THE STOUT GENTLEMAN;
THE BROKEN HEART.
BY MRS. BAKER.
PUBLISHED BY SHEPHERD AND SUTTON,
FOSTER LANE, CHEAPSIDE.
IT was a rainy Sunday, in the gloomy month of November. I had been detained in the course of a journey, by a slight indisposition, from which I was recovering, but I was still feverish, and was obliged to keep within doors all day, in an inn of the small town of Derby. A wet Sunday in a country inn! whoever had the luck to experience one, can alone judge of my situation. The rain pattered against the casements; the bells tolled for church with a melancholy sound. I went to the windows in quest of something to amuse the eye; but it seemed as if I had been placed completely out of the reach of all amusement. The windows of my bed room looked out among tiled roofs and stacks of chimneys, while those of my sitting-room commanded a full view of the stable-yard. I know of nothing more calculated to make a man sick of this world than a stable-yard on a rainy day. It was littered with wet straw that had been kicked about by travellers and stable boys. In one corner was a stagnant pool of water, surrounding an island of muck; there were several half drowned fowls crowded together under a cart, among which was a miserable crest-fallen cock, drenched out of all life and spirit; his drooping tail matted, as it were, into a single feather, along which the water trickled from his back; near the cart was a half-dozing cow, chewing the cud, and standing patiently to be rained on, with wreaths of vapour rising from her reeking hide; a wall-eyed horse, tired of the loneliness of the stable, was pocking his spectral head out of a window, with the rain dripping on it from the eaves; an unhappy cur, chained to a doghouse hard by, uttered something now and then between a bark and a yelp; a drab of a kitchen wench tramped backwards and forwards through the yard in pattens, looking as sulky as the weather itself; everything, in short, was comfortless and forlorn, excepting a crew of hard-drinking ducks, assembled like boon companions round a puddle, and making a riotous noise over their liquor.
I was lonely and listless, and wanted amusement. My room soon became insupportable. I abandoned it, and sought what is technically called the travellers’ room. This is a public room set apart at most inns for the accommodation of a class of wayfarers called travellers, or riders; a kind of commercial knights errant, who are incessantly scouring the kingdom in gigs, on horseback, or by foot. They are the only successors that I know of at the present day, to the knights errant of yore. They lead the same kind of roving adventurous life, only changing the lance for a driving whip, the buckler for a pattern card, and a coat of mail for an upper Benjamin. Instead of vindicating the charms of peerless beauty, they rove about spreading the fame and standing of some substantial manufacturer, and are ready at any time to bargain in his name; it being the fashion nowadays to trade instead of fight with one another. As the room of the hotel, in the good old fighting times, would be hung round at nights with the armour of the way-worn warriors, such as coats of mail, falchions, and yawning helmets; so the travellers’-room is garnished with the harnessing of their successors, with box-coats, whips of all kinds, spurs, gaiters, and oil-cloth covered hats.
I was in hopes of finding some of these worthies to talk with, but was disappointed. There were indeed, two or three in the room, but I could make nothing of them. One was just finishing breakfast, quarrelling with his bread and butter, and huffing the waiter; another buttoned on a pair of gaiters, with many execrations at Boots for not having cleaned his shoes well; a third sat drumming on the table with his fingers and looking at the rain as it streamed down the window-glass; they all appeared infected by the weather, and disappeared, one after the other, without exchanging a word.
I sauntered to the window and stood gazing at the people, picking their way to church, with petticoats hoisted mid-leg high, and dripping umbrellas. The bell ceased to toll, and the streets became silent. I then amused myself with watching the daughters of a tradesman opposite; who being confined to the house for fear of wetting their Sunday finery, played off their charms at the front windows, to fascinate the chance tenants of the inn. They at length were summoned away by a vigilant vinegar-faced mother, and I had nothing further without to amuse me.
What was I to do to pass away the long-lived day? I was sadly nervous and lonely; and every thing about an inn seems calculated to make a dull day ten times duller. Old newspapers, smelling of beer and tobacco smoke, and which I had already read half a dozen times. Good for nothing books, that were worse than rainy weather. I bored myself to death with an odd volume of the Lady’s Magazine. I read all the common-placed names of ambitious travellers scrawled on the panes of glass; the eternal families of the Smiths, and the Browns, and the Jacksons, and the Johnsons, and all the other sons; and I decyphered several scraps of fatiguing inn-window poetry which I have met with in all parts of the world.
