“and the weary are at rest”1
Angria and the Angrians the lap against which my temples used to beat was not that of a Mother or daughter but of a WIFE and if I appear outwardly forgetful of her now do I not inwardly think of her till sleep snatches away remembrance? I have no longer the half bashful half delighted cheek to blush to my morning salutations no longer the evening solace for the past days cares but of those cares themselves I have plenty who as each fresh one enters my bosom bring tidings of others on the road and if this strong Frame and iron constitution of mine fail me—Good God! What should I do! I dread a single hint at physical decay as the criminal does each tick of the clock which must toll his knell. When this firm foot can no longer tread the heather this warm blood no longer thrill to a womans touch this working brain no longer teem with thick coming fancies this omnivourous stomach no longer bear its three bottles or twenty tumblers—then what the devil is Alexander Percy to do? I am not a woman to bear pain with patience so the life of an invalid would kill me or drive me mad. Fancy ME reclining on four pillows—attended by as many nurses—the pill and the draught my only nourishment—the physician and the surgeon my only friends—cares for a decaying body my employment for this life—My Vicar or his curate the gate posts to flank me in an Harlequin jump into the life to come No Mary—No, nor Thee Maria—to remind me by their voice and presence that earth has had its ‘Paradise lost’; no Ezekiel or Zechariah or Habbakuk or other hero with a name as rough as his beard to give me a shoulder hitch into ‘Paradise regained.’2 Well as honest Nym has it “things must be as they may’3 So for this days work I shall begin with some sport—secondly get up a row—thirdly excite a fever in my veins by an hours talk with yonder neglected lady—fourthly excite one in the veins of my companions by rapid communication with Thurstons wine cellar— fifthly go to bed in as bad a temper as a badger after a baiting and sixthly rise from bed with another step advanced toward the bodily ruin I so abhorr. Well as Nym again has it “Conclusions must pass”—4 Hallo! Bob you rascal did I not swear I would kick you down to your last master if I found you drunk this 420 morning—What are you bullying Thurston for? But you shall have my boots presently.”5
So saying and in no very hesitating accent Mr Percy jumped over the gully which divided him from the shooting party gathering round the fire, and collared his little old servant who had been standing opposite to the Lord of the manor with most un—menial assurance, while Mr Thurston looked on the groom with a scowl which was transfered on Percy’s advent to the grooms master.
“What is this old horse stealer about Thurston?” asked Mr Percy giving Bob a shake that discomposed his stomach—
“Oh Sir—ask your servant yourself—for I’m damned if I care.”
“Thurston let me have none of your ill humours shewn or I’ll send you to the Leeds Infirmary to be tapped6—Now Robert le Diable—”
“Aw cannot spake Maister—yaw throttle me so.”
“Lie the first—now go on you old fool—Hector do not you interfere.”
“Weel Maister” said the old man liberated from the gripe of his gigantic young Master—and putting on the mask of one grievously wronged though much forgiving—“Weel Aw will just tell all as straight as t’ Craven Heifer’s back and as fast as the winner o’ th’ Leger7—Weel Aw hev been yaw’re sarvent and the sarvent o’ yaw’re father—and knew him that wor th’ owd maister of all— and hev donced you on me knees and gein ye th’ first pack of cairds you handled—and leughed when yaw teuk th’ Jack up and said he wor a sweet un and” —Here the old patriarch wiped one eye with his coat cuff but the clenched and whitened knuckles of his masters fist moved him to restrain his more tender feelings—“Weel—Aw niwer wor so behaved tull sin’ aw wor wick and walking! Aw can stand somemut to sup on, but Aw can not stand a lee!—This Gentleman says Aw wor seen wi’ a lady in his plantation this varry morning and Aw can tak my awn owd family Bible to witness that Aw nivver melled wi’ no lasses niwer sin’ aw wor born into this wearisome warld!”
Thurston himself could not help a grim smile at the old scoundrels denial of attempts at flirtation but all smile on his face died as soon as born so he grimly asked Percy
“Are we going to lose our sport for your impudent old groom?”
“Oh no Thurston—time enough yet—now Bob my Vestal virgin—go on!”
“Weel Maister he says he see’d me wi’ his awn cousin—Miss—Aw do not kmow what they call her.”
“Miss Allen Bob—well go on lad—”
“And he said he saw thee kiss her” roared Mr Montmorency in high apparent glee at the farce enacting— 421
“Silence Hector as you value that front tooth—” exclaimed Percy rather seriously.
“Naw Maister Aw tak the blessed book or owd John Wesleys hymns or ought else yaw like to witness that Aw wor there and then filling yawr hampers and feeding yawre dogs—for Me—me thats gotten to age Aw hev getten to—to be called a follower o’ women is railly—nay—it’s beyont raison!”
“Now Percy” broke in Mr Thurston “I must stop this humbug—I did see from my dressing room window that fellow of yours pass to and from one of my relations—I mean a yong lady in my house as if on a message or by appointment—and I afterwards saw a Gentleman whom Montmorency saw like wise and affirms was yourself enter into the thicket—Come aside Percy—I want to talk to you.”
“Not a step from this spot will I stir William—I’ll have this cleared up before I walk a stride or fire a shot!”
Mr Percy’s brow darkened into the hue almost of Thurstons as he laid down his fowling piece and turning to Mr Montmorency asked—
“Now Hector—this day shall either prove sport or earnest—Which do you wish it to be—I ask Thurston as well as yourself and can tell you I am ready for either—”
“For sport—I should have said my dearest” chuckled the Barrister—“But if we stay here much longer we shall have a glut of that sort of thing—We shall need earnest to vary the entertainment. Two Squires quarrelling over a drunken servant about a mornings dream! Pray God they do not shoot each other instead of moor cocks.”
“Hector my old fellow I am not just in the humour to be manufactured into either a cricket bat or ball or wicket I wish neither to strike—be the means of striking or be struck but I am—if as innocent looking as arsenic—just as dangerous, and look at this”—here Mr Percy dashed a charge of powder from his flask into his palm—“There is stuff that can keep quiet for twenty yearrs but if kept carefully mark you—only wants one snap of that trigger to send to Hell King Solomon in all his glory”
“Aye—its pretty powder—Its like thy temper Percy—short and sudden and like friend Thurstons face—black and ugly”
“Come aside Percy—I want to talk to you” said Thurston breaking in on the conversation “And I say Alexander You must come or I’ll take care we do not make a pleasant day of it though I am your host—”
The idea that a quarrel with his ill tempered entertainer would just now be very ill timed was cunningly whispered by Montmorency into Percy’s ear and readily recieved by the latter who walked to a short distance with Mr Thurston and then was stopped by the latter who said with a burst of ill temper
“What the devil did you meet Miss Allen for this morning”
“If I did it was as a somnambulist”
“Montmorency says you did”
“Then he lies.”
“Your servant I myself saw meet her.” 422
“Thats more than I did”
“But he is your servant and so he must have met her on a message from yourself”
“Thats more than I know”
“Is he not your servant?”
“No—He is my groom but the devils servant”
“Percy you play with edge tools and I will not be baulked by you! Mind what I say—I will not be baulked by you! You know what I mean and either in one case or in another I repeat I will not be baulked by you! I am a man of few words Percy but if I do not say much I think a deal and on occasion I can act—I do not speak threatningly—I regard you as my guest and aquaintance and friend and in fact all that sort of thing—but—why if the truth will out—I have lost a deal of money and I cannot be bothered—there will be mischeif Sir if I am in the least troubled depend upon it—You know all about Miss Allen—You know whether or not she is my cousin—and Mr Montmorency says you did meet her this morning—It could be to no good Percy for I have a deal of black blood, though I will not as I repeat threaten any one, and I could bear no interference with any arrangements of mine!—Then besides all that—all we have talked about—”
“Nay Thurston” remarked Percy “I have not talked at all—I have not the most distant idea of the goal which you would gain—I only know that we are delaying our sport incommoding our friends and, if the truth must bespoken, making cursed fools of ourselves.”
Mr Thurston on hearing the calm and rather supercilious voice of Mr Percy seemed to suffer a mental change similar to what a wet blanket might physically produce if wrapped round a fevered body. He leaned on his gun and holding out his hand rather awkwardly replied
“I meant nothing wrong—nothing I assure you—I only wanted to know—that is I do know Mr Montmorency is a—”
“A Scoundrel” said Percy, finishing the sentence as without accepting Thurstons proffered hand he turned with hasty steps to rejoin his still hastier companions.
Mr Thurston followed with a look so sweet that O’ Connor declared he had swallowed vitriolic acid instead of porter and Quamina swore he never had a blacker bargain from Camaroons or Congo rivers. Montmorency had long been joking with the Keepers who evidently marked him down as a delightful fellow and Mr Robert King had for an equal space of time been venting the indignation of outraged virtue upon the boys and grooms who held charge of the baskets. Now however—the two magnates having returned without black eyes or bloody noses and apparently on terms of friendship, however wide their hearts might be assunder—though one might be conscious of his mastership over and exulting in his powers to torture a being bound by this worlds laws to him in the old Hall far below them—and the other—two days since, 423
“Vacant hand and heart and eye”8
now feeling a lawless abandonment of self to the white cheek and the melancholy eyes which from habitual discharge of a routine of duties hardly ever changed however much the heart might throb or the soul might sicken—Now, the procession felt at liberty to move, and with the wild moors before them the hopes of sport around them—the possession of sound health among them—for even old King was undecayed—why did they not feel truly happy?
Those whose lives lie within the walls of their library little know what has formed the existence of the men who have given them their treasures and those who know no feelings beyond domestic duties cannot divine the thoughts that cross strong but unbridled minds without a home to flee to or long lost to thoughts of home.
Among the gentlemen who formed this army against the ‘Moors’ who had a real home? Mr Montmorency had not—whose wife lay under the huge roof of Cologne Cathedral dead after a few years of sufferance under himself and a few months of the outbreak and indulgence of long felt and late enjoyed love of the man who ‘left her alone to die’9—That Man—Mr Percy had not—who besides such thorns in his flesh—such pinches as the old man Adam gave Christians— knew that cold earth embraced the little lady who never thought but for him— Nor had Mr O’ Connor who felt bitterly that his rents as soon as due must be recieved not by his own itching fingers but by the widely expanding palm of Mr Jeremiah Simpson—Nor had the said Simpson whose nerves were troubled respecting the value of certain American and Spanish mortgages held from Mr Quamina Nor had Quamina whose soul longed by another venture on the now hazardous middle passage to gain enough to clear himself from Jeremiahs talons—Nor had Gordon who felt that his fate and fortune spun round with a teetotum—that Red and Black gave the colours to his chamelion destiny—Nor had probably any one of the fry of Servants Keepers watchers and drivers—for
“Each have their sufferings all are men
Condemned alike to groan
The feeling for anothers pain
The unfeeling for his own.”10
However a wide expanse of breezy highland heathers with the sun of the ‘twelfth’ tipping thro purple bloom and where broad breasts face a healthy breeze and Britains peculiar birds surrender their lives at every shot—was no place for remembering by past sorrows or participating in the feelings of the bard 424 of Olney,11 and when at noontide the diverging groups of sportsman and attendants met at a lonely spring whose diamond water gushed up through deep green mosses in a dell of knee deep heather under a semicircle of whinstone rock they seemed all engrossed in the display of their bags or in excusing a want of display. Thurston from his knowledge of the ground and power over the underlings seemed to produce two or three brace more than any of his guests—O’ Connor and Quamina who had given themselves up to the sport regardless of every other consideration save a pull at the whiskey flask ranked second as victors Montmorency could afford to swagger over Simpson and Gordon but all rode triumphant over the acknowledged best shot in the party—Mr Percy.
“Well” exclaimed Mr O’ Connor turning over Percys single Cockbird which was minus a head from some access of fury on the part of the shooter— “Well Gentlemen—hand me the flask—I have lived through many troubles in my time but this is a regular extinguisher upon all! To think that I have nine brace to shew against half an one from the best gun between Derbyshire and Westmoreland is enough to make me fancy I can pay off my debts—I can tell why Simpson and Gordon have failed for they have had their hands in their purses instead of on their triggers, and as for Montmorency—He’s been thinking of his next breif in a ‘crius cori’ case12 or an action for assault and battery. Then Thurston can do as he pleases because the fellows about us know that when he wishes a nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse—but Percy with half a bird—I say Quamina hand me over the flask—Well may we have more Percy’s ere the days out and then thou and I Quashia may do a little business at our old profits of 500 per cent.”
Mr Quamina replied—“He is head over ears O’ Connor—He is indeed Arthur! I see it in his squint at us two! He has bagged his bird before he donned his jacket and Thurston had better take care of that”—
“Who—I? What are you saying?” exclaimed the Host furiously but Mr Quamina evidently astonished swallowed all reply in another pull at his flask and so Mr Thurston turned to Percy for either an answer or a quarrel but as the latter saw Montmorency watching with an eager eye the cloud no bigger than a mans hand13 which should presage storms to others and pass unnoticed over himself; and as he was not desirous of being the victim of his friends or his hosts revenge he tossed off his horn of mountain dew—threw his single headless bird to his old servant and bidding him take care to bring the poney and his own skin safe back to Darkwall he lost no time in good mornings or excuses but dashed back across the gulley and down the long cart rut which served as a path from the peat pits to the farm steads of a more civilized land
I cannot be expected to dissect Mr Percy’s feelings or emotions during 425 his rapid walk back to Darkwall as I believe he scarce left time to do so himself but with a scorn of his morning employment a distaste toward his mornings companions and a revulsion of thoughts which made the whole twelfth a day of black chalks he sprung over the first style and strode over the first causeways through the twenty acre pastures of green land stolen from heather and made part and parcel of Darkwall farm
Percy did not make any halt in his intrusion so soon and so unexpectedly upon the quietude of a Hall which expected domestic slumber till evening brought in such visitors as might be willing to turn night into day. He made his return known to the Lady of the mansion and was recieved by her in the breakfast room
“I have returned so soon” he said “because I felt my hand was not in for sport and among men over whom I am accustomed to crow I do not like [to] appear second best so you as are aware that fruitless rest is better than fruitless labour I have returned to find in your mansion the ancient works of man which I can look at while seated on a sopha instead of the ancient works of nature which take so many miles of bog trotting to enjoy. How many hours of rest shall I have ere my sad crew return?”
“Thurston did not mention any certain time for the return of your party but I expected no one before six.”
