« AnteriorContinuar »
mamma. I have been very unhappy since she died. I have been slighted, and taught nothing, and thrown upon myself, and put to work not fit for me. It made me run away to you. I was robbed at first setting out, and have walked all the way, and have never slept in a bed since I began the journey.” Here my selfsupport gave way all at once, and with a movement of my hands intended to show her my ragged state, and call it to witness that I had suffered something, I broke into a passion of crying, which I suppose had been pent up within me all the week.
My aunt, with every sort of expression but wonder discharged from her countenance, sat on the gravel, staring at me, until I began to cry; when she got up in a great hurry, collared me, and took me into the parlour. Her first proceeding there was to unlock a tall press, bring out several bottles, and pour some of the contents of each into my mouth. I think they must have been taken out at random, for I am sure I tasted aniseed water, anchovy sauce, and salad dressing. When she had administered these restoratives, as I was still unable to control my sobs, she put me on the sofa, with a shawl under my head, and the handkerchief from her own head under my feet, lest I should sully the cover; and then, sitting herself down behind the green fan or screen I have already mentioned, so that I could not see her face, ejaculated at intervals, “Mercy on us !” letting those exclamations off like minute guns.
THE TEMPTATION. RAVENSCROFT was a man, I have heard say, of all men least calculated for a treasurer. He had no head for accounts, paid away at random, kept scarce any books, and summing up at the week's end, if he found himself a pound or so deficient,2 blest himself that it was no worse.
Now3 Barbara's weekly stipend was a bare half-guinea. By mistake he popped into her hand—a whole one. Barbara tripped away.
i These restoratives, Ces cordiaux.—2 If he found himself a pound or so deficient S'il se trouvait en déficit d'une vingtaine de shillings.-3 Now, Or.
She was entirely unconsciousl at first of the mistake. Ravenscroft would never have discovered it.
But when she had got down to the first of those uncouth landing-places, she became sensible of an unusual weight of metal pressing her little hand.
Now mark the dilemma.
She was by nature a good child. From her parents and those about her she had imbibed no contrary influence. But then they had taught her nothing. Poor men's smoky cabins are not always porticos of moral philosophy. This little maid had no instinct to evil, but then she might be said to have no fixed principle. She had heard honesty commended, but never dreamed of its application to herself.? She thought of it as something which concerned grown-up people, men and women. She had never known temptation, or thought of preparing resistance against it.
Her first impulse was to go back to the old treasurer, and explain to him his blunder. He was already so confused with age, besides a natural want of punctuality, that she would have had some difficulty in making him understand it. She saw that in an instant. And then it was such a bit of money! And then the image of a larger allowance of butcher's meat 3 on their table next day came across her, till her little eyes glistened and her mouth moistened. But then Mr Ravenscroft had always been so good-natured, and had stood her friend so often. . . . But again, the old man was reputed to be worth a world of money. He was supposed to be worth fifty pounds a-year clear of his profession. And then came staring upon her the figures of her little stockingless and shoeless sisters. And then she looked at her own neat white cotton stockings, which her situation made it indispensable for her mother5 to provide for her, with hard straining and pinch
I She was entirely unconscious, Elle n'avait pas la moindre idée.—2 But never dreamed of its application to herself, Mais elle n'avait jamais songé que cela pût la regarder elle-même.-_3 And then the image of a larger allowance of butcher's meat, Et d'ailleurs l'idée qu'il y aurait un peu plus de viande de boucherie. _4 Worth a world of money, Excessivement riche.-—5 Made it indispensable for her mother, Obligeait sa mère à.
ing from the family stock, and thought how glad she should be to cover their poor feet with the same. ... In these thoughts she reached the second landing-place—the second, I mean, from the top—for there was still another left to traverse.
Now virtue support Barbara !
And that never-failing friend did step in ; for at that moment a strength not her own, I have heard her say, was revealed to her
—a reason above reasoning—and without her own agency, as it seemed, (for she never felt her feet to move, she found herself transported back to the individual desk she had just quitted, and her hand in the old hand of Ravenscroft, who in silence took back the refunded treasure, and who had been sitting (good man) insensible to the lapse of minutes, which to her were anxious ages; and from that moment a deep peace fell upon her heart, and she knew the quality of honesty.2
A year or two's unrepining application to her duty set the whole family on their legs again, and released her from the difficulty of discussing moral dogmas 3 upon a landing-place.
I have heard her say, that it was a surprise, not much short of mortification to her, to see the coolness with which the old man pocketed the difference, which had caused her such mortal throes.
This anecdote of herself I had in the year 1800, from the mouth of the late Mrs Crawford, then sixty-seven years of age.
A SKETCH OF BYRON. The pretty fable by which the Duchess of Orleans illustrated the character of her son, the Regent, might, with little change, 4 be applied to Byron. All the fairies, save one, had been bidden to his cradle. All the gossips had been profuse of their gifts. One had bestowed nobility, another genius, a third beauty. The malignant elf who had been uninvited came last, and, unable to reverse what her sisters had done for their favourite, had mixed up a curse with every blessing. In the rank of Lord Byron, in his understanding, in his character, in his very person, there was a strange union of opposite extremes. He was born to all that men covet and admire. But in every one of those eminent advantages? which he possessed over others was mingled something of misery and debasement. He was sprung from a house, ancient indeed and noble, but degraded and impoverished by a series of crimes and follies which had attained a scandalous publicity. The kinsman whom he had succeeded had died poor, and, but for merciful judges,3 would have died upon the gallows. The young peer had great intellectual powers; yet there was an unsound part in his mind. He had naturally a generous and feeling heart ; but his temper was wayward and irritable. He had a head which statuaries loved to copy, and a foot the deformity of which the beggars in the streets mimicked. Distinguished at once by the strength and by the weakness of his intellect; affectionate yet perverse ; a poor lord 4 and a handsome cripple, he required, if ever man required, the firmest and most judicious training. But, capriciously as nature had dealt with him, the parent to whom the office of forming his character was entrusted was more capricious still. She passed from paroxysms of rage to paroxysms of tenderness. At one time she stifled him with caresses ; at another time she insulted his deformity. He came into the world ; and the world treated him as his mother had treated him, sometimes with fondness, sometimes with cruelty, never with justice. It indulged him without discrimination, and punished him without discrimination. He was truly the spoiled child, not merely the spoiled child of his parent, but the spoiled child of nature, the spoiled child of fortune, the spoiled child of fame, the spoiled child of society. His first poems were received with a contempt which, feeble as they were, they did not absolutely deserve. The poem which he published on his return from his travels was, on the other hand, extolled far above its merit. At twenty-four he found himself on the highest pinnacle of literary fame, with Scott, Wordsworth, Southey, and a crowd of . other distinguished writers beneath his feet. There is scarcely an instance in history of so sudden a rise to so dizzy an eminence.
1 And without her own agency, Et sans aucun acte de sa propre volonté. _2 The quality of honesty, Le prix de la probité. 3 Released her from the difficulty of discussing moral dogmas, La délivra de l'embarras d'agiter des questions de philosophie morale. _4 With little change, à quelques changements près.
1 In his very person, Jusque dans sa personne.-_? Eminent advantages, Précieux avantages. --3 And but for merciful judges, Et s'il n'eût eu affaire à des juges indul. gents.--4 A poor lord, Grand seigneur sans patrimoine.--5 He required, if ever man required, Il exigeait, autant qu'homme l'exigea jamais.
THE DEATH OF W. PITT, EARL OF CHATHAM. WHEN the Duke of Richmond had spoken, Chatham rose. For some time his voice was inaudible. At length, his tones became distinct and his action animated. Here and there his hearers caught a thought or an expression which reminded them of William Pitt. But it was clear that he was not himself. He lost the thread of his discourse, hesitated, repeated the same words several times, and was so confused that, in speaking of the Act of Settlement,1 he could not recall the name of the Electress Sophia. The House 2 listened in solemn silence, and with an aspect of profound respect and compassion. The stillness was so deep that the dropping of a handkerchief would have been heard. 3 The Duke of Richmond replied with great tenderness and courtesy ; but while he spoke, the old man was observed to be restless and irritable. The Duke sat down. Chatham stood up again, pressed his hand on his breast, and sank down in an apoplectic fit.
Chatham, at the time of his decease, had not, in both Houses of Parliament, ten personal adherents. Half the public men of the age had been estranged from him by his errors, and the other half by the exertions which he had made to repair his errors. His last speech had been an attack at once on the policy pursued by the government, and on the policy recommended by the opposition.
i The Act of Settlement, La Loi de Succession.—2 The House, La Chambre.3 See 8 6.