Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

OR

Monthly Journal of Fashion.

No. 100.]

LONDON, APRIL 1, 1839.

[Vol. 9.

FAMILY PORTRAIT.

GOOD SIR WALTER.

“ I have been looking," said I to Mr. St. John, “ with great delight, at the picture of a middle-aged gentleman, of about the date, and nearly in the costume, of 'Squire Western-but, judging from physiognomy, as unlike that worthy in other respects as can well be conceived. The utmost good humour and single-mindedness pervades his whole countenance.

He has the most benevolent eye possible, and the merriest mouth, ready alike to imbibe a bumper, or to utter a joke. Who is the worthy baronet ? for I am sure he was the head of the house of his day, he looks so like a man of lands and beeves."

There is no mistaking which picture you mean,” answered St. John. “ It is that of one who is called now by tradition, as he was always most deservedly during his life'Good Sir Walter. He was the most popular man in the country, the favourite companion of his equals, and the beloved benefactor of the poor. He was, indeed, as you have surmised, most single-hearted and kind-natured ; but try your physiognomical skill a little farther, and see whether you can discover in what fashion he figures in the pen-andink portrait I have drawn of him."

“Come to the gallery, then, that I may look at him again."

We went, accordingly—and I placed myself in a due attitude of investigation before the excellent gentleman's picture. The hair was a little thin on the brow, and in the mildness of the eye, upon looking very minutely, I every now and then thought I traced a slight expression of softer feeling; and yet the general aspect of the countenance collectively was happy, even to the very English quality, heartiness : while its bland, as well as frank, good humour prevented it from being, in the least, coarse.

“I am rather puzzled,” I said, turning to St. John—"I should take him to have been a man most benevolent in his nature, lively and social in his habits, and of a strong affection towards his family, and extreme enjoyment of his home."

“All that is perfectly true--but still you do not in the least divine the nature of the tale I am about to give you. And, indeed, I do not wonder : you have read all that appearance gives—but a man's biography is not always written on his brow. What think you of good Sir Walter being the hero of one of the daintiest love-stories in my whole collection ?"

“Truly, I should not have guessed it: for though I doubt not he loved strongly, as well as fondly and truly, yet I should have taken him to have married a daughter of some old friendly family, he being seven, and she one, and twenty -and to have then passed his life in the midst of a happy family, increasing in number and in size every year.”

“ You are quite out," answered St. John-“but, as I said before, I do not wonder at it. I will send you up my manuscript, as soon as I get home; and I think you will

acknowledge that it well deserves the name of a love-story. and that there is no denying that Sir Walter is its hero.”

THE STORY OF GOOD SIR WALTER. Sir Walter Meynell was born in the last year of the seventeenth century, and was an only son, although he had several sisters. He went through the education which was then becoming fixed as the course proper for the Meynells, and which, in fact, has descended as regularly as the familyplate ever since. Eton, Oxford, and the Grand Tour formed this worthy system of training, which was continued unremittingly till the French revolution, together with one or two other slight changes that it wrought, took away from the rising Meynell of the day the power of travelling with a bear-leader through the principal parts of Europe.

But no such naughty doings existed in the days of Sir Walter's adolescence. He was accordingly presented at the court of the Regent, Duke of Orleans, where nothing naughty was ever heard of, and thence duly performed the whole of that itinerary which has been named the Grand Tour, from the circumstance, I suppose, of the traveller going straight on end, and returning almost precisely the way he came. Sir Walter, however, brought but little of foreign fashions back with him to England. He returned the same hearty, bright-spirited fellow he went with some additional cultivation, indeed—for his mental qualities were keen and sound—but in no degree warped or made foreign by his residence abroad.

Not long after his return, he succeeded to his title and estate. His mother had been dead some years; and he came and settled at Arlescot, retaining his eldest sister at the head of his household, as she had been in their father's time, and all the others remaining exactly as they had then been. Sir Walter was not the man to put forth his sisters because they ceased to be daughters of the house-he loved them all dearly, and delighted to have them around him. “ Arlescot," said he, in answer to his man of business, who spoke to him on the subject, "shall ever be their home till they marry." I wish, in every respect, to fill my poor father's place as much as possible.” And, indeed, if it had not been that the face at the head of the table was some thirty years younger than that which had been there so lately, one would scarcely have known that any change had taken place at Arlescot-hall.

