« AnteriorContinuar »
It was a blank cold statement of the fact. Yet what could he say? What right had he to say more? He had put it plainly; partly understanding that she would not be able to comprehend the truth unless it came to her in all its nakedness; partly conscious that his words must strike her at first with incredulous wonder. He did cot read again what he had written; he dared not look again upon the letter which sealed his fate; but he rang the bell and gare it at once to the servant. "I want this to be taken to the White House," he said; "not immediately; it will be time enough when the letters go to the evening post."
He could not keep the letter in his sight for fear that he might be tempted to recall it, yet something impelled him to leave Christina a few hours more of unconscious happiness, and made him shrink from bringing nearer, by however short; a time, the possibility of a meeting.
Mr. North had passed a restless night; he was no better, but rather worse, in the morning, and his daughter-in-law in alarm sent for Mrs. Oswestry and for the doctor. The latter could only reiterate his opinion that there was nothing immediate to be apprehended, but the old man was growing weaker, and the coming winter would probably be his last. As for Mrs. Oswestry, she was calm and composed under all circumstances; but she shared in Mrs. North's fears, and, after visiting her father, came to consult with her as to the best means of softeuing and brightening the last months of his life. Christina coming into the room an hour later found them still in close consultation, and wondered vaguely what they could find to talk about for so long together.
;'But do you think that he would see her if she came V" Mrs. North was saying; "it is a long journey, and it would be hard upon her to take it for nothing. Ho has never mentioned her name for years, to my knowledge."
"But I have spoken of her to him," said Mrs. Oswestry; "I do not say that he has shown any interest, but at least he has borne it patiently, and I feel if she were here"
"Of whom are you talking?" asked Christina. "Is it a secret? Shall I go away?"
"No, it is no secret — at least not now," said Mrs. Oswestry; "we were talking of my sister, your aunt Charlotte."
"But I never knew I had another aunt,"
exclaimed Christina, looking from one to another in her astonishment.
Perhaps not; as your mother says, her name was never mentioned here, and she must have married when you were quite a little girl, though she is the youngest of us all."
"And you always were so indiscreet, Christina," interposed her mother; "I never knew what you might say, or what wild fancies you might take into your head. Your grandfather did not wish to speak of her, and you were never likely to see her, so there was no use in telling you about it."
"But why was she not to be spoken of?"
"She made a marriage your grandfather did not approve," said Mrs. Oswestry; "she married an Italian, and your grandfather had always such an objection to foreigners. It happened whilst she was payiug a visit away from home, und your grandfather would never be persuaded to see him or give his consent to the marriage. Lotty Would have her own way; there was no objection to the man except his nation; he had good birth though he was not a noble; and in a pecuniary point of view it was a very good match. She waited until she was one-and-twenty, and then she went away and was married from a mutual friend's house. I was the only one of our family there, and your grandfather never forgave her."
"But does she write V Where does she live? When is she coming?" cried Christina, becoming interested.
"She has always kept up a correspondence with me. She lives in Florence, where her husband has some business, and there she has brought up her children. She had two children, and lost her only girl two j^ars ago; the boy is about twelve or thirteen, and is still at school. So she says that she could easily manage to be absent from home for a few months, and if my father would receive her she would like to see him again before he dies."
"How strange 1 that I should have an aunt that I have never heard of before!" said Christina: but after all it did not excite her very much, and when Mrs. Oswestry took her leave late in the afternoon, her thoughts were no longer engrossed by the idea of her unknown aunt, but were busying themselves in speculations as to whether Miss Cleasby had heard from her brother that day, and whether she would know when he was coming home.
She had made up her mind that she would go to the Park to see Augusta; but as she turned out of her gate the servant met her with the letter. She took it (as we so often take our death-blows) carelessly, unconsciously, with a word of thanks to Lewis, thinking that it was some note from Miss Cleasby; but as she turned it over in her hands and caught sight of the address, suddenly the colour flushed into her face and a pang of undefined apprehension shot through her. It was unreasonable, it was absurd; there was in truth nothing to make her afraid—only that Walter must be at the Park; and if he were at the Park, why had he not come to her? Some accident must have happened; some disaster must have befallen him.
"Was that the man from the Park?" said Mrs. North, meeting her in the passage. "Has Miss Cleasby written to you?"
"Yes — no — nothing," said Christina, passing on hastily. It was not until she had reached her room and locked the door that she opened the letter. Her eager eyes glanced all over it, her face flushing and paling as she read, and when she had ended she thrust it from her with a kind of impatience. Once more she read the words, but without their making any distinct impression upon her. She was striving painfully to grasp their meaning, but she could not make it out. She dropped the letter from her hands and gave a low cry of pain and bewilderment.
