Good—but of whom? Did not Mr. Petulengro mention one Jemmy Abershaw? Yes. Did he not tell me that the life and adventures of Jemmy Abershaw would bring in much money to the writer? Yes, but I knew nothing of that worthy. I heard, it is true, from Mr. Petulengro, that when alive he committed robberies on the hill, on the side of which Mr. Petulengro had pitched his tents, and that his ghost still haunted the hill at midnight; but those were scant materials out of which to write the man's life. It is probable indeed, that Mr. Petulengro would be able to supply me with further materials if I should apply to him, but I was in a hurry, and could not afford the time which it would be necessary to spend in passing to and from Mr. Petulengro, and consulting him. Moreover, my pride revolted at the idea of being beholden to Mr. Petulengro for the materials of the history. No, I would not write the history of Abershaw. Whose then—Harry Simms? Alas, the life of Harry Simms had been already much better written by himself than I could hope to do it; and, after all, Harry Simms, like Jemmy Abershaw, was merely a robber. Both, though bold and extraordinary men, were merely highwaymen. I questioned whether I could compose a tale likely to excite any particular interest out of the exploits of a mere robber. I want a character for my hero, thought I, something higher than a mere robber; some one like—like Colonel B—-. By the way, why should I not write the life and adventures of Colonel B—-, of Londonderry in Ireland?

A truly singular man was this same Colonel B—-, of Londonderry in Ireland; a personage of most strange and incredible feats and daring, who had been a partizan soldier, a bravo—who, assisted by certain discontented troopers, nearly succeeded in stealing the crown and regalia from the Tower of London; who attempted to hang the Duke of Ormond at Tyburn; and whose strange, eventful career did not terminate even with his life, his dead body, on the circulation of an unfounded report that he did not come to his death by fair means, having been exhumed by the mob of his native place, where he had retired to die, and carried in the coffin through the streets.

Of his life I had inserted an account in the Newgate Lives and Trials; it was bare and meagre, and written in the stiff, awkward style of the seventeenth century; it had, however, strongly captivated my imagination, and I now thought that out of it something better could be made; that, if I added to the adventures, and purified the style, I might fashion out of it a very decent tale or novel. On a sudden, however, the proverb of mending old garments with new cloth occurred to me. 'I am afraid,' said I, 'any new adventures which I can invent will not fadge well with the old tale; one will but spoil the other.' I had better have nothing to do with Colonel B—-, thought I, but boldly and independently sit down and write the life of Joseph Sell.

This Joseph Sell, dear reader, was a fictitious personage who had just come into my head. I had never even heard of the name, but just at that moment it happened to come into my head; I would write an entirely fictitious narrative, called the Life and Adventures of Joseph Sell, the great traveller.

I had better begin at once, thought I; and removing the bread and the jug, which latter was now empty, I seized pen and paper, and forthwith essayed to write the life of Joseph Sell, but soon discovered that it is much easier to resolve upon a thing than to achieve it, or even to commence it; for the life of me I did not know how to begin, and, after trying in vain to write a line, I thought it would be as well to go to bed, and defer my projected undertaking till the morrow.

So I went to bed, but not to sleep. During the greater part of the night I lay awake, musing upon the work which I had determined to execute. For a long time my brain was dry and unproductive; I could form no plan which appeared feasible. At length I felt within my brain a kindly glow; it was the commencement of inspiration; in a few minutes I had formed my plan; I then began to imagine the scenes and the incidents. Scenes and incidents flitted before my mind's eye so plentifully, that I knew not how to dispose of them; I was in a regular embarrassment. At length I got out of the difficulty in the easiest manner imaginable, namely, by consigning to the depths of oblivion all the feebler and less stimulant scenes and incidents, and retaining the better and more impressive ones. Before morning I had sketched the whole work on the tablets of my mind, and then resigned myself to sleep in the pleasing conviction that the most difficult part of my undertaking was achieved.



CHAPTER LVI

Considerably sobered—Power of writing—The tempter—Hungry talent—Work concluded.

Rather late in the morning I awoke; for a few minutes I lay still, perfectly still; my imagination was considerably sobered; the scenes and situations which had pleased me so much over night appeared to me in a far less captivating guise that morning. I felt languid and almost hopeless—the thought, however, of my situation soon roused me—I must make an effort to improve the posture of my affairs; there was no time to be lost; so I sprang out of bed, breakfasted on bread and water, and then sat down doggedly to write the life of Joseph Sell.

It was a great thing to have formed my plan, and to have arranged the scenes in my head, as I had done on the preceding night. The chief thing requisite at present was the mere mechanical act of committing them to paper. This I did not find at first so easy as I could wish—I wanted mechanical skill; but I persevered, and before evening I had written ten pages. I partook of some bread and water; and before I went to bed that night, I had completed fifteen pages of my life of Joseph Sell.

The next day I resumed my task—I found my power of writing considerably increased; my pen hurried rapidly over the paper—my brain was in a wonderfully teeming state; many scenes and visions which I had not thought of before were evolved, and, as fast as evolved, written down; they seemed to be more pat to my purpose, and more natural to my history, than many others which I had imagined before, and which I made now give place to these newer creations: by about midnight I had added thirty fresh pages to my Life and Adventures of Joseph Sell.

The third day arose—it was dark and dreary out of doors, and I passed it drearily enough within; my brain appeared to have lost much of its former glow, and my pen much of its power; I, however, toiled on, but at midnight had only added seven pages to my history of Joseph Sell.

On the fourth day the sun shone brightly—I arose, and, having breakfasted as usual, I fell to work. My brain was this day wonderfully prolific, and my pen never before or since glided so rapidly over the paper; towards night I began to feel strangely about the back part of my head, and my whole system was extraordinarily affected. I likewise occasionally saw double—a tempter now seemed to be at work within me.

'You had better leave off now for a short space,' said the tempter, 'and go out and drink a pint of beer; you have still one shilling left—if you go on at this rate, you will go mad—go out and spend sixpence, you can afford it, more than half your work is done.' I was about to obey the suggestion of the tempter, when the idea struck me that, if I did not complete the work whilst the fit was on me, I should never complete it; so I held on. I am almost afraid to state how many pages I wrote that day of the life of Joseph Sell.

From this time I proceeded in a somewhat more leisurely manner; but, as I drew nearer and nearer to the completion of my task, dreadful fears and despondencies came over me.—It will be too late, thought I; by the time I have finished the work, the bookseller will have been supplied with a tale or a novel. Is it probable that, in a town like this, where talent is so abundant—hungry talent too—a bookseller can advertise for a tale or a novel, without being supplied with half a dozen in twenty-four hours? I may as well fling down my pen—I am writing to no purpose. And these thoughts came over my mind so often, that at last, in utter despair, I flung down the pen. Whereupon the tempter within me said—'And, now you have flung down the pen, you may as well fling yourself out of the window; what remains for you to do?' Why, to take it up again, thought I to myself, for I did not like the latter suggestion at all—and then forthwith I resumed the pen, and wrote with greater vigour than before, from about six o'clock in the evening until I could hardly see, when I rested for a while, when the tempter within me again said, or appeared to say—'All you have been writing is stuff, it will never do—a drug—a mere drug'; and methought these last words were uttered in the gruff tones of the big publisher. 'A thing merely to be sneezed at,' a voice like that of Taggart added; and then I seemed to hear a sternutation,—as I probably did, for, recovering from a kind of swoon, I found myself shivering with cold. The next day I brought my work to a conclusion.

But the task of revision still remained; for an hour or two I shrank from it, and remained gazing stupidly at the pile of paper which I had written over. I was all but exhausted, and I dreaded, on inspecting the sheets, to find them full of absurdities which I had paid no regard to in the furor of composition. But the task, however trying to my nerves, must be got over; at last, in a kind of desperation, I entered upon it. It was far from an easy one; there were, however, fewer errors and absurdities than I had anticipated. About twelve o'clock at night I had got over the task of revision. 'To-morrow for the bookseller,' said I, as my head sank on the pillow. 'Oh me!'



