Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

Emily's eye wandered more than once to the opposite window: Edward was so very intent on the page before him. At length he closed the volume-leant, as if meditating on its contents, for a few minutes—and then rose and approached the work table.

Edward Lorraine." I am so fascinated with what I have been reading, that I am under the absolute necessity of talking about it:

· Happiness was born a twin.'"

Lady Mandeville." And we are to enjoy your happiness without knowing in what it consists : disinterested sympathy, at least.”

Edward Lorraine.-" Have you read the tale I have just finished, Di Vasari ?"

Lady Mandeville.—“Oh, we can enter into your enjoyment. Emily and I read it about a week ago ;-read it during one half the day, and talked of it during the other.”

Edward Lorraine. -“ The story itself is one of intense interest—one of passion and poetry. But even this has less attraction for me than the strong peculiarities of the man's spirit. I knew him, and can so well imagine the strength and bitterness of his mind when some of the passages were written.”

Emily.- -“ You say you knew the author. What was he like ?"

Edward Lorraine." That is to say, was he handsome? Yes, in a peculiar and un-English style. He had high, sharp, and somewhat Jewish features, dark eyes, clear, keen, and penetrating, with something almost ferocious in their expression:

And in his eye the gladiator spoke.'

If I believed in transmigration, I should have said that in his former stage of existence he had been a Bengal tiger ; and somewhat of its likeness still lingered in his face.”

Emily.-“ Did you know much of him ?"

Edward Lorraine.—“I never saw Mr. Thompson—(I wish, in order to interest you, he had had a more characteristic name)—but once. I had read in the very Magazine which contains Di Vasari, viz. Blackwood's, a tale called the Life of Charles Edwards--it struck me so

much that I grew curious about the author. I met him soon afterwards at a supper.”

Lady Mandeville.- Could he talk ?"

Edward Lorraine.—“Wonderfully! Singular opinions singularly maintained! A flow of words, very felicitous, and yet such as no one else would have used. Not so much a love of, as a positive necessity for, contradiction seemed a part of his mind : add to this, extensive and out-of-the-way reading, and a ready memory—and if your imagination be very vivid, you will form some faint notion of his discourse.''

Lady Mandeville.—“I should like to judge for myself. You must introduce him.”

Edward Lorraine." Your command makes the impossible easy; but this is very impossible indeed. The subject of our discourse is dead. He died, as I have since heard, of a harrassed mind, and a wornout constitution. His history is one of the many brief and bitter pages in human life. A spirit superior to its station-talents of that imaginative kind, which so constantly exaggerate their influence—tastes poetical in their luxury_aspirations the most undefined and aspiring; gird all these in by narrow circumstances, and a lower class in life,--you will then have the whole of his dark and discontented existence.”

Mr. Morland (laying down the County Chronicle).“I know few states that more excite our sympathy in theory than this contest of low want and lofty will. But unless we could prearrange existence, how are we to alter it? Nature and fortune have long been variance. A workman uses for each task those tools most appropriate to the work. Not so with life: in at least seven cases out of nine, people are placed by fortune to fulfil a destiny for which they are eminently unfitted by nature. But go on with your detai].”

Edward Lorraine.—“I am not aware of his birth, parentage, or education ; but, when quite a lad, he left home, after the old fashion of adventures, and went to South America. There he stayed some twelve or thirteen years. I am afraid that his expedition to find El Dorado was as bootless as Sir Walter Raleigh's. Home he returned, and committed that worst imprudence, an imprudent marriage. Imprudence in this world is punished even more rapidly than crime; and I believe his folly was its own 'punishment. He became a reporter to a newspaper, published some admirable tales in Blackwood's Magazine, and wrote for divers other periodicals. Night after night he attended the gallery of the House of Commons, recording what any merciless orator might choose to declaim. Or else, grinding down the last colors of his mind for an • article in time' till mind and body both gave way, and he died, I have heard, at about five and thirty, leaving behind him some of the most original tales in our language, scattered through different publications. Not a dozen persons remember his name; and pages full of passion and beauty are slumbering in productions, which, however influential in their day, not one person in a thousand binds, nor one in ten thousand reads when bound. Genius should offer up its morning and evening sacrifice to luck."

Mr. Morland. « When we consider how many authors, and popular ones, whether living or dead, now crowd our shelves and memories, we ought rather to rejoice when a writer, be his merit what it may, is forgotten. We have no patriotism towards posterity; and the selfish amusement of the present always has, and always will, outweigh the important interests of the future,

,-or else a law would long ago have passed, for every century to consign the productions of its predecessor to the fames. Readers would benefit by the originality this would produce; and writers would no longer have to complain that their predecessors had taken all their best ideas :

Pereant qui ante nos nostra dixerunt.'”

