« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
much of interest for its inmates ; nor was the feeling by any means lessened by my transient view of the graceful being whom I had just seen, and whose figure accorded as strikingly with the chaste and simple decorations of the place, as it would ill have harmonized with the pristine rudeness of the peasant's dwelling. And here let no one smile at the inquisitive spirit which moved me; the indulgence of my curiosity is that one of the privileges of my idle retirement upon which I set the greatest value and who would, at any age, wish for the pow. er of regarding the lovely with indifference? I was not slow in in. quiring among the neighbouring cottagers, and of my own acquaintances in the vicinity, the name and condition of the inhabitants of a house which had so much captivated my imagination ; but I could collect very scanty information on the subject. All that was known I learnt, and it amounted only to this : that seven or eight years prior to the period at which I had visited the spot, the farm-house in question had been taken without its land, by the present occupant; it then wore a very different aspect from the neatness which had since distinguished it; and the sin, gular circumstance, that such a residence should be chosen by an individual, who, under the extreme plainness of his apparel, could not conceal that he was a gentleman, was so fertile in mystery, and excited so much suspicion, that the stranger only succeeded in convincing the farmer who was to be his landlord, that he was in earnest in his proposal of tenanting it, by paying down in advance the small amount of his first year's rent. He soon took possession of his bargain, with his family and a single servant, and, after trial, procured a lease of the house. It was apparent that he and his wife had no wish for society; and even their residence was scarcely known in the neighbourhood, until, in the second year after their arrival, the doctor of the village, who is, ex officio, a retailer of small talk, and was my principal informant, was upon some occasion called in to attend the family. He entertain. ed no doubt that they were people who had mingled in good society ; for they knew the proper amount of a fee, and the most delicate mode of tendering it, but his attempts to be on terms of good acquaintance. ship with them, had been met by a cold civility, which could not be mistaken. They had converted the interior of the farm-house into a picture of comfort, but their household was still composed of but one female domestic ; in short, the doctor could only conclude that they were very proud, poor, and genteel. I longed to be acquainted with these people: to be poor, and have gentility to maintain, is a case usually too familiar to a military man ; to be proud, is the only shield which can guard the poverty of a gentleman from being trampled into the dust. I longed to know them; for I could appreciate the feelings that kept them aloof from observation, but I would not for the world intrude upon their privacy.
An accident obtained for me that introduction which I might other. wise have despaired of receiving, and to it have I been indebted for some of the happiest hours that I have known in the six years of my retirement. I had found, that near the path leading to the house, was another, which, without running so near to it as to render the passage of individuals at all annoying to the family, afforded a view
of the cottage, with an occasional picturesque opening of other scenery. It became among my favourite strolls ; and I was one evening carelessly pursuing it, when I was overtaken by a heavy thunder shower. I had just compounded with my indolence for a complete soaking, with three or four days of fying rheumatism, and was leisurely proceeding at my usual pace, when I was passed by a gentleman, who, seeing my plight, offered me a share of his umbrella, and, until the shower should be over, the shelter of his roof, from which he said we were only distant a few minutes' walk. I accepted the proffered kindness, and entered with him the porch of the cottage of which I have been speaking. His politeness would not suffer me to halt at his threshold, and he introduced me into the room, where sat the lady whom I had seen on the lawn, with three of her children about her. She rose at our entrance, and received me with easy attention ; had a smile of affectionate welcome for her husband, and solicitude for both of us, lest we should have suffered from the weather. But we had not; and, as the rain still fell heavily, and there was no departing, we soon got into cheerful conversation. If I had before been struck with the exterior of the house, how much more was I now gratified with the appearance of every thing within it. It is inconceivable what miracles had been done by tasteful judgment, and apparently with little cost, in the low dark rooms of the farm house. The unpapered walls of that wherein we sat, had borrowed elegance from the beautiful execution of a border of leaves and flowers, which was painted along them; and book-shelves neatly suspended by ribbons, and filled with a very small but well-chosen collection, gave the air of intellectual cultivation, which books, as the sure in. dication of habits and tastes, never fail to bestow upon an apartment. In one corner stood a piano; in another, a table, with materials for drawing, sketches, &c. ; while the finished productions of the same hand, which were plainly framed, and broke at intervals the sameness of the colouring of the room, afforded proof of no mediocrity of talent. But the charms of the whole were in the living picture before me. My host and his wife were yet in the prime of their days. His features were not handsome, nor did he enjoy any particular advantages of person, but spirit and mind were beaming in his countenance, and the calm polished dignity of his manner, spoke the man who had moved much and early in the world. The impression which a moment had given me of his wife, was confirmed as I had a better opportunity of forming a judgment of her. Nature had moulded her in loveliness, and she was now precisely at that age when a woman is most charming, and at which the maturity of wit and intellect is blended with the undiminished lustre of younger years. They had a blooming family around them; and there was enjoyment and gaiety in the very sight of the three little laughing faces which crowded about my knee, as soon as it was found that I had genius for play.