There was a very considerable difference between the age of the eldest and the youngest of Sir Walter's five sisters, so that he continued to have a lady-house (and the word, though I coin it for the purpose, carries with it a most comprehensive signification---) for many years. There was none of that loneliness which so often sheds its chill over a bachelor's dwelling. There were always smiling faces and merry voices, to welcome his return home;-and all those elegancies and amenities, which exist in no society among which there are not women, constantly graced, and at the same time gave added animation to, the circle that congregated within the walls of Arlescot. Indeed, celebrated as that venerable pile has always been for its hospitality and

[ocr errors]

B

joyous society, the days of Sir Walter and his sisters have come down in tradition as the most brilliant and festive of all. The numerous Christmas party seldom broke up till it belied its name, and was treading on the heels of Lent; and the beautiful woods of green Arlescot, as they waved in the full pride of summer, ever saw bright and happy groups beneath their shade, and echoed to the sounds of springing voices and young laughter.

In a word, Sir Walter lived during these years a most happy life. He had around him those whom he loved best m the world: he not only saw them happy, but he helped to make them so. Indeed, so thoroughly did the milk of human kindness pervade his heart, that he drew his own chief enjoyment from conferring it. To the poor,

he

was, indeed, a benefactor. Not contented with an alms hastily given, or a dole regularly meted out at the gate, he would personally enter into their interests--assist the beginner, encourage the rising man, and protect and provide for the destitute, the aged, and the sick. He would give his attention to their representations, and deal to them a merciful justice. He would speak a kind word, as the flower of that beautiful tree of charity of which the kind action was the fruit. Before he was thirty years old, he had acquired among the peasantry around Arlescot, the epithet of “Good Sir Walter.” If any one met with injustice_" Go to good Sir Walter, and he will see you righted”-if any one fell into distress—“ Go to good Sir Walter, and he will set you on your legs again.”

And among persons of his own station, Sir Walter was equally popular. He had, shortly after his coming into the country, been the means of reconciling a most distressing quarrel between two of his neighbours of the highest consideration—and this attracted the attention of the neighbourhood towards him. His constant good humour as a companion_his extreme hospitality—the delightful footing upon which the society of Arlescot was placed-his readiness to perform a friendly office, and the excessive reluctance with which he refused a favor,--all combined to make the gentry adopt the language of the poor, and say—"They have given him the right name-he is, indeed, Good Sir Walter."

One very natural consequence of the position in which Sir Walter was placed, was that he remained a bachelor. The smile of woman constantly cheered his home, while her accomplishments gave to it all the advantages of refinement and taste. In short, even the most manæuvring mamas in

-shire had given up the matter as a bad job --and set Sir Walter down as a man that would not marry.

The youngest of his sisters was very much younger than any of the family ; and, indeed, there were almost twenty years between his age and her's. At the time this sister, whose name was Elizabeth, was about ten years old, there was only one of the others left unmarried, and Sir Walter began to feel, with sorrow, how much their happy family circle was diminished, This circumstance drew his affections most vividly towards the little Elizabeth. He felt that she was his last stay—that when she left him, he would be widowed quite-and, accordingly, his kindness towards her increased so greatly, that she would have gone near to become a spoiled child-if it had not been that her nature was of a most excellent disposition, and that that nature had been directed, originally, by her eldest sister, towards the best and most beautiful issues. Accordingly, when at about ten years old, her brother began to be over

indulgent towards her, the effect produced upon her was scarcely more than to render her affection for him every day stronger and more fond, while it left untouched the admirable temper, and generous character, which were hers already.