While Mrs Thurston spoke and during the first moments of her meeting with the unexpectedly arrived guest no servant about the establishment could have been so dull as not to percieve the embarrasment of their usually calm and sweet tempered Mistress—The eye which usually had a dove like glance for all—the voice which had a gentle tone and the steps which were so quiet now changed into a phase of irritation in manner—trouble in the eyes and hesitation both in voice and step—but a ready Key might have been given to these changes had the observers been aware of the risks she was running from an innocent breach of promises given to her furious husband and meant to be kept as faithfully as made, and the revulsion of all hospitable or lady-like feeling should she keep to the letter of her promise as well as the still small voice scarce daring to whisper amid conflicting winds which told a womans and a ladys heart that a visitor was sheltered under her roof whose mind possessd some mettle more attractive than ebullitions of sour reproach—whose feelings had a wider higher and deeper range than what would be exersised in attempts to ruin others or onse self—whose person likewise gave animated instead of cloudy looks gentle flexibility of tone instead of bilious snappishness—Eyes of mobile imaginativeness instead of bull-like suspicion—lips of winning sweetness instead of acerb ill temper, that she might now in fact have hoped for one happy afternoon after so many blank or blotted ones but for the grim threatning scowl which from neighbouring moors frowned upon her companionship the thunder shadows of resentment and revenge.
Percy took his station at a window which faced the moors and after a long look at moving clouds which from chrysalis like mists had condensed into an emphemeral life of sunny joy and on moors whose clearly defined outlines 426 while they spoke to sportsmen of “the battle and the breeze,” left his mind ’scaped from scenes of havoc which would make “e’en moorcocks weep” to recurr to former times and like the dove “to flee away and be at rest”14
“One would think” he remarked without noticing the embarrasment in the manner of his hostess—“that these melancholy wastes rose above the warm atmosphere of pleasure and beyond the mild influences of sympathy but unless among the dull brick built streets and foggy air and filthy pavement of a town view, one seldom can see a natural prospect of which we can say truthfully “it is stark naught”15 I once sat not far from Scarboro’ under a black wet semicircle of rock with no objects in sight except sand and star fish for a few yards in front and the tidal waves framed in the dark rocks of my cove which ended in a grey background of sea stretching parallel to a milky sky. Now one might ask where lay the charm that could keep me half an hour biting my cane and like the laird on his ‘louping on stane’16 ‘looking frae’ me when if the prospect did embrace the three great objects of nature Heaven Earth and Ocean they would all have been seen to better advantage on the walls of the National Gallery or in the pages of a young ladies scrap book, and besides did not the ever changing tide of human life on the promenade offer a wider scope for reflection than the monotonous surges of the sea? Would not a railway cutting shew rock work in a more scientific as well as more shapely form than the shapeless and useless piles that girdled me? Would not even the little circular Museum hold forth at an easy distance more interesting specimens of geological and Zoological history than those afforded by the cornelian pebbles or limpet shells or starfish that sprawled among the narrow foreground of sand and sea weed? Very true Mrs Thurston—but neither science and the picturesque combined or any other compound known can produce at ones own will or that of another person the incommunicable emotions of an inward reflective joy.”
“Joy is not the appropriate term for it I think Sir.”
“How do you know that? I was aware of my mistake but I did not imagine a lady would discover it.”
“Perhaps one who has been for years accustomed to see natural beauty only in grey walls and naked fields and barren moors may—although a woman— have attained to some expertness in extracting from them what they have to give of subdued emotion or pleasurable calm. The owner of Chatsworth17 must not fancy he alone has a delight in Flora because he owns a five hundred feet Conservatory. The heath bloom or the daisy or the foxglove with “its silent peal 427 of bells”18 may give a thrill of pleasure to the walker through rushy fields and over boggy moors which could not have been exceeded by Schomburgh himself when he first saw the immense Victoria flower gleaming among the reeds of the Essequibo”19
“You speak justly—but—I know not how it is—I do not like to hear women speak thus as it appears that they have to fall back on indefinable musings for a refuge from palpable care. Let such rescources be left to a fellow like myself as I should be as cloud capped as ever was Boulshill20 yonder if I thought that a wife of mine were like a bee sucking comfort from wild flowers on the ridge of his heathy brow! But I suppose we must all get happiness where we can and if it escapes our pursuit we must not repine. Were we born into this world for happiness or is joy the puzzling and contradictory exception to the routine engagements of life and sorrow the Egyptian task work which binds us to our long life-day’s work of toil?
“We have guides Sir in even the most intricate journey and of these Duty is one very safe if sometimes unpleasing. Rectitude of conduct points out the straightest road from this to the other world and hope if healthy will help one over ordinary obstacles and if feverish it will do us more harm than what might be caused by the common excitement of wine. Resignation I would recommend as a faster friend than either for it neither craves for hope or fears despair.”
Mr Percy did not immediately reply to Mrs Thurstons words but he took his seat on the sopha leaned his head on his hand and surveyed the furniture of the room with eyes that might have been mistaken for those of an Auctioneer or Upholsterer had not their matter of fact inquisitiveness been contradicted and relieved by the peculiar smile of his mobile lips. Mrs Thurston was already seated at her little work table and examined her embroidery frame with an attention which might have been as much mistaken as his own—for the patience with which she proceeded in her work partook of the commonplace character of—not perhaps an Upholsterer—but a Power loom weaver—Still the dark eye lashes, bent ever downwards, seemed sometimes moist; and she never once looked at his face whose gaze (though with no difference in expression from that which examined her footstool) was so often bent on hers. One of those pauses in which thought seems struggling among the meshes of a net which it has not the power to break and wherein a few minutes of silence send ones mind flying over a score of years occurred to give additional abstraction to both the lady’s and the gentlemans countenance, till Mr Percy broke the ice by soliloquizing—
“What a fool they will think me to escape so soon and with half a brace 428 from the sports of so sweet a twelfth of August! Had I brought down a bag crammed with birds flesh and feathers—had I been able to boast of dozens instead of units I had been a hero but now—reclining at noon in Thurstons parlour while my companions are roaming ten thousand acres of heather is really a virtual resignment of my sportsmans crown—Well—when I have nothing else to think of or when I want to drive off all thought I can be as sharp a shot and as stalwart a walker as any one but when I am out o’ the vein I will not brag of performances worthy of being registered in any column of Bells Life in London.21 What have I returned for? My head can not tell me and I wonder if my heart could give me my reason.”
“Perhaps your caprice might—for people generally give you credit for the possession of that uncertain quality.”
Mr Percy turned his face towards his hostess as he half reclined on the cushions and said rather growlingly
“Do people in general fancy me like an actor or an Opera dancer and do you imagine that my return hither was because I liked whinrocks built into a wall better than whin rocks scattered over a moor? That I preferred my host’s servants to my host’s guests? That I was attacked by a ‘male green sickness’22 and loved chalk better than cheese? No I believe you to be so far advanced in sense and so well able to appreciate motives or divine intentions as to feel that I returned because a couple of hours spent with yourself would appear one hour and three quarters shorter in the registered revolution of this sun than the same time spent among the pursuits I travelled hither to take part in—because I hoped to find in you the gaslight which in a Theatre or ballroom apologises for the
“gay beams of lightsome day”23
You are aware that being a forlorn widower my daylight has winked its wearied eye and dreams or fancies only can restore in the present and future night those alleviations to trouble which fate and fortune have carried far off and far away. Should I very hastily ride back at the risk of a horses knees or walk back at the risk of my own to see Mr O’ Connor or Mr Quamina discuss a couple of bottles before luncheon—to calculate the value of the estates yet to be or just having been mortgaged by them with Simpson and Gordon—to try with Hector which of the two could look most treacherous or with Thurston which could look most sour? No—no—I returned as if to a shadow of my ancient returning during years wherein I could doff my shooting dress and find a face to welcome me milder than that of a man though that man might be a friend—You are looking confused and serious but you need not do so as I must speak what I feel and what I feel is not in want of a cloak”— 429
“Indeed Sir I was only about to rise to ring the bell as I am sure you must need refreshment and probably Miss Allen, my husband’s cousin, who will soon arrive from her walk will join you—I believe she did not expect you here though—any more than myself.”
“Madam—mark me—Do you not think it strange in a person to invite another to dinner and set before him a service of plate but forget all the viands— Then will it not be strange in yourself to welcome me hither and refuse the only pleasure that could make me feel pleased? I see you are about to retire but as my time in this house must be short why try to make that time uncomfortable? Why try to afflict with midnight frost mental leaves that only want for due development an hour or so of morning dew and sunny balm? Do not allow anxiety to spoil your eyes as I see it is doing whenever I notice you to look at the carriage road or listen to the door bell—You have had havoc enough played with your marble cheeks ere now without seeking for any further bleaching and though I heed little who enters here I must if you look so sad much longer be vividly reminded of the different looks with which eyes now closed for ever expected and watched for my own returns. Oh it is true that a soul too lovely for the tempests of this wretched life—too blessed to have a long abidence here may still not die but slumber—and forgetting its own decaying body wake after a few years of repose in the shelter of a corporeal shrine as congenial and as fair. Do not leave the room—I was only permitting a hasty temper to indulge in expectations which can never be fulfilled and I will not be frowned upon if I own that THY womanly gentleness has tamed a heart which sorrow was making sadly too wild.
“I think I see Miss Allen coming up the walk and so you will soon have more cheerful company than any I can give.”
“I do not desire cheerfulness” said Mr Percy rising and pacing rapidly through the apartment—“I want some thing of more value—some thing which will not leave me with a joke or a smile—I want—Why before Miss Allen enters I want Thy hand in proof that I have not angered Thee, or at least in acknowledgement that with thee reproof of an offence may be mingled with pardon for the offender—Come, as my hostess thy hand must be placed in mine—or I have no alternative save to ride off directly or open out a budget of quarrels—God bless the fingers which can by one touch give a whole days life to me—”
So Mr Percy spoke with some haste and much earnestness as he clasped Mrs Thurstons hand while she was passing—and standing over her with a look of mingled love and sorrow besought by such a glance pardon from her brow and sympathy from her eyes—but well for her equanimity of temper and in full accordance with the gentlemans calculations it happened that ere Mrs Thurston could say a sentence or retire a step the door was opened to admit Miss Louisa Allen on her arrival from her solitary mornings walk.
Miss Allen looked highly flushed and breathed very rapidly but that might have been owing to her hurried return—She did not speak to Mrs Thurston—express[ed] her astonishment in a few syllables at Mr Percys 430 desertion of his companions and then threw aside with some impatience the incumbrances of bonnet and mantle.
Mr Percy looked at her with an expression of risibility on his countenance and told her that of the two she seemed more like one who had followed the sports of that morning than himself, for he felt as cool as a cucumber while her cheeks were in a July glow. However only replying that if he felt like a cucumber she felt like a water melon Miss Allen went to the window and Percys laughing eye could mark the entering sunlight glisten on a cheek wet with a few tears not of sensibility to the lovely wilds before her but of that most reckless of all feelings a womans bad temper. He turned from that face to another expressing an equally true picture of a woman but as it was now again bent over the embroidery frame how different seemed the effect of the view & the parks of Windsor and the silver Thames beheld from Richmond hill could not be less like the great Glen beheld from Ben Nevis24 than was the sweet resignation which compassionated anothers ruffled temper from the rebellious look which nursed and lived on revenge for all causes of disquiet that might thwart its will.
“How pleasant” he remarked seating himself on the sopha and talking at Miss Allen if not to her. “How much milder the feelings produced by a retirement into a primitive district from the false fitful fever of a life in town— Had I been now in the Metropolis and were it now before the prorogation I should have been obliged to dress and paint my soul in all manner of false colours to meet and mix with souls which could no more mingle with mine than oil could with water—To pass compliments with women whose dead corpses would no more affect my real feelings than their living charms—to keep terms of friendship with men who would cause me much more pleasure by a communication with them through my boot toes instead of the tips of my fingers—Here now I find nature in its unsophisticated state—Hills that laugh to scorn the ploughshare a park that absolutely gives a ‘guffaw’ to Sir Henry Stewart of Allanston25—a room that exersises[sic] as much decorum in its admission of sunlight from Heaven as did the court under whose auspices it was built in the encouragement of sunlight from eyes—Aye and I suspect more for Queen Bess could see a trim leg among her nobles at a score of yards distance and Mrs Thurston cannot see her needle at an inch from her eye. Miss Allen alone has telescopic power of vision for she looks earnestly for planets or constellations through a heaven wherein I can only see hot autumnal vapours and a single mackarel cloud.”26
“Perhaps” answered the lady with a rather unsuccessful attempt at cheerfulness—“My cloud may afford a more substantial prospect than words which disguise or don’t know their meaning.” 431
“Perhaps a flitch of Bacon—nay a glass of flummery may be more substantial than “Angels ever bright and fair.”27 The first is substance the last sound—but not the less worthy of remembrance when coupled with the alliance of a thrilling voice and jet black eyes.”
The reference to Handels song evidently aided in temporarily soothing the little vixen like person at the window who seemed to have a dream of W——— Cathedral and of an Organist pushed from his seat to make way for the touch of fingers inspired as much by a syrens voice as by the organs roll, and of one who beheld as he touched the Keys not the portly and comely presence of Mr George Frederic Handel but the sylph like figure of one whom she could at any hour behold in the glass with raven locks as Symmons has it
“like midnight loosed at noon”28
So she turned more animatedly from her long look at Boulshill and for the first time since her entrance into the room vouchsafed a smile—Perhaps Percy noticed that it was rather one of triumph at momentary success over a fancied rival than at disinterested love of his praise, so he changed his varying features till their powers seemed wreaked on the beads that were gradually forming the roses and tulips of Mrs Thurstons work, and then Miss Allen rousing from silenc[e]d irritability saying—
“You may court the sunshine but as the day grows so sultry I will seek shade—I don’t think I shall walk—love—before luncheon,” She departed leaving29 behind her the embarrasment produced by the departure of one much displeased from a company wherein no one wished to cause displeasure—and yet I fear the absence of so bright a planet did not give a more midnight hue to the sky which in Mr Percys eyes did sem to contain some scarce explored or erratic star while in those of his hostess it held—if her sad cheek could tell anything— no light whatever—save the ignus fatuus of decay which lights up the enamel remnants of time past or the half despair and half hope which through present frosty skies of winter affords a fitful Aurora borealis to mock the sunshine of Youths summer in the Greenland heavens of time to come. Mrs Thurston looked as if desirous of following her lady guest but a scowling eye pursued her through a meandering search among sideboards for skeins of silk wherein every tack was doorwards till she could feign no longer but placidly returned to her seat and reassumed the hostesses benignness
“Now then” remarked Percy “Summer will have its thunderstorms and noe has just past by with but one peal—I ought to be thankful; for judging from 432 my fair foes eyes a commmon flash of lightning would be nothing to the effect educible from their volcanic fire. Why is it that slender frames enclose such daring spirits while a creature like myself of six feet two can only baa like a new cast lamb?”