I gazed over and over again on a specimen of the Fine Arts, drawn in pencil on the wainscotting, the subject of which, though evidently meant for the pathetic, was, nevertheless, highly ludicrous—a female Colossus drying her tears in a handkerchief which, for dimensions, might have served better for a table cloth.
The day continued lowering and gloomy; the slovenly, ragged, spongy clouds drifted heavily along; there was no variety even in the rain; it was one dull, continued, monotonous patter—patter—patter, excepting that now and then I was enlivened by the idea of a brisk shower, from the rattling of the drops upon a passing umbrella.
It was quite refreshing (if I may be allowed a hackneyed phrase) when, in the course of the morning, a horn blew, and a stage coach whirled through the street, with outside passengers stuck all over it, cowering under cotton umbrellas, and seethed together, and reeking with the steams of wet box-coats and upper Benjamins.
The sound brought out from their lurking places a crew of vagabond boys, and vagabond dogs, and the carrotty-headed hostler, and that nondescript animal yclped Boots, and all the other vagabond race that infest the purlieus of an inn; but the bustle was transient; the coach again whirled on its way; and boy and dog, hostler and Boots, all slunk back again to their holes; the street again became silent, and the rain continued to rain on. In fact there was no hope of its clearing up; the barometer pointed to rainy weather; mine hostess’s tortoiseshell cat sat by the fire washing her face, and rubbing her paws over her ears; and on referring to the almanack I found a direful prediction stretching from the top of the page to the bottom through the whole month, “expect—much—rain—about—this—time.”
I was dreadfully hipped. The hours seemed as if they would never creep by. The very ticking of the clock became irksome. At length the stillness of the house was interrupted by the ringing of a bell. Shortly after, I heard the voice of a waiter at the bar: “The Stout Gentleman in No. 13 wants his breakfast. Tea and bread and butter, with ham and eggs; the eggs not to be too much done.”
In such a situation as mine, every incident is of importance. Here was a subject for speculation presented to my mind, and ample exercise for my imagination. I am prone to paint pictures to myself; and on this occasion I had some materials to work upon. Had the guest up stairs been mentioned as Mr. Smith, or Mr. Brown, or Mr. Jackson, or Mr. Johnson, or merely as “the gentleman in No. 13,” it would have been a perfect blank to me. I should have thought nothing of it; but “The Stout Gentleman!”—the very name had something in it of the picturesque. It at once gave the size; it embodied the personage to my mind’s eye, and my fancy did the rest.
He was stout, or, as some term it, lusty; in all probability, therefore, he was advanced in life, some people expanding as they grow old. By his breakfasting rather late, and in his own room, he must be a man accustomed to live at his ease, and above the necessity of early rising; no doubt, a round, rosy, lusty old gentleman.
There was another violent ringing. The Stout Gentleman was impatient for his breakfast. He was evidently a man of importance; “well to do in the world;” accustomed to be promptly waited upon; of a keen appetite, and a little cross when hungry. “Perhaps,” thought I, “he may be some London alderman; or who knows but he may be a member of parliament?”
The breakfast was sent up, and there was a short interval of silence; he was doubtless, making the tea. Presently there was a violent ringing; and before it could be answered, another ringing still more violent. “Bless me, what a choleric old gentleman!” The waiter came down in huff.—The butter was rancid, the eggs were over-done, the ham was too salt:—the stout gentleman was evidently nice in his eating: one of those who eat and growl, and keep the waiter on the trot, and live in a state militant with the household.
The hostess got into a fume. I should observe that she was a brisk, coquetish woman; a little of a shrew, and something of a slammerkin, but very pretty withal; with a nincompoop for a husband, as shrews are apt to have. She rated the servants roundly for their negligence in sending up so bad a breakfast, but said not a word against the stout gentleman; by which I clearly perceived that he must be a man of consequence, entitled to make a noise and give trouble at a country inn. Other eggs, and ham and bread and butter were sent up. They appeared to be more graciously received; at least there was no further complaint.
