In one corner are piled up cases and military-looking trunks of outlandish aspect, with R. D. C. in brass nails on their sides. From these we turn with involuntary respect and call off Juba, who has wedged himself behind in pursuit of some imaginary mouse. But in the other corner is what seems to me a child's cradle,—not an English one, evidently; it is of wood, seemingly Spanish rosewood, with a railwork at the back, of twisted columns; and I should scarcely have known it to be a cradle but for the fairy-like quilt and the tiny pillows, which proclaimed its uses.
On the wall above the cradle were arranged sundry little articles that had, perhaps, once made the joy of a child's heart,—broken toys with the paint rubbed off, a tin sword and trumpet, and a few tattered books, mostly in Spanish; by their shape and look, doubtless children's books. Near these stood, on the floor, a picture with its face to the wall. Juba had chased the mouse, that his fancy still insisted on creating, behind this picture, and as he abruptly drew back, the picture fell into the hands I stretched forth to receive it. I turned the face to the light, and was surprised to see merely an old family portrait; it was that of a gentleman in the flowered vest mid stiff ruff which referred the date of his existence to the reign of Elizabeth,—a man with a bold and noble countenance. On the corner was placed a faded coat of arms, beneath which was inscribed, "Herbert De Caxton, Eq: Aur: AEtat: 35."
On the back of the canvas I observed, as I now replaced the picture against the wall, a label in Roland's handwriting, though in a younger and more running hand than he now wrote. The words were these "The best and bravest of our line, He charged by Sidney's side on the field of Zutphen; he fought in Drake's ship against the armament of Spain. If ever I have a—" The rest of the label seemed to have been torn off.
I turned away, and felt a remorseful shame that I had so far gratified my curiosity,—if by so harsh a name the powerful interest that had absorbed me must be called. I looked round for Blanche; she had retreated from my side to the door, and, with her hands before her eyes, was weeping. As I stole towards her, my glance fell on a book that lay on a chair near the casement and beside those relics of an infancy once pure and serene. By the old-fashioned silver clasps I recognized Roland's Bible. I felt as if I had been almost guilty of profanation in my thoughtless intrusion. I drew away Blanche, and we descended the stairs noiselessly; and not till we were on our favorite spot, amidst a heap of ruins on the feudal justice-hill, did I seek to kiss away her tears and ask the cause.
"My poor brother!" sobbed Blanche, "they must have been his,—and we shall never, never see him again!—and poor papa's Bible, which he reads when he is very, very sad! I did not weep enough when my brother died. I know better what death is now! Poor papa! poor papa! Don't die, too, Sisty!"
There was no running after butterflies that morning; and it was long before I could soothe Blanche. Indeed, she bore the traces of dejection in her soft looks for many, many days; and she often asked me, sighingly, "Don't you think it was very wrong in me to take you there?" Poor little Blanche, true daughter of Eve, she would not let me bear my due share of the blame; she would have it all, in Adam's primitive way of justice,—"The woman tempted me, and I did eat." And since then Blanche has seemed more fond than ever of Roland, and comparatively deserts me to nestle close to him, and closer, till he looks up and says, "My child, you are pale; go and run after the butterflies;" and she says now to him, not to me, "Come too!" drawing him out into the sunshine with a hand that will not loose its hold.
Of all Roland's line, this Herbert de Caxton was "the best and bravest!" yet he had never named that ancestor to me,—never put any forefather in comparison with the dubious and mythical Sir William. I now remembered once that, in going over the pedigree, I had been struck by the name of Herbert,—the only Herbert in the scroll,—and had asked, "What of him, uncle?" and Roland had muttered something inaudible, and turned away. And I remembered also that in Roland's room there was the mark on the wall where a picture of that size had once hung. The picture had been removed thence before we first came, but must have hung there for years to have left that mark on the wall,—perhaps suspended by Bolt during Roland's long Continental absence. "If ever I have a—" What were the missing words? Alas! did they not relate to the son,—missed forever, evidently not forgotten still?
My uncle sat on one side the fireplace, my mother on the other; and I, at a small table between them, prepared to note down the results of their conference; for they had met in high council, to assess their joint fortunes,—determine what should be brought into the common stock and set apart for the Civil List, and what should be laid aside as a Sinking Fund. Now my mother, true woman as she was, had a womanly love of show in her own quiet way,—of making "a genteel figure" in the eyes of the neighborhood; of seeing that sixpence not only went as far as sixpence ought to go, but that, in the going, it should emit a mild but imposing splendor,—not, indeed, a gaudy flash, a startling Borealian coruscation, which is scarcely within the modest and placid idiosyncracies of sixpence,—but a gleam of gentle and benign light, just to show where a sixpence had been, and allow you time to say "Behold!" before
"The jaws of darkness did devour it up."
Thus, as I once before took occasion to apprise the reader, we had always held a very respectable position in the neighborhood round our square brick house; been as sociable as my father's habits would permit; given our little tea-parties, and our occasional dinners, and, without attempting to vie with our richer associates, there had always been so exquisite a neatness, so notable a housekeeping, so thoughtful a disposition, in short, of all the properties indigenous to a well-spent sixpence, in my mother's management, that there was not an old maid within seven miles of us who did not pronounce our tea-parties to be perfect; and the great Mrs. Rollick, who gave forty guineas a year to a professed cook and housekeeper, used regularly, whenever we dined at Rollick Hall, to call across the table to my mother (who therewith blushed up to her ears) to apologize for the strawberry jelly. It is true that when, on returning home, my mother adverted to that flattering and delicate compliment, in a tone that revealed the self-conceit of the human heart, my father—whether to sober his Kitty's vanity into a proper and Christian mortification of spirit, or from that strange shrewd ness which belonged to him—would remark that Mrs. Rollick was of a querulous nature; that the compliment was meant, not to please my mother, but to spite the professed cook and housekeeper, to whom the butler would be sure to repeat the invidious apology.
In settling at the Tower, and assuming the head of its establishment, my mother was naturally anxious that, poor battered invalid though the Tower was, it should still put its best leg foremost. Sundry cards, despite the thinness of the neighborhood, had been left at the door; various invitations, which my uncle had hitherto declined, had greeted his occupation of the ancestral ruin, and had become more numerous since the news of our arrival had gone abroad; so that my mother saw before her a very suitable field for her hospitable accomplishments,—a reasonable ground for her ambition that the Tower should hold up its head as became a Tower that held the head of the family.
But not to wrong thee, O dear mother! as thou sittest there, opposite the grim Captain, so fair and so neat,—with thine apron as white, and thy hair as trim and as sheen, and thy morning cap, with its ribbons of blue, as coquettishly arranged as if thou hadst a fear that the least negligence on thy part might lose thee the heart of thine Austin,—not to wrong thee by setting down to frivolous motives alone thy feminine visions of the social amenities of life, I know that thine heart, in its provident tenderness, was quite as much interested as ever thy vanities could be, in the hospitable thoughts on which thou wert intent. For, first and foremost, it was the wish of thy soul that thine Austin might, as little as possible, be reminded of the change in his fortunes,—might miss as little as possible those interruptions to his abstracted scholarly moods at which, it is true, he used to fret and to pshaw and to cry Papa! but which nevertheless always did him good, and freshened up the stream of his thoughts. And, next, it was the conviction of thine understanding that a little society and boon companionship, and the proud pleasure of showing his ruins and presiding at the hall of his forefathers, would take Roland out of those gloomy reveries into which he still fell at times. And, thirdly, for us young people, ought not Blanche to find companions in children of her own sex and age? Already in those large black eyes there was something melancholy and brooding, as there is in the eyes of all children who live only with their elders. And for Pisistratus, with his altered prospects, and the one great gnawing memory at his heart,—which he tried to conceal from himself, but which a mother (and a mother who had loved) saw at a glance,—what could be better than such union and interchange with the world around us, small though that world might be, as woman, sweet binder and blender of all social links, might artfully effect? So that thou didst not go, like the awful Florentine,—
"Sopra for vanita che par persona,"—
"over thin shadows that mocked the substance of real forms," but rather it was the real forms that appeared as shadows, or vanita.
What a digression! Can I never tell my story in a plain, straightforward way? Certainly I was born under Cancer, and all my movements are circumlocutory, sideways, and crab-like.
"I think, Roland," said my mother, "that the establishment is settled,—Bolt, who is equal to three men at least; Primmins, cook and housekeeper; Molly, a good, stirring girl, and willing (though I've had some difficulty in persuading her to submit not to be called Anna Maria). Their wages are but a small item, my clear Roland."
"Hem!" said Roland; "since we can't do with fewer servants at less wages, I suppose we must call it small."
"It is so," said my mother, with mild positiveness. "And indeed, what with the game and fish, and the garden and poultry-yard, and your own mutton, our housekeeping will be next to nothing."
"Hem!" again said the thrifty Roland, with a slight inflection of the beetle brows. "It may be next to nothing, ma'am,—sister,—just as a butcher's shop may be next to Northumberland House; but there is a vast deal between nothing and that next neighbor you have given it."
This speech was so like one of my father's—so naive an imitation of that subtle reasoner's use of the rhetorical figure called Antanaclasis (or repetition of the same words in a different sense)—that I laughed and my mother smiled. But she smiled reverently, not thinking of the Antanaclasis, as, laying her hand on Roland's arm, she replied in the yet more formidable figure of speech called Epiphonema (or exclamation), "Yet, with all your economy, you would have had us—"
"Tut!" cried my uncle, parrying the Epiphonema with a masterly Aposiopesis (or breaking off); "tut! if you had done what I wished, I should have had more pleasure for my money!"
