Графични страници
PDF файл





How now, my lord, why do you keep alone,
Of sorriest fancies your companions making ?


This is in thee a nature but affected,
A poor, womanly melancholy, sprung
From change of fortune. Why this spade ? this place ?
This slave-like habit, and these looks of care?

Timon of Athens.

At length, from a sort of bustle in the hall, I concluded that the marquess was approaching, and he presently entered, leaning on Simcoe. Neither the gout, nor his savage abode, nor even his new companions, Parrot and the gauger, had taken from him his natural politeness ; and, though strangely arrayed in a sort of Flushing pilot coat, with a coarse handkerchief round his neck, and canvass trousers on his legs, he could not divest himself of

that air of a man of quality which belonged to him.

The butler having withdrawn, “ You are wel. come,” said he, shaking hands with me, “ to such comfort as my poor house can afford-bad, I am afraid, at best, and Simcoe gives a deplorable account of your quarters last night; but it suits a banished man."

66 Banished ! I exclaimed.

“ Yes, banished ; not by law, but the world, which I have endeavoured to serve; and not the first whom it has so rewarded ;—as that book, the only one I now read, will prove any hour of the day."

And he pointed to a large old folio edition of Plutarch, printed in the time of James I., which lay

open on a table.

“ To be sure,” said I, “ there are too many instances in ancient story of the ingratitude of nations -Themistocles, Aristides, and Cicero-though the latter had been voted the father of his country; and above all, Camillus, after being five times dictator. But I trust your lordship will not fix that stain upon the people of England, who honour you, present or absent."

“ No,” said he, quickly, “ not upon the people, who, upon the whole, are honest enough : but what shall we say to the vile intrigues of mean courtiers,

who blind their king, or to the king himself, for consenting to be blinded ? ”

“ Those I come from,” replied I, “ as your lordship well knows, are not of that description.”

“I believe Castleton is an honest man,” returned he ; “ but he is swayed by knaves or fools, whom he prefers to the person whom yet he consults, and whose assistance he condescends to crave.”

He said this proudly, with an emphasis on the word crave, and, as I thought, with a smile of bitter satisfaction.

“ With submission, your lordship may find that the preference you suppose neither does nor can exist, and that such preference is not compátible with that sense of your superiority, which has alone subjected you to the trouble of this mission."

He received my compliment complacently enough, adding, with sufficient grace of manner, that whatever answer he might be forced to give to Lord Castleton's despatch, he could not help thanking him for the messenger he had chosen to convey it.

This was too civil not to be recognised by a profound bow, particularly when he added, “ Lord Castleton tells me you have his entire confidence on this occasion, and I shall therefore not scruple to give you mine, if only as the best mode of an

[ocr errors]

swering his application. He knows how long I have been disgusted with courts, from their false estimation of those who follow them, and how long I have meditated such a retreat as this. Tell him, therefore, though late, I am here the courtisan détrompé du monde, and exclaim with him,

En vain pour satisfaire à nos lâches envies
Nous passons près des rois tout le temps de nos vies,
A souffrir des mépris et plier les genoux.
Ce qu'ils peuvent n'est rien ; ils sont comme nous sommes,

Véritables hommes,
Et meurent comme nous."

[ocr errors]

“ Your lordship will pardon me," I replied, I remind you of that part of Lord Castleton's letter, in which he states, that when your country wants you, you have no right to such a retreat."

A sorry one, God wot,” observed he, looking at his own dress, and the homeliness of the room ; “ but for the wants of the country, read those of the cabinet, and you will be nearer the truth. In return for which, tell me what the cabinet has ever done for me, that I should help them, or what they would do for me, if they could stand alone. I own this meanness only makes me more in love with these bare walls, in which, rough and weatherbeaten as they are, I breathe an honester atmosphere than surrounds their palaces. Pray, are you much acquainted with Raleigh-his poetry I mean? Did you ever read his Lye ?"

“ An odd subject.”

“But well treated, and full of philosophy. Excuse me if I refer a stanza or two to


examination, and then say if I am wrong:

'Tell men of high condition,

That rule affairs of state,
Their purpose is ambition,

Their practice only hate ;
And if they once reply,

Then give them all the lye.' Feeling this, can you wonder at my resolution, or at my reaping what I promised myself from it ?

“I again say, therefore, tell them how you found me: and, but for my disorder, you would have found me with this mattock in my garden-(here he took up a spade, which stood in a corner of the room)—which, like Abdolonymus, I would not quit to be a king.”

Had I not thought he was deceiving himself, this speech would have staggered me, for he, at least, looked very firm. Yet from what I had heard of him, I did think him self-deceived, and would not yield. Addressing him, therefore, more solemnly, I said,

“Had I been sent to an ordinary character, my lord, I might feel forced to retire with this answer ; but as I am very sure that you love your country too well to abandon her when she needs your known powers, merely because you feel injured by indi. viduals, who, Lord Castleton himself allows, can

« ПредишнаНапред »