Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

will not be imputed to me, for the words may apply more to the peculiarity of the situation than the mode of narrating it: at all events, here it is, to be judged by its merits; if not true to nature. Nature in every reader of unbiassed mind and properly affined feelings, will instantly give the lie to even William Hazlitt, though (by profession, alas!) for many years a critical judge of the dramatic art.

“ Procul este profani?” substituting, for the last word, “ bachelors!” may be a proper exordium for a tale of a Father. To those who are yet strangers to the parental transport, much of the following effusion may appear childish, because its subject is a child. For my part, I consider children as a sort of superior beings to ourselves. That singular little “people,”-that innocent “nation,” which has neither wars, nor crimes, nor need of laws, or courts, or hangings among them. Yes, they are certainly a superior race to ourselves: we pay dearly for an added foot of stature. Their souls are taller than ours by a head, and always upright. I would rather have their small hands close my eyes, (if they would stare after I had done with them,) than larger ones, however tender. Then, for their living touch of the said hands, thrust into ours for a walk, or a game, or a nap on the knee; why, certainly there

may haunt the heart's memory of a man, a never-to-be-forgotten long-lost “pressure of the thrilling hand,” more poignant, more transporting; yet the “thrill” is not absent here, though so different; it surprises the parent heart and eye now and then ere it's aware. And, alas for human nature! how rarely is that keener electric emotion of heart unfollowed by some low muttering thunder of secret disapproval in the mind, that proves it but the vapoury brewing of a storm, delicious as it is for a moment or a day! But in grasping the little fubsy hand of a child, of “our own!" these terrible drawbacks of “ evil hunting" minds are unknown. Here I grasp its softness, I look in the tender, the guileless eyes, and can say, “ here is the thinking, feeling creature, who never yet felt or thought less innocently than the angels in heaven! Here's a hand that never did offence, an eye that never looked it! Here I can gaze, and doat, and love my fill, without a malignant muttered “fool!” from my satyr of a mind within, for ever making mockery of the finest feelings, under tutelage of that stern old “schoolmistress,” Reason, whom “poor human nature” cannot satisfy. The love of a child is to the heart a perpetual spring without its fickleness, a summer-day without heats and thunderstorms, the

glory without the gloom, every shower sunny! every cloud a golden one! They who cannot or will not enter into the spirit of this rhapsody, will be pleased not to proceed further.

A middle aged farmer called me out to visit his only son. His countenance was rather repulsive, dark and saturnine; his eyes only, which were fine, redeemed the heavy features from a character of stupidity: melancholy, allied to moroseness, stamped them also. As a specimen of a large class of Welsh agriculturists, the more secluded breeder of sheep frequently inhabiting the same deep dingle and antique village-like farm house and office, from one generation to another, it may be worth while to sketch my companion on a ride of nine miles; the more, as the Welsh farmers met with, residing along the high roads and round large towns, and hence most known to English visiters, exhibit none of those distinctive features which attach to the former, and alone preserve, as it were, the fading picture of life in Wales.

Whoever has conversed with the better class of dwellers remote from highways, those who have received some education, cannot forget the singular gravity, almost to pensiveness, of their speech and manner; the suavity, in spite of its cold reserve, of their sparing communion; the pleasantness of that chilling mask's removal, when they became interested; the warm-heartedness, the simplicity of thought and conduct, with perfect shrewdness, which gradually changed his dislike into approval, as their seeming repulse softened into hospitality. By better class I mean those old fashioned aborigines of the place, hamlet, or village, approached by bridle way and cart-track, both green, whose shop or farm is an inheritance, who therefore have received a very decent bringing up, through the easy circumstances of their ancestors.

Solitude produces a very opposite effect on the poorer labouring farmer, risen from a farm servant. Living in the very same manner, you find him rash, rude, loud, ignorant, and squalid as a savage, but ludicrously reverential to superiors. The former, on the contrary, pursue an “even tenor” of deportment hardly varying to the stranger who asks his way, and the lord (or a landlord, which is more to them,) who asks a vote. The cockney gay shopkeeper, from his brassrailed, plate-glass window, and his mahogany counter, might take a lesson, (very humiliating to him, if he have modesty,)

from many a little keeper of a shop, over whose hatch door the old thatch bristles down, making the London gentleman stoop to enter, whose dusty window half-penny papers of best pins adorn, and on whose old oaken notched counters, base money nailed down, and bacon; and on whose threshold a horse-shoe.

There is a self-respecting air above cringing, which prepossesses a customer, in these persons, and the Londoner himself, who should see them on a Sunday, would abate much of his scorn. He would see then, perhaps, a large happy family going to pay or receiving a visit from relatives beyond their hills, well mounted, well dressed, well behaved, and, evidently from the happy cheerfulness of all, eventually well-beloved.