CHAPTER LVII

Nervous look—The bookseller's wife—The last stake—Terms—God forbid!—Will you come to tea?—A light heart.

On arriving at the bookseller's shop, I cast a nervous look at the window, for the purpose of observing whether the paper had been removed or not. To my great delight the paper was in its place; with a beating heart I entered, there was nobody in the shop; as I stood at the counter, however, deliberating whether or not I should call out, the door of what seemed to be a back-parlour opened, and out came a well-dressed lady-like female, of about thirty, with a good-looking and intelligent countenance. 'What is your business, young man?' said she to me, after I had made her a polite bow. 'I wish to speak to the gentleman of the house,' said I. 'My husband is not within at present,' she replied; 'what is your business?' 'I have merely brought something to show him,' said I, 'but I will call again.' 'If you are the young gentleman who has been here before,' said the lady, 'with poems and ballads, as, indeed, I know you are,' she added, smiling, 'for I have seen you through the glass door, I am afraid it will be useless; that is,' she added with another smile, 'if you bring us nothing else.' 'I have not brought you poems and ballads now,' said I, 'but something widely different; I saw your advertisement for a tale or a novel, and have written something which I think will suit; and here it is,' I added, showing the roll of paper which I held in my hand. 'Well,' said the bookseller's wife, 'you may leave it, though I cannot promise you much chance of its being accepted. My husband has already had several offered to him; however, you may leave it; give it me. Are you afraid to intrust it to me?' she demanded somewhat hastily, observing that I hesitated. 'Excuse me,' said I, 'but it is all I have to depend upon in the world; I am chiefly apprehensive that it will not be read.' 'On that point I can reassure you,' said the good lady, smiling, and there was now something sweet in her smile. 'I give you my word that it shall be read; come again to-morrow morning at eleven, when, if not approved, it shall be returned to you.'

I returned to my lodging, and forthwith betook myself to bed, notwithstanding the earliness of the hour. I felt tolerably tranquil; I had now cast my last stake, and was prepared to abide by the result. Whatever that result might be, I could have nothing to reproach myself with; I had strained all the energies which nature had given me in order to rescue myself from the difficulties which surrounded me. I presently sank into a sleep, which endured during the remainder of the day, and the whole of the succeeding night. I awoke about nine on the morrow, and spent my last threepence on a breakfast somewhat more luxurious than the immediately preceding ones, for one penny of the sum was expended on the purchase of milk.

At the appointed hour I repaired to the house of the bookseller; the bookseller was in his shop. 'Ah,' said he, as soon as I entered, 'I am glad to see you.' There was an unwonted heartiness in the bookseller's tones, an unwonted benignity in his face. 'So,' said he, after a pause, 'you have taken my advice, written a book of adventure; nothing like taking the advice, young man, of your superiors in age. Well, I think your book will do, and so does my wife, for whose judgment I have a great regard; as well I may, as she is the daughter of a first-rate novelist, deceased. I think I shall venture on sending your book to the press.' 'But,' said I, 'we have not yet agreed upon terms.' 'Terms, terms,' said the bookseller; 'ahem! well, there is nothing like coming to terms at once. I will print the book, and give you half the profit when the edition is sold.' 'That will not do,' said I; 'I intend shortly to leave London: I must have something at once.' 'Ah, I see,' said the bookseller, 'in distress; frequently the case with authors, especially young ones. Well, I don't care if I purchase it of you, but you must be moderate; the public are very fastidious, and the speculation may prove a losing one after all. Let me see, will five—hem—' he stopped. I looked the bookseller in the face; there was something peculiar in it. Suddenly it appeared to me as if the voice of him of the thimble sounded in my ear, 'Now is your time, ask enough, never such another chance of establishing yourself; respectable trade, pea and thimble.' 'Well,' said I at last, 'I have no objection to take the offer which you were about to make, though I really think five-and-twenty guineas to be scarcely enough, everything considered.' 'Five-and-twenty guineas!' said the bookseller; 'are you—what was I going to say—I never meant to offer half as much—I mean a quarter; I was going to say five guineas—I mean pounds; I will, however, make it up guineas.' 'That will not do,' said I; 'but, as I find we shall not deal, return me my manuscript, that I may carry it to some one else.' The bookseller looked blank. 'Dear me,' said he, 'I should never have supposed that you would have made any objection to such an offer; I am quite sure that you would have been glad to take five pounds for either of the two huge manuscripts of songs and ballads that you brought me on a former occasion.' 'Well,' said I, 'if you will engage to publish either of those two manuscripts, you shall have the present one for five pounds.' 'God forbid that I should make any such bargain!' said the bookseller; 'I would publish neither on any account; but, with respect to this last book, I have really an inclination to print it, both for your sake and mine; suppose we say ten pounds.' 'No,' said I, 'ten pounds will not do; pray restore me my manuscript.' 'Stay,' said the bookseller, 'my wife is in the next room, I will go and consult her.' Thereupon he went into his back room, where I heard him conversing with his wife in a low tone; in about ten minutes he returned. 'Young gentleman,' said he, 'perhaps you will take tea with us this evening, when we will talk further over the matter.'

That evening I went and took tea with the bookseller and his wife, both of whom, particularly the latter, overwhelmed me with civility. It was not long before I learned that the work had been already sent to the press, and was intended to stand at the head of a series of entertaining narratives, from which my friends promised themselves considerable profit. The subject of terms was again brought forward. I stood firm to my first demand for a long time; when, however, the bookseller's wife complimented me on my production in the highest terms, and said that she discovered therein the germs of genius, which she made no doubt would some day prove ornamental to my native land, I consented to drop my demand to twenty pounds, stipulating, however, that I should not be troubled with the correction of the work.

Before I departed, I received the twenty pounds, and departed with a light heart to my lodgings.

Reader, amidst the difficulties and dangers of this life, should you ever be tempted to despair, call to mind these latter chapters of the life of Lavengro. There are few positions, however difficult, from which dogged resolution and perseverance may not liberate you.



CHAPTER LVIII

Indisposition—A resolution—Poor equivalents—The piece of gold—Flashing eyes—How beautiful—Bon jour, Monsieur.

I had long ago determined to leave London as soon as the means should be in my power, and, now that they were, I determined to leave the Great City; yet I felt some reluctance to go. I would fain have pursued the career of original authorship which had just opened itself to me, and have written other tales of adventure. The bookseller had given me encouragement enough to do so; he had assured me that he should be always happy to deal with me for an article (that was the word) similar to the one I had brought him, provided my terms were moderate; and the bookseller's wife, by her complimentary language, had given me yet more encouragement. But for some months past I had been far from well, and my original indisposition, brought on partly by the peculiar atmosphere of the Big City, partly by anxiety of mind, had been much increased by the exertions which I had been compelled to make during the last few days. I felt that, were I to remain where I was, I should die, or become a confirmed valetudinarian. I would go forth into the country, travelling on foot, and, by exercise and inhaling pure air, endeavour to recover my health, leaving my subsequent movements to be determined by Providence.

But whither should I bend my course? Once or twice I thought of walking home to the old town, stay some time with my mother and my brother, and enjoy the pleasant walks in the neighbourhood; but, though I wished very much to see my mother and my brother, and felt much disposed to enjoy the said pleasant walks, the old town was not exactly the place to which I wished to go at this present juncture. I was afraid that people would ask, Where are your Northern Ballads? Where are your alliterative translations from Ab Gwilym—of which you were always talking, and with which you promised to astonish the world? Now, in the event of such interrogations, what could I answer? It is true I had compiled Newgate Lives and Trials, and had written the life of Joseph Sell, but I was afraid that the people of the old town would scarcely consider these as equivalents for the Northern Ballads and the songs of Ab Gwilym. I would go forth and wander in any direction but that of the old town.