It was a year or two later, just after the marriage of their only remaining sister, and when Elizabeth and Sir Walter were left alone, that a particularly esteemed friend of the latter, who lived in the near neighbourhood of Arlescot, had the calamity to lose his wife. Mr. Adair-so he was named-was left with an only child, a daughter, about a year younger than Elizabeth, who had thus become motherless. Sir Walter had been in the constant habit of going to Mr. Adair's, and had always remarked the extreme beauty and animation of this child. Accordingly, after the first burst of sympathising sorrow, for the loss his friend had sustained, -and it was no common one, for Mrs. Adair had been a woman of a degree of merit indeed rare-Sir Walter's mind turned upon the thought of what the deprivation of such a mother must be to such a child !–“ Poor, poor Lucy!" he exclaimed, “what will become of her now !-I pity her from the bottom of my soul. Such a disposition as hers needs most a mother's guidance; and now, at these tender years, she is left without female help, direction, or support !"

And justly was Sir Walter's pity bestowed. What, indeed, can deserve pity more than a girl, who, at eleven years old, has a precocity which increases her age by at least half of its real amount--with the promise of an eager and wild temperament, and of singular yet great beautywho has lost her mother? Such a being as this may escape great misfortunes--but the chances are sadly the other way.

Lucy Adair had been a great play fellow of Elizabıth Meynell's. The difference of age between the latter and her sisters had caused far more companionship to exist between these two, than Elizabeth had ever enjoyed in her own family. Their tendencies of disposition were widely different, and yet their attachment to each other was extreme. Elizabeth was mild and sweet in temper, firm as well as decided in principle, and possessed, as yet almost unknown to herself, a strong and vivid energy, which it needed only some fitting occasion to call forth. Lucy, on the other hand, was all animation, and wildness, and fireplayful as are the most playful of her age, yet occasionally displaying a burst of violence of mingled temper and feeling which was far, far beyond it. In fact, to any one who observed her minutely, she formed a subject for metaphysical study and prophecy, rather than of that sweet and simple contemplation which beautiful children of her age commonly afford.

It was in consequence of the peculiar intimacy sulisisting between these young people, that, when he went to pay his visit of condolence to Mr. Adair, Sir Walter took Elizabeth with him. He felt, moreover, and with pride and joy, that she was one who, even now so young, was eminently fitted to administer such consolation as can be administered on an occasion like this. " Lucy, I am sure, suffers deeply,"—said Sir Walter to his sister"it will be for you, dear Elizabeth, to bring her mind to a state of calm, and to infuse into it that resignation which is alike our duty and our refuge wlien those we love are removed from us by death."

When they arrived at Wilmington, they found Mr. Adair alone. The warm and cordial grasp of Sir Walter's hand

was, indeed, cordially, though more feebly, returned-but but I feel sure you will not refuse it. Lucy says, that if I the widowed man shrank from his friend's glance, and, could be with her for a few days, I should be the greatest turning away, covered his face with his hands, to gain a support to her: she says that, after having now seen me, moment to recover his composure. After a short pause, he and our having talked together, the first dread of meeting said “This visit is, indeed, kind, dear Meynell—I know me, which she felt, is over, and that she shrinks from fallthe goodness of your heart, and what must you feel for me ing back upon her own sad thoughts, and seeing her father at such a moment as this. I am, indeed, desolate !"

shed tears over her. I feel sure that she is right, and that Sir Walter answered his friend with that delicacy, yet I should indeed be of service to her, as her feelings are now. depth, of feeling, which shewed how far beyond the formal So you will let me stay with her, Walter, won't you? And condolences of the world were his expressions of sympathy you musi get Mr. Adair to consent-I will promise to keep --expressions, indeed, which could come only from a most quite out of his way; he may almost believe I am not here. sensitive heart under the influence of warm and strong Nobody but Lucy shall see me." friendship.

"Good, kind girl,” said Sir Walter, kissing her brow:At length, he broke a pause which had supervened, by "most willingly do I consent to your staying with your poor asking whether his sister might not see her young friend, Lucy-I will arrange it with Adair. God bless and protect “ Assuredly—and yet I fear the meeting will be almost too you," he added, addressing Lucy as he passed her, and much for her-Oh, Meynell, you can form no idea of how placing his hand upon her brow. “That is, indeed, a most that child has suffered !” As he spoke, he rang the bell, 1 extraordinary child,” he continued in thought--"pray and desired his daughter to be called.