"I — I dou't understand. What does it mean V" she said aloud, although there was no one to hear or answer. The letter lay unheeded upon the floor; she lay crouched up upon the bed pressing her face upon the pillows, and cried again piteou4y, " I don't know what it means."
And yet in some sort she did understand; she understood with a shrinking dread that a horrible misfortune was hanging over her, although its form was shadowy and undefined. She was afraid again to look upon the words which told her of it; more than half an hour had passed before she took the letter again into her hands. Then at last she understood,— understood what he would do — what he had done already. His creed was not hers; she could not even grasp its articles, nor comprehend their influence upon his actions: his faith was not her faith; yet to his standard she must conform, and by his will she must abide. She sat motionless for a few moments, as if stunned by the blow; and then, as the first incredulous horror grew less, natural resentment
and pride and passion surged up in her heart. She had trusted him, and how had he repaid her trust 1 It was cruel; it was' impossible that all that bad been should come to an end, and yet she felt that it had come to an end already. If he could speak the words which he had spoken — if he could feel what he had felt, there could be no escape and no recall. Such words cannot be forgotten. She could not even understand what it was that he feared; it was he himself who had shaped their fate. All the bitterness would have been taken from the blow if only she could have felt that it had not come from his hand. Oh, why had he done it V
But we cannot in the first shock of sorrow find for long refuse or relief in personal indignation. Walter was right; if she could have shut him out from her heart — if she could have refused to forgive him, it would have been easier for her; but she could not do it. She was still fiercely resisting her fate, but misery had overcome resentment, and love and pity had, towards him, taken the place of every other feeling.
After a time her mother knocked at her door and, on entering, found her still iu her hat and cloak, but busying herself with something upon the dressing-table. She turned her face for a moment towards her mother, and then Mrs. North gave a frightened exclamation, as if she had seen a ghost.
"Christina I What is it? What has happened V" she exclaimed.
"I 1 am rather cold," said
Christina, shivering, and put out her hand to steady herself against the table.
"Your grandfather wanted to see you; but you cannot go to him now," said Mrs. North. "I wish, Christina, you would not 30 and make yourself ill. I am sure that it is bad enough as it is, with your grandfather at death's door, for anything that we know, and your Aunt Margaret so bent upon bringing Lotty over to make things worse, and all the worry about your marriage."
'•I will not go to grandpapa," said Christina, quickly; "I am very tired, and my head aches. I think I will go to bed."
"Do you feel as if you had caught anything'/" asked Mrs. North, anxiously. "There is scarlet fever in the village, Janet tells me, and if you think"
"No, no," said Christina, hastily; "I am not ill, — only tired."
"I wish I knew what it is," said Mrs. North to herself, as she went dxjwnatairs again. "Christina is so unlike herself; she is ill, or something mast have happened. I wish I knew what it is." * She waa not long left in ignorance. Walter Cleasby, following out in his own mind with painful distinctness the course wliich events were taking at the White House, and seeking for any means by which he might lighten Christina's burden, had considered that she might be called upon for explanations, and would have to put into words what she had as yet hardly realized to herself. If he could save her from it, he would. He put little faith in the judgment or forbearance of Christina's mother; but he wrote to her, briefly announcing what had happened, and imploring her to leave Christina this night undisturbed by questions. He acknowledged that he had no longer any right to stand between them; but as a matter of course taking to himself all the blame of what had occurred, begged that he alone might bear the weight of her reproaches.
"As if a mother could leave her child to bear her trouble alone!" Mr*. North said to herself, with some natural indignation; and yet she was not angry because Captain Cleasby, under the circumstances, had chosen to give Christina up. It was in her eyes the only thing wliich he could have done; but as to speaking to her child, she certainly might be allowed to judge for herself. And then she went upstairs and knocked at Christina's door, still holding his letter in herhitnd. Christina was unconscious of everything except her own misery, and it was not until her mother had knocked and called to her two or three times that she rose from her bed and went to open the door, pushing away her loosened hair from her face.
"He has written to me," said Mrs. North. "Oh, my poor child, what can I do for you? It has always been the way with us, but I had begun to hope that it might be better for you; and all seemed so certain; but of course we uever know."
Christina was sitting on the edge of the bed, with her hand clasping the iron rail, and she hardly seemed to hear her mother, but looked at her vacantly with tearless eyes.
"It ia a great misfortune," Mrs. North went on; "I feel it for you very much: but it is better to know the worst. Captain Cleasby is acting rightly, though, you know I never liked him; and if you had been married, you know"
Christina started, and the colour flamed iuto her face.
"Not now, mother," she said; "don't let us talk of it now."