But how one's sensibility on any particular point diminishes with time; at present I enter the old town perfectly indifferent as to what the people may be thinking on the subject of the songs and ballads. With respect to the people themselves, whether, like my sensibility, their curiosity has altogether evaporated, whether, which is at least equally probable, they never entertained any, one thing is certain, that never in a single instance have they troubled me with any remarks on the subject of the songs and ballads.

As it was my intention to travel on foot, with a bundle and a stick, I despatched my trunk containing some few clothes and books to the old town. My preparations were soon made; in about three days I was in readiness to start.

Before departing, however, I bethought me of my old friend the apple-woman of London Bridge. Apprehensive that she might be labouring under the difficulties of poverty, I sent her a piece of gold by the hands of a young maiden in the house in which I lived. The latter punctually executed her commission, but brought me back the piece of gold. The old woman would not take it; she did not want it, she said. 'Tell the poor thin lad,' she added, 'to keep it for himself, he wants it more than I.'

Rather late one afternoon I departed from my lodging, with my stick in one hand and a small bundle in the other, shaping my course to the south- west: when I first arrived, somewhat more than a year before, I had entered the city by the north-east. As I was not going home, I determined to take my departure in the direction the very opposite to home.

Just as I was about to cross the street called the Haymarket, at the lower part, a cabriolet, drawn by a magnificent animal, came dashing along at a furious rate; it stopped close by the curb-stone where I was, a sudden pull of the reins nearly bringing the spirited animal upon its haunches. The Jehu who had accomplished this feat was Francis Ardry. A small beautiful female, with flashing eyes, dressed in the extremity of fashion, sat beside him.

'Holloa, friend,' said Francis Ardry, 'whither bound?'

'I do not know,' said I; 'all I can say is, that I am about to leave London.'

'And the means?' said Francis Ardry.

'I have them,' said I, with a cheerful smile.

'Qui est celui-ci?' demanded the small female, impatiently.

'C'est—mon ami le plus intime; so you were about to leave London, without telling me a word,' said Francis Ardry, somewhat angrily.

'I intended to have written to you,' said I: 'what a splendid mare that is.'

'Is she not?' said Francis Ardry, who was holding in the mare with difficulty; 'she cost a hundred guineas.'

'Qu'est ce qu'il dit?' demanded his companion.

'Il dit que le jument est bien beau.'

'Allons, mon ami, il est tard,' said the beauty, with a scornful toss of her head; 'allons!'

'Encore un moment,' said Francis Ardry; 'and when shall I see you again?'

'I scarcely know,' I replied: 'I never saw a more splendid turn out.'

'Qu'est ce qu'il dit?' I said the lady again.

'Il dit que tout l'equipage est en assez bon gout.'

'Allons, c'est un ours,' said the lady; 'le cheval meme en a peur,' added she, as the mare reared up on high.

'Can you find nothing else to admire but the mare and the equipage?' said Francis Ardry, reproachfully, after he had with some difficulty brought the mare to order.

Lifting my hand, in which I held my stick, I took off my hat. 'How beautiful!' said I, looking the lady full in the face.

'Comment?' said the lady, inquiringly.

'Il dit que vous etes belle comme un ange,' said Francis Ardry, emphatically.

'Mais, a la bonne heure! arretez, mon ami,' said the lady to Francis Ardry, who was about to drive off; 'je voudrais bien causer un moment avec lui; arretez, il est delicieux.—Est-ce bien ainsi que vous traitez vos amis?' said she passionately, as Francis Ardry lifted up his whip. 'Bon jour, Monsieur, bon jour,' said she, thrusting her head from the side and looking back, as Francis Ardry drove off at the rate of thirteen miles an hour.



CHAPTER LIX

The milestone—The meditation—Want to get up?—The off-hand leader—Sixteen shillings—The near-hand wheeler—All right.

In about two hours I had cleared the Great City, and got beyond the suburban villages, or rather towns, in the direction in which I was travelling; I was in a broad and excellent road, leading I knew not whither. I now slackened my pace, which had hitherto been great. Presently, coming to a milestone on which was graven nine miles, I rested against it, and looking round towards the vast city, which had long ceased to be visible, I fell into a train of meditation.

{picture:Presently, coming to a milestone, I rested against it, and, looking round towards the vast city, I fell into a train of meditation: page321.jpg}

I thought of all my ways and doings since the day of my first arrival in that vast city—I had worked and toiled, and, though I had accomplished nothing at all commensurate with the hopes which I had entertained previous to my arrival, I had achieved my own living, preserved my independence, and become indebted to no one. I was now quitting it, poor in purse, it is true, but not wholly empty; rather ailing it may be, but not broken in health; and, with hope within my bosom, had I not cause upon the whole to be thankful? Perhaps there were some who, arriving at the same time under not more favourable circumstances, had accomplished much more, and whose future was far more hopeful—Good! But there might be others who, in spite of all their efforts, had been either trodden down in the press, never more to be heard of, or were quitting that mighty town broken in purse, broken in health, and, oh! with not one dear hope to cheer them. Had I not, upon the whole, abundant cause to be grateful? Truly, yes!

My meditation over, I left the milestone and proceeded on my way in the same direction as before until the night began to close in. I had always been a good pedestrian; but now, whether owing to indisposition or to not having for some time past been much in the habit of taking such lengthy walks, I began to feel not a little weary. Just as I was thinking of putting up for the night at the next inn or public-house I should arrive at, I heard what sounded like a coach coming up rapidly behind me. Induced, perhaps, by the weariness which I felt, I stopped and looked wistfully in the direction of the sound; presently up came a coach, seemingly a mail, drawn by four bounding horses—there was no one upon it but the coachman and the guard; when nearly parallel with me it stopped. 'Want to get up?' sounded a voice, in the true coachman-like tone—half querulous, half authoritative. I hesitated; I was tired, it is true, but I had left London bound on a pedestrian excursion, and I did not much like the idea of having recourse to a coach after accomplishing so very inconsiderable a distance. 'Come, we can't be staying here all night,' said the voice, more sharply than before. 'I can ride a little way, and get down whenever I like,' thought I; and springing forward I clambered up the coach, and was going to sit down upon the box, next the coachman. 'No, no,' said the coachman, who was a man about thirty, with a hooked nose and red face, dressed in a fashionably-cut greatcoat, with a fashionable black castor on his head. 'No, no, keep behind—the box ain't for the like of you,' said he, as he drove off; 'the box is for lords, or gentlemen at least.' I made no answer. 'D—- that off-hand leader,' said the coachman, as the right-hand front horse made a desperate start at something he saw in the road; and, half rising, he with great dexterity hit with his long whip the off-hand leader a cut on the off cheek. 'These seem to be fine horses,' said I. The coachman made no answer. 'Nearly thoroughbred,' I continued; the coachman drew his breath, with a kind of hissing sound, through his teeth. 'Come, young fellow, none of your chaff. Don't you think, because you ride on my mail, I'm going to talk to you about 'orses. I talk to nobody about 'orses except lords.' 'Well,' said I, 'I have been called a lord in my time.' 'It must have been by a thimble-rigger, then,' said the coachman, bending back, and half turning his face round with a broad leer. 'You have hit the mark wonderfully,' said I. 'You coachmen, whatever else you may be, are certainly no fools.' 'We ain't, ain't we?' said the coachman. 'There you are right; and, to show you that you are, I'll now trouble you for your fare. If you have been amongst the thimble-riggers you must be tolerably well cleared out. Where are you going?—to—? I think I have seen you there. The fare is sixteen shillings. Come, tip us the blunt; them that has no money can't ride on my mail.'