I had not made many turns about the travellers’-room, when there was another ringing; shortly afterwards there was a stir and an inquest about the house. The stout gentleman wanted the Times or the Chronicle newspaper. I set him down, therefore, for a Whig; or, rather, from his being so absolute and lordly where he had a chance, I suspected him of being a radical. Hunt, I had heard, was a large man; “who knows,” thought I, “but it is Hunt himself?”
My curiosity began to be awakened. I inquired of the waiter who was this stout gentleman that was making all this stir; but I could get no information; nobody seemed to know his name. The landlords of bustling inns seldom trouble their heads about the names or occupations of their transient guests.—The colour of a coat, the shape or size of the person, is enough to suggest a travelling name. It is either the tall gentleman, or the gentleman in black, or the gentleman in snuff-colour; or, as in the present instance, the stout gentleman. A designation of the kind once hit on, answers every purpose, and saves all further inquiry.
Rain—rain—rain! pitiless, ceaseless rain! No such thing as putting a foot out of doors, and no occupation nor amusement within. By and by I heard some one walking over head. It was in the stout gentleman’s room. He evidently was a large man, by the heaviness of his tread; and an old man from his wearing such creaking soles. “He is doubtless,” thought I, “some rich old square-toes of regular habits, and is now taking exercise after breakfast.”
I now read all the advertisements of coaches and hotels that were stuck about the mantelpiece. The Lady’s Magazine had become an abomination to me; it was as tedious as the day itself. I next walked down a long gallery, at the extremity of which I had a full view of the regions below; there I saw dirty scullions scouring pots and kettles; and cooks with scarcely less dirty hands pawing the meat, meant, some of it, probably for my own dinner. As this was not a sight to give me an appetite, I again retreated to my own room, and set to work once more on the picture of the stout gentleman.
I now set him down for one of those stout gentlemen that are frequently met with swagger-about the doors of country inns. Moist, merry fellows, in Belcher handkerchiefs, whose bulk is a little assisted by malt liquors. Men who have seen the world, and been sworn at Highgate; who are used to tavern life; up to all the tricks of tapsters, and knowing in the ways of sinful publicans. Free-livers on a small scale; who are prodigal within the compass of a guinea; who call all the waiters by name, gossip with the landlady at the bar, and prose over a pint of port, or a glass of negus, after dinner.
The morning wore away in forming of these and similar surmises. As fast as I wove one system of belief, some movement of the unknown would completely overturn it, and throw all my thoughts again into confusion. Such are the solitary operations of a feverish mind. I was, as I have said, extremely nervous; and the concerns of this invisible personage began to have its effect: I was getting a fit of the fidgets.
Dinner-time came. I hoped the stout gentleman might dine in the travellers’-room, and that I might at length get a view of his person; but no—he had dinner served in his own room. What could be the meaning of this solitude and mystery? He could not be a radical; there was something too aristocratical in thus keeping himself apart from the rest of the world, and condemning himself to his own dull company throughout a rainy day. And then, too, he lived too well for a discontented politician. He seemed to expatiate on a variety of dishes, and to sit over his wine like a jolly friend of good living. Indeed, my doubts on this head were soon at an end; for he could not have finished his first bottle before I could faintly hear him humming a tune; and on listening, I found it to be “God save the King.” ’Twas plain, then, he was no radical, but a faithful subject; one that grew loyal over his bottle, and was ready to stand by king and constitution, when he could stand by nothing else. But who could he be! My conjectures began to run wild. Was he not some personage of distinction travelling incog.? “God knows!” said I, at my wit’s end; “it may be one of the royal family, for aught I know, for they are all stout gentlemen!”
The weather continued rainy. The mysterious unknown kept his room, and, as far as I could judge, his chair, for I did not hear him move. In the mean time, as the day advanced, the travellers’-room began to be frequented. Some, who had just arrived, came in buttoned up in box-coats; others came home who had been dispersed about the town. Some took their dinners, some their tea. Had I been in a different mood, I should have found entertainment in studying this peculiar class of men. There were two especially, who were regular wags of the road, and up to all the standing jokes of travellers. They had a thousand sly things to say to the waiting-maid, whom they called Louisa, and Ethelinda, and a dozen other fine names, changing the name every time, and chuckling amazingly at their own waggery. My mind, however, had become completely engrossed by the Stout Gentleman. He had kept my fancy in chase during a long day, and it was not now to be diverted from the scent.
