« PreviousContinue »
Society was quickly formed where there were so many inducements. Most of the families of the neighbourhood visited Colonel Mannering, and he was soon able to select from among them such as best suited his taste and habits. Charles Hazlewood held a distinguished place in his favour, and was a frequent visitor, not without the consent and approbation of his parents; for there was no knowing, they thought, what assiduous attention might produce, and the beautiful Miss Mannering, of high family, with an Indian fortune, was a prize worth looking after. Dazzled with such a prospect, they never considered the risk which had once been some object of their apprehension, that his boyish and inconsiderate fancy might form an attachment to the penniless Lucy Bertram, who had nothing on earth to recommend her, but a pretty face, good birth, and a most amiable disposition. Mannering was more prudent. He considered himself acting as Miss Bertram's guardian, and, while he did not think it incumbent upon him altogether to check her intercourse with a young gentleman for whom, excepting in wealth, she was a match in every respect, he laid it under such insensible restraints as might prevent any engagement or éclaircissement taking place until the young man should have seen a little more of life and of the world, and have attained that age when he might be considered as entitled to judge for himself in the matter in which his happiness was chiefly interested.
While these matters engaged the attention of the other members of the Woodbourne family, Dominie Sampson was occupied, body and soul, in the arrangement of the late bishop's library, which had been sent from Liverpool by sea, and conveyed by thirty or forty carts from the seaport at which it was landed. Sampson's joy at beholding the ponderous contents of these chests arranged upon the floor of the large apartment, from whence he was to transfer them to the shelves, baffles all description. He grinned like an ogre, swung his arms like the sails of a windmill, shouted “Prodigious” till the roof rung to his raptures. “He had never,” he said, "seen so many books together, except in the College Library ;” and now his dignity and delight in being superintendent of the collection, raised him, in his own opinion, almost to the rank of the academical librarian, whom he had always regarded as the greatest and happiest man on earth. Neither were his transports diminished upon a hasty examination of the contents of these volumes. Some, indeed, of belles lettres, poems, plays, or memoirs, he tossed indignantly aside, with the implied censure of “psha," or "frivolous"; but the greater and bulkier part of the collection bore a very different character. The deceased prelate, a divine of the old and deeply-learned cast, had loaded his shelves with volumes which displayed the antique and venerable attributes so happily described by a modern poet :
That weight of wood, with leathern coat o'erlaid,
Books of theology and controversial divinity, commentaries, and polyglots, sets of the fathers, and sermons, which might each furnish forth ten brief discourses of modern date, books of science, ancient and modern, classical authors in their best and rarest forms; such formed the late bishop's venerable library, and over such the eye of Dominie Sampson gloated with rapture. He entered them in the catalogue in his best running hand, forming each letter with the accuracy of a lover writing a valentine, and placed each individually on the destined shelf with all the reverence which I have seen a lady pay to a jar of old china. With all this zeal his labours advanced slowly. He often opened a volume when half-way up the library steps, fell upon some interesting passage, and, without shifting his inconvenient posture, continued immersed in the fascinating perusal until the servant pulled him by the skirts to assure him that dinner waited. He then repaired to the parlour, bolted his food down his capacious throat in squares of three inches, answered ay or no at random to whatever question was asked at him, and again hurried back to the library, as soon as his napkin was removed, and sometimes with it hanging round his neck like a pinafore
How happily the days
And, having thus left the principal characters of our tale in a situation which, being sufficiently comfortable to themselves, is, of course, utterly uninteresting to the reader, we take up the history of a person who has as yet only been named, and who has all the interest that uncertainty and misfortune can give.
What say'st thou, Wise One ?—that all-powerful Love
V. BROWN-- I will not give at full length his thrice unhappy name—had been from infancy a ball for fortune to spurn at; but nature had given him that elasticity of mind which rises higher from the rebound. His form was tall, manly, and active, and his features corresponded with his person; for, although far from regular, they had an expression of intelligence and good-humour, and when he spoke, or was particularly animated, might be decidedly pronounced interesting. His manner indicated the military profession, which had been his choice, and in which he had now attained the rank of captain, the person who succeeded Colonel Mannering in his command having laboured to repair the injustice which Brown had sustained by that gentleman's prejudice against him. But this, as well as his liberation from captivity, had taken place after Mannering left India. Brown followed at no distant period, his regiment being recalled home. His first inquiry was after the family of Mannering, and, easily learning their route northward, he followed it with the purpose of resuming his addresses to Julia. With her father he deemed he had no measures to keep; for, ignorant of the more venomous belief which had been instilled into the Colonel's mind, he regarded him as an oppressive aristocrat, who had used his power as a commanding officer to deprive him of the preferment due to his behaviour, and who had forced upon him a personal quarrel without any better reason than his attentions to a pretty young woman, agreeable to herself, and permitted and countenanced by her mother. He was determined, therefore, to take no rejection unless from the young lady herself, believing that the heavy misfortunes of his painful wound and imprisonment were direct injuries received from the father, which might dispense with his using much ceremony towards him. How far his scheme had succeeded when his nocturnal visit was discovered by Mr. Mervyn, our readers are already informed.
Upon this unpleasant occurrence, Captain Brown absented himself from the inn in which he had resided under the name of Dawson, so that Colonel Mannering's attempts to discover and trace him were unavailing. He resolved, however, that no difficulties should prevent his continuing his enterprise, while Julia left him a ray of hope. The interest he had secured in her bosom was such as she had been unable to conceal from him, and with all the courage of romantic gallantry he determined upon perseverance. But we believe the reader will be as well pleased to learn his mode of thinking and intentions from his own communication to his special friend and confidant, Captain Delaserre, a Swiss gentleman, who had a company in his regiment.
EXTRACT “Let me hear from you soon, dear Delaserre. -Remember, I can learn nothing about regimental affairs but through your friendly medium, and I long to know what has become of Ayre's court-martial, and whether Elliot gets the majority; also how recruiting comes on, and how the young officers like the mess. Of our kind friend, the Lieutenant-Colonel, I need ask nothing ; I saw him as I passed through Nottingham, happy in the bosom of his family. What a happiness it is, Philip, for us poor devils, that we have a little restingplace between the camp and the grave, if we can manage to escape disease, and steel, and lead, and the effects of hard living. A retired old soldier is always a graceful and respected character. He grumbles a little now and then, but then his is licensed murmuring—were a lawyer, or a physician, or a clergyman, to breathe a complaint of hard luck or want of preferment, a hundred tongues would blame his own incapacity as the cause. But the most stupid veteran that ever faltered out the thrice-told tale of a siege and a battle, and a cock and a bottle, is listened to with sympathy and reverence, when he shakes his thin locks, and talks with indignation of the boys that are put over his head. And you and I, Delaserre, foreigners both,- for what am I the better that I was originally a Scotchman, since, could I prove my descent, the English would hardly acknowledge me a countryman ? we may boast that we have fought out our preferment, and gained that by the sword which we had not money to compass otherwise. The English are a wise people. While they praise themselves, and affect to undervalue all other nations, they leave us, luckily, trap-doors and back-doors open, by which we strangers, less favoured by nature, may arrive at a share of their advantages. And thus they are, in some respects, like a boastful landlord, who exalts the value and flavour of his six-years-old mutton, while he is delighted to dispense a share of it to all the company. In short, you, whose proud family, and I, whose hard fate, made us soldiers of fortune, have the pleasant recollection, that in the British service, stop where we may upon our career, it is only for want of money to pay the turnpike, and not from our being prohibited to travel the road. If, therefore, we can persuade little Weischel to come into ours, for God's sake let him buy the ensigncy, live prudently, mind his duty, and trust to the fates for promotion.
“And now, I hope you are expiring with curiosity to learn the end of my romance. I told you I had deemed it convenient to make a few days' tour on foot among the mountains of Westmoreland, with Dudley, a young English artist, with whom I have formed some acquaintance. A fine fellow this, you nust know, Delaserre-he paints tolerably, draws beautifully, converses well, and plays charmingly on the flute; and, though thus well entitled to be a coxcomb of talent, is, in fact, a modest unpretending young man. On our return from our little tour, I learned that the enemy had been reconnoitring. Mr. Mervyn's barge had crossed the lake, I was informed by my landlord, with the squire himself and a visitor.
«« «What sort of person, landlord ?'
"Why, he was a dark officer-looking mon, at they called Colonel-Squoire Mervyn questioned me as close as I had been at sizes—I had guess, Mr. Dawson'(I told you that was my feigned name)—But I tould him nought of your vagaries, and going out a-laking in the mere a-noights—not I
-an I can make no sport I'se spoil none — and Squoire Mervyn's as cross as poy-crust too, mon-he's aye maundering an my guests but land beneath his house, though it be marked for the fourth station in the Survey. Noa, noa, e'en let un smell things out o' themselves for Joe Hodges
“You will allow there was nothing for it after this, but paying honest Joe Hodges's bill, and departing, unless I had preferred making him my confidant, for which I felt in no way inclined. Besides, I learned that our ci-devant Colonel was on full retreat for Scotland, carrying off poor Julia along with him. I understand from those who conduct the heavy