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This earth was not my native home,
In sparry grot or marble cave.
There was the region of my birth;
My hours flew by with sunny glee:
But fortune has redressed the wrong
I haste to quit th' unkindly strand.
Of what I lose in thee and thine.
My children! there indeed I feel
From yonder rock, at evening hour,
When soft the mermaid's music rings,
VOL. XC.-NO. DXLIX.
CHAPTER LV.-IN WHICH SOME OF THE CHARACTERS ARE WITHDRAWN.
As I had anticipated, I did not find Mr Osborne inexorable. Although he had deemed it his duty to administer a severe rebuke to his nephew, and was really provoked by the liberty which had been taken with his paper, he was by no means insensible to the merits of the joke. In fact, as we walked through the gardens, he chuckled over the narrative which I gave him, as nearly as possible in the language of Faunce, with a zest which convinced me that, in his younger days, he would have thought it anything but a sin to aid in mystifying the public. Drawing from the resources of his memory, he instanced many cases in which the press, though deviating from the truth, had aided the national cause; and as those revelations were not spiced by any sprinkling of censure, it was evident to me that my old friend and employer saw no great harm in stretching a point when party considerations rendered such elasticity advisable.
But though willing enough to receive Faunce once more into favour, I could see that he was still reluctant to give his consent to an immediate marriage. That was not, I apprehend, a feeling peculiar to himself, but one which influences more or less the conduct of all who find themselves in the like position. The marriage of a sole daughter, even though the match may be altogether unexceptionable, is a great trial to a fond father, partaking almost of the nature of a sacrifice. It involves the withdrawal from his care and presence of the one object upon whom his dearest affections are centred-the abstraction of the roseate light that makes the even
ing of life so beautiful, and compensates for the loss of the more fervid glories and dazzling glare of its meridian. In regard to their domestic arrangements, old men are intensely conservative. Though aware that changes are inevitable, they are invariably desirous to postpone them to the last possible moment; and they never seem to suspect that, in doing so, they are far more influenced by selfish motives than by regard for the happiness of their children.
I had, however, an important advantage in pleading Attie's cause. Mr Osborne had admitted that he now looked upon the marriage as a settled thing, having ascertained that the affections of his daughter were very deeply engaged; and that even had he been inclined personally to discourage Faunce's pretensions, he did not consider himself entitled to interpose a negative. The way being thus far cleared, I was able to insist with more effect upon the argument, that it really was injudicious, to say the least of it, to keep Faunce in a state of suspense which, considering his want of occupation, might draw him into further irregularities.
"It is a maxim of your own, sir," I said, "that when a man has once made up his mind to do anything, the sooner he goes through with it the better. I am sure you cannot approve of long engagements, such as are often made by young people whose circumstances render immediate matrimony out of the question. I have known many instances of the kind, and I am sorry to say that, in most of them, the consequence has been that the men have continued to live as if no
engagement had taken place, denying themselves no indulgence, and submitting to no restraint. Such conduct deserves execration, but it is so common that we cannot overlook it as a fact; and society, judging in such matters according to the fantastic rule of its own code of morals, tolerates in men so situated a degree of licence which it does not accord to the husband. Nay, it even recognises a distinction between an engagement proper and an engagement indefinite, regarding the latter as more or less partaking of the character of a contingency."
Nay, that's true enough," replied Mr Osborne. "I am quite as much opposed to long engagements as you can be, Sinclair; and I see the drift of your argument perfectly. You may be sure that I have thought over the subject in all its bearings; and if I have not been able to make up my mind, it is because the future welfare of my own dear child is more precious to me than anything under heaven. Now don't say anything more about it. Tell Attie that he may come here as usual; on the condition, however, that he is to bridle his inventive faculties, avoid the company of exalted personages, and abstain from pilgrimages to Thames Ditton."
"I think I can answer for his abstinence," said I. "And now, Mr Osborne, in relation to my own affairs-I have but to thank you most cordially for the uniform kindness you have shown to me throughout our brief connection."