When I had sat about half an hour, which passed like five minutes, I had the mortification of seeing that the rain had terminated, and was succeeded by the most provoking sunshine in the world. I of course rose to depart, and uttered my thanks and apologies for the intrusion, as becomes a man upon such occasions; but my new acquaintance would not hear of my going. I would surely take my tea with them before my walk home of between two and three miles; for I had casually mentioned who I was, and the place of my residence. I needed little intreaty to remain, and the evening passed delightfully. In the course of conversation, my entertainers spoke of the metropolis, of fashionable life, and of characters of notoriety, with perfect familiarity, but not a syllable fell which bore relation to themselves, or their own share in scenes in which they were evidently so well versed. The husband was a chess-player; and when his little prattlers were summoned to bed, and their mother apologised for the necessity of leaving us for å few minutes, he challenged me to my favourite amusement. We fought long and earnestly, and I was surprised and ashamed when, on rising from the game, I observed the lateness of the hour. I set off on my return, but not before I had yielded my promise of renewing the con. test on an early day. The thunder-storm to which I stood obliged for the cheerfulness of the evening, had been followed by all the deep and silent calm of a summer's night, and a splendid moon was riding high and full in the vault of heaven, as I slowly paced my way homeward, with that tranquillity of spirit which the pleasing society that I had just quitted, and the stillness of the hour, were so well fitted to produce. Havresack had not been altogether easy at my absence; but he was somewhat reassured when I appeared, and left me for the night, with only a doubt whether, though I had escaped the effects of the rain, the night air had not been quite as dangerous an exposure to the attacks of my in. veterate foethe rheumatism. “Your honour,” said he, “ might as well be at the old work of piquet and bivouac again, as making these marches by moonlight.”
Notwithstanding honest Jonathan's fears for my health, I had finished a late breakfast on the following morning without the slightest symptoms of the enemy, when my factotum announced 66. a strange gentleman,” and, to my surprise and gratification, in walked my antagonist at chess of the preceding evening. He was afraid, he said, that from the unsociable character which they must bear in the vicinity, I might be tardy in prosecuting an acquaintance to which chance appeared to have led, contrary to their general wish of avoiding society ; and he had therefore called to convince me that both he and his wife were really desirous of knowing more of me; if, indeed, he added, I could feel any pleasure in the sameness of visits where I should meet with none but themselves. When people are mentally determined to be acquainted, it is the easiest thing in the world to become so. My evenings were more frequently passed under the roof of my new friends than at home; but I had now and then also the privilege of doing the honours of my own cottage to them. As my intimacy with Mr Templeton increased, and ripened into friendship and confidence, I remained no longer in ignorance of the circumstances which had buried him and his amiable partner in their present solitude. They were principally told by himself ; but I shall relate them as briefly as possible, without following the order in which they were communicated to me.*
Vide “ TEMPLETON,” our next extract.