"You never will talk of anything to your mother," said Mrs. North, plaintively. "Any other girl would want a little sympathy; any other girl would be sorry for me too, because I have thought a great deal of your future, Christitfa; and it 13 very hard upon me to have to break it to your grandfather. If you had any natural feeling, Christina, you would like to see what he says to me."
"I don't want to read it," said Christina, pushing away the offered letter; "what can he say?"
"Oh, Christina," said Mrs. North, reproachfully, but with some natural tears; "why are you so rebellious? We must not fight against the troubles which are sent to us; it is fighting against grace1, it is fighting against God." She hardly knew why she said it, poor woman; she had need of help herself and she did not t'eel able to help Christina, but yet she felt instinctively that she was wrong, and the words, though the result of a weak and wavering conviction, were not without their effect.
When Christina was left alone, they reechoed in her heart. Was she indeed fighting against grace — fighting against God? She knew little of any religion but the natural and spontaneous religion of youth. God was good, and the world was beautiful, and she rejoiced in it, and was thankful because she was happy. She had had to struggle, and she had struggled, in her own strength; she had fallen, she had repented, and she had risen again. But now she had entered upon another struggle, in which she felt that her own strength would not be sufficient to her: the waters had gone over her, and she knew that she was sinking; the inevitable was pressing upon her, and she saw no means of escape. And yet she was fighting — fighting, as she had thought, against her fate; thrusting away the cross which had been put upon her and the cup of suffering which she must drink: and as yet she had not thought that she was fighting against God. As the truth made itself manifest to her in the lonely hours of that night, — the most momentous night of her life, in which for the first time she sent up a cry for help, not that she might obtain what she desired, but that she might accept what was given, not that she might do her'own will, but God's, not that the cross might be taken away, but that she might be able to bear it, — so the bitterness was taken from her sorrow by the nearness and the constraining influence of the Divine, and a Lightshined io her darkness, though aa yet she comprehended it not.
From The British Quarterly Review.
A Little girl was one day reading the History of England with her governess, and coming to the statement that Henry I. never laughed again after the deatli of his son, she looked up and said, " What did he do when he was tickled '!" The question was a philosophical one, hut it discovers the youth of the queri.-t. She had not yet grown to an age to appreciate the moral power of wit, and only thought of that cause of laughter which came home to herself. If Henry himself could have heard such a question, it might have brought a smile at least over his troubled features, for there is something irresistibly risible in the thought of anyone daring to tickle a great king.
We have placed at the head of this article the titles of the earliest and latest jest-books, and although the last-issued one is by far the more voluminous of the two, we do not think it will gain in comparison with its predecessor. We must confess to feeling some disappointment in the contents of the "New London Jest-Book," and do not quite understand the reason for its publication. When we saw Mr. Hazlitt's name attached to a collection of "Choice Jests," we expected to find a book somewhat of the character of Mr. Thoms's admirable "Anecdotes and Traditions," published for the Camden Society, in which an attempt would be made to trace the history of the jokes to their sources, and show how they illustrate the manners of the people. Something of this kind we had reason to expect from the editor of the " Shakespeare Jest-Books," but we find nothing to distinguish the new work from the hundreds that have preceded it. Among the faults we have noticed are the following. The oldest jokes are told as if they occurred yesterday, and the same story is variously related in different parts of the book. Some of the jokes also are spoiled: thus the story of the old woman who, while passing a sentry at the time of relieving guard, answered his "Who goes there ?" by calling out, " It's only me, soldier, don't be afeard," is maimed, and the impossible words, "It's I, patrol, don't be
• The Jpsts of Hlerocles.
Tlio N> London JeU-Boolc. Edited by William tuit/w llazlitt.
afraid," are substituted for her natural speech. Dr. Johnson's answer to the lady who played a difficult piece of music to him, that he wished it had been impossible, is here attributed to the friend of a vain but indifferent performer on the violin. Again, the story of Paley and his wellknown joke that the verse "There is a lad here that hath five barley-loaves and two small fishes, but what are these among so many?" would make a good text for a sermon during Pitt's visit to Cambridge, is here said to have been actually preached by a chaplain. Why will compilers continue to make up their books from one another with the introduction of little or no new matter? We venture to say that the memoir of Sydney Smith contains more good wit than is to be found <n all the jest-books put together. Mr. Hazlitt has introduced a few witticisms of Leigh Hunt, Douglas Jerrold, and Sidney Smith, but the major part of his volume is filled with jokes that are as old as the hills.
