Page images
PDF
EPUB

DREAM CHILDREN; A REVERIE

CHILDREN love to listen to stories about when she came to die, her funeral was their elders, when they were children; to attended by a concourse of all the poor, and stretch their imagination to the conception some of the gentry too, of the neighbourhood of a traditionary great-uncle, or grandame, for many miles round, to show their respect whom they never saw. It was in this spirit for her memory, because she had been such that my little ones crept about me the other a good and religious woman ; so good indeed evening to hear about their great-grand- that she knew all the Psaltery by heart, ay, mother Field, who lived in a great house in and a great part of the Testament besides. Norfolk (a hundred times bigger than that Here little Alice spread her hands. Then in which they and papa lived) which had I told what a tall, upright, graceful person been the scene-so at least it was generally their great-grandmother Field once was; and believed in that part of the country—of the how in her youth she was esteemed the best tragic incidents which they had lately become dancer-here Alice's little right foot played familiar with from the ballad of the Children an involuntary movement, till, upon my lookin the Wood. Certain it is that the whole ing grave, it desisted—the best dancer, I was story of the children and their cruel uncle saying, in the county, till a cruel disease, was to be seen fairly carved out in wood called a cancer, came, and bowed her down upon the chimney-piece of the great hall, the with pain ; but it could never bend her good whole story down to the Robin Redbreasts ; spirits, or make them stoop, but they were till a foolish rich person pulled it down to still upright, because she was so good and set up a marble one of modern invention in religious. Then I told how she was used to its stead, with no story upon it. Here Alice sleep by herself in a lone chamber of the put out one of her dear mother's looks, too great lone house ; and how she believed that tender to be called upbraiding. Then I went an apparition of two infants was to be seen on to say, how religious and how good their at midnight gliding up and down the great great-grandmother Field was, how beloved staircase near where she slept, but she said and respected by everybody, though she was “ those innocents would do her no harm ;" not indeed the mistress of this great house, and how frightened I used to be, though in but had only the charge of it (and yet in those days I had my maid to sleep with me. some respects she might be said to be the because I was never half so good or relimistress of it too) committed to her by the gious as she-and yet I never saw the infants. owner, who preferred living in a newer and Here John expanded all his eyebrows and more fashionable mansion which he had pur- tried to look courageous. Then I told how chased somewhere in the adjoining county; good she was to all her grandchildren, having but still she lived in it in a manner as if it us to the great house in the holydays, where had been her own, and kept up the dignity I in particular used to spend many hours by of the great house in a sort while she lived, myself, in gazing upon the old busts of the which afterwards came to decay, and was twelve Cæsars, that had been Emperors of nearly pulled down, and all its old orna- Rome, till the old marble heads would seem ments stripped and carried away to the to live again, or I to be turned into marble owner's other house, where they were set up, with them ; how I never could be tired with and looked as awkward as if some one were roaming about that huge mansion, with its to carry away the old tombs they had seen vast empty rooms, with their worn-out hanglately at the Abbey, and stick them up in ings, fluttering tapestry, and carved oaken Lady C.'s tawdry gilt drawing-room. Here pannels, with the gilding almost rubbed out John smiled, as much as to say, “ that would --sometimes in the spacious old-fashioned be foolish indeed.” And then I told how, gardens, which I had almost to myself, unless