The very handsome mouth of Mr Percy as he uttered the last sentence curled into a positively ugly sneer and moved for once a smile on the rather too pallid lips of the lady who listened to him—She replied without looking up from her work
“Fits of temper among theose of our sex seem rational compared with those among yours—If we feel aggrieved past endurance we can at least leave the room whereas you seem disposed to stay and covertly vex persons whom the rules of society forbid you openly to insult”
“And do you apply so severe a censure as your words would imply, to me? Do you think I have returned from an aimless and tiresome journey so soon to spend the time which should have been occupied in killing Moorgame in plaguing women? Two there are of your sex to whom I have spoken this morning and one I am sure I have no wish to irritate or displease—the other now seated opposite to me must retire into her own heart to answer the enquiry does she dislike me more or less than the dozens or scores of country boors that alone have awaked her silver voice since the day she left Euston Square Station?30—She knows God has not blighted me with the thunderbolt of personal deformity or the Typhoon of repulsive manners—She must feel that what bad passions and tempers I have are caged up or rioting in a wildernesses far apart from her sylvan shades—That I have no wish to exert my superior bodily strength save to preserve her from harm or my more impetuous temper save to infuse vigour into her mildness—That I forget the black daemons of melancholy partly because her aspect scares them and partly because my anxiety for her comfort subdues them—That indeed I am here just now because God’s goodness has given to me for a short time a daily drop of ‘elixir vitae’ in my cup of restless misery—A sweet remembrance—my girl—of thoughts which must be innocent because they lie wholly in the grave and are only called forth again in this room as among the snows of December you would open the phial which held the essence of Julys rose. You must not rise I31—once more repeat—for luncheon is I suppose nearly ready and neither I or yourself—I mean yourself or I would partake of it with more relish from knowing that anger or insult or false modesty or conventional manners had separated our tables or our hearts.Look at this Old Hall Maria Thurston—is it a hypocrite? Look at that mirror—does it tell lies? Look at what that mirror reflects—Is it an image qualified to shine only in a London crowd of fashionables or over the benches of a Methodist conventicle? You KNOW you are a lady and that a man if worthy of the name can neither 433 dislike or even feel indifferent to you. You know that you are a neglected lady and that I know you are so. You know too that I would lose lifes blood to drive injury from you and sacrifice its comforts to give you pleasure and if you know so much my girl you likewise know that I am not returned hither to change for you this balmy twelfth of August into a weeping twelfth of April, but to indulge a selfish desire for happiness in conversation with you and to exersise a most unselfish feeling in contributing to the ease of the gentle heart which beats within that corset and cheering the hours of a lady who too often I fear has to spend them alone. Cannot I have some stores of knowledge from which to furnish an hours innocent amusement when while her bosom has only brooded dovelike over home scenes my wandering wings have expanded like those of the stormy peteril over lifes ocean through every clime and climate—every grief and joy.”
“Yes Sir I know well your mind has among its stores of wealth much that is valuable and that any one might feel happy in your society if that mind chose to let others partake of its stores”
“Let others partake! No not all others But oh thine own dear self should and gladly too! What is that obscurely seen but most overwhelming incubus which forbids me—weighs me down when I dare dream of a pleasure so great as this afternoon spent apart from the world and seated by thy side—yet making what I have known of the world and indeed my whole store of thought, subservient to thy pleasure who while nursed in quiet and comfort might thus explore the ocean of humanity without being buffeted by its storms?”
“You have from indulgence been accustomed Sir to feel too impatient when your days do not pass in unclouded sunshine—many pleasures one might hope for on awaking in the morning but so few are realized during the day that I accustom myself to recieve each visitation of joy as a boon—not as a right or even a thing to be expected and this feeling constantly cultivated allows me to go through my duties and bear any mortifications with such calmness as makes mind and body able to drink the cup of sorrow without a wry face and feel no intoxication from the cup of joy”
“Then is it Gods will and according to a just disposal of events that I should now return to disliked or uncongenial companions and leave you hugging your chain and like an Indian devotee proud to show that you can take your nap on a bed of ten penny nails or like a pugilist that you can smile after a sledge hammer hit on your teeth? Answer me—would it be well—would it accord with your ideas of justice should two persons resolve to do all they could to prevent mutual friendship and produce mutual pain?”
“No Sir—I believe our object ought to be the promotion of friendship and alleviation of pain.”
“To both ones own self and to all others?”
“Yes—as I would not reccommend suicide most certainly to ones self— but even before oneself to others because if every one in this world thought first of his neighbour and last of himself we should eventually be sure of happiness. Do not you see that for one grain of pleasure sacrificed every point of the 434 compass would return you a hundred fold?”
“And You—or myself are to don the pasteboard helmet of the Spanish hero32 and sally forth with the idea of sacrificing our happiness to the good of our fellow creatures, are we? No, no. It is enough that I wish to live for one being beside[s] myself and not for one thousand millions. I wish by word and deed to comfort one whom I love and I only ask as a reward that she should not wholly dislike me.”
Mr Percy had now entered upon one of his usual fit[s] of restless walking through an apartment which always attacked him when much excited and while obliged to hide feelings which inborn nature and constant indulgence through life impelled him to display. He would not so much as look at the fair face bending over a mechanical employment lest it should not precisely tally with his notion of the emotions he fancied it ought to feel and lest he should forget what was due to the gentleman under whose roof he was staying and by one wild outbreak of passion throw himself open to three alternatives of misery. The ruin of a Lady whom his very soul did really love just then—the risk of a bullet through his bosom from the pistol of the dark bilious faced person under whose roof he abode, and, worst of all, denial of Love—of sympathy—of sorrow for himself and dearly purchased knowledge of coldness and dislike from an answer to the half dozen sentences which were tingling on his tongue and to which the consciousness of their importance alone prevented him giving utterance. He dreaded every movement made by Mrs Thurston lest it should announce her departure from the room. He felt jealous of every change on her mild thoughtful face lest it should herald some stern avowal of feelings if toward himself, still severed by duty and that last idea so gained upon his mind that he broke the silence of the room by one abrupt question.
“Now Maria Thurston—I must be here for days or weeks and I must not during that time be laid on St Lawrences gridiron33—So I ask you once and for all—will you—by preserving your thoroughly womanlike character and by allowing me to rest upon its feminine sweetness my masculine roughness—let my stay here be passable to my mind or will you shun me and make me conscious of the truth of that hideous saying that women care not for any man but live for the gratification of a vanity whose shrine is their looking glass or the hecatomb of real manly hearts that have burst under their whims and which will send up a fragrance when consuming on the altar of that Nova Zembla deity34 a bloodless woman proud to keep a real man in pain.”
“But Sir you have been married yourself and I should not intrude on your feelings perhaps by asking you whether or not your own lady assumed the 435 semblance of a Nova Zembla deity Did she only care for you as the means whereby she could gratify her vanity—did she never feel toward her husband as if pain to him would be double pain to herself?”
“Maria Thurston—You distress me—I have lost the sole charm of a fevered and broken life and I would willingly and innocently fill up the dreadful chasm that lies between the grave of her whom I did possess and the goal whose laurels must sooth the worry of my forthcoming life. What if that goal be yourself? Why should you shrink from intercommunion with myself whose every sinew would rouse to save your little finger from harm—Who besides me would make his life a secondary consideration to yours? Who besides me would foresake mans idol pleasure to worship what is too often womans idol pain—Who would, though you call him indulged, bear the pains of a prison to see you enjoy the pleasures of a palace.
You know what I mean Maria—You know what I have lost and what I would gain. Tell me—do you think that one who has for years been accustomed to repose a worried and wearied head on a warm and devoted bosom—now that the bosom is given over to corruption and that he is forced to feel jealous of worms—do you think that he no longer wants such a repose and while clouds are gathering and years closing round him he feels no wish for a ressurection of his buried joy? When I leave Darkwall and return to Percy Hall shall I not feel a sad vacancy when my lonely evenings after dinner are spent in studies where a weary head misses sadly the little hand that used to stroke its hair or the soft lap that used to ease its aching—where my little girl alone will give all that childhood can of affection but where I shall leave among northern clouds and heather the polar star of love—Oh do not start Maria Thurston for you too will think of me when I am gone—You will know too well what place you fill now—What place I would have you to fill to feel indifferent to Alexander Percy. Hours which did fate permit it—might be spent in a recalled paradise by my fireside will perforce contrast themselves with hours of neglect present to your heart and senses here. I am sure that ere the winds of winter blow the sleet against these windows you will have dropped some tears over the doom which denies to Maria Thurston the place of Mary Percy!”
“Sir—Sir—you must restrain this speech—I cannot bear it and beg you as a gentleman to spare me.”
“Must I not rather Maria—beg you to spare me? She whose heart is resigned to suffering has little to fear but his heart who feels that there is no medium between agony and enjoyment has every thing to dread especially if former time reappears like a ghost in the unattainable yet tantalizing prospects of the present time. Where shall we each be a year hence Maria? Were shall we be to night? Why I—if asleep at all—shall lie dreaming of ideas that
“Remind me of departed times—
Departed—never to return”35 436
and you I am sure will be compelled to fancy that your uncherished cheek might be better nurtured than by comforts which stern crowns and hard usage could give you—Ah—You know not and till you shall have been tried you cannot know the yearnings of a mans heart left alone toward the heart of a woman whom he would wish to be part and parcel with himself.
“Oh Sir” exclaimed Mrs Thurston earnestly and with a face suddenly overmastered by pain—“Do not try to make me miserable—I have my sorrows and I have hitherto born them patiently. It can do no one good to remind me of lifes path mistaken or of pleasure to which it is impossible to attain”
“Then” answered Mr Percy while his expressive features beamed with serpent guile only rendered more dangerous from the intermixture of real anxiety—“Does Maria Thurston mean to enact a Suttee? Does she wish to immolate herself on the pile raised for a husband who never existed must she feel bound for ever to a master whom she scarce knows save by his tyranny and repulse the heartfelt sympathy of a friend?”
“A friend Sir! Do you not mock me by your use of the word?”
“I do. Maria, if the drowning man clings to a swimmer or a plank for salvation—if one who has had no peace in this life tries to drive despair from his death bed by his hopes of heaven. But I do not if my soul chooses thee as successor to a throne long vacant and a sceptre which no hand save thine can sway—Would that I could make thee believe me! Thou must know that I cannot pass a future existence on the mere memory of love—That one so young as I am will require to support his soul through a probably protracted life some encouragement better than a look backward on a sunny path while clouds and tempests brood over his forward road. But I will not argue—Thou lovest me and thou knowest that thou lovest me—Stop—do not answer or I shall push thee into perjury by asking at once “Dost thou hate me?” and as thy answer would certainly be “Yes” thou wouldest be utterly forsworn. Can I not read thy thoughts on thy pillow to night? and canst thou not read my own? Yes—yes— And if thyself and myself were kneeling together at the parsons altar thou wouldst waste but few moments of hesitation ere saying—however inaudibly with Addison and Haydn
“Lo my Shepherd is divine
How shall I want while he is mine”36
The strange character which both adorned and cursed the speaker was exemplified in his last sentence for while absorbed in a subject which engrossed every mental and personal feeling he waywardly sported with a sneering allusion to a few lines 437 of verse and a beautiful snatch of pastoral music. which would have given his eyes the aspect of an angels had he been forced to take his seat at an organ or piano. But here—reclined on a sopha in this quiet ancient apartment and in the company of one who whatever she suffered would never give pain—He let his looks stray scenting the track of pleasure and his mind run hydrophobically biting at those whom his calmer feelings would lead him to cherish.37
The morning sunlight shone through the window of a chamber in the Hotel, upon a head of curly auburn hair, a sad, pale face, and quivering lips laid on a restless pillow and shewing every feature in sickly guise save the wicked blue eyes that—to any one who knew their owner—augered some new ray of mischeivous caprice breaking through the clouds of sickness. Their owner, after a gentle sigh or two rung the bell and the chamber maid appeared.
“Fanny” said Percy “Whether my old groom be dead or alive—drunk or sober—send him to me forthwith.”
“Yes Sir—He has been up all night Sir, with some north country jobbers—They’ve been very noisy Sir.”
“And, Fanny, bring me a tumbler of Hollands38 with a dash of water in it, and—stop—I have something to say to you—Take a sovereign out of my waistcoat pocket—With ten shillings purchase mob caps,39 and with the other ten procure yourself a quantity of tracts which you can distribute about the house during the fair and by all means lay one on each tray that the waiters may bring in to company, as well as on every bed in the house.”
“There are some pretty songs Sir in one of the stalls”
“Oh **** my—I mean Religious tracts my girl! Those printed at the Wesleyan Repository in London.”
Fanny looked at her sovereign as if destining it for another voyage than the one marked in her chart
“And, Fanny, take down those curls, and comb your hair parted in front—come here and I will shew you the way.”
Saying “Oh no Sir I can do it myself” Fanny departed on her errand, rather indignant that her favourite ornaments should be censured, and wholly puzzled to know what that strange wild gentleman meant this morning.
She shortly returned with the morning draught required, and along with her stumbled in the patriarchal form of old Robert, much afflicted with “all overishness” and modelling his face into the expression of a Lord Eldon pronouncing judgement on a chancery suit of a century in duration and a plum in 438 value.40
“Well—you doubly hanged dog! Drunk as an owl I see! What have you been doing all night?”
“Searching after me truth Maister.”
“I have heard Truth was to be found at the bottom of a well, but I did not know it was a well of rum and water—But however—Bob, I have turned over a new leaf—I will neither Swear, *****, drink, gamble, rob, or commit manslaughter again—**** me if I will!”
“Thank Him that Saves! O Maister yaw’re in a fearful gooid way!” and the old Saint clasping his hands together uttered a rapturous groan.
“Are you sober enough Bob to rattle through a healing prayer for me? Anything that has enough grace in it will come in nicely—Stay, Fanny, give me the tumbler—and halt Bob—have you never such an article as a Hymn book about you?”
“Aw’ve getten the varry best” replied Robert, lugging out an old black greasy volume—“Its the Selection used amang the Primitive Methodists—commomly termed Ranters—Owd John Wesla’s nought to it—It warms folk till the divil could’nt tak’ ’em.”
“**** it! That’s the true Nightingale! But Fanny my girl fetch me another glass—and then we’ll silence the Angels. Bob—This life will never do— I have a Soul to be saved—”
“And—**** me if I won’t save it’”
“The Lord be praised—Yaw’re in a gooid way Maister!”
“Well then—pitch the Key note—thats it—I’ll take the tenor—
“Will you go to Glory with me &c &c”41
The effect of the ensuing duet was most farcical were it not blasphemous. The beautiful tenor of Mr Percy united in all possible earnestness with a voice that tortured ones ears like that of a mad Jack ass, and, as is usual with the sect from whose book the words were selected, to a tune which might be fitly accompanied by the dance of a ‘hen on a het girdle[sic]’.
