« ПредишнаНапред »
sion;" that “the persections of his mind corresponded with the perfections of his body--that he was handsome without effeminacy, and intellectual without pedantry.” All this, I say, is easy enough, but this is in no true sense descriptive. As in argument, it is a sure sign of high ability to be able to place definitely before the mind the exact proposition which is to be grasped, clearly marked out, and distinguished from things that may be like it, or may seem to run into it on this hand and on that; so in description, a genius will make you be present at a scene, or understand a character, by a few bold and nervous strokes, where an inferior mind would waste itself in a long detail of petty circumstances, and produce after all nothing but a general and vague impression. However, as I shall be myself of necessity driven to attempt one, I must abstain from any farther efforts to fill the reader's mind with a standard I can never hope to reach; and indeed I should have abstained altogether, but that to state a difficulty of this kind is in some sort to remove it, and that there is some satisfaction in beforehand warning the reader against making the poverty of the description any measure of the beauty of the thing described, or judging of the completeness of the standard by the inadequacy of the execution.
I met the Milfords from time to time in my rambles, and insensibly, I know not how, we became acquainted with each other. Our acquaintance gradually increased into friendship. The charms of their society were such as I had never before experienced, and I eagerly cultivated their intimacy, as far as they would allow me. There was an air of romance thrown over all they said and did. They bardly seemed to speak, or think, or act, like livers in the nineteenth century,
He was like an old sage of the middle ages, and she like some maiden of the days of chivalry, who might have been the earthly goddess of an Amadis or a Palmerin.
Ernest Milford was one of the noblest looking old men I ever saw. He had been a soldier in early life, and in his age he preserved a dignified and military bearing. In repose his face had a stern and rigid expression, that was almost painful; but his calm dreamy-looking eyes, and his singularly sweet smile, combined with his soft skin, gave him at times in spite of his white hairs, an almost childly beauty. His daughter Gwendolen was one of those rather fragile blossoms too exquisite to breathe for long our grosser atmosphere. Dazzlingly fair she was with a profusion of glossy yellow hair ; hier eyes a deep blue; and her complexion almost transparent. If you have ever seen a hop plant entwining its light leaves and blossoms amongst the branches of an ash, you have had before you no very inadequate representation of Gwendolen and her father.
It was not possible to come within the sphere of her influence, without being deeply moved. I certainly did not escape her power. It is not my purpose to enlarge upon the sorrows of a desolate and solitary man-yet ah! Gwendolen, well would it have been for thee and me that I had loved thee less, or thou hadst loved me more. Either way we had both been happier, at least we had both endured less misery. But weeks passed on and left me as they found me, bound with a chain which I would not break asunder, but which I could not, if I would. I cannot do Gwendolen the injustice to say that she ever encouraged me. Her manners were always unembarrassed, and had a sisterly frankness that should have extinguished hope. There was no conscious look at my approach, no seeking for hidden meanings in any remarks that I might make to her. Her father I think believed that we were mutually attached, and strove one evening to probe her feelings on the matter.
"Gwendolen," he said, “what shall I do when thou leavest me?" He sometimes would use the singular pronoun in his addresses to those younger than himself.
“Leave you, my father !” said Gwendolen, “and why should that ever be? I will never go away.”
“ Nay, nay, my Gwendolen, thou wilt surely go and cleave to some fair and worthy youth; and be his through life to death; and in very sooth, except for selfishness, I would not but have it so."
My father,” she replied, “ but that I know you do this to try my love, I might feel uneasiness and pain at your suspicion. I have often said that I will be like Ruth to you; that where you live I will live, and whither you go I will go. I have not changed my purpose, and I think I never shall. We are fitted for each other. You are not too old for me, nor am I too young for you. Your wbite hairs mingle with my light ones in no inharmonious contrast. Sometimes indeed I fear you need the more perfect sympathy of some equal in years. There must be harmonies in the mind, there must be prospects open to the eyes of seventy, which the mind of nineteen cannot blend with, nor its eyes take in. You must needs at times feel a vacancy, which I can ill supply. You have experienced all that ever I have, and can sympathize with me; but there must be a world of feeling and association with which you are familiar, but which I am a total stranger to."
“ Thou hast spoken more profoundly than thou wast aware of, Gwendolen.
It may be in some sort as thou
hast said, my child. Would that but one of my brothers had lived for me; for then
But it is useless to repine. You and I, my daughter, are the last remnants of our house, and we must cling the closer and more lovingly to each other; thou wilt not leave me, Gwendolen ?"
“ Never, father; never while I live.”
“ And now, young Sir," said he to me, “ forgive me this display, which but for my weak childishness I should have spared you.
But I am old now, and these same crosses spoil me, Gerard. I am a very foolish fond old man, like Lear, and you must deal gently with my infirmity.”
I knew not what to say; and Gwendolen softly whispered, “ God forbid that your crosses should come from any Goneril or Regan."
I am tempted in despair to put a period to my story, so miserable a transcript is this of the magic of their intercourse. Often and often did I spend my evenings with these two rare beings, and drink in streams of beautiful and wise thoughts from their lips, till I could have worshipped the very ground they trod upon. The clear music of Gwendolen's " Good night," now, after the lapse of years, still thrills upon my memory. She was a gentle mortal-sweet and pure, such as angels might love to look on.
Peace be with her! I was forced to leave Mansfield for a time, but I left it with a full determination to revisit it the next summer. I knew my love was hopeless, but to live in their company, to watch their looks, and listen to their tones was enough
I came, and for awhile enjoyed my happiness. But it was not to last long—I received a letter from George Morland, saying that he had been ill, and if I would let him, he would come and stay a month or so with me. I let him come, and my happiness was blasted for ever.
George Morland was a person whom nature had intended for one of her master pieces, but he himself had always crossed her bandiwork. He was a young man of great talents, good education, and high breeding, and he looked like a gentleman and a scholar; his countenance without any good features, but his eye was very sweet in expression, and his look and manner were irresistibly tender and winning; but he was thoroughly selfish, not indeed malignant, never going out of his way to give pain, but so utterly wrapped up in self, that the whole world might have gone to rack for what he cared, so that he was left unbarmed by the convulsion. Till I had found him out, I had been very fond of him; and even as it was, I could not treat him with incivility or unkindness. He came as he said, and I could not avoid introducing him to the Milfords; and in a very short time he fell in love with Gwendolen, and Gwendolen with bim.
A mother who sees her child fall over a prccipice in its play-a man, who after spending life and treasure in the pursuit of some coveted object, sees another quietly go by him, and obtain it, and then turn round, and thank him for his kindness in giving way—these may feebly shadow forth the bitter agony and disappointment of my soul. Misery I knew awaited Gwendolen herself, and I could scarcely bear to think upon Milford's desolation. Yet I was helpless and motionless as an infant, for I felt that any interference of mine would certainly be misappreciated and misunderstood-so the sad game went on; I sat a silent spectator; and sometimes when they were together they looked so beautiful and loving, and he seemed to be so thoroughly devoted to her, and so alive to her rare excellence, that his selfishness was for awhile suspended, and I began, against my soberer convictions, even to hope