Hierocles, who lived in the sixth century, collected twenty-one jests under the general title of the Pedants, and in this fossil jest-book we find jokes that have been handed down through succeeding collections, and have become old and familiar friends. Among these ancient jests is the account of the man who for fear of drowning determined not to enter the water until he was master of the art of swimming; of the man who complained that his horse died just as he had taught it to live without food; of the philosopher who carried i stone about with him as a specimen of ilia house; of one who stood before a glass with his eyes shut, to see how he looked when he was asleep; of the man who bought, a crow, to see whether it would live two hundred years; and of one who went into a boat on horseback, because he was in a hurry. Here we find the evernew story of a man who, meeting a friend, asked whether it was he <Jr his brother, who was buried; and the blundering excuse of the person who, not having attended to the request of a friend, said when he met him, " I am sorry I never received the letter which you wrote to me about the books." The Rev. Mr. Hartley, of Philadelphia, must, we should imagine, lave come fresh from the perusal of Hierocles when he forwarded to M. Thiers last year one of the original bricks of Independence Hall in that city, " with the earn;st prayer that the legislators of beautiful France may derive from it such an inspiration as .elinll lead them to erect a republic, whose dignity, justice, and purity shall be the admiration of our age, and which shall prove a model for other nations in securing the rights and liberties of their people."
We are unable to understand why it is that some one has not systematized our treasures of wit, and given life and form to bare jests, making them show us somewhat of the inner life of man, and of his characteristic manners and feelings. Dean Ramsay has collected a large number of stories of Scotch character, and arranged them so as to illustrate the past and passing manners of his country. In consequence his book has a double use, for it is valuable historically considered, and is also by far the best jest-book in the language.
Most writers seem to consider the collecting of jests as a derogatory office ; and doubtless it is so, when the work is undertaken as it usually is; but surely we need not be ashamed to do what was done by Julius Caesar, Tacitus, and Lord Bacon. There are few greater mistakes than the supposition that wit is frivolous. Most great men, even if not witty themselves, have been anxious to listen to that which could break the thread of their serious thoughts; have been eager to hear and see whatever would make them laugh. Philip of Macedon, and Sylla, the general of the Romans, were both fond of jokes; and a priest •writing of the last illness of Queen Elizabeth says," Slie cannot attend to any discourse of Government and State, but delighteth to hear some of the Hundred Merry Tales, and such like, and to such is very attentive." We know that neither of these was a frivolous person. Proverbs have been generally recognized as affording a wide field of illustration in the study of human nature, but jests have been too little regarded in the same study, yet much may be learnt of the manners of a people from the study of its jokes.
We shall endeavour in the space at our disposal to give a hasty glance at some of the chief divisions of Wit and Humour, illustrating them with such jests as come to hand. Many of these will be old, but if they elucidate the subject our readers will perhaps not object to see their old friends again. Moreover, new jokes are few, and their novelty is often discovered to consist merely of the new dress in which they have been clothed.
The two words Wit and Humour bring up before our mind's eye crowding re- j miniscences of the good things we' have heard or read — recollections that range from the delicate wit of the poet, to the wretched torture of some unfortu
nate word; from the quiet twinkle of the eye, to " laughter holding both his sides." We need not waste much time in the consideration of the received definitions of the philosophers, for they are either too comprehensive or too contracted. Some would include much that is not, and others would exclude much that is, wit. Pope commits himself to the idea that —
"True wit is nature to advantage drest, Oft thought before, but ne'er so well expregt;"
which he clearly borrowed from Dryden, who defines wit to be " a propriety of words and thoughts adapted to the subject." But these definitions are too vague and general, for they would include all good writing. Locke describes wit as '• lying mostly in the assemblage of ideas, and putting those together with quickness and variety, wherein can be found any resemblance or congruity, whereby to make up pleasant pictures and agreeable visions in the fancy." Addison adds to this definition, that delight and surprise are necessary to make wit, and illustrates it thus: — When a lover tells us that the bosom of his mistress is as white as snow, the simile is not witty, but it becomes so when he adds that it is also as cold. Dr. Johnson defines wit as " a combination of dissimilar images, or discovery of occult resemblances in things apparently unlike;" and Dr. Campbell, in the " Philosophy of Rhetorick." as "that which excites agreeable surprise in the mind by a strange assemblage of related images presented to it." There is much wit, however, which excites anything but agreeable surprise. Ridicule is a very important branch of wit, yet the person ridiculed is little likely to be filled with agreeable surprise. Both Barrow and Cowley attempted to define wit, and ended by describing and illustrating it. Cowley says : —
"Tell me, oh tell, what kind of thing is wit,
Laughter is sometimes emotional, and sometimes only mechanical; so that those who tell us that what produces laughter is wit, forget that to carry out their view we should oe led to the conclusion that tickling is witty. Lord Chesterfield would also have to withdraw his claim to the rank of a wit, for he said that since he had had the full use of his reason nobody had ever heard him laugh, and he affirmed that true wit never made anybody laugh.