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separation always arrived before we were aware of its approach.
In the mornings, we often left the town and spent the day in the most beautiful parts of the environs; and the scenery was always sure to suggest some new idea, which again called forth a thousand more, and every one, happy themselves, endeavoured to add to the happiness of others. It was in one of these expeditions that we went to visit the little town and château of La Brède, once the residence of the famous Montesquieu. The house is a true old French château, with its turrets, and drawbridges, and garden within the ditch, and loopholes for firing through the walls, and all the little et ceteras, which carry one's mind back to ancient days; but the devil, or some spirit hostile to antiquity, has put it into the proprietor's head to whitewash the towers of La Brède ; and there they were, hard at it, trying to metamorphose the old mansion of Montesquieu into the likeness of a cockney cottage on the Hampstead road.
The owner was absent, but we were admitted imme. diately, and taken, in the first place, into the apartment where Montesquieu had composed his Esprit des Lois. A little more reverence for old times had been shown here; the room was exactly in the state he left it when he died; there was his armchair, and all the rest of the old damask furniture, spotted and stained in a truly classical manner; and there was the hole the sage had worn in the marble by resting his foot with mathematical precision always on one spot. We saw it all-all, which is nothing in itself, but something in its associations. We were then taken through the house, which appeared a large rambling kind of building ; but, to tell the truth, I do not recollect much about it, except one large hall of very vast dimensions, where lay an old helmet, which something tempted me to put upon my head, and which I once thought must have remained there for ever, for, as if to punish me for the whim, during some time I could get it off by no manner of means. I have said that I remember little about the house ; the reason was this—I was thinking more at the time of the woman who showed it to us than of any. thing else in it-ay, or of Montesquieu into the bargain. Now there may be many people who would judge from this confession, that she was some pretty soubrette, whose beauty had taken my imagination by the ear.
But no such thing ; not that I am not fond of beauty in every shape, but the case was different in the present instance. What or who she was I do not know; but if Dame Fortune had placed her in any other situation than that of a lady, the jade of a goddess ought to be put in the pillory for a cheat and an impostor. Her dress was of that dubious description which gave no information; but her manners-her air-her look-told a great deal. She was grave without being sad. It was a sort of gentle gravity, that seemed to proceed more from a calm, even disposition, than from any grief or sorrow; and when she smiled, there was a ray of pure, warm light came beaming from her eyes, and said that there was much unextinguished within. They were as fine eyes, too, as I ever beheld. Yet she was not handsome; though, if I were to go on with the description, perhaps I should niake her out a perfect beauty, for I saw nothing but the expression, and that was beautiful. I could draw her character, I am sure, and would not be mistaken in a single line; for her voice was exactly like her eyes, and when the two go together one cannot be deceived; there was a mild elegance in it that was never harsh, though sometimes it rose a little, and sometimes fell, and gave more melody to the French tongue than ever I had heard before.
Now, reader, for aught I know, you may be as arrant a fool as ever God put breath into-for I hope and trust this book will be read not by the wise part of mankind only-should that be the case, Lord have mercy upon the publisher. But do not be offended. You may, (under the same restrictive “for aught I know,”) be as wise as King Solomon or wiser; but, whatever be your portion of wit, you will have seen in all probability, long before now, that there was something in this girl that interested me not a little. What that was can be nothing to you, for it proceeded from private feelings and private recollections, which you would make nothing of if you knew them this minute.
However, there was a question which none of us could decide: was she one of the family of the château or was she not, and how were we to bestow the little donation usually given to the servants under such cir. cumstances ? However, the elder lady of the party took it upon herself; and while I was standing in the garden where Montesquieu used to work with his own hands,
figuring to myself the philosopher of the laws, digging away in his full nightcap and variegated dressing gown, she put the money into the hands of her companion, begging that she would give it to the servants. The other looked at her with a smile which might have been translated half a dozen ways. It might have been, “I am a servant myself”-it might have been, “I see your embarrassment.” But, however, she said that she would give it to them, and bidding her adieu, we proceeded to the carriage. We had scarcely all got in, when she came tripping over the drawbridge, with a bouquet of flowers in her hand. She gave them with one of those same bright smiles, saying, that perhaps we might like to have « Quelques fleurs du jardin de Montesquieu.” We took them thankfully, and she re-entered the house, leaving us more than ever in doubt.
THE CHATEAU DE BLANCFORD.
Quant' è bella giovenezza
Che si fugge tutta via
Che vuol esser lieto, sia
Triomfo de Bacco.
THERE is scarcely any character in the range of history, which I am so much led to admire as that of Edward the Black Prince. Combining all the brightest qualities of a hero and a man, his glorious actions and his early death, all give him a title to our interest and admiration. One of the last excursions which we made with the friends I have just mentioned was to a little town called Blancford. It lies, as it were, behind Bordeaux, upon an eminence which commands all the country round, with a far view over the plains of Medoc, and the bend of the Garonne lying at your feet. In a valley, at a short distance, stand the walls of an old castle, in which the Black Prince is said to have passed some of the last hours of his existence; and this was the real object of our pilgrimage.
Having ordered dinner, and left the carriage at Blancford, we wandered down, through some beautiful lanes, all breaking forth into the first blossoms of spring, to the ruins of the old château, which affords a sad picture of the decay of human works. The walls, built to resist armies, had crumbled to nothing before the power of Time. We nevertheless amused ourselves for more than an hour, climbing among the old ivy-grown remains, and fancying the various beings that, from time to time, had tenanted that spot now so desolate. It was all imagination, it is true, but 'tis one of the greatest arts in life, thus to give food to fancy and to supply her with materials from the past. It is less dangerous than borrowing from the future. I forget whether it is Lord Kaimes, or Allison, or who, that accounts for the pleasure we feel in the sublime and beautiful, principally from the exercise of the mind in new combinations. I feel that there is some truth in it; for when I can let my imagination soar without restraint, I try to separate myself, as it were, from her, and view her as I would a lark, rising and singing in the sky, and enjoy her very wanderings.
So much amusement did we derive from our speculaa tions that we lingered there long. A variety of shrubs and foliage had decorated the old ruin in a fantastic nianner; and as we descended into one of the dungeons, where probably many a captive had told his solitary hours, a free, wild bird started out, at our approach, and took its flight into the unconfined air. On the highest pinnacles of the walls, where the hand of man could never reach, Nature has sown little groups of wild pinks, that hung bending in the wind, as if to tempt one to take them. I endeavoured in vain to obtain some of them for one of the ladies of the party, between whom and my friend B- feelings were growing up which ended in much happiness at an after period. T'o punish my awkwardness, they called upon me to write a ballad on the subject. I did my best to comply, for we all strove to bring our little share of amusement into the common stock, and I felt myself more peculiarly bound to contribute, as I believed in my heart that many of these amusements, and especially that of whiling away the evening with little tales and sketches, had been devised for the .purpose of turning my mind from every painful thought.
These contributions gradually accumulated into a short miscellany, which, as it comes decidedly into the recollections of this year, I will give, as far as my memory serves, and call it “Scraps."
We left the old castle with a feeling of regret. We had had time to establish a kind of friendship with it, and did not like to quit it. After dinner we wandered on to the brow of the hill, and sitting down, watched the landscape as the closing evening varied all its hues. It had been a fine clear day: no pain had reached us ourselves, and no storm had come across the sky-all had been bright and unshadowed. The last moments of such a day are precious-for who can say what tomorrow will bring forth ?—and all feeling it alike, we lingered on till the edge of the sun touched the horizon, and then returned to the busy haunts of man.