My poor mother's rhetorical armory supplied no weapon to meet that artful Aposiopesis; so she dropped the rhetoric altogether, and went on with that "unadorned eloquence" natural to her, as to other great financial reformers: "Well, Roland, but I am a good housewife, I assure you, and—Don't scold; but that you never do;—I mean, don't look as if you would like to scold. The fact is, that even after setting aside L100 a year for our little parties—"
"Little parties!—a hundred a year!" cried the Captain, aghast.
My mother pursued her way remorselessly,—"which we can well afford; and without counting your half-pay, which you must keep for pocket-money and your wardrobe and Blanche's,—I calculate that we can allow Pisistratus L150 a year, which, with the scholarship he is to get, will keep him at Cambridge" (at that, seeing the scholarship was as yet amidst the Pleasures of Hope, I shook my head doubtfully), "and," continued my mother, not heeding that sign of dissent, "we shall still have something to lay by."
The Captain's face assumed a ludicrous expression of compassion and horror; he evidently thought my mother's misfortunes had turned her head.
His tormentor continued.
"For," said my mother, with a pretty calculating shake of her head, and a movement of the right forefinger towards the five fingers of the left hand, "L370,—the interest of Austin's fortune,—and L50 that we may reckon for the rent of our house, make L420 a year. Add your L330 a year from the farm, sheep-walk, and cottages that you let, and the total is L750. Now, with all we get for nothing for our housekeeping, as I said before, we can do very well with L500 a year, and indeed make a handsome figure. So, after allowing Sisty L150, we still have L100 to lay by for Blanche."
"Stop, stop, stop!" cried the Captain in great agitation; "who told you that I had L330 a year?"
"Why, Bolt,—don't be angry with him."
"Bolt is a blockhead. From L330 a year take L200, and the remainder is all my income, besides my half-pay."
My mother opened her eyes, and so did I.
"To that L130 add, if you please, L130 of your own. All that you have over, my dear sister, is yours or Austin's, or your boy's; but not a shilling can go to give luxuries to a miserly, battered old soldier. Do you understand me?"
"No, Roland," said my mother; "I don't understand you at all. Does not your property bring in L330 a year?"
"Yes, but it has a debt of L200 a year on it," said the Captain, gloomily and reluctantly.
"Oh, Roland!" cried my mother tenderly, and approaching so near that, had my father been in the room, I am sure she would have been bold enough to kiss the stern Captain, though I never saw him look sterner and less kissable. "Oh, Roland!" cried my mother, concluding that famous Epiphonema which my uncle's Aposiopesis had before nipped in the bud, "and yet you would have made us, who are twice as rich, rob you of this little all!"
"Ah!" said Roland, trying to smile, "but I should have had my own way then, and starved you shockingly. No talk then of 'little parties' and such like. But you must not now turn the tables against me, nor bring your L420 a year as a set-off to my L130."
"Why," said my mother generously, "you forget the money's worth that you contribute,—all that your grounds supply, and all that we save by it. I am sure that that's worth a yearly L300 at the least."
"Madam,—sister," said the Captain, "I'm sure you don't want to hurt my feelings. All I have to say is, that if you add to what I bring an equal sum,—to keep up the poor old ruin,—it is the utmost that I can allow, and the rest is not more than Pisistratus can spend."
So saying, the Captain rose, bowed, and before either of us could stop him, hobbled out of the room.
"Dear me, Sisty!" said my mother, wringing her hands; "I have certainly displeased him. How could I guess he had so large a debt on the property?"
"Did not he pay his son's debts? Is not that the reason that—"
"Ah!" interrupted my mother, almost crying, "and it was that which ruffled him; and I not to guess it! What shall I do?"
"Set to work at a new calculation, dear mother, and let him have his own way."
"But then," said my mother, "your uncle will mope himself to death, and your father will have no relaxation, while you see that he has lost his former object in his books. And Blanche—and you too. If we were only to contribute what dear Roland does, I do not see how, with L260 a year, we could ever bring our neighbors round us! I wonder what Austin would say! I have half a mind—No, I'll go and look over the week-books with Primmins."
My mother went her way sorrowfully, and I was left alone.
Then I looked on the stately old hall, grand in its forlorn decay. And the dreams I had begun to cherish at my heart swept over me, and hurried me along, far, far away into the golden land whither Hope beckons youth. To restore my father's fortunes; re-weave the links of that broken ambition which had knit his genius with the world; rebuild those fallen walls; cultivate those barren moors; revive the ancient name; glad the old soldier's age; and be to both the brothers what Roland had lost,—a son: these were my dreams; and when I woke from them, to! they had left behind an intense purpose, a resolute object. Dream, O youth! dream manfully and nobly, and thy dreams shall be prophets!
Letter From Pisistratus Caxton TO Albert Trevanion, Esq., M.P.
(The confession of a youth who in the Old World finds himself one too many.)
My Dear Mr. Trevanion,—I thank you cordially, and so we do all, for your reply to my letter informing you of the villanous traps through which we have passed,—not indeed with whole skins, but still whole in life and limb,—which, considering that the traps were three, and the teeth sharp, was more than we could reasonably expect. We have taken to the wastes, like wise foxes as we are, and I do not think a bait can be found that will again snare the fox paternal. As for the fox filial it is different, and I am about to prove to you that he is burning to redeem the family disgrace. Ah! my dear Mr. Trevanion, if you are busy with "blue- books" when this letter reaches you, stop here, and put it aside for some rare moment of leisure. I am about to open my heart to you, and ask you, who know the world so well, to aid me in an escape from those flammantia maenia wherewith I find that world begirt and enclosed. For look you, sir, you and my father were right when you both agreed that the mere book-life was not meant for me. And yet what is not book-life, to a young man who would make his way through the ordinary and conventional paths to fortune? All the professions are so book-lined, book-hemmed, book- choked, that wherever these strong hands of mine stretch towards action, they find themselves met by octavo ramparts, flanked with quarto crenellations. For first, this college life, opening to scholarships, and ending, perchance, as you political economists would desire, in Malthusian fellowships,—premiums for celibacy,— consider what manner of thing it is!
Three years, book upon book,—a great Dead Sea before one; three years long, and all the apples that grow on the shore full of the ashes of pica and primer! Those three years ended, the fellowship, it may be, won,—still books, books, if the whole world does not close at the college gates. Do I, from scholar, effloresce into literary man, author by profession? Books, books! Do I go into the law? Books, books! Ars longa, vita brevis, which, paraphrased, means that it is slow work before one fags one's way to a brief! Do I turn doctor? Why, what but books can kill time until, at the age of forty, a lucky chance may permit me to kill something else? The Church (for which, indeed, I don't profess to be good enough),—that is book-life par excellence, whether, inglorious and poor, I wander through long lines of divines and Fathers; or, ambitious of bishoprics, I amend the corruptions, not of the human heart, but of a Greek text, and through defiles of scholiasts and commentators win my way to the See. In short, barring the noble profession of arms,—which you know, after all, is not precisely the road to fortune,—can you tell me any means by which one may escape these eternal books, this mental clockwork and corporeal lethargy? Where can this passion for life that runs riot through my veins find its vent? Where can these stalwart limbs and this broad chest grow of value and worth in this hot-bed of cerebral inflammation and dyspeptic intellect? I know what is in me; I know I have the qualities that should go with stalwart limbs and broad chest. I have some plain common-sense, some promptitude and keenness, some pleasure in hardy danger, some fortitude in bearing pain,—qualities for which I bless Heaven, for they are qualities good and useful in private life. But in the forum of men, in the market of fortune, are they not flocci, nauci, nihili?
In a word, dear sir and friend, in this crowded Old World there is not the same room that our bold forefathers found for men to walk about and jostle their neighbors. No; they must sit down like boys at the form, and work out their tasks, with rounded shoulders and aching fingers. There has been a pastoral age, and a hunting age, and a fighting age; now we have arrived at the age sedentary. Men who sit longest carry all before them,—puny, delicate fellows, with hands just strong enough to wield a pen, eyes so bleared by the midnight lamp that they see no joy in that buxom sun (which draws me forth into the fields, as life draws the living), and digestive organs worn and macerated by the relentless flagellation of the brain. Certainly, if this is to be the Reign of Mind, it is idle to repine, and kick against the pricks; but is it true that all these qualities of action that are within me are to go for nothing? If I were rich and happy in mind and circumstance, well and good; I should shoot, hunt, farm, travel, enjoy life, and snap my fingers at ambition. If I were so poor and so humbly bred that I could turn gamekeeper or whipper in, as pauper gentlemen virtually did of old, well and good too; I should exhaust this troublesome vitality of mine by nightly battles with poachers, and leaps over double dikes and stone walls. If I were so depressed of spirit that I could live without remorse on my father's small means, and exclaim, with Claudian, "The earth gives me feasts that cost nothing," well and good too; it were a life to suit a vegetable, or a very minor poet. But as it is,—here I open another leaf of my heart to you! To say that, being poor, I want to make a fortune, is to say that I am an Englishman. To attach ourselves to a thing positive, belongs to our practical race. Even in our dreams, if we build castles in the air, they are not Castles of Indolence,—indeed they have very little of the castle about them, and look much more like Hoare's Bank, on the east side of Temple Bar! I desire, then, to make a fortune. But I differ from my countrymen, first, by desiring only what you rich men would call but a small fortune; secondly, in wishing that I may not spend my whole life in that fortune-making. Just see, now, how I am placed.