The evening gradually wore away. The travellers read the papers two or three times over. Some drew around the fire and told long stories about their horses, about their adventures, their overturns, and breakings-down. They discussed the credits of different merchants and different inns. All this passed as they were quietly taking what they called their night-caps; that is to say, strong glasses of brandy and water and sugar, or some other mixture of the kind; after which they one after another rang for “Boots” and the chamber-maid, and walked off to bed in old shoes cut down into marvellously uncomfortable slippers.
There was only one man left: a short-legged, long-bodied, plethoric fellow, with a very large, sandy head. He sat by himself, with a glass of port wine negus, and a spoon; sipping and stirring, and meditating and sipping, until nothing was left but the spoon. He gradually fell asleep bolt upright in his chair, with the empty glass standing before him; and the candle seemed to fall asleep too, for the wick grew long, and black, and cabbaged at the end, and dimmed the little light that remained in the chamber. The gloom that now prevailed was contagious. Around hund the shapeless, and almost spectral, box-coats of departed travellers, long since buried in deep sleep. I only heard the ticking of the clock, with the deep-drawn breathings of the sleeping toper, and the drippings of the rain, drop—drop—drop, from the eves of the house. The church bells chimed midnight. All at once the Stout Gentleman began to walk over head, pacing slowly backwards and forwards. There was something extremely awful in all this, especially to one in my state of nerves.—These ghastly great coats, these gutteral breathings, and the creaking footsteps of this mysterious being. His steps grew fainter and fainter, and at length died away. I could bear it no longer. I was wound up to the desperation of a hero of romance. “Be he who or what he may,” said I to myself, “I’ll have a sight of him!” I seized a chamber candle, and hurried up to No. 13. The door stood ajar. I hesitated—I entered: the room was deserted. There stood a large, broad-bottomed elbow-chair at a table, on which was an empty tumbler, and a “Times” newspaper, and the room smelt powerfully of Stilton cheese.
The mysterious stranger had evidently but just retired.—I turned off, sorely disappointed, to my room, which had been changed to the front of the house. As I went along the corridor, I saw a large pair of boots, with dirty waxed tops, standing at the door of the bed-chamber. They doubtless belonged to the unknown: but it would not do to disturb so redoubtable a personage in his den; he might discharge a pistol, or something worse at my head. I went to bed, therefore, and lay awake half the night in a terribly nervous state; and even when I fell asleep, I was still haunted in my dreams by the idea of the Stout Gentleman and his wax-topped boots.
I slept rather late the next morning, and was awakened by some stir and bustle in the house, which I could not at first comprehend; until getting more awake, I found there was a mailcoach starting from the door. Suddenly there was a cry from below, “The gentleman has forgot his umbrella! look for the gentleman’s umbrella in No. 13.” I heard an immediate scampering of a chambermaid along the passage, and a shrill reply as she ran, “here it is! here’s the gentleman’s umbrella!”
The mysterious stranger then was on the point of setting off. This was the only chance I should ever have of knowing him. I sprang out of bed, scrambled to the window, snatched aside the curtains, and just caught a glimpse of the rear of a person getting in at the coach-door. The skirts of a brown coat parted behind and gave me a full view of the broad disk of a pair of drab breeches. The door closed—“all right!” was the word—the coach whirled off:—and that was all I ever saw of the Stout Gentleman.
THOSE readers, it is to be feared, are daily becoming fewer in number who can remember the beginning of the disturbances in British America, and the sanguinary war that ensued between the mother country and her revolted colonies. Few are the persons, however, who have not read of the vast exertions which the ministry of that day made, in all parts of the kingdom, to enlist soldiers, impress seamen, and equip a force equal to the task of speedily suppressing the revolt, coercing the refractory colonists, and preserving to the British crown one of its fairest and most important possessions.
It was in the summer of 1774, that a recruiting party, belonging to a Highland regiment of infantry, were marching through the streets of a city in the west of Scotland, displaying all the paraphernalia of war, and having suspended from the spears of their ensigns long silken purses, through the netted interstices of which were exhibited the tempting guineas ready to be tendered as a bounty to all able young men who felt disposed, or could be persuaded to mount a cockade in the king’s service. It was impossible to avoid seeing the glittering gold, for it was a bright sunshiny day, and a tall, lusty corporal, with stentorian lungs, kept bawling out in a louder key, and in a tone more wild and screeching than that of the bagpipes which accompanied it, the amount of the bounty, as it jingled over his head, and to which he was continually pointing with very significant gesticulations.