Heaven the issues of her destiny may be happy!" An object of more beauty and interest than was Lucy Elizabeth remained with her friend; and in a short time Adair, as she entered the room, it would be most difficult to the smile again began to beam, and the colour to bloom on conceive. She was dressed in the deepest mourning, and Lucy's cheek. Truly has it been said the contrast between her dress of sorrow, and the feelings of

" The tear down childhood's cheek that flows, joyous gaiety which ought to be those of her age and more

Is like the rain-drop on the rose ; peculiarly so of her individual disposition, was most striking

When next the suminer breeze comes by, and sad. The change altogether in her appearance struck

And waves the bush, the flow'r is dry!"* Elizabeth most painfully. Her jet-black hair, which com- And a most benevolent provision of Nature it is, that thus monly tossed in a profusion of ringlets, was now plainly it should be! If a heart were to suffer, at that

age,

the parted upon her brow—her large dark eyes, which usually sorrows of maturity, maturity would never be reached. Hashed with animation and buoyant life through their Elizabeth's visit, at this time, tended greatly to increase lashes of singular darkness and length, were now sunken, the intimacy and the intercourse between the two families. and, if I may use the phrase, pale with the cold moisture of Lucy constantly came to Arlescot to profit by sharing in protracted tears ;--and her cheek, instead of flushing and the progress of her friend's education. In music, especially, mantling with the brilliant blood of health and youth, was they advanced together and Sir Walter would hang with now of a whiteness equal to that of the ivory neck, which delight upon the union of their voices, as they joined in shewed in such startling contrast against the mourning dress. their frequent duets. Lucy's voice had an early richness,

When Lucy entered, her pace was slow, and her eyes peculiarly rare. At the age of twelve it had a round full were bent upon the ground. She seemed to be under the

sweetness, scarcely ever possessed till years afterwards.--action of violent feeling, for her breath came and went ra- But in every thing, except perhaps in stature, her precocity pidly, as was shewn by the almost tumultuous heaving of

was most striking. The flash of her

eye

had more intelliher bosom. At length, she raised her head, and running gence, the lively mot more point, the bright smile more forward to Elizabeth, uttered one cry, and fell into her arms archness, than is almost ever possessed till the hoyden girl m a paroxysm of convulsive tears.

ripens into the “young lady." Still, there was no lack of Mr. Adair turned to Sir Walter—and merely uttering the the fine, springing spirits of her age. She would race along words, “You see"-left the room to regain that composure the broad bowling-green at Arlescot--or canter off upon a so necessary before his child, and which he found it impos- donkey with a pad, instead of her own highly-managed sible at that moment to support.

poney, with all the buoyant inconséquence of a mere child. Sir Walter sat down silently, and gazed with emotion And yet, at night, she would rivet every ear by the melody apon the picture before him. Two beautiful children, the with which she would give the songs of Ariel, or cause the one wrapt in an agony of grief, sheltered and cherished in

most rigid to follow with admiring laughter the truth with the bosom of the other, whose gentle countenance, now tin- which she rendered the mischievous archness of Puck. ged with sadness and pity, might almost (her fond brother

Indeed, it might almost be fancied, that one could trace thought) form a model for that of an angel sent from heaven

some connection of race between these fairy creatures, of on an errand of mercy--such a group as this could not be

whose doings she was so fond, and Lucy herself. She was, contemplated without feelings of the softest, purest, and if anything, otherwise than tall; but formed with a perfecmost pitying nature. The violence of Lucy's tears had now

tion which gave to every motion the grace and lightness of passed away--and she lay upon her friend's bosom, her

a fay indeed. Her hair was profuse--and black as the gentle sobs coming at increasing intervals—like the ebbing

raven's feather; her eyes--large, full, dark, brilliant-ever of a calm tide at evening.