- " By como especial care
IT was early the misfortune of Frederick Templeton to be placed in the uncontrolled possession of wealth. At the age of eighteen, with no guide but his own unsubdued passions, and no warning voice to guard him from error, or protect his inexperience from the designing, he was launched upon the world with a host of temptations in his path, and without a single check upon the boundless indulgence of every inclination which might rise with the caprice of the moment. He was an only son, had lost his mother before he could know her value, and was first the petted boy, and then the favourite companion of his father. Frederick had even in childhood given indications of no common abilities; and, despite of the pernicious tendency of the unli. mited fondness of his parent, shone as a schoolboy with that distinction of talent which, at the moment, is, perhaps of all others, the most delightful source of gratification to a father ; because it gives room for confident anticipation of future eminence, and excludes the reflection that not one blossom in a hundred may mature into fruit.
Frederick had passed to the university, and just gathered the first earnest of academical honours, when a rapid and sudden illness carried his father to the grave. The catastrophe was so unlooked for, that there had been time neither for a will, nor the appointment of guardians ; and, after the first violent burst of grief had expended itself, the youth found that he was the unrestrained master of a very considerable fortune. While his father lived, Frederick had evinced a pride and satisfaction in meriting his praises, which had counteracted the evils of education ; and many a boyish irregularity was prevented, from consideration of the pain which it might occasion to his parental solicitude : but, with the loss of his influence, every excitement to honourable exertion, every bar against indolence and consequent dissipation, seemed at once to have forsaken him. He quitted the university and the business of preparation for the bar, and plunged headlong and deeply into the revels of fashionable life. The transition however, was not immediately effected, without some inward upbraidings, and many endeavours at self-persuasion,—while pleasure was really his sole object--that he could prosecute his general studies with more advantage in the quiet of his own residence, than with the interruptions to which he was liable from his acquaintances at college ; and that it was useless to waste his time in qualifying himself for a profession of which he was independ. ent, which shackled the mind, and was incompatible with elegant intellectual acquirements, and where there were so many hungry adventurers to decrease the prospect of success.
The fallacy of all this was shortly exposed : the “ study,” which was fitted up with much pomp of intention, was that among his rooms which he entered most rarely ; and one of his contemporaries, who had original. ly given less promise of talent than himself, had borne away the laurel of classical honours at the university, and was yet able to display much dry sound law, and professional tact, in his first speech at the bar, which was made on the very same day that Frederick lost three thousand pounds at Ascot. But long before this circumstance occurred, Frederick had gained time to reconcile himself in a great degree to the unworthi. ness of the course which he was pursuing, and he felt no more than the twinge of a moment, when he learnt the favourable career of his old school-fellow Holton. Every hour saw some diminution of his patrimony, and brought some cause for future repentance. The profu. sion and waste of an extravagant establishment, and a train of unprincipled servants, were assisted by his losses on the turf ; to which he had addicted himself, not because it agreed with his tastes, but merely that it gave additional eclat to the brilliant outset of a man of ton. He was fast approaching towards the period at which he was to reap all the fruits of his imprudence ; but it was decreed, that the pangs of remorse which he was to suffer should be aggravated by the reflection, that he had involved an innocent being in the same abyss of poverty with himself.
However he might labour to mar her work, Nature had designed Frederick Templeton for better things than the mere heartless, despicable creature of fashion; and, before he had yet imbibed the fulness of that utter, remorseless selfishness, which is the never-failing characteristic of the man of pleasure, he had conceived an ardent attachment for one of the most amiable of her sex. Louisa Somers, was, like Templeton, an only child, an orphan, and born to the enjoyment of a large fortune. Her father left her under the guardianship of a maternal uncle, who had been the warm and intimate friend of the elder Mr Templeton, and now beheld with concern the vortex of dissipation in which his son was entangled. To divert the young man, if possible, in some measure from worse occupations, he had been always earnest and pressing in his invitations to him to spend a portion of the year at his residence in the country, and there Frederick had frequent opportunities of meeting with Louisa. They had, indeed, as children, been playfellows, and a strong and mutual passion had grown up with their years. Every time after Frederick had visited at her uncle's, he returned to the metropolis with resolutions of amendment, which were destined to be as regularly stifled in the contagion of the society from which he had not strength to extricate himself.
Yet they were no feeble attractions which should for ever have wean