Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

I thought, and began to believe, my new-found cousin and preceptor agreed with me in thinking that the simplicities of nature were not incompatible with the luxuries of art, particularly at dinner-time.

If ever the mollia tempora fandi prevail, it is at a good dinner; and it was upon the want of it that Coriolanus's friend Menenius laid the blame of all his faults with the mob:

“ He had not dined; The veins unfilled, our blood is cold, and then We pout upon the morning.”

Heaven knows, there was here no pouting; for, exclusive of the banquet before us, to which Mr. Manners did as much justice as myself, our different conversations had excited the good-humour of us both : mine, from having witnessed such cultivated talents in my host ; his, for having so well exercised them.

One reason more, in regard to myself, was the secret satisfaction I felt in the so unexpected discovery of my relationship to him, and the frank good-will with which he acknowledged it. This was repeated several times; for he never replenished his glass but he called me cousin, and wished our better acquaintance.

Of what might be the consequence of this, I had no precise, or indeed any idea; but I felt a sort of secret consciousness of something good that time might reveal, the nature of which was confused but flattering (thanks to my sanguine temper), nor could I

prevent a favourable vision of the world from rising in the distance to

my
view.

ners.

My reverie of a minute, upon this subject, when the departure of the servants left us to our wine and fruit, was interrupted by my host, who observed,

- We talked before dinner of the force of early associations, to which, perhaps, from the few trifling instances I gave of them, you thought me a votary. What will you say when I tell you that it is to them I owe my being here-to the abandonment of a very different and much finer place in the north ?"

“ I heard,” said I, “ from the omniscient Gayford, that you preferred this, because you were born and bred here, to some fine seat you had elsewhere.” “ He was no more than right,” replied Mr. Man

6 Blackdown Castle, in Bolton-le-Moors, would look upon this with contempt, and I believe I am not a little despised, by men of supposed high minds, for having left it so soon to itself. What is worse, by the charitable world (which always sits in judgment upon other people's motions, though ever so ignorant of them), I was summoned, tried, and found guilty of miserly stinginess, in leaving it for this less expensive, but happier abode. It was impossible, they said, for any one to be so swayed by the force of habit, or attachment to the scenes of his youth, as to prefer what they called a cottage, in comparison to a feudal castle. I ventured to dissent from their opinions.”

“ And your residence here since, of course con. firmed that dissent ?”

“ It did," said he; “ for, say what one will of the attractions of grandeur and the enjoyments of wealth,

one beat of the heart, occasioned by any fond or happy recollection inspired by either sight or sound, will make magnificence sink to nothing in the comparison. This old-fashioned, moated grange was the seat of

my

fathers; a fair and comfortable provision for the younger branches of any family, however high. My mother, who, though an earl's daughter, and ultimate heiress, was a model of moderation and unspoiled benevolence, made it the seat of happiness to all that belonged to her. It is true, the house is moderate, and near the road, and I approached the castle through an avenue half a mile long. There were there, also, gilded domes, walls painted al fresco, and numerous, though not over-convenient apartments within doors; while herds of deer coursed an extended park without. In short, it was magnificent when you got to it; but you had to traverse full five-andtwenty miles of the most odious, bleak, and dreary moors (whence the district took its name), to reach it. It was sunk in a vast dell, and surrounded closely by groves of black pine, the arms of which, like those of witches, seemed at the same time to embrace and blast you with damp and mildew. It made me think myself a Caliban tormented by Prospero, racked with cramps, and all my bones filled with aches.”

“ In truth,” said I, “the very description makes me shiver, and I am not surprised at the exchange."

Why, without such a character as I have given it,” answered he, “ I believe I should have done the same; for it came to me too late. My uncle, Lord

Badlesmere, died when I was long past forty ; my tenants depended upon me, but could not love me. How should they? They never knew me when either they or I were in our youth, which brings all ranks together. I had never been at the place; it had not a single association like those which my heart loves to feel, while this comfortable grange was full of them. It was here I first loved a garden ; here I first learned to read; here was first taught there was a God; here knew him in every tree and every flower that surrounded me.

In that rivulet I first bathed ; in that field mounted my first pony ; in that copse first heard the nightingale.”

“ I think,” said I, “ you need not go on to account for your preference, or even your exchange.”

“ It was some time, however," continued he, “ before I found out exactly what ailed me at Bolton-le-Moors. My name gave me a little feudal pride, and it promised to be amply gratified by the possession of the castle. I felt comparatively a grandee, yet I was not happy, and little imagined it was because I was too great. I passed my hours in gloomy magnificence, and all the worse for the want of that golden mediocrity which Horace talks of. I had no necessity for the employment which made all my little occupations at the grange so sweet. Every thing was done for me, and my

servants seemed ashamed of me if I did any thing for myself. I revelled in company at home and abroad; for all my uncle's friends made a point of shewing their respect for his memory, by treating me as they did him—that is, never leaving me alone ; and

I soon found that, though I was lord of a castle, I had not the felicity of a home. I wanted those hours of the early morning, which, from the meditations they inspire, colour the whole day with cheerfulness. I wanted the freshness of the flowers which I myself had reared; the retired shades which I myself had planted: these always gave my mind composure. Would you believe it, too, that the first proof I had of how much I had lost by the exchange was the missing the children of the village flocking past my windows, just after milking time in the morning, with their cans and pitchers for the skimmed milk, which my mother always gave away? The sight was ever exhilarating, and the day all the better for it."

“But why,” said I, “could not this be enjoyed at the castle as well as in the village ?”

“ In the first place, because there was no village, and consequently no children. A landscape gardener, with much taste and no benevolence, had persuaded Lord Badlesmere to pull down the whole hamlet, where their ancestors and his had been reared together for two centuries with mutual benefit. In the next, I had become so much richer than my mother at the grange, that this little milk donation, being like so much water, gave me none of that self-satisfaction, though small, which one feels in giving up something to the wants of another. Besides, to admit a parcel of little paupers so near so noble a residence disturbed the ideas of respect due to my lord's gentleman, if not to my lord himself; and all such were chased

« ПредишнаНапред »