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THE MIGHTY IMPOSTOR; OR, PLEASANT, POPULAR, AND PERNICIOUS.
MUST leave Nocross - I dare stay “And wherefore quit it?” exclaimed Smoothhere no longer ; I have come to away earnestly.
“Your scruples will yield at tell you so," said the maiden, length to my skill; and even if they yield not"
speaking rapidly, and in a tone of (for the maiden had shaken her head hopelessly suppressed agitation.
at a promise which she had proved to be vain)
, Stella wore a little bunch of white cornelian “is not the uneasiness which they give counterornaments—the cross, heart, and anchor, which balanced a thousand times by the exquisite desymbolize the three Christian graces ---suspended light which you feel in the presence of him whose from her gold chain ; and I noticed how ner- noble heart is now all your own ?" vously her fingers toyed with these trinkets dur- Two crystal drops that had slowly gathered ing the conversation which ensued.
now overflowed the eyes of the maiden. She " Leave Nocross !— that were to leave Eden," bent down her graceful head, and murmured so murmured Smoothaway, in deep, low accents, softly that I could hardly catch the sound — “I which, like soft music, penetrated into the soul. have already stayed here too long for my peace."
I could scarcely believe that the same being “ And for the peace of your Ernest Getren," was before me as him whom I had seen entering said he of the winning voice. “You might sacrithat apartment with such a repulsive look office your own happiness to your filial obedience, malice stamped on bis features. Nor did Smooth- your sense of stern duty ; but have you the couraway's manner towards Stella in the least re- age also to sacrifice his ? Are not your hearts semble that with which he had addressed Madanie already indissolubly united, so that no power on à la Mode. With the latter he had assumed some earth can divide them ?” of the authority of a father-confessor ; with Stella “ My heart will never, never change—nor can he was the poet, the enthusiast, the ardent sympa- | his,” faltered Stella ; “but our hands can never thizer with the trials of the young and the fair. be joined. My father would not consent to our I cannot convey by my pen half the depth of union ; he would be very wrathful if he knew feeling with which Smoothaway uttered that brief how often we meet under the roof of my too insentence—“ Leave Nocross !--that were to leave dulgent friend. Family antipathies, religious Eden.”
differences, make my parent regard Ernest with “ Paradise indeed !” murmured the maiden. peculiar aversion. I am certain that my father Her eyes were bent on the floor, but I could see would sooner see me a corpse in my coffin than that moisture was gathering under the long dark the bride of his enemy's son. Perhaps it is some lashes. “ And yet I must go,” she continued. suspicion of our intercourse that has made my “The air of Nocross is dangerous to me; I know father now suddenly summon me back to home. it I feel it. If I lingerin this place of enchantment I must go; I dare not openly disobey my last many more days, I shall lose all power to quit it.” | surviving parent.”
“ There is no necessity that you should obey to the command, Children, obey your parents in him at once," observed Smoothaway.
the Lord.” should you at the first summons dash from your “Duty ! obedience! Slavish, obsolete terms," lips the brimming cup of delight? Your home- exclaimed the deceiver. “We do not live in a if such it can be called-is to you as a dreary land where generation follows generation like sheep prison. If it seemed so to you before your visit in the same beaten track — where the heavento Nocross, it will be a thousandfold more in- born poet must ply the shuttle if his father tolerable now."
chances to have exercised the craft of a weaver. Stella uttered a deep-drawn sigh.
We do not live in times when parents are privi"Stay here for the present, at least," said the leged to be despots, and gamble with the hearts doctor. “I can suggest a number of such little and hands of their daughters, as tyrants did with pretexts for your so doing as will satisfy the mind the lives of their slaves. Love is the only ruler of your father, and make him willing that you before whose throne we bow in willing homage.” should remain with the friend who has so much And the orator dashed out into such a wild, elonuore sympathy for your feelings than the hard- quent rhapsody on the power and blessedness of hearted tyrant who calls you his child.”
what he called “immortal love," as might have " The name of tyrant must never be applied to made the reputation of a sensational writer. a father,” said Stella, for the first time since her In such rhapsodies his listener's mind had entrance raising her eyes from the floor. I knew found unwholesome delight, – the maiden was that conscience spoke from her lips.
but too willing a hearer. And yet an expression " I repeat the word 'tyrant,'” cried Smooth- of pain which ever and anon flitted across her away passionately, as if rather encouraged than fair face, showed that conscience still made itself abashed by the maiden's reproof. “ Is it not his felt, that scruples were distressing her still. own senseless prejudice, - I use a term far too "Could I be justified in deceiving my father?” mild— is it not his own wicked spirit of hatred murmured the girl, unconsciously pressing hard and revenge that alone would make him oppose a between her slender fingers the little cornelian marriage which would place his daughter in a cross which she wore. heaven upon earth? Judge for yourself, since “ Justified ? Perfectly justified, by all the your father is too blind to make use of the eyes laws of love-by the example of Juliet, and other
Who is the suitor whom this devoted heroines whose stories are the glorious parent would reject upon the most slight and themes of poets." frivolous grounds ?” Smoothaway drew a pic- The delicate ornament snapped in the hand of ture, glowing as with all the tints of the rain- Stella : a fragment dropped on the velvet carpet, bow, of a man combining every charm of person but its fall made no sound, and seemed to attract with
every quality of head and heart which could no attention. Smoothaway went on quoting from win and keep a woman's affections. With the dramatist, novelist, and poet, and the listening eloquence of enthusiasm, Smoothaway dilated on maiden sat perfectly still. There was no motion the brilliant talents of Ernest, —bis prospect of in any part of her frame, save when a dark lock fame, his depth of affection, his manly piety, his which rested on her white brow slightly trembled gentleness and courage combined. The portrait under the fanning of the vampire's extended was evidently drawn from the image enshrined wings. in Stella's own heart; and she listened with glis- I had never more earnestly longed for the gift tening eyes and cheeks flushed to the tint of the of eloquent speech. There was something in rose. “And you would cast away from you the that young fair creature, only half spoiled as yet proffered love of such a being-you would trample by the poisonous atmosphere which she had on the heart which he lays at your feet! And breathed, which awoke my strongest interest. for what?" asked the tempter, in conclusion. Here was one evidently possessing a sensitive
Stella was distressingly agitated : she could conscience, a fear of displeasing her Maker, drawn hardly articulate in reply, -"Duty; submission | aside from the path of duty by the force of her
of his reason.
affections, and the sophistry of the Mephistopheles said the man of the world, as he sat heavily down who would persuade her that to break the Fifth on the easy-chair, leaning forward with both hands Commandment from the impulse of a love stronger pressed on the knob of his stout umbrella. “I than love to a parent, is an act of pardonable tell you again it won't do. You can't with that weakness, if not actually a deed to be admired smooth tongue of yours polish off doctrines which and lauded. I would fain have reminded Stella, are the very pillars upon which Christianity rests. in the very face of her tempter, that nothing can You can't persuade me, at least, that human nature justify deceit-above all, deceit practised towards is seraphic, and that if you rub off a thin coating a parent; that no union can be blessed by Heaven of dust, of which—according to you-we are not that is formed in wilful disobedience to the “first made, we blaze out as angels-or gods ! No, no," commandment with promise." But I was com- he added, laughing, "such philosophy, or theology, pelled to remain motionless and speechless while or whatever you may call it, won't go down with sweet opiates were administered to conscience, a man like me,-though it may with the ladies. and a weak, loving girl was lured to remain in a I know human nature a great deal too well." place which reason and a sense of duty alike Smoothaway did not appear to be in the slightbade her quit, but where she was only too willing est degree offended by the remark. to linger.
“My addresses have not been very correctly “Here is the turning-point of that fair crea- reported or understood,” he observed ; " perhaps ture's life,” I mused, with deep sadness, as the they were a little above the comprehension of
" painful interview ended. If Stella deceive her most of
hearers.” parent now and I fear that she will deceive “Ah! yes; women and fools like to have their him - the next step will be open disobedience fancy tickled by novel notions, and their vanity both to her earthly and to her heavenly Father. flattered by a supposed introduction into ethereal And then farewell to peace of mind ! The regions, into which plain common-sense cannot daughter's transgression of which the wife soar. Simpletons are well-pleased to regard themscarcely dare even to repent -- will bring its selves as incipient angels. You do not then really punishment upon earth. Oh, through the mercy look upon mankind as-at the lowest-a flock of Him who can heal the sick soul, may that of innocent lambs that have got-almost without punishment, if she incur it, be suffered only upon fault of their own-just a speck of dirt here and
there on their fleeces ?"