Sixteen shillings was a large sum, and to pay it would make a considerable inroad on my slender finances; I thought, at first, that I would say I did not want to go so far; but then the fellow would ask at once where I wanted to go, and I was ashamed to acknowledge my utter ignorance of the road. I determined, therefore, to pay the fare, with a tacit determination not to mount a coach in future without knowing whither I was going. So I paid the man the money, who, turning round, shouted to the guard—'All right, Jem; got fare to—'; and forthwith whipped on his horses, especially the off hand leader, for whom he seemed to entertain a particular spite, to greater speed than before—the horses flew.

A young moon gave a feeble light, partially illuminating a line of road which, appearing by no means interesting, I the less regretted having paid my money for the privilege of being hurried along it in the flying vehicle. We frequently changed horses; and at last my friend the coachman was replaced by another, the very image of himself—hawk nose, red face, with narrow-rimmed hat and fashionable benjamin. After he had driven about fifty yards, the new coachman fell to whipping one of the horses. 'D—- this near-hand wheeler,' said he, 'the brute has got a corn.' 'Whipping him won't cure him of his corn,' said I. 'Who told you to speak?' said the driver, with an oath; 'mind your own business; 'tisn't from the like of you I am to learn to drive 'orses.' Presently I fell into a broken kind of slumber. In an hour or two I was aroused by a rough voice—'Got to —-, young man; get down if you please.' I opened my eyes—there was a dim and indistinct light, like that which precedes dawn; the coach was standing still in something like a street; just below me stood the guard. 'Do you mean to get down,' said he, 'or will you keep us here till morning? other fares want to get up.' Scarcely knowing what I did, I took my bundle and stick and descended, whilst two people mounted. 'All right, John,' said the guard to the coachman, springing up behind; whereupon off whisked the coach, one or two individuals who were standing by disappeared, and I was left alone.



CHAPTER LX

The still hour—A thrill—The wondrous circle—The shepherd—Heaps and barrows—What do you mean?—Milk of the plains—Hengist spared it—No presents.

After standing still a minute or two, considering what I should do, I moved down what appeared to be the street of a small straggling town; presently I passed by a church, which rose indistinctly on my right hand; anon there was the rustling of foliage and the rushing of waters. I reached a bridge, beneath which a small stream was running in the direction of the south. I stopped and leaned over the parapet, for I have always loved to look upon streams, especially at the still hours. 'What stream is this, I wonder?' said I, as I looked down from the parapet into the water, which whirled and gurgled below.

Leaving the bridge, I ascended a gentle acclivity, and presently reached what appeared to be a tract of moory undulating ground. It was now tolerably light, but there was a mist or haze abroad which prevented my seeing objects with much precision. I felt chill in the damp air of the early morn, and walked rapidly forward. In about half an hour I arrived where the road divided into two, at an angle or tongue of dark green sward. 'To the right or the left?' said I, and forthwith took, without knowing why, the left-hand road, along which I proceeded about a hundred yards, when, in the midst of the tongue of sward formed by the two roads, collaterally with myself, I perceived what I at first conceived to be a small grove of blighted trunks of oaks, barked and gray. I stood still for a moment, and then, turning off the road, advanced slowly towards it over the sward; as I drew nearer, I perceived that the objects which had attracted my curiosity, and which formed a kind of circle, were not trees, but immense upright stones. A thrill pervaded my system; just before me were two, the mightiest of the whole, tall as the stems of proud oaks, supporting on their tops a huge transverse stone, and forming a wonderful doorway. I knew now where I was, and, laying down my stick and bundle, and taking off my hat, I advanced slowly, and cast myself—it was folly, perhaps, but I could not help what I did—cast myself, with my face on the dewy earth, in the middle of the portal of giants, beneath the transverse stone.

{picture:I cast myself with my face on the dewy earth. The spirit of Stonehenge was strong upon me!: page326.jpg}

The spirit of Stonehenge was strong upon me!

And after I had remained with my face on the ground for some time, I arose, placed my hat on my head, and, taking up my stick and bundle, wandered round the wondrous circle, examining each individual stone, from the greatest to the least; and then, entering by the great door, seated myself upon an immense broad stone, one side of which was supported by several small ones, and the other slanted upon the earth; and there, in deep meditation, I sat for an hour or two, till the sun shone in my face above the tall stones of the eastern side.

And as I still sat there, I heard the noise of bells, and presently a large number of sheep came browsing past the circle of stones; two or three entered, and grazed upon what they could find, and soon a man also entered the circle at the northern side.

'Early here, sir,' said the man, who was tall, and dressed in a dark green slop, and had all the appearance of a shepherd; 'a traveller, I suppose?'

'Yes,' said I, 'I am a traveller; are these sheep yours?'

'They are, sir; that is, they are my master's. A strange place this, sir,' said he, looking at the stones; 'ever here before?'

'Never in body, frequently in mind.'

'Heard of the stones, I suppose; no wonder—all the people of the plain talk of them.'

'What do the people of the plain say of them?'

'Why, they say—How did they ever come here?'

'Do they not suppose them to have been brought?'

'Who should have brought them?'

'I have read that they were brought by many thousand men.'

'Where from?'

'Ireland.'

'How did they bring them?'

'I don't know.'

'And what did they bring them for?'

'To form a temple, perhaps.'

'What is that?'

'A place to worship God in.'

'A strange place to worship God in.'

'Why?'

'It has no roof.'

'Yes, it has.'

'Where?' said the man, looking up.

'What do you see above you?'

'The sky.'

'Well?'

'Well!'

'Have you anything to say?'

'How did these stones come here?'

'Are there other stones like these on the plains?' said I.

'None; and yet there are plenty of strange things on these downs.'

'What are they?'

'Strange heaps, and barrows, and great walls of earth built on the tops of hills.'

'Do the people of the plain wonder how they came there?'

'They do not.'

'Why?'

'They were raised by hands.'

'And these stones?'

'How did they ever come here?'

'I wonder whether they are here?' said I.

'These stones?'

'Yes.'

'So sure as the world,' said the man; 'and, as the world, they will stand as long.'

'I wonder whether there is a world.'

'What do you mean?'

'An earth, and sea, moon and stars, sheep and men.'

'Do you doubt it?'

'Sometimes.'

'I never heard it doubted before.'

'It is impossible there should be a world.'

'It ain't possible there shouldn't be a world.'

'Just so.' At this moment a fine ewe, attended by a lamb, rushed into the circle and fondled the knees of the shepherd. 'I suppose you would not care to have some milk,' said the man.

'Why do you suppose so?'

'Because, so be there be no sheep, no milk, you know; and what there ben't is not worth having.'

'You could not have argued better,' said I; 'that is, supposing you have argued; with respect to the milk you may do as you please.'

'Be still, Nanny,' said the man; and producing a tin vessel from his scrip, he milked the ewe into it. 'Here is milk of the plains, master,' said the man, as he handed the vessel to me.

'Where are those barrows and great walls of earth you were speaking of?' said I, after I had drunk some of the milk; 'are there any near where we are?'

'Not within many miles; the nearest is yonder away,' said the shepherd, pointing to the south-east. 'It's a grand place, that, but not like this; quite different, and from it you have a sight of the finest spire in the world.'

{picture:'The nearest is yonder away,' said the shepherd, pointing to the south-east: page329.jpg}

'I must go to it,' said I, and I drank the remainder of the milk; 'yonder, you say.'

'Yes, yonder; but you cannot get to it in that direction, the river lies between.'

'What river?'

'The Avon.'

'Avon is British,' said I.

'Yes,' said the man, 'we are all British here.'

'No, we are not,' said I.

'What are we then?'

'English.'

'Ain't they one?'

'No.'

'Who were the British?'

'The men who are supposed to have worshipped God in this place, and who raised these stones.'

'Where are they now?'

'Our forefathers slaughtered them, spilled their blood all about, especially in this neighbourhood, destroyed their pleasant places, and left not, to use their own words, one stone upon another.'

