Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

against him; and the story of his faithful and disinterested love-a story all the more remarkable if he were as avaricious as he is called becomes something to sneer at rather than to applaud, though we can well imagine what a romantic lustre such a tale would have thrown upon Haiifax or Dorset, had it been within the power of the historian to bestow it on his favourites. Mr Macaulay makes an unjust, spiteful, and exaggerated use of the Castlemaine incident in the hero's early history-but this is too ugly a story for our handling, and we decline to meddle with it, either for explanation or defence, Yet Marlborough was a wonderful genius, one of the greatest soldiers of our race he was capable of a disinterested, life-long, and unwavering attachment; he was incapable of changing his religion, though it pleases Mr Macaulay to sneer at such scruples, as finding place in his breast-and he was very shabbily and unhandsomely treated, at the very culmination of his fame, by monarch and government. These facts ought to be enough to give the greatest general of his age-perhaps the most complete soldier known to English history before Wellingtona fair hearing and a candid report. He has not gained either in the volumes of Mr Macaulay.

We are not able to profess any very overpowering interest in the character of William Penn, and it is but a languid regard with which even his biographer's laudatory story inspires us. We have no doubt, however, that Mr Dixon is right-but his case is by no means so clear, convincing, and satisfactory, as he seems to suppose it; and even after reading all that he has to say on the subject, we are obliged to confess that there is still an uncomfortable haze resting upon the name and character of the eminent quaker. We do not dispute that there was another Penn -but the mistake seems to have been made by contemporary writers as well as Mr Macaulay, and no one appears to have been startled by the supposition that William Penn was capable of the acts imputed to him. The only thing quite satisfactory in Mr Dixon's defence, is his explana

tion of the puzzling connection between the arbitrary king and the unreverential subject-a connection for which we never could find any means of accounting, and which Mr Macaulay certainly does not help any one to discover, Penn, as it appears, was James's ward-a very Latural explanation of at least the beginning of their singular friendship.

In all this we do Mr Macaulay the justice to say that he vindicates his own intention of truthfulness by the evident frequency with which his own narrative refutes his own comments. It is only when his prejudices seem powerfully moved, as in the case of the Church of Scotland, that his record of actual events becomes unreliable. He has the eclectic gift in a high degree-he knows how to omit an explanatory circumstance, and how to leap over an unexplainable virtue-but we find so many instances in which his own summary of character is scattered to the winds by the successive events he relates, that it is only in exceptional cases that we can say anything against the apparent intention of Mr Macaulay. These exceptional cases, however, are strong in our own country, and touch our own honour; and it is really a very unworthy occupation for a writer of powers so great, and mind so enlightened, to emulate, on real ground and with actual men, the visionary calumnies of a Little Dorrit. The Scottish faith has made the Scottish nation great, virtuous, and honoured, and even the arts of ima gination give practical proof that this grave shadow has put no blight upon them, though it may have given a certain direction to their efforts. Mr Macaulay will but splinter his lance if he tries it upon the shield of adamant which defends from every weapon of offence a true and pure Religion. Let him think better of his own great gift and its proper uses a gift which does not appear at its greatest, in the most brilliant pictorial effects, or the most able darkening of names and reputations, whose owners have no longer any voice to answer; but which can only crown itself with lasting honour by a candid interpretation of the entire and universal Truth.

Printed by William Blackwood and Sons, Edinburgh.

[blocks in formation]

THE Willows was a large low house, with no architectural pretensions, but bright as villa could be upon the sunniest side of the Thames. The lawn sloped to the river, and ended in a deep fringe and border of willows, sweeping into the water; while half-way across the stream lay a little fairy island, half enveloped in the same silvery foliage, but with bowers and depths of leaves within, through which some stray sunbeam was always gleaming. The flowerbeds on the lawn were in a flush with roses; the crystal roof of a large conservatory glistened in the sun. Flowers and sunshine, fragrance and stillness, the dew on the grass, and the morning light upon the riverno marvel that to eyes so young and inexperienced, this Richmond villa looked like a paradise on earth.

It was early morning-very early, when nobody seemed awake but themselves in the great house; and Agnes and Marian came down stairs softly, and, half afraid of doing wrong, stole out upon the lawn. The sun had just begun to gather those blobs of dew from the roses, but all over the grass lay jewels, bedded deep in the close-shorn sod, and shining in

VOL. LXXX.-NO. CCCCXCII.

the early light. An occasional puff of wind came crisp across the river, and turned to the sun the silvery side of all those drooping willow-leaves, and the willows themselves swayed and sighed towards the water, and the water came up upon them now and then with a playful plunge and flow. The two girls said nothing to each other as they wandered along the foot of the slope, looking over to the island, where already the sun had penetrated to his nest of trees. All this simple beauty, which was not remarkable to the fashionable guests of Mrs Edgerley, went to the very heart of these simple children of Bellevue. It moved them to involuntary delight-joy which could give no reason, for they thought there had never been such a beautiful summer morning, or such a scene.