The poor young chambermaid stood sincerely pitying ‘the nice mad gentleman’ but utterly unable to repress a feminine titter. But a much deeper and more masculine chuckle could be heard ere the door opened to introduce Hector Matthias Mireabeau Montmorency, Esqre—whose perfect knowledge of his friends character had made him—on hearing from his bedroom the melodious twang—arise, don his garments, and straight proceed to perfect the work of godliness—
“Now then my heroes!” thundered the Barrister “Which is to fly fastest 439 toward Heaven—Master or man? You want a good bass and as I flatter myself I possess such an article, while I am sure, from your chambermaids pretty mouth she has a sweet treble—we’ll make up four parts, and walk up faster than Enoch or Elijah42—I am a Calvinist and believe Jerry and Quashia and O’ Connor and Gordon were predestined to the fire grate so I wont call them in to join us.”
“Oh, but Hector, I am not a Calvinist I am as good a Wesleyan as was ever hatched—and I insist that all shall be saved—Storming heavens gate[s] is the duty of a Christian soldier—I am a new born child Hector—Fanny just reach me the tumbler—and I’ll be—” Here the speakers voice was drowned by a violent fit of coughing in consequence of too strong a draught of the spirits—at last he gained his breath to ask—
“Fanny—have they never a room in the house into which one could put a few forms and a pulpit during the fair time?”
“Yes Sir—Master has a large room up stairs, but the players are using it now”
“The players be damned—stop. **** me if I will swear again—I’ll rent it and fit up a pulpit by G—d.”
“The loard be praised said Robert, who was steadying himself against the bed post—and “Amen” groaned Hector—who was taking the sweetest pinch of snuff he had ever enjoyed. The groom, by virtue of his superior age and the advanced state of his religious experience thought proper to break in on the conversation of his Master and the Barrister by recommending that they should go to prayer.
“And donnot pray like frightened folk” said Bob “pray wi’ a real thundering roar—pray till ye’re legs kick aat like a stallion’s—There’s nought but muckment in ye’re church prayers—Aw wad not dry my nose wi’ ’em! If Heaven’s grace will not come yaw mun mak’ it come!”
I shall not give the report of Mr Robert Patrick King’s prayer as though too true to nature, and to what I have often heard in Yorkshire and Lancashire—it would be very justly pronounced impious by all not intimately aquainted with the lengths to which a brutal character and an impudent hypocrisy like that which the excellent groom possessed, can carry the most notorious scoundrels through all the deliria of ‘revivals’ and ‘experiences’.
Mr Percy lay, ejaculating between the pauses of his spiritual physician—such sentences as “Holy Melchizedec, Nebuchadnezzar and Batholomew look down upon us!” “Belshazzar, Jeroboam and Abihu, save us!” and when Hector remarked mildly “My Lad such invocations are neither Jew or Gentile—Catholic or protestant” He replied “Well I mean all for the best—Sweet Saint Bathsheba—dear Jezebel—divine Herodias have mercy on us!”—There Mr King fairly stopped in horror and amazement—
“Oh Loard! Maister—yaw’re noan calling on them whores are ye?—Nay naw aw mun strip me coil to me wark and link at it in me shirt sleeves!” 440
“Well Bob it is not a sin to pray to Angels then—so—Merciful Moloch—blessed Belial—beneficent Beelzebub do have—”43
“Stop Maister—They war angels once, but they’ve fallen like cracked pots, or a brocken kneed horse—Yaw mun look aboon Maister; same as aw do!”
The morning service had not proceeded much further, and Hector was just preparing to administer pedestrian admonition to the hinder man of the kneeling groom, when in burst Simpson Quamina and O’ Connor—
“By Gom!” thundered Jeremiah in his deepest voice “Are we going to have a case of Delirium tremens here? By Gom—rise you fool”
“This” remarked Arthur “This is just the practical part of what I went through after my famous Fortnight where in I killed young Phillpot44—He went off with a red hot poker in his bowels one Friday, after his thirty ninth tumbler—I had three Methodist missionaries at Kingston45 to pray for me that week—and it was all owing to new rum. It could be nothing else, for if it had been real old Jamaica he would have yet been sweet as a daisy.”
“Well” said Quamina “You Christian dogs do pay dearly for your whistle—who ever heard any of the faithful ranting and raving thus? Allah be praised—I am a Moslem skin and bone, and I’d be damned before I’d taste one drop of your infidel wine! Praised be the name of the prophet! I’m glad he knew nothing of Brandy and Whiskey! If He had done I doubt I should have found Houri’s rather scarce hereafter!” 441
“Quashia Quamina” said Percy sternly “If you do not put off the old man I’ll make you as much a cinder as you seem to be! That Bull baiting stake shall not have been standing so long in the towngate for nothing! Fanny my lass—tell the waiter to order—Coffee, Ham, Eggs—and Brandy for one—and lay a Bible beside the tray open at the Xth chapter of Nehemiah—you may as well also double it down at the Ist chapter of Ist Chronicles—I’ll have prayers this morning or else I’ll be—“I’ll comment on Nehemiah from the Ist to the 27th verses—I’ll let you know the word!”
All the bed chamber audience now left the room except the devout groom and the faithful friend, Hector, who said
“Now—Percy how long is this blasted foolery to continue—for I fancy you have other fish to fry?”
“Hector, if you do not leave this room and let me find you on my descent into the breakfast room, prone on your knees may you get ere night what you will be sure to get ere the Lords last day!”
Mr Montmorency shut the door, saying, ere he left that he hoped there was plenty of Hollands distributed at Love feasts, and Mr Percy with the aid of his devout groom and a snatch now and then from one of the songs of Zion managed to complete his morning toilette—which was not this morning the garb of a grouse shooting Squire—but very unexceptionable and clerical black. He sported a white cravat with a precise tie, and as his groom said on adjusting his masters crock coat—he “at last looked dacent and menseful—”
When the “Rev” Alexander Percy entered the breakfast room in his hotel he was greeted by the irrepressible laughter of his companions, but not all their mirth or raillery could disturb the rapt inspiration of his divine countenance. Addressing himself to the waiter, who, owing to confusion of mind consequent on the metamorphosis of the strange gentleman, was only prevented by Hector from misplacing everything. He said—
“Have you here any resident teachers of the Gospel?”
“No Sir—Yes Sir—Theres Mr Scarlet the Curate—a capital judge of horse flesh Sir—and the Rev Matthew Rasper—poor old Gentleman—he weighs 18st now and can scarce go to cover—but he loves to see a throw off. Boots will take you there Sir, any time. He has as good a drop of wine in his cellars Sir as we have—and the Dean says ours is not to be beaten at the Bishops—and I am sure the Dean is a judge Sir”
The company pricked up their ears at this intelligence—Quashia swore he loved the cloth for it was his own colour—O’ Connor asked had Mr Rasper never a pretty daughter or so, for his soul warmed toward the family—but Mr Percy sternly ordered silence and continued—
“Waiter jest not on things pertaining to Salvation—Are there here any of the Lords labourers in the Wesleyan or Primitive Methodist vineyards”
“The Waiter looked at his napkin—settled his stock and timidly answered
“Lord Reynard has some gardeners Sir, but I believe they are not 442 methodists, for the head gardener broke anothers head last week for selling off peaches—besides his lordship lives eight miles off Sir.”
“Unrepentant Sinner—send for your Wesleyan preacher—and tell him to bring a brace of class leaders along with him”
As the waiter left the room scratching his head and sighing deeply Mr Percy took his place at the head of the table and intimated to the company that he should expect every man to off the moor and down at the Hotel by five in the afternoon, for the lord had work for them—For himself he should not touch a trigger as his vocation was to save souls.
“I always thought” said Hector who alone seemed thouroughly to comprehend his dear friends humour—“I always had an idea that the black coat carries it with the lasses over the red or green—Well I’ll make one—and now you dogs when your luncheon is ready on the heather see if I don’ t treat you to a grace as long as O’ Connors face has become at the mention of it”
“Well” Sighed Arthur—turning to Quamina “There is nothing for it but to get drunk to day—trouble is pressing hard on us!”
“I am for a row and a fight in the fair this evening Arthur—nothing else will unburthen my mind.”
“Gentlemen” said Percy—“You will do no such thing—The lord hath need of you. Hector I rely on you to follow out the good work.”
As the Waiter, on reaching the preacher[’s] door had said that the famous “RICH” gentleman staying at their house wished to see him my readers will not wonder that the saintly man knocked over his breakfast table—forgot the ham and eggs that were trembling under his ruthless knife, and in a whirl of calculations about the Chapel debt—quarterly subscriptions—Donations to a dozen different funds—visions of a new school such as should cut the national one to ribbons. The founders name “A. PERCY. ESQr”—on a vast marble tablet with the “Revd Simon Slugg Preacher of the Gospel”46 and all the Chapel trustees sheltering modestly under the aristocratic wing, beneath—that in such a state of unworldly extasy he broke both shins over the sheep pens and recieved martyrdom from three horse Jobbers whips ere he had roused up his two principal class leaders Messrs Apollos Fleshbotham, and Timothy Bottomley.
Those chosen vessels being rigid Teatotallers and knowing that when recieved gratis creature comforts were never refused by their beloved brother, were at first alarmed lest some hospitable brother or more probably sister, had tempted the lords servant over night—but when wiping his perspiring brow, the Rev Simon gasped out that the “RICH” gentleman at the Thurston Arms wanted them—they too caught a wild infection and each dashing his hat over his brows with the back run in front they burst through gathering the crowd of long and short horns—stopped not to rebuke the glaring lies which were bursting from 443 each dealers lips, and soon made their appearance before the bar of the Thurtson Arms. Once only Bottomley asked Fleshbotham “Whats our Chapel debt?”
“Oh nonsense”—said Slugg “Say at once 1200—Its the lords work!”
Messrs Fleshbotham and Bottomley were beauties of the order combining that interesting union of darkness and pallor so assiduously cultivated by those that prefer the straight and narrow path. If their necks were not swanlike they yet stretched several inches above their carelessly tied white neckcloths and so far as stature may become a man, and flexibility be termed a constituent of grace, their lanky figures and loose jointed limbs proclaimed them to be model Apollos. Their Rev brother, though a few inches beneath the heroic standard, made amends by capacity of body for all he might be deficient in as to height and though his face looked like a pale “whangby”47 cheese, yet it was juicy enough to cause it to shine like the full moon through a fog.
Such as they were, the children of grace were admitted to the breakfast room, and saw first what made their fasting bowels yearn—a large table covered with the reliquae of a sportsmans morning meal—and next five very unevangelical ‘professors’ seated over “Fireballs” each consisting of a wine glass of brandy with the yolk of an egg dropped into it; but the object of their attraction stood before them on the hearth rug—a very tall divine looking saint, with eyes distorted almost to a squint—a mouth that changed its play each moment from wrapt solemnity to malicious drollery, and a pair of orange whiskers horribly out of harmony with the holy sable of his scrupulously neat attire.
As the trio kept each man his mouth open it followed that, physiologically considered, they could not speak—so Mr Percy began with a voice whose sonorous and noble tone gave them delightful anticipations of the effect of ensuing speeches in the Chapel—
“My Christian friends—Welcome in His name—come forward—Do your bodies need refreshment?”
“Why Sir, Why, no—That is we have hoped so much from an early exhibition of what He can do, that—in short Sir we thought breakfast beneath notice.”
“Refuse not the gifts offered—You will doubtless use that decanter of brandy in your coffee, for your stomachs sake and your many infirmities—Allow me ere you assume your seats, to introduce my respected brother Montmorency—long a fellow labourer in foreign climes—Brother O’ Connor, a saved sinner—now a child of grace—If ever man had the root of the matter in him he has—(’**** it’—growled poor O’ Connor—sotto voce—‘Its never shewn a sprout yet’) Brother Quashia Quamina—I might even say—dearest brother (Here the Moor, without being aware, took two fire balls one after the 444 other.) He is indeed a brand snatched from the burning”
O Connor had here nearly spoiled the play by suddenly vociferating “I’ll be blessed—only look at him—if he is not burnt already!”—but a withering scowl from Mr Percy silenced the Slavers Captain—
“Excuse Brother O’ Connor, my dear fellow laborours—He has put on the robe of godliness, but the old Adam now and then gives him a grip—Yet he is zealous my dear friends—he is zealous—My friends the native of the benighted land of Africa has been a chosen vessel for the evil one and after unheard of sins, brutalities, torturings—headings—hangings, roastings fleaings alive—burning man woman and child—crushing a thousand slaves into a one hundred ton slaver—in fact after having done all that Satan could do if let suddenly loose from Hell, He has become a burning and a shining light”
Here the three Wesleyans exchanged looks of exstatic delight—The idea of such heavenly converted sinners—of the thrilling experiences, the startling disclosures they would be able to give in the Chapel formed a prospect almost too rich; but poor Quamina so little understood his friends description of his character that nothing save Percys squinting glance prevented him from doffing his coat for a set-to on the spot.
“My beloved brother Mr Simpson” continued Percy “Is a Banker (Here the trio involuntarily rose to do homage) “but He holds his purse, and my brother only considers himself as a steward” (poor Jeremiah buttoned, at this part of the address, both breaches pockets) “My dear brother Gordon comes last—He has not been the least of sinners—Hell has had hard hard hold upon him but he has escaped with the skin of his teeth—I never knew so great a reprobate or have seen so great a change! Indeed my Christian friends all in this room whom I have introduced to you have been the very vilest of sinners—Every crime of which human nature can be guilty, they have committed—every evil thought which could enter mans heart has blackened theirs; They have been eaten up with the filthiest sores of the souls leprosy—(Here O’ Connor could hold no longer, but roared out ‘I’ve a skin as fair as yours!’) Excuse our brothers sailor like bluntness; it is only a little of the old leaven—there is not one of our dear brethren who ought not to be hung in chains long since—but thanks be to Him—they are now like lambs wool washed at the springs of Jordan!”
As ‘The viler the sinner, the greater the saint’ the three visitors looked up from plates filled a second time with the cold round—each giving a groan of intense satisfaction partly the result of a full heart and partly that of a full stomach. Mr Percy continued
“Brethren Providence hath given me a small endowment of carnal comforts—praised be His name—and I propose amid the sins and follies of this vanity fair, to devote my mite to the carrying out of the great work—So I shall request that you will allow me an open and lighted Chapel at 6 o’clock this evening, wherein a short missionary experience may be given you by my dear repentant bretheren, and myself who am lower than the most ignorant sucklings in grace. I beg to place in the hands of my reverend brother in the bonds a small matter of this earthly dross to aid in printing bills and lighting the tabernacle of 445 prayer.”
So saying Mr Percy meekly deposited ten sovereigns in the hand of the Rev S. Slugg who trembled with the excess of his gratitude and looked at his benefactors boots as if he thought his tongue would be benefited by becoming their shoe black.
“You will oblige me—brother—a—a—whats your name?”
Slugg—Slugg—my dearest Sir!”
“Well—by drawing up a small bill for this evenings meeting”
Mr Slugg was not long ere his pen was flying fast and furious over a half sheet of paper, and in due time his labours produced—with a little assistance from Mr Momtmorency—the following veracious handbill.
