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goodness only knows the shoals, and quicksands, and perilous weather id I may have to encounter in the course of this history, now getting
weigh, let us have the satisfaction of starting in a fair sea, and under serene skies. It would be more imposing, perhaps, and redound to the credit of the master mariner, to sail out upon the undiscovered waters amid lightning and tempest, and a very high wind; especially as (the master mariner being also clerk of the weather) nothing is easier than, just before the passengers begin to experience sensations of nausea, and the captain to lose his faculties, and the vessel to exhibit symptoms of dissolution—nothing is easier than to bring-to in a sudden conjuration of halcyon seas and spicy airs. No; life, upon the whole, begins in calm. In childhood and youth we launch many fairy barks, on bright and shining rivers, and sail in them hither and thither, as imagination - listeth; and not till after a long by-and-by enter upon serious navigation. And so we will begin in calm, too, and in one of those very fairy barks which Love itself launches. They are ticklish craft, as you know, Mademoiselle the Dear Reader, and have record of in that log of many leaves, which you preserve under lock and key, with your cuffs and collars, and pretty jewels—that log of many leaves, beginning “My dearest love," and ending with “Your ever attached Frederick ;" beginning with “Dear Miss Ponsonby," and ending “Yours truly;" “Dear madam,” and “Your obedient servant." You know, Mademoiselle the D. R., that those little craft always sail away from the terra firma of matter-of-fact as trim and taut as a Cowes yacht in the month of June ; and you also know how dreadfully subject to squalls they are—how difficult it is to keep the bark afloat, under the pressure of tiffs from the sou’-west, or hurricanequarrels from the north, and how often the captain abandons you on some desolate
No. 1, VOL. I.
island, a prey to the cannibals—your own gnawing miseries. Therefore, though we do start in fair weather, prepare for the worst. Still the good ship may come to grief—may be assailed by famine and fire-may founder even before any happy haven is sighted. To such uncontrollable events Mademoiselle must submit, without quarrelling either with me or my chief mate.
Besides, what is the use of varnishing life? The varnish won't stand, even though you lay it on as thick as the japan on your papier-maché card-tray. For Life lives! and beats, and throbs under the varnish ; and the varnish cracks away in hideous patches. The attempt reminds me of two things. Of an old beauty, who was enamelled with the bloom of sixteen every morning, and for the rest of the day dare not move a muscle of her countenance. But one day she burst into a fit of laughter; the mask cracked into fifty fragments, and some fell off, and some curled up; and, behold! my great-grandmother! So it is with Life. Enamel that an inch deep; but in some unexpected moment it laughs at you; and you start with horror before the result. The other simile-well, it is not so dignified as the above, and has reference to the lovely poodle I purchased for four pounds, in Regent-street, and which, after presenting some extraordinary symptoms of uneasiness, had to be ripped open (I mean his beautiful skin had, for it had been glued on); when there appeared a good, honest cur, with no pretence to beauty, but much to fidelity and worth. And here comes in my chief mate, with his views of the matter. He wants to know whether an Ethiopian ceases to be a nigger, if you do succeed in combing his hair smooth, and in washing him white; and opines that if you want an unspotted leopard you must flay him : which is an unnatural operation.
And now, having, by our united efforts, clapped as much philosophy and as many figures of speech into this opening address as it can conveniently bear, we call upon the publisher to approach with the bottle; and, having judiciously partaken of its contents—we three-he hurls it at this history, after the manner of an old slipper, and we declare the vessel launched,
THE FAIRY BARK UNDER BAIL.
But what do you mean by a calm-in story-telling, or otherwise ? My idea of it is associated with a quiet sea, a June sky, a wide summer landscape. If ever you had
any idea of a calm without an association with one of these, I'll undertake to stab my ambition with my own steel pen. (Alas! how many a man has done that under no provocation whatever !) Therefore let us ascend Brierly Hill, and take in, in one view, the whole village of that name, and especially Brierly House, over there amongst the trees, and this more modest residence by the brookside which is still called the Mill, though there is nothing of the mill about it, save the foundations of the original edifice. Very quiet and self-contained those two houses are; not a soul is seen moving about the broad grounds of the one, or the tidy little brook-fringed lawn and peaceful orchard of the other. Peaceful? What else? It is such a scene as this that Imagination, which compasses all things, flies to for peace, when Endeavour is thwarted, and Hope is broken on the wheel, and Love returns, alone, and starved, and weary of wing, to die in the nest it was born in. See the shadow of the rooks skimming over the fields, as the birds fly slowly overhead toward the domiciliary elms. “Cheep, cheep!" cry the grasshoppers, hopping out of those shadows superstitiously. “Hup! hup!” That is the far-away voice of Farmer Twigg's boy, driving the cattle home across the downs lazily. Lazily blow the summer airs ; lazily wave the many boughs; and on the topmost leaves the sunshine dozes lazily. It is all quiet here where we stand, like the quiet of my love, dreaming. It is quiet down there, amongst the meadows, like the quiet of an infant, sleeping. It is quiet over yonder, on the downs, like the quiet of the evening star, watching. And how quiet it is about Brierly House, and about the Mill!
And about you, Mademoiselle the Reader-an exquisite quiet, as you view these scenes so charming. The calm of the afternoon landscape embraces you too, and the ribbons in your pretty bonnet stir only as the leaves do, with the exterior life of the atmosphere. But do you feel no stir within ? And as to Brierly House and the Mill, I wonder what stir of strong life and contending thought may be within them, for all the peace they show!
Well, all seems fair enough within too. Here, in one, you may behold two ladies; and one is young and the other is not, and both wear all the repose which ages of nothing to do and generations of gentle ancestry have bred in them; to say nothing of other circumstances, other qualities, which my chief mate insists upon rather savagely. But then he never respected the aristocracy, and I always did. These are very high people indeed. It is true the gentleman of the house is only a baronet ; but that is his smallest title to consideration. He really belongs to a family ennobled, for some service which must have been very great—there is so much mystery about it—by that excellent monarch, King James I. Some people affect to laugh at an ancestry thus ennobled ; but I say, let those laugh who win. The Grovellys always maintained the Stuart traditions-not the fighting ones, but those of a later dater—the gay and gallant ones, the rollicking, good hard-drinking, swearing, courtly ones; which, so far from degenerating after the time of Charles II., culminated in the later days of Queen Anne. At that period the family was rather unfortunate. One member of it fought three duels—two in a tavern and one in Fleet-street, each time killing his man. This made him many enemies. To avoid such a result, another Grovelly ran away when he was challenged (concerning something he had said of Lady F, a paltry business to fight about !), and had his nose slit in consequence, by two ruffians in the garb of private soldiers, in Covent Garden. A third is suspected of having died in an hospital.
By this time the family had established a respectable branch, which immediately afterwards threw off a foolish branch ; so that people said one half the family made the penitence, while the other half had the punishment. But, for my part, I never could discover the difference between them; and therefore have little hesitation in avowing that the present proprietor is of the foolish Grovellysthe head of that branch, in fact. An old man, late married, and now sixty-eight. Lives alone in the west corner of the house—there in those tower-like chambers and has never been out of them for six years. The ladies dine with him on three days a week, when he exerts himself to the utmost to be polite, and succeeds in a measure which no able-bodied gentleman of this generation is equal to-speaking of the fatigue alone. For the rest of his time, Sir Thomas reads all the new works on all the thirteen diseases he believes himself subject to ; a change in the