Smoothaway laughed; he always accommo
dated himself to the humour of the patient before CHAPTER IX.
"I rather regard mankind," he replied, " as Man of the world (for such thou wouldst be called), wolves (with the exception of some harmless And art thou proud of that inglorious style?
simpletons who have not been gifted with teeth), Are you not wise ? you know you are, yet hear
wolves hunting for gain, and—for convenience' One truth, amid your various schemes, mislaid Or overlooked, or thrown aside if seen
sake-hunting in packs. Every one pushing forOur schemes to plan by this world, or the next,
ward for his own interest; every one struggling
to get first-panting, striving, straining-with My earliest acquaintance in Nocross, the man the quarry, wealth, full in view. If one of the with stout person and shrewd manner, Lowinclay pack go down-what matter? there is one mouth himself, was the next visitor whom I saw in the less to be fed ;-the rest of the wolves rush past room of the great Impostor. But it seemed to their old comrade, or over bim-he'd have done me at first as if Lowinclay came in a different the like to any of themselves." character from that of a patient, and was a good “No one can say that you take too favourable deal more inclined to find fault than to ask advice a view of mankind," laughed Lowinclay. "Rogues from the quack.
or simpletons, trampling or trampled,—such are “So you have been preaching again, doctor,” | the broad divisions into which you would group
Is the sole diff'rence between wise and fool."
society. Then you are doubtless of Walpole's “One goes to church in gloves, but one can't opinion, that every man has his price ?”
work in gloves,” said Lowinclay; "and, above all, " That is a favourite axiom of mine," said the domdirty work, to use a coarse but expressive great Impostor; “I bave never known it to prove term. Now, Smoothaway, my friend, I've found incorrect."
out-—I'm pretty sharp at finding out such thingsThe axiom might be accounted a painful and something that may prove to me a mine of treahumiliating one, but it evidently had neither the sure-double my capital in a wondrously short effect of distressing nor of humbling the man of space of time. But the vein lies low,—very low, the world. On the contrary, Lowinclay leaned -you understand me?”—Smoothaway nodded back on the cushions of his chair, and surveyed bis head—"and I can't go digging in gloves.” the vibrating punkah with an air of self-satis- “Keep the gloves for Sundays,” said Smoothfaction. He then resumed his former position, away; “ business and getting gain for the rest and proceeded to explain the purport of his visit. of the week. The gloves are not the skin," he
"Really, doctor, I scarcely know whether I added gaily, “ they are no part of yourself; they need trouble you about a scruple which is begin- can be pulled off and on at convenience.” ning to make itself felt-a little. But, as I have “But this pulling off and on galls me a little, found you so clever in conjuring such things I own-scruples will come,” said the man of away, I thought it worth while to look in.” business. "I may keep the world's good opinion,
"I am always at the service of Mr. Lowin- but I cannot just succeed in keeping my own. clay," said the doctor blandly.
There are moments when it comes across me that "You know that I am a man of business" there's not much difference between me and the "A shrewd man-a most successful man- petty swindler who was sent to jail at the last interrupted the quack.
assizes, but that he cheated on a small scale, "Not, perhaps, an overscrupulous man," con- and I—I set my soul at a higher price than he tinned Lowinclay, who, like other patients in did!” this place, spoke out freely the inmost secrets of “So conscience has spoken even to this man's his beart. “But I'm a regular attendant at dull ear ! ” I thought to myself. church, and a stanch upholder of orthodox re- “I think that I can relieve
your scruples, ligion."
- your little scruples," said Smoothaway, or, as I “That is the chief point,” said Smoothaway. afterwards found the original name of the great " Have clear views, sound views on religious mat- Impostor to be-Self-deception. He opened a ters
, with a decent conformity to whatever good-box, a gilded box which lay on his table ; it was treeding demands,—and you are a respectable filled with a variety of coloured globules, which
in the course of these strange interviews which I “ If you have heaps of money besides,” ob witnessed I found were termed excuses. Selfserved the rich man, with a smile.
deception carefully wrapped up in tinted paper "And know how to spend it," added bis coun- three of these globules, each by itself, writing sellor in the same free jovial tone.
