« AnteriorContinuar »
NORTH. I saw little alteration on you, Mr Seward; but as to Buller, it was with the utmost difficulty I could be brought, by his reiterated asseverations, into a sort of quasi-belief in his personal identity; and even now, it is far from amounting to anything like a settled conviction. Why, his face is twice the breadth it used to be—and so red! It used to be narrow and pale. Then, what a bushy head-now, cocker it as he will, bald. In figure was he not slim? Now, stout's the word. Stout-stout-yes, Buller, you have grown stout, and will grow stouter-your doom is to be fat-I prophesy paunch
BULLER. Spare me-spare me, sir. Seward should not have interrupted me-'twas but the first impression--and soon wore off-those Edinboro' people have much to answer for-unmercifully wearing you out at their ceaseless soirées but since you came to Cladich, sir, CHRISTOPHER'S HIMSELF AGAIN— pardon my familiarity-nor can I now, after the minutest inspection, and severest scrutiny, detect one single additional wrinkle on face or forehead-nay, not a wrinkle at all—not one—so fresh of colour, too, sir, that the irradiation is at times ruddy-and without losing an atom of expression, the countenance absolutely-plump. Yes, sir, plump's the word-plump, plump, plump.
NORTH. Now you speak sensibly, and like yourself, my dear Buller. I wear well.
NORTH. And was there, among them all, one so weak-minded as to believe it? But, to be sure, there are no bounds to the credulity of mankind.
SEWARD. It all originated, I verily believe, sir, in the moved imagination of the Pensive Public:
“ Res est soliciti plena timoris Amor.”
NORTH. Buller, I see little, if any-no change whatever-on you, since the days of Deeside-nor on you, Seward. Yes, I do. Not now, when by yourselves; but when your boys are in Tent, ah! then I do indeed-a pleasant, a happy, a. blessed change! Bright boys they are delightful lads-noble youths-and so are my Two-emphasis on my
SEWARD AND BULLER.
NORTH. In presence of us old folks, composed and respectful-in manly modesty attentive to every word we say-at times no doubt wearisome enough! Yet each ready, at a look or pause, to join in when we are at our gravest-and the solemn may be getting dull-enlivening the sleepy flow of our conversation as with rivulets issuing from pure sources in the hills of the morning
SEWARD. Ay-ay; heaven bless them all!
NORTII. Why, there is more than sense-more than talent-there is genius among them in their eyes and on their tongues—though they have no suspicion of it and that is the charm. Then how they rally one another! Witty fellows all Four. And the right sort of raillery. Gentlemen by birth and breeding, to whom in their wildest sallies vulgarity is impossible-to whom, on the giddy
brink-the perilous edge—still adheres a native Decorum superior to that of all the Schools.
SEWARD. They have their faults, sir
NORTH. So have we. And 'tis well for us. Without faults we should be unloveable.
SEWARD. In affection I spake.
NORTH. I know you did. There is no such hateful sight on earth as a perfect character. He is one mass of corruption-for he is a hypocrite-intus et in cuteby the necessity of nature. The moment a perfect character enters a room-I leave it.
NORTH. Emigrate. Or remain here-encamped for life—with imperfect characterstill the order should issue-Strike Tent.
BULLER. My Boy has a temper of his own.
NORTH, Original-or acquired?
BULLER. Naturally sweet-blooded-assuredly by the mother's side-but in her goodness she did all she could to spoil him. Some excuse - We have but Marmy.
NORTH. And his father, naturally not quite so sweet-blooded, does all he can to preserve him? Between the two, a pretty Pickle he is. Has thine a temper of his own, too, Seward ?
SEWARD. No-North. A milder, meeker, Christian Lady than his mother is not in England.
NORTH. I confess I was at the moment not thinking of his mother. But somewhat too much of this. I hereby authorise the Boys of this Empire to have what tempers they choose--with one sole exception—THE SULKY.
BULLER. The Edict is promulged.