'Yes, they did,' said the shepherd, looking aloft at the transverse stone.

'And it is well for them they did; whenever that stone, which English hands never raised, is by English hands thrown down, woe, woe, woe to the English race; spare it, English! Hengist spared it!—Here is sixpence.'

'I won't have it,' said the man.

'Why not?'

'You talk so prettily about these stones; you seem to know all about them.'

'I never receive presents; with respect to the stones, I say with yourself, How did they ever come here?'

'How did they ever come here?' said the shepherd.



CHAPTER LXI

The river—Arid downs—A prospect.

Leaving the shepherd, I bent my way in the direction pointed out by him as that in which the most remarkable of the strange remains of which he had spoken lay. I proceeded rapidly, making my way over the downs covered with coarse grass and fern; with respect to the river of which he had spoken, I reflected that, either by wading or swimming, I could easily transfer myself and what I bore to the opposite side. On arriving at its banks, I found it a beautiful stream, but shallow, with here and there a deep place where the water ran dark and still.

Always fond of the pure lymph, I undressed, and plunged into one of these gulfs, from which I emerged, my whole frame in a glow, and tingling with delicious sensations. After conveying my clothes and scanty baggage to the farther side, I dressed, and then with hurried steps bent my course in the direction of some lofty ground; I at length found myself on a high- road, leading over wide and arid downs; following the road for some miles without seeing anything remarkable, I supposed at length that I had taken the wrong path, and wended on slowly and disconsolately for some time, till, having nearly surmounted a steep hill, I knew at once, from certain appearances, that I was near the object of my search. Turning to the right near the brow of the hill, I proceeded along a path which brought me to a causeway leading over a deep ravine, and connecting the hill with another which had once formed part of it, for the ravine was evidently the work of art. I passed over the causeway, and found myself in a kind of gateway which admitted me into a square space of many acres, surrounded on all sides by mounds or ramparts of earth. Though I had never been in such a place before, I knew that I stood within the precincts of what had been a Roman encampment, and one probably of the largest size, for many thousand warriors might have found room to perform their evolutions in that space, in which corn was now growing, the green ears waving in the morning wind.

After I had gazed about the space for a time, standing in the gateway formed by the mounds, I clambered up the mound to the left hand, and on the top of that mound I found myself at a great altitude; beneath, at the distance of a mile, was a fair old city, situated amongst verdant meadows, watered with streams, and from the heart of that old city, from amidst mighty trees, I beheld towering to the sky the finest spire in the world.

And after I had looked from the Roman rampart for a long time, I hurried away, and, retracing my steps along the cause-way, regained the road, and, passing over the brow of the hill, descended to the city of the spire.



CHAPTER LXII

The hostelry—Life uncertain—Open countenance—The grand point—Thank you, master—A hard mother—Poor dear!—Considerable odds—The better country—English fashion—Landlord-looking person.

And in the old city I remained two days, passing my time as I best could—inspecting the curiosities of the place, eating and drinking when I felt so disposed, which I frequently did, the digestive organs having assumed a tone to which for many months they had been strangers—enjoying at night balmy sleep in a large bed in a dusky room, at the end of a corridor, in a certain hostelry in which I had taken up my quarters—receiving from the people of the hostelry such civility and condescension as people who travel on foot with bundle and stick, but who nevertheless are perceived to be not altogether destitute of coin, are in the habit of receiving. On the third day, on a fine sunny afternoon, I departed from the city of the spire.

As I was passing through one of the suburbs, I saw, all on a sudden, a respectable-looking female fall down in a fit; several persons hastened to her assistance. 'She is dead,' said one. 'No, she is not,' said another. 'I am afraid she is,' said a third. 'Life is very uncertain,' said a fourth. 'It is Mrs. —-,' said a fifth; 'let us carry her to her own house.' Not being able to render any assistance, I left the poor female in the hands of her townsfolk, and proceeded on my way. I had chosen a road in the direction of the north-west, it led over downs where corn was growing, but where neither tree nor hedge was to be seen; two or three hours' walking brought me to a beautiful valley, abounding with trees of various kinds, with a delightful village at its farthest extremity; passing through it, I ascended a lofty acclivity, on the top of which I sat down on a bank, and, taking off my hat, permitted a breeze, which swept coolly and refreshingly over the downs, to dry my hair, dripping from the effects of exercise and the heat of the day.

And as I sat there, gazing now at the blue heavens, now at the downs before me, a man came along the road in the direction in which I had hitherto been proceeding: just opposite to me he stopped, and, looking at me, cried—'Am I right for London, master?'

He was dressed like a sailor, and appeared to be between twenty-five and thirty years of age—he had an open manly countenance, and there was a bold and fearless expression in his eye.

'Yes,' said I, in reply to his question; 'this is one of the ways to London. Do you come from far?'

'From —-,' said the man, naming a well-known seaport.

'Is this the direct road to London from that place?' I demanded.

'No,' said the man; 'but I had to visit two or three other places on certain commissions I was intrusted with; amongst others to —-, where I had to take a small sum of money. I am rather tired, master; and, if you please, I will sit down beside you.'

'You have as much right to sit down here as I have,' said I; 'the road is free for every one; as for sitting down beside me, you have the look of an honest man, and I have no objection to your company.'

'Why, as for being honest, master,' said the man, laughing and sitting down by me, 'I haven't much to say—many is the wild thing I have done when I was younger; however, what is done, is done. To learn, one must live, master; and I have lived long enough to learn the grand point of wisdom.'

'What is that?' said I.

'That honesty is the best policy, master.'

'You appear to be a sailor,' said I, looking at his dress.

'I was not bred a sailor,' said the man, 'though, when my foot is on the salt water, I can play the part—and play it well too. I am now from a long voyage.'

'From America?' said I.

'Farther than that,' said the man.

'Have you any objection to tell me?' said I.

'From New South Wales,' said the man, looking me full in the face.

'Dear me,' said I.

'Why do you say "Dear me"?' said the man.

'It is a very long way off,' said I.

'Was that your reason for saying so?' said the man.

'Not exactly,' said I.

'No,' said the man, with something of a bitter smile; 'it was something else that made you say so; you were thinking of the convicts.'

'Well,' said I, 'what then—you are no convict.'

'How do you know?'

'You do not look like one.'

'Thank you, master,' said the man cheerfully; 'and, to a certain extent, you are right—bygones are bygones—I am no longer what I was, nor ever will be again; the truth, however, is the truth—a convict I have been—a convict at Sydney Cove.'

'And you have served out the period for which you were sentenced, and are now returned?'

'As to serving out my sentence,' replied the man, 'I can't say that I did; I was sentenced for fourteen years, and I was in Sydney Cove little more than half that time. The truth is that I did the Government a service. There was a conspiracy amongst some of the convicts to murder and destroy—I overheard and informed the Government; mind one thing, however, I was not concerned in it; those who got it up were no comrades of mine, but a bloody gang of villains. Well, the Government, in consideration of the service I had done them, remitted the remainder of my sentence; and some kind gentlemen interested themselves about me, gave me good books and good advice, and, being satisfied with my conduct, procured me employ in an exploring expedition, by which I earned money. In fact, the being sent to Sydney was the best thing that ever happened to me in all my life.'

'And you have now returned to your native country. Longing to see home brought you from New South Wales.'

'There you are mistaken,' said the man. 'Wish to see England again would never have brought me so far; for, to tell you the truth, master, England was a hard mother to me, as she has proved to many. No, a wish to see another kind of mother—a poor old woman, whose son I am—has brought me back.'

'You have a mother, then?' said I. 'Does she reside in London?'

'She used to live in London,' said the man; 'but I am afraid she is long since dead.'

'How did she support herself?' said I.

