Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

arms

cap awry she

this her birthday? Was this the proposed happy day at Richmond ? It seemed as if it had all taken place some time ago, so misty and confused did everything appear.

The men were out of the house now, and she stood, at last, alone on the bare boards of the bedroom, a heap of clothes, flung hastily from the wardrobe, being all that remained to her. The very blinds were gone, as she discovered on attempting to screen herself from the gaze of the assembled crowd outside.

Loud coarse voices, mixed with jeers and laughter, met her ear; the eager voices of tradespeople, men and women, anxious for their money, and the shrill tones of the servant, as with folded and gratified the ears of the curious lookers-on with her comments on the whole affair.

Very little time had been wasted, and the church clock struck the hour of twelve as Sybella watched the last cart receive its load.

She turned to take a chair, for her feet felt heavy, and her head ached as she had never remembered it to have ached in her whole life. The chairs were all gone, and she Aung herself upon the floor, and laid her throbbing head upon the boards.

The sun blazed in at the unprotected windows, and the heat was oppressive.

The people opposite, whom, in idle moments, she had often amused herself by watching, were preparing to go out, and the open carriage, with the hamper carefully packed under the seat, showed that the fineness of the weather had tempted them also to take a trip into the country. But the laughter of the girls as they jumped into their places, and the ruder mirth of their brothers clambering on to the seat behind, jarred upon her feelings. “What have I done,” she cried, “ to be so punished, so harassed, and forlorn ? O God! I have no friend, no one to comfort me in this hour of trial!".

The opening door just then admitted Miss Saunders, and, raising her head at the noise of footsteps, Sybella hastily rose. Her companion was not alone ; another person, with a kind, benevolent face, followed her, whom she at once introduced as Mr. Elliott.

It needed but little explanation to show him the state of the case, and it did not tend to give him a very exalted opinion of Captain Travers.

But this was doing that unhappy gentleman less than justice, for, having his own hands full at the time, he had entrusted the settlement of the affair to his friend Raymond Gore, to whom he had sent the necessary funds from abroad, but who, unfortunately at that time, was also absent on a mission from the Foreign-office.

“My poor young lady," said Mr. Elliott, in a sympathising tone, “I see it all. I regret being so late, but I fear I could have done no good; the law, unfortunately, assigns all the wife's property to her husband's creditors. Failing in finding him, they have made you the victim.”

But the presence of a man at a time like this did infinite good; and not only were the surly tradesmen dismissed, but a convenient lodging was procured, where they were installed at once.

Sybella only recollected, as they sat down to an evening meal, prepared at Mr. Elliott's suggestion, that both of them had fasted since the day before.

At an early hour she retired to her couch, wearied and exhausted with

the painful events of the day; but thoughts of her husband—where he was—whether he would feel for her sorrow, and pity her for what she had endured on this her nineteenth birthday-kept her awake ; and it was some time before "sleep, that kuits up the ravelled sleeve of care,” had "steeped her senses in forgetfulness.'

No vision fortunately disturbed the rest she so much needed of the clandestine meeting of her husband with the wife of another at the seaport town, from whence he crossed over with her to Dieppe, there to await in fretful impatience a message from Mr. Watson.

But no message came; and he proceeded with his companion to the seat of his official duties. But there fresh trials awaited him. The secluded life, the dinners neglected, and the parties eschewed, excited a feeling of discontent at the conduct of the new official, which was increased with floating rumours respecting the absence of his wife. All his evenings were passed in a little villa in the environs, where poor Gabrielle, though ever ready to welcome him with a smile, led a weary, miserable life, seldom daring to venture out, for very fear of the scorn she dreaded to encounter. The state of affairs at length became so painful, that, before the end of three months, Captain Travers resigned the appointment, and departed no one knew whither.

Time went on, but Sybella never forgot the horrors of that memorable day; and the remembrance of her nineteenth birthday would often make her shudder. And she would sometimes wake at night and cry out that the men were there ; and she would call to Sawney, sleeping in the little room beside her, to come and bear her company.

But if she had reason to regret and mourn over the events of that day, she was consoled by the knowledge that on that very occasion a friend had been sent in mercy to her; and she often said that, had it not been for the good old lawyer, she should never have found heart to recover from the shock she had received.