NORTH. Once, and once only, during one of the longest and best-spent lives on record, was I in the mood proscribed-and it endured most part of a whole day. The Anniversary of that day I observe, in severest solitude, with a salutary horror. And it is my Birthday. Ask me not, my friends, to reveal the Cause. Aloof from confession before man-we must keep to ourselves--as John Foster says—a corner of our own souls. A black corner it is—and enter it with or without a light-you see, here and there, something dismal hideous-shapeless-nameless-each lying in its own place on the floor. There lies the Cause. It was the morning of my Ninth Year. As I kept sitting high upstairs by myself-one familiar face after another kept ever and anon looking in upon me-all with one expression! And one familiar voice after another-all with one tone-kept muttering at me," He's still in the Sulks!" How I hated them with an intenser hatred-and chief them I before had loved best-at each opening and each shutting of that door! How I hated myself, as my blubbered face felt hotter and hotter--and I knew how ugly I must be, with my fixed fiery eyes. It was painful to sit on such a chair for hours in one posture, and to have so chained a child would have been great cruelty-but I was resolved to die, rather than change it; and had I been told by any one under an angel to get up and go to play, I would have spat in his face. It was a lonesome attic, and I had the fear of ghosts. But not then-my superstitious fancy was quelled by my troubled heart. Had I not deserved to be allowed to go ? Did they not all know that all my happiness in this life depended on my being allowed to go ? Could any one of them give a reason for not allowing me to go? What right had they to say that if I did go, I should never be able to find my way, by myself, back? What right had they to say that Roundy was a blackguard, and that he would lead me to the gallows? Never before, in all the world, had a good boy been used so on his birthday. They pretend to be sorry when I am sick-and when I say my prayers, they say theirs too; but I am sicker now-and they are not sorry, but angry-there's no use in prayers—and I won't read one verse in the Bible this night, should my aunt go down on her knees. And in the midst of such unworded soliloquies did the young blasphemer fall asleep.
BULLER. Young Christopher North! Incredible.
NORTH. I know not how long I slept ; but on awaking, I saw an angel with a most beautiful face and most beautiful hair-a little young angel-about the same size as myself-sitting on a stool by my feet. “Are you quite well now, Christopher ? Let us go to the meadows and gather flowers.” Shame, sorrow, remorse, contrition, came to me with those innocent words-we wept together, and I was comforted. “I have been sinful"-" but you are forgiven." Down all the stairs hand in hand we glided; and there was no longer anger in any eyes--the whole house was happy. All voices were kinder-if that were possible-than they had been when I rose in the morning--a Boy in his Ninth Year. Parental hands smoothed my hair-parental lips kissed it-and parental greetings, only a little more cheerful than prayers, restored me to the Love I had never lost, and which I felt now had animated that brief and just displeasure. I had never heard then of Elysian fields; but I had often heard, and often had dreamt happy, happy dreams of fields of light in heaven. And such looked the fields to be, where fairest Mary Gordon and I gathered flowers, and spoke to the birds, and to one another, all day long-and again, when the day was gone, and the evening going, on till moontime, below and among the soft-burning stars.
SEWARD. Your first Love?
NORTH. In a week she was in heaven. My friends-in childhood-our whole future life would sometimes seem to be at the mercy of such small events as these. Small call them not-for they are great for good or for evil--because of the unfathomable mysteries that lie shrouded in the growth, on earth, of an immortal soul.
SEWARD. May I dare to ask you, sir-it is indeed a delicate-a more than delicate question—if the Anniversary-has been brought round with the revolving year since we encamped ?
NORTH, It has.
SEWARD. Ah! Buller! we know now the reason of his absence that day from the
Pavilion and Deeside—of his utter seclusion-he was doing penance in the Swiss Giantess-a severe sojourn.
NORTH. A Good Temper, friends-not a good Conscience-is the Blessing of Life.
BULLER. Shocked to hear you say so, sir. Unsay it, my dear sir—unsay it-pernicious doctrine. It may get abroad.
NORTH. THE SULKS!—the CELESTIALS. The Sulks are hell, sirs—the Celestials, by the very name, heaven. I take temper in its all-embracing sense of Physical, Mental, and Moral Atmosphere. Pure and serene—then we respire God's gifts, and are happier than we desire! Is not that divine? Foul and disturbed-then we are stified by God's gifts--and are wickeder than we fear! Is not that devilish? A good Conscience and a bad Temper! Talk not to me, Young Men, of pernicious doctrine--it is a soul-saving doctrine* millions of spiritual creatures walk unseen” teaching it-men's Thoughts, communing with heaven, have been teaching it-surely not all in vain since Cain slew Abel.