And by-and-by they began to talk of last night-last night, their first night at the Willows, their first entrance into the home-life of "the great." They had no moral maxims at their finger-en vanity of riches, vate opinion entert Mamma, that "th for the folly of "the at the science of Go

[graphic]

mere piece of craft for the benefit of "the privileged classes," done any harm at all to the unpolitical imaginations of Agnes and Marian. They were scarcely at their ease yet, and were a great deal more timid than was comfortable; yet they took very naturally to this fairy life, and found an unfailing fund of wonder and admiration in it. They admired everything indeed, had a certain awe and veneration for everybody, and could not sufficiently admire the apparent accomplishments and real grace of their new associates.

"Agnes! I wonder if there is anything I could learn?" said Marian, rather timidly; “everybody here can do something; it is very different from doing a little of everything, like Miss Tavistock at Bellevue-and we used to think her accomplished!--but do you think there is anything I could learn ?"

"And me!" said Agnes, somewhat disconsolately.

"You, no, indeed you do not need it," said Marian, with a little pride. "You can do what none of them can do but they can talk about everything these people, and every one of them can do something. There is that Sir Langham - you would think he was only a young gentleman-but Mrs Edgerley says he makes beautiful sketches. We did not understand people like these when we were at home."

"What do you think of Sir Langham, May?" asked Agnes seriously.

Think of him? oh, he is very pleasant," said Marian, with a smile and a slight blush: "but never mind Sir Langham; do you think there is anything I could learn?"

I do not know," said Agnes; "perhaps you could sing. I think you might sing, if you would only take courage and try."

66

Sing! oh no, no!" said Marian; no one could venture to sing after the young lady-did you hear her name, Agnes who sang last night. She did not speak to any one, she was more by herself than we were. I wonder who she could be."

"Mrs Edgerley called her Rachel," said Agnes. "I did not hear any other name. I think it must be the same that Mrs Edgerley told

mamma about; you remember she said

"I am here," said a low voice suddenly, close beside them. The girls started back, exceedingly confused and ashamed. They had not perceived a sort of little bower, woven among the willows, from which now hastily appeared the third person who spoke. She was a little older than Agnes, very slight and girlish in her person-very dark of complexion, with a magnificent mass of black hair, and large liquid dark eyes. Nothing else about her was remarkable; her features were small and delicate, her cheeks colourless, her very lips pale; but her eyes, which were not of a slumbrous lustre, but full of light, rapid, earnest, and irregular, lighted up her dark pallid face with singular power and attrac tiveness. She turned upon them quickly as they stood distressed and irresolute before her.

"I did not mean to interrupt you," said this new-comer; "but you were about to speak of me, and I thought it only honest to give you notice that I was here."

"Thank you," said Agnes with humility. "We are strangers, and did not know--we scarcely know any one here; and we thought you were nearly about our own age, and perhaps would help us - "Here Agnes stopped short; she was not skilled in making overtures of friendship.

"No, indeed no,” cried their new acquaintance, hurriedly. "I never make friends. I could be of no use. I am only a dependent, scarcely so good as that. I am nothing here."

"And neither are we," said Agnes, following shyly the step which this strange girl took away from them. "We never were in a house like this before. We do not belong to great people. Mrs Edgerley asked us to come, because we met her at Mr Burlington's, and she has been very kind, but we know no one. Pray, do not go away."

The thoughtfuleyes brightened into a sudden gleam. "We are called Atheling," said Marian, interposing in her turn. "My sister is Agnes, and I am Marian-and you Miss

"My name is Rachel," said their new friend, with a sudden and vio

[ocr errors]

son.

lent blush, making all her face crim"I have no other-call me so, and I will like it. You think I am of your age; but I am not like you -you do not know half so much as I know."

"No-that is very likely," said Agnes, somewhat puzzled; "but I think you do not mean education," said the young author immediately, seeing Marian somewhat disposed to resent on her behalf this broad assertion. "You mean distress and sorrow. But we have had a great deal of grief at home. We have lost dear little children, one after another. We are not ignorant of grief."

Rachel looked at them with strange observation, wonder, and uncertainty, "But you are ignorant of me and I am ignorant of you," she said slowly, pausing between her words. "I suppose you mean just what you say, do you? and I am not much used to that. Do you know what I am here for-only to sing and amuse the people and you still want to make friends with me!"

"Mrs Edgerley said you were to be a singer, but you did not like it," said Marian; "and I think you are very right.'

"Did she say so -and what

more?" said Rachel, smiling faintly. "I want to hear now, though I did not when I heard your voices first." "She said you were a connection of the family," said Agnes.

The blood rushed again to the young stranger's brow. "Ah! I understand," she said; "she impliedyes. I know how she would do. And you will still be friends with me?"

At that moment it suddenly flashed upon the recollection of both the girls that Mamma had disapproved of this prospective acquaintance. They both blushed with instant consciousness, and neither of them spoke. In an-instant. Rachel became frozen into a haughtiness far exceeding anything within the power of Mrs Edgerley. Little and slight as she was, her girlish frame rose to the dignity of a young queen. Before Agnes could say a word, she had left them with a slight and lofty bow. Without haste, but with singular rapidity, she crossed the dewy lawn, and went into the house, acknowledging, with a stately inclination of her head, some one who passed her. The girls were so entirely absorbed watching her progress, that they did not perceive who this other person

was.

66

CHAPTER II.-AN EMBARRASSING COMPANION.

Strange creature!" said Sir Langham Portland, who had joined the girls almost before they were aware; "Odd girl! If Lucifer had a sister, I should know where to find her; but a perfect siren so far as music is concerned. Did you hear her sing last night-that thing of Beethoven's-what is the name of it? Do you like Beethoven, though? She, I suppose, worships him."

"We know very little about music," said Marian. She thought it proper to make known the fact, but blushed in spite of herself, and was much ashamed of her own ignorance. Marian was quite distressed and impatient to find herself so much behind every one else.

"Oh!" said Sir Langham-which meant that the handsome guardsman was a good deal fld by the blush, and did not care

want of information-in fact, he was cogitating within himself, being no great master of the art of conversation, what to speak of next.

"I am afraid Miss-Rachel was not pleased," said Agnes; "we disturbed her here. I am afraid she will think we were rude."

"Eh!" said Sir Langham, with a look of astonishment. "Oh, don't trouble yourself-she's accustomed to that. Pretty place this. Suppose a fellow on the island over there, what a capital sketch he could make;

with two figures instead of three the effect would be perfect!"

"We were two figures before you came," said Marian, turning half away, and with a smile.

"Ah! quite a different suggestion aid Sir Langham. "Your tw were all white and anmeditation-mine

[graphic]

would be-Elysium. Happy sketcher! happier hero-and you could not suppose a more appropriate scene." But Agnes and Marian were much too shy and timid to answer this as they might have answered Harry Oswald under the same circumstances. Agnes half interrupted him, being somewhat in haste to change the conversation. "You are an artist yourself?" said Agnes.

66

"No," said Sir Langham; "not at all, no more than everybody else is. I have no doubt you know a hundred people better at it than me."

"I do not think, counting every one," said Marian, "that we know a hundred, or the half of a hundred, people altogether; and none of them make sketches. Mrs Edgerley said yours were quite remarkable."

"A great many things are quite remarkable with Mrs Edgerley," said Sir Langham through his mustache. "But what an amazing circle yours must be-one must do something with one's spare time. That old fellow is the hardest rascal to kill of any I know-don't you find him so?" No-not when we are at home," said Marian.

[ocr errors]

"Ah! in the country, I suppose and you are Lady Bountifuls, and attend to all the village," said Sir Langham. He had quite made up his mind that these young girls, who were not fashionable nor remarkable in any way, save for the wonderful beauty of the youngest, were daughters of some squire in Banburyshire, whom it was Lord Winterbourne's interest to do a service to.

[ocr errors]

No, indeed, we have not any village we are not Lady Bountifuls; but we do a great many things at home," said Marian. Something restrained them both, however, from their heroic purpose of declaring at once their rank in life; they shrank, with natural delicacy, from saying anything about themselves to this interrogator, and were by no means clear that it would be right to tell Sir Langham Portland that they lived in Bellevue.

May we go through the conservatory, I wonder?" said Agnes,-the elder sister, remembering the parting charge of her mother, began to be somewhat uneasy about their hand

some companion-he might possibly fall in love with Marian-that was not so very dreadful a hypothesis,— for Agnes was human, and did not object to see the natural enemies of womankind taken captive, subju gated, or even entirely slain. But Marian might fall in love with him! That was an appalling thought; two distinct lines of anxiety began to appear in Agnes's forehead; and the imagination of the young genius instantly called before her the most touching and pathetic picture of a secret love and a broken heart.

"Marian, we may go into the conservatory," repeated Agnes; and she took her sister's hand and led her to where the Scotch gardener was opening the windows of that fairy palace. Sir Langham still gave them his attendance, following Marian as she passed through the ranks of flowers, and echoing her delight. Sir Langham was rather relieved to find them at last in enthusiasm about something. This familiar and well-known feature of young ladyhood set him much more at his ease.

And the gardener, with benign generosity, gathered some flowers for his young visitors. They thanked him with such thoroughly grateful thanks, and were so respectful of his superior knowledge, that this worthy functionary brightened under their influence. Sir Langham followed surprised and amused. He thought Marian's simple ignorance of all those delicate splendid exotic flowers, as pretty as he would have thought her acquaintance with them had she been better instructed; and when one of her flowers fell from her hand, lifted it up with the air of a paladin, and placed it in his breast. Marian, though she had turned aside, saw him do it by some mysterious perception-not of the eye-and blushed with a secret tremor, half of pleasure, half of amusement. Agnes regarded it a great deal more seriously. Agnes immediately discovered that it was time to go in. She was quite indifferent, we are grieved to say, to the fate of Sir Langham, and thought nothing of disturbing the peace of that susceptible young gentleman; but her protection and guardianship of Marian was a much me

ous

« AnteriorContinuar »