'Support herself! with difficulty enough; she used to keep a small stall on London Bridge, where she sold fruit; I am afraid she is dead, and that she died perhaps in misery. She was a poor sinful creature; but I loved her, and she loved me. I came all the way back merely for the chance of seeing her.'

'Did you ever write to her,' said I, 'or cause others to write to her?'

'I wrote to her myself,' said the man, 'about two years ago; but I never received an answer. I learned to write very tolerably over there, by the assistance of the good people I spoke of. As for reading, I could do that very well before I went—my poor mother taught me to read, out of a book that she was very fond of; a strange book it was, I remember. Poor dear!—what I would give only to know that she is alive.'

'Life is very uncertain,' said I.

'That is true,' said the man, with a sigh.

'We are here one moment, and gone the next,' I continued. 'As I passed through the streets of a neighbouring town, I saw a respectable woman drop down, and people said she was dead. Who knows but that she too had a son coming to see her from a distance, at that very time?'

'Who knows, indeed?' said the man. 'Ah, I am afraid my mother is dead. Well, God's will be done.'

'However,' said I, 'I should not wonder at your finding your mother alive.'

'You wouldn't?' said the man, looking at me wistfully.

'I should not wonder at all,' said I; 'indeed, something within me seems to tell me you will; I should not much mind betting five shillings to fivepence that you will see your mother within a week. Now, friend, five shillings to fivepence—'

'Is very considerable odds,' said the man, rubbing his hands; 'sure you must have good reason to hope, when you are willing to give such odds.'

'After all,' said I, 'it not unfrequently happens that those who lay the long odds lose. Let us hope, however. What do you mean to do in the event of finding your mother alive?'

'I scarcely know,' said the man; 'I have frequently thought that if I found my mother alive I would attempt to persuade her to accompany me to the country which I have left—it is a better country for a man—that is, a free man—to live in than this; however, let me first find my mother—if I could only find my mother—'

'Farewell,' said I, rising. 'Go your way, and God go with you—I will go mine.' 'I have but one thing to ask you,' said the man. 'What is that?' I inquired. 'That you would drink with me before we part—you have done me so much good.' 'How should we drink?' said I; 'we are on the top of a hill where there is nothing to drink.' 'But there is a village below,' said the man; 'do let us drink before we part.' 'I have been through that village already,' said I, 'and I do not like turning back.' 'Ah,' said the man, sorrowfully, 'you will not drink with me because I told you I was—' 'You are quite mistaken,' said I, 'I would as soon drink with a convict as with a judge. I am by no means certain that, under the same circumstances, the judge would be one whit better than the convict. Come along! I will go back to oblige you. I have an odd sixpence in my pocket, which I will change that I may drink with you.' So we went down the hill together to the village through which I had already passed, where, finding a public-house, we drank together in true English fashion, after which we parted, the sailor-looking man going his way and I mine.

After walking about a dozen miles, I came to a town, where I rested for the night. The next morning I set out again in the direction of the north-west. I continued journeying for four days, my daily journeys varying from twenty to twenty-five miles. During this time nothing occurred to me worthy of any especial notice. The weather was brilliant, and I rapidly improved both in strength and spirits. On the fifth day, about two o'clock, I arrived at a small town. Feeling hungry, I entered a decent-looking inn—within a kind of bar I saw a huge, fat, landlord- looking person, with a very pretty, smartly-dressed maiden. Addressing myself to the fat man, 'House!' said I, 'house! Can I have dinner, house?'



CHAPTER LXIII

Primitive habits—Rosy-faced damsel—A pleasant moment—Suit of black—The furtive glance—The mighty round—Degenerate times—The newspaper—The evil chance—I congratulate you.

'Young gentleman,' said the huge fat landlord, 'you are come at the right time; dinner will be taken up in a few minutes, and such a dinner,' he continued, rubbing his hands, 'as you will not see every day in these times.'

'I am hot and dusty,' said I, 'and should wish to cool my hands and face.'

'Jenny!' said the huge landlord, with the utmost gravity, 'show the gentleman into number seven, that he may wash his hands and face.'

'By no means,' said I, 'I am a person of primitive habits, and there is nothing like the pump in weather like this.'

'Jenny,' said the landlord, with the same gravity as before, 'go with the young gentleman to the pump in the back kitchen, and take a clean towel along with you.'

Thereupon the rosy-faced clean-looking damsel went to a drawer, and producing a large, thick, but snowy white towel, she nodded to me to follow her; whereupon I followed Jenny through a long passage into the back kitchen.

And at the end of the back kitchen there stood a pump; and going to it I placed my hands beneath the spout, and said, 'Pump, Jenny'; and Jenny incontinently, without laying down the towel, pumped with one hand, and I washed and cooled my heated hands.

And, when my hands were washed and cooled, I took off my neckcloth, and, unbuttoning my shirt collar, I placed my head beneath the spout of the pump, and I said unto Jenny, 'Now, Jenny, lay down the towel, and pump for your life.'

{picture:'Now, Jenny, lay down the towel and pump for your life.': page338.jpg}

Thereupon Jenny, placing the towel on a linen-horse, took the handle of the pump with both hands and pumped over my head as handmaid had never pumped before; so that the water poured in torrents from my head, my face, and my hair down upon the brick floor.

And, after the lapse of somewhat more than a minute, I called out with a half-strangled voice, 'Hold, Jenny!' and Jenny desisted. I stood for a few moments to recover my breath, then taking the towel which Jenny proffered, I dried composedly my hands and head, my face and hair; then, returning the towel to Jenny, I gave a deep sigh and said, 'Surely this is one of the pleasant moments of life.'

Then, having set my dress to rights, and combed my hair with a pocket comb, I followed Jenny, who conducted me back through the long passage, and showed me into a neat sanded parlour on the ground-floor.

I sat down by a window which looked out upon the dusty street; presently in came the handmaid, and commenced laying the table-cloth. 'Shall I spread the table for one, sir,' said she, 'or do you expect anybody to dine with you?' 'I can't say that I expect anybody,' said I, laughing inwardly to myself; 'however, if you please you can lay for two, so that if any acquaintance of mine should chance to step in, he may find a knife and fork ready for him.'

So I sat by the window, sometimes looking out upon the dusty street, and now glancing at certain old-fashioned prints which adorned the wall over against me. I fell into a kind of doze, from which I was almost instantly awakened by the opening of the door. Dinner, thought I; and I sat upright in my chair. No; a man of the middle age, and rather above the middle height, dressed in a plain suit of black, made his appearance, and sat down in a chair at some distance from me, but near to the table, and appeared to be lost in thought.

'The weather is very warm, sir,' said I.

'Very,' said the stranger, laconically, looking at me for the first time.

'Would you like to see the newspaper?' said I, taking up one which lay upon the window seat.

'I never read newspapers,' said the stranger, 'nor, indeed,—' Whatever it might be that he had intended to say he left unfinished. Suddenly he walked to the mantelpiece at the farther end of the room, before which he placed himself with his back towards me. There he remained motionless for some time; at length, raising his hand, he touched the corner of the mantelpiece with his finger, advanced towards the chair which he had left, and again seated himself.

'Have you come far?' said he, suddenly looking towards me, and speaking in a frank and open manner, which denoted a wish to enter into conversation. 'You do not seem to be of this place.'

'I come from some distance,' said I; 'indeed, I am walking for exercise, which I find as necessary to the mind as the body. I believe that by exercise people would escape much mental misery.'

Scarcely had I uttered these words when the stranger laid his hand, with seeming carelessness, upon the table, near one of the glasses; after a moment or two he touched the glass with his finger as if inadvertently, then, glancing furtively at me, he withdrew his hand and looked towards the window.

'Are you from these parts?' said I at last, with apparent carelessness.

'From this vicinity,' replied the stranger. 'You think, then, that it is as easy to walk off the bad humours of the mind as of the body?'

'I, at least, am walking in that hope,' said I.