Her new friend belonged to a class of men supposed to be destitute of any very great amount of feeling for the unsuccessful or the unfortunate; but, as there is no rule without exception, so Mr. Elliott not only possessed a heart, but an unusually kind and generous one, and during the following two years Sybella had many occasions of testing it.

He had done what he could to gather some information respecting her husband, and it was from him she had learnt (not long after her troubles) that Captain Travers had had a dreadful accident (which rumour, no doubt, greatly magnified), and that he had run off with a married lady, with whom he was living somewhere abroad.

Mr. Elliott felt for her lonely position, and did much to soften her lot; and no happier hours were hers than those which were spent in his society, and in that of his dear old wife ; and the little villa at Twickenham often resounded to her merry laugh as she sat on the lawn, or rowed in a tiny boat kept there for her use.

Sawney was still almost her only companion. Her mornings were passed in painting at the schools of art, her afternoons in reading, and her Sundays generally at the country-house of her friend at Twickenham. Although monotonous, her life was still a calm and a tolerably happy one, and two years of it thus almost imperceptibly glided away.

57

DESIRED BOON, DENIED BANE.

A CUE FROM SHAKSPEARE.

BY FRANCIS JACOX.

POMPEY, not the Great, is anxious for divine sanction to speed his ambitious resolves to a prosperous issue. If the great gods be just, he assumes, they will assist the deeds of justest men, and therefore himself, as pre-eminently entitled to that designation. He is impatient, too, for this manifest favour from above ; and sage Menecrates takes occasion not only to check his impatience in particular, but to give him a salutary warning on the subject in general:

-We, ignorant of ourselves,
Beg often our own harms, which the wise powers
Deny us for our good; so find we profit

By losing of our prayers.*
Leonatus Posthumus, working himself up to a climax of wrath at the
falsities of womankind, cannot, in the tip-topmost frenzy of that grand
climacteric, go beyond the bitterness of wishing them success in their
baneful desires :

-I'll write against them,
Detest them, curse them :-Yet ’tis greater skill
In a true hate, to pray they have their will :

The very devils cannot plague them better.t
Xenophon tells us of Socrates, that when he prayed, his petition was
only this—that the gods would give to him those things that were good;
which he did, forasmuch as they alone knew what was good for man,
“But he who should ask for gold or silver, or increase of dominion, acted
not, in his opinion, more wisely than one who should pray

for the

opportunity to fight, or game, or anything of the like nature ; the consequence of which, being altogether doubtful, might turn, for aught he knew, not a little to his disadvantage.”For,

-why, alas ! do mortal men in vain
Of fortune, fate, or Providence complain ?
God gives us what He knows our wants require,
And better

things than those that we desire :
Some pray for riches; riches they obtain ;
But, watched by robbers, for their wealth are slain;
Some pray from prison to be freed; and come,
When guilty of their vows to fall at home;
Murdered by those they trusted with their life,
A favoured servant, or a bosom wife.
Such dear-bought blessings happen every day,

Because we know not for what things we pray. S
There is a Greek prayer by an unknown poet, but highly commended by

!

* Antony and Cleopatra, Act II. Sc. 1. † Cymbeline, Act II. Sc. 5. ! Memorabilia, i. 3.

§ Dryden's Palamon and Arcite, book i.

prayers—told

the most illustrious of Socrates' disciples: that sovran Jove would grant his subjects good, whether they pray for it or not; and avert from them evil, even though they pray for it.

Ζευ βασιλεύ, τα μεν έσθλά και ευχομένοις και ανέυκτοις

"Αμμι δίδου τα δε δεινά και ευχομένοις απαλέξoις. And it is to Plato's dialogue upon prayer that we owe the instructions imparted by Socrates to Alcibiades, upon which Addison has founded a paper in the Spectator, In that dialogue we read how Socrates met Alcibiades going to his devotions, and observing his eyes to be fixed upon the ground with great seriousness and attention-for even that fastest of fast young men could, it seems, be slow enough to say his him that he had reason to be thoughtful upon that occasion, since it was possible for a man to bring down evil upon himself by his own supplications, and that those things which the gods sent him in answer to his petitions might turn to his destruction. This, says he, may not only happen when a man prays for what is mischievous in its own nature, as Edipus implored the gods to sow dissension between his sons; but when he prays

for what he believes would be for his good, and against what he believes would be to his detriment. This the philosopher shows must necessarily happen among us, since most men are blinded with ignorance, prejudice, or passion, which hinder them from seeing what things are really eligible for them. And all this, as his manner is, the philosopher teaches by examples.