At 6 o’clock in the Evening of this day there will be held a special extraordinary meeting of the Wesleyan Missionary Society wherein light will be given from lamps fed with the oil of the ten virgins! The horrors of Sin—the iniquities of Heathenism—the cruelties of the slave trade—will be fully exemplified in the experience of several soul saved Sinners sanctified unto Salvation!
Those beloved bretheren, once
lost and now restored—viz.
Formerly a slave in Africa, then a slave driver—next a slave owner, and after wards a pirate captain—
ARTHUR. O’ CONNOR.
who declares that he has been nearer to the arm pits in black and white blood than any sinner that ever Gods vengeance neglected to kick to Hell—
who solemnly declares that if he fully gave his experience the roof would fly from the best built Lords House in England—
JEREMIAH SIMPSON ESQr’.
The great Banker who taketh for his motto “Freely thou hast recieved— freely give’.
HECTOR. M. M. MONTMORENCY.
A humble gleaner in the harvest of souls
ALEXANDER. PERCY. ESQR. M.P. PERCY HALL.
ALNWICK HALL. ELRINGTON HOUSE. HANTS. AND
Who will lend to the aid of the Society his invalauble religious attainments—his untiring energies, his unequalled eloquence and his unparalleled benevolence. 446
Silver will most thankfully be recieved in the galleries, and friends who desire front pews will be expected to deposit 2s—6 into the hands of the Treasurer,
N. B. The Classes will be called to prayer after the collection, when it is expected that A. PERCY. ESQR. MP. will address them.”
“That will do” said Mr Percy as Hector with a ludicrous grin handed him the flattering expose of his companions former life and conversation —“Now my dear freinds in the sacred cause, let this production be distributed extensively throughout the town and; ’ere evening put on the whole armour of righteousness, so that I—even I—David may with a sling and a stone slay the Philistine48— even the man of sin—the old man Adam. Good Morning my dear brethren.”
Thus, with a stately gesture, Mr Percy bowed his three confounded but triumphing visitors from the room—and then taking one other cup of Coffee dashed with brandy, he beckoned Hector to follow him and both departed either into another apartment, or on some confidential walk.
Those who remained behind, after a torrent of sighs and execrations, resigned themselves to stern fate, and swore that—black as they had been described, they would see the fun out though their usage was scurvy enough to turn a tortoise into a tiger.
“What shall we do—for I can only say ‘unaccustomed as I am to public speaking’ and I know the Bible as well as you know the Koran” remarked Mr Quamina sorrowfully looking at his Old Companion in arms
“The practical part of the affair is that I fear I shall begin by sending the whole chapel bodily to Hell—and then would’nt Percy storm a trifle!” answered O’ Connor—but friendly advice was at hand for at this moment the waiter entered with a note addressed to the lachrymose gentlemen, which being opened proved to be in Hectors handwriting—
“The Vestry—Santification Chapel
Well, my beloved brethren—I always thought you were rogues but, till now I did not know that you were fools—But out of pity to your babyhood I’ll just give you one fresh wrinkle in your strait—One fact is clear—that you must appear and speak unto improvement to night—But how are you to fructify when I question whether you ever opened the blessed pages since you first robbed your papa’s orchard. Now mark me old fellows. Dress yourselves in black, or as our holy friend would say ‘put on the whole armour of righteousness’,49 sling round your thrapples50 a white neckercheif—and, when you are called on, LIE left and right as if according to the holy word you were lying “with a cart rope’. In 447 blackening yourselves from your cradle to your conversion beat the powers of the imp who polishes the boots of Satan. If you can find words to picture earth as worse than Hell do so—but pray do not get too drunk ere you enter the sacred portal—I dont care about a dozen tumblers, but not one more except to Jeremiah who in consideration of his natural phlegm may be allowed the bakers or the devils dozen.
Remember boys our holy saint is in no joking mood to day—He is just now kneeling at a chair beside me screeching like a half throttled turkey **** for the lord. He roars so about crucifixion in Jesus that I wish from my soul he were nailed hand and foot like a dead magpie, to a barn door.
From your sinful travailer in the throes of labour, and about to bring forth a cubic yard of the blessed one—thus much.
N.B. If you wish to pull our holy friends delicate “petite nez retroussé”51 you may dash in a few stiffish hints respecting the sinful lusts of the flesh, and the pride of life—but alas you do not know the scriptural phraseology so I suppose I must do that myself!
The Rev H.M.M. Montmorency
Some time a feeble labourer in the vineyards of Damnblastaree— Swiglushaboo, and the torrid African wilds of Splitmytimberara” but now a labourer among the people called methodists.
To HIS servants
gathered over eggs
Ham Brandy and coffee
in the Breakfast room
“Grace and peace be with them”
“Well” said O’ Connor with a sigh as if of gratitude for a mountain removed from his breast—“I see through it—The practical part of the evening will be just what I can weild, and if my lies don’t kick down yon chapel Joshua’s trumpets never floored the walls of Jericho!”
“I see no fun in the matter” returned Mr Quamina sulkily “He’s a fool and he want[s] to make fools of us—I dont like to have my tail cut off to please the docked fox—But as you say Arthur I can LIE as far as from here to Guinea as as fast as the rapids of the Congo and as loud as a Gold Coast thunder storm. For not getting drunk to night I’ll not promise, because I am so vexed at him.”
Gordon only growled “I wish he would only think of women for he is never bearable when he deals with men” and Simpson muttered “I wish I may have the collection to count.”52 448
Some of my readers may know little of places of public worship except from such examples as they may find in the lofty roofed, nobly windowed piles which our national religion has dedicated to the service of God. But the decorous worship—the plain yet stately liturgy—the cathedral chaunts and those Anthems that speak to us from the graves of Purcell, Tallis, Gibbons, Bull, Kent or Green,53 find no parallel in the new raw cubes of brick or stone, pierced with two tiers of semicircular arched windows and possessed of interiors as fine as gaudily painted pews and galleries can make, which are denominated CHAPELS. These gems of classic architecture may possess Organs of much cost and enshrined in mahogany cases but, alas! their music is that of a waltz in ‘delirium tremens’ fancying that it is dancing souls to heaven; Their pulpits are adorned with unexceptionable velvet but the bibles lying upon them are thumped in time to a tattoo of extemporaneous raving: ‘I speak not in anger but in sorrow’54 reader for though I could point out many an illustrious exception I have seen enough of what were once called ‘conventicals’ to feel aware that the slight sketch I have just drawn or the more finished picture which I mean to paint give no exaggerated idea of the follies into which man can plunge when he wishes to appear more holy than he is.
On the evening of the first day of Ardmore fair, Sanctification Chapel presented to the crowd assembled about its doors a blaze of gas light from every square paned window—Inside abundance of light threw a yellow glory over the rapidly filling pews and galleries, while a double lustre blessed the green baize-bordered platform erected for the distinguished orators in the forthcoming missionary meeting. Men with slouched shoulders and downcast eyes assiduously trimmed the lamps or scraped discordant preludes on violins and violoncello’s[sic]—and perspiring but regenerated souls buried their faces in their hands under the influence of groaning prayer. The ladies too crowded fast into the scene of action with a very holy fervour though a sadly carnal attention to dress: Their upturned eyes and sadd[e]ned sighs’ told of heaven but their satin bonnets and white handkercheifs smelt a little ‘of the earth, earthy’.55
For a while the bare boards of the platform caused a feeling of impatience in the rapidly filling edifice but ere long those boards were pressed by the boots of five as beautiful specimens of sinners saved as ever trod upon 449 Memel timber. The Rev H.M.M. Montmorency—The Rev J Simpson—the Rev G Gordon—the Rev A, O’ Connor—the Rev Q Quamina—all attired in solemn sable took their seats amid the deepest groans among the male and with the liveliest sympathies from the female portion of the audience—and though the chosen presented countenances as rascally as ever faced the mob round Tyburn tree56 their erect gentlemanly figures and well whiskered manliness told well especially with the fairer and holier portion of the audience.
Mr Slugg followed these christian warriors and whispered a few words while he familiarily kept hold of the Rev Hectors Coat button but Montmorency audibly responded—
“My beloved fellow soldier wishes to fight the good fight himself—so he will both give out the hymn and probably lead on the Organ. On his knees this morning he vowed that the work should not be done slackly.”
Ere he had ceased speaking the lion of the evening was seen making his way among a reverently parting crowd in the aisle; and, looking neither to the right hand or the left he ascended to his place, faced his audience and shewed to many a tenderly swimming eye a very tall shapely figure in solemn black with an aristocratic forehead shining in the gas light and a face whose angelic aspect was only marred by the accursed chestnut cuds and orange whiskers.
Waiting till an obligate movement of sighs and groans had ceased the Rev Alexander Percy began in a distinct but calm and silvery voice—
“My brethren and Sisters in Christ—I feel so much oppressed with the weight of a duty which a higher power has laid upon me that I request from you a song of prayer and praise ere we open forth the business of this evening—My brother Slugg I shall give out an hymn and accompany it on the Organ myself so it will be quite unnecessary for my Christian friend to make any use of the instruments I see in the music seat.”
Slugg and the musicians could not forbear a look of very carnal mortification at the hauteur with which the holy man declined their assistance, but Montmorency covered his face with his handkercheif to hide the uncontrollable risibilty which shook his ribs, as his experienced eyes saw the resolute determination on the part of his beloved friend to carry out the present farce with all the earnestness of his wayward and intractable character. Mr Percy, who if his wrapt and inspired eyes told [the] truth, had really seized the spirit of the hour, advanced to the front of the platform—waved his hand to still the troubled sea of groans and continued—
“Let us miserable worms send up our cry as if from Tophet in the following words and adapted to the tune of “Widdops 100th.”
Before Our mighty Makers throne
Let us submissive kneel in prayer, 450
And strive for scarlet sins to atone
For we must pray that He may hear.
Deep—Mighty Lord—be our despair—
Distinct our consciousness of sin—
Lest from thine eyes our outside fan—
Should strive to hide our crimes within.
We know that we are formed for crime,
That through our lifetime crimes we form,
Believing, madly, all the time
That mercy sheilds us from the storm;
Or, as long since, in Shinars plain,
Rebellious men their Tower of pride
Raised up, in hopes, by labour vain
That thus thy power might be defied,
So we, by impious moral code
Or ever changing creeds of faith,
Think we may climb the narrow road,
Elude thy arm, and cheat our death.
But, Oh when we have gained Heaven’s gate,
The eternal crown intent to win,
Long must we knock and, lingering, wait
Ere watching angels let us in!
“Hast thou repented of thy sin?”
What Soul—my God can answer then?
“Go back—Thy path again begin,
And weep and watch and wait again!”
But if returning be denied
By Deaths grim gateway, closed behind,
Where flies our heaven, our hope, our pride?
They fly like chaff before the wind!
Lord, let us know our treacherous mind
Even though that knowledge bring despair;
For, wandering thus, accursed and blind,
We dare not hope that Thou wilt hear!“57 451
As I have already alluded to Mr Percy’s musical powers I need hardly add now that when after giving out the hymn he took his seat at the Organ he soon sent the solemn harmony rolling through the chapel and ascending as if to heaven. Whatever the discomfited gut scrapers felt they were obliged to stare at [the] powers of the ‘rich converted squire’ and even the Rev S Slugg gave a groan of astonishment when the last deep chord had died away.
Mr Percy again advanced to the front of the platform and continued in what the soul saved declared were heavenly tones,
“My brethren God hath opened out a path through this worlds wilderness, and as to those who ask, much will be given, so to you who seek much will be found. We are nothing ourselves and by ourselves we can do nothing but guided by that Star which shone over Bethlehem more than eighteen hundred years ago and which now, if our dimmed eyes could see it, shines over Ardmore we may pursue a soldiers path and ere morning win a new victory over the hitherto unvanquished Man of Sin. I appear before you now as the advocate—the counsel in fact for a wide world brought before Gods bar for crime, and, and unless I successfully plead their cause condemned to a far worse punishment than any which human ingenuity can inflict—I plead for that wide land whose burning Sun blazes on bodies whose blackened hue is as snow compared with the midnight darkness of their Souls—I plead my brethren for Africa—I am counsel also in Gods court of justice for another land still wider—still older—still fuller of all associations which can rouse our hearts to the trumpet sound of human triumphs the funeral wail of human sorrows born—A land wherein our mortal nature found its cradle—wherein a young world met a watery grave—From which a world now called old had its dawning—out of one of whose lonely villages rose the star that has never sunk and whose bright beam from Bethlehem I will trust shines upon our meeting here. I plead for the earth that gave our first father existence and our Saviour a sepulchre—I plead my Christian friends for Asia. Another land also, with which from shorter aquaintance we have less sympathy demands your own and my attention—A land whose mighty rivers roll unknown and incalculable wealth to Ocean but which in itself is—save the United States—a wild and howling waste—nearly Four thousand miles of water draining a surface more than that of all Europe send hourly wasted wealth to the Atlantic and sorrowful sighs to heaven—The Amazons river preaches a sermon in every gush of its stream—The bones that whiten peruvian mountains cry aloud for vengeance—My Brethren I plead for America.
Another clime which God has favoured—which he has blessed with small gratitude recieved in return—a clime that has seized the reins and will direct the progress of earthly improvement—That clime too I must plead for—I plead for wealth changed to pride—power changed to tyranny—Religion changed to hypocrisy—Truth changed to falsehood—population changed to corruption—knowledge obtained only to work the deeds of darkness—I plead for EUROPE. And now my brethren must I not plead for the Island which gave me birth? For 452 the land wherein lies all I have most loved on earth—among whose hills and vales my sorrowing body walks; beneath whose soil my weary head must rest— Must I not plead for our England—for our father land?”
Here Percy with eyes glistning and voice faltering under me influence of real though capricious emotions advanced to the very front of the platform and in still more earnest tones continued—
“The flesh that to my carnal mind was once worth all the world to me is now but an atom of thyself O world! The joy of my life is the sport of a worm! The anchor of my mortal back is torn away And now from rocks and quicksands who can save me—O Father! Only Thou! “For in thy hands is power and might, and Thou rulest and reignest over all!”58 Yet England—my country demands a warmer expression of feeling than any I can give to far off lands, for that place which all we love most fills our arms or their graves we must think of oftenest—love the most, and with the most agony deplore—Forgive me, my Christian bretheren—I wander from an important text—“Go ye forth and preach the gospel in my name.”59 Yes let us go from the north and the south, to the uttermost Isles of the sea—Let His word mingle with the sound of waters that heralds Lena and Obi and Eniseei to their cold Siberian Sea60—Let it return in “iron knell” from the mighty peaks that separate dreary Thibet from fertile India—Let it wake the slumber of America with a voice louder than the thunders of her Andes—Let it tell unhappy Africa that the wide waves of her Nile or her ***** can never fertilize her thirsty sands till their waters unite with the sacred stream of Jordan.
