Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

CHAPTER III.

How beautiful is youth!
How often, as it passes by
With flowing limbs and flashing eye,
With soul that not a care has cross'd,
With cheek that not a tint has lost,
How often, in my heart I cry,
How beantiful is youth !

WILLIAM HowITT.

Il était tout en petites habitudes, en petits détails, en petits

bonheurs, qui se répandaient ça et là dans sa conversation ; car enfin le moyen de suivre sans de grandes précautions cet admirable vagabond, qui ne sait jamais lui même où il va ?-J.JANIN.

I am sorely afraid, dear Public, that you accuse me of progressing in my story after the fashion of the automaton invented by Sir Francis Blake and Mr. Edgeworth, or some other amateur experimental philosophers, which was to acquire locomotion from the influence of atmospheric pressure, and which, at the close of a year or so, had put its best leg foremost so as to advance the ten thousandth part of an inch.- For I cannot expect the circumstantiality of Cecil at forty, to please like the circumstantiality of Cecil at twenty-one. Even were the convolvulus bed as bright as ever,—which of you, gentle readers, would care to know the express terms of any billet likely to be addressed to me under its draperies ?

I will consequently do you the favour to pass over the tediousness of that autumn and winter; which was spent by the Mereworths at Naples, and by me in a succession of country houses assuring myself night and morning, with a punctnality worthy of themselves, that I cared nothing at all about the matter.

I was losing my time,-but what was to be done ?-After that brief but emphatic letter of Lady M. it would have been direct disobedience to her commands to proceed to the Continent ; -and though I own I bate English country visiting, the system has its advantages for an idle younger brother.

It was

some time, moreover, since I had enjoyed any tolerable shooting or hunting. The make-believe work of the stay hounds had somewhat spoiled me for Leicestershire ; and if ever I intended to enter again into the tortures of a hard day's sport, now was my time. The boys of the day, -saucy shrimps from college or the Guards,-fellows who ought to hunt in pinafores, -were beginning to wax jocular among themselves, about Cecil's style of riding, and Cecil's weight; and unless I intended to enlist at once in the brigade of veterans, it was my business to stand well that winter both at Melton and with the Pytchley.

I fatter myself I escaped the name of Old Danby by feats of very tolerable éclat, and got off cheap too, for my broken collar-bone was only the affair of a week; at the end of which, luckily for me, came a long frost, which, as is usually the case among hunting men, brought my home and family tenderly to my recollection. The domestic affections warmed in my

heart in proportion to the severity of the weather.

Even I was struck by the beauty of Jane when I arrived at Ormington Hall.—What more striking than the daily development of womanhood at that exquisite age of seventeen, when, as in the last few weeks that a picture lingers on the easel of an artist, masterstrokes gradually animate the canvas, and bring out the strength of the work, wbile a slight varnish over the whole imparts brilliancy to effects hitherto un perceived.

Does any one wish for an elaborate description of my niece? - She was of the middle height, with a profusion of rich brown hair, springing so gracefully from a beautifully formed head, as to be an ornament in itself. Her figure was slight, yet fully developed ; but her peculiar charm consisted in a sort of awkward grace, if I may so describe it,-a struggling against shyness,—which every moment brought the colour to her cheek, and a

half-pleased, half-anxious expression to her eye, rendering her the very image of sensibility. Jane had not a look or gesture precisely like those of her neighbours; and the consequence was that however crowded the room, the eye was always seeking her with curiosity and attention.

Her father's sought her indeed with a degree of interest amounting almost to idolatry. Danby seemed to feel that the child was already lost to him,—that the woman would not long remain: that, no sooner seen in the world than so lovely and gifted a creature would be snatched away from his paternal arms, to consecrate the happiness of another home.-1 was almost sorry for him, indeed, when I perceived how utterly he had surrendered his soul to the influence of this one affection. It was not like his usual wisdom,his usual moderation.-Yet how could one

wonder? - The loss of his wife and child had

left him only this solitary tie to brighten the sterile dreariness of a public career.

« ForrigeFortsett »