Page images

for the Merediths were comparatively salutations of everybody who met him strangers in Westmoreland—but, at the As for Alice herself, in her wistfulness same time, it was not in the least a sad and happiness, with only one anxiety one, for Mr. Meredith did not think of remaining in her heart, just enough to weeping, and there was nobody else to give the appealing look which suited take that part of the business. Alice them best to her soft eye, she was as had only her little sister to leave, who near beautiful as a woman of her unimwas too much excited and delighted with posing stature and features could be. all the proceedings, and with her own She was one of those brides who appeal future position as Miss Meredith, to be to everybody, in the shy radiance of much overcome by the parting. It was, their gladness, to share and sympathize indeed, a beginning of life almost en- with them. There are some people tirely without drawbacks to the bride. whose joy is a kind of affront and She had nothing much to regret in the insult to the sorrowful ; but Alice was past; no links of tender affection to not one of them. Perhaps at that supreme break, and no sense of a great blank hour of her life she was thinking more left behind, as some young women have. of the sad people under the sun-the On the contrary, all that was dark mourners and sufferers—than she had and discouraging was left behind. The done when she used to lie on her sofa most exquisite moments of her life, the at Holmby, and think to herself that she winter she had spent in Frascati under never would rise from it, and that he the tender and chivalrous guardianship never would come. The joy was to of the companions who had devoted all Alice like a sacrament, which it was so their powers to amuse and console hard to think the whole world could Arthur's sister, seemed but an imperfect not share, and, as her beauty was rehearsal, clouded with pain and sorrow, chiefly beauty of expression, this tender for the perfect days that were to come. sentiment shed a certain loveliness over “I wish for nothing but Sora Antonia her face as she stood by Colin's side, to kiss me, and bid God bless us." she with her white veil thrown back, and said, with the tears of her espousals in the tender countenance, which was veiled her eyes. And it was the best thing Alice in simplicity, and required no other could have said. The idyll for which covering, turned towards Ramore. Her Colin felt himself so poor a hero now, one remaining anxiety was, that perhaps had existed, in a way, among the pale Colin's mother might not respond to olive-groves, on the dear Albine hills. the longing affection that was in her “Dio te benedica,” he said, as he took heart-might not take to her, as she away his bride from her father's door. said ; and this was why her eyes looked It meant more than a blessing when he so appealing, and besought all the world said it, as Sora Antonia might have said to take her into their hearts. When it it, in that language which was consecrated came to the moment, however, when to them both by love and death.

Colin lifted her out upon the glistening The scene and the circumstances were beach, and put her hand into that of his all very different when a few weeks later father, who was waiting there to receive Colin took his bride to the Holy Loch. them, Alice, as was her nature, recoIt was evening, but perhaps Colin had vered her composure. She held up her not time for the same vivid perceptions soft cheek to Big Colin of Ramore, who of that twilight and peaceful atmosphere was half abashed by the action, and yet which a few months before had made wholly delighted, although in Scotch him smile, contrasting it with the move- reserve he had contemplated nothing ment and life in his own mind. But more familiar than a hearty clasp of her perhaps this was only because he was more hand. She was so fair a woman to his occupied by external matters; by Alice at homely eyes, and looked so like a little his side, to whom he had to point out princess, that the farmer had scarcely everything; and by the greetings and courage to take her into his arms, or,

as he himself would have said, “use so much freedom" with such a dainty little lady. But Alice had something more important in her mind than to remark Big Colin's hesitation. “Where is she ?” she cried, appealing to him first, and then to her husband; “ where is she, Colin ?” And then they led her up the brae to where the Mistress, trembling and excited, propped herself up against the porch awaiting her. Alice sprang forward before her escort, when she saw this figure at the door. She left Colin's arm as she had never left it before, and threw herself upon his mother. She took this meeting into her own hands, and accomplished it her own way, nobody interfering. “Mamma," said Alice, “I should have come to you four years ago, and they have never let me come till now. I have been longing for you all this time. Mamma, kiss me, and say you are glad, for I love you dearly,” cried Alice. As for the Mistress, she could not make any reply. She said “my darling” faintly, and took the clinging creature to her bosom. And that was how the meeting took place, for which Alice had been longing, as she said, for four long years. When they took her into the homely parlour of Ramore, and placed her on the old fashioned sofa, beside the Mistress, it was not without a little anxiety that Colin regarded his wife, to see the effect made upon her by this humble interior. But, to look at Alice, nobody could have found out that she had not been accustomed to Ramore all her life, or that the Mistress was not her own individual property. It even struck Colin with a curious sense of pleasure that she did not say “mother," as making a claim on his mother for his sake, but claimed her instantly as her own, as though somehow her claim had been meant. “Sometimes I thought of running away and coming to you,” said Alice, as she sat by the Mistress's side, in radiant content and satisfaction; and it would be vain to attempt to describe the admiration and delight of the entire household with Colin's little tender bride.

As for the Mistress, when the first

excitement was over, she was glad to find her boy by himself for a moment, to bid God bless him, and say what was in her heart. “If it wasna that she's wiled the heart out of my breast," said Mrs. Campbell, putting up her hand to her shining eyes. “Eh, Colin, my man, thank the Lord ; it's like as if it was an angel He had sent you out of heaven.”

“She will be a daughter to you, mother,” said Colin, in the fulness of his heart.

But at this two great tears dropped out of Mrs. Campbell's eyes. “She's sweet and bonnie; eh, Colin, she's bonnie and sweet; but I'm an awfu' hardhearted woman," said the Mistress “I cannot think ony woman will ever take that place. I'm aye so bigoted for my ain; God forgive me; but her that is my Colin's wife has nae occasion for ony other name," she said with a tender artifice, stooping over her boy and putting back those great waves of his hair which were the pride of her heart. “And I have none of my ain to go out of my house a bride,” the Mistress added, under her breath, with one great sob. Colin could not tell why his mother should say such words at such a moment. But perhaps Alice, though she was not so clever as Colin, had she been there, might have divined their meaning after the divination of her heart.

It is hard to see what can be said about a man after he is married, unless he quarrels with his wife and makes her wretched and gets into trouble, or she does as much for him. This is not a thing which has happened, or has the least chance of happening, in Colin's case. Not only did Alice receive a very flattering welcome in Lafton, and, what was still more gratifying, in St. Rule's, where, as most people are aware, very good society is to be found ; but she did more than that, and grew very popular in the parish, where, to be sure, no curate could have been more serviceable. She had undoubted Low Church tendencies, which helped her on with many of the people, and in conjunction with them she had little High Church habits, which were very quaint and captivating in their way; and, all unconscious as she was of Colin's views in respect to Church reformation, Alice was “the means," as she herself would have said, of introducing some edifying customs among the young people of the parish, which she and they were equally unaware were capable of having been interpreted to savour of papistry had the power and inclinations of the Presbytery been in good exercise as of old. As for Colin, he was tamed down in his revolutionary intentions without knowing how. A man who has given hostages to society, who has married a wife, and especially a wife who does not know anything about his crotchets, and never can understand why the bishop (seeing that there certainly is a bishop in the kingdom of Fife, though few people pay any attention to him) does not come to Lafton and confirm the catechumens, is scarcely in a position to throw himself headlong upon the established order of things and prove its futility. No. I. of the “Tracts for the Times” got printed certainly, but it was in an accidental sort of way, and, though it cannot be said to have been without its use, still the effect was transitory, in consequence of the want of continuous effort. No doubt it made a good deal of sensation in the Scotch papers, where, as such of the readers of this history as live north of the Tweed may recollect, there appeared at one time a flood of letters signed by parish ministers on this subject. But then, to be sure, it came into the minds of sundry persons that the Church of Scotland had thoughts of going back to the ante-Laudian times in robes of penitence, to beg a prayer-book from her richer sister—which was not alto gether Colin's intention, and roused his national spirit. For we have already found it necessary to say that the young man, notwithstanding that he had many gleams of insight, did not always know what he would be at, or what it was precisely that he wanted. What he wanted, perhaps, was to be catholic and belong to Christendom, and not to shut

himself up in a corner, and preach himself and his people to death, as he once said. He wanted to keep the Christian feasts, and say the universal prayers, and link the sacred old observances with the daily life of his dogmatical congregation, which preferred logic. All this, however, he pursued in a milder way after that famous journey to Windermere, upon which he had set out like a lion, and from which he returned home like a lamb. For it would be painful to think that this faithful but humble history should have awakened any terrors in the heart of the Church of Scotland in respect to the revolutionary in her bosom; and it is pleasant to be able to restore the confidence to a certain extent of the people and presbyters of that venerable corporation.. Colin is there, and no doubt he has his work to do in the world ; but he is married and subdued, and goes about it quietly like a man who understands what interests are involved; and up to the present moment he has resisted the urgent appeals of a younger brotherhood, who have arisen since these events, to continue the publication of the “ Tracts for the Times.” .

It is at this point that we leave Colin, who has entered on a period of his life which is as yet unfinished, and accordingly is not yet matter for history. Some people, no doubt, may be disposed to ask, being aware of the circumstances of his marriage, whether he was happy in his new position. He was as happy as most people are ; and, if he was not perfectly happy, no unbiassed judge can refuse to acknowledge that it was his own fault. He was young, full of genius, full of health, with the sweetest little woman in the kingdom of Fife, as many people thought, for his wife, and not even the troublesome interpellations of that fantastic woman in the clouds to disturb his repose. She had waved her hand to him for the last time from among the rosy clouds on the night before his marriage day; for if a man's marriage is good for anything, it is surely good against the visitings of a visionary creature who had refused to reveal her

self when she had full time and oppor. tunity to do so. And let nobody suppose that Colin kept a cupboard with a skeleton in it to retire to for his private delectation when Alice was sleeping, as it is said some people have a habit of doing. There was no key of that description under his pillow; and yet, if you will know the truth, there was a key, but not of Bluebeard's kind-it was a key that opened the innermost chamber, the watch-tower and citadel of his heart. So far from shutting it up from Alice, he had done all that tender affection could do to coax her in, to watch the stars with him and ponder their secrets; but Alice had no vocation

for that sort of recreation. And the fact was, that from time to time Colin went in and shut the door behind him, and was utterly alone underneath the distant wistful skies. When he came out, perhaps his countenance now and then was a little sad; and perhaps he did not see so clear as he might have done under other circumstances. For Colin, like Lauderdale, believed in the quattr' occhithe four eyes that see a landscape at its broadest and heaven at its nearest. But then a man can live without that last climax of existence when everything else is going on well in his life.


Gone were but the winter,

Come were but the spring, I would go to a covert Where the birds sing

Ding-ding, ding-a-ding. Where in the whitethorn

Singeth the thrush, And the robin sings

In a holly bush

With his breast ablush. Full of fresh scents

Are the budding boughs, Arching high over

A cool green house, Where doves coo the arouse. There the sun shineth

Most shadily;
There sounds an echo

Of the far sea,
Though far off it be.!

Earth has waited weeks and weeks

For this special hour.
All the world is making love;

Bird to bird in bushes,
Beast to beast in glades, and frog

To frog among the rushes :
Wake, O south-wind sweet with spice,

Wake the rose to blushes.
All the world is full of change;

To morrow may be dreary :
Life breaks forth to right and left,

Pipe the wood-notes cheery :
Nevertheless there lie the dead

Fast asleep and weary.

If it's weary work to live,

It will rest us to lie dead, With a stone at the tired feet

And a stone at the tired head. In the waxing April days

Half the world will stir and sing: But half the world will slug and rot For all the sap of spring.



All the world is out in leaf,

Half the world in flower; Faint the rainbow coines and goes

In a sunny shower;



IV. OF A WHITE UMBRELLA. At this season of frost and snow, it is pleasant to me to look upon an old white umbrella which stands in a corner of my study. Not that there is aught very attractive in the thing per se. It is merely one of those contrivances which sketchers use for warding off the glare of the sun from the paper they are drawing on. Having a jointed stick some five or six feet long, it can be stuck in the ground over the artist's camp stool, and thus form a sort of small moveable tent under which he can pursue his work throughout the long summer's day on Welsh mountain or by Devonshire trout-stream. I dare say the reader has often seen the thing I am describing at Lynmouth or about Snowdonia. In the neighbourhood of Bettws-y-Coed they are as plentiful as blackberries. But some of the happiest days of my life have been spent under that white umbrella ; and the sight of it brings them back to me in all their freshness. I seem to hear the murmur of the sea, and the lapse of the brook over its pebbly bed. I see once more the wild, desolate moorland stretched before me, strewn with blocks of mosspatched slate-rock, such as Harding only could draw. I am afloat on the still lake again, fly-fishing from a leaky boat in the dewy morning, or at the calm twilight hour when the red light dies out of the west, and the cold shadows deepen upon the mountains. That white umbrella brings all these things clearly before me. The scent of the heather still lingers in its calico; and, to parody Mr. Kingsley's verse, “ The wind rattles hoarse through its whalebones.”

And herein chiefly lies the value of his sketches to the amateur artist. It is not that as works of art they have any intrinsic worth of their own. Indeed, how seldom satisfactory are the works

of the professional artist to a critical eye! But the relative value of the amateur's sketches is very great to him. From the mere fact of having sat down for three or four hours of successive days to study a certain bit of nature, that scene is impressed upon his memory for ever. He can summon it at will before “the mind's eye.” He has made himself acquainted with all its peculiarities. He has seen it probably under its different aspects of calm and storm. His art has taught him to see and to recollect. So that, if the contents of his portfolios are feeble,— “Yet doth Remembrance, like a sovereign

prince, For him a stately gallery maintain Of pleasant pictures."

You do not know, in fact, what a mountain is till you have sketched it. You do not know what a tree is till you have copied its branches one by one, as they spring from the parent trunk, and have noticed how, like living things (as indeed they are), they push forward to the blessed light, yet not hurtfully to each other, as men and women would under like circumstances, but each one using his own little modicum of free space to extend himself prudently and unaggressively to the light and air which are to feed him, and how marvellously the gap made by the dying of one limb is filled up immediately by a dozen others, who accommodate themselves, I fear, as pleasantly and selfishly as human creatures do, to the vacant promotion which a death has caused. In fact, my friendly reader, you know nothing about the life of a tree, its struggles, its successes, and its failures, till you have tried to sketch it upon paper-it matters not how clumsily, if only with something of reflection, and of sympathy with its nature.

Sketching from nature then is to the amateur of art what the study of Greek

« PreviousContinue »