Upon the banks of that river our souls will all in Gods due time have to stand, with the Ægypt of this worlds happiness and the wilderness of this worlds sorrow left like Israels forty years of wandering behind us—With the deep and treacherous flood beneath us—With the unclouded blaze of Heaven before us!—
“When we tread the verge of Jordan”61
we may have no need to fear that its waters will hurry us toward the sea of Sodom, but that guardian angels with white wings waving over a sunlit shore will give us a helping hand to place our feet on for ever flowering meadows. Is the earnest soul felt prayer of one who has wandered long in an inward Arabia and who now humbly prays that Yourselves and himself may reach a happy Canaan.
My Brethren excuse further speech from me at present; Brother Montmorency will introduce the speakers and open the real business of the meeting much more ably than myself—I feel I am nothing and have said 453 nothing.
May HE have pity on us all!”
The Rev A Percy with a general bow to the enraptured audience took his seat amid a flourish of five hundred white handkercheifs. The Male portion of the assembly groaned deeply but the female portion felt deeply, and if a keen observer had noticed the odd half smile on Percys mobile lips as he looked round after taking his seat he would have known at once that the Orator had known to whose feelings he ought to address himself and to whom he meant to feel indifference.
When the tempest of groans, sobs, sighs, and screamings had somewhat subsided the Revd Hector. M.M. Montmorency rose and with his blacksmith arms folded across a breast as broad as Ben Caunt’s62 and his wild Irish eyes glinting like black diamonds in a coal mine he burst forth in tones like the bass of La blache63
“Well my fellow warriors Brother Percy has just given you a screed of sound doctrine but it’s too fine my lads—Its too fine—We poor sinners want a good scouring out ere we are clean—A point lace towel won’t do for us—rough horse hair and brooms instead of brushes are the real remedy for our accumulated monstrosities upon case hardened consciences. Now I have here two real horse combs made of cast iron and ready as cheese maggots to jump where Jesus calls them (You perhaps have never yet seen maggots spang off a knife into your mouth but I have) Well these two have been the biggest scamps that ever donned a shirt, and they now are the holiest saints that ever gave orders for a pair of wings—They are sure to have them my brethren—when they leave this misguided world—They are ready for them in heaven’s warehouse—full feathered, and every quill tipped with gold. Think of the difference between their hopes and yours if you do not alter—pinions like Archangel Michael’s for them—Hoofs like Archangel Lucifer’s for you—Alter then my lads—make no gingerbread matter of it—Never did worse devils live than the two brothers who will now address you, and if they have passed the verge of Jordan why may not you?
Look to the lord my lads—fight the great enemy, though he had as many lives as a cat, and let me introduce to you—Captain Arthur O’ Connor—once too worthless to have a coal wasted in roasting him and now galloping toward heaven as fast as Baalam’s ass can carry him”64
At the conclusion of this eloquent speech the Barrister took a pinch of snuff—hid his face to conceal indecent laugher which was working within him 454 like beer in a barrel, and motioned O’ Connor to rise.
With a very reluctant movement and a very irreligious curse the wild eyed, red haired sea officer obeyed the signal—the more quickly from seeing Percy squint—He stood irresolute with perspiring cheeks for a minute and then as if his mind were made up he struck both fists on the front rail of the platform and dashed at once “in medias res”—65
Its no use my friends—I am a man unlearned in Godliness, and I have known the old one better than ever I knew my own father or Mother—I have never been worthy of conversion but I have been tumbled into Salvation—Neck and heels you percieve my friends—Glory be to God! Well I suppose I must tell you a bit of my experience—I came from a rich Irish family living at the rate of not more than £2000 per ann[um] above their income but being an elder son I saddled the estate privately with some few debts to be paid off—interest meanwhile to accumulate—when the old Governor should die. Glory be to God, he lived to see me cut my creditors and take to the high seas—Oh had I but taken to salvation!” (Here tremendous groans for some time interrupted the orator) “Well thats a hit any how! Now then my lads—I mean my Christian brethren—I landed on the Gold Coast with a soul blacker than the body of any devil incarnate that ever bartered mans flesh for a fifteen shilling musket! I did by (“stop stop’ said Montmorency sotto voce.) Well, never mind—I’ll let you into the secrets of life before that clock strikes eight—I spent all my first capital in buying slaves, and as King Boy of old Calabar—You knew King Boy Quashia?”
“Aye that I did Arthur! The old De—I mean brute would have diddled me out of as fine a lot of real Bambarra66 niggers as ever were thrust under hatches merely because no more than two out of thirty of my best 15s Birmingham muskets would go off at the first fire. I told him it was the climate, to which they were not yet seasoned, but the Old boy was not to be done.”
A dreadful squint from the Revd. A. Percy placed a padlock on the Moor’s tongue, and the Revd. A. O’ Connor continued—
“Well—my lads—that is—my dearest bretheren—this King Boy said that if I would “dash him” he would trust me for a ton or so of elephants teeth I consented to visit his majesty—Now, mind you, ‘dashing’ means oiling the palm—and the best dash is an anker of brandy or a keg of new rum—Well I dashed his majesty with two big calabashes of as fine red raw rum as ever scalded a mans entrails—It was beautiful to see his white eyes rolling, and his black paws patting his pursy paunch (there’s alliteration for you Hector!) as he gradually stowed his hold with the leeward-Island stuff till he had got as good a cargo on board as a man need wish to leave port with. “Golly massa” he sputtered “Me no hab done dis while—Me spew, and den see what me do!” Well the old fellow being sick at the stomach essayed to leave the hut—beg pardon—I mean palace—and as his vessel lurched, and tacked as if against a head wind I 455 thought it my duty to take him in tow as a steam tug would a dismasted tub of a collier. Hang me but when I touched him the graceless unrepentant sinner gave me a right handed lunge which would have sent me sharply over the streams of Jordan had not a New Testament which I had in my waistcoat pocket saved me— Yes my blessed Bretheren—My Testament saved me! May it save you too!”
The tumultous groans of joy which broke from the hitherto bewildered congregation made Percy aware that one other word from his eloquent colleague would only spoil the good hit he had made, so hastily stepping forward he said loudly—
“My Christian friends, the hour waxes late, me day is far spent— perhaps to some among us the night may be at hand—My brother O’ Connor is exhausted with previous labour—I introduce to relieve him—my dear brother Quashia Quamina.”
The copper-coloured gentleman advanced to the front of the platform with precisely the same aspect as would have been assumed by him if taking a last look on this weary world from the elevation of Newgate scaffold.
“Blasted ******* and brothers—confound you Hector, don’t kick my shins so—I mean Ladies and Gentlemen—now that’s too bad Hector—well, Christian friends, then—Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking, and I’ll be most cruelly expliflicated if I ever stood on any platform save the deck, before, I will try to enlighten the gentiles and give them some insight into the goings on in our business; I mean—d’ye mind me—what was our business once—Well— where was I—Percy, you unhanged villain I won’t be trailed by you any longer!”
Furiously turning to the Revd A Percy, the irascible Moor muttered an oath and resumed his seat, but the cheif actor in the evening’s farce, without noticing his colleague’s eccentricity, stepped forward and addressed the audience with a forehead like an Indian ocean in a summer calm.
“My dear friends and fellow Christians the zeal of my fellow labourers has eaten them up, and I much fear that the affecting disclosures which their experience would compell them to make would be painful to their tender feelings as well as to your own: I shall therefore adjourn this meeting till a future evening, and may He protect you all from the burning hill that was ready to fall upon Christian—from the stones that struck the vital breath out of holy Stephen—from the gridiron that fried St. Lawrence—from the crucifixion, head downwards, that gave apoplexy to St Peter—from the roasting of Polycarp—from the impetuous pride of Tertullian—from the vanity of Athanasius—from the laughing atheism of Lucian—from the humbugs of Plato, the treachery of Judas, the plagiarisms of Virgil, the repetitions of Homer,”67 456
“Halt,” cried Montmorency “What on this earth are you driving at?” But Percy nothing heeding ‘drifted on his path’ and certainly ‘with silence deep as death’68
“Yes, from the fate of Alcibiades’ dog’s tail from the fate of Prynne’s ears, from the fate of Charles the first’s head and of Oliver Cromwell’s nose from the falsehood of Psalmanazer and Jacob, from the impudence of Colonel Blood, and Joab, from the vanity of Absalom and the young Pretender, the go and come virginity of my Ancestress Queen Elizabeth, the death of my pretty Queen Mary, the hard heartedness of Brutus, the clemency of Titus that crucified fifty Jews round the walls of their city, the charity of Inquisitors general—Malay pirates, Slave drivers—I do not allude to my two regenerated fellow labourers present— From the tender mercies of Henry VIIIth and George IVth, of Henry VIIth and old Elwes, of Prince Rupert and the Marquis of Waterford, of Chateaubriand and Robert Montgomery—of Prince Marshal Blucher and Bernard Barton, from all these terrors, Good Lord deliver us!”69
As the Revd Alexander Percy concluded with a look of which canvass could give no transcript—Mr Montmorency took his hand gave out a hymn, led the dismayed congregation through the last round of their dance of enthusiasm and all left the chapel impressed with the idea that the Revd. A. Percy was a very 457 odd but very apostolic saint.
Percy departed without another word for his mind did not happen to be under the roof which sheltered his body. O’ Connor and Quamina sat stroking their hair from their foreheads, and Mr H.M.M. Montmorency enjoyed the happiness which a warhorse may have while galloping over the dying and the dead.
In a while O’ Connor wiping the perspiration from his face sighed forth—
“Well, Quashia, what the deuce are we to do now? That accursed Daguerreotype of Lucifer has got his Barometer up to 120° in the shade, and you know how little we liked that pitch when we had scarce a hand left to handle a rope off that pompous peice of Portuguese humbug. Fort Elmina, and that regular mantrap ‘Cabo Corso’ castle.”
“I’de rather hang out the red flag within range of Cape Coast Castle guns70 than sit where I am doing Arthur.”
“Now my lads” broke in the Irish Banister with a glorious chuckle “I move that “plase the pigs’ you—
—“Dont go home till morning;
Till daylight doth appear.”71
for then Alexander the great, seeing your red eyes and pallid cheeks, will deem you repentant, and in his tender mercy forgive you.”
“E’gad it’s a good suggestion!” exclaimed the culprits in a breath— though Quashia remarked with an oath that if Percy shewed any tender mercies he must have borrowed them at heavy interest from Simpson, for he was sure he had not a farthing’ s worth of his own.
“Never you mind where he gets his mercies more than he does where he gets his lasses so long as they are there.” said Hector.
“And Echo answers—where?”72 replied Quashia.
The lamps in the emptied Chapel were flickering amid the smell of their approaching dissolution—the stars seen through the windows were fast outvying them, and shewed that Heaven is seen more distinctly as Earthly light declines.
Montmorency led his legion into the still crowded streets and what they 458 did during the ‘sma’ hours’ of that night—“Is it not written in the books of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel?!
The first visitor to the Coffee room of the Hotel, next morning, was the Hero of the previous night, who entered with a look, half quizzical—half serious—and rang the bell which was answered by Fanny.
“Fanny—what do they think of me in these parts?”
Fanny blushed, giggled and replied
“Why Sir, they say you are a very nice looking gentleman.”
“Ah, but that is not to the point—It’s the Soul, Fanny, that I’m thinking of! What do they say about my soul?”
“Well—really—Sir—Why we do not know what to think—We think you are a great gentleman and a clever one—and you pay well—and people say Sir—people say—”
“Well—do excuse me Sir—They say you have behaved ill to women often.”
“Ah! My girl—remember that the tongue though it be a little member can work great mischeif! I’m as innocent as a new born babe—Get me a cup of coffee—four poached eggs, and a ‘demi tasse’ of Cogniac for breakfast.”
“What is that last order Sir?”
“It means as much Brandy as you please my girl—I thought you understood the Chaldaic dialect of the Hebrew—But you perhaps understand that language.” said Mr Percy—impressing an unmistakeable kiss on the pink cheek of the young woman, who left the room to execute his orders in a rather flurried and hesitating manner.
As she closed the door his eyes wandered to the window through which beyond the houses could be seen the purple summits of the moorland hills. A long line of fir plantations marked the spot wherein his feelings anchored, and as soon as he had dispatched a hasty breakfast, to that spot he wended his way.
The mild but rather misty air of the uplands for a while diverted his mind from the follies of the previous night. The cattle quietly lying in their mornings rest among the dew spangled grass and half opened daisies, the mountain sheep with shackled limbs still contentedly making their breakfast on the produce of an ungrateful soil, all spoke of calm and contentment—sincere, though perhaps forced, and shewn by objects humble enough in the scale of Creation.
The being of a far mightier mind, and compared with whom, every living thing round his path was little better than would have been the vitality of a polypus,73 walked forward, sometimes smiling at the little bits of English 459 scenery which no one save Bewick74 has ever copied on wood or steel, but far oftener casting the mental eye backward upon an object of love long laid in her grave, or forward, upon one whose grave he might be the means of making.
There are hours when our thoughts take in, and fully comprehend years as well as minutes; when the long chain which connects bygone, with present and with forthcoming years blazes like one vivid streak of lightening, and gives mans feelings almost a prophetic power to look into his future doom.
Such a power Mr Percy seemed to have obtained when he leaned on the gate of the avenue leading to Darkwall and thought of the Mary he had lost, and the Maria he was to meet.
After his eye had wandered a while over whitey green pastures and storm beaten moors he entered the Hall, and in its Breakfast room met the beautiful though melancholy looking mistress of the mansion
The old fashioned room with its Elizabethan windows and its roof pointed from the centres to the octagonal diverging supports did not attract his attention, but the Lady who welcomed him did—She entered with a took of studied solemnity, but with a shining in the eyes that said solemnity might sometimes tell lies.
Mrs Maria Thurston had known enough of sorrow, and God had intended her to both know and feel enough of love. She had before her a man capable of exciting every feeling that a woman can know—She had, as the possesor of her own person, a man, if I can write him down as such, who could not gain more than momentarily—her feelings, and who never could fill them at all. She had lost thoughts of him except in her ideas of dread of him, and so many years had elapsed since he had bestowed on her even one moment of, I fear, selfish fondness, that the remembrance of her bridal days caused the atonishment which one feels when thinking that ones childhood took for truth the gibberish of a nursery tale.
Now, and for long ago she knew that on rising she must dress to face a day of duties performed unthanked and, so far as her thoughts were concerned, objectless care.
What was it then that caused an expression to cross her face which even the servant who closed the door could notice, as Mr Percy greeted her with a tight rein upon his tongue but a hot spur within his mind? Whatever she felt an unusual visitant—colour—invaded her cheeks as she replied to his greeting of “Well Madam—
There is an unseen power which draws us onwards” 460
So in accordance with Schiller’s philosophy75 I am hither thus early from the coarseness of Ardmore cattle fair.”
