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ENCAMPMENT AT CLADICH. TIME-Lleren, A.M.
SCENE— The Portal of the Parilion.
BULLER. Yet I cannot help telling you to your face, sir, that you are one of the finest-looking old men
| NoRTH. Elderly gentlemen, if you please, sir.
BULLER. In Britain, in Europe, in the World. I am perfectly serious, sir. You are.
NORTH. You needed not to say you were perfectly serious ; for I suffer no man to be ironical on Me, Mr Buller. I am.
BULLER. Such a change since we came to Cladich! Seward was equally shocked, with myself, at your looks on board the Steamer. So lean—so bent-So sallow-50 haggard-in a word-so aged!
NORTH. Were you shocked, Seward?
SEWARD. Buller has such a blunt way with him that he often makes me blush. I was not shocked, my dear sir, but I was affected.
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 soiréesbut 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-80 fresh of colour, too, sir, that the irradiation is at times ruddy—and without losing an atom of expression, the conntenance 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 itand 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
So have we. And 'tis well for us. Without faults we should be unlove. able.
SEWARD. In affection I spake.
NORTU. 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-TAE 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 dismalhideous-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 un worded 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