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To recover, I took refuge in Merton Gardens, which I had begun to love for their beauty and retirement, and, throwing myself on a bench, gave way to uncertain, though very melancholy, thoughts, till the evening began to shut in, and twilight suprised me before I could well be said to have recovered from my confusion.
In this situation I was roused by the sound of voices from persons advancing, and plainly made out from one of them—“ It seems that he is a hanger-on of Charles's family, and hence the acquaintance.”
This was all I could distinguish, but it was quite enough to arouse my jealousy, for of course there was but one Charles in the world.
I started on my legs to ascertain from whom the words proceeded, and of two persons who were conversing, one, by his gold tuft, I instantly recollected to be Lord Albany. This left me no doubt that Hastings was the Charles alluded to, and I the
It is strange what an instant additional tumult these two little words excited in a breast already the seat of jealous resentment.
Adieu to the happy composure which I had looked for from the garden, and soft evening. The ugly epithet I had heard redoubled my concern. But though mortified, resentful, angry, I was yet not fool enough to allow my feelings to exa plode, by accosting the speaker, as I at first thought of doing; for I had sense enough to reflect, that even if it was proved that Hastings was the person in question, it followed not that there were no others to whom the epithet of hanger-on might really belong, not to mention that it was totally inapplicable to me. I therefore for the moment pocketed the supposed affront, though it gave my heart a convulsion, and
returned home, torn by a thousand contending feelings. My night was hot and restless.
Am I that thing ? said I, a thousand times over. Am I his servant, or at least his dependent, and not his friend ?-nay, his equal ? I would add in a fit of honest prideequal by his own account, from being his friend? Then it came across me to refine upon the phrase, and I found some alleviation that it was only as the hangeron of his family, not of himself, that I was characterised.
There was more comfort in this than at first appeared, for was not Bertha part of that family, and would not that make dependence, or even servitude, sweet? This pleased, and I again fastened upon the passage I had early applied to her, and never forgotten :
“ To be your fellow,
will or no." This hushed me into calm, and I fell into a sleep, but of short duration, for I woke from a dream any thing but pleasant. I thought that Foljambe Hall was lighted up, and resounded with feasting and revelry, in honour of Lord Albany's marriage with Bertha, from which I fled with horrors, like those created by an incubus.
To recover myself, I rose with the light, and opening my window to let in a cooler air, was refreshed by it both in body and mind. Thoroughly awake, I seriously revolved (it had become seriously necessary) my critical position with Hastings.
A hanger-on could not be a friend, yet to dwindle into a mere acquaintance with him was impossible. I must either continue to love him, and be loved
by him, or estrange myself from him altogether. The latter made me tremble, for estrangement from him was always associated with banishment from his sister. But the prophecy of Fothergill in respect to unequal friendships and mésalliances had now derived much force from Hastings's late address to me, and the critical words I had overheard. I had sense enough therefore to discard from the account all my favourite prejudices of the blood of the DeCliffords and Bardolfes, and reducing myself to what I was—a yeoman in station-resolved to assert the proper self respect (I had almost said dignity) which belongs to every free man, whatever his condition.
The rising sun found me in this improved temper. It was summer, the sky was brilliant, the birds sang, and I had a beautiful view from my windows of the peaceful dignity of Maudlin Tower, bosomed high in the tufted trees that surrounded it. " That tower,” said I, “ought to be the emblem of every man happy in himself. It is full of quiet harmony; independent, yet unpretending; alike removed from meretricious ornament and the rudeness of poverty. So ought we to be in the world, and so, if heaven favour me, I will be.”
I lost myself in this sober but cheerful train of thought, mixt with a pleasing solemnity, which the view of the beautiful simplicity of this edifice, “looking tranquillity,” with me always generated. In an instant, I felt equal to Hastings, or Lord Albany himself, in the eye of my Maker, and the inequalities of life no longer vexed me.
There are moments now and then in one's history, peculiarly precious, either from some sudden relief from care, some subsiding into calm after tumult, some new light acquired, or mental victory, which
are ever afterwards looked at by memory with soothing satisfaction. This was one of them. Young as I was, I had the seeds of unaffected piety always within me, and had accustomed myself to consider all mankind as the children of one common parent, who made no difference in the consequence he gave, or the care he took of them. In this point of view, prouder men than Lord Albany, or Foljambe (if Foljambe was proud), sunk to a level with even humbler men than myself, and the epithet which had so disturbed me, disturbed me no longer. "I will at least shew Hastings,” said I,“ that his estimate of me is false; I will renounce this unequal alliance.”
Thus my tutor obtained a triumph. And yet there was perhaps too much pride in forming the resolution. I was not calm enough in making it. I should have been more really independent, had it been attended with less passion.
So thought the cool and rational Fothergill himself, when I told him, as I did, all that I had overheard, and all I had resolved, after the distressing night I had passed. He greatly approved, nay, was somewhat affected, at the manner and the cause of my recovering myself, which I did not conceal from him, but, to my surprise, did not, as I expected, commend my resolution to break immediately with Hastings. On the contrary, he exclaimed with Cato,
“ Let us appear nor rash, nor diffident.”
“ Though I thought it right to caution your sanguine temper against the expectation of what so often fails, and what I have almost constantly seen frittered away in this struggling arena of ours,—the continuance of school friendships between parties of unequal conditions,—still I would not renounce it by a downright
breach, nor be the person to begin the estrangement, without palpable cause. If Hastings is the Alcibiade of which he gives so many tokens, it will not be long before he will afford you ample opportunity to enforce your resolution.
But even Alcibiades had some redeeming qualities; therefore, give even the devil fair play: wait on your oars, and see what will come of it.”
I own this discomposed, as well as surprised me; for I not only expected the highest eulogies on my stoicism, but having braced myself up to the measure, as necessary
my peace for the long term to which I looked forward at Oxford, I was almost sorry to have
firmness shaken, as it was, by this want of unction, as I thought, in commending it. The mere wavering which it caused brought me back to Sedbergh and Foljambe Park, and both had such babitual possession of me, nay, had been so entirely the only interest that absorbed me, that the effort to dislodge it seemed unnatural, and I returned to it with the renovated and increased animation which generally attends a reconciliation after a lover's quarrel.
All this while, Foljambe knew nothing of his influence over my projected conduct. He knew not, perhaps cared not, for the tumult he had caused, for the wound he had given, or the salve I had endeavoured to apply to it, by resolving to throw him off. How often does this attend us in life, and could we see into one another's minds, how many burning struggles, mistakes, imaginary affronts, or unwarrantable expectations, might be avoided, how many friendships remain unbroken !
It was too true, as the sage Fothergill told me, I was born with too sensitive a nature. proud,” said he, “which I do not altogether object to. Let your pride alone, and it may do you no harm, nay,
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