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I DISCOVER MORE AND MORE OF BERTHA'S BEAUTIFUL
CHARACTER; BUT, AS IF THROUGH BLAMABLE CURIOSITY, I AM PUNISHED FOR IT.
Sir, there lies such secrets in this farthel and box, as none must know but the king.
SHAKSPEARE.- Winter's Tale.
If a bloody coxcomb be a hurt, you have hurt me.
Twelfth Night. The filial sweetness shewn by Bertha in comforting and soothing the grief of her afflicted parent, and her firmness while so occupied, in suppressing her own, only made me feel more and more devoted to her ; and, being so, more than ever desponding, as to my recovery. I found that Granville was right, and that the proximity occasioned by being in the same house with her did me harm. I wished I had not come, grew confused, and longed to retire from the table. To recover myself, therefore, as soon as we rose I sallied out alone, to breathe the freshness of that garden where once I had been the companion of her little labours.
Alas! the remembrance of this, though it gave me
pleasure, was far from relieving me. Still less did my cure progress, when I entered the summer-house which I formerly described as decorated with the armorial bearings of her maternal ancestors. This was, in summer time, a sort of supplementary common room, in addition to the great saloon, for those of the family or guests who preferred its airiness (for it had windows on all sides), and its proximity to the flowergarden, to assemble and adopt any little amusement that might present itself. Hence it was furnished with different musical instruments; and on the walls were many maps, and in the window-seats whole files of newspapers—so that it was as often called the cassino as the summer-house.
When I first entered, what struck me most was a bust, in the purest Parian marble, of a most beautiful woman, of commanding, yet soft, and even playful features. It spoke sense, spirituality, nobleness, and gentleness at the same time-youth withal—and was a fit pendant for Bertha herself, had there also been one of her.
The name of “Honora, Viscountess Hungerford," was inscribed on this bust ; I supposed it some friend or relation of the family. There was also, over the chimney, an engraving in a gold frame, of a handsome young officer (from his mustachios apparently foreign), in a hussar dress, about twenty or one-and-twenty years
The name here inscribed was 66 Prince Adolphus of Saxe Eisenach.” In another frame, to match it, were the same arms as were over the door on
the outside, blazoned in beautiful, dazzling colours, evidently by the hand of a herald.
“ The family at least seem not to undervalue this alliance,” said I to myself; yet I thought it might be only a fair compliment to the princess, Bertha's mother; and, as to the young hussar, what more natural than to hang up the picture of a handsome cousin in a cassino ?
Bertha often, nay daily, visited this room, and generally conducted her friends there. . She also placed the authors she might be in the course of reading on a large table, which took up almost one side of the interior. In the midst of them an ample album, superbly bound, containing many extracts from works in print, and some in manuscript in different hands, courted notice by a display of its open, well-filled leaves.
As an open album seemed free to all the world, I without scruple began to read. I found it full of sweet proofs of the elegance of the taste of its owner, and of the cultivation of a natural, polished, and refined mind. Judge of my pleasure, however, when almost the first thing that met my eye was my own stanzas, “ The Lover's Hope," and the pathetic lament of Helena, which we had canvassed with so much interest by the side of the brook at York.
What sensations, what associations did not this recall ? And what wonder if all my interest was excited to trace still farther the feelings of this sweet mind, in the different moral or poetical passages of
different writers which it had thought it worth while thus to collect.
I could willingly myself fill another book with them; but suffice it that all the selections in the collection exhibited a justness, I may say, a holiness of feeling, and a classic taste, that to me were enchanting. What I particularly observed was, that they were all from masters; no second-rate name was to be found : a sure sign how well directed had been her studies.
I was pleased to see much from Milton. One passage from Comus was so scored with marks of
approbation, and indicated so much virtuous thought, that I cannot help transcribing it from memory. It is the answer of the Lady to the sophistry of the Enchanter:
“Impostor! do not charge most innocent Nature,
And then the giver would be better thanked.”
“Now the bright Morning Star, day's harbinger,
Hail! bounteous May!”
desire to copy
passages, of a still sweeter character, in prose, but from what author did not appear. Indeed they were not embodied in the book itself, but were written with other extracts on a loose sheet, left (as if carelessly) among the pages; and I own that what with their beauty, and what with the thought that they were a transcript of Bertha's mind, I could not resist the
them. Concluding, therefore, that Mr. Hastings would not in his present situation be left during any part of the evening by his daughter or nephew, I seized a pen (her pen as I thrillingly felt when I grasped it) and copied what was entitled
66 THE LORD's Day.” It ran thus:
“ Never shall I forget the impression made on my heart this morning, by the union of personal feelings of pleasure with piety of mind, occasioned by the idea of the day. The scene was the fresh field bordering on the garden; the air mild and genial; the dews sweetening every daisy, primrose, and cowslip, and indeed every blade of grass. But there was also a stillness exercising an indescribable influence over the soul. The tranquillity was more soothing than any
I had ever before experienced. It seemed as if the whole creation had borne testimony to the propriety of its appellation of a day of rest. It certainly appeared to be enjoyed even by the animals around me as well as myself. The cattle had all lain down, and even the lanıbs, usually so frolic, were nestled by their mothers' sides. The birds were silent, and a nume