“I suppose Sir you have yet been so kind as to do your utmost to correct that coarseness for I have understood that Mr Thurstons guest performed—positively for one night only in the Methodist Chapel at ——”
“Oh do not speak of it! You do not know me—When I am most inwardly serious I am most outwardly absurd—Last nights folly was a borrowed cloak to shelter me from the passing storm and to be returned when the blast should have hurried it by. It has not been the first occasion on which I have dressed myself in motley, but I can doff the fools cap as easily as don it—Why do you look so sad?”
“I did not know that my looks were changed from their usual character—But I am sure Sir that after the eccentricities of last night you will need refreshment this morning—more especially as I suppose you mean to spend the day on the moors.”
“Maria—Madam, I mean—No, **** it, it shall out—Maria—I do not mean to spend the day on the moors—I am no sentimental milksop, and I like a day spent at the tail of a pointer or a foxhound as well as any fellow that ever donned a green or scarlet Jacket, but I have other likings, and I would rather bring down sorrow from a well loved face than wing the finest Bustard (if there is one left) on the plains of Wiltshire. I know you are unhappy Maria—Yes you may put on the mockery of a smile and look as though you would say you were not—but your lot in life has been among thorny paths and against inclement skies. God made you by nature to be all that a woman could be, so far as her sunshine can enlighten a blighted world—You have been made, by some other power not very nearly akin to God, no better than a weed tossed on the water I can see it and if I wish to strive for a few hours to cheat you out of the bitter consciousness of your fate impute my wish not to a sin on my part, but to tenderness for her who instead of being a weed tossed on the water ought to be a jewel worn in a crown.”
“Sir—Sir—Remember who I am—and for my sake forbear to—”
“I remember I know well enough what thou art—I know the earthquake ground on which I tread—But, Maria, through distress and danger to come— through hours of self reproach that I am too stubborn to own to others—through scenes that make me sick of my life—thou shalt—thou must be now my guiding star. Do not let those tears run down thy cheek unless I am to kiss them off—Do not play with and look at thy eye glass as if it and not Alexander Percy were talking to thee—Remember, my Maria, that we stand on a point of time— sorrow has been behind us both—The balm of mutual love may be before us—for I know that thou lovest me, and thy words need not put themselves to the 461 trouble of a denial—and if we must part—Maria—remember a rough villain amid all his mental storms will have one sweet harbour in which that mind may anchor—An ill used lady will find that when she has to retire to a lonely room from the conclusion of thankless toils—she may, ere she lays her head on a (I would hope) peaceful pillow—feel that one man—up to all both of the good and evil of life—and who never prays for himself, is praying most unselfishly for her.”
Some of my readers may think that the foregoing report of the breakfast room conversation sounds overstrained, or raphsodical, but as I only
“tell the tale as ’twas told to me”76
and can with the mental eye see plainly the noble looking, passionately feeling, well experienced and highly talented scoundrel standing over, and warmly regarding the mild, sweet tempered, but sorrow stricken lady, who (save in this new attraction for her feelings) saw nothing through future life save continual travel over stony roads—I can tell them that the talk was not the kernel, but the shell, and that, after a look of almost vindictive feirceness, one close embrace gave to Mr Percy’s arms one whom, at that hour he could not have lived without—and who in the whirl of her own feelings knew not whether she were dead or alive.
With cheek, now white, now red she sat beside Mr Percy, whose light complexioned countenance altered no more than did his orange whiskers but he pressed her dark curls to his bosom and said
“Maria—You must take a walk in the park or plantation—You look sickly, and my arm will be a good support during your walk—Don’t be frightened to take the arm that of all the 2,000,000,000 arms in this world would be the first to protect thy dear little self. Now I shall bring thy bonnet and veil and mantle out of the entrance hall and I insist upon thy putting them on—so wipe thy eyes, my love, and believe that this hand which rather roughly grasps thy neck would be a powerful defender if any other hand dared grasp it”
Mrs Thurston—powerless under the impulse of contending feelings, mechanically walked into the hall and returned ready for a morning walk, but with her sweet confiding eyes looking, now at the powerful past, then at the awful future.
Seeing that she hesitated in entering Percy threw open the window which admitted of immediate access to the lawn, and taking her arm first, and next her waist compelled her by his impetuosity of will to resign herself to his direction during the mornings walk.
The Breakfast Room was left empty now, and the forenoon sunshine beamed as usual upon the customary display of old Furniture and uncouth china. The grim portrait of Mr Thurston frowned over the mantle piece. The fair, but wan looking lady of the mansion smiled sorrowfully from her gilded frame, beside it, but the image of the man who was fated to change the destinies of that 462 house was not there. His lofty forehead, orange whiskers, and sarcastic mouth were not to be found in the gloomy brow, black complexion, and purely malignant aspect of William Thurston.
While the room was empty of living occupants, times gone by, perhaps, looked down from the walls as forty centuries looked down from Cheop’s pyramid upon the victory of the “Sultan Kebir” over the chivalrous Mamelukes;77 But the room was not long empty for, ere long, in burst the brawny, Irish form of Hector. M.M Montmorency—while Mr H.M.M. Montmorency was tenderly enquiring from a servant after the welfare of his dear friend Alexander—Mrs Thurston and her guest entered through the still opened window which invited ones footsteps from the sward without.
Mrs Thurston’s raven tressess were rather disordered—and Mr Percy’s azure eyes twinkled very suspiciously so Mr Montmorency, with bowels yearning as much as ever Jacob’s or David’s did for Benjamin or Jonathan— advanced toward his lofty friend and fervently exclaimed—
“Oh, I love thee! I do like that squint—It is so very amiable!”
Then turning as if he had not been aware that Mrs Thurston had entered the apartment, Mr Montmorency apologized for his rough outburst of friendship, and earnestly longed to know if Mrs Thurston were well, and able to traverse the moors that day!
Mrs Thurston answered the Irish Barrister as shortly as possible and, as much as possible, without a glance at his dark searching countenance. Mr Percy recklessly keeping beside his fair hostess on the sopha threw a look at Hector, such as would have given one lightning blaze from the Silla de Carracca’s to the port of Cumana.78 A stranger, ignorant of human nature might have been puzzled to explain the meaning of the triumphant brightness of the gentleman’s glance or tell the reason for the perpetual check which he seemed forced to keep upon his usually voluble tongue, while addressing Mrs Thurston. Indeed once, when she was taking from the table a very large folio of local Antiquities to shew it to Montmorency he so far forgot himself as to say imperiously and warmly
“Halt, Darling—I’ll carry it”
and as she coloured violently and could not speak, while he muttered “**** those slips of the tongue!” Montmorency’s snuff box came into requistion and it might have been observed that his scrutiny of the architectural engravings and coats of Arms was as inquisitive as could have been the gaze of Dr Dryasdust or 463 Jonathan Oldbuck79 but the Irish eyes were noticing, from their corners the changing cheek of the lady, and the cockles of his heart “rejoiced to find that she could not tear herself from that sofa and allowed Percy’s hand to fall upon her own without noticing the ‘accident’.
Looking at the plan of a Roman Camp alledged to have been discovered on the adjacent moors Montmorency remarked in a mild voice
“I always admire a commander who can kick aside your gradual approaches and take a fortification by storm. Zigzag work will do for the practice of the law, but it does not look natural or prove sucessful in war or in Love. to be sure a Spider would hardly agree with me, for it is very wary in catching its fly—but then when it has got it—who so brisk as the spider?”
As Mr Percy only answered by the pantomime of a sneering laugh, and the growling observation that a spider could kill a wasp, Mr Montmorency continued—
“Well, now, to business. You must know, however painful it may be to disclose the secret—and, believe me from the testimony of this bleeding bosom that it is a pain from which only burning tears could relieve me—a pain that no issue to the event, however happy, could wholly remove—for it lies here!”
“If you mean the inside coat pocket I judge it to be an unmanageable brief
“Oh no! proffessional business must lie asleep now!”
“Thank Heaven! Now Mar—Madam we may hope for happiness when Law sleeps.”
‘Alas, I feel I am no actor here!’
Our beloved fellow labourers, our fellow soldiers under His banner, our pilgrim companions, our virgin sisters, those who have fought under the cross by our side and who may with us eventualy win and wear a martyrs crown, are—but how can I declare it in your presence Madam—They are in quod!”80
Mrs Thurston evidently did not understand the Banisters peroration and her mild eyes asked from Percy’s face an explanation of the awful word; but that face, instead of consternation, expressed ecstatic pleasure as its lips whispered
“At last they are at home!”
“Oh but my friend” pleaded the Banister “think of the wives—stop they are not married—well then, of their children, poor little souls, sent adrift on the stormy ocean of this world—”
“Egad! They have been adrift since they were hatched Mat!” 464
“Well, but their mothers—”
“What? The childrens mothers, or the Saint’s Hector?”
“You are not yet out of the shell—I mean the bonds of Satan—Percy. Do you know that Quashia and O’ Connor are in the lock up, and will be brought this morning before Thurston and—worst of all—before Sir John Sinclair!”
On hearing that last name Mrs Thurston’s pale cheek turned yet paler and she asked
“Then has my uncle arrived from Scotland?”
“He has—because he foresaw the evil to come like a double sighted Highlander81 as he is!”
Percy frowned on the lady as he noticed her change of countenance and then rose, turning to Montmorency with the remark that he supposed the poor devils wanted bail and he was sure that neither Jerry or Gordon would give it without a consideration so he supposed he must go down to Ardmore—‘but’ he concluded, as he left the room with his friend I shall be back with your hus—with Thurston.”
Mrs Thurston stood alone in the room, and as she saw the tall athletic gentleman in the dark green Newmarket Coat ride off by the side of his danger boding companion she involuntarily clasped her hands and exclaimed
“Oh God! My life is changed!”
Forethoughts of events to come gathered round her like tide waves round a stone, and like such waves overwhelmed her. Consciousness of what she has done that morning flashed like lightning through her soul, and though one thud of her mind prayed for God’s mercy and another third enquired, “had she sinned at all!’ the last third compelled he to fall on her knees, bury her face in the sopha cushion, and utter, amid sobs and at intervals, her scarcely coherent prayer.
“Oh God forgive me if thou cans’t! I do not know how much I have angered thee—I do not know whether or not I sin in daring to pray to thee—I only know that I cannot help myself, that I am going whither my every feeling leads me, and that, come what may, into thy hands I must fall. The world will now judge ill of me—My sisterhood will shun me—Snares will surround me—my life will be endangered, a long dark future may be preparing for me and Hell itself may rise to meet meat my comings; But how can I shake off what my heart clings to? How can I vow to thee that I will forget him who seems all I have hoped for and never have obtained? How can I return to silent submission under heartless tyranny and keep any promise to hate the name of love?
I loved this world—I longed to see it happy—I did all I could to please whom I could—I gave myself to one who promised what he did not perform—I still kept to my promises and smiled away sorrow when I could, or hid it when misery overmastered the smile—Through all I felt blameless and could each night place my trust in Thee. What, then, can I do now? I cannot hate him—I 465 cannot forget him—He has made me love him, and yet I must cast his image aside or live, a traitor to my vow, and a sinner in thy sight.
“My God, I cannot cast him aside! I should lie if I promised it—I long to be his own,but I have, through my life longed to be Thine own. I cannot be both, and now I must try to long to be in my grave.
Where, my God, is thy compassion, and why is it denied to me? Am I doomed to an endless agony; and, if so, wherefore am I doomed? I am as thou hast formed me—I feel as thou hast caused me—I act as thou permittest—I suffer what thou willest—I am thine with whom to do what thou pleasest— but—I am another’s also!
Forgive me if I pray for him this night when I shall not dare to pray for myself. Forgive me if my eyes turn from the daily repeated scene of sorrow to the seldom coming hour of joy. I ask Thee to forgive me but I dare not hope it, so I must entirely trust myself to my darkening fate and to Thine own almighty power!”
Mrs Thurstons white forehead and raven curls were turned toward heaven as she rose with streaming eyes—she dried them with a white handkercheif which she thought her own, but flushed as she noticed the letters “A.P.” in the corner, and then hurriedly left the room to try to fulfill her duties.
Angria and the Angrians]
P B B
Among all the descriptions I have read I do not recollect one to me more beautiful that that in the commencement of the Tales of my Landlord which describes the Burial place of the Covenanters at the Valley Head among the lonely Lowland Hills and I like it so much because there is not about it that selection of the sublime or beautiful in Nature wherewith to seize the mind independantly of power in the writer or of sentiment in his subject For excepting in the Grave stones themselves half buried it is only the picture of one among many “lone vales of green Bracken”2 with a rude ill cultivated country below and a brown fern Hidden brook within and dull stony swells around and a marshy monotonous Moor beyond But I born and bred upon the Hills side want no more of the great or striking to make me adore that discription for I feel enough of the Associations called up at sight of those Linnet peopled Hills and well indeed the quiet nook of Grave stones tells me of times when the perils of Life and the sternness of man fitly accorded with the Moors and Mosses of their Mountain Land I will never beleive that our minds can be so well awakened by the poetry of distant and unknown Images as by that of the things we have long been used to know I would doubt the genius of that writer who loved more to dwell upon Indian Palm Groves or Genii palaces than on the wooded manors and cloudy skies of England3 So when I see upon that page the reflection of objects which I have always been surrounded with I must the more delight in the description itself and in the Noble Head that framed it for it shows me both its own sacred graveyard and what I have only to lift my eyes from the pages to look on. That Mountain Ash among the stone fenced feilds that skirt the Heather and the peewits wheeling above the quiet pools that reflect only their whistling rushes and grey clouded sky. I am carried away to the lonly farm Houses on the confines of the heath whose roomy Interior shews old Tale inspiring Oaken furniture and funnel chimnies and Bibles blacken[ed] with the smoke of a century while the form of Eld4 cowering in its high back chair beside the fire rigid and callous with years but living dotedly on as if years had 186 forgotten it casts by its discomfortless look as much almost of solemn awe over my scene as the Hoar Old Mortality busied above the dead does over that of the Scottish Novelist
Such a country as that I nave alluded too lay round the Parish of Airdmore in Carnac,5 whose bleak hills sides flanked the Ash bordered brook coming down from the Gorside Dean6 which might be seen like a desolate chasm in the gloomy frontier bordered by fern clad slopes and lost in a wilderness of moor and nearly the farthest House toward its confines was one which stood on the highest level of the sour pale pasture Land with large black walls and mossy mistal and a plantation of gloomy firs one clump of which the oldest and the highest stretched their horizontal arms above one Gable like the Genii of that desolate scene. Beyond this House its long feild walls made a line with the November sky and the path across them led on to an interminable moor whose tracks might furnish a long days sport after Snipe or Heathcock, but no birds flew near the House except the Linnets twittering by hundreds on some wet old wall. and yet despite its loneliness this House was one of no common note in the Extensive parish and half the fireside tales of times gone by were sure to take “Darkwall”7 for their scene and its owners for their subject they had been Lords of the Manor of Longmoor Edge8 and their immemorial Grave stones had every Sunday occupied the gaze of the Congregation of Airdmore Church but more than anything contributed to their fame the apparations of the “Darkwall Gytrash”9 though in the awe which its appearance had spread through that parish my Readers from ignorance of its nature will in very few instances participate. A Gytrash is a Spectre neither at all similar to the Ghosts of those who once were alive nor to fairys and silvan Creatures nor to Demons and the powers of the air it does not confine its forms to the Human and indeed most seldom appears in such a form a Black Dog dragging a chain a dusky calf nay even a rolling stone or a self impelled cart wheel are more commonly the mortal coil of the Sullen Spectre But the Darkwall Gytrash was known by the form of of an Old Dwarfish and hideous Man as often seen without a head as with one and moving at dark along the naked feilds which spread round the Aged House its visits were connected in all mens minds with the fortunes of the family he hovered round 187 and evil omens were always drawn on such occasions and if tradition spoke true fullfilled upon them
Next to their Gytrash the Thurstons themselves were the object of awe and tale telling to the parish for uncertainty creates wonder and the knowledge possessed of the Thurstons was often indistinct They had alwalys[sic] held lands and Houses far down in the fertile and populous country their family ties were all there and only at uncertain periods they were used to live upon their oldest family land William Thurston Esqr. to whom all the property had fallen was more addicted to vice than virtue (a leaning which distinguished the Thurstons as it has done many a House besides) and from the vast distance of his usual Residence (Thurston House near Edwardston beyond Verdopolis) he was quite as little know[n] as any of his forefathers besides he had married a Lady of good family from nobody knew where and a sight of Mrs Thurston was much more frequently wished for than obtained. Those who visited them were always from a distance and their House was not more severed from all Neighbourhood than themselves
At the Time in which my forthcoming Narrative begins Mr Thurston had for some time been absent at the metropolis but his return was expected that day which was the one before a great cattle fair annually held in Airdmore as the centre of a vast pastoral and Grazing district and which this year was expected to be larger and more numerously attended than ever for through the whole season it had been rumoured that Mr PERCY. the celebrated cattle dealer10 would attend and a day before the fair the van of his Horned Legions came in under the care of his co partners Messrs O’ Connor Cary and Gordon who with Mr H M M Montmorency the well known Barrister rode up in the Evening to Darkwall to meet Mr Percy their principal who with Mr Thurston was expected to arrive there that night from the Capital The Worthies were gathered round the Drawing Room fire and through closed doors and passages their Oaths and laughter might be heard in the Large Old Kitchen where Mrs Maria Thurston was superintending the preparations for a kingly supper.
That Kitchen in the decline of November Daylight seemed Ruddied all over by the glow of the Roaring fire that flashed all its radiance upon the mighty Dresser of Ancient and Burnished pewter In so much that far opposite from the else darkened end of the Room that front of polished metal reflected in every plate and dish a bright and bickering blaze The Dark Oak Settles them selves glistened and the faces of the Neat Aproned Servant Maids shone brighter than either while they bent to their duties over the Hissing Roast and fragrant steaming Ovens Hardly at any bidding would the 2 great Spaniels quit such a[n] Elysian Hearth and when they were forced to leave it for the darkening passage the change so pressed upon their hearts that pricking both ears at the social roar 188 from the Drawing Room they barked till all the House rung Hollow with the Echoe. But in the great kitchen what most cheifly struck the Eye was the Tall and Ladylike Woman with black silk Apron and Round white Arms bared to the Elbow whose pink and Taper fingers were busied in arranging and superintending what her Active maids did their part to create. Her white stockinged and black sandalped] feet moved the very picture of quiet Elegance and now and then her white Ey[e]lids drooped over the table would lift their dark lashes to the window with an expectant look though to see the shadening prospect she had often to put back the raven curls that would when downward bending escape from their Lacy confinement After such a parade of description my Readers may wonder to find Mrs Thurston engaged in occupations so little allied to those of a Lady but she was though polished and educated enough accustomed to a retired and rural Country where mistresses are really Ladies of the House Thousands a year in among the Carnac Mountains did not in those days deter a wife from seeing the thousands well expended Nor had French Cooks found their way to Airdmore so the task of pleasing visitors fell naturally to the person whose interest it was to please
The grand hour of projection was passed the safty of the viands was assured and releived from her Anxiety Mrs Thurston looked at the clock which spoke a[n] hour long after that affixed for Mr Thurstons arrival. It was rather inconvenient she thought to leave the Gentlemen so long without their host but it was time at any rate for her to dress so she called her waiting maid and left the kitchen leaving the Girls gathering round the fire as neat as trim Ribbons and white Aprons could make them the ex[c]itement of expectation awoke in their faces and multitudinous guess[es] arose on their tongues all about the famous Cattle Dealer whose exploits in the feilds of Mars and Venus had long been the fireside talk of Africa He and his partners known though they were “Wide as the world”11 were novelties in the body to Airdmore and the distant villiage was as mad awaiting to see them as was the fireside knot of the Darkwall kitchen
“What Horses they have” said one “Johns been a cleaning on ’em and he says he never saw such **** sin he was born
“Yes and” said a second “What a man that young’st on ’em is—” “What the great Lawyer—”? —“Nay him with the Red Head lass—if he didnt take me round the waist as I was coming through the passage—the impudence—”
“Eh lass! I wadnt ha’ said it nother but how foul that Black whiskered one looks—whisht thats the bell—who’ll go? The[y] call about ’em like any Alehouse—”
Straight rose a fuss each one wanting to go and to seem as if she would not go but the footman just entering saved them the trouble and they began to discourse about “How the Red haired Gentleman was O’ Connor the Brother of the Lady that Percy had run away with and How Mr Montmorency was her Husband and all about the story and the News that John had brought from 189 Girnington far away in the East about Miss Hartford and Mr Percy12 and—but in the high tide of story telling a clatter of Horses Hoofs came down the yard and a Gentlemans voice was heard giving an order outside the door which the footman opened directly thinking it was His Master but Mr Thurston was not there And the visitor a much taller person was in the act of throwing the reins of his Noble Grey to a servant mounted upon a “Great White Horse” who taking both his beasts toward the stable left Mr Percy bowing his lofty head to enter beneath the kitchen porch to the utter confusion of the servants when instead of their Master they saw enter a man of such uncommon height attired in short Green frock white cord Breeks and Top boots with a white broad brim on his head and immense Orange whiskers on his face
“Now my Girls” he said “let me see your Lady as soon as you can” and therewith he strode to the fire standing with his back toward it on the Hearth and placing his hat on a table The servants crowded together gigglingly to note the celebrated man and he looked a noble fellow enough with his superb white forehead and head of Auburn curls and cheeks so richly haloed though their marked lines of dissipation and the athwart glance of his eyes took somewhat from the gazers admiration and left a sensation akin to fear. She who had done his bidding returned to usher him into a parlour but he swore he was not so loath to leave them and began a verbal salute that made them hardly know where to look for smiling till the door opening hushed Him and Mrs Thurston Entered who now dressed with wreathing curls and snowwhite neck and shoulders looked as handsome as she before had looked Ladylike Each warmly advancing shook hands
And “By God” he said “I could not have thought to see my little Maria so much improved by time. It spoils all that I know but it has mended thee—
“It is long since we met Sir” she answered “I was only a Girl then—but where is my Husband? Have you not brought him with you?”
While speaking Mrs Thurston led Mr Percy to a sitting room and he swore her Husband did not need his assistance he was fending for himself and he guessed the D—l had him in some plot or another They parted at Denard and she must expect him home in a day or two. But he would not talk on the subject and declared that when he knew it was 13 years since they two had met the thought bewildered almost past talking He durst say she had long forgotten him but through all the rough work it been his lot to encounter He had found a minute now and then to think upon her “Ah” she replied “I was fourteen then which was an age old enough to observe and the happiness I saw you enjoying when I was at Percy Hall has recurred to my mind ever since when I have heard of the sorrows and dangers which after years have connected with your name—but you look greived that I should mention it will you join your freinds Sir or—”
“Freinds Maria! D—n them how many are there? Mont I should judge from that laugh and the crack brained O’ Connor? first let me dress and then have at them—the drunken Blackguards!” So Mrs Thurston ringing the footman 190 appeared whom she bidd call Mr Percys servant and as the man came in she went out leaving a striking contrast in appearance to fill up her place in the room He was an aged and stunted fellow with a forehead moulded in to every demon feeling and his grey hairs and black Old fashioned cloaths mocked in every motion the alert twinkle of his deep grey eye Such was the celebrated Robert King or as all the world called him Mr S death an old villain whose crimes would fill the Newgate Calendar and whilolm the mentor of his almost equally accomplished Master whom now he served both as personal servant and as the cheif Agent in his extensive Horse trade an office which the old Theifs Yorkshire birth and Horse Jockey education perfectly qualified him to fill. He ushered Mr Percy up stairs candle in hand and when in a while they came down conducted him into the drawing Room where round a blazing fire sat the circle of partnership waiting for the advent of their stady head All jumped up as he appeared and being told that Mrs Thurston waited supper for them followed their Guide to the Dining Room O Connor swearing internal oaths of enjoyment at the long display of shining plate and snowhite[sic] table and Montmorency giving Percy a f[r]iendly squint as he saw the beautiful woman who stood to welcome their enterance
She, when all were seated, with her somewhat pale though smiling face and large dark eyes and elegant womanly form to a painters eye made a beautiful companion to the lofty stature and August forehead of the Handsome though Dissipated looking man at her right hand and as good a contrast to the Black and sullen ferocity of the malignant Gordon on her left. The wild disjasked13 profligate O’ Connor rattled and the facetious though far deeper dyied scoundrel Montmorency joked away opposite, but in such wise that as soon as possible Mrs Thurston quitted the table and left them to the paradise of Bottles and glasses that O Connors heart had all day been panting for
“Now” he cried drawing in to the fire “lets unite Theory and practice they’ve been a cursed while seperate with me fill round to our Hostess and may our own homes never want as fair an Ornament I mean when we have a Home G—d D—n!”
“Now my Hearts” said the Barrister “whats the use bothering ourselves with care and we have only a grain of sense in our heads here’s we four here been sitting all the Evening doing nothing but cracking a lot over the old foolishness and theres you Percy have only entered a quarter since and your Bread’s baked already D—n the jade fortune—pass the Bottle Arthur”
Arthur did so with another oath that yet more releived him and his wild Red head commenced its customary whirl of thoughtless oddity which Hector Matthias Montmorency took a delight in bothering to a truly Irish confusion of ideas all the while as he did it keeping a keen grey twinkle upon the motions of his Leader Alexander Percy “Come now my chuck” cried Hector coaxingly to O 191Connor “I want to have thy opinion at full on the subject we left before supper—”
“Shiver my breeches if I aut forgotten it Mont—”
“The ident[it]y of moral right and wrong my chuck you had just set about prosing—”
“Oh by G—d I recollect—well and you see when a man says if I commit this crime I’m sure of getting a fairing for it either here or hereafter what’s that? Why its cowardice real D—d infernal poltroonery he’s afraid and he makes fear the mainspring of his refusal Dammn when I was aboard the Rover if I haddnt whipped my whittle into Grayson it would have been through fear of a licking. I did strike in and whats the issue—why I’de a thousand pounds that made half a years paradise after it! God—why theres Percy now. Whats his theory?—Ive had cause for handling him many a day—and so have you Mont By G—d—well what would have been the issue if I had?.
When I was aboard the Rover—(excuse me madam Mr Percy knows what I mean)—I used at first to be for ever asking myself—Is this right? if not what’ll be the issue?—Well Day came on after Day—never an hour but I had to do something wrong and never a night but I turned in as drunk as paradise—well I thought whats the theory of this? I see its practice and thats a regular elysium I looked we should all strike and founder some fine morning but it was useless nought happened and our purses became like the Widow’s cruise.14 we had always our hand in them and they weighed never an ounce the lighter—Excuse me madam what could we do? Temptations came and goodly merchant men crossed on all sides of us What was the issue, why what was theirs became Ours—There was the fight of—well well we’ll not mention names but however it was the first time I shed blood, you’ll forgive me?. well I never slept a wink the night after for counting over the good 500 that I got by it where was the punishment there?. Oh the
That strange union which formed Percy’s character of Debauched profligacy and impassioned feeling and restless Ambition and which then was but begginning to be over clouded by his after embittered melancholy but always excited the interest in Mrs Thurstons mind which it had done in the minds of many thousands besides and the story of his life its ceasless wanderings and rumoured crimes only added to that interest and kept awake the Romance which his present employment might have tended to destroy She had expected with much excitement the visit of so celebrated a man and when arrived each word and action seemed to fill up her fancys sketch or open features in the prospect unknown before 192
Mr Percy though she had not seen him had been a comrade of her Husbands in the Metropolis and Mr Thurston had now invited him to stay at his Residence whither he should follow him so soon as his buisiness at Fidena should be despatched and it was left till such time for his Lady to entertain him which at first she fancied herself quite unable to do but she little knew him— While his Gang was present He had appeared sour and Impetuous but they were now gone And while his Hostess occupied a Sopha by the fire He arose on a sudden and commenced a progress backward and forward through the room His Majestic figure now lightened now shadowed as he advanced to or receded from the fire and his blue wayward eyes enkindled and his expression each moment changing while he poured forth on many a subject his words so warmly and flowingly eloquent. If Mrs Thurston talked to him he would stop and listen with a keenness which almost fluttered and damped her but in turn when he talked she felt roused beyond the pitch of every day conversation She had no need to tempt him forwards for something had excited him with evident pleasure and it was far more the pretty swan like neck and Raven Ringlets of his Hostess that encouraged him than any regard for subject or any desire to shine
“I wonder” she said for she had heard of the morbid bitterness of his feelings “I wonder Sir after what I know to find you now so cheerful. It was much my fear that this wild moorland and ancient House would oppress you with lassitude and ennuye
“And there are times” he replied “when it might if I were left in it alone but not with you here and indeed I have too often held communion with loneliness to find it either strange or disagreeable when I think of long nights at sea and days of the winters in Norway15 I am minded that but for the burial which they gave to other greifs I should have been withered into my grave before now. But I can always think best when I am far away at sea and I can feel best when I am even as I am now. you must forgive my intrusion on your time Mrs Thurston because it is seldom I can obtain such an opportunity of pleasure and if you knew how I shall feel when I leave you you would hold me very excusable in keeping you so long
Have not you been used to think of me as a debauched profligate—and one to whom God had denied every spark of kindly nature?—and I own that vice and I have held a long companionship