when now and then a solitary gardening man when he was impatient, and in pain, nor would cross me—and how the pectarines and remember sufficiently how considerate he had peaches hung upon the walls, without my been to me when I was lame-footed; and ever offering to pluck them, because they how when he died, though he had not been were forbidden fruit, unless now and then, — dead an hour, it seemed as if he had died and because I had more pleasure in strolling a great while ago, such a distance there is about among the old melancholy-looking yew- betwixt life and death ; and how I bore his trees, or the firs, and picking up the red death as I thought pretty well at first, but berries, and the fir-apples, which were good afterwards it haunted and haunted me; and for nothing but to look at or in lying about though I did not cry or take it to heart as upon the fresh grass with all the fine some do, and as I think he would have done garden smells around me-or basking in the if I had died, yet I missed him all day long, orangery, till I could almost fancy myself and knew not till then how much I had ripening too along with the oranges and the loved him. I missed his kindness, and I limes in that grateful warmth-or in watch- missed his crossness, and wished him to be ing the dace that darted to and fro in the alive again, to be quarrelling with him (for fish-pond, at the bottom of the garden, with we quarrelled sometimes), rather than not here and there a great sulky pike hanging have him again, and was as uneasy without midway down the water in silent state, as if him, as he their poor uncle must have been it mocked at their impertinent friskings, when the doctor took off his limb. Here the I had more pleasure in these busy-idle diver- children fell a crying, and asked if their little sions than in all the sweet flavours of peaches, mourning which they had on was not for nectarines, oranges, and such-like common uncle John, and they looked up, and prayed baits of children. Here John slyly deposited me not to go on about their uncle, but to tell back upon the plate a bunch of grapes, which, them some stories about their pretty dead not unobserved by Alice, he had meditated mother. Then I told how for seven long dividing with her, and both seemed willing years, in hope sometimes, sometimes in deto relinquish them for the present as irrele spair, yet persisting ever, I courted the fair vant. Then, in somewhat a more heightened Alice W-n; and, as much as children tone, I told how, though their great-grand- could understand, I explained to them what mother Field loved all her grandchildren, coyness, and difficulty, and denial, meant in yet in an especial manner she might be said maidens—when suddenly, turning to Alice, to love their uncle, John L-, because he the soul of the first Alice looked out at her was so handsome and spirited a youth, and eyes with such a reality of re-presentment, a king to the rest of us ; and, instead of that I became in doubt which of them stood moping about in solitary corners, like some there before me, or whose that bright hair of us, he would mount the most mettlesome was ; and while I stood gazing, both the horse he could get, when but an imp no children gradually grew fainter to my view, bigger than themselves, and make it carry receding, and still receding, till nothing at him half over the county in a morning, and last but two mournful features were seen in join the hunters when there were any out, the uttermost distance, which, without speech, and yet he loved the old great house and strangely impressed upon me the effects of gardens too, but had too much spirit to be speech : “We are not of Alice, nor of thee, always pent up within their boundaries — nor are we children at all. The children of and how their uncle grew up to man's estate Alice call Bartrum father. We are nothing; as brave as he was handsome, to the admira- less than nothing, and dreams. We are only tion of everybody, but of their great-grand- what might have been, and must wait upon mother Field most especially ; and how he the tedious shores of Lethe millions of ages used to carry me upon his back when I was before we have existence, and a name a lame-footed boy-for he was a good bit and immediately awaking, I found myself older than me-many a mile when I could quietly seated in my bachelor arm-chair, not walk for pain ;-and how in after life he where I had fallen asleep, with the faithful became lame-footed too, and I did not always Bridget unchanged by my side—but John L (I fear) make allowances enough for him (or James Elia) was gone for ever.

DISTANT CORRESPONDENTS.

IX A LETTER TO B. 7. ESQ., AT SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES.

am

me,

MY DEAR F.—When I think how welcome is natural and friendly. But at this present the sight of a letter from the world where reading—your Now—he may possibly be in you were born must be to you in that the Bench, or going to be hanged, which in strange one to which you have been trans- reason ought to abate something of your planted, I feel some compunctious visitings transport (i. e. at hearing he was well, &c.), at my long silence. But, indeed, it is no or at least considerably to modify it. easy effort to set about a correspondence at going to the play this evening, to have a our distance. The weary world of waters laugh with Munden. You have no theatre, between us oppresses the imagination. It is I think

you
told in

your

land of d-d difficult to conceive how a scrawl of mine realities. You naturally lick your lips, and should ever stretch across it. It is a sort of envy me my felicity. Think but a moment, presumption to expect that one's thoughts and you will correct the hateful emotion. should live so far. It is like writing for pos- Why it is Sunday morning with you, and terity; and reminds me of one of Mrs. 1823. This confusion of tenses, this grand Rowe's superscriptions, “ Alcander to Stre- solecism of two presents, is in a degree phon in the shades.” Cowley's Post-Angel common to all postage. But if I sent you is no more than would be expedient in such word to Bath or Devizes, that I was exan intercourse. One drops a packet at Lom- pecting the aforesaid treat this evening, bard-street, and in twenty-four hours a friend though at the moment you received the inin Cuniberland gets it as fresh as if it came telligence my full feast of fun would be over, in ice. It is only like whispering through a yet there would be for a day or two after, as long trumpet. But suppose a tube let down you would well know, a smack, a relish left from the moon, with yourself at one end and upon my mental palate, which would give the man at the other; it would be some balk rational encouragement for you to foster a to the spirit of conversation, if you knew portion, at least, of the disagreeable passion, that the dialogue exchanged with that in- which it was in part my intention to proteresting theosophist would take two or three duce. But ten months hence, your envy or revolutions of a higher luminary in its pas- your sympathy would be as useless as a sage. Yet, for aught I know, you may be passion spent upon the dead. Not only does some parasangs nigher that primitive idea-truth, in these long intervals, un-essence Plato's man—than we in England here have herself, but what is harder) one cannot the honour to reckon ourselves.

venture a crude fiction, for the fear that it Epistolary matter usually compriseth three may ripen into a truth upon the voyage. topics ; news, sentiment, and puns. In the What a wild improbable banter I put upon latter, I include all non-serious subjects ; or you, some three years since, -of Will subjects serious in themselves, but treated Weatherall having married a servant-maid ! after my fashion, non-seriously.—And first, I remember gravely consulting you how we for news.

In them the most desirable cir- were to receive her—for Will's wife was in cumstance, I suppose, is that they shall be no case to be rejected ; and your no less true. But what security can I have that serious replication in the matter; how tenwhat I now send you for truth shall not, derly you advised an abstemious introduction before you get it, unaccountably turn into a of literary topics before the lady, with a lie? For instance, our mutual friend P. is at caution not to be too forward in bringing on this present writing—my Now-in good the carpet matters more within the sphere of health, and enjoys a fair share of worldly her intelligence ; your deliberate judgment, reputation. You are glad to hear it. This or rather wise suspension of sentence, how

far jacks, and spits, and mops, could, with less life, so took his fancy that he could propriety, be introduced as subjects ; whether imagine no place so proper, in the event of the conscious avoiding of all such matters in his death, to lay his bones in. This was all discourse would not have a worse look than very natural and excusable as a sentiment, the taking of them casually in our way; in and shows his character in a very pleasing what manner we should carry ourselves to light. But when from a passing sentiment our maid Becky, Mrs. William Weatherall it came to be an act ; and when, by a posibeing by; whether we should show more tive testamentary disposal, his remains were delicacy, and a truer sense of respect for actually carried all that way from England; Will's wife, by treating Becky with our cus- who was there, some desperate sentimentomary chiding before her, or by an unusual talists excepted, that did not ask the quesdeferential civility paid to Becky, as to a tion, Why could not his Lordship have found person of great worth, but thrown by the a spot as solitary, a nook as romantic, a tree caprice of fate into a humble station. There as green and pendent, with a stream as emwere difficulties, I remember, on both sides, blematic to his purpose, in Surrey, in Dorset, which

you

did me the favour to state with or in Devon ? Conceive the sentiment the precision of a lawyer, united to the ten- boarded up, freighted, entered at the Custom derness of a friend. I laughed in my sleeve House (startling the tide-waiters with the at your solemn pleadings, when lo! while I novelty), hoisted into a ship. Conceive it was valuing myself upon this flam put upon pawed about and handled between the rude you in New South Wales, the devil in Eng- jests of tarpaulin ruffians—a thing of its land, jealous possibly of any lie-children not delicate texture—the salt bilge wetting it his own, or working after my copy, has till it became as vapid as a damaged lustring. actually instigated our friend (not three days Suppose it in material danger (mariners have since) to the commission of a matrimony, some superstition about sentiments) of being which I had only conjured up for your tossed over in a fresh gale to some propitiadiversion. William Weatherall has married tory shark (spirit of Saint Gothard, save us Mrs. Cotterel's maid. But to take it in its from a quietus so foreign to the deviser's truest sense, you will see, my dear F., that purpose !) but it has happily evaded a fishy news from me must become history to you ; consummation. Trace it then to its lucky which I neither profess to write, nor indeed landing--at Lyons shall we say I-I have care much for reading. No person, under a not the map before me-jostled upon four diviner, can, with any prospect of veracity, men's shoulders-baiting at this town conduct a correspondence at such an arm's stopping to refresh at t'other villagelength. Two prophets, indeed, might thus waiting a passport here, a license there; the interchange intelligence with effect ; the sanction of the magistracy in this district, epoch of the writer (Habakkuk) falling in the concurrence of the ecclesiastics in that with the true present time of the receiver canton ; till at length it arrives at its desti. (Daniel); but then we are no prophets. nation, tired out and jaded, from a brisk