"You are under no obligation to me, my dear lad!” replied Osborne. "I was on the look-out for a man to do a certain kind of work when accident threw you in my way. I believed you were capable of doing it, and that it would be a much better occupation for you-more creditable and more lucrativethan a desk in some public office, which is all you could have aspired to, had Sir George Smoothly really felt for you the interest he professed. But he is an arrant humbug! That conviction, I am glad
to know, is now entertained by his constituents; and at the next general election he will be bowled down like a nine-pin, and vanish from the political world. Mark my wordsthe reign of plausibility is wellnigh over! Hypocritical government is abhorrent to the downright English instinct that loathes and repudiates imposture."
"At least, sir, you deserve my thanks for having opened my eyes to the true character of the man."
"Oh, you would have made that discovery fast enough without any assistance from me! But I am really sorry to lose you, Sinclair. I feel very much as a Roman lanista might have done in parting with a pet gladiator."
"I trust that I bear my sword from the arena without dishonour." "Unquestionably; though you have no scars to display as the tokens of your prowess. But you will pardon me for making one observation. When we last met, I understood you to say that, notwithstanding your accession of fortune, you had no thoughts of relinquishing your engagement. That seemed to me a very wise resolution; but it appears that you have since altered your mind. Now, I don't want to press you for your reasons-in fact, have no right to do so-but it would be a satisfaction to me to feel assured that in making the change you have maturely considered whether it is likely to prove conducive to your happiness. I say this, because if you entertain literary aspirations of a more ambitious kind, it may be in my power to offer you some assistance."
"Many thanks, Mr Osborne. But, without pledging myself to perpetual abstinence, I have done with practical literature for the present. The truth is, that for some time past I have been so much engrossed by matters of a personal nature, that I cannot give that undivided attention to journalism which you have a right to require. It is my intention soon to return to Scotland; but more than this, under
existing circumstances, I cannot with propriety divulge."
"You have said quite enough, Sinclair, to satisfy me," replied Mr Osborne. "Well, don't forget, at any rate, to send me cards. What! -blushing? Nay, nay, my good boy, you must forgive the old gentleman his joke, more especially as you have just been asking his indulgence for one of a more serious description! Quite right-marry and retire! It is amazing with what ardour a man returns to work after two years of a cottage and honeysuckles! But I hear the gong for lunch. Let us pledge each other— not, I hope, for the last time—in a glass of particular Madeira."
As I cannot lay claim to the privilege of the novelist or dramatic author, who usually preserve intact their staff of characters to the last, even though their function has been exhausted, in order that they may appear in the grand tableau with which the performance concludes, I shall now ask the reader to dispense with the further attendance of Mr Osborne and of Attie Faunce. It is not my duty to chronicle the nuptials that took place some two months afterwards, Attie having by that time completely re-established himself in the favour of his uncle; still less to be communicative as to the particulars of his subsequent career. Attie Faunce is no figment, but a gentleman of real flesh and blood, though he must be sought for in the columns of the Directory under a different name; and heaven forbid that I should interfere with the publication of his autobiography, if he has the courage and perseverance to commit his memorabilia to paper!