gave the prologue to her actual speech, by a glance of fire, Sir Walter kept withdrawing from the young friends as of wit, or of feeling, according to the subject which engrosmuch as possible, and heard only the murmuring of their

sed her at the moment, But though, on occasion, the voices as they spoke, the one in complaint, the other in

strongest bursts of feeling would break forth, yet the consolation. At length, Elizabeth gently disengaged her

general cha: ac er of her temperament undoubtedly turned self from her friend's arms, and coming to her brother, said to him—"Dear Walter, I have a great favor to beg of you,

• Rokeb::

and

towards the gayer and more brilliant order of mind. Every one who met her, admired, wondered at, and delighted in her animation, vivacity, and wit; and, at the same time' could not fail to be gratified, and sometimes touched, by the indications of kind, warm, and delicate feeling which were frequently apparent; but it was only those who knew her well who were aware of the deep well-head of stronger and more passionate emotions which lay, as yet almost untouched, within. And this is the true portrait of a girl, not quite thirteen years old !

Time wore on: Lucy lived almost as much at Arlescot as at Wilmington, and Sir Walter had thus the opportunity to watch the maturing of her person, and the expansion of her mind. Ever the kindest of the kind, his attentions to the comforts and pleasures of his dearest friend's daughter, and his dearest sister's friend, were naturally great; and, for her own sake also, Lucy Adair was most high in the good baronet's favour. The house was more cheerful when she was there: music, dancing, petits jeur of all sorts, were always far more rife while she was at Arlescot, so much so, indeed, that there often seemed to be a blank on the day after her departure. Sir Walter felt this, though he was scarcely conscious that he did so—and, accordingly, exerted himself in every way to make Arlescot pleasant to "quaint Ariel," as he often called her, and to keep her there as much as possible.

“Really your brother deserves his title of Good Sir Walter," said she one day to Elizabeth—"see how he has been bedecking 'Ariel's bower,' as he calls my room. You know when I was here last, there was a debate as to which was the sweeter, heliotrope or verbena, and, when the point was referred to me, I said I could not decide between them, they were both so exquisite; and now, lo! Prospero's wand itself could not have raised a more luxuriant blossoming of both plants than he has placed in cases, ornamented with moss and 'greenery,' in the embrasures of both my windows. Good, good Sir Walter!-how heartily will I sing to him to night

“Merrily, merrily, shall I live now,

Under these blossoms that hang on the bough!" And she did so :-and Sir Walter more than half sighed as he murmured between his teeth Prospero's thanks——“Why, that's my dainty Ariel !”—“Alas !” he added, as he gazed upon her brilliant beauty, now budding into all the attractions of dawning womanhood,—“ I may complete the line, and say, 'I shall miss thee!”

Sir Walter's allusion was prompted by something which was passing in another quarter of the room, where a young gentleman, for whom he entertained the most sincere regard, was playing Ferdinand to Elizabeth's Miranda. “Yes,” Sir Walter soliloquised in thought—" I shall lose my last, my dearest sister soon! Dear, dear Elizabeth, it wrings my heart to part from one who has engrossed that heart's best affections for so many years !--And yet, I cannot be so selfish as to wish it otherwise-as it is, she has stayed with me later than any of the others. She evidently values and loves Sir Arthur-and he is worthy of her if any man can be ; Heavens ! what a wife, what a mother that woman will make!

His reverie was interrupted by Lucy drawing forth Elizabeth from her corner, and engaging her in a duet, while Sir Arthur Leonard stood by

-watching the Volti subitos.The air was lively, the words arch--but even this, and it

was an old favorite, drew sighs rather than smiles from poor Sir Walter. “Ah!” thought he, “I must bid farewell to all this !--Losing one, I shall lose both, for she is not my sister," looking strongly as he thought thus, upon Lucy's brilliant face, as it beamed in accordance with the spirit of the song—“Would that she were! But when Bessy goes, Lucy, dear, darling Lucy, must go too. I have watched her from a child-growing daily in beauty, and grace, and intelligence—and it is hard to lose her now, just when she is coming into the full possession of all she has promised from infancy. Alas! would that she were my sixth sister.

Whether this was exactly the wish that Sir Walter really felt, I leave it to my readers to judge. At all events it was that which he formed into words in his own mind.