Of this class, the master shepherd, as I may call him, in like manner domiciliated in his mountain-home, as those in their shops, retains the most marked character. The nature of his home, in its mere physical attributes, seems to powerfully influence his own. Bulging green mountains, mighty shadows, roaring ravines of darkness, damp, and hollowplunging cataracts; sheep bleating, and kites crying to one another, up high and across the venerable, though rude, old stoned house, with yews, and often huge box trees, resembling a church with its solemn appendages, from one wild ridge in the clouds to that opposite; these and little else seen or heard, cannot fail to impress in a peculiar manner the plastic spirit of man, when continued with little intermission from birth to burial. Such was the home of David Beynon, and the reader may form some idea of him possibly, from what I have just said of the manners of his class: his features were marked with an expression of great anxiety.

“Does your little boy seem to you dangerously ill, David ?” I inquired, (we disclaim, “sir," and the surname, in Welsh dialogue:) he replied, “Dangerously? danger? good God! so I never thought of that; I want a little ease for him, that's all; yet he's surely ill, very ill. I'd be sore loth to lose him; I've had him to myself, you see, ever since he was quite a little thing, been mother and father, too, to him; always in my lap, in my arms, my bed; as well lose my own self as him; how, no danger I hope!” “You are a widower, I believe?“Why no, but the same thing. My wife lives.” “ And vou brought up the child, did you?" "Yes, she tried her best to have him, but I would not part with my little Peter; why

should I? It was her friends, her brother, that parted us : our families were alway senemies before. So, by lies and schemes they inade her leave me, after setting us quarrelling; but I do hear that she finds a comforter in a fellow that did court her before I married her. Let him comfort her! she has the less need of

my

little boy.” As we conversed, a very steep stone road (if indeed it was not a dried water-course,) brought us down, as it were, on the house-top. Tlie sun, at three o'clock, had already taken leave of the profound green bottom where it stood, on the bank of a brawling little brook. All was solemn mountaineclipse, green and still, round the village-like domicile. Peat stacks, sheds, cow-house, and many other mossy-roofed erections, peeped, interspersed with aged trees, yews, and firs, and two large sycamores, deepening to pitch dark the duskiness of the door porch, with its two social stone seats: seats which had, but for a very short space, performed service in the one year's wedded life of David, and ever since had only supported him lonely, at twilight, or dawning with his one companion, little Peter, by his side. He hallooed down, through the steep hanging orchard-trees, to some one at the back door, “How is he?” as we approached. “Ah; very simple, very simple: worse a del!” The father turned pale, said nothing, but hurried me round to the front door. Í found a very sweet little boy, sensible, pale, patient, extended along the great settle, or fireside skreened seat, who, at sight of his father, forgot his inability to walk, and was shuffling his legs down to run and meet him as usual. As soon as the father ran to him, and bent over him, such a wonderful change to woman's mildness, piteous, and doating came over this stern man’s visage, that I could not doubt the truth of his words, that he had been both mother and father to him. Typhus fever, hastening on to imminent danger, was upon

When I announced to him the existing peril, he looked incredulous, or, as if deaf, his eyes seemed to still inquire--a wildness came into them, and they began to roll like those of a man suddenly finding himself in some new horrible situation, thrown into a dungeon, or brought forth to

the scaffold. This new state of mind, a doubt of his child's future life or death, was that new horrible situation.

“Oh, my God! my God! what shall I do?” was the extravagant man's exclamation at last, as he paced up and

his son.

die upon

none.

down,-struck his breast, like a madman, — uplifted his clasped hand every moment-then ran to his child, as if he had but a minute left to in press but one more kiss on his parched lips, and vented his full agony in a fit of womanlike weeping:

Having ordered my little patient to bed, and tried to bring the father to his reason, I took leave, after prescribing. On my next visit, the course of the malady had brought the child on to that crisis which before was but in prospect. The father sat, at five o'clock in the evening, in his nightcap, holding the sufferer's hand, as he had sat all night and held it, I was told, and took no nourishment, and needed

Several young men, shepherds, stood leaning on their long wands, (the degenerated crook of other days,) looking piteously at the haggard master; the girls stood wiping their eyes; while cows lowed without, and the ewes stood round, both waiting to be milked,-for the master required their constant presence within; so that a sort of mournful holiday was observed in Llandevillog. The miserable father feeling that, if he should lose his boy, all would be lost; and that springtime, and seedtime, fine harvest, or none, would ever after be the same to him, (or believing that he so felt, and should for ever feel,) knew no longer interest in any thing, but that burning hand and frightful pulse, the tossing and the moaning of that dear being in whom his own being hung trembling in the scale betwixt life and death. He fancied that some help—some service, would be needed by him from every hand and mind,- was impatient of their attention to the most needful call of daily duty; nay, he felt furious at the presence of mind which could bear to remember and fulfil them, as if it were a cruelty and slight to his favorite for any eye or hand, or heart, to watch, and tend, and tremble, and ache, with less deadly anxiety than his own. “Let every thing go as it list!” was his cry; and had it not been that David's household was fondly attached to him, notwithstanding some abstraction and sullenness in his habits, his farm would have soon exhibited the results of their obedience.

Delirium, always an awful and appalling visitation, made itself visible during my stay. The first sure indication of a wandering intellect in a beloved object, what with its terrible threatening, what with its own horror, is, to the best regulated mind, dreadful: but to our solitary fatherit was a gorgon which nearly realised, by its first look, the same revolution in his own

« ПредишнаНапред »