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which formed the glory of that sanctum sanctorum; but whose China pagodas, and fairy cups and saucers, have long since gone to swell the store of some antiquarian collector. This cabinet, a fly-table, capable of containing, with management, two bags for knotting, a fire-screenwhose gigantic and non-descript flowers, might have been worshipped as resembling nothing on earth beneath and some chairs of the same elegant design, whose size and ponderosity chiefly confined them to the wall-formed, as far as I recollect, the only furniture of the apartment; while its stamped leather hangings had contracted, from age and their Eastern origin, a mingled mustiness and perfume, which it gladdened my nostrils to recognize lately in a Burmese letter of compliment.
The first happy evenings I had spent at Dunbarrow were passed in that little parlour; and when, on my return from College, I found that Lady Mary's favourite son had, with difficulty, achieved the erection of the large new drawing-room, I own I entered into the old lady's feelings of regret and dissatisfaction. The room had too, that year, the waste, uncomfortable air of one scarce fully inhabited, and the marriage of Louisa, which was then celebrated, contributed to leave an unfavourable impression on my mind.
Other, and more auspicious weddings, however, had redeemed its character, and ere my mother and I revisited Dunbarrow, the cedar parlour had been transformed into a green-house of gay exotics; and the old lady, like a stately transplanted evergreen, sat amid the flowers of a new soil and atmosphere. There was something in the new room very attractive to this rising generation. Its walls were covered with a gay Indian paper, whose birds of gorgeous plumage had called forth the infant wonder, and exercised the opening faculties, of all the rosy tribe. A spacious table groaned with choice prints, and books especially written for childhood, affording a
feast of reason very different from the meagre fare which the wellthumbed and solitary picture Bible held out, on high days, and holidays, to our infant optics. Dissected maps were eagerly adjusted by unbreeched geographers-and the awful responsibilities of chess lent premature gravity to warriors and statesmen in embryo.
These intellectual toys have now long since given place to the elegant accomplishments and varied resources of modern youth. The harp of Erin, and the guitar of Spain, blend their tones with lays of many lands; and while the family concert sweetly beguiles the winter evening, I see the playful creature, who, in form, feature, and character, represents the youngest and most fortunate of the graces, stealing the portraits of the whole rapt musicians, and transferring them to paper, with a rapidity which, fifty years ago, would have been ascribed to magic. The theft is discovered-the laugh goes round
and a kiss from the brother, whose martial figure is so prominent in the group, is the punishment!
It is always a painful effort that transplants me, on the last day of the expiring year, from Dunbarrow, with its youthful dreams, its tender recollections, and its "sober certainty of waking bliss," to the anarchy and universal suffrage with which a troop of wild and lawless boys and girls are every year gradually overpowering the obsolete despotism of my cousin Jack Thornley's earlier sway. Whoever for the first time hears Jack and his stentorian sons, and shrill-voiced daughters, all talking at once, feels inclined to think that "Chaos is come again,"—and certainly concludes them to be all quarrelling; whereas, no family, differing, as they do ou every minor affair of life, can possibly be on better terms on all essential matters.
Jack, a little older than myself, was my comrade at school and college; fought my way through a thousand scrapes in both, and, being one of the best creatures alive, such a
friendship as can subsist, independent of one congenial point in our characters, has always been kept up between us. Jack, who was, like myself, a younger brother, owed to the good offices of my mother, the Government situation, which enabled him to rear and support, though in comparative obscurity, the offspring of a marriage of consummate and characteristic imprudence; and now that Jack has succeeded to the family estate, I verily believe he could not enjoy it, if her son did not grace his board much oftener than his recluse habits and quiet disposition render agreeable.
quences to poor Philip had been bounded by making him an awkward and dissatisfied Briton-disqualified for the pursuits, and disinclined for the pastimes, of his countrymen. But deeper evils still had nearly sprung from the siren song and witching graces of the south; and those who deprecate foreign connexions for their children, would do well to pause ere they expose their susceptible feelings to fascinations which it may be alike misery to yield to, or resist.
Arthur died early in life, in a foreign land, where he had been ordered for his health; and his widow, to whose character foreigu manners were congenial, had ever since remained abroad, retaining her only son, on whom she doated, as her inseparable companion. This was, during the life of my mother, one of the most severe and least patiently endured trials. She had no illiberal prejudices, beyond that legitimate and ennobling preference which every native of this free and happy land must feel for its morals and its manners; but the thought of a young man of birth and fortune, thus estranged from every English feeling and association, made her almost unjust to the lands in which he had been brought up an alien, and to wards the mother, whose mingled romance and levity had induced her to prefer them.
It had been well if the conse
The young man's letter-the first for many a long year-breathed a very pleasing desire to cultivate the acquaintance of his only near relation; and agreeably surprised me by the information that he was actually in England, on a visit to a nobleman in the north, with whose nephew he had formed an intimacy abroad, and to whose only daughter, a beautiful young woman, with whom he was sure I should be pleased, he was on the point of being united. He was desirous, if possible, to spend a few weeks with his bridal party at our old family seat, to which I have before alluded, in the county in which I was now residing-and ventured to request me to ride over to Westerton, and give directions for such temporary accommodations as the neglected mansion, in its state of long dilapidation, could be made to afford.