'I wish you may be successful,' said the stranger; and here he touched one of the forks which lay on the table near him.

Here the door, which was slightly ajar, was suddenly pushed open with some fracas, and in came the stout landlord, supporting with some difficulty an immense dish, in which was a mighty round mass of smoking meat garnished all round with vegetables; so high was the mass that it probably obstructed his view, for it was not until he had placed it upon the table that he appeared to observe the stranger; he almost started, and quite out of breath exclaimed, 'God bless me, your honour; is your honour the acquaintance that the young gentleman was expecting?'

'Is the young gentleman expecting an acquaintance?' said the stranger.

There is nothing like putting a good face upon these matters, thought I to myself; and, getting up, I bowed to the unknown. 'Sir,' said I, 'when I told Jenny that she might lay the table-cloth for two, so that in the event of any acquaintance dropping in he might find a knife and fork ready for him, I was merely jocular, being an entire stranger in these parts, and expecting no one. Fortune, however, it would seem, has been unexpectedly kind to me; I flatter myself, sir, that since you have been in this room I have had the honour of making your acquaintance; and in the strength of that hope I humbly entreat you to honour me with your company to dinner, provided you have not already dined.'

The stranger laughed outright.

'Sir,' I continued, 'the round of beef is a noble one, and seems exceedingly well boiled, and the landlord was just right when he said I should have such a dinner as is not seen every day. A round of beef, at any rate such a round of beef as this, is seldom seen smoking upon the table in these degenerate times. Allow me, sir,' said I, observing that the stranger was about to speak, 'allow me another remark. I think I saw you just now touch the fork; I venture to hail it as an omen that you will presently seize it, and apply it to its proper purpose, and its companion the knife also.'

The stranger changed colour, and gazed upon me in silence.

'Do, sir,' here put in the landlord; 'do, sir, accept the young gentleman's invitation. Your honour has of late been looking poorly, and the young gentleman is a funny young gentleman, and a clever young gentleman; and I think it will do your honour good to have a dinner's chat with the young gentleman.'

'It is not my dinner hour,' said the stranger; 'I dine considerably later; taking anything now would only discompose me; I shall, however, be most happy to sit down with the young gentleman; reach me that paper, and, when the young gentleman has satisfied his appetite, we may perhaps have a little chat together.'

The landlord handed the stranger the newspaper, and, bowing, retired with his maid Jenny. I helped myself to a portion of the smoking round, and commenced eating with no little appetite. The stranger appeared to be soon engrossed with the newspaper. We continued thus a considerable time—the one reading and the other dining. Chancing suddenly to cast my eyes upon the stranger, I saw his brow contract; he gave a slight stamp with his foot, and flung the newspaper to the ground, then stooping down he picked it up, first moving his forefinger along the floor, seemingly slightly scratching it with his nail.

'Do you hope, sir,' said I, 'by that ceremony with the finger to preserve yourself from the evil chance?'

The stranger started; then, after looking at me for some time in silence, he said, 'Is it possible that you—?'

'Ay, ay,' said I, helping myself to some more of the round; 'I have touched myself in my younger days, both for the evil chance and the good. Can't say, though, that I ever trusted much in the ceremony.'

The stranger made no reply, but appeared to be in deep thought; nothing farther passed between us until I had concluded the dinner, when I said to him, 'I shall now be most happy, sir, to have the pleasure of your conversation over a pint of wine.'

The stranger rose; 'No, my young friend,' said he, smiling, 'that would scarce be fair. It is my turn now—pray do me the favour to go home with me, and accept what hospitality my poor roof can offer; to tell you the truth, I wish to have some particular discourse with you which would hardly be possible in this place. As for wine, I can give you some much better than you can get here: the landlord is an excellent fellow, but he is an innkeeper after all. I am going out for a moment, and will send him in, so that you may settle your account; I trust you will not refuse me, I only live about two miles from here.'

I looked in the face of the stranger—it was a fine intelligent face, with a cast of melancholy in it. 'Sir,' said I, 'I would go with you though you lived four miles instead of two.'

'Who is that gentleman?' said I to the landlord, after I had settled his bill; 'I am going home with him.'

'I wish I were going too,' said the fat landlord, laying his hand upon his stomach. 'Young gentleman, I shall be a loser by his honour's taking you away; but, after all, the truth is the truth—there are few gentlemen in these parts like his honour, either for learning or welcoming his friends. Young gentleman, I congratulate you.'



CHAPTER LXIV

New acquaintance—Old French style—The portrait—Taciturnity—The evergreen tree—The dark hour—The flash—Ancestors—A fortunate man—A posthumous child—Antagonist ideas—The hawks—Flaws—The pony—Irresistible impulse—Favourable crisis—The topmost branch—Twenty feet—Heartily ashamed.

I found the stranger awaiting me at the door of the inn. 'Like yourself, I am fond of walking,' said he, 'and when any little business calls me to this place I generally come on foot.'

We were soon out of the town, and in a very beautiful country. After proceeding some distance on the high-road, we turned off, and were presently in one of those mazes of lanes for which England is famous; the stranger at first seemed inclined to be taciturn; a few observations, however, which I made appeared to rouse him, and he soon exhibited not only considerable powers of conversation, but stores of information which surprised me. So pleased did I become with my new acquaintance that I soon ceased to pay the slightest attention either to place or distance. At length the stranger was silent, and I perceived that we had arrived at a handsome iron gate and a lodge; the stranger having rung a bell, the gate was opened by an old man, and we proceeded along a gravel path, which in about five minutes brought us to a large brick house, built something in the old French style, having a spacious lawn before it, and immediately in front a pond in which were golden fish, and in the middle a stone swan discharging quantities of water from its bill. We ascended a spacious flight of steps to the door, which was at once flung open, and two servants with powdered hair and in livery of blue plush came out and stood one on either side as we passed the threshold. We entered a large hall, and the stranger, taking me by the hand, welcomed me to his poor home, as he called it, and then gave orders to another servant, but out of livery, to show me to an apartment, and give me whatever assistance I might require in my toilet. Notwithstanding the plea as to primitive habits which I had lately made to my other host in the town, I offered no objection to this arrangement, but followed the bowing domestic to a spacious and airy chamber, where he rendered me all those little nameless offices which the somewhat neglected state of my dress required. When everything had been completed to my perfect satisfaction, he told me that if I pleased he would conduct me to the library, where dinner would be speedily served.

In the library I found a table laid for two; my host was not there, having as I supposed not been quite so speedy with his toilet as his guest. Left alone, I looked round the apartment with inquiring eyes; it was long and tolerably lofty, the walls from the top to the bottom were lined with cases containing books of all sizes and bindings; there was a globe or two, a couch, and an easy-chair. Statues and busts there were none, and only one painting, a portrait, that of my host, but not him of the mansion. Over the mantelpiece, the features staringly like, but so ridiculously exaggerated that they scarcely resembled those of a human being, daubed evidently by the hand of the commonest sign-artist, hung a half-length portrait of him of round of beef celebrity—my sturdy host of the town.

I had been in the library about ten minutes, amusing myself as I best could, when my friend entered; he seemed to have resumed his taciturnity—scarce a word escaped his lips till dinner was served, when he said, smiling, 'I suppose it would be merely a compliment to ask you to partake?'

'I don't know,' said I, seating myself; 'your first course consists of troutlets, I am fond of troutlets, and I always like to be companionable.'

The dinner was excellent, though I did but little justice to it from the circumstance of having already dined; the stranger also, though without my excuse, partook but slightly of the good cheer; he still continued taciturn, and appeared lost in thought, and every attempt which I made to induce him to converse was signally unsuccessful.

And now dinner was removed, and we sat over our wine, and I remember that the wine was good, and fully justified the encomiums of my host of the town. Over the wine I made sure that my entertainer would have loosened the chain which seemed to tie his tongue—but no! I endeavoured to tempt him by various topics, and talked of geometry and the use of the globes, of the heavenly sphere, and the star Jupiter, which I said I had heard was a very large star, also of the evergreen tree, which, according to Olaus, stood of old before the heathen temple of Upsal, and which I affirmed was a yew—but no, nothing that I said could induce my entertainer to relax his taciturnity.

It grew dark, and I became uncomfortable. 'I must presently be going,' I at last exclaimed.

At these words he gave a sudden start; 'Going,' said he, 'are you not my guest, and an honoured one?'

'You know best,' said I; 'but I was apprehensive I was an intruder; to several of my questions you have returned no answer.'

'Ten thousand pardons!' he exclaimed, seizing me by the hand; 'but you cannot go now, I have much to talk to you about—there is one thing in particular—'

'If it be the evergreen tree at Upsal,' said I, interrupting him, 'I hold it to have been a yew—what else? The evergreens of the south, as the old bishop observes, will not grow in the north, and a pine was unfitted for such a locality, being a vulgar tree. What else could it have been but the yew—the sacred yew which our ancestors were in the habit of planting in their churchyards? Moreover, I affirm it to have been the yew for the honour of the tree; for I love the yew, and had I home and land, I would have one growing before my front windows.'

'You would do right, the yew is indeed a venerable tree, but it is not about the yew.'

'The star Jupiter, perhaps?'

'Nor the star Jupiter, nor its moons; an observation which escaped you at the inn has made a considerable impression upon me.'

'But I really must take my departure,' said I; 'the dark hour is at hand.'

And as I uttered these latter words the stranger touched rapidly something which lay near him—I forget what it was. It was the first action of the kind which I had observed on his part since we sat down to table.

'You allude to the evil chance,' said I; 'but it is getting both dark and late.'

'I believe we are going to have a storm,' said my friend, 'but I really hope that you will give me your company for a day or two; I have, as I said before, much to talk to you about.'

'Well,' said I, 'I shall be most happy to be your guest for this night; I am ignorant of the country, and it is not pleasant to travel unknown paths by night—dear me, what a flash of lightning.'

It had become very dark; suddenly a blaze of sheet lightning illumed the room. By the momentary light I distinctly saw my host touch another object upon the table.

'Will you allow me to ask you a question or two?' said he at last.

'As many as you please,' said I; 'but shall we not have lights?'

'Not unless you particularly wish it,' said my entertainer; 'I rather like the dark, and though a storm is evidently at hand, neither thunder nor lightning has any terrors for me. It is other things I quake at—I should rather say ideas. Now permit me to ask you—'

And then my entertainer asked me various questions, to all of which I answered unreservedly; he was then silent for some time, at last he exclaimed, 'I should wish to tell you the history of my life—though not an adventurous one, I think it contains some things which will interest you.'

Without waiting for my reply he began. Amidst darkness and gloom, occasionally broken by flashes of lightning, the stranger related to me, as we sat at table in the library, his truly touching history.

'Before proceeding to relate the events of my life, it will not be amiss to give you some account of my ancestors. My great-grandfather on the male side was a silk mercer, in Cheapside, who, when he died, left his son, who was his only child, a fortune of one hundred thousand pounds and a splendid business; the son, however, had no inclination for trade, the summit of his ambition was to be a country gentleman, to found a family, and to pass the remainder of his days in rural ease and dignity, and all this he managed to accomplish; he disposed of his business, purchased a beautiful and extensive estate for fourscore thousand pounds, built upon it the mansion to which I had the honour of welcoming you to-day, married the daughter of a neighbouring squire, who brought him a fortune of five thousand pounds, became a magistrate, and only wanted a son and heir to make him completely happy; this blessing, it is true, was for a long time denied him; it came, however, at last, as is usual, when least expected. His lady was brought to bed of my father, and then who so happy a man as my grandsire; he gave away two thousand pounds in charities, and in the joy of his heart made a speech at the next quarter sessions; the rest of his life was spent in ease, tranquillity, and rural dignity; he died of apoplexy on the day that my father came of age; perhaps it would be difficult to mention a man who in all respects was so fortunate as my grandfather: his death was sudden it is true, but I am not one of those who pray to be delivered from a sudden death.

'I should not call my father a fortunate man; it is true that he had the advantage of a first-rate education; that he made the grand tour with a private tutor, as was the fashion at that time; that he came to a splendid fortune on the very day that he came of age; that for many years he tasted all the diversions of the capital that, at last determined to settle, he married the sister of a baronet, an amiable and accomplished lady, with a large fortune; that he had the best stud of hunters in the county, on which, during the season, he followed the fox gallantly; had he been a fortunate man he would never have cursed his fate, as he was frequently known to do; ten months after his marriage his horse fell upon him, and so injured him, that he expired in a few days in great agony. My grandfather was, indeed, a fortunate man; when he died he was followed to the grave by the tears of the poor—my father was not.

'Two remarkable circumstances are connected with my birth—I am a posthumous child, and came into the world some weeks before the usual time, the shock which my mother experienced at my father's death having brought on the pangs of premature labour; both my mother's life and my own were at first despaired of; we both, however, survived the crisis. My mother loved me with the most passionate fondness, and I was brought up in this house under her own eye—I was never sent to school.

'I have already told you that mine is not a tale of adventure; my life has not been one of action, but of wild imaginings and strange sensations; I was born with excessive sensibility, and that has been my bane. I have not been a fortunate man.

'No one is fortunate unless he is happy, and it is impossible for a being constructed like myself to be happy for an hour, or even enjoy peace and tranquillity; most of our pleasures and pains are the effects of imagination, and wherever the sensibility is great, the imagination is great also. No sooner has my imagination raised up an image of pleasure, than it is sure to conjure up one of distress and gloom; these two antagonist ideas instantly commence a struggle in my mind, and the gloomy one generally, I may say invariably, prevails. How is it possible that I should be a happy man?

'It has invariably been so with me from the earliest period that I can remember; the first playthings that were given me caused me for a few minutes excessive pleasure: they were pretty and glittering; presently, however, I became anxious and perplexed, I wished to know their history, how they were made, and what of—were the materials precious? I was not satisfied with their outward appearance. In less than an hour I had broken the playthings in an attempt to discover what they were made of.

'When I was eight years of age my uncle the baronet, who was also my godfather, sent me a pair of Norway hawks, with directions for managing them; he was a great fowler. Oh, how rejoiced was I with the present which had been made me, my joy lasted for at least five minutes; I would let them breed, I would have a house of hawks; yes, that I would—but—and here came the unpleasant idea—suppose they were to flyaway, how very annoying! Ah, but, said hope, there's little fear of that; feed them well and they will never fly away, or if they do they will come back, my uncle says so; so sunshine triumphed for a little time. Then the strangest of all doubts came into my head; I doubted the legality of my tenure of these hawks; how did I come by them? why, my uncle gave them to me, but how did they come into his possession? what right had he to them? after all, they might not be his to give. I passed a sleepless night. The next morning I found that the man who brought the hawks had not departed. "How came my uncle by these hawks?" I anxiously inquired. "They were sent to him from Norway, master, with another pair." "And who sent them?" "That I don't know, master, but I suppose his honour can tell you." I was even thinking of scrawling a letter to my uncle to make inquiry on this point, but shame restrained me, and I likewise reflected that it would be impossible for him to give my mind entire satisfaction; it is true he could tell who sent him the hawks, but how was he to know how the hawks came into the possession of those who sent them to him, and by what right they possessed them or the parents of the hawks? In a word, I wanted a clear valid title, as lawyers would say, to my hawks, and I believe no title would have satisfied me that did not extend up to the time of the first hawk, that is, prior to Adam; and, could I have obtained such a title, I make no doubt that, young as I was, I should have suspected that it was full of flaws.

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