Under ordinary circumstances, I must begin by taking from my father a large slice of an income that will ill spare paring. According to my calculation, my parents and my uncle want all they have got, and the subtraction of the yearly sum on which Pisistratus is to live till he can live by his own labors, would be so much taken from the decent comforts of his kindred. If I return to Cambridge, with all economy, I must thus narrow still more the res angusta domi; and when Cambridge is over, and I am turned loose upon the world,—failing, as is likely enough, of the support of a fellowship,—how many years must I work, or rather, alas! not work, at the Bar (which, after all, seems my best calling) before I can in my turn provide for those who, till then, rob themselves for me; till I have arrived at middle life, and they are old and worn out; till the chink of the golden bowl sounds but hollow at the ebbing well? I would wish that, if I can make money, those I love best may enjoy it while enjoyment is yet left to them; that my father shall see "The History of Human Error" complete, bound in russia on his shelves; that my mother shall have the innocent pleasures that content her, before age steals the light from her happy smile; that before Roland's hair is snow-white (alas! the snows there thicken fast), he shall lean on my arm while we settle together where the ruin shall be repaired or where left to the owls, and where the dreary bleak waste around shall laugh with the gleam of corn. For you know the nature of this Cumberland soil,—you, who possess much of it, and have won so many fair acres from the wild; you know that my uncle's land, now (save a single farm) scarce worth a shilling an acre, needs but capital to become an estate more lucrative than ever his ancestors owned. You know that, for you have applied your capital to the same kind of land, and in doing so, what blessings— which you scarcely think of in your London library—you have effected, what mouths you feed, what hands you employ! I have calculated that my uncle's moors, which now scarce maintain two or three shepherds, could, manured by money, maintain two hundred families by their labor. All this is worth trying for; therefore Pisistratus wants to make money. Not so much,—he does not require millions; a few spare thousand pounds would go a long way, and with a modest capital to begin with, Roland should become a true squire,—a real landowner, not the mere lord of a desert. Now then, dear sir, advise me how I may, with such qualities as I possess, arrive at that capital—ay, and before it is too late—so that money-making may not last till my grave.
Turning in despair from this civilized world of ours, I have cast my eyes to a world far older,—and yet more to a world in its giant childhood. India here, Australia there,—what say you, sir, you who will see dispassionately those things that float before my eyes through a golden haze, looming large in the distance? Such is my confidence in your judgment that you have but to say, "Fool, give up thine El Dorados and stay at home; stick to the books and the desk; annihilate that redundance of animal life that is in thee; grow a mental machine: thy physical gifts are of no avail to thee; take thy place among the slaves of the Lamp,"—and I will obey without a murmur. But if I am right; if I have in me attributes that here find no market; if my repinings are but the instincts of nature that, out of this decrepit civilization, desire vent for growth in the young stir of some more rude and vigorous social system,—then give me, I pray, that advice which may clothe my idea in some practical and tangible embodiments. Have I made myself understood?
We take no newspaper here, but occasionally one finds its way from the parsonage; and I have lately rejoiced at a paragraph that spoke of your speedy entrance into the Administration as a thing certain. I write to you before you are a minister, and you see what I seek is not in the way of official patronage. A niche in an office,— oh, to me that were worse than all! Yet I did labor hard with you, but,—that was different. I write to you thus frankly, knowing your warm, noble heart, and as if you were my father. Allow me to add my humble but earnest congratulations on Miss Trevanion's approaching marriage with one worthy, if not of her, at least of her station. I do so as becomes one whom you have allowed to retain the right to pray for the happiness of you and yours. My dear Mr. Trevanion, this is a long letter, and I dare not even read it over, lest, if I do, I should not send it. Take it with all its faults, and judge of it with that kindness with which you have judged ever,
Your grateful and devoted servant,
Letter From Albert Trevanion, Esq., M. P., To Pisistratus Caxton.
Library of the House of Commons, Tuesday Night.
My Dear Pisistratus, ———- is up; we are in for it for two mortal hours! I take flight to the library, and devote those hours to you. Don't be conceited, but that picture of yourself which you have placed before me has struck me with all the force of an original. The state of mind which you describe so vividly must be a very common one in our era of civilization, yet I have never before seen it made so prominent and life-like. You have been in my thoughts all day. Yes, how many young men must there be like you, in this Old World, able, intelligent, active, and persevering enough, yet not adapted for success in any of our conventional professions,—"mute, inglorious Raleighs." Your letter, young artist, is an illustration of the philosophy of colonizing. I comprehend better, after reading it, the old Greek colonization,— the sending out, not only the paupers, the refuse of an over- populated state, but a large proportion of a better class, fellows full of pith and sap and exuberant vitality, like yourself, blending, in those wise cleruchioe, a certain portion of the aristocratic with the more democratic element; not turning a rabble loose upon a new soil, but planting in the foreign allotments all the rudiments of a harmonious state, analogous to that in the mother country; not only getting rid of hungry, craving mouths, but furnishing vent for a waste surplus of intelligence and courage, which at home is really not needed, and more often comes to ill than to good,—here only menaces our artificial embankments, but there, carried off in an aqueduct, might give life to a desert.
For my part, in my ideal of colonization I should like that each exportation of human beings had, as of old, its leaders and chiefs,—not so appointed from the mere quality of rank (often, indeed, taken from the humbler classes), but still men to whom a certain degree of education should give promptitude, quickness, adaptability; men in whom their followers can confide. The Greeks understood that. Nay, as the colony makes progress, as its principal town rises into the dignity of a capital,—a polls that needs a polity,—I sometimes think it might be wise to go still further, and not only transplant to it a high standard of civilization, but draw it more closely into connection with the parent state, and render the passage of spare intellect, education, and civility, to and fro, more facile, by drafting off thither the spare scions of royalty itself. I know that many of my more "liberal" friends would pooh-pooh this notion; but I am sure that the colony altogether, when arrived to a state that would bear the importation, would thrive all the better for it. And when the day shall come (as to all healthful colonies it must come sooner or later) in which the settlement has grown an independent state, we may thereby have laid the seeds of a constitution and a civilization similar to our own, with self-developed forms of monarchy and aristocracy, though of a simpler growth than old societies accept, and not left a strange, motley chaos of struggling democracy,-an uncouth, livid giant, at which the Frankenstein may well tremble, not because it is a giant, but because it is a giant half completed. (1) Depend on it, the New World will be friendly or hostile to the Old, not in proportion to the kinship of race, but in proportion to the similarity of manners and institutions,—a mighty truth to which we colonizers have been blind.
Passing from these more distant speculations to this positive present before us, you see already, from what I have said, that I sympathize with your aspirations; that I construe them as you would have me: looking to your nature and to your objects, I give you my advice in a word,—Emigrate!
My advice is, however, founded on one hypothesis; namely, that you are perfectly sincere,—you will be contented with a rough life, and with a moderate fortune at the end of your probation. Don't dream of emigrating if you want to make a million, or the tenth of a million. Don't dream of emigrating unless you can enjoy its hardships,—to bear them is not enough!
Australia is the land for you, as you seem to surmise. Australia is the land for two classes of emigrants: first, the man who has nothing but his wits, and plenty of them; secondly, the man who has a small capital, and who is contented to spend ten years in trebling it. I assume that you belong to the latter class. Take out L3,000, and before you are thirty years old you may return with L10,000 or L12,000. If that satisfies you, think seriously of Australia. By coach, tomorrow, I will send you down all the best books and reports on the subject; and I will get you what detailed information I can from the Colonial Office. Having read these, and thought over them dispassionately, spend some months yet among the sheep-walks of Cumberland; learn all you can from all the shepherds you can find,—from Thyrsis to Menalcas. Do more,—fit yourself in every way for a life in the Bush, where the philosophy of the division of labor is not yet arrived at. Learn to turn your hand to everything. Be something of a smith, something of a carpenter, —do the best you can with the fewest tools; make yourself an excellent shot; break in all the wild horses and ponies you can borrow and beg. Even if you want to do none of these things when in your settlement, the having learned to do them will fit you for many other things not now foreseen. De-fine-gentlemanize yourself from the crown of your head to the sole of your foot, and become the greater aristocrat for so doing; for he is more than an aristocrat, he is a king, who suffices in all things for himself,— who is his own master, because he wants no valetaille. I think Seneca has expressed that thought before me; and I would quote the passage, but the book, I fear, is not in the library of the House of Commons. But now (cheers, by Jove! I suppose —— is down. Ah! it is so; and C—- is up, and that cheer followed a sharp hit at me. How I wish I were your age, and going to Australia with you!)—But now—to resume my suspended period—but now to the important point,—capital. You must take that, unless you go as a shepherd, and then good-by to the idea of L10,000 in ten years. So, you see, it appears at the first blush that you must still come to your father; but, you will say, with this difference, that you borrow the capital with every chance of repaying it instead of frittering away the income year after year till you are eight and thirty or forty at least. Still, Pisistratus, you don't, in this, gain your object at a leap; and my dear old friend ought not to lose his son and his money too. You say you write to me as to your own father. You know I hate, professions; and if you did not mean what you say, you have offended me mortally. As a father, then, I take a father's rights, and speak plainly. A friend of mine, Mr. Bolding, a clergyman, has a son,—a wild fellow, who is likely to get into all sorts of scrapes in England, but with plenty of good in him notwithstanding, frank, bold, not wanting in talent, but rather in prudence, easily tempted and led away into extravagance. He would make a capital colonist (no such temptations in the Bush!) if tied to a youth like you. Now I propose, with your leave, that his father shall advance him L1,500, which shall not, however, be placed in his hands, but in yours, as head partner in the firm. You, on your side, shall advance the same sum of L1,500, which you shall borrow from me for three years without interest. At the end of that time interest shall commence; and the capital, with the interest on the said first three years, shall be repaid to me, or my executors, on your return. After you have been a year or two in the Bush, and felt your way, and learned your business, you may then safely borrow L1,500 more from your father; and, in the mean while, you and your partner will have had together the full sum of L3,000 to commence with. You see in this proposal I make you no gift, and I run no risk even by your death. If you die insolvent, I will promise to come on your father, poor fellow; for small joy and small care will he have then in what may be left of his fortune. There—I have said all; and I will never forgive you if you reject an aid that will serve you so much and cost me so little.