SEWARD. The Sage!
NORTII. Morose! Think for five minutes on what that word means—and on what that word contains—and you see the Man must be an Atheist. Sitting in the House of God morosely! Bright, bold, beautiful boys of ours, ye are not morose-heaven's air has free access through your open souls-a clear conscience carries the Friends in their pastimes up the Mountains.
SEWARD. And their fathers before them.
NORTH. And their great-grandfather-I mean their spiritual great-grandfathermyself-Christopher North. They are gathering up-even as we gathered upimages that will never die. Evanescent! Clouds-lights-shadows-glooms - the falling sound-the running murmur--and the swinging roar--as cataract, stream, and forest all alike seem wheeling by-these are not evanescent--for they will all keep coming and going-before their Imagination-all life-long at the bidding of the Willor obedient to a Wish! Or by benign Law, whose might is a mystery, coming back from the far profound-remembered apparitions !
SEWARD. Dear sir.
NORTH. Even my Image will sometimes reappear-and the Tents of Cladich-the Camp on Lochawe-side.
NORTH. I wonder when they sleep. Each has his own dormitory- the cluster forming the left wing of the Camp-but Deeside is not seldom broad awake till midnight; and though I am always up and out by six at the latest, never once have I caught a man of them napping, but either there they are each more blooming than the other, getting ready their gear for a start;-or, on sweeping the Loch with my glass, I see their heads, like wild-ducks-swimming-round Rabbit Island as some wretch has baptised Inishail-- or away to Inistrynish-or, for anything I know, to Port-Sonachan--swimming for a Medal given by the Club! Or there goes Gutta Percha by the Pass of Brandir, or shooting away into the woods near Kilchurn. Twice have they been on the top of Cruachan-once for a clear hour, and once for a dark day-the very next morning, Marmaduke said, they would have some more mountain," and the Four Cloud-compellers swept the whole range of Ben-Bhuridh and BeinLurachan as far as the head of Glensrea. Though they said nothing about it, I heard of their having been over the hills behind us, t'other night, at Cairndow, at a wedding. Why, only think, sirs, yesterday they were off by daylight to try their luck in Loch Dochart, and again I heard their merriment soon after we had retired. They must have footed it above forty miles. That Cornwall Clipper will be their death. And off again this morning-all on foot-to the Black Mount.
BULLER. For what?
NORTH. By permission of the Marquis, to shoot an Eagle. She is said to be again on egg—and to cliff-climbers her eyrie is within rifle-range. But let us forget the Boys—as they have forgot us.
SEWARD. The Loch is calmer to-day, sir, than we have yet seen it; but the calm is of a different character from yesterday's—that was serene, this is solemn-I had almost said austere. Yesterday there were few clouds; and such was the prevailing power of all those lovely woods on the islands, and along the mainland shores—that the whole reflexion seemed sylvan. When gazing on such a sight, does not our feeling of the unrealities—the shadows-attach to the realities—the substances ? So that the living trees-earth-rooted, and growing upwards-become almost as visionary as their inverted semblances in that commingling clime? Or is it that the life of the trees gives life to the images, and imagination believes that the whole, in its beauty, must belong, by the same law, to the same world ?
NORTH. Let us understand, without seeking to destroy, our delusions-for has not this life of ours been wisely called the dream of a shadow!
SEWARD. To-day there are many clouds, and aloft they are beautiful ; nor is the light of the sun not most gracious; but the repose of all that downward world affects me I know not why-with sadness-it is beginning to look almost gloomy-and I seem to see the hush not of sleep, but of death. There is not the unboundaried expanse of yesterday-the loch looks narrower-and Cruachan closer to us, with all his heights.
NORTH. The drop was not from his nose, Seward, for here are three-and clear, pure drops too-on my Milton. I should not be at all surprised if we were to have a little rain.
SEWARD. Odd enough. I cannot conjecture where it comes from. It must be dew.
BULLER. Thermometer 85. Barometer I can say nothing about—but that it is very low indeed. A long way below Stormy.