But good, dear, kind Mr Osborne -my early friend and patron-of him at least I may be permitted to say a final word. In the fulness of his years, but before the sturdy frame was bowed by decrepitude or the acute intellect impaired, he was taken to his rest; and though the phantom of Death is so familiar to us that the stroke of his dart,
when we see it fall, causes but a momentary shudder, and the affliction that we feel for the loss of our departed friends is softened into a gentle memory ere yet the first daisies have withered on their graves their images, engraved on our hearts, are preserved from oblivion, until we likewise receive the summons to pass from time into eternity. And, indeed, Mr Osborne was a man not likely to be forgotten by any who had passed even a single hour in his company; for he possessed, in a remarkable degree, the faculty of discerning motives, of separating the true from the factitious, and of detecting hypocrisy, no matter how artfully disguised. Yet this singular power did not, as might have been the case with an inferior nature, engender a suspicious habit. To the man in whom he had once reposed his trust, he was as open as day; but he trusted not on the strength of mere asseveration alone. Plausibility, especially of that kind which it seems to be the fashion for the modern race of statesmen to assume, he regarded with extreme abhorrence,-maintaining always that a breach of good faith, either with the public or with a political party, was the most serious crime that a Minister could commit, and certain in the long-run to lead to his degradation and disgrace. Applying the same principle to the transactions of private life, he deplored the mad precipitation with which mercantile affairs are now too commonly conducted, the rash speculations fostered by an inordinate desire for gain, and the consequent decay of that high feeling of integrity which was once the proud characteristic of the British merchant. Belonging, and proud to belong, to the middle class of society, he was almost nervously jealous lest the prevalent tone of its morals should become deteriorated or corrupted; for, though honouring the aristocracy as an institution, he was fully impressed with the conviction that the stability of the empire must for the future depend upon
the prudence, wisdom, and temperance of that mighty untitled order, the varied interests of which are represented in the House of Commons. Therefore he dreaded, more perhaps than anything else, the possible spread of democracy, which he ever maintained to be far more hostile and destructive to the wellbeing of a nation than the existence of feudal privileges, or the exercise of irresponsible power; and he held
that there could be no worse enemy to the commonwealth than the man who, for party considerations or for the sake of gratifying his own wretched ambition, tampered with the constitution of his country.
Farewell, old friend! Many there are around me yet whom I love, respect, and honour; but never have I known a kinder heart or a wiser head than thine!
CHAPTER LVI.-LUMLEY'S AMATORY EXPERIENCES. After what had taken place, I felt embarrassed at the thought of meeting Lumley; for although no further explanations were now required, or indeed were likely to be made, we stood towards each other in rather an anomalous position. After giving due weight to all that Carlton had urged regarding the generosity and so forth that had been exhibited by our mutual friend, I could not account for his extreme facility in giving way, so soon as he ascertained that there was a rival in the field.
"Surely," thought I," this man's love, if he really did entertain such a feeling, must have been of the weakest and most evanescent kind, else he never would have foregone the splendid advantages which his position and fortune secured to him, without at least hazarding a refusal!" and I began, in spite of myself, to entertain a suspicion that, throughout the whole affair, Lumley had been actuated rather by caprice than by any consistent motive.
I now know that I was wrong in thinking so, but lovers seldom reason calmly. I did not reflect that Lumley, by abstaining from paying his addresses to Mary Beaton while she was universally reputed to be an heiress, had in some measure lessened his right to advance a subsequent claim. At all events he had lost an opportunity; for a proposal now would have been construed by the malicious world into an act of chivalrous condescension,
creditable perhaps to the gentleman, but not very flattering to the lady. Then again I committed a serious error in estimating the nature of Lumley's attachment by the vehemence of my own. He was an older man than I was, had seen much more of the world, and had.outlived the period when passion is at its highest flow. Advancing years generate a philosophic habit even where the affections are concerned. Pericles may love well and faithfully, but he loves not with the ardour of Alcibiades; for he has ceased to be a dreamer and an enthusiast, and he will not permit one sole engrossing thought to make a monopoly of his mind. I say not that the passion of Alcibiades is to be preferred to the constancy of Pericles. Far from it! But Pericles could resign without a struggle what Alcibiades would risk his life to obtain.
Heaven forbid that I should liken myself in any way to the curled son of Clinias," who, with all his energy and accomplishments, was anything but a reputable character! Neither is it within the compass of ingenuity to construct even a tolerable parallelism between Lumley the insouciant, and Pericles the wise administrator. All I mean to say is, that the experienced senior feels, thinks, and acts differently from the more impulsive junior, and is capable of making sacrifices which to the other seem absolutely impossible.