I accept your congratulations on Fanny's engagement with Lord Castleton. When you return from Australia you will still be a young man, she (though about your own years) almost a middle-aged woman, with her head full of pomps and vanities. All girls have a short period of girlhood in common; but when they enter womanhood, the woman becomes the woman of her class. As for me, and the office assigned to me by report, you know what I said when we parted, and—But here J—— comes, and tells me that "I am expected to speak, and answer N——, who is just up, brimful of malice,"—the House crowded, and hungering for personalities. So I, the man of the Old World, gird up my loins, and leave you, with a sigh, to the fresh youth of the New
"Ne tibi sit duros acuisse in prcelia dentes."
So, reader, thou art now at the secret of my heart.
Wonder not that I, a bookman's son, and at certain periods of my life a bookman myself, though of lowly grade in that venerable class,—wonder not that I should thus, in that transition stage between youth and manhood, have turned impatiently from books. Most students, at one time or other in their existence, have felt the imperious demand of that restless principle in man's nature which calls upon each son of Adam to contribute his share to the vast treasury of human deeds. And though great scholars are not necessarily, nor usually, men of action, yet the men of action whom History presents to our survey have rarely been without a certain degree of scholarly nurture. For the ideas which books quicken, books cannot always satisfy. And though the royal pupil of Aristotle slept with Homer under his pillow, it was not that he might dream of composing epics, but of conquering new Ilions in the East. Many a man, how little soever resembling Alexander, may still have the conqueror's aim in an object that action only can achieve, and the book under his pillow may be the strongest antidote to his repose. And how the stern Destinies that shall govern the man weave their first delicate tissues amidst the earliest associations of the child! Those idle tales with which the old credulous nurse had beguiled my infancy,—tales of wonder, knight-errantry, and adventure,—had left behind them seeds long latent, seeds that might never have sprung up above the soil, but that my boyhood was so early put under the burning-glass, and in the quick forcing house, of the London world. There, even amidst books and study, lively observation and petulant ambition broke forth from the lush foliage of romance,—that fruitless leafiness of poetic youth! And there passion, which is a revolution in all the elements of individual man, had called anew state of being, turbulent and eager, out of the old habits and conventional forms it had buried,—ashes that speak where the fire has been. Far from me, as from any mind of some manliness, be the attempt to create interest by dwelling at length on the struggles against a rash and misplaced attachment, which it was my duty to overcome; but all such love, as I have before implied, is a terrible unsettler,—
"Where once such fairies dance, no grass doth ever grow."
To re-enter boyhood, go with meek docility through its disciplined routine—how hard had I found that return, amidst the cloistered monotony of college! My love for my father, and my submission to his wish, had indeed given some animation to objects otherwise distasteful; but now that my return to the University must be attended with positive privation to those at home, the idea became utterly hateful and repugnant. Under pretence that I found myself, on trial, not yet sufficiently prepared to do credit to my father's name, I had easily obtained leave to lose the ensuing college term and pursue my studies at home. This gave me time to prepare my plans and bring round ——. How shall I ever bring round to my adventurous views those whom I propose to desert? Hard it is to get on in the world,—very hard; but the most painful step in the way is that which starts from the threshold of a beloved home.
How—ah, how indeed! "No, Blanche, you cannot join me to-day; I am going out for many hours. So it will be late before I can be home."
Home,—the word chokes me! Juba slinks back to his young mistress, disconsolate; Blanche gazes at me ruefully from our favorite hill-top, and the flowers she has been gathering fall unheeded from her basket. I hear my mother's voice singing low as she sits at work by her open casement. How,—ah, how indeed!
[END OF PRINT VOL 1.]
Saint Chrysostom, in his work on "The Priesthood," defends deceit, if for a good purpose, by many Scriptural examples; ends his first book by asserting that it is often necessary, and that much benefit may arise from it; and begins his second book by saying that it ought not to be called "deceit," but "good management." (1)
"Good management," then, let me call the innocent arts by which I now sought to insinuate my project into favor and assent with my unsuspecting family. At first I began with Roland. I easily induced him to read some of the books, full of the charm of Australian life, which Trevanion had sent me; and so happily did those descriptions suit his own erratic tastes, and the free, half-savage man that lay rough and large within that soldierly nature, that he himself, as it were, seemed to suggest my own ardent desire, sighed, as the careworn Trevanion had done, that "he was not my age," and blew the flame that consumed me, with his own willing breath. So that when at last—wandering one day over the wild moors—I said, knowing his hatred of law and lawyers: "Alas, uncle, that nothing should be left for me but the Bar!" Captain Roland struck his cane into the peat and exclaimed, "Zounds, sir! the Bar and lying, with truth and a world fresh from God before you!"
"Your hand, uncle,—we understand each other. Now help me with those two quiet hearts at home!"
"Plague on my tongue! what have I done?" said the Captain, looking aghast. Then, after musing a little time, he turned his dark eye on me and growled out, "I suspect, young sir, you have been laying a trap for me; and I have fallen into it, like an old fool as I am."
"Oh, sir, I? you prefer the Bar!—"
"Or, indeed, I might perhaps get a clerkship in a merchant's office?"
"If you do, I will scratch you out of the pedigree!"
"Huzza, then, for Australasia!"
"Well, well, well!" said my uncle,—
"With a smile on his lip, and a tear in his eye,"—
"the old sea-king's blood will force its way,—a soldier or a rover, there is no other choice for you. We shall mourn and miss you; but who can chain the young eagles to the eyrie?"
I had a harder task with my father, who at first seemed to listen to me as if I had been talking of an excursion to the moon. But I threw in a dexterous dose of the old Greek Cleruchioe cited by Trevanion, which set him off full trot on his hobby, till after a short excursion to Euboea and the Chersonese, he was fairly lost amidst the Ionian colonies of Asia Minor. I then gradually and artfully decoyed him into his favorite science of Ethnology; and while he was speculating on the origin of the American savages, and considering the rival claims of Cimmerians, Israelites, and Scandinavians, I said quietly: "And you, sir, who think that all human improvement depends on the mixture of races; you, whose whole theory is an absolute sermon upon emigration, and the transplanting and interpolity of our species,—you, sir, should be the last man to chain your son, your elder son, to the soil, while your younger is the very missionary of rovers."
"Pisistratus," said my father, "you reason by synecdoche,—ornamental, but illogical;" and therewith, resolved to hear no more, my father rose and retreated into his study.
But his observation, now quickened, began from that day to follow my moods and humors; then he himself grew silent and thoughtful, and finally he took to long conferences with Roland. The result was that one evening in spring, as I lay listless amidst the weeds and fern that sprang up through the melancholy ruins, I felt a hand on my shoulder; and my father, seating himself beside me on a fragment of stone, said earnestly; "Pisistratus, let us talk. I had hoped better things from your study of Robert Hall."
"Nay, dear father, the medicine did me great good: I have not repined since, and I look steadfastly and cheerfully on life. But Robert Hall fulfilled his mission, and I would fulfil mine."
"Is there no mission in thy native land, O planeticose and exallotriote spirit?" (2) asked my father, with compassionate rebuke.
"Alas, yes! But what the impulse of genius is to the great, the instinct of vocation is to the mediocre. In every man there is a magnet; in that thing which the man can do best there is a loadstone."
"Papoe!" said my father, opening his eyes; "and are no loadstones to be found for you nearer than the Great Australasian Bight?"
"Ah,—sir, if you resort to irony I can say no more!" My father looked down on me tenderly as I hung my head, moody and abashed.
"Son," said he, "do you think that there is any real jest at my heart when the matter discussed is whether you are to put wide seas and long years between us?" I pressed nearer to his side, and made no answer.
"But I have noted you of late," continued my father, "and I have observed that your old studies are grown distasteful to you; and I have talked with Roland, and I see that your desire is deeper than a boy's mere whim. And then I have asked myself what prospect I can hold out at home to induce you to be contented here, and I see none; and therefore I should say to you, 'Go thy ways, and God shield thee,'—but, Pisistratus, your mother!"
"Ah, sir, that is indeed the question; and there indeed I shrink! But, after all, whatever I were,—whether toiling at the Bar or in some public office,—I should be still so much from home and her. And then you, sir, she loves you so entirely that—"
"No," interrupted my father; "you can advance no arguments like these to touch a mother's heart. There is but one argument that comes home there: is it for your good to leave her? If so, there will be no need of further words. But let us not decide that question hastily; let you and I be together the next two months. Bring your books and sit with me; when you want to go out, tap me on the shoulder, and say 'Come.' At the end of those two months I will say to you 'Go' or 'Stay.' And you will trust me; and if I say the last, you will submit?"
"Oh yes, sir, yes!"
(1) Hohler's translation.
(2) Words coined by Mr. Caxton from (Greek word), "disposed to roaming," and (Greek word), "to export, to alienate."
This compact made, my father roused himself from all his studies, devoted his whole thoughts to me, sought with all his gentle wisdom to wean me imperceptibly from my one fixed, tyrannical idea, ranged through his wide pharmacy of books for such medicaments as might alter the system of my thoughts. And little thought he that his very tenderness and wisdom worked against him, for at each new instance of either my heart called aloud, "Is it not that thy tenderness may be repaid, and thy wisdom be known abroad, that I go from thee into the strange land, O my father?"
And the two months expired, and my father saw that the magnet had turned unalterably to the loadstone in the Great Australasian Bight; and he said to me, "Go, and comfort your mother. I have told her your wish, and authorized it by my consent, for I believe now that it is for your good."