The wedding of Sir Arthur Leonard and Elizabeth Meynell followed not long after—and Lucy was bridesmaid. Good Sir Walter presented her with a set of pearls upon the occasion, of which, besides the ordinary ornaments, there were braids to intertwist with her raven hair, a mode equally advantageous to the snow-whiteness of the one, the ebony hue of the other. It was scarcely possible indeed, to see anything more fascinating than Lucy Adair was this day, as she accompanied her friend to the altar. The beauty of Elizabeth was of a calmer and serener order. She was near the full perfection of her charms; and the momentous importance of the occasion, and the sorrow she felt at leaving her beloved and excellent brother, gave to her countenance a chastened, and almost solemn expression, which rendered her, beautiful as she was, an object between whom and her bridesmaid, no comparison could be instity. ted—so totally different was their appearance in every point. Lucy was shorter in stature, and of a bearing less collected and dignified--but what it lacked in these points, was amply supplied by its animation and grace, its bounding and brilliant joyousness. She had no cause for grief to dash the many causes which conspired to give her delight. She left no long loved home, no dear protector who had fostered and cherished her during her whole life, as was the case with Elizabeth; she did not, like Sir Walter, lose a beloved sister and companion-her who had made home deserve that invaluable name, and whose departure now left it blank and desolate. On the contrary, to Lucy everything on this occasion of festivity, was matter of real joy. Her dearest friend was united to the man she loved that he was also one of wealth and rank Lucy never thought of everything was gay and brilliant around her—there was a splendid festival-she was the Queen of the day—" and that was dear Bessy's wedding-day.”

The ceremony was performed in the old chapel at Arlescot, and Sir Walter gave his sister away. His heart swelled heavily within his bosom as he pronounced the words—but good Sir Walter ever was ready to sacrifice his own feelings to the happiness of others, and he uttured them with a cheerful tone, though a sad spirit. But when, at the conclusion of the ceremony, he gave his sister the kiss of congratulation, and called upon God to bless and make her happy, the sensation that she was about to quit his roof, to leave him altogether, rose upon him with a choking gush, which speedily found vent in tears. As he turned aside to hide and to check them, Lucy gazed at him. She was deeply toucked, and a cloud came over the brightness of her countenance. “Poor, poor Sir Walter," she muttered;

no wonder that he should grieve to lose such a sister as that! Alas, how different Arlescot will be now."

66

In those days, newly-married couples did not whirl off in a carriage-and-four from the church door, The bridal festivities were animated by their presence. Accordingly, the old hall at Arlescot rang that night with sounds of revelry and rejoicing; and all were gay, and glad, and mirthful, save the host alone. His heart was indeed sad ! and, as yet, he did not clearly know the full cause of its sadness. In very truth, his sister's departure did give rise to pain, and spread gloom over his soul-but it was not this alone which caused the whole extent of that pain, the full deepness of that gloom. There was the feeling, also, of all that his sister's departure would carry with it—that no youthful voice, no tripping step, would awaken the echoes of the hall in which he stood--that his favorite songs and airs would no longer gladden his ear—in a word, that Lucy Adair would be gone also! Yes! great as was the difference between their ages, and dissimilar in so many respects as they were, it was nevertheless undeniable that this young and wild creature had touched the hitherto impenetrable heart of Sir Walter Meynell.

But as yet, this secret was not revealed to him. Absurd as the hackneyed assertion of love existing unconsciously, usually is, there are some few occasions on which the doctrine is true; and this was one of them. Lucy had been bred up under Sir Walter's eyes-he had known her from her very birth-she had been the constant companion of a sister whom he had almost considered a daughter-and his affection for both of them had, for years, been exactly of the same quality. Thus, therefore, when latterly a strong change took place in the character of that which he felt towards Lucy, although it bore copious fruits in fact, Sir Walter remained ignorant of its existence. It never struck him to regard little Lucy in any other light than that in which he had considered her for so many years, while, in truth, Time had caused her to gain a hold upon affections never yet called into action, but not the less strong and sterling on that account.