My heart warmed, as I read, towards the son of my poor Arthur, whose marriage I hoped would prove, in all respects, a more congenial one-and I found, during autumn, very agreeable employment in fulfilling his request. My first visit, however, to the home of my childhood-for later I had not inhabited it was abundantly trying,-from precisely opposite causes to those which often render such visits in after life painful. Many old men complain of the metamorphoses which their home has undergone ; and feel as if improvements and embellishments were outrages on its remembered sanctity. Here, nothing had been altered, nothing im
proved-but the house which I had thought princely, and which even the county histories of the day styled the fine New Place of Westerton, seemed to stand alone in its neglect and its desolation, while all around bore the smiling marks of rapidly advancing taste and comfort.
It had been let to casual tenants as long as these would submit to its long damp passages, gaping sashes, decaying floors, and scanty furniture -but that time had long been past, and an old gardener alone, a contemporary of its better days, lived in the mansion he still thought unrivalled, sighing over its decay, and the still more complete desolation of those famous terraced gardens which, in their pride, he had supposed no faint image of those of Babylon, but which his feeble arm had long proved unable to rescue from becoming, like them, a "howling wilderness."
It was a fine soft autumnal morning when I rode up to the house; shocked by the neglect of the once trim yew hedges and over-grown grass walks which, in my youthful ignorance of better things, I had fancied the very perfection of taste.
The old gardener, aware of my coming, was hobbling about in the sun, before the door, anxious to catch the first glimpse of his mistress's son, and looked with his crutch (for he was almost a cripple from rheumatism) in too good keeping with all around.
The house was a long straggling mansion, which the vanity of my ancestor had expanded into an imposing length of front, while his finances had proportionally contracted its breadth,- -so that it consisted of endless files of rooms, following each other in antique state and tarnished finery, like a procession, not overwell appointed, in a country theatre. The small narrow windows were sufficiently numerous to admit light, but too high to afford any prospect to those who might be attracted by the vicinity of the huge antique chimneys, which, grim with the smoke of a century, presented de
vices unintelligible to modern vertu. Many of the bedrooms were covered with that sort of faded tapestry, where (as I once remarked, with indescribable awe, to be the case with the objects of nature during an almost total eclipse) trees, skies, men and women, all assume one pallid nondescript tint-like the ghosts of Ossian, scarce distinguishable from the grey clouds on which they floated, or the grey mountains on which these reposed. The ceilings again, teemed with sparkling gods and goddesses, whose unnatural attitudes and bulky limbs, as viewed by the flickering light of an expiring wood-fire, seemed to threaten a second fall from Olympus-and I remember, even yet, my boyish horror, lest an Icarus, whom no wings save those of a fabulous roc could have supported
should really tumble, and crush me in my bed.
The garden was the very beau idéal of desolation; for, to the not unpicturesque wildness soon assumed by unrestrained vegetation, was added the far less pleasing ruin of the costly labours of art. Buttresses, whose very ivy looked grey and superannuated, mouldered away from walls, the yawning chasms in which were rendered more unsightly by the cankered branches of the once trimly dressed fruit-trees, partially adhering to them. Flights of steps, so broken as scarce to afford footing, led to lower and lower ranges of less and less cultivated garden-ground; while noseless, nay, headless statues, lay prostrate, across the path, or stood like mementoes of the taste of forgotten generations.
Last of all, came what was once a blooming orchard, and now a reedy swamp, whose moss-grown stumps barely indicated its former destination. It had boasted, in its centre, of a pond, or lake, as it was ambitiously called, where two miserablepinioned swans sighed for their native waters-but the chains of both the element and its prisoners had long since been broken, and while the latter had perhaps sought the
boundless lakes of Norway, the former had usurped possession of all the adjacent level. I turned hastily from this meanest aspect of desolation, and ran up the broken staircases, delighted to recognize, in the old bowling-green above, one curious flower-bed, forming a true lover's knot, which the gardener would have deemed a sacrilege not to keep in its original quaint neatness. He told me it was made by him in honour of my mother's marriage, from one of the French King's at Versailles-of the almost equal dilapidation of which seat of royalty, I question whether he had ever heard!
My exertions, and those of the universal genius of the nearest town, whom I took into my councils, succeeded in putting a habitable face on the old premises, many weeks before the gay party found it convenient to take possession; and I began to think the idea had been altogether given up, and to feel, unfit as I was for such society, a degree of natural disappointment, when, late in December, which had not failed this year to come in all its gloom and dreariness, I heard that my nephew and Lady Jane, along with a whole troop of the set he had been living among in the North, were daily expected. They only came a few days before Christmas, when I was, as usual, at Dunbarrow, quite on the other side of the county, so that I could not, as I intended, ride over and pay an immediate visit of congratulation. Philip, however, wrote to me in a strain that would take no denial, urging my coming to stay with him whenever I should have fulfilled my previous engagements. He conjured me, by the love I had borne to his father and mother, to come and be a friend to their son; but amid this exuberance of kindness, there was little indeed of the joy of a bridegroom. There was something in the words of this short gloomy epistle, which haunted me painfully amid the placid stillness of Dunbarrow, and it was a knell which all the joyous tumult of Thornley
could not drown. It was, therefore, with a deep presentiment of sorrow that I went to meet this bridal party at my paternal mansion.
It was a chill foggy afternoon when I drove up the old-fashioned straight avenue, and there would have been something very cheering in the blaze of lights which streamed from almost every window of the mansion, had I not encountered its master, his back turned to the festive scene, pacing, wrapped in his travelling pelisse, up and down the approach. I stopped the carriage, and springing out, embraced the son of Arthur and Caroline with parental affection. The likeness to his mother, even in the imperfect light, was such that I should have recognized him anywhere. He was moved, far beyond what I supposed our mere relationship could call forth; and, anxious to give a more cheerful turn to the interview, I put my arm within his, and begged to be conducted to his bride.
"She is riding, or walking, or something," said he, "with the rest of them. You will see her by and by." We now entered the drawingroom, and in the full light it afforded, I gazed on the slender, elegant, almost feminine-looking youth, whose pensive and eloquent countenance bespoke him as quick to feel as he was perhaps unequal to struggle with the inevitable disappointments and evils of life. There was an expression of settled dejection on his fine features which made me shudder; and it contrasted so with his position as a recent bridegroom, and returned heir, that it shocked me the more.
"We have made the old Chateau tolerably comfortable, I hope, nephew," said I.
"I believe they find it so," said he negligently; "as for me, I know too little of what English comforts are, to be sensible of their absence. Your winter," added he, shivering, "is sadly gloomy, and I feel a want of sunshine which all your coal fires cannot compensate."
"Don't let it affect your spirits,
my dear nephew," said I; "we have many things besides coal fires to make sunshine within doors in England. The smiles of a wife, for instance."
"Cold as your northern suns!" was the muttered reply, in a tone of bitterness which really frightened me. "I am as bad a judge of English smiles as of everything else I suppose," added he, in a softened accent- "I have been spoilt for them too I fear."
Just then a loud sound of talking and laughter announced the return of the equestrians, and my painful curi osity to see my new niece, was gratis fied. I had heard that she was handsome! She was more-she was dazzlingly beautiful-her tall fine figure, set off by her riding dress, and her complexion, heightened by exercise, struck me with admiration; and I wondered what Philip could mean by "cold smiles," when with one of irresistible frankness, she bade me welcome to Westerton. She made some lively remarks on their ride, and joined cheerfully in the chit-chat around. I looked at my nephew, to whom she had not spoken; and he, probably reading my astonishment, rose as with an effort, and approaching us, asked her in a tone of tender interest, if she felt fatigued? As if all her animation had been suddenly chilled by a painful recollection, she coldly and gravely answered, "Not in the least ;" and rising with ungracious haste, left the room to dress. "There must be something at the bottom of this," thought I, as my nephew, shaking his head sorrow fully, led me, with the rest of the gentlemen, to my room.
When we met at dinner, I was much struck with the contrast between the plain substantial meals which in my childhood covered my father's board, and the perfectly foreign air which, under the superintendence of an Italian Major domo, the table had now assumed. The party-who seemed about equally made up of mere sportsmen who despised, and dashers who criticised,
their entertainment and host-provoked me by alternately devouring and disparaging everything before them; while Philip, a stranger to their local wit, and disgusted with their selfishness, sat nearly silent by my side; and Lady Jane, more radiant than ever, listened complacently, if not encouragingly, to the small talk of her privileged cousin, the puppy of the set.
I never in my life saw such an illassorted party. There were one or two ladies, meet helpmates for their foxhunting or blackleg lords, silly, insipid, or worse; and it was impossible not to pity a poor foreigner thrown by his hard fate among such a specimen of British bon ton. On the guests I could scarce waste a thought; but Lady Jane cost me much painful rumination. She was certainly clever and accomplished; she must despise the beings around her; nay, I saw she did, by the smile which curled her beautiful lip, when their absurdity out-Heroded itself. It was scarce possible she should dislike her handsome, refined, deeply interesting husband; she did not." Thank God!" ejaculated I mentally more than once, when I detected her large blue eyes fixed with a softened expression on his face. "I will know the true history of all this," said I to myself;
two young hearts shall not misunderstand each other if I can help it."
There was in the party one individual whom I could not help regarding as the evil genius of the pairthe cousin of Lady Jane, who had been acquainted abroad with Philip, and whose mutual representations had greatly conduced to make the match. This young man, who was certainly of a cold calculating dispo sition, but in whose glances I could not avoid occasionally suspecting a warmer sentiment towards his fair cousin, seemed to exercise over her uncommon influence; and before the evening was over, I fancied she took advantage of his absence to address a few words of more than common kindness to her lord. He returned