The rear of the procession consisted of a long line of military probationers, in all the disorder of civilian awkwardness, and in all the disarray of party-coloured clothes; some huzzaing, some singing, some apparently happy, and not a few seemingly mad from inebriation. In the foremost file of these recruits marched a tall, fair-headed, handsome young man, to all appearance about twenty-one or twenty-two years of age. He was attired in a blue coat and trousers, and a scarlet waistcoat; and wore a pair of buckles in his shoes which bespoke a better condition than is usually the lot of one who can be induced o volunteer as a private soldier in a regiment of the line. He took no part in the gambols of his comrades, but seemed rather disposed to avoid the public gaze; whilst on his features there was impressed an air of dejection which betokened feelings far from being in harmony with the uproarious clamour, ribaldry, and yells of vulgar mirth that rang around him.
Malcolm Lennox (for such was the name of the young recruit to whom we refer) was a native of one of the north-western counties of Scotland, where his family had settled, and where his father, by following the occupation of an extensive stock-farmer, and by introducing the improvements and the habits of industry peculiar to the low countries into the highlands, had acquired considerable wealth. Malcolm was the youngest of his four sons. Unfortunately for the youth, however, he had contracted a marriage without his parents’ consent, the consequence of which was, that he was thrown almost entirely upon his own resources; his spirits sank before the repeated acts of contumely which were heaped upon him; and, anon, his heart became a prey to those mingled emotions of wounded pride and sorrow, which the sufferer oftentimes refuses to unbosom either to the gentle solicitations of friendship, or the wild entreaties of affection.
Poverty, nevertheless, bitter as were its inflictions, was not altogether the source of Malcolm’s unhappiness. Nor, had his parents’ conduct been different, could it have been attributed to misplaced affections, or impetuous or inconsiderate passion, any more than to disparity of condition. His wife’s family was, at least, as respectable as his own; and she, with the attractions of a pretty mountain-maiden of seventeen, was all innocence, all simplicity, all truth and devotion to her husband and his interests. Her father was a small proprietor, whose estate, influence, and revenues, had gradually diminished as those of the elder Lennox had increased. The proud, but petty laird, considered the industry of the lowlander to be a proof of the obscurity of his origin, and himself and family, though tenants of the chief of the clan, the great Duke of Argyle himself, to be little less than intruders. Lennox was sensible of this, and, in his turn, treated his neighbour with corresponding hauteur, which became more studied and distant as his concerns prospered. Thus, mutual dislike was kindled between the two families, which progressively increased in bitterness, until it reached a height of exasperation that set all attempts to mediate between the conflicting parties completely at defiance. How an attachment could be formed in the teeth of these domestic disagreements, we leave to those learned in the mysteries of the gentle passion to explain.—“A plague on both their houses!”
Thus it was, however, that the same circumstances which rendered the young man a sort of outcast from his own family, made him an alien to that of his father-in-law. Intercession on the part of friends was not only unavailing, but served rather to cherish than extinguish the flames of family resentment; so that an alliance which ought to have produced peace, became the source of fresh animosities, which eventually engendered distrust, irritation, and disquietude, between the younger Lennox and his still younger helpmate.
A modern poet has told us that “whispering tongues can poison truth;” and Pope speaks of friends in whose every word “a reputation dies.” Such, it appeared, had entered the domestic circle of our ill-starred pair; for scarcely had the first year of their marriage elapsed before discord brooded over their lonely home, and each day ushered in some idle fiction, some scornful expression, or some exaggerated insult, committed or endured by sister, brother, or some other member of their respective families. Jealousy, too, unavoidably, gave a colour to their disagreements, according to the prejudices of the parties; till, at length, love that had been warm as the sunbeam in the glen, and truth that had been pure as the mountain spring, and innocence that had been as far above suspicion or reproach as heaven is from earth, became the victims of doubt, despondency, and conjugal misapprehension.