I found my mother in the little room she had appropriated to herself next my father's study. And in that room there was a pathos which I have no words to express; for my mother's meek, gentle, womanly soul spoke there, so that it was the Home of Home. The care with which she had transplanted from the brick house, and lovingly arranged, all the humble memorials of old times dear to her affections,—the black silhouette of my father's profile cut in paper, in the full pomp of academics, cap and gown (how had he ever consented to sit for it?), framed and glazed in the place of honor over the little hearth; and boyish sketches of mine at the Hellenic Institute, first essays in sepia and Indian ink, to animate the walls, and bring her back, when she sat there in the twilight, musing alone, to sunny hours, when Sisty and the young mother threw daisies at each other; and covered with a great glass: shade, and dusted each day with her own hand, the flower-pot Sisty had bought with the proceeds of the domino-box on that memorable occasion on which he had learned "how bad deeds are repaired with good." There, in one corner, stood the little cottage piano which I remembered all my life,—old-fashioned, and with the jingling voice of approaching decrepitude, but still associated with such melodies as, after childhood, we hear never more! And in the modest hanging shelves, which looked so gay with ribbons and tassels and silken cords, my mother's own library, saying more to the heart than all the cold wise poets whose souls my father invoked in his grand Heraclea. The Bible over which, with eyes yet untaught to read, I had hung in vague awe and love as it lay open on my mother's lap, while her sweet voice, then only serious, was made the oracle of its truths. And my first lesson-books were there, all hoarded. And bound in blue and gold, but elaborately papered up, Cowper's Poems,—a gift from my father in the days of courtship: sacred treasure; which not even I had the privilege to touch, and which my mother took out only in the great crosses and trials of conjugal life, whenever some words less kind than usual had dropped unawares from her scholar's absent lips. Ah! all these poor household gods, all seemed to look on me with mild anger; and from all came a voice to my soul, "Cruel, dost thou forsake us?" And amongst them sat my mother, desolate as Rachel, and weeping silently.
"Mother! mother!" I cried, falling on her neck, "forgive me,—it is past; I cannot leave you!"
"No, no! it is for your good,—Austin says so. Go,—it is but the first shock."
Then to my mother I opened the sluices of that deep I had concealed from scholar and soldier. To her I poured all the wild, restless thoughts which wandered through the ruins of love destroyed; to her I confessed what to myself I had scarcely before avowed. And when the picture of that, the darker, side of my mind was shown, it was with a prouder face and less broken voice that I spoke of the manlier hopes and nobler aims that gleamed across the wrecks and the desert and showed me my escape.
"Did you not once say, mother, that you had felt it like a remorse that my father's genius passed so noiselessly away,—half accusing the happiness you gave him for the death of his ambition in the content of his mind? Did you not feel a new object in life when the ambition revived at last, and you thought you heard the applause of the world murmuring round your scholar's cell? Did you not share in the day dreams your brother conjured up, and exclaim, 'If my brother could be the means of raising him in the world!' And when you thought we had found the way to fame and fortune, did you not sob out from your full heart, 'And it is my brother who will pay back to his son all—all he gave up for me'?"
"I cannot bear this, Sisty! Cease, cease!"
"No; for do you not yet understand me? Will it not be better still if your son—yours—restore to your Austin all that he lost, no matter how? If through your son, mother, you do indeed make the world hear of your husband's genius, restore the spring to his mind, the glory to his pursuits; if you rebuild even that vaunted ancestral name which is glory to our poor sonless Roland; if your son can restore the decay of generations, and reconstruct from the dust the whole house into which you have entered, its meek, presiding angel,—all, mother! if this can be done, it will be your work; for unless you can share my ambition, unless you can dry those eyes, and smile in my face, and bid me go, with a cheerful voice, all my courage melts from my heart, and again I say, I cannot leave you!"
Then my mother folded her arms round me, and we both wept, and could not speak; but we were both happy.
Now the worst was over, and my mother was the most heroic of us all. So I began to prepare myself in good earnest, and I followed Trevanion's instructions with a perseverance which I could never, at that young day, have thrown into the dead life of books. I was in a good school, amongst our Cumberland sheep-walks, to learn those simple elements of rural art which belong to the pastoral state. Mr. Sidney, in his admirable "Australian Hand-Book," recommends young gentlemen who think of becoming settlers in the Bush to bivouac for three months on Salisbury Plain. That book was not then written, or I might have taken the advice; meanwhile I think, with due respect to such authority, that I went through a preparatory training quite as useful in seasoning the future emigrant. I associated readily with the kindly peasants and craftsmen, who became my teachers. With what pride I presented my father with a desk, and my mother with a work-box, fashioned by my own hands! I made Bolt a lock for his plate-chest, and (that last was my magnum opus, my great masterpiece) I repaired and absolutely set going an old turret-clock in the tower that had stood at 2 p.m. since the memory of man. I loved to think, each time the hour sounded, that those who heard its deep chime would remember me. But the flocks were my main care. The sheep that I tended and helped to shear, and the lamb that I hooked out of the great marsh, and the three venerable ewes that I nursed through a mysterious sort of murrain which puzzled all the neighborhood,—are they not written in thy loving chronicles, O House of Caxton?
And now, since much of the success of my experiment must depend on the friendly terms I could establish with my intended partner, I wrote to Trevanion, begging him to get the young gentleman who was to join me, and whose capital I was to administer, to come and visit us. Trevanion complied; and there arrived a tall fellow, somewhat more than six feet high, answering to the name of Guy Bolding, in a cut-away sporting-coat, with a dog whistle tied to the button-hole, drab shorts and gaiters, and a waistcoat with all manner of strange furtive pockets. Guy Bolding had lived a year and a half at Oxford as a "fast man,"—so "fast" had he lived that there was scarcely a tradesman at Oxford into whose books he had not contrived to run.
His father was compelled to withdraw him from the University, at which he had already had the honor of being plucked for "the little-go;" and the young gentleman, on being asked for what profession he was fit, had replied, with conscious pride, that he could "tool a coach!" In despair, the sire, who owed his living to Trevanion, had asked the states man's advice; and the advice had fixed me with a partner in expatriation.
My first feeling in greeting the "fast" man was certainly that of deep disappointment and strong repugnance. But I was determined not to be too fastidious; and, having a lucky knack of suiting myself pretty well to all tempers (without which a man had better not think of loadstones in the Great Australasian Bight), I contrived before the first week was out to establish so many points of connection between us that we became the best friends in the world. Indeed, it would have been my fault if we had not; for Guy Bolding, with all his faults, was one of those excellent creatures who are nobody's enemies but their own. His good-humor was inexhaustible. Not a hardship or privation came amiss to him. He had a phrase, "Such fun!" that always rushed laughingly to his lips when another man would have cursed and groaned. If we lost our way in the great trackless moors, missed our dinner, and were half-famished, Guy rubbed hands that would have felled an ox, and chuckled out, "Such fun!" If we stuck in a bog, if we were caught in a thunder-storm, if we were pitched head-over-heels by the wild colts we undertook to break in, Guy Bolding's sole elegy was "Such fun!" That grand shibboleth of philosophy only forsook him at the sight of an open book. I don't think that at that time he could have found "fun" even in Don Quixote. This hilarious temperament had no insensibility; a kinder heart never beat,—but, to be sure, it beat to a strange, restless, tarantula sort of measure, which kept it in a perpetual dance. It made him one of those officiously good fellows who are never quiet themselves, and never let any one else be quiet if they can help it. But Guy's great fault, in this prudent world, was his absolute incontinence of money. If you had turned a Euphrates of gold into his pockets at morning, it would have been as dry as the Great Sahara by twelve at noon. What he did with the money was a mystery as much to himself as to every one else. His father said, in a letter to me, that "he had seen him shying at sparrows with half-crowns!" That such a young man could come to no good in England, seemed perfectly clear.
Still, it is recorded of many great men, who did not end their days in a workhouse, that they were equally non-retentive of money. Schiller, when he had nothing else to give away, gave the clothes from his back, and Goldsmith the blankets from his bed. Tender hands found it necessary to pick Beethoven's pockets at home before he walked out. Great heroes, who have made no scruple of robbing the whole world, have been just as lavish as poor poets and musicians. Alexander, in parcelling out his spoils, left himself "hope"! And as for Julius Caesar, he was two millions in debt when he shied his last half-crown at the sparrows in Gaul. Encouraged by these illustrious examples, I had hopes of Guy Bolding; and the more as he was so aware of his own infirmity that he was perfectly contented with the arrangement which made me treasurer of his capital, and even besought me, on no account, let him beg ever so hard, to permit his own money to come in his own way. In fact, I contrived to gain a great ascendency over his simple, generous, thoughtless nature; and by artful appeals to his affections,—to all he owed to his father for many bootless sacrifices, and to the duty of providing a little dower for his infant sister, whose meditated portion had half gone to pay his college debts,—I at last succeeded in fixing into his mind an object to save for.