Edward Lorraine.-" Where shall we find a literary Curtius, to leap, volumes and all, a voluntary offering into this gulf of oblivion ?"

Lady Mandeville.—This is so like a man's scheme,always expecting others to be more disinterested than himself !”

Edward Lorraine.-" This tale, by the by, of Di Vasari, is written in a style in which our literature is less fertile than in its other branches."

Lady Mandeville.—“ One at this moment occurs to me, and one quite out of my ordinary course.

You and Emily, and even Mr. Morland, are decidedly “romanticists. I must own I prefer a gayer and lighter species of reading. Of pictures I like portraits-of books I like novels -novels of modern life, times, and manners : even if very bad, they amuse. I am not sure if laughing at them be not as pleasant as laughing with them.”

Edward Lorraine.--" But what is the tale ?"

Lady Mandeville.—Do not be impatient. Cannot you see that this dwelling on my opposite tastes shows how very admirable the story must be which could carry me so completely out of them? I insist upon telling you how I came to read it. Mandeville had dined out : Emily, most unkindly, had not a prescience of my loneliness, and stayed at the Hall. I got tired, very tired of myself. At last I saw a little volume lying on the table—took it up in that worst of moods for an author-faute de mieux, opened it carelessly-read a few pages, and grew so interested, that I let the fire quite, the lamp nearly, out; and when Henry came home, I am not sure whether I did not take him for one of his ancestors stepped from a picture frame. Moreover, I could not sleep till I had finished it. There is the very book.”

Edward Lorraine.-"My old favorite Inesilla. How well I remember reading it! It was in the summer, as I walked to and fro in an avenue, over which the elm boughs met; and below, large, old, unpruned laurels grew almost over the walk. It took a wonderful hold on me. I believe, for weeks after, I looked with suspicious eyes on every pleasant spoken elderly gentleman who addressed

Lady Mandeville.—“ Do you remember the effect produced by the black hollyhock, hanging gloomily over the sepulchral white marble vase ?"

Emily." I like Inesilla herself so much.”

Edward Lorraine.-" It is the only beautiful English tale I know in which the supernatural agency is well managed. Our common ghosts are essentially vulgar.”

Lady Mandeville.—" Sent on errands to reveal a murder or a money deposit."

Edward Lorraine.- “ Here the spiritual agency is so terrible and so solemn. Every day, and every hour, we are trenching upon the mighty and mysterious empire of the unknown; the shadows of old superstition flit dimmer and more dim before her eyes. We lay ghosts, not with holy word and crucifix, but with Abernethy and Dr. Hibbert. But let us grow as actual as we will let us admit nothing but facts, and not these till they have been first denied-still vague, ay vain, beliefs will spring up in our

me."

hearts—midnight, despite all reasoning, will be haunted with a shadow and a thought.' So long as the soul knows this is not her own home, she will have visitings from another, and there will be that in our thoughts of which we can give no account—a fear and hope, which we will sometimes deny, and which will never be more than a dream. It is this fine and mystical sense which Inesilla succeeds so well in exciting. Then the human interest is admirably kept up. Our superstition is awaken ed through our affection.”

Emily-"I think it opens so beautifully : the feeling of happiness-sunny, confiding happiness--contrasts powerfully with the after desolation.'

Edward Lorraine.-“ Altogether, I know no tale of stranger and wilder beauty."

The day wore on, and, when evening came, the party were arranged to Lady Mandeville's satisfaction as regarded her guests : whether it was so very delightful to herself

, may reasonably be questioned. An elderly neighbor had had the cruelty to come out without his wife, his constant partner at cards; and Mr. Morrison was one who would as soon have thought of going without his dinner as without his rubber. This rubber had therefore to be made up by the Mandevilles themselves and Mr. Morland. Miss Arundel and Lorraine were at the other extremity of the room, by the piano,—an occasional song serving as the excuse for what was a tete a tete in all but the embarrassment. Certainly that evening Edward was a little in love -to be sure he had nothing else to do.

Now the letters arrived at Norville Abbey in the evening: a great misfortune this-for, on an average, there is not one pleasant letter out of ten, and it is miserable to pass the night ruminating on the other nine. One really wants the spirits of the morning to support the coming in

There was one letter universally disagreeable-it came from Mr. Delawarr, and entreated Lorraine's instant return to London. Regrets came flattering enough to the fortunate or unfortunate receiver of the epistle ; even Emily ventured to say

very sorry," but it was in such a low voice that no one heard it. “ You must come and see us again," said Lord Mandeville; “unless we are in town before you can escape.”

Early the next morning, the wheels of a departing carriage rolled off, unnoticed, as its occupier supposed, by all.

of the post.

she was

66

« ForrigeFortsæt »