Then as to sentiment. It fares little sentiment into a feature of silly pride or better with that. This kind of dish, above tawdry senseless affectation. How few senall, requires to be served up hot, or sent off timents, my dear F., I am afraid we can set in water-plates, that your friend may have it down, in the sailor's phrase, as quite seaalmost as warm as yourself. If it have time worthy. to cool, it is the most tasteless of all cold Lastly, as to the agreeable levities, which, meats. I have often smiled at a conceit of though contemptible in bulk, are the twinkthe late Lord C. It seems that travelling ling corpuscula which should irradiate a somewhere about Geneva, he came to some right friendly epistle—your puns and small pretty green spot, or nook, where a willow, jests are, I apprehend, extremely circumor something, hung so fantastically and in- scribed in their sphere of action. They are vitingly over a stream-was it 2-0

—or a rock ? so far from a capacity of being packed up -no matter—but the stillness and the re- and sent beyond sea, they will scarce endure pose, after a weary journey, 'tis likely, in a to be transported by hand from this room to languid moment of his Lordship’s hot, rest- the next. Their vigour is as the instant of

their birth. Their nutriment for their brief scanning ?—It must look very odd, but use existence is the intellectual atmosphere of reconciles. For their scansion, it is less to the by-standers : or this last is the fine slime be regretted; for if they take it into their of Nilus—the melior lutus—whose maternal heads to be poets, it is odds but they turn recipiency is as necessary as the sol pater to out, the greater part of them, vile plagiarists. their equivocal generation. A pun hath a Is there much difference to see, too, between hearty kind of present ear-kissing smack the son of a th**f and the grandson ? or with it ; you can no more transmit it in its where does the taint stop? Do you bleach pristine Aavour than you can send a kiss.- in three or in four generations ? I have Have you not tried in some instances to many questions to put, but ten Delphic palm off a yesterday's pun upon a gentleman, voyages can be made in a shorter time than and has it answered ? Not but it was new it will take to satisfy my scruples. Do you to his hearing, but it did not seem to come grow your own hemp ?—What is your staple new from you. It did not hitch in. It was trade,-exclusive of the national profession, like picking up at a village ale-house a two- I mean ? Your locksmiths, I take it, are days'-old newspaper. You have not seen it some of your great capitalists. before, but you resent the stale thing as an am insensibly chatting to you as famiaffront. This sort of merchandise above all liarly as when we used to exchange goodrequires a quick return. A pun, and its morrows out of our old contiguous windows, recognitory laugh, must be co-instantaneous. in pump-famed Hare-court in the Temple. The one is the brisk lightning, the other the Why did you ever leave that quiet corner ? fierce thunder. A moment's interval, and - Why did I ?-with its complement of four the link is snapped. A pun is reflected from poor elms, from whose smoke-dyed barks, a friend's face as from a mirror. Who would the theme of jesting ruralists, I picked my consult his sweet visnomy, if the polished first lady-birds ! My heart is as dry as that surface were two or three minutes (not to spring sometimes proves in a thirsty August, speak of twelve months, my dear F.) in when I revert to the space that is between giving back its copy?

us; a length of passage enough to render I cannot image to myself whereabout you obsolete the phrases of our English letters are. When I try to fix it, Peter Wilkins's before they can reach you. But while I talk island comes across me. Sometimes you I think you hear me,-thoughts dallying seem to be in the Hades of Thieves. I see with vain surmiseDiogenes prying among you with his per

Aye me! while thee the seas and sounding shores petual fruitless lantern. What must you be

Hold far away. willing by this time to give for the sight of an honest man! You must almost have for. Come back, before I am grown into a very gotten how we look. And tell me what your old man, so as you shall hardly know me. Sydneyites do ? are they th**v*ng all day Come, before Bridget walks on crutches. long? Merciful heaven! what property can Girls whom you left children have become stand against such a depredation! The sage matrons while you are tarrying there. kangaroos-your Aborigines—do they keep The blooming Miss W—r (you remember their primitive simplicity un-Europe-tainted, Sally W—r) called upon us yesterday, an with those little short fore puds, looking like aged crone. Folks whom you knew die off a lesson framed by nature to the pickpocket! every year. Formerly, I thought that death Marry, for diving into fobs they are rather was wearing out,-—I stood ramparted about lamely provided á priori; but if the hue with so many healthy friends. The deparand cry were once up, they would show as ture of J. W., two springs back, corrected lair a pair of hind-shifters as the expertest my delusion. Since then the old divorcer Loco-motor in the colony. We hear the most has been busy. If you do not make haste to improbable tales at this distance. Pray is return, there will be little left to greet you, it true that the young Spartans among you of me, or mine. are born with six fingers, which spoils their

« PreviousContinue »