Three other companions did I select for our Cleruchia. The first was the son of our old shepherd, who had lately married, but was not yet encumbered with children,—a good shepherd, and an intelligent, steady fellow. The second was a very different character. He had been the dread of the whole squirearchy. A more bold and dexterous poacher did not exist. Now my acquaintance with this latter person, named Will Peterson, and more popularly "Will o' the Wisp," had commenced thus: Bolt had managed to rear, in a small copse about a mile from the house,—and which was the only bit of ground in my uncle's domains that might by courtesy be called "a wood,"—a young colony of pheasants, that he dignified by the title of a "preserve." This colony was audaciously despoiled and grievously depopulated, in spite of two watchers, who, with Bolt, guarded for seven nights successively the slumbers of the infant settlement. So insolent was the assault that bang, bang! went the felonious gun,—behind, before, within but a few yards of the sentinels,—and the gunner was off and the prey seized, before they could rush to the spot. The boldness and skill of the enemy soon proclaimed him, to the experienced watchers, to be Will o' the Wisp; and so great was their dread of this fellow's strength and courage, and so complete their despair of being a match for his swiftness and cunning, that after the seventh night the watchers refused to go out any longer; and poor Bolt himself was confined to his bed by an attack of what a doctor would have called rheumatism, and a moralist, rage. My indignation and sympathy were greatly excited by this mortifying failure, and my interest romantically aroused by the anecdotes I had heard of Will o' the Wisp; accordingly, armed with a thick bludgeon, I stole out at night, and took my way to the copse. The leaves were not off the trees, and how the poacher contrived to see his victims I know not; but five shots did he fire, and not in vain, without allowing me to catch a glimpse of him. I then retreated to the outskirt of the copse, and waited patiently by an angle which commanded two sides of the wood. Just as the dawn began to peep, I saw my roan emerge within twenty yards of me. I held my breath, suffered him to get a few steps from the wood, crept on so as to intercept his retreat, and then pounce—such a bound! My hand was on his shoulder,—prr, prr; no eel was ever more lubricate. He slid from me like a thing immaterial, and was off over the moors with a swiftness which might well have baffled any clodhopper,—a race whose calves are generally absorbed in the soles of their hobnail shoes. But the Hellenic Institute, with its classical gymnasia, had trained its pupils in all bodily exercises; and though the Will o' the Wisp was swift for a clodhopper, he was no match at running for any youth who has spent his boyhood in the discipline of cricket, prisoner's bar, and hunt-the-hare. I reached him at length, and brought him to bay.
"Stand back!" said he, panting, and taking aim with his gun: "it is loaded."
"Yes," said I; "but though you're a brave poacher, you dare not fire at your fellow-man. Give up the gun this instant."
My address took him by surprise; he did not fire. I struck up the barrel, and closed on him. We grappled pretty tightly, and in the wrestle the gun went off. The man loosened his hold. "Lord ha' mercy! I have not hurt you?" he said falteringly.
"My good fellow,—no," said I; "and now let us throw aside gun and bludgeon, and fight it out like Englishmen, or else let us sit down and talk it over like friends."
The Will o' the Wisp scratched its head and laughed.
"Well, you're a queer one!" quoth it. And the poacher dropped the gun and sat down.
We did talk it over, and I obtained Peterson's promise to respect the preserve henceforth; and we thereon grew so cordial that he walked home with me, and even presented me, shyly and apologetically, with the five pheasants he had shot. From that time I sought him out. He was a young fellow not four and twenty, who had taken to poaching from the wild sport of the thing, and from some confused notions that he had a license from Nature to poach. I soon found out that he was meant for better things than to spend six months of the twelve in prison, and finish his life on the gallows after killing a gamekeeper. That seemed to me his most probable destiny in the Old World, so I talked him into a burning desire for the New one; and a most valuable aid in the Bush he proved too.
My third selection was in a personage who could bring little physical strength to help us, but who had more mind (though with a wrong twist in it) than both the others put together.
A worthy couple in the village had a son, who, being slight and puny, compared to the Cumberland breed, was shouldered out of the market of agricultural labor, and went off, yet a boy, to a manufacturing town. Now about the age of thirty, this mechanic, disabled for his work by a long illness, came home to recover; and in a short time we heard of nothing but the pestilential doctrines with which he was either shocking or infecting our primitive villagers. According to report, Corcyra itself never engendered a democrat more awful. The poor man was really very ill, and his parents very poor; but his unfortunate doctrines dried up all the streams of charity that usually flowed through our kindly hamlet. The clergyman (an excellent man, but of the old school) walked by the house as if it were tabooed. The apothecary said, "Miles Square ought to have wine;" but he did not send him any. The farmers held his name in execration, for he had incited all their laborers to strike for another shilling a week. And but for the old Tower, Miles Square would soon have found his way to the only republic in which he could obtain that democratic fraternization for which he sighed; the grave being, I suspect, the sole commonwealth which attains that dead flat of social equality that life in its every principle so heartily abhors.
My uncle went to see Miles Square, and came back the color of purple. Miles Square had preached him a long sermon on the unholiness of war. "Even in defence of your king and country!" had roared the Captain; and Miles Square had replied with a remark upon kings in general that the Captain could not have repeated without expecting to see the old Tower fall about his ears, and with an observation about the country in particular, to the effect that "the country would be much better off if it were conquered!" On hearing the report of these loyal and patriotic replies, my father said "Papoe!" and roused out of his usual philosophical indifference, went himself to visit Miles Square. My father returned as pale as my uncle had been purple. "And to think," said he mournfully, "that in the town whence this man comes there are, he tells me, ten thousand other of God's creatures who speed the work of civilization while execrating its laws!"
But neither father nor uncle made any opposition when, with a basket laden with wine and arrowroot, and a neat little Bible bound in brown, my mother took her way to the excommunicated cottage. Her visit was as signal a failure as those that preceded it. Miles Square refused the basket,—"he was not going to accept alms and eat the bread of charity;" and on my mother meekly suggesting that "if Mr. Miles Square would condescend to look into the Bible, he would see that even charity was no sin in giver or recipient," Mr. Miles Square had undertaken to prove "that, according to the Bible, he had as much a right to my mother's property as she had; that all things should be in common; and when all things were in common, what became of charity? No, he could not eat my uncle's arrowroot and drink his wine while my uncle was improperly withholding from him and his fellow-creatures so many unprofitable acres: the land belonged to the people." It was now the turn of Pisistratus to go. He went once, and he went often. Miles Square and Pisistratus wrangled and argued, argued and wrangled, and ended by taking a fancy to each other; for this poor Miles Square was not half so bad as his doctrines. His errors arose from intense sympathy with the sufferings he had witnessed amidst the misery which accompanies the reign of millocratism, and from the vague aspirations of a half-taught, impassioned, earnest nature. By degrees I persuaded him to drink the wine and eat the arrowroot en attendant that millennium which was to restore the land to the people. And then my mother came again and softened his heart, and for the first time in his life let into its cold crotchets the warm light of human gratitude. I lent him some books, amongst others a few volumes on Australia. A passage in one of the latter, in which it was said "that an intelligent mechanic usually made his way in the colony, even as a shepherd, better than a dull agricultural laborer," caught hold of his fancy and seduced his aspirations into a healthful direction. Finally, as he recovered, he entreated me to let him accompany me. And as I may not have to return to Miles Square, I think it right here to state that he did go with me to Australia, and did succeed, first as a shepherd, next as a superintendent, and finally, on saving money, as a landowner; and that in spite of his opinions of the unholiness of war, he was no sooner in possession of a comfortable log homestead than he defended it with uncommon gallantry against an attack of the aborigines, whose right to the soil was, to say the least of it, as good as his claim to my uncle's acres; that he commemorated his subsequent acquisition of a fresh allotment, with the stock on it, by a little pamphlet, published at Sydney, on the "Sanctity of the Rights of Property;" and that when I left the colony, having been much pestered by two refractory "helps" that he had added to his establishment, he had just distinguished himself by a very anti-levelling lecture upon the duties of servants to their employers. What would the Old World have done for this man?
I had not been in haste to conclude my arrangements, for, independently of my wish to render myself acquainted with the small useful crafts that might be necessary to me in a life that makes the individual man a state in himself, I naturally desired to habituate my kindred to the idea of our separation, and to plan and provide for them all such substitutes or distractions, in compensation for my loss, as my fertile imagination could suggest. At first, for the sake of Blanche, Roland, and my mother, I talked the Captain into reluctant sanction of his sister-in-law's proposal to unite their incomes and share alike, without considering which party brought the larger proportion into the firm. I represented to him that unless he made that sacrifice of his pride, my mother would be wholly without those little notable uses and objects, those small household pleasures, so dear to woman; that all society in the neighborhood would be impossible, and that my mother's time would hang so heavily on her hands that her only resource would be to muse on the absent one and fret. Nay, if he persisted in so false a pride, I told him, fairly, that I should urge my father to leave the Tower. These representations succeeded; and hospitality had commenced in the old hall, and a knot of gossips had centred round my mother, groups of laughing children had relaxed the still brow of Blanche, and the Captain himself was a more cheerful and social man. My next point was to engage my father in the completion of the Great Book. "Ah! sir," said I, "give me an inducement to toil,—a reward for my industry. Let me think, in each tempting pleasure, each costly vice,—No, no; I will save for the Great Book! And the memory of the father shall still keep the son from error. Ah, look you, sir! Mr. Trevanion offered me the loan of L1,500 necessary to commence with; but you generously and at once said 'No; you must not begin life under the load of debt.' And I knew you were right and yielded,—yielded the more gratefully that I could not but forfeit something of the just pride of manhood in incurring such an obligation to the father of—Miss Trevanion. Therefore I have taken that sum from you,—a sum that would almost have sufficed to establish your younger and worthier child in the world forever. To that child let me repay it, otherwise I will not take it. Let me hold it as a trust for the Great Book; and promise me that the Great Book shall be ready when your wanderer returns and accounts for the missing talent."
And my father pished a little, and rubbed off the dew that bad gathered on his spectacles. But I would not leave him in peace till he had given me his word that the Great Book should go on a pas de great,—nay, till I had seen him sit down to it with good heart, and the wheel went round again in the quiet mechanism of that gentle life.
Finally, and as the culminating acme of my diplomacy, I effected the purchase of the neighboring apothecary's practice and good-will for Squills, upon terms which he willingly subscribed to; for the poor man had pined at the loss of his favorite patients,—though Heaven knows they did not add much to his income. And as for my father, there was no man who diverted him more than Squills, though he accused him of being a materialist, and set his whole spiritual pack of sages to worry and bark at him, from Plato and Zeno to Reid and Abraham Tucker.
Thus, although I have very loosely intimated the flight of time, more than a whole year elapsed from the date of our settlement at the Tower and that fixed for my departure.
In the mean while, despite the rarity amongst us of that phenomenon, a newspaper, we were not so utterly cut off from the sounds of the far-booming world beyond, but what the intelligence of a change in the Administration and the appointment of Mr. Trevanion to one of the great offices of state reached our ears. I had kept up no correspondence with Trevanion subsequent to the letter that occasioned Guy Belding's visit; I wrote now to congratulate him: his reply was short and hurried.
An intelligence that startled me more, and more deeply moved my heart, was conveyed to me, some three months or so before my departure, by Trevanion's steward. The ill health of Lord Castleton had deferred his marriage, intended originally to be celebrated as soon as he arrived of age. He left the University with the honors of "a double-first class;" and his constitution appeared to rally from the effects of studies more severe to him than they might have been to a man of quicker and more brilliant capacities, when a feverish cold, caught at a county meeting in which his first public appearance was so creditable as fully to justify the warmest hopes of his party, produced inflammation of the lungs and ended fatally. The startling contrast forced on my mind,—here, sudden death and cold clay; there, youth in its first flower, princely rank, boundless wealth, the sanguine expectation of an illustrious career, and the prospect of that happiness which smiled from the eyes of Fanny,—that contrast impressed me with a strange awe: death seems so near to us when it strikes those whom life most flatters and caresses. Whence is that curious sympathy that we all have with the possessors of worldly greatness when the hour-glass is shaken and the scythe descends? If the famous meeting between Diogenes and Alexander had taken place, not before, but after the achievements which gave to Alexander the name of Great, the Cynic would not, perhaps, have envied the hero his pleasures nor his splendors,—neither the charms of Statira nor the tiara of the Mede; but if, the day after, a cry had gone forth, "Alexander the Great is dead!" verily I believe that Diogenes would have coiled himself up in his tub and felt that with the shadow of the stately hero something of glory and of warmth had gone from that sun which it should darken never more. In the nature of man, the humblest or the hardest, there is a something that lives in all of the Beautiful or the Fortunate, which hope and desire have appropriated, even in the vanities of a childish dream.
"Why are you here all alone, cousin? How cold and still it is amongst the graves!"
"Sit down beside me, Blanche: it is not colder in the churchyard than on the village green."
And Blanche sat down beside me, nestled close to me, and leaned her head upon my shoulder. We were both long silent. It was an evening in the early spring, clear and serene; the roseate streaks were fading gradually from the dark gray of long, narrow, fantastic clouds. Tall, leafless poplars, that stood in orderly level line on the lowland between the churchyard and the hill, with its crown of ruins, left their sharp summits distinct against the sky. But the shadows coiled dull and heavy round the evergreens that skirted the churchyard, so that their outline was vague and confused; and there was a depth in that lonely stillness, broken only when the thrush flew out from the lower bushes, and the thick laurel-leaves stirred reluctantly, and again were rigid in repose. There is a certain melancholy in the evenings of early spring which is among those influences of Nature the most universally recognized, the most difficult to explain. The silent stir of reviving life, which does not yet betray signs in the bud and blossom, only in a softer clearness in the air, a more lingering pause in the slowly lengthening day; a more delicate freshness and balm in the twilight atmosphere; a more lively, yet still unquiet, note from the birds, settling down into their Coverts; the vague sense under all that hush, which still outwardly wears the bleak sterility of winter, of the busy change, hourly, modestly, at work, renewing the youth of the world, re-clothing with vigorous bloom the skeletons of things,—all these messages from the heart of Nature to the heart of Man may well affect and move us. But why with melancholy? No thought on our part connects and construes the low, gentle voices. It is not thought that replies and reasons, it is feeling that hears and dreams. Examine not, O child of man!—examine not that mysterious melancholy with the hard eyes of thy reason; thou canst not impale it on the spikes of thy thorny logic, nor describe its enchanted circle by problems conned from thy schools. Borderer thyself of two worlds,—the Dead and the Living,—give thine ear to the tones, bow thy soul to the shadows, that steal, in the Season of Change, from the dim Border Land.
Blanche (in a whisper).—"What are you thinking of? Speak, pray!"
Pisistratus.—"I was not thinking, Blanche,—or, if I were, the thought is gone at the mere effort to seize or detain it."
Blanche (after a pause).—"I know what you mean. It is the same with me often,—so often when I am sitting by my self, quite still. It is just like the story Primmins was telling us the other evening, 'how there was a woman in her village who saw things and people in a piece of crystal not bigger than my hand;(1) they passed along as large as life, but they were only pictures in the crystal.' Since I heard the story, when aunt asks me what I am thinking of, I long to say, 'I'm not thinking, I'm seeing pictures in the crystal!'"
Pisistratus.—"Tell my father that,—it will please him; there is more philosophy in it than you are aware of, Blanche. There are wise men who have thought the whole world, its 'pride, pomp, and circumstance,' only a phantom image,—a picture in the crystal."
Blanche.—"And I shall see you,—see us both, as we are sitting here; and that star which has just risen yonder,—see it all in my crystal, when you are gone!—gone, cousin!" (And Blanche's head drooped.)
There was something so quiet and deep in the tenderness of this poor motherless child that it did not affect one superficially, like a child's loud momentary affection, in which we know that the first toy will replace us. I kissed my little cousin's pale face and said, "And I too, Blanche, have my crystal; and when I consult it, I shall be very angry if I see you sad and fretting, or seated alone. For you must know, Blanche, that that is all selfishness. God made us, not to indulge only in crystal pictures, weave idle fancies, pine alone, and mourn over what we cannot help, but to be alert and active,—givers of happiness. Now, Blanche, see what a trust I am going to bequeath you. You are to supply my place to all whom I leave; you are to bring sunshine wherever you glide with that shy, soft step,—whether to your father when you see his brows knit and his arms crossed (that, indeed, you always do), or to mine when the volume drops from his hand, when he walks to and fro the room, restless, and murmuring to himself, then you are to steal up to him, put your hand in his, lead him back to his books, and whisper, 'What will Sisty say if his younger brother, the Great Book, is not grown up when he comes back?' And my poor mother, Blanche! Ah, how can I counsel you there,—how tell you where to find comfort for her? Only, Blanche, steal into her heart and be her daughter. And to fulfil this threefold trust, you must not content yourself with seeing pictures in the crystal,—do you understand me?
"Oh, yes!" said Blanche, raising her eyes, while the tears rolled from them, and folding her arms resolutely on her breast.
"And so," said I, "as we two, sitting in this quiet burial-ground, take new heart for the duties and cares of life, so see, Blanche, how the stars come out, one by one, to smile upon us; for they, too, glorious orbs as they are, perform their appointed tasks. Things seem to approximate to God in proportion to their vitality and movement. Of all things, least inert and sullen should be the soul of man. How the grass grows up over the very graves,—quickly it grows and greenly; but neither so quick nor so green, my Blanche, as hope and comfort from human sorrows."
(1) In primitive villages in the West of England the belief that the absent may be seen in a piece of crystal is, or was not many years ago, by no means an uncommon superstition. I have seen more than one of these magic mirrors, which Spenser, by the way, has beautifully described. They are about the size and shape of a swan's egg. It is not every one, however, who can be a crystal-seer; like second-sight, it is a special gift. N. B.—Since the above note (appended to the first edition of this work) was written, crystals and crystal-seers have become very familiar to those who interest themselves in speculations upon the disputed phenomena ascribed to Mesmerical Clairvoyance.
There is a beautiful and singular passage in Dante (which has not perhaps attracted the attention it deserves), wherein the stern Florentine defends Fortune from the popular accusations against her. According to him she is an angelic power appointed by the Supreme Being to direct and order the course of human splendors; she obeys the will of God; she is blessed; and hearing not those who blaspheme her, calm and aloft amongst the other angelic powers, revolves her spheral course and rejoices in her beatitude. (1)
This is a conception very different from the popular notion which Aristophanes, in his true instinct of things popular, expresses by the sullen lips of his Plutus. That deity accounts for his blindness by saying that "when a boy he had indiscreetly promised to visit only the good;" and Jupiter was so envious of the good that be blinded the poor money-god. Whereon Chremylus asks him whether, "if he recovered his sight, he would frequent the company of the good." "Certainly," quoth Plutus; "for I have not seen them ever so long." "Nor I either," rejoins Chremylus, pithily, "for all I can see out of both eyes."
But that misanthropical answer of Chremylus is neither here nor there, and only diverts us from the real question, and that is, "Whether Fortune be a heavenly, Christian angel, or a blind, blundering, old heathen deity?" For my part, I hold with Dante; for which, if I were so pleased, or if at this period of my memoirs I had half a dozen pages to spare, I could give many good reasons. One thing, however, is quite clear, that whether Fortune be more like Plutus or an angel, it is no use abusing her,—one may as well throw stones at a star. And I think, if one looked narrowly at her operations, one might perceive that she gives every man a chance at least once in his life if he take and make the best of it, she will renew her visits; if not, itur ad astra! And therewith I am reminded of an incident quaintly narrated by Mariana in his "History of Spain," how the army of the Spanish kings got out of a sad hobble among the mountains at the Pass of Losa by the help of a shepherd who showed them the way. "But," saith Mariana, parenthetically, "some do say the shepherd was an angel; for after he had shown the way, he was never seen more." That is, the angelic nature of the guide was proved by being only once seen, and after having got the army out of the hobble, leaving it to fight or run away, as it had most mind to. Now, I look upon that shepherd, or angel, as a very good type of my fortune at least. The apparition showed me my way in the rocks to the great "Battle of Life;" after that—hold fast and strike hard!
Behold me in London with Uncle Roland. My poor parents naturally wished to accompany me, and take the last glimpse of the adventurer on board ship; but I, knowing that the parting would seem less dreadful to them by the hearthstone, and while they could say, "He is with Roland; he is not yet gone from the land," insisted on their staying behind; and thus the farewell was spoken. But Roland, the old soldier, had so many practical instructions to give, could so help me in the choice of the outfit and the preparations for the voyage, that I could not refuse his companionship to the last. Guy Bolding, who had gone to take leave of his father, was to join me in town, as well as my humbler Cumberland colleagues.
As my uncle and I were both of one mind upon the question of economy, we took up our quarters at a lodging-house in the City; and there it was that I first made acquaintance with a part of London of which few of my politer readers even pretend to be cognizant. I do not mean any sneer at the City itself, my dear alderman,—that jest is worn out. I am not alluding to streets, courts, and lanes; what I mean may be seen at the West-end—not so well as at the East, but still seen very fairly,—I mean The House-Tops!
(1) Dante here evidently associates Fortune with the planetary influences of judicial astrology. It is doubtful whether Schiller ever read Dante; but in one of his most thoughtful poems he undertakes the same defence of Fortune, making the Fortunate a part of the Beautiful.
The House-Tops! What a soberizing effect that prospect produces on the mind. But a great many requisites go towards the selection of the right point of survey. It is not enough to secure a lodging in the attic; you must not be fobbed off with a front attic that faces the street. First, your attic must be unequivocally a back attic; secondly, the house in which it is located must be slightly elevated above its neighbors; thirdly, the window must not lie slant on the roof, as is common with attics,—in which case you can only catch a peep of that leaden canopy which infatuated Londoners call the sky,—but must be a window perpendicular, and not half blocked up by the parapets of that fosse called the gutter; and, lastly, the sight must be so humored that you cannot catch a glimpse of the pavements: if you once see the world beneath, the whole charm of that world above is destroyed. Taking it for granted that you have secured these requisites, open your window, lean your chin on both hands, the elbows propped commodiously on the sill, and contemplate the extraordinary scene which spreads before you. You find it difficult to believe life can be so tranquil on high, while it is so noisy and turbulent below. What astonishing stillness! Eliot Warburton (seductive enchanter!) recommends you to sail down the Nile if you want to lull the vexed spirit. It is easier and cheaper to hire an attic in Holborn! You don't have the crocodiles, but you have animals no less hallowed in Egypt,—the cats! And how harmoniously the tranquil creatures blend with the prospect; how noiselessly they glide along at the distance, pause, peer about, and disappear! It is only from the attic that you can appreciate the picturesque which belongs to our domesticated tiger-kin! The goat should be seen on the Alps, and the cat on the house-top.
By degrees the curious eye takes the scenery in detail; and first, what fantastic variety in the heights and shapes of the chimney-pots! Some all level in a row, uniform and respectable, but quite uninteresting; others, again, rising out of all proportion, and imperatively tasking the reason to conjecture why they are so aspiring. Reason answers that it is but a homely expedient to give freer vent to the smoke; wherewith Imagination steps in, and represents to you all the fretting and fuming and worry and care which the owners of that chimney, now the tallest of all, endured before, by building it higher, they got rid of the vapors. You see the distress of the cook when the sooty invader rushed down, "like a wolf on the fold," full spring on the Sunday joint. You hear the exclamations of the mistress (perhaps a bride,—house newly furnished) when, with white apron and cap, she ventured into the drawing-room, and was straightway saluted by a joyous dance of those monads called vulgarly "smuts." You feel manly indignation at the brute of a bridegroom who rushes out from the door, with the smuts dancing after him, and swears, "Smoked out again! By the Arch-smoker himself, I'll go and dine at the club!" All this might well have been, till the chimney-pot was raised a few feet nearer heaven; and now perhaps that long-suffering family owns the happiest home in the Row. Such contrivances to get rid of the smoke! It is not every one who merely heightens his chimney; others clap on the hollow tormentor all sorts of odd head-gear and cowls. Here, patent contrivances act the purpose of weather-cocks, swaying to and fro with the wind; there, others stand as fixed as if, by a sic jubeo, they had settled the business.
But of all those houses that in the street one passes by, unsuspicious of what's the matter within, there is not one in a hundred but what there has been the devil to do to cure the chimneys of smoking! At that reflection Philosophy dismisses the subject, and decides that, whether one lives in a but or a palace, the first thing to do is to look to the hearth and get rid of the vapors.
New beauties demand us. What endless undulations in the various declivities and ascents,—here a slant, there a zigzag! With what majestic disdain yon roof rises up to the left! Doubtless a palace of Genii, or Gin (which last is the proper Arabic word for those builders of halls out of nothing, employed by Aladdin). Seeing only the roof of that palace boldly breaking the sky-line, how serene your contemplations! Perhaps a star twinkles over it, and you muse on soft eyes far away; while below at the threshold—No, phantoms! we see you not from our attic. Note, yonder, that precipitous fall,—how ragged and jagged the roof-scene descends in a gorge! He who would travel on foot through the pass of that defile, of which we see but the picturesque summits, stops his nose, averts his eyes, guards his pockets, and hurries along through the squalor of the grim London lazzaroni. But seen above, what a noble break in the sky-line! It would be sacrilege to exchange that fine gorge for a dead flat of dull rooftops. Look here, how delightful! that desolate house with no roof at all,—gutted and skinned by the last London fire! You can see the poor green-and-white paper still clinging to the walls, and the chasm that once was a cupboard, and the shadows gathering black on the aperture that once was a hearth! Seen below, how quickly you would cross over the way! That great crack forebodes an avalanche; you hold your breath, not to bring it down on your head. But seen above, what a compassionate, inquisitive charm in the skeleton ruin! How your fancy runs riot,—re-peopling the chambers, hearing the last cheerful good-night of that destined Pompeii, creeping on tiptoe with the mother when she gives her farewell look to the baby. Now all is midnight and silence; then the red, crawling serpent comes out. Lo! his breath; hark! his hiss. Now, spire after spire he winds and he coils; now he soars up erect,—crest superb, and forked tongue,—the beautiful horror! Then the start from the sleep, and the doubtful awaking, and the run here and there, and the mother's rush to the cradle; the cry from the window, and the knock at the door, and the spring of those on high towards the stair that leads to safety below, and the smoke rushing up like the surge of a hell! And they run back stifled and blinded, and the floor heaves beneath them like a bark on the sea. Hark! the grating wheels thundering low; near and nearer comes the engine. Fix the ladders,—there! there! at the window, where the mother stands with the babe! Splash and hiss comes the water; pales, then flares out, the fire! Foe defies foe; element, element. How sublime is the war! But the ladder, the ladder,—there, at the window! All else are saved,—the clerk and his books; the lawyer with that tin box of title-deeds; the landlord, with his policy of insurance; the miser, with his bank-notes and gold: all are saved,—all but the babe and the mother. What a crowd in the streets; how the light crimsons over the gazers, hundreds on hundreds! All those faces seem as one face, with fear. Not a than mounts the ladder. Yes, there,—gallant fellow! God inspires, God shall speed thee! How plainly I see him! his eyes are closed, his teeth set. The serpent leaps up, the forked tongue darts upon him, and the reek of the breath wraps him round. The crowd has ebbed back like a sea, and the smoke rushes over them all. Ha! what dim forms are those on the ladder? Near and nearer,—crash come the roof-tiles! Alas and alas! no! a cry of joy,—a "Thank Heaven!" and the women force their way through the men to come round the child and the mother. All is gone save that skeleton ruin. But the ruin is seen from above. O Art! study life from the roof-tops!
I was again foiled in seeing Trevanion. It was the Easter recess, and he was at the house of one of his brother ministers somewhere in the North of England. But Lady Ellinor was in London, and I was ushered into her presence. Nothing could be more cordial than her manner, though she was evidently much depressed in spirits, and looked wan and careworn.
After the kindest inquiries relative to my parents and the Captain, she entered with much sympathy into my schemes and plans, which she said Trevanion had confided to her. The sterling kindness that belonged to my old patron (despite his affected anger at my not accepting his proffered loan) had not only saved me and my fellow-adventurer all trouble as to allotment orders, but procured advice as to choice of site and soil, from the best practical experience, which we found after wards exceedingly useful. And as Lady Ellinor gave me the little packet of papers, with Trevanion's shrewd notes on the margin, she said, with a half sigh, "Albert bids me say that he wishes he were as sanguine of his success in the Cabinet as of yours in the Bush." She then turned to her husband's rise and prospects, and her face began to change; her eyes sparkled, the color came to her cheeks. "But you are one of the few who know him," she said, interrupting herself suddenly; "you know how he sacrifices all things,—joy, leisure, health,—to his country. There is not one selfish thought in his nature. And yet such envy,—such obstacles still! And [her eyes dropped on her dress, and I perceived that she was in mourning, though the mourning was not deep], and," she added, "it has pleased Heaven to withdraw from his side one who would have been worthy his alliance."
I felt for the proud woman, though her emotion seemed more that of pride than sorrow. And perhaps Lord Castleton's highest merit in her eyes had been that of ministering to her husband's power and her own ambition. I bowed my head in silence, and thought of Fanny. Did she, too, pine for the lost rank, or rather mourn the lost lover?
After a time I said, hesitatingly, "I scarcely presume to condole with you, Lady Ellinor, yet, believe me, few things ever shocked me like the death you allude to. I trust Miss Trevanion's health has not much suffered. Shall I not see her before I leave England?"
Lady Ellinor fixed her keen bright eyes searchingly on my countenance, and perhaps the gaze satisfied her; for she held out her hand to me with a frankness almost tender, and said "Had I had a son, the dearest wish of my heart had been to see you wedded to my daughter."
I started up; the blood rushed to my cheeks, and then left me pale as death. I looked reproachfully at Lady Ellinor, and the word "cruel!" faltered on my lips.