It seems allowed that Juvenal took the cue of his tenth Satire, as well as Persius of his second, from the Dialogue of Plato aforesaid.

Evertêre domos totas, optantibus ipsis,
Dii faciles. Nocitura togâ, nocitura petuntur

Militiâ.
Or, as Englished by Mr. Owen of Warrington :

Th’indulgent gods whole houses have o'erthrown
At men's own prayer ;-the fatal choice their own.

In war we ask but woes; in peace but woes, &c. The Crassi, Pompeys, and the like, are represented as ruined by the assent of Heaven to their ambitious prayers

Magnaque numinibus vota exaudita malignis. Naples to Pompey a kind fever gave, to hide his honours in a welcome grave (the poetry of Parson Owen may pardonably be printed as prose). But public prayers arise : the gods allow the health requested by the erring vow: by Rome's and his cross fate that grave he fled, and lived—to lose his honours and his head.

-Sed multæ urbes, et publica vota
Vicerunt. Igitur fortuna ipsius, et urbis,

Servatum victo caput abstulit. Juvenal crowds his satire with cases in point, historical and mythological, political and domestic. The sum of the discourse is this: that man should allow the higher powers themselves to determine what may be of advan

tage to him, and suitable to his real wants,—he being dearer to them than to himself:

Permittes ipsis expendere Numinibus quid
Conveniat nobis, rebusque sit utile nostris :
Nam pro jocundis aptissima quæque dabunt Dii.

Carior est illis homo quàm sibi.* So Persius, in a variety of lines,—especially in the passage about doting petitions from and for the nursery:

Ast ego nutrici non mando vota; negato,

Jupiter, hæc illi, quamvis te albata rogârit.t John Gay may or must have had this in his head when he wrote the fable entitled “ The Father and Jupiter"-about a man who keeps on praying to Jove, and gets all his prayers answered (though Jove it wondered at his bold addressing; for how precarious is the blessing" of a wife to wit, and children to follow). Fortune's richest gifts are implored for his heirs, and granted. The eldest son is made wealthy, but turns out a careworn miser. The next is fired with strong ambition, but no sooner has he mounted its topmost round than he falls, the victim of disgrace. Beauty is the daughter's freely accorded portion ; but it only makes of her a vain coquette, doomed to a loveless and forlorn old age. Paterfamilias is out in his prayers, and despondingly votes them a failure. And Jupiter is good enough to tell him the reason why:

When Jove the Father's grief surveyed,
And heard him Heaven and fate upbraid,
Thus spoke the god: “By outward show
Men judge of happiness and woe :
Shåll ignorance of good and ill
Dare to direct the eternal will ?
Seek virtue; and, of that possess'd,

To Providence resign the rest.”I Deep-drawn, as well it may be, de profundis, is the sigh, the bitter hélas ! with which the father of Don Juan, in Molière's tragi-comedy, laments his paternal experiences. “Hélas ! que nous savons peu ce que nous faisons quand nous ne laissons pas au ciel le soin des choses qu'il nous faut, quand nous voulons être plus avisés que lui, et que nous venons à l'importuner par nos souhaits aveugles et nos demandes inconsidérées ! J'ai souhaité un fils avec des ardeurs non pareilles; je l'ai demandé sans relâche avec des transports incroyables ; et ce fils, que j'obtiens en fatigant le ciel de veux, est le chagrin et le supplice de cette vie même dont je croyais qu'il devait être la joie et la consolation." There is almost pathos as well as pith and point in that line of Pope's

3

Juvenal, sat. x. passim.
t "To pray aright, sure, asks a prudent heart:

No nurse trust I with this important part.
Be gracious, Jove, and hear no nurse of mine,
Thorobed in white, and prostrate at thy shrine.”

Dr. Brewster's translation of the second satire (Persius).
Gay's Fables, The Father and Jupiter.
Molière, Le Festin de Pierre, Acte IV. Sc. 6.

« ПредишнаНапред »