“Oh! Sir Walter, Sir Walter !—what do you think?”. exclaimed Lucy, running to him, her whole countenance beaming with the expression of uncontrolled gaiety and pleasure—“Old Crompton, the fiddler, has composed-or got composed, poor fellow-a new tune to open the ball on Miss Lizzy's wedding-night, as he chuses to call her-and he says he has given it a name which he is sure will make it find favor with her, whether the music be good or bad

- he has called it. Good Sir Walter,'-Oh! how delighted I shall be to dance it !”

“The more so for its name, Lucy ?”

“Tenfold !—there is no one in the world so good and kind to me-no one whom I love half so well—except my father, and I assure you, he is often jealous of you. Oh! how I shall delight in this dance-I shall make it the tune of the whole country. You must dance it with me, Sir Walter, in honor of our dear Bessy's bridal.” Sir Walter smiled and sighed almost at the same instant, as he answered, “You know, dear Lucy, I never dance

“Oh, but you do,” she interrupted—“I recollect your dancing Sir Roger de Coverley with me, the day I was ten years old—and, I am sure, our baronet is the better of the two. Besides, consider it is Bessy's wedding. Such events as that do not occur every day."

“ Thank God, no!” murmured Sir Walter, as he took Lucy's hand, and led her towards the dance.

He was deeply moved ; in some degree by the attachment

thus shown him by his humble neighbours, but far more by the manner in which this mark of it had been announced to him. “ Alas! this is the last time I shall see her thus at Arlescot !—” thought he, as he gazed upon the brilliant creature who stood opposite to him, waiting with impatience for their turn to begin-and his heart heaved the heavier for the merry music to which they had given his name.

The first week after his sister's marriage was, probably, the most wretched Sir Walter had ever passed. It is, perhaps, scarcely possible for a life to have flowed on more happily than his. The better and happier feelings of humanity had combined to render his path one of sweetness

enjoyment, and the fiercer passions had never, by their action, caused a tumult in his soul. Cheerfulness had, in especial, been the characteristic of Arlescot Hall;—thus poor Sir Walter, when he found himself a solitary man, suffered to a most pitiable degree. There is a term in use in some of the counties towards the midland, which we have no one word in general English to render. This word is unked. To those who know Oxfordshire, and the counties around it, its very sound will convey far more than any elaborate description I could give of Sir Walter's state. He was very unkedthat is, he felt that desolate sadness, and chilly sinking of the heart, which arises from being left in solitude by those we love--but this periphrasis does not convey half what the low provincial word does to those who have been familiar with its sound.

Oh! how cheerless was his breakfast!-Instead of his sister's kind face at the top of the table, to say nothing of a brilliant one which used often to beam at the side, there was--a blank! He literally started when, the first morning after his guest's departure, on coming into the room, he saw one solitary chair placed for him, before the great tea-urn, and all the breakfast apparatus. “I am alone then ? "-he said aloud—“ quite alone at last !- I shall never be able to endure this"--and truly there was no sweet voice, or friendly smile to strike upon his ear, or meet his eye—as both eye and ear craved their accustomed objects of enjoyment.

Dinner was perhaps more intolerable still. It is probable that Sir Walter had not dined alone for seventeen years, and those who are in the habit of making one of a happy family circle round an hospitable board, need not be told how unked a solitary dinner is. But to Sir Walter it was totally a new state of existence. It had never occured to him before to be alone at Arlescot !-It seemed to him a solecism in nature. “I cannot endure it!”-he exclaimed, the third day, as the butler closed the door behind him, after taking away the cloth. “I will have half-a-dozen people here tomorrow, or my name is not Walter Meynell.”

Accordingly, he assembled a batchelor party, who remained with him about a week. But even this would not do for a continuance: to a man who has been in the constant habit of living in society in which there are women, a continued male party, like a regimental mess, is intolerable. When they came into the drawing-room after dinner, they found no one to give change to the hunting, the politics, or the something worse, which had formed their topics of conversation :-there was no music—the piano-forte closed, and the harp, in its case, frowned in fixed dumbness upon those whom they had so often charmed—there was no in a word, there were no women in the house, and Sir Walter had never been without them before. I am quite aware that a great deal of this may, to some

B 2

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinua »