« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
fumbling about your collar, adjusting the thing as your valet would regulate your cravat, valuing himself on his menial dexterity
I never shall forget meeting my rascal,—I mean the fellow who officiated for me, in London last winter. I think I see him now,in a waistcoat that had been mine-smirking along as if he knew
In some parts of Germany that fellow's office is by law declared in. famous, and his posterity incapable of being ennobled. They have hereditary hangmen, or had at least, in the same manner as they had hereditary other great officers of state, and the hangmen's families of two adjoining parishes intermarried with each other, to keep the breed entire. I wish something of the same kind were established in England.
But it is time to quit a subject which teems with disagreeable ima.
Permit me to subscribe myself, Mr Editor, your unfortunate friend,
From Jones' “ Garden of Delights.” 1610.
THE fountaines smoake, and yet no flames they shewe,
The stillest streames descrie the greatest deepe,
The rarest jewels hidden vertue yeeld,
THE PROGRESS OF INCONSTANCY.
« Sweet, tender sex! with snares encompassed round,
NATURE has made woman weak, that she might receive with gratitude the protection of man., Yet how often is the appointment perverted ! How often does her protector become her oppressor ! Eyen custom seems leagued against her. Born with the tenderest feel. ings, her whole life is commonly a struggle to suppress them. Placed in the most favourable' circumstances, her choice is confined to a few objects ; and, unless where singularly fortunate, her fondest partialities are only a modification of gratitude. She may reject, but cannot invite; may tell what would make her wretched, but dare not even whisper what would make her happy; and, in a word, she exercises merely a negative upon the most important event of her life. Man has leisure to look around him, and may marry at any age with almost equal advantage; but woman must improve the fleeting moment, and determine quickly, at the hazard of determining rashly. The springtime of her beauty will not last; its wane will be the signal for the flight of her lovers ; and if the present opportunity is neglected, she may be left to experience the only species of misfortune for which the world evinces no sympathy. How cruel, then, to increase the misery of her natural dependence ! How ungenerous to add treachery to strength, and deceive or disappoint those whose highest ambition is our favour, and whose only safety is our honesty !
William Arbuthnot was born in a remote county of Scotland, where his father rented a few acres of land, which his own industry had reclaimed from the greatest wildness to a state of considerable fertility. Having given, even in his first attempts at learning, those indications of a retentive memory,
which the partiality of a parent easily construes into a proof of genius, he was early destined for the Scottish Church, and regarded as a philosopher before he had emerged from the nursery. While his father pleased himself with the prospect of seeing his name associated with the future greatness of his son, his mother, whose ambition took a narrower range, thought she could die contented if she should see him seated in the pulpit of his native church ; and, perhaps from a pardonable piece of vanity, speculated as frequently upon the effect his appearance would have upon the hearts of the neighbouring daughters, as his discourses upon the minds of their mothers. This practice, so common among the poorer classes in Scotland, of making one of their children a scholar, to the prejudice, as is alleged, of the rest, has often been remarked, and sometimes severely censured. But pro
bably the objections that have been urged against it, derive their chief force from the exaggerations upon which they are commonly founded. It is not generally true that parents, by bestowing the rudiments of a liberal education upon one of the family, materially injure the condition or prospects of the rest. For it must be remembered, that the plebeian student is soon left to trust to his own exertions for support, and like the monitor of a Lancastrian seminary, unites the characters of pupil and master, and teaches and is taught by turns.
But to proceed with our little narrative... The parish schoolmaster having intimated to the parents of his pupil, that the period was at hand when he should be sent to prosecute his studies at the University, the usual preparations were made for his journey, and his departure was fixed for the following day, when he was to proceed to Edinburgh under escort of the village carrier and his black dog Cæsar, two of the oldest and most intimate of his acquaintance. Goldsmith's poetical maxim, that, “ little things are great to little men,” is universally true; and this was an eventful day for the family of Belherview for that was the name of the residence of Mr Arbuthnot. The father was as profuse of his admonitions as the mother was of her tears; and had a stranger beheld the afflicted group, he would have naturally imagined that they were bewailing some signal calamity, in place of welcoming an event to which they had long looked forward with pleasure. But the feel. ings of affectionate regret occasioned by this separation, were most seasonably suspended by the receipt of a letter from Mr Coventry, a respectable farmer in the neighbourhood, in which that gentleman offered to engage their son for a few years, as a companion and tutor to his children. This was an offer which his parents were too prudent to reject, particularly as it might prove the means of future patronage, as well as of present emolument. It was therefore agreed upon that William should himself be the bearer of their letter of acceptance, and proceed forthwith to his new residence. On this occasion he was admonished anew : the advices were different from those formerly given, and were delivered by a different person. His mother was now the principal speaker ; and instead of warning him against the snares that are laid for youth in a gross city, she furnished him with some rude lessons, on the principles of good breeding, descending to a number of particulars too minute to be enumerated here. William listened to the harangue with becoming reverence and attention ; and on the following morning, for the first time, bade farewell to his affectionate parents.
On the afternoon of the same day he arrived at Daisy bank, where he was welcomed with the greatest cordiality. His appearance was genteel and prepossessing ; and it was not long before his new friends discovered, that the slight degree of awkwardness which at first clung to his manners, proceeded more from bashfulness and embarrassment than natural rusticity. But as he began to feel himself at home, this embarrassment of manners gradually gave place to an easy but unobtrusive politeness. Indeed it would not have been easy for a youth of similar views, at his first outset in life, to have fallen into more desirable company.
Mr and Mrs Coventry were proverbial among their neighbours for the simplicity and purity of their manners; and they had laboured not unsuccessfully to stamp a similar character upon the minds of their children. Their family consisted of two sons and two daughters, the former of whom were confided to the care of William.
Mary, the eldest of the four, now in her sixteenth or seventeenth year, was in every respect the most interesting object at Daisybank. To a mind highly cultivated for her years, she united many of those per. sonal graces and attractions which command little homage in the crowd, but open upon us in the shade of retirement, and lend to the domestic circle its most irresistible charms. In stature she scarcely reached the middle size. To the beauty derived from form and colour, she had few pretensions ; yet, when her fine blue eyes, moistened with a tear at a tale of distress, or beamed an unaffected welcome to the stranger or the friend, he must have been more or less than man who felt not for her a sentiment superior to admiration. Hers, in a word, was the beauty of expression, the beauty of a mind reflected, in which the dullest disciple of Lavater could not for a moment have mistaken her real character. Her education had been principally conducted under the eye of her parents, and might be termed domestic rather than fashionable. Not that she was entirely a stranger to those acquirements which are deemed indispensible in modern education. She had visited occasionally a great metropolis, though, owing to the prudent solicitude of her parents, her residence there had been comparatively short. Yet probably long enough to acquire its useful or elegant accomplishments, without any admixture of its fashionable frivolities.
From this hasty portraiture of Miss Coventry, it will easily be believed that it was next to impossible for a youth nearly of the same age, and not dissiinilar in his dispositions, to remain long insensible to charms that were gradually maturing before his eyes, and becoming every day more remarkable. Fortunately, however, the idea of dependence attached to his situation, and a temper naturally diffident determined him to renounce for ever a hope which he feared, in his present circumstances, would be deemed ungrateful, and even presumptuous. But this was waging war with nature a task which he soon found to be above his strength. He had now, therefore, to a. bandon the hope of victory, for the safety of retreat, and content himself with concealing those sentiments he found it impossible to subdue. Yet, so deceitful is love, that even this modest hope was followed with disappointment. One fine evening in June, when he was about to unbend from the duties of the day, and retire to muse on the amiable Mary, he encountered the fair wanderer herself, who was probably returning from a similar errand. He accosted her in evident confusion, and, without being conscious of what he said, invited her to join him in a walk to a neighbouring height. His request was complied with in the same spirit it had been made ; for embarrassment is often contagious, particularly the embarrassment arising from love. On this occasion he intended to summon up all his powers of conversation, and yet his compan. ion had never found him so silent. Some common-place compliments to the beauty of the evening, were almost the only observations which escaped his lips ; and these he uttered more in the manner of a sleepwalker, than a lover. They soon reached the limit of their walk, and
rested upon an eminence that commanded the prospect of an extensive valley below. Day was fast declining to that point which is termed twilight, when the whole irrational creation seem preparing for rest, and only man dares intrude upon the silence of nature. Miss Coventry beheld the approach of night with some uneasiness, and dreading to be seen with William alone, she began to rally him upon his apparent absence and confusion, and proposed that they should immediately return to the house. At mention of this William started as from a dream, and being unable longer to command his feelings, he candidly confessed to her the cause of his absence and dejection. He dwelt with much emotion on his own demerit, and voluntarily accused himself for the presumption of a hope which he never meant to have revealed, until the nearer accomplishment of his views had rendered it less imprudent and romantic. He declared that he would sooner submit to any hardship, than incur the displeasure of her excellent parents, and entreated, that whatever were her sentiments with regard to the suit he was so presumptu. ous as to prefer, that she might assist him in concealing from them a cir. cumstance which he feared would be attended with that consequence. To this tender and affectionate appeal, the gentle Mary could only answer with her sighs and blushes. She often indeed attempted to speak, but the words as often died upon her lips ; and they had nearly reached home before she could even whisper an answer to the reiterated ques. tion of her lover. But she did answer at last; and never was a mo. narch more proud of his conquest, or the homage of his tributary princes, than William was of the simple fealty of the heart of Mary,
In the bosom of this happy family William now found his hours glide away so agreeably, that he looked forward with real regret to the termination of his engagement. His condition was perhaps one of those in which the nearest approach is made to perfect "happiness, when the youthful mind, unseduced by the blandishments of ambition, confines its regards to a few favourite objects, and dreads a separation from them as the greatest of evils. The contrast between the patriarchal simplicity of his father's fireside, and the comparative elegance of Mr Coventry's parlour, for a season dazzled him with its novelty ; while the ripening graces of Mary threw around him a fascination which older and more unsusceptible minds than his, might have found it difficult to resist. In his domestic establishment, Mr Coventry aimed at nothing beyond comfort and gentility. Wil. liam was therefore treated in every respect as an equal, and was never banished from his patron's table to make room for a more important guest, or condemned to hold Lent over his solitary meal, while the family was celebrating a holiday.
All our ideas are relative, and we estimate every thing by compari. son. Upon this principle, William thought no female so lovely or amiable as Miss Coventry, and no residence so delightful as Daisybank. And he would not have exchanged his feelings, while seated, on a winter evening, amidst his favourite circle, scanning for their amusement a page of history, or the columns of a newspaper, while the snugness and comfort that reigned within, made him forget the storm that pelt.