directions on the covers, and talking all the while "I have managed never to lose the world's as he deliberately pursued this employment. good opinion,” said Lowinclay, more gravely; “If you do strain your conscience a little,” he “ gold is apt to dazzle the eyes of beholders, and said, as he wrapped up the first excuse, “ you do who cares to inquire too closely from what mud but what all the world does. Gold must be had;
and as it does not grow like berries on bushes, it is “No one questions the respectable, sociable, the custom for men to look for it more or less church-going millionaire,” remarked the doctor, deep underground.” “50 long as he continues to make money fast “ If one's object in life be to make money, as and spend it freely. If he wear religion as a it has been mine," said Lowinclay, “ it is imposwell-fitting glove, no one will be too curious as to sible to be always nice as to how and where one whether the hand beneath be scrupulously clean." | gets it.”
member of society."
it is digged ?"
" True, too true,” was my own mental comment , pilgrim turn aside to the Hill of Lucre * to look on his words; we have the highest authority over the brink of Demas's silver-mine, and not for saying that it is impossible to serve God and fall down into the pit, or be choked by the damps mammon."
that rise from its depths ? “ Then again,"—the second excuse was now in Ah, woe to those who seek and find their the hand of the great Impostor—" you must re- portion in this life! A time is drawing near member what laudable ends you have in view in when Self-deception with his vain excuses will increasing your goods,—by whatever means you quiet conscience no more, and when the wealth
You are a family man, have sons and of worlds will not purchase one drop of water to daughters to provide for, and are now contem- cool the burning tongue of a Dives ! plating a second marriage;" again, to my disgust, I heard from these profane lips a quotation from Scripture.
CHAPTER X. “Provide for his own !" I mentally exclaimed ; “ what is this wretched mammon-worshipper pro
“He saw his poet's crown viding now for his family? Worldly snares and
Fused to a golden cup;
It might carry water to thirsting lips, temptations, and the curse which clings to ill
So he thankfully took it up." gotten wealth. His children will not bless him
The Three Wakings, in another world for what he has done for them The next individual who, with quick, firm step, in this !”
entered the apartment, presented as great a con“And then consider”-here Self - deception trast to Lowinclay as does the strong-winged, wrapped up and labelled the third globule-con- keen-eyed falcon to the mole that burrows under
“ sider, that if your conduct be open to blame in ground.
ground. My first glance at the young man's some points, it is worthy of all praise in others. countenance made me certain that his temptation Strike the balance fairly—your shrewd mind will was not to stoop to the contemptible frivolity of easily do so,between your virtues and your vices. Madame à la Mode, or the grovelling covetousYou are hospitable to a large circle of acquaint-ness of a Dives. The new-comer did not seat ances ; your name is on the subscription-lists of himself as his predecessors had done, but revarious societies; you have a fine temper, a liberal mained erect, with his back to the mantelpiece, spirit ; you have kept yourself free from error in during the whole of his interview with Selfmatters of doctrine, and from many vices unhap- deception, and I noticed that he often looked the pily prevalent in the world. You do not drink, great Impostor full in the face, as none of the gamble, nor swear. Does not the scale sink down other patients had done. There was also an in your favour ? may you not rest your head on impatience—sometimes rising into indignationyour pillow with the comfortable persuasion that in the young man's manner towards Smoothaway you not only seem to be, but on the whole are, a which, from the first moment of Ernest's entrance, highly respectable man!”
roused my hope that in him Self-deception, with There was a loud buzz overhead as if in reply. all his cunning, might find no easy victim. A large blue-bottle fly had just been caught in “Welcome, Ernest Getren ; you have of late the web of the spider.
become almost a stranger to one who is less your Lowinclay slowly rose to depart, after receiving physician than your friend,” said Smoothawas, the coloured excuses from the hand of the great extending his hand as to a companion with whom Impostor. He drew a long breath as he did so, intercourse had not been confined to the room of as if already relieved from the pressure of a bur- reception. den. But the air of that fatal apartment was Ernest did not appear to take notice of the becoming to me more and more suffocating, the extended hand, and sternly replied, “ You have perfume from the ornamental fountain seemed to been my physician too long; my friend you never breathe of corruption. Is it not written that the love of money is the root of all evil ? can the
See "Pilgrim's Progress."