Malcolm finding his home a scene of strife, his marriage bed a bed of thorns, and the bands of matrimony bonds of contention between parties to whom he owed the allegiance of a child, but not the subserviency of a slave, resolved, after many agonizing struggles with his better feelings, to leave his young wife and infant son to their care, and to quit his family and his native dell, without the formality of an adieu. He accordingly withdrew himself clandestinely from his home; repaired to the lowlands; assumed a feigned name; enlisted in the — regiment of foot, and after parading for one day, as already described, was marched, on the next, to the west of England, where he was hurried through the usual military exercises, and thence shipped for America.
We shall not pursue him through all the active and stirring scenes to which his new but congenial course of life of necessity introduced him. He was at the taking of Long Island and New York, and was severely wounded at the battle of Broad River. In the first skirmish in which he was engaged, after his recovery, he was taken prisoner, and, having experienced extremely kind treatment from his captors, was induced, partly by promises, but chiefly by the fear of being obliged to return home in case of a cessation of hostilities, to join the army under “George Washington, Esquire,” (at the time so designated) in which he received the rank of a subaltern officer.
This rash step, whilst it cast a stigma upon his character as an Englishman, for which not even the honourable wounds he had received in the service of his king were likely to atone in the eyes of his countrymen, so far from banishing from his mind the griefs by which it was disturbed, or rendering him less painfully sensible to the claims which a once much-loved wife and her child had upon him in a far distant land, only served to increase his anguish and the distressing perplexities of his situation. The treaty of peace between Great Britain and the now independent States had indeed been signed; and an indemnity offered to such of the king’s subjects as had, in a moment of frenzy, taken up arms against their mother realm.
But Malcolm Lennox saw no security for him in the stipulations of the contracting parties, in the event of his visiting Scotland; and he accordingly removed into Virginia, and turned his attention to the business of a tobacco-planter.
He soon realized wealth, and, as he improved in substance, was also enabled to gain friends; but they had it not in their power to minister to the mental gangrene with which he was afflicted, or remove the hated brand of traitor and renegade, which, by deserting his colours and fighting against his country he felt he had affixed to his forehead. He dared not return to Scotland; he feared to announce to any one his real name; and he dreaded the consequences of entering into any communications with his relations, or appearing anxious to learn the fate of his wife and son. Ten years of war, and as many of peace, had passed away, and yet of wife, child, or home, he had heard literally nothing; and, so far as he was aware, not one of his family was conscious of his existence. At length his pride yielded to his love of country, and the still unextinguished remains of early affection triumphed over his sense of shame:—he sold his West Indian effects, and returned to England.
Although long estranged from the scenes of his childhood, and although his mature years had been sufficiently imbittered to efface, in a great measure, the remembrance of happier times, yet the first sight of the blue bleak hills in the distance, as the vessel neared the coast of Scotland, awakened, in their morning ardour, all his youthful and fondest reminiscences. His mind dwelt upon the wild glen, and the bleak mountain beside which he had been born; and steril as was the spot, he thought he loved it the more because it was loved by few beside himself. He bethought him of the crag, and the gray ash-tree, up which he had clambered when a boy; the birchen dell through which he had been accustomed to roam; and the hoary hawthorn under whose shade he had stolen many an interview with that loved one whom he had, as he now felt, so cruelly abandoned; and a tear stood in his eye, the first that had glistened there for many an year, when he thought that she whom he had thus deserted might have died in penury and grief; that his wife and his child might have been cast upon the charity of a heartless world; and that his brothers and sisters might be enjoying that portion of his patrimony which, by remaining at home, he might have secured for himself and his family. He heaved a sigh—the blood revulsed upon his heart—and he sank spiritless, and almost lifeless, upon the gunwale of the vessel.
It was a golden evening, about the end of September, when he reached the little village on the banks of the estuary, on the farther shore of which had stood, when he last looked upon them, the farm-houses and sheep-folds of his father. The hamlet had increased considerably in size, and the ferry-boat, which, when he last crossed the firth, was managed by an old man, was now of larger dimensions, and entrusted to the care of younger boatmen, whose lineaments were entirely strange to him.
He was anxious not to pass to the opposite shore until the shades of evening were so far advanced that he might do so without a chance of recognition; for he had resolved to maintain his incognito, if possible, until he should have explored with his own eyes the changes that time had wrought upon the neighbourhood, and had endured, in silence and without solace, whatever additional weight of affliction he might be doomed to encounter. This object, the toils of many