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BOSTON, APRIL 1, 1828.
THE MAJOR AND MYSELF.
"Life is illusion: else my heart had borne
I have better to do, it is clear that I cannot do better than get rid of a few melancholy hours, by a fond recollection of past events; wherein I have (it has so happened) been a chief feature. In these recollections, I find a great deal to congratulate myself upon, but very little for which I can, with any consistency, affect gratitude. My vices have been, and are, not worth mentioning; my virtues I do not care to speak about. It is well said, "Virtue is its own reward;" but it is not well that it should be so.
I was, it has been told me, an extraordinary child; giving early indications of a wonderful precocity of intellect and fertility of imagination, which soon discovered itself in harmless and pleasant conceits of shifting facts occasionally, but innocently, from my own proper shoulders to the back of others. How soon did I scout, nay, utterly contemn, those absurd chronicles of the nursery, narrated by its venerable occupant !how soon set at nought the rule of that garrulous woman! Nor did my youth belie the promise of my infancy. Suffice it, that to the prodigality of nature was superadded the liberal endowment of art.
And here I cannot but suspect that many of my qualifications have rather tended to pluck me back in my progress through the world. Thus,
1 ATHENEUM, VOL. 9, 2d series.
[VOL. 9, N. S.
my knowledge of billiards was not very cheaply purchased, by being compelled to place into thorough repair the ruined limbs of a helpless marker, whom I casually cast out of the window.
My advancement in the science of fencing was sullied, if not retarded, by a silly accident. I chanced inad vertently, to dig out with my foil the sinister orb that figured in the countenance of my gigantic friend, Lieutenant Jacks-an orb, I was afterwards apprized, never failing at an ogle-fatal in point-blank encounter. Alas! Lieutenant Jacks was never after held in any account by the ladies, who looked upon him with as much indifference as upon that domestic Polyphemus-a bodkin.
My skill in swimming ofttimes seduced me to the treacherous deep. Caught by the leg, as in a vice, by a cramp-tortured tyro, I have been fain to
pleased Providence to allot to me gerheads-alternate roar and falsetto; for a maternal uncle; and truly the now rumbling and tumbling helterrelationship was immediately dis- skelter down the scale; and anon cernible. But our intercourse was leaping over the diapason, and turnkept up in a spirit of companionship ing sharp corners of sound (if I may and equality, which something scan- use the expression) in the most dedalized our friends. We were sworn lightful manner conceivable. Withbrothers in all parties-rivals in love; al, he was a perfect gentleman. forever dining at the same tablenot unfrequently rolling together under it.
The Major had been many years in India, from whence he returned touched slightly in the liver. It was far from delightful to hear, therefore, that his regiment was ordered off to Gibraltar shortly after his return. He found himself unable to coincide in this arrangement.-"What!" he thundered, "chained to a rock, with the liver complaint-like that old pestilent ninuy, Prometheus-not to be thought of!" And so he exchanged into another regiment, congratulating himself upon his prudence, and repeating the above pleasantry as an evidence of it. Classical, I admit, but hardly conclusive-more especially as the exchange was any thing but advantageous.
Being at college, I oft received intimations of the Major's health and proceedings from his own hand, some of which were of a peculiarly strange import; but I was not a little surprised, one morning, to receive an effusion, which instructed me that he (the Major) was contracted in marriage to a lady who—this fatal manuscript assured me-was violently prejudiced against-nay, who denounced me as a worthless abettor and encourager of his faults, which she was about to eradicate. I was advised to pursue diligently my studies, and not to attempt, under pain of frustration, to thrust myself into their domestic tranquillity. The conclusion spake of a cessation of cash payments.
This effusion operated like a gemini of new-sprung spectres upon my nerves. As my eye reeled upon each successive word, the air became thick and clogged. I screwed the letter painfully up into my clammy palm; my respiration quickened in an irrational ratio, till at length it gave birth to a clamorous complain
The Major was a tall, loosely-arranged man, with a figure susceptible of every variety of movement and contortion. His face was like the ingenious apex of a carved walkingstick; his arms, like grappling-irons. Then his legs seemed attached to his body by way of special favourextra appendages, borrowed" by the hour;" and the feet belonging to these legs looked like continuations of the same at right angles, or as though Nature had doubled them down, to mark where she had left off. Ladies would have called him an ordinary-others thought him an extraordinary-man.
Now the Major was a vast favourite with the ladies; and I do not wonder at it. He was a very Chevalier Bayard of the drawing-room -the perfect type of chivalrous devotion. His bow was literally the ne plus ultra of flexibility of manners. He was evidently bent upon making "both ends meet," like a pinched annuitant upon the verge of Candlemas. For elegant flattery, tact, liveliness, anecdote, humour, and untiring perseverance, there was no one like him. For an eye, a sigh, a squeeze of the hand, or an appeal to the heart, I never heard of his equal. Perhaps I bear some resemblance to him in these matters.
Then could he dance immensely! Once put in motion, so astonishing with his vigour in that exercise, that you would have sworn there must be, not one, but many Majors-a legion in all parts of the room. In song, also, he was accounted great, though I have heard some who denied the purity of his taste. His voice was a bass and soprano at log