"You take this too jestingly," began the parson; "and I don't see why, with your excellent understanding, truths so plain and obvious should not strike you at once."
"Truths," interrupted Riccabocca, profoundly, "are the slowest growing things in the world! It took fifteen hundred years from the date of the Christian era to produce your own Luther, and then he flung his Bible at Satan (I have seen the mark made by the book on the wall of his prison in Germany), besides running off with a nun, which no Protestant clergyman would think it proper and right to do nowadays." Then he added, with seriousness, "Look you, my dear sir, I should lose my own esteem if I were even to listen to you now with becoming attention,—now, I say, when you hint that the creed I have professed may be in the way of my advantage. If so, I must keep the creed and resign the advantage. But if, as I trust not only as a Christian but a man of honour, you will defer this discussion, I will promise to listen to you hereafter; and though, to say truth, I believe that you will not convert me, I will promise you faithfully never to interfere with my wife's religion."
"And any children you may have?"
"Children!" said Dr. Riccabocca, recoiling; "you are not contented with firing your pocket-pistol right in my face! you must also pepper me all over with small shot. Children! well, if they are girls, let them follow the faith of their mother; and if boys, while in childhood, let them be contented with learning to be Christians; and when they grow into men, let them choose for themselves which is the best form for the practice of the great principles which all sects have in common."
"But," began Mr. Dale again, pulling a large book from his pocket.
Dr. Riccabocca flung open the window, and jumped out of it.
It was the rapidest and most dastardly flight you could possibly conceive; but it was a great compliment to the argumentative powers of the parson, and he felt it as such. Nevertheless, Mr. Dale thought it right to have a long conversation, both with the squire and Miss Jemima herself, upon the subject which his intended convert had so ignominiously escaped.
The squire, though a great foe to Popery, politically considered, had also quite as great a hatred to renegades and apostates. And in his heart he would have despised Riccabocca if he could have thrown off his religion as easily as he had done his spectacles. Therefore he said simply, "Well, it is certainly a great pity that Rickeybockey is not of the Church of England; though, I take it, that would be unreasonable to expect in a man born and bred under the nose of the Inquisition" (the squire firmly believed that the Inquisition was in full force in all the Italian States, with whips, racks, and thumbscrews; and, indeed, his chief information of Italy was gathered from a perusal he had given in early youth to "The One-Handed Monk"); "but I think he speaks very fairly, on the whole, as to his wife and children. And the thing's gone too far now to retract. It's all your fault for not thinking of it before; and I've now just made up my mind as to the course to pursue respecting the d—-d stocks!"
As for Miss Jemima, the parson left her with a pious thanksgiving that Riccabocca at least was a Christian, and not a Pagan, Mahometan, or Jew!
There is that in a wedding which appeals to a universal sympathy. No other event in the lives of their superiors in rank creates an equal sensation amongst the humbler classes.
From the moment the news that Miss Jemima was to be married had spread throughout the village, all the old affection for the squire and his House burst forth the stronger for its temporary suspension. Who could think of the stocks in such a season? The stocks were swept out of fashion,—hunted from remembrance as completely as the question of Repeal or the thought of Rebellion from the warm Irish heart, when the fair young face of the Royal Wife beamed on the sister isle.
Again cordial courtesies were dropped at the thresholds by which the squire passed to his own farm; again the sunburned brows uncovered—no more with sullen ceremony—were smoothed into cheerful gladness at his nod. Nay, the little ones began again to assemble at their ancient rendezvous by the stocks, as if either familiarized with the phenomenon, or convinced that, in the general sentiment of good-will, its powers of evil were annulled.
The squire tasted once more the sweets of the only popularity which is much worth having, and the loss of which a wise man would reasonably deplore,—namely, the popularity which arises from a persuasion of our goodness, and a reluctance to recall our faults. Like all blessings, the more sensibly felt from previous interruption, the squire enjoyed this restored popularity with an exhilarated sense of existence; his stout heart beat more vigorously; his stalwart step trod more lightly; his comely English face looked comelier and more English than ever,—you would have been a merrier man for a week to have come within hearing of his jovial laugh.
He felt grateful to Jemima and to Riccabocca as the special agents of Providence in this general integratio amoris. To have looked at him, you would suppose that it was the squire who was going to be married a second time to his Harry!
One may well conceive that such would have been an inauspicious moment for Parson Dale's theological scruples to have stopped that marriage, chilled all the sunshine it diffused over the village, seen himself surrounded again by long sulky visages,—I verily believe, though a better friend of Church and State never stood on a hustings, that, rather than court such a revulsion, the squire would have found jesuitical excuses for the marriage if Riccabocca had been discovered to be the Pope in disguise! As for the stocks, its fate was now irrevocably sealed. In short, the marriage was concluded,—first privately, according to the bridegrooms creed, by a Roman Catholic clergyman, who lived in a town some miles off, and next publicly in the village church of Hazeldean.
It was the heartiest rural wedding! Village girls strewed flowers on the way; a booth was placed amidst the prettiest scenery of the Park on the margin of the lake—for there was to be a dance later in the day. Even Mr. Stirn—no, Mr. Stirn was not present; so much happiness would have been the death of him! And the Papisher too, who had conjured Lenny out of the stocks nay, who had himself sat in the stocks for the very purpose of bringing them into contempt,—the Papisher! he had a lief Miss Jemima had married the devil! Indeed he was persuaded that, in point of fact, it was all one and the same. Therefore Mr. Stirn had asked leave to go and attend his uncle the pawnbroker, about to undergo a torturing operation for the stone! Frank was there, summoned from Eton for the occasion—having grown two inches taller since he left—for the one inch of which nature was to be thanked, for the other a new pair of resplendent Wellingtons. But the boy's joy was less apparent than that of others. For Jemima, was a special favourite with him, as she would have been with all boys,—for she was always kind and gentle, and made him many pretty presents whenever she came from the watering-places; and Frank knew that he should miss her sadly, and thought she had made a very queer choice.
Captain Higginbotham had been invited; but to the astonishment of Jemima, he had replied to the invitation by a letter to herself, marked "private and confidential."
"She must have long known," said the letter, "of his devoted attachment to her! motives of delicacy, arising from the narrowness of his income and the magnanimity of his sentiments, had alone prevented his formal proposals; but now that he was informed (he could scarcely believe his senses or command his passions) that her relations wished to force her into a BARBAROUS marriage with a foreigner of MOST FORBIDDING APPEARANCE, and most abject circumstances, he lost not a moment in laying at her feet his own hand and fortune. And he did this the more confidently, inasmuch as he could not but be aware of Miss Jemima's SECRET feelings towards him, while he was proud and happy to say, that his dear and distinguished cousin, Mr. Sharpe Currie, had honoured him with a warmth of regard which justified the most brilliant EXPECTATIONS,—likely to be soon realized, as his eminent relative had contracted a very bad liver complaint in the service of his country, and could not last long!"
In all the years they had known each other, Miss Jemima, strange as it may appear, had never once suspected the captain of any other feelings to her than those of a brother. To say that she was not gratified by learning her mistake would be to say that she was more than woman. Indeed, it must have been a source of no ignoble triumph to think that she could prove her disinterested affection to her dear Riccabocca by a prompt rejection of this more brilliant offer. She couched the rejection, it is true, in the most soothing terms. But the captain evidently considered himself ill used; he did not reply to the letter, and did not come to the wedding.
To let the reader into a secret, never known to Miss Jemima, Captain Higginbotham was much less influenced by Cupid than by Plutus in the offer he had made. The captain was one of that class of gentlemen who read their accounts by those corpse-lights, or will-o'-the-wisps, called expectations. Ever since the squire's grandfather had left him—then in short clothes—a legacy of L500, the captain had peopled the future with expectations! He talked of his expectations as a man talks of shares in a Tontine; they might fluctuate a little,—be now up and now down,—but it was morally impossible, if he lived on, but that he should be a millionnaire one of these days. Now, though Miss Jemima was a good fifteen years younger than himself, yet she always stood for a good round sum in the ghostly books of the captain. She was an expectation to the full amount of her L4000, seeing that Frank was an only child, and it would be carrying coals to Newcastle to leave him anything.
Rather than see so considerable a cipher suddenly sponged out of his visionary ledger, rather than so much money should vanish clean out of the family, Captain Higginbotham had taken what he conceived, if a desperate, at least a certain, step for the preservation of his property. If the golden horn could not be had without the heifer, why, he must take the heifer into the bargain. He had never formed to himself an idea that a heifer so gentle would toss and fling him over. The blow was stunning. But no one compassionates the misfortunes of the covetous, though few perhaps are in greater need of compassion. And leaving poor Captain Higginbotham to retrieve his illusory fortunes as he best may among "the expectations" which gathered round the form of Mr. Sharpe Currie, who was the crossest old tyrant imaginable, and never allowed at his table any dishes not compounded with rice, which played Old Nick with the captain's constitutional functions, I return to the wedding at Hazeldean, just in time to see the bridegroom—who looked singularly well on the occasion—hand the bride (who, between sunshiny tears and affectionate smiles, was really a very interesting and even a pretty bride, as brides go) into a carriage which the squire had presented to them, and depart on the orthodox nuptial excursion amidst the blessings of the assembled crowd.
It may be thought strange by the unreflective that these rural spectators should so have approved and blessed the marriage of a Hazeldean of Hazeldean with a poor, outlandish, long-haired foreigner; but besides that Riccabocca, after all, had become one of the neighbourhood, and was proverbially "a civil-spoken gentleman," it is generally noticeable that on wedding occasions the bride so monopolizes interest, curiosity, and admiration that the bridegroom himself goes for little or nothing. He is merely the passive agent in the affair,—the unregarded cause of the general satisfaction. It was not Riccabocca himself that they approved and blessed,—it was the gentleman in the white waistcoat who had made Miss Jemima Madam Rickeybockey!
Leaning on his wife's arm (for it was a habit of the squire to lean on his wife's arm rather than she on his, when he was specially pleased; and there was something touching in the sight of that strong sturdy frame thus insensibly, in hours of happiness, seeking dependence on the frail arm of woman),—leaning, I say, on his wife's arm, the squire, about the hour of sunset, walked down to the booth by the lake.
All the parish-young and old, man, woman, and child, were assembled there, and their faces seemed to bear one family likeness, in the common emotion which animated all, as they turned to his frank, fatherly smile. Squire Hazeldean stood at the head of the long table: he filled a horn with ale from the brimming tankard beside him. Then he looked round, and lifted his hand to request silence; and ascending the chair, rose in full view of all. Every one felt that the squire was about to make a speech, and the earnestness of the attention was proportioned to the rarity of the event; for (though he was not unpractised in the oratory of the hustings) only thrice before had the squire made what could fairly be called "a speech" to the villagers of Hazeldean,—once on a kindred festive occasion, when he had presented to them his bride; once in a contested election for the shire, in which he took more than ordinary interest, and was not quite so sober as he ought to have been; once in a time of great agricultural distress, when in spite of reduction of rents, the farmers had been compelled to discard a large number of their customary labourers, and when the squire had said, "I have given up keeping the hounds because I want to make a fine piece of water (that was the origin of the lake), and to drain all the low lands round the Park. Let every man who wants work come to me!" And that sad year the parish rates of Hazeldean were not a penny the heavier.
Now, for the fourth time, the squire rose, and thus he spoke,—at his right hand, Harry; at his left, Frank; at the bottom of the table, as vice-president, Parson Dale, his little wife behind him, only obscurely seen. She cried readily, and her handkerchief was already before her eyes.
THE SQUIRE'S SPEECH.
"Friends and neighbours, I thank you kindly for coming round me this day, and for showing so much interest in me and mine. My cousin was not born amongst you as I was, but you have known her from a child. It is a familiar face, and one that never frowned, which you will miss at your cottage doors, as I and mine will miss it long in the old Hall—"
Here there was a sob from some of the women, and nothing was seen of Mrs. Dale but the white handkerchief. The squire himself paused, and brushed away a tear with the back of his hand. Then he resumed, with a sudden change of voice that was electrical,—
"For we none of us prize a blessing till we have lost it! Now, friends and neighbours, a little time ago, it seemed as if some ill-will had crept into the village,—ill-will between you and me, neighbours!—why, that is not like Hazeldean!"
The audience hung their heads! You never saw people look so thoroughly ashamed of themselves. The squire proceeded,—
"I don't say it was all your fault; perhaps it was mine."
"Noa, noa, noa," burst forth in a general chorus.
"Nay, friends," continued the squire, humbly, and in one of those illustrative aphorisms which, if less subtle than Riccabocca's, were more within reach of the popular comprehension,—"nay, we are all human, and every man has his hobby; sometimes he breaks in the hobby, and sometimes the hobby, if it is very hard in the mouth, breaks in him. One man's hobby has an ill habit of always stopping at the public house! [Laughter.] Another man's hobby refuses to stir a peg beyond the door where some buxom lass patted its neck the week before,—a hobby I rode pretty often when I went courting my good wife here! [Much laughter and applause.] Others have a lazy hobby that there's no getting on; others, a runaway hobby that there's no stopping: but to cut the matter short, my favourite hobby, as you well know, is always trotted out to any place on my property which seems to want the eye and hand of the master. I hate," cried the squire, warming, "to see things neglected and decayed, and going to the dogs! This land we live in is a good mother to us, and we can't do too much for her. It is very true, neighbours, that I owe her a good many acres, and ought to speak well of her; but what then? I live amongst you, and what I take from the rent with one hand, I divide amongst you with the other. [Low but assenting murmurs.] Now the more I improve my property, the more mouths it feeds. My great-grandfather kept a Field-book in which were entered not only the names of all the farmers and the quantity of land they held, but the average number of the labourers each employed. My grandfather and father followed his example: I have done the same. I find, neighbours, that our rents have doubled since my great-grandfather began to make the book. Ay,—but there are more than four times the number of labourers employed on the estate, and at much better wages too! Well, my men, that says a great deal in favour of improving property, and not letting it go to the dogs. [Applause.] And therefore, neighbours, you will kindly excuse my bobby: it carries grist to your mill. [Reiterated applause.] Well, but you will say, 'What's the squire driving at?' Why this, my friends: There was only one worn-out, dilapidated, tumble-down thing in the parish of Hazeldean, and it became an eyesore to me; so I saddled my hobby, and rode at it. Oh, ho! you know what I mean now! Yes, but, neighbours, you need not have taken it so to heart. That was a scurvy trick of some of you to hang me in effigy, as they call it."
"It warn't you," cried a voice in the crowd, "it war Nick Stirn."
The squire recognized the voice of the tinker; but though he now guessed at the ringleader, on that day of general amnesty he had the prudence and magnanimity not to say, "Stand forth, Sprott: thou art the man." Yet his gallant English spirit would not suffer him to come off at the expense of his servant.
"If it was Nick Stirn you meant," said he, gravely, "more shame for you. It showed some pluck to hang the master; but to hang the poor servant, who only thought to do his duty, careless of what ill-will it brought upon him, was a shabby trick,—so little like the lads of Hazeldean, that I suspect the man who taught it to them was never born in the parish. But let bygones be bygones. One thing is clear,—you don't take kindly to my new pair of stocks! The stocks has been a stumbling-block and a grievance, and there's no denying that we went on very pleasantly without it. I may also say that, in spite of it, we have been coming together again lately. And I can't tell you what good it did me to see your children playing again on the green, and your honest faces, in spite of the stocks, and those diabolical tracts you've been reading lately, lighted up at the thought that something pleasant was going on at the Hall. Do you know, neighbours, you put me in mind of an old story which, besides applying to the parish, all who are married, and all who intend to marry, will do well to recollect. A worthy couple, named John and Joan, had lived happily together many a long year, till one unlucky day they bought a new bolster. Joan said the bolster was too hard, and John that it was too soft. So, of course, they quarrelled. After sulking all day, they agreed to put the bolster between them at night." (Roars of laughter amongst the men; the women did not know which way to look, except, indeed, Mrs. Hazeldean, who, though she was more than usually rosy, maintained her innocent genial smile, as much as to say, "There is no harm in the squire's jests.") The orator resumed, "After they had thus lain apart for a little time, very silent and sullen, John sneezed. 'God bless you!' says Joan, over the bolster. 'Did you say God bless me?' cries John, 'then here goes the bolster!'"
Prolonged laughter and tumultuous applause.
"Friends and neighbours," said the squire, when silence was restored, and lifting the horn of ale, "I have the pleasure to inform you that I have ordered the stocks to be taken down, and made into a bench for the chimney-nook of our old friend Gaffer Solomons yonder. But mind me, lads, if ever you make the parish regret the loss of the stocks, and the overseers come to me with long faces, and say, 'The stocks must be rebuilded,' why—" Here from all the youth of the village rose so deprecating a clamour, that the squire would have been the most burgling orator in the world, if he said a word further on the subject. He elevated the horn over his head—"Why, that's my old Hazeldean again! Health and long life to you all!"
The tinker had sneaked out of the assembly, and did not show his face in the village for the next six months. And as to those poisonous tracts, in spite of their salubrious labels, "The Poor Man's Friend," or "The Rights of Labour," you could no more have found one of them lurking in the drawers of the kitchen dressers in Hazeldean than you would have found the deadly nightshade on the flower-stands in the drawing-room of the Hall. As for the revolutionary beerhouse, there was no need to apply to the magistrates to shut it up,—it shut itself up before the week was out.
O young head of the great House of Hapsburg, what a Hazeldean you might have made of Hungary! What a "Moriamur pro rege nostro!" would have rung in your infant reign,—if you had made such a speech as the squire's!
COMPRISING MR. CAXTON'S OPINIONS ON THE MATRIMONIAL STATE, SUPPORTED BY LEARNED AUTHORITIES.
"It was no bad idea of yours, Pisistratus," said my father, graciously, "to depict the heightened affections and the serious intention of Signor Riccabocca by a single stroke,—He left of his spectacles! Good."
"Yet," quoth my uncle, "I think Shakspeare represents a lover as falling into slovenly habits, neglecting his person, and suffering his hose to be ungartered, rather than paying that attention to his outer man which induces Signor Riccabocca to leave off his spectacles, and look as handsome as nature will permit him."
"There are different degrees and many phases of the passion," replied my father. "Shakspeare is speaking of an ill-treated, pining, woe-begone lover, much aggrieved by the cruelty of his mistress,—a lover who has found it of no avail to smarten himself up, and has fallen despondently into the opposite extreme. Whereas Signor Riccabocca has nothing to complain of in the barbarity of Miss Jemima."
"Indeed he has not!" cried Blanche, tossing her head,—"forward creature!"
"Yes, my dear," said my mother, trying her best to look stately, "I am decidedly of opinion that, in that respect, Pisistratus has lowered the dignity of the sex. Not intentionally," added my mother, mildly, and afraid she had said something too bitter; "but it is very hard for a man to describe us women."
The captain nodded approvingly; Mr. Squills smiled; my father quietly resumed the thread of his discourse.
"To continue," quoth he. "Riccabocca has no reason to despair of success in his suit, nor any object in moving his mistress to compassion. He may, therefore, very properly tie up his garters and leave off his spectacles. What do you say, Mr. Squills?—for, after all, since love-making cannot fail to be a great constitutional derangement, the experience of a medical man must be the best to consult."
"Mr. Caxton," replied Squills, obviously flattered, "you are quite right: when a man makes love, the organs of self-esteem and desire of applause are greatly stimulated, and therefore, of course, he sets himself off to the best advantage. It is only, as you observe, when, like Shakspeare's lover, he has given up making love as a bad job, and has received that severe hit on the ganglions which the cruelty of a mistress inflicts, that he neglects his personal appearance: he neglects it, not because he is in love, but because his nervous system is depressed. That was the cause, if you remember, with poor Major Prim. He wore his wig all awry when Susan Smart jilted him; but I set it right for him."
"By shaming Miss Smart into repentance, or getting him a new sweetheart?" asked my uncle.
"Pooh!" answered Squills, "by quinine and cold bathing."
"We may therefore grant," renewed my father, "that, as a general rule, the process of courtship tends to the spruceness, and even foppery, of the individual engaged in the experiment, as Voltaire has very prettily proved somewhere. Nay, the Mexicans, indeed, were of opinion that the lady at least ought to continue those cares of her person even after marriage. There is extant, in Sahagun's 'History of New Spain,' the advice of an Aztec or Mexican mother to her daughter, in which she says, 'That your husband may not take you in dislike, adorn yourself, wash yourself, and let your garments be clean.' It is true that the good lady adds, 'Do it in moderation; since if every day you are washing yourself and your clothes, the world will say that you are over-delicate; and particular people will call you—TAPETZON TINEMAXOCH!' What those words precisely mean," added my father, modestly, "I cannot say, since I never had the opportunity to acquire the ancient Aztec language,—but something very opprobrious and horrible, no doubt."
"I dare say a philosopher like Signor Riccabocca," said my uncle, "was not himself very tapetzon tine—what d' ye call it?—and a good healthy English wife, that poor affectionate Jemima, was thrown away upon him."
"Roland," said my father, "you don't like foreigners; a respectable prejudice, and quite natural in a man who has been trying his best to hew them in pieces and blow them up into splinters. But you don't like philosophers either,—and for that dislike you have no equally good reason."
"I only implied that they are not much addicted to soap and water," said my uncle.
"A notable mistake. Many great philosophers have been very great beaux. Aristotle was a notorious fop. Buffon put on his best laced ruffles when he sat down to write, which implies that he washed his hands first. Pythagoras insists greatly on the holiness of frequent ablutions; and Horace—who, in his own way, was as good a philosopher as any the Romans produced—takes care to let us know what a neat, well-dressed, dapper little gentleman he was. But I don't think you ever read the 'Apology' of Apuleius?"
"Not I; what is it about?" asked the captain.
"About a great many things. It is that Sage's vindication from several malignant charges,—amongst others, and principally indeed, that of being much too refined and effeminate for a philosopher. Nothing can exceed the rhetorical skill with which he excuses himself for using—tooth-powder. 'Ought a philosopher,' he exclaims, 'to allow anything unclean about him, especially in the mouth,—the mouth, which is the vestibule of the soul, the gate of discourse, the portico of thought! Ah, but AEmilianus [the accuser of Apuleius] never opens his mouth but for slander and calumny,—tooth-powder would indeed be unbecoming to him! Or, if he use any, it will not be my good Arabian tooth powder, but charcoal and cinders. Ay, his teeth should be as foul as his language! And yet even the crocodile likes to have his teeth cleaned; insects get into them, and, horrible reptile though he be, he opens his jaws inoffensively to a faithful dentistical bird, who volunteers his beak for a toothpick.'"
My father was now warm in the subject he had started, and soared miles away from Riccabocca and "My Novel." "And observe," he exclaimed,—"observe with what gravity this eminent Platonist pleads guilty to the charge of having a mirror. 'Why, what,' he exclaims, 'more worthy of the regards of a human creature than his own image' nihil respectabilius homini quam formam suam! Is not that one of our children the most dear to us who is called 'the picture of his father'? But take what pains you will with a picture, it can never be so like you as the face in your mirror! Think it discreditable to look with proper attention on one's self in the glass! Did not Socrates recommend such attention to his disciples,—did he not make a great moral agent of the speculum? The handsome, in admiring their beauty therein, were admonished that handsome is who handsome does; and the more the ugly stared at themselves, the more they became naturally anxious to hide the disgrace of their features in the loveliness of their merits. Was not Demosthenes always at his speculum? Did he not rehearse his causes before it as before a master in the art? He learned his eloquence from Plato, his dialectics from Eubulides; but as for his delivery—there, he came to the mirror!
"Therefore," concluded Mr. Caxton, returning unexpectedly to the subject,—"therefore, it is no reason to suppose that Dr. Riccabocca is averse to cleanliness and decent care of the person because he is a philosopher; and, all things considered, he never showed himself more a philosopher than when he left off his spectacles and looked his best."
"Well," said my mother, kindly, "I only hope it may turn out happily. But I should have been better pleased if Pisistratus had not made Dr. Riccabocca so reluctant a wooer."
"Very true," said the captain; "the Italian does not shine as a lover. Throw a little more fire into him, Pisistratus,—something gallant and chivalrous."
"Fire! gallantry! chivalry!" cried my father, who had taken Riccabocca under his special protection; "why, don't you see that the man is described as a philosopher?—and I should like to know when a philosopher ever plunged into matrimony without considerable misgivings and cold shivers! Indeed, it seems that—perhaps before he was a philosopher—Riccabocca had tried the experiment, and knew what it was. Why, even that plain-speaking, sensible, practical man, Metellus Numidicus, who was not even a philosopher, but only a Roman censor, thus expressed himself in an exhortation to the people to perpetrate matrimony: 'If, O Quirites, we could do without wives, we should all dispense with that subject of care ea molestia careremus; but since nature has so managed it that we cannot live with women comfortably, nor without them at all, let us rather provide for the human race than our own temporary felicity.'"
Here the ladies set up such a cry of indignation, that both Roland and myself endeavoured to appease their wrath by hasty assurances that we utterly repudiated the damnable doctrine of Metellus Numidicus.
My father, wholly unmoved, as soon as a sullen silence was established, recommenced. "Do not think, ladies," said he, "that you were without advocates at that day: there were many Romans gallant enough to blame the censor for a mode of expressing himself which they held to be equally impolite and injudicious. 'Surely,' said they, with some plausibility, if Numidicus wished men to marry, he need not have referred so peremptorily to the disquietudes of the connection, and thus have made them more inclined to turn away from matrimony than give them a relish for it.' But against these critics one honest man (whose name of Titus Castricius should not be forgotten by posterity) maintained that Metellus Numidicus could not have spoken more properly; 'For remark,' said he, 'that Metellus was a censor, not a rhetorician. It becomes rhetoricians to adorn and disguise and make the best of things; but Metellus, sanctus vir,—a holy and blameless man, grave and sincere to wit, and addressing the Roman people in the solemn capacity of Censor,—was bound to speak the plain truth, especially as he was treating of a subject on which the observation of every day, and the experience of every life, could not leave the least doubt upon the mind of his audience.' Still, Riccabocca, having decided to marry, has no doubt prepared himself to bear all the concomitant evils—as becomes a professed sage; and I own I admire the art with which Pisistratus has drawn the kind of woman most likely to suit a philosopher—"
Pisistratus bows, and looks round complacently; but recoils from two very peevish and discontented faces feminine.
MR. CAXTON (completing his sentence).—"Not only as regards mildness of temper and other household qualifications, but as regards the very person of the object of his choice. For you evidently remember, Pisistratus, the reply of Bias, when asked his opinion on marriage: [Long sentence in Greek]"
Pisistratus tries to look as if he had the opinion of Bias by heart, and nods acquiescingly.
MR. CAXTON.—"That is, my dears, 'The woman you would marry is either handsome or ugly: if handsome, she is koine,—namely, you don't have her to yourself; if ugly, she is poine,—that is, a fury.' But, as it is observed in Aulus Gellius (whence I borrow this citation), there is a wide interval between handsome and ugly. And thus Ennius, in his tragedy of 'Menalippus,' uses an admirable expression to designate women of the proper degree of matrimonial comeliness, such as a philosopher would select. He calls this degree stata forma,—a rational, mediocre sort of beauty, which is not liable to be either koine or poine. And Favorinus, who was a remarkably sensible man, and came from Provence—the male inhabitants of which district have always valued themselves on their knowledge of love and ladies—calls this said stata forma the beauty of wives,—the uxorial beauty. Ennius says that women of a stata forma are almost always safe and modest. Now, Jemima, you observe, is described as possessing this stata forma; and it is the nicety of your observation in this respect, which I like the most in the whole of your description of a philosopher's matrimonial courtship, Pisistratus (excepting only the stroke of the spectacles), for it shows that you had properly considered the opinion of Bias, and mastered all the counter logic suggested in Book v., chapter xi., of Aulus Gellius."
"For all that," said Blanche, half archly, half demurely, with a smile in the eye and a pout of the lip, "I don't remember that Pisistratus, in the days when he wished to be most complimentary, ever assured me that I had a stata forma,—a rational, mediocre sort of beauty."
"And I think," observed my uncle, "that when he comes to his real heroine, whoever she may be, he will not trouble his head much about either Bias or Aulus Gellius."
Matrimony is certainly a great change in life. One is astonished not to find a notable alteration in one's friend, even if he or she have been only wedded a week. In the instance of Dr. and Mrs. Riccabocca the change was peculiarly visible. To speak first of the lady, as in chivalry bound, Mrs. Riccabocca had entirely renounced that melancholy which had characterized Miss Jemima; she became even sprightly and gay, and looked all the better and prettier for the alteration. She did not scruple to confess honestly to Mrs. Dale that she was now of opinion that the world was very far from approaching its end. But, in the meanwhile, she did not neglect the duty which the belief she had abandoned serves to inculcate,—"She set her house in order." The cold and penurious elegance that had characterized the Casino disappeared like enchantment,—that is, the elegance remained, but the cold and penury fled before the smile of woman. Like Puss-in-Boots, after the nuptials of his master, Jackeymo only now caught minnows and sticklebacks for his own amusement. Jackeymo looked much plumper, and so did Riccabocca. In a word, the fair Jemima became an excellent wife. Riccabocca secretly thought her extravagant, but, like a wise man, declined to look at the house bills, and ate his joint in unreproachful silence.
Indeed there was so much unaffected kindness in the nature of Mrs. Riccabocca—beneath the quiet of her manner there beat so genially the heart of the Hazeldeans—that she fairly justified the favourable anticipations of Mrs. Dale. And though the doctor did not noisily boast of his felicity, nor, as some new married folks do, thrust it insultingly under the nimis unctis naribus,—the turned-up noses of your surly old married folks,—nor force it gaudily and glaringly on the envious eyes of the single, you might still see that he was a more cheerful and light-hearted man than before. His smile was less ironical, his politeness less distant. He did not study Machiavelli so intensely,—and he did not return to the spectacles; which last was an excellent sign. Moreover, the humanizing influence of the tidy English wife might be seen in the improvement of his outward or artificial man. His clothes seemed to fit him better; indeed, the clothes were new. Mrs. Dale no longer remarked that the buttons were off the wristbands, which was a great satisfaction to her. But the sage still remained faithful to the pipe, the cloak, and the red silk umbrella. Mrs. Riccabocca had (to her credit be it spoken) used all becoming and wife-like arts against these three remnants of the old bachelor, Adam, but in vain. "Anima mia," [Soul of mine]—said the doctor, tenderly, "I hold the cloak, the umbrella, and the pipe as the sole relics that remain to me of my native country. Respect and spare them."
Mrs. Riccabocca was touched, and had the good sense to perceive that man, let him be ever so much married, retains certain signs of his ancient independence,—certain tokens of his old identity, which a wife, the most despotic, will do well to concede. She conceded the cloak, she submitted to the umbrella, she overcame her abhorrence of the pipe. After all, considering the natural villany of our sex, she confessed to herself that she might have been worse off. But through all the calm and cheerfulness of Riccabocca, a nervous perturbation was sufficiently perceptible; it commenced after the second week of marriage; it went on increasing, till one bright sunny afternoon, as he was standing on his terrace, gazing down upon the road, at which Jackeymo was placed, lo, a stage-coach stopped! The doctor made a bound, and put both hands to his heart as if he had been shot; he then leaped over the balustrade, and his wife from her window beheld him flying down the hill, with his long hair streaming in the wind, till the trees hid him from her sight.
"Ah," thought she, with a natural pang of conjugal jealousy, "henceforth I am only second in his home. He has gone to welcome his child!" And at that reflection Mrs. Riccabocca shed tears.
But so naturally amiable was she, that she hastened to curb her emotion, and efface as well as she could the trace of a stepmother's grief. When this was done, and a silent, self-rebuking prayer murmured over, the good woman descended the stairs with alacrity, and summoning up her best smiles, emerged on the terrace.
She was repaid; for scarcely had she come into the open air, when two little arms were thrown around her, and the sweetest voice that ever came from a child's lips sighed out in broken English, "Good mamma, love me a little."
"Love you? with my whole heart!" cried the stepmother, with all a mother's honest passion. And she clasped the child to her breast.
"God bless you, my wife!" said Riccabocca, in a husky tone.
"Please take this too," added Jackeymo, in Italian, as well as his sobs would let him, and he broke off a great bough full of blossoms from his favourite orange-tree, and thrust it into his mistress's hand. She had not the slightest notion what he meant by it!
Violante was indeed a bewitching child,—a child to whom I defy Mrs. Caudle herself (immortal Mrs. Caudle!) to have been a harsh stepmother.
Look at her now, as released from those kindly arms, she stands, still clinging with one hand to her new mamma, and holding out the other to Riccabocca, with those large dark eyes swimming in happy tears. What a lovely smile! what an ingenuous, candid brow! She looks delicate, she evidently requires care, she wants the mother. And rare is the woman who would not love her the better for that! Still, what an innocent, infantine bloom in those clear, smooth cheeks! and in that slight frame, what exquisite natural grace!
"And this, I suppose, is your nurse, darling?" said Mrs. Riccabocca, observing a dark, foreign-looking woman, dressed very strangely, without cap or bonnet, but a great silver arrow stuck in her hair, and a filigree chain or necklace resting upon her kerchief.
"Ah, good Annetta," said Violante, in Italian. "Papa, she says she is to go back; but she is not to go back, is she?"
Riccabocca, who had scarcely before noticed the woman, started at that question, exchanged a rapid glance with Jackeymo, and then, muttering some inaudible excuse, approached the nurse, and, beckoning her to follow him, went away into the grounds. He did not return for more than an hour, nor did the woman then accompany him home. He said briefly to his wife that the nurse was obliged to return at once to Italy, and that she would stay in the village to catch the mail; that indeed she would be of no use in their establishment, as she could not speak a word of English; that he was sadly afraid Violante would pine for her. And Violante did pine at first. But still, to a child it is so great a thing to find a parent, to be at home, that, tender and grateful as Violante was, she could not be inconsolable while her father was there to comfort.
For the first few days, Riccabocca scarcely permitted any one to be with his daughter but himself. He would not even leave her alone with his Jemima. They walked out together,—sat together for hours in the belvidere. Then by degrees he began to resign her more and more to Jemima's care and tuition, especially in English, of which language at present she spoke only a few sentences (previously, perhaps, learned by heart) so as to be clearly intelligible.
There was one person in the establishment of Dr. Riccabocca who was satisfied neither with the marriage of his master nor the arrival of Violante,—and that was our friend Lenny Fairfield. Previous to the all-absorbing duties of courtship, the young peasant had secured a very large share of Riccabocca's attention. The sage had felt interest in the growth of this rude intelligence struggling up to light. But what with the wooing and what with the wedding, Lenny Fairfield had sunk very much out of his artificial position as pupil into his natural station of under-gardener. And on the arrival of Violante, he saw, with natural bitterness, that he was clean forgotten, not only by Riccabocca, but almost by Jackeymo. It was true that the master still lent him books, and the servant still gave him lectures on horticulture. But Riccabocca had no time nor inclination now to amuse himself with enlightening that tumult of conjecture which the books created. And if Jackeymo had been covetous of those mines of gold buried beneath the acres now fairly taken from the squire (and good-naturedly added rent-free, as an aid to Jemima's dower), before the advent of the young lady whose future dowry the produce was to swell, now that she was actually under the eyes of the faithful servant, such a stimulus was given to his industry that he could think of nothing else but the land, and the revolution he designed to effect in its natural English crops. The garden, save only the orangetrees, was abandoned entirely to Lenny, and additional labourers were called in for the field work. Jackeymo had discovered that one part of the soil was suited to lavender, that another would grow camomile. He had in his heart apportioned a beautiful field of rich loam to flax; but against the growth of flax the squire set his face obstinately. That most lucrative, perhaps, of all crops when soil and skill suit, was formerly attempted in England much more commonly than it is now, since you will find few old leases do not contain a clause prohibitory of flax as an impoverishment of the land. And though Jackeymo learnedly endeavoured to prove to the squire that the flax itself contained particles which, if returned to the soil, repaid all that the crop took away, Mr. Hazeldean had his old-fashioned prejudices on the matter, which were insuperable. "My forefathers," quoth he, "did not put that clause in their leases without good cause; and as the Casino lands are entailed on Frank, I have no right to gratify your foreign whims at his expense."
To make up for the loss of the flax, Jackeymo resolved to convert a very nice bit of pasture into orchard ground, which he calculated would bring in L10 net per acre by the time Miss Violante was marriageable. At this the squire pished a little; but as it was quite clear that the land would be all the more valuable hereafter for the fruit-trees, he consented to permit the "grass-land" to be thus partially broken up.
All these changes left poor Lenny Fairfield very much to himself,—at a time when the new and strange devices which the initiation into book knowledge creates made it most desirable that he should have the constant guidance of a superior mind.
One evening after his work, as Lenny was returning to his mother's cottage, very sullen and very moody, he suddenly came in contact with Sprott the tinker.
The tinker was seated under a hedge, hammering away at an old kettle, with a little fire burning in front of him, and the donkey hard by, indulging in a placid doze. Mr. Sprott looked up as Lenny passed, nodded kindly, and said,—
"Good evenin', Lenny: glad to hear you be so 'spectably sitivated with Mounseer."
"Ay," answered Lenny, with a leaven of rancour in his recollections, "you're not ashamed to speak to me now that I am not in disgrace. But it was in disgrace, when it wasn't my fault, that the real gentleman was most kind to me."
"Ar-r, Lenny," said the tinker, with a prolonged rattle in that said Ar-r, which was not without great significance. "But you sees the real gentleman, who han't got his bread to get, can hafford to 'spise his c'racter in the world. A poor tinker must be timbersome and nice in his 'sociations. But sit down here a bit, Lenny; I've summat to say to ye!"
"To ye. Give the neddy a shove out i' the vay, and sit down, I say."
Lenny rather reluctantly, and somewhat superciliously, accepted this invitation.
"I hears," said the tinker, in a voice made rather indistinct by a couple of nails, which he had inserted between his teeth,—"I hears as how you be unkimmon fond of reading. I ha' sum nice cheap books in my bag yonder,—sum as low as a penny."
"I should like to see them," said Lenny, his eyes sparkling.
The tinker rose, opened one of the panniers on the ass's back, took out a bag, which he placed before Lenny, and told him to suit himself. The young peasant desired no better. He spread all the contents of the bag on the sward, and a motley collection of food for the mind was there,—food and poison, serpentes avibus good and evil. Here Milton's Paradise Lost, there "The Age of Reason;" here Methodist Tracts, there "True Principles of Socialism,"—Treatises on Useful Knowledge by sound learning actuated by pure benevolence, Appeals to Operatives by the shallowest reasoners, instigated by the same ambition that had moved Eratosthenes to the conflagration of a temple; works of fiction admirable as "Robinson Crusoe," or innocent as "The Old English Baron," beside coarse translations of such garbage as had rotted away the youth of France under Louis Quinze. This miscellany was an epitome, in short, of the mixed World of Books, of that vast city of the Press, with its palaces and hovels, its aqueducts and sewers, which opens all alike to the naked eye and the curious mind of him to whom you say, in the tinker's careless phrase, "Suit yourself."
But it is not the first impulse of a nature healthful and still pure to settle in the hovel and lose itself amidst the sewers; and Lenny Fairfield turned innocently over the bad books, and selecting two or three of the best, brought them to the tinker, and asked the price.
"Why," said Mr. Sprott, putting on his spectacles, "you has taken the werry dearest: them 'ere be much cheaper, and more hinterestin'."
"But I don't fancy them," answered Lenny; "I don't understand what they are about, and this seems to tell one how the steam-engine is made, and has nice plates; and this is 'Robinson Crusoe,' which Parson Dale once said he would give me—I'd rather buy it out of my own money."
"Well, please yourself," quoth the tinker; "you shall have the books for four bob, and you can pay me next month."
"Four bobs, four shillings? it is a great sum," said Lenny; "but I will lay by, as you are kind enough to trust me: good-evening, Mr. Sprott."
"Stay a bit," said the tinker; "I'll just throw you these two little tracts into the bargain; they be only a shilling a dozen, so 't is but tuppence,—and ven you has read those, vy, you'll be a regular customer."
The tinker tossed to Lenny Nos. 1 and 2 of "Appeals to Operatives," and the peasant took them up gratefully.
The young knowledge-seeker went his way across the green fields, and under the still autumn foliage of the hedgerows. He looked first at one book, then at another; he did not know on which to settle.
The tinker rose, and made a fire with leaves and furze and sticks, some dry and some green.
Lenny has now opened No. 1 of the tracts: they are the shortest to read, and don't require so much effort of the mind as the explanation of the steam-engine.
The tinker has set on his grimy glue-pot, and the glue simmers.
As Violante became more familiar with her new home, and those around her became more familiar with Violante, she was remarked for a certain stateliness of manner and bearing, which, had it been less evidently natural and inborn, would have seemed misplaced in the daughter of a forlorn exile, and would have been rare at so early an age among children of the loftiest pretensions. It was with the air of a little princess that she presented her tiny hand to a friendly pressure, or submitted her calm clear cheek to a presuming kiss. Yet withal she was so graceful, and her very stateliness was so pretty and captivating, that she was not the less loved for all her grand airs. And, indeed, she deserved to be loved; for though she was certainly prouder than Mr. Dale could approve of, her pride was devoid of egotism,—and that is a pride by no means common. She had an intuitive forethought for others: you could see that she was capable of that grand woman-heroism, abnegation of self; and though she was an original child, and often grave and musing, with a tinge of melancholy, sweet, but deep in her character, still she was not above the happy genial merriment of childhood,—only her silver laugh was more attuned, and her gestures more composed, than those of children habituated to many play-fellows usually are. Mrs. Hazeldean liked her best when she was grave, and said "she would become a very sensible woman." Mrs. Dale liked her best when she was gay, and said "she was born to make many a heart ache;" for which Mrs. Dale was properly reproved by the parson. Mrs. Hazeldean gave her a little set of garden tools; Mrs. Dale a picture-book and a beautiful doll. For a long time the book and the doll had the preference. But Mrs. Hazeldean having observed to Riccabocca that the poor child looked pale, and ought to be a good deal in the open air, the wise father ingeniously pretended to Violante that Mrs. Riccabocca had taken a great fancy to the picture-book, and that he should be very glad to have the doll, upon which Violante hastened to give them both away, and was never so happy as when Mamma (as she called Mrs. Riccabocca) was admiring the picture-book, and Riccabocca with austere gravity dandled the doll. Then Riccabocca assured her that she could be of great use to him in the garden; and Violante instantly put into movement her spade, hoe, and wheelbarrow.
This last occupation brought her into immediate contact with Mr. Leonard Fairfield; and that personage one morning, to his great horror, found Miss Violante had nearly exterminated a whole celery-bed, which she had ignorantly conceived to be a crop of weeds.
Lenny was extremely angry. He snatched away the hoe, and said angrily, "You must not do that, Miss. I'll tell your papa if you—"
Violante drew herself up, and never having been so spoken to before, at least since her arrival in England, there was something comic in the surprise of her large eyes, as well as something tragic in the dignity of her offended mien. "It is very naughty of you, Miss," continued Leonard, in a milder tone, for he was both softened by the eyes and awed by the mien, "and I trust you will not do it again."
"Non capisco," murmured Violante, and the dark eyes filled with tears. At that moment up came Jackeymo: and Violante, pointing to Leonard, said, with an effort not to betray her emotion, "Il fanciullo e molto grossolano."—["He is a very rude boy."]
Jackeymo turned to Leonard with the look of an enraged tiger. "How you dare, scum of de earth that you are," cried he, "how you dare make cry the signorina?" And his English not supplying familiar vituperatives sufficiently, he poured out upon Lenny such a profusion of Italian abuse, that the boy turned red and white, in a breath, with rage and perplexity.
Violante took instant compassion upon the victim she had made, and with true feminine caprice now began to scold Jackeymo for his anger, and, finally approaching Leonard, laid her hand on his arm, and said with a kindness at once childlike and queenly, and in the prettiest imaginable mixture of imperfect English and soft Italian, to which I cannot pretend to do justice, and shall therefore translate: "Don't mind him. I dare say it was all my fault, only I did not understand you: are not these things weeds?"
"No, my darling signorina," said Jackeymo in Italian, looking ruefully at the celery-bed, "they are not weeds, and they sell very well at this time of the year. But still, if it amuses you to pluck them up, I should like to see who's to prevent it."
Lenny walked away. He had been called "the scum of the earth,"—by a foreigner too! He had again been ill-treated for doing what he conceived his duty. He was again feeling the distinction between rich and poor, and he now fancied that that distinction involved deadly warfare, for he had read from beginning to end those two damnable tracts which the tinker had presented to him. But in the midst of all the angry disturbance of his mind, he felt the soft touch of the infant's hand, the soothing influence of her conciliating words, and he was half ashamed that he had spoken so roughly to a child.
Still, not trusting himself to speak, he walked away, and sat down at a distance: "I don't see," thought he, "why there should be rich and poor, master and servant." Lenny, be it remembered, had not heard the Parson's Political Sermon.
An hour after, having composed himself, Lenny returned to his work. Jackeymo was no longer in the garden: he had gone to the fields; but Riccabocca was standing by the celerybed, and holding the red silk umbrella over Violante as she sat on the ground, looking up at her father with those eyes already so full of intelligence and love and soul.
"Lenny," said Riccabocca, "my young lady has been telling me that she has been very naughty, and Giacomo very unjust to you. Forgive them both."
Lenny's sullenness melted in an instant: the reminiscences of tracts Nos. 1 and 2,—
"Like the baseless fabric of a vision, Left not a wreck behind."
He raised eyes swimming with all his native goodness towards the wise man, and dropped them gratefully on the infant peace-maker. Then he turned away his head and fairly wept. The parson was right: "O ye poor, have charity for the rich; O ye rich, respect the poor."
Now from that day the humble Lenny and the regal Violante became great friends. With what pride he taught her to distinguish between celery and weeds,—and how proud too was she when she learned that she was useful! There is not a greater pleasure you can give children, especially female children, than to make them feel they are already of value in the world, and serviceable as well as protected. Weeks and months rolled away, and Lenny still read, not only the books lent him by the doctor, but those he bought of Mr. Sprott. As for the bombs and shells against religion which the tinker carried in his bag, Lenny was not induced to blow himself up with them. He had been reared from his cradle in simple love and reverence for the Divine Father, and the tender Saviour, whose life beyond all records of human goodness, whose death beyond all epics of mortal heroism, no being whose infancy has been taught to supplicate the Merciful and adore the Holy, yea, even though his later life may be entangled amidst the thorns of some desolate pyrrhonism, can ever hear reviled and scoffed without a shock to the conscience and a revolt of the heart. As the deer recoils by instinct from the tiger, as the very look of the scorpion deters you from handling it, though you never saw a scorpion before, so the very first line in some ribald profanity on which the tinker put his black finger made Lenny's blood run cold. Safe, too, was the peasant boy from any temptation in works of a gross and licentious nature, not only because of the happy ignorance of his rural life, but because of a more enduring safeguard,—genius! Genius, that, manly, robust, healthful as it be, is long before it lose its instinctive Dorian modesty; shamefaced, because so susceptible to glory,—genius, that loves indeed to dream, but on the violet bank, not the dunghill. Wherefore, even in the error of the senses, it seeks to escape from the sensual into worlds of fancy, subtle and refined. But apart from the passions, true genius is the most practical of all human gifts. Like the Apollo, whom the Greek worshipped as its type, even Arcady is its exile, not its home. Soon weary of the dalliance of Tempe, it ascends to its mission,—the Archer of the silver bow, the guide of the car of light. Speaking more plainly, genius is the enthusiasm for self-improvement; it ceases or sleeps the moment it desists from seeking some object which it believes of value, and by that object it insensibly connects its self-improvement with the positive advance of the world. At present Lenny's genius had no bias that was not to the Positive and Useful. It took the direction natural to its sphere, and the wants therein,—namely, to the arts which we call mechanical. He wanted to know about steam-engines and Artesian wells; and to know about them it was necessary to know something of mechanics and hydrostatics; so he bought popular elementary works on those mystic sciences, and set all the powers of his mind at work on experiments.
Noble and generous spirits are ye, who, with small care for fame, and little reward from pelf, have opened to the intellects of the poor the portals of wisdom! I honour and revere ye; only do not think ye have done all that is needful. Consider, I pray ye, whether so good a choice from the tinker's bag would have been made by a boy whom religion had not scared from the Pestilent, and genius had not led to the self-improving. And Lenny did not wholly escape from the mephitic portions of the motley elements from which his awakening mind drew its nurture. Think not it was all pure oxygen that the panting lip drew in. No; there were still those inflammatory tracts. Political I do not like to call them, for politics means the art of government, and the tracts I speak of assailed all government which mankind has hitherto recognized. Sad rubbish, perhaps, were such tracts to you, O sound thinker, in your easy-chair! or to you, practised statesman, at your post on the Treasury Bench; to you, calm dignitary of a learned Church; or to you, my lord judge, who may often have sent from your bar to the dire Orcus of Norfolk's Isle the ghosts of men whom that rubbish, falling simultaneously on the bumps of acquisitiveness and combativeness, hath untimely slain! Sad rubbish to you! But seems it such rubbish to the poor man, to whom it promises a paradise on the easy terms of upsetting a world? For, ye see, those "Appeals to Operatives" represent that same world-upsetting as the simplest thing imaginable,—a sort of two-and-two-make-four proposition. The poor have only got to set their strong hands to the axle, and heave-a-boy! and hurrah for the topsy-turvy! Then just to put a little wholesome rage into the heave-a-hoy! it is so facile to accompany the eloquence of "Appeals" with a kind of stir-the-bile-up statistics,—"Abuses of the aristocracy," "Jobs of the Priesthood," "Expenses of the Army kept up for Peers' younger sons," "Wars contracted for the villanous purpose of raising the rents of the landowners,"—all arithmetically dished up, and seasoned with tales of every gentleman who has committed a misdeed, every clergyman who has dishonoured his cloth; as if such instances were fair specimens of average gentlemen and ministers of religion! All this, passionately advanced (and, observe, never answered, for that literature admits no controversialists, and the writer has it all his own way), may be rubbish; but it is out of such rubbish that operatives build barricades for attack, and legislators prisons for defence.
Our poor friend Lenny drew plenty of this stuff from the tinker's bag. He thought it very clever and very eloquent; and he supposed the statistics were as true as mathematical demonstrations.
A famous knowledge-diffuser is looking over my shoulder, and tells me, "Increase education, and cheapen good books, and all this rubbish will disappear!" Sir, I don't believe a word of it. If you printed Ricardo and Adam Smith at a farthing a volume, I still believe that they would be as little read by the operatives as they are nowadays by a very large proportion of highly-cultivated men. I still believe that, while the press works, attacks on the rich and propositions for heave-a-hoys will always form a popular portion of the Literature of Labour. There's Lenny Fairfield reading a treatise on hydraulics, and constructing a model for a fountain into the bargain; but that does not prevent his acquiescence in any proposition for getting rid of a National Debt, which he certainly never agreed to pay, and which he is told makes sugar and tea so shamefully dear. No. I tell you what does a little counteract those eloquent incentives to break his own head against the strong walls of the Social System,—it is, that he has two eyes in that head which are not always employed in reading. And having been told in print that masters are tyrants, parsons hypocrites or drones in the hive, and landowners vampires and bloodsuckers, he looks out into the little world around him, and, first, he is compelled to acknowledge that his master is not a tyrant (perhaps because he is a foreigner and a philosopher, and, for what I and Lenny know, a republican). But then Parson Dale, though High Church to the marrow, is neither hypocrite nor drone. He has a very good living, it is true,—much better than he ought to have, according to the "political" opinions of those tracts! but Lenny is obliged to confess that if Parson Dale were a penny the poorer, he would do a pennyworth's less good; and comparing one parish with another, such as Rood Hall and Hazeldean, he is dimly aware that there is no greater CIVILIZER than a parson tolerably well off. Then, too, Squire Hazeldean, though as arrant a Tory as ever stood upon shoe-leather, is certainly not a vampire nor blood sucker. He does not feed on the public; a great many of the public feed upon him: and, therefore, his practical experience a little staggers and perplexes Lenny Fairfield as to the gospel accuracy of his theoretical dogmas. Masters, parsons, and landowners! having, at the risk of all popularity, just given a coup de patte to certain sages extremely the fashion at present, I am not going to let you off without an admonitory flea in the ear. Don't suppose that any mere scribbling and typework will suffice to answer the scribbling and typework set at work to demolish you,—write down that rubbish you can't; live it down you may. If you are rich, like Squire Hazeldean, do good with your money; if you are poor, like Signor Riccabocca, do good with your kindness.
See! there is Lenny now receiving his week's wages; and though Lenny knows that he can get higher wages in the very next parish, his blue eyes are sparkling with gratitude, not at the chink of the money, but at the poor exile's friendly talk on things apart from all service; while Violante is descending the steps from the terrace, charged by her mother-in-law with a little basket of sago, and such-like delicacies, for Mrs. Fairfield, who has been ailing the last few days.
Lenny will see the tinker as he goes home, and he will buy a most Demosthenean "Appeal,"—a tract of tracts, upon the propriety of Strikes and the Avarice of Masters. But, somehow or other, I think a few words from Signor Riccabocca, that did not cost the signor a farthing, and the sight of his mother's smile at the contents of the basket, which cost very little, will serve to neutralize the effects of that "Appeal" much more efficaciously than the best article a Brougham or a Mill could write on the subject.
Spring had come again; and one beautiful May day, Leonard Fairfield sat beside the little fountain which he had now actually constructed in the garden. The butterflies were hovering over the belt of flowers which he had placed around his fountain, and the birds were singing overhead. Leonard Fairfield was resting from his day's work, to enjoy his abstemious dinner, beside the cool play of the sparkling waters, and, with the yet keener appetite of knowledge, he devoured his book as he munched his crusts.
A penny tract is the shoeing-horn of literature! it draws on a great many books, and some too tight to be very useful in walking. The penny tract quotes a celebrated writer—you long to read him; it props a startling assertion by a grave authority—you long to refer to it. During the nights of the past winter, Leonard's intelligence had made vast progress; he had taught himself more than the elements of mechanics, and put to practice the principles he had acquired not only in the hydraulical achievement of the fountain, nor in the still more notable application of science, commenced on the stream in which Jackeymo had fished for minnows, and which Lenny had diverted to the purpose of irrigating two fields, but in various ingenious contrivances for the facilitation or abridgment of labour, which had excited great wonder and praise in the neighbourhood. On the other hand, those rabid little tracts, which dealt so summarily with the destinies of the human race, even when his growing reason and the perusal of works more classical or more logical had led him to perceive that they were illiterate, and to suspect that they jumped from premises to conclusions with a celerity very different from the careful ratiocination of mechanical science, had still, in the citations and references wherewith they abounded, lured him on to philosophers more specious and more perilous. Out of the tinker's bag he had drawn a translation of Condorcet's "Progress of Man" and another of Rousseau's "Social Contract." Works so eloquent had induced him to select from the tracts in the tinker's miscellany those which abounded most in professions of philanthropy, and predictions of some coming Golden Age, to which old Saturn's was a joke,—tracts so mild and mother-like in their language, that it required a much more practical experience than Lenny's to perceive that you would have to pass a river of blood before you had the slightest chance of setting foot on the flowery banks on which they invited you to repose; tracts which rouged poor Christianity on the cheeks, clapped a crown of innocent daffodillies on her head, and set her to dancing a pas de zephyr in the pastoral ballet in which Saint-Simon pipes to the flock he shears; or having first laid it down as a preliminary axiom that—
"The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, The solemn temples, the great globe itself,— Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,"
substituted in place thereof M. Fourier's symmetrical phalanstere, or Mr. Owen's architectural parallelogram. It was with some such tract that Lenny was seasoning his crusts and his radishes, when Riccabocca, bending his long dark face over the student's shoulder, said abruptly,—
"Diavolo, my friend! what on earth have you got there? Just let me look at it, will you?"
Leonard rose respectfully, and coloured deeply as he surrendered the tract to Riccabocca.
The wise man read the first page attentively, the second more cursorily, and only ran his eye over the rest. He had gone through too vast a range of problems political, not to have passed over that venerable Pons Asinorum of Socialism, on which Fouriers and Saint-Simons sit straddling, and cry aloud that they have arrived at the last boundary of knowledge!
"All this is as old as the hills," quoth Riccabocca, irreverently; "but the hills stand still, and this—there it goes!" and the sage pointed to a cloud emitted from his pipe. "Did you ever read Sir David Brewster on Optical Delusions? No! Well, I'll lend it to you. You will find therein a story of a lady who always saw a black cat on her hearth-rug. The black cat existed only in her fancy, but the hallucination was natural and reasonable,—eh, what do you think?"
"Why, sir," said Leonard, not catching the Italian's meaning, "I don't exactly see that it was natural and reasonable."
"Foolish boy, yes! because black cats are things possible and known. But who ever saw upon earth a community of men such as sit on the hearth-rugs of Messrs. Owen and Fourier? If the lady's hallucination was not reasonable, what is his who believes in such visions as these?"
Leonard bit his lip.
"My dear boy," cried Riccabocca, kindly, "the only thing sure and tangible to which these writers would lead you lies at the first step, and that is what is commonly called a Revolution. Now, I know what that is. I have gone, not indeed through a revolution, but an attempt at one."
Leonard raised his eyes towards his master with a look of profound respect and great curiosity.
"Yes," added Riccabocca, and the face on which the boy gazed exchanged its usual grotesque and sardonic expression for one animated, noble, and heroic. "Yes, not a revolution for chimeras, but for that cause which the coldest allow to be good, and which, when successful, all time approves as divine,—the redemption of our native soil from the rule of the foreigner! I have shared in such an attempt. And," continued the Italian, mournfully, "recalling now all the evil passions it arouses, all the ties it dissolves, all the blood that it commands to flow, all the healthful industry it arrests, all the madmen that it arms, all the victims that it dupes, I question whether one man really honest, pure, and humane, who has once gone through such an ordeal, would ever hazard it again, unless he was assured that the victory was certain,—ay, and the object for which he fights not to be wrested from his hands amidst the uproar of the elements that the battle has released."
The Italian paused, shaded his brow with his hand, and remained long silent. Then, gradually resuming his ordinary tone, he continued,—
"Revolutions that have no definite objects made clear by the positive experience of history; revolutions, in a word, that aim less at substituting one law or one dynasty for another, than at changing the whole scheme of society, have been little attempted by real statesmen. Even Lycurgus is proved to be a myth who never existed. Such organic changes are but in the day-dreams of philosophers who lived apart from the actual world, and whose opinions (though generally they were very benevolent, good sort of men, and wrote in an elegant poetical style) one would no more take on a plain matter of life, than one would look upon Virgil's Eclogues as a faithful picture of the ordinary pains and pleasures of the peasants who tend our sheep. Read them as you would read poets, and they are delightful. But attempt to shape the world according to the poetry, and fit yourself for a madhouse. The farther off the age is from the realization of such projects, the more these poor philosophers have indulged them. Thus, it was amidst the saddest corruption of court manners that it became the fashion in Paris to sit for one's picture with a crook in one's hand, as Alexis or Daphne. Just as liberty was fast dying out of Greece, and the successors of Alexander were founding their monarchies, and Rome was growing up to crush in its iron grasp all States save its own, Plato withdraws his eyes from the world, to open them in his dreamy "Atlantis." Just in the grimmest period of English history, with the axe hanging over his head, Sir Thomas More gives you his "Utopia." Just when the world is to be the theatre of a new Sesostris, the sages of France tell you that the age is too enlightened for war, that man is henceforth to be governed by pure reason, and live in a paradise. Very pretty reading all this to a man like me, Lenny, who can admire and smile at it. But to you, to the man who has to work for his living, to the man who thinks it would be so much more pleasant to live at his ease in a phalanstere than to work eight or ten hours a day; to the man of talent and action and industry, whose future is invested in that tranquillity and order of a State in which talent and action and industry are a certain capital,—why, Messrs. Coutts, the great bankers, had better encourage a theory to upset the system of banking! Whatever disturbs society, yea, even by a causeless panic, much more by an actual struggle, falls first upon the market of labour, and thence affects prejudicially every department of intelligence. In such times the arts are arrested; literature is neglected; people are too busy to read anything save appeals to their passions. And capital, shaken in its sense of security, no longer ventures boldly through the land, calling forth all the energies of toil and enterprise, and extending to every workman his reward. Now, Lenny, take this piece of advice. You are young, clever, and aspiring: men rarely succeed in changing the world; but a man seldom fails of success if he lets the world alone, and resolves to make the best of it. You are in the midst of the great crisis of your life; it is the struggle between the new desires knowledge excites, and that sense of poverty which those desires convert either into hope and emulation, or into envy and despair. I grant that it is an up-hill work that lies before you; but don't you think it is always easier to climb a mountain than it is to level it? These books call on you to level the mountain; and that mountain is the property of other people, subdivided amongst a great many proprietors, and protected by law. At the first stroke of the pickaxe, it is ten to one but what you are taken up for a trespass. But the path up the mountain is a right of way uncontested. You may be safe at the summit, before (even if the owners are fools enough to let you) you could have levelled a yard. Cospetto!" quoth the doctor, "it is more than two thousand years ago since poor Plato began to level it, and the mountain is as high as ever!"
Thus saying, Riccabocca came to the end of his pipe, and stalking thoughtfully away, he left Leonard Fairfield trying to extract light from the smoke.
Shortly after this discourse of Riccabocca's, an incident occurred to Leonard that served to carry his mind into new directions. One evening, when his mother was out, he was at work on a new mechanical contrivance, and had the misfortune to break one of the instruments which he employed. Now it will be remembered that his father had been the squire's head carpenter: the widow had carefully hoarded the tools of his craft, which had belonged to her poor Mark; and though she occasionally lent them to Leonard, she would not give them up to his service. Amongst these Leonard knew that he should find the one that he wanted; and being much interested in his contrivance, he could not wait till his mother's return. The tools, with other little relies of the lost, were kept in a large trunk in Mrs. Fairfield's sleepingroom; the trunk was not locked, and Leonard went to it with out ceremony or scruple. In rummaging for the instrument his eye fell upon a bundle of manuscripts; and he suddenly recollected that when he was a mere child, and before he much knew the difference between verse and prose, his mother had pointed to these manuscripts, and said, "One day or other, when you can read nicely, I'll let you look at these, Lenny. My poor Mark wrote such verses—ah, he was a schollard!" Leonard, reasonably enough, thought that the time had now arrived when he was worthy the privilege of reading the paternal effusions, and he took forth the manuscripts with a keen but melancholy interest. He recognized his father's handwriting, which he had often seen before in account-books and memoranda, and read eagerly some trifling poems, which did not show much genius, nor much mastery of language and rhythm,—such poems, in short, as a self-educated man, with poetic taste and feeling rather than poetic inspiration or artistic culture, might compose with credit, but not for fame. But suddenly, as he turned over these "Occasional Pieces," Leonard came to others in a different handwriting,—a woman's handwriting, small and fine and exquisitely formed. He had scarcely read six lines of these last, before his attention was irresistibly chained. They were of a different order of merit from poor Mark's; they bore the unmistakable stamp of genius. Like the poetry of women in general, they were devoted to personal feeling,—they were not the mirror of a world, but reflections of a solitary heart. Yet this is the kind of poetry most pleasing to the young. And the verses in question had another attraction for Leonard: they seemed to express some struggle akin to his own,—some complaint against the actual condition of the writer's life, some sweet melodious murmurs at fortune. For the rest, they were characterized by a vein of sentiment so elevated, that, if written by a man, it would have run into exaggeration; written by a woman, the romance was carried off by so many genuine revelations of sincere, deep, pathetic feeling, that it was always natural, though true to a nature for which you would not augur happiness.
Leonard was still absorbed in the perusal of these poems when Mrs. Fairfield entered the room.
"What have you been about, Lenny,—searching in my box?"
"I came to look for my father's bag of tools, Mother, and I found these papers, which you said I might read some day."
"I does n't wonder you did not hear me when I came in," said the widow, sighing. "I used to sit still for the hour together, when my poor Mark read his poems to me. There was such a pretty one about the 'Peasant's Fireside,' Lenny,—have you got hold of that?"
"Yes, dear mother; and I remarked the allusion to you: it brought tears to my eyes. But these verses are not my father's; whose are they? They seem in a woman's handwriting."
Mrs. Fairfield looked, changed colour, grew faint and seated herself.
"Poor, poor Nora!" said she, falteringly. "I did not know as they were there; Mark kep' 'em; they got among his—"
LEONARD.—"Who was Nora?"
MRS. FAIRFIELD.—"Who?—child—who? Nora was—was my own—own sister."
LEONARD (in great amaze, contrasting his ideal of the writer of these musical lines, in that graceful hand, with his homely uneducated mother, who could neither read nor write).—"Your sister! is it possible! My aunt, then. How comes it you never spoke of her before? Oh, you should be so proud of her, Mother!"
MRS. FAIRFIELD (clasping her hands).—"We were proud of her, all of us,—father, mother, all! She was so beautiful and so good, and not proud she! though she looked like the first lady in the land. Oh, Nora, Nora!"
LEONARD (after a pause).—"But she must have been highly educated?"
MRS. FAIRFIELD.—"'Deed she was!"
LEONARD.—"How was that?"
MRS. FAIRFIELD (rocking herself to and fro in her chair).—"Oh, my Lady was her godmother,—Lady Lansmere I mean,—and took a fancy to her when she was that high, and had her to stay at the Park, and wait on her Ladyship; and then she put her to school, and Nora was so clever that nothing would do but she must go to London as a governess. But don't talk of it, boy! don't talk of it!"
LEONARD.—"Why not, Mother? What has become of her; where is she?"
MRS. FAIRFIELD (bursting into a paroxysm of tears).—"In her grave,—in her cold grave! Dead, dead!"
Leonard was inexpressibly grieved and shocked. It is the attribute of the poet to seem always living, always a friend. Leonard felt as if some one very dear had been suddenly torn from his heart. He tried to console his mother; but her emotion was contagious, and he wept with her.
"And how long has she been dead?" he asked at last, in mournful accents.
"Many's the long year, many; but," added Mrs. Fairfield, rising, and putting her tremulous hand on Leonard's shoulder, "you'll just never talk to me about her; I can't bear it, it breaks my heart. I can bear better to talk of Mark; come downstairs,—come."
"May I not keep these verses, Mother? Do let me."
"Well, well, those bits o' paper be all she left behind her,—yes, keep them, but put back Mark's. Are they all here,—sure?" And the widow, though she could not read her husband's verses, looked jealously at the manuscripts written in his irregular, large scrawl, and, smoothing them carefully, replaced them in the trunk, and resettled over them some sprigs of lavender, which Leonard had unwittingly disturbed.
"But," said Leonard, as his eye again rested on the beautiful handwriting of his lost aunt,—"but you called her Nora—I see she signs herself L."
"Leonora was her name. I said she was my Lady's god-child. We call her Nora for short—"
"Leonora—and I am Leonard—is that how I came by the name?"
"Yes, yes; do hold your tongue, boy," sobbed poor Mrs. Fairfield; and she could not be soothed nor coaxed into continuing or renewing a subject which was evidently associated with insupportable pain.
It is difficult to exaggerate the effect that this discovery produced on Leonard's train of thought. Some one belonging to his own humble race had, then, preceded him in his struggling flight towards the loftier regions of Intelligence and Desire. It was like the mariner amidst unknown seas, who finds carved upon some desert isle a familiar household name.
And this creature of genius and of sorrow-whose existence he had only learned by her song, and whose death created, in the simple heart of her sister, so passionate a grief, after the lapse of so many years—supplied to the romance awaking in his young heart the ideal which it unconsciously sought. He was pleased to hear that she had been beautiful and good. He paused from his books to muse on her, and picture her image to his fancy. That there was some mystery in her fate was evident to him; and while that conviction deepened his interest, the mystery itself by degrees took a charm which he was not anxious to dispel. He resigned himself to Mrs. Fairfield's obstinate silence. He was contented to rank the dead amongst those holy and ineffable images which we do not seek to unveil. Youth and Fancy have many secret hoards of idea which they do not desire to impart, even to those most in their confidence. I doubt the depth of feeling in any man who has not certain recesses in his soul into which none may enter.
Hitherto, as I have said, the talents of Leonard Fairfield had been more turned to things positive than to the ideal,—to science and investigation of fact than to poetry, and that airier truth in which poetry has its element. He had read our greater poets, indeed, but without thought of imitating; and rather from the general curiosity to inspect all celebrated monuments of the human mind than from that especial predilection for verse which is too common in childhood and youth to be any sure sign of a poet. But now these melodies, unknown to all the world beside, rang in his ear, mingled with his thoughts,—set, as it were, his whole life to music. He read poetry with a different sentiment,—it seemed to him that he had discovered its secret. And so reading, the passion seized him, and "the numbers came."
To many minds, at the commencement of our grave and earnest pilgrimage, I am Vandal enough to think that the indulgence of poetic taste and revery does great and lasting harm; that it serves to enervate the character, give false ideas of life, impart the semblance of drudgery to the noble toils and duties of the active man. All poetry would not do this,—not, for instance, the Classical, in its diviner masters; not the poetry of Homer, of Virgil, of Sophocles; not, perhaps, even that of the indolent Horace. But the poetry which youth usually loves and appreciates the best—the poetry of mere sentiment—does so in minds already over-predisposed to the sentimental, and which require bracing to grow into healthful manhood.
On the other hand, even this latter kind of poetry, which is peculiarly modern, does suit many minds of another mould,—minds which our modern life, with its hard positive forms, tends to produce. And as in certain climates plants and herbs, peculiarly adapted as antidotes to those diseases most prevalent in the atmosphere, are profusely sown, as it were, by the benignant providence of Nature, so it may be that the softer and more romantic species of poetry, which comes forth in harsh, money-making, unromantic times, is intended as curatives and counter-poisons. The world is so much with us, nowadays, that we need have something that prates to us, albeit even in too fine a euphuism, of the moon and stars.
Certes, to Leonard Fairfield, at that period of his intellectual life, the softness of our Helicon descended as healing dews. In his turbulent and unsettled ambition, in his vague grapple with the giant forms of political truths, in his bias towards the application of science to immediate practical purposes, this lovely vision of the Muse came in the white robe of the Peacemaker; and with upraised hand pointing to serene skies, she opened to him fair glimpses of the Beautiful, which is given to Peasant as to Prince,—showed to him that on the surface of earth there is something nobler than fortune, that he who can view the world as a poet is always at soul a king; while to practical purpose itself, that larger and more profound invention, which poetry stimulates, supplied the grand design and the subtle view,—leading him beyond the mere ingenuity of the mechanic, and habituating him to regard the inert force of the matter at his command with the ambition of the Discoverer. But, above all, the discontent that was within him finding a vent, not in deliberate war upon this actual world, but through the purifying channels of song, in the vent itself it evaporated, it was lost. By accustoming ourselves to survey all things with the spirit that retains and reproduces them only in their lovelier or grander aspects, a vast philosophy of toleration for what we before gazed on with scorn or hate insensibly grows upon us. Leonard looked into his heart after the Enchantress had breathed upon it; and through the mists of the fleeting and tender melancholy which betrayed where she had been, he beheld a new sun of delight and joy dawning over the landscape of human life.
Thus, though she was dead and gone from his actual knowledge, this mysterious kinswoman—"a voice, and nothing more"—had spoken to him, soothed, elevated, cheered, attuned each discord into harmony; and if now permitted from some serener sphere to behold the life that her soul thus strangely influenced, verily with yet holier joy the saving and lovely spirit might have glided onward in the Eternal Progress.
We call the large majority of human lives obscure. Presumptuous that we are! How know we what lives a single thought retained from the dust of nameless graves may have lighted to renown?
It was about a year after Leonard's discovery of the family manuscripts that Parson Dale borrowed the quietest pad-mare in the squire's stables, and set out on an equestrian excursion. He said that he was bound on business connected with his old parishioners of Lansmere; for, as it has been incidentally implied in a previous chapter, he had been connected with that borough town (and, I may here add, in the capacity of curate) before he had been inducted into the living of Hazeldean.
It was so rarely that the parson stirred from home, that this journey to a town more than twenty miles off was regarded as a most daring adventure, both at the Hall and at the Parsonage. Mrs. Dale could not sleep the whole previous night with thinking of it; and though she had naturally one of her worst nervous headaches on the eventful morn, she yet suffered no hands less thoughtful than her own to pack up the saddle-bags which the parson had borrowed along with the pad. Nay, so distrustful was she of the possibility of the good man's exerting the slightest common-sense in her absence, that she kept him close at her side while she was engaged in that same operation of packing-up,—showing him the exact spot in which the clean shirt was put; and how nicely the old slippers were packed up in one of his own sermons. She implored him not to mistake the sandwiches for his shaving-soap, and made him observe how carefully she had provided against such confusion, by placing them as far apart from each other as the nature of saddle-bags will admit. The poor parson—who was really by no means an absent man, but as little likely to shave himself with sandwiches and lunch upon soap as the most commonplace mortal may be—listened with conjugal patience, and thought that man never had such a wife before; nor was it without tears in his own eyes that he tore himself from the farewell embrace of his weeping Carry.
I confess, however, that it was with some apprehension that he set his foot in the stirrup, and trusted his person to the mercies of an unfamiliar animal. For, whatever might be Mr. Dale's minor accomplishments as man and parson, horsemanship was not his forte. Indeed, I doubt if he had taken the reins in his hand more than twice since he had been married.
The squire's surly old groom, Mat, was in attendance with the pad; and, to the parson's gentle inquiry whether Mat was quite sure that the pad was quite safe, replied laconically, "Oi, oi; give her her head."
"Give her her head!" repeated Mr. Dale, rather amazed, for he had not the slightest intention of taking away that part of the beast's frame, so essential to its vital economy,—"give her her head!"
"Oi, oi; and don't jerk her up like that, or she'll fall a doincing on her hind-legs."
The parson instantly slackened the reins; and Mrs. Dale—who had tarried behind to control her tears—now running to the door for "more last words," he waved his hand with courageous amenity, and ambled forth into the lane.
Our equestrian was absorbed at first in studying the idiosyncrasies of the pad-mare, and trying thereby to arrive at some notion of her general character: guessing, for instance, why she raised one ear and laid down the other; why she kept bearing so close to the left that she brushed his leg against the hedge; and why, when she arrived at a little side-gate in the fields, which led towards the home-farm, she came to a full stop, and fell to rubbing her nose against the rail,—an occupation from which the parson, finding all civil remonstrances in vain, at length diverted her by a timorous application of the whip.
This crisis on the road fairly passed, the pad seemed to comprehend that she had a journey before her, and giving a petulant whisk of her tail, quickened her amble into a short trot, which soon brought the parson into the high road, and nearly opposite the Casino.
Here, sitting on the gate which led to his abode, and shaded by his umbrella, he beheld Dr. Riccabocca.
The Italian lifted his eyes from the book he was reading, and stared hard at the parson; and he—not venturing to withdraw his whole attention from the pad (who, indeed, set up both her ears at the apparition of Riccabocca, and evinced symptoms of that surprise and superstitious repugnance at unknown objects which goes by the name of "shying")—looked askance at Riccabocca.
"Don't stir, please," said the parson, "or I fear you'll alarm the creature; it seems a nervous, timid thing;—soho, gently, gently."
And he fell to patting the mare with great unction.
The pad, thus encouraged, overcame her first natural astonishment at the sight of Riccabocca and the red umbrella; and having before been at the Casino on sundry occasions, and sagaciously preferring places within the range of her experience to bourns neither cognate nor conjecturable, she moved gravely up towards the gate on which the Italian sat; and, after eying him a moment,—as much as to say, "I wish you would get off,"—came to a deadlock.