Page images
PDF
EPUB

the lovers by the preposterous notions of my old friend, they will do well to consider the reluctance which a fond parent naturally teels at parting with his child. To this unwillingness, I believe, in most cases may be traced the difference of opinion on this point between child and parent, whatever pretences of interest or prudence may be held out to cover it. The hard-heartedness of fathers is a fine theme for romancewriters, a sure and moving topic; but is there not something untender, to say no more of it, in the hurry which a beloved child is sometimes in to tear herself from the paternal stock, and commit herself to strange graftings? The case is heightened where the lady, as in the present instance, happens to be an only child. I do not understand these matters experimentally, but I can make a shrewd guess at the wounded pride of a parent upon these occasions. It is no new observation, I believe, that a lover in most cases has no rival so much to be feared as the father. Certainly there is a jealousy in unparallel subjects, which is little less heart-rending than the passion which we more strictly christen by that name. Mothers' scruples are more easily got over; for this reason, I suppose, that the protection transferred to a husband is less a derogation and a loss to their authority than to the paternal. Mothers, besides, have a trembling foresight, which paints the inconveniences (impossible to be conceived in the same degree by the other parent) of a life of forlorn celibacy, which the refusal of a tolerable match may entail upon their child. Mothers' instinct is a surer guide here than the cold reasonings of a father on such a topic. To this instinct may be imputed, and by it alone may be excused, the unbeseeming artifices by which some wives push on the matrimonial projects of their daughters, which the husband, however approving, shall entertain with comparative indifference. A little shamelessness on this head is pardonable. With this explanation, forwardness becomes a grace, and maternal importunity receives the name of a virtue. But the parson stays, while I preposterously assume his office; I am preaching, while the bride is on the threshold. Nor let

any

of my female readers suppose that the sage reflections which have just escaped me have the obliquest tendency of application to the young lady, who, it will be seen, is about to venture upon a change in her conditioni, at a mature and competent age, and not without the fullest approbation of all parties. I only deprecate very hasty marriuges.

It had been fixed that the ceremony should be gone through at an early hour, to give time for a little déjeuné afterward, to which a select party of friends had been invited. We were in church a little before the clock struck eight.

Nothing could be more judicious or graceful than the dress of the bridemaids--the three charming Miss Foresters-on this morning. To give the bride an opportunity of shining singly, ibey had come habited all in green. I am ill at describing female apparel ; but, while she stood at the altar in vestments white and candid as her thoughts, a sacrificial whiteness, they assisted in robes, such as might become Diana's nymphs-Foresters indeed—as such who had not yet come to the resolution of putting off cold virginity. These young maids, not being so blessed as to have a mother living, I am told, keep single for their father's sake, and live all 10gether so happy with their remaining parent, that the hearts of their lovers are ever broken with the prospect (so inauspicious to their hopes) of such uninterrupted and provoking home-comfort. Gallant girls ! each a victim worthy of Iphigenia!

I do not know what business I have to be present in solemn places. I cannot divest me of an unseasonable disposition to levity upon the most awful occasions. I was never cut out for a public functionary. Ceremony and I have long shaken hands; but I could not resist the importunities of the young lady's father, whose gout unhappily confined him at home, to act as parent on this occasion, and give away the bride. Something ludicrous occurred to me at this most serious of all moments—a sense of my unfitness to have the disposal, even in imagination, of the sweet young creature beside me. I fear I was betrayed to some lightness, for the awful eye of the parson—and the rector's eye of Saint Mildred's in the poultry is no trifle of a rebuke-was upon me in an instant, souring my incipient jest to the tristful severities of a funeral.

This was the only misbehaviour which I can plead to upon this solemn occasion, unless what was objected to me after the ceremony by one of the handsome Miss T-'s, be accounted a solecism. She was pleased to say that she had never seen a gentleman before me give away a bride in black. Now black has been my ordinary apparel so long-indeed, I take it to be the proper costume of an author-the stage sanctions it—that to have appeared in some lighter colour would have raised more mirth at my expense than the anomaly had created censure. But I could perceive that the bride's mother, and some elderly ladies present, (God bless them !) would have been well content if I had come in any other colour than that. But I got over the omen by a lucky apologue, which I remembered out of Pilpay, or some Indian author, of all the birds being invited to the linnets' wedding, at which, when all the rest came in their gayest feathers, the raven alone apologized for his cloak because " he had no other.” This tolerably reconciled the elders. But with the young people all was merriment, and shakings of bands, and congratulations, and kissing away the bride's tears, and kissings from her in return, till a young lady, who assumed some experience in these matters, having worn the nuptial bands some four or five weeks longer than her friend, rescued her, archly observing, with half an eye upon the bridegroom, that at this rate she would have “none left.”

My friend the admiral was in fine wig and buckle on this occasion-a striking contrast to his usual neglect of persona) appearance. He did not once shove up his borrowed locks (his custom ever at his morning studies) to betray the few gray stragglers of his own beneath them. He wore an aspect of thoughtful satisfaction. I trembled for the hour, which at length approached, when, after a protracted breakfast of three hours, if stores of cold fowls, tongues, hams, botargoes, dried fruits, wines, cordials, &c., can deserve so meager an appellation—the coach was announced which was come to carry off the bride and bridegroom for a season, as custom has sensibly ordained, into the country; upon which design, wishing them a felicitous journey, let us return to the assembled guests

“As when a well-graced actor leaves the stage,
The eyes of men
Are idly bent on him that enters next,”

[ocr errors]

so idly did we bend our eyes upon one another, when the chief performers in the morning's pageant had vanished. None told his tale. None sipped her glass. The poor admiral made an effort-it was not much. I had anticipated so far. Even the infinity of full satisfaction, that had betrayed itself through the prim looks and quiet deportment of his lady, began to wane into something of misgiving. No one knew whether to take their leaves or stay. We seemed assembled upon á silly occasion. In this crisis, between tarrying and departure, I must do justice to a foolish talent of mine, which had otherwise like to have brought me into disgrace in the forepart of the day; I mean a power, in any emergency, of thinking and giving vent to all manner of strange nonsense. In this awkward dilemma I found it sovereign. I rattled off some of my most excellent absurdities. All were willing to be relieved, at any expense of reason, from the pressure of the intolerable vacuum which had succeeded to the morning bustle. By this means I was fortunate in keeping together the better part of the company to a late hour: and a rubber of whist (the admiral's favourite game) with some rare strokes of chance as well as skill, which came opportunely on his side--lengthened out till midnight-dismissed the old gentleman at last to his bed with comparatively easy spirits.

I have been at my old friend's various times since. I do not know a visiting-place where every guest is so perfectly at his ease; nowhere, where harmony is so strangely the result of confusion. Everybody is at cross purposes, yet the effect is so much better than uniformity. Contradictory orders; servants pulling one way; master and mistress driving some other, yet both diverse ; visiters huddled up in corners ; chairs unsymmetrized; candles disposed by chance; meals at odd hours, tea and supper at once, or the latter preceding the former; the host and the guest conferring, yet each upon a different topic, each understanding himself, neither trying to understand or hear the other; draughts and politics, chess and politicar economy, cards and conversation on nautical matters, going on at once, without the hope, or, indeed, the wish, of distinguishing them, make it altogether the most perfect concordia discors you shall meet with. Yet somehow the old house is not quite what it should be. The admiral still enjoys his pipe, but he has no Miss Emily to fill it for him. The instrument stands where it stood, but she is gone whose delicate touch could sometimes for a short minute appease the warring elements. He has learned, as Marvel expresses it, to “make his destiny his choice.” He bears bravely up, but he does not come out with his flashes of wild wit so thick as formerly. His sea-songs seldomer escape him. His wife, too, looks as if she wanted some younger body to scold and set to rights. We all miss a junior presence. It is wonderful how one young maiden freshens up and keeps green the paternal roof. Old and young seem to have an interest in her, so long as she is not absolutely disposed of. The youthfulness of the house is flown, Emily is married.

THE CHILD ANGEL.

A DREAM.

I CHANCED upon the prettiest, oddest, fantastical thing of a dream the other night, that you shall hear of. I had been

It »

reading the “ Loves of the Angels,” and went to bed with my head full of speculations, suggested by that extraordinary legend. It had given birth to innumerable conjectures; and, I remember, the last waking thought which. I gave expression to on my pillow was a sort of wonder, " what could come of

I was suddenly transported, how or whither I could scarcely make out—but to some celestial region. It was not the real heavens neither-not the downright Bible heaven-but a kind of fairy-land heaven, about which a poor human fancy may have leave to sport and air itself, I will hope, without presumption.

Methought--what wild things dreams are !—I was presen -at what would you imagine ?—at an angel's gossiping.

Whence it came, or how it came, or who bid it come, or whether it came purely of its own head, neither you nor I know-but there lay, sure enough, wrapped in its little cloudy swaddling-bands-a child angel.

Sun-threads - filmy beams—ran through the celestial napery of what seemed its princely cradle. All the winged orders hovered round, watching when the new-born should open its yet člosed eyes ; which, when it did, first one, and then the other—with a solicitude and apprehension, yet not such as, stained with fear, dim the expanding eyelids of mortal infants, but as if to explore its path in those its unhereditary palaces—what an inextinguishable titter that time spared not celestial visages! Nor wanted there to my seeming-oh the inexplicable simpleness of dreams !--bowls of that cheering nectar,

" Which mortals caudle call below." Nor were wanting faces of female ministrants—stricken iu years, as it might seem-so dexterous were those heavenly attendants to counterfeit kindly similitudes of earth, to greet with terrestrial child-rites the young present which earth had made to heaven.

Then were celestial harpings heard, not in full symphony, as those by which the spheres are tutored, but, as loudest instruments on earth speak oftentimes, muffled ; so to accommodate their sound the better to the weak ears of the imperfectborn. And, with the noise of those subdued soundings, the angelet sprang forth, fluttering its rudiments of pinions - but forth with flagged and was recovered into the arms of those full-winged angels. And a wonder it was to see how, as years went round in heaven--a year in dreams is as a daycontinually ils white shoulders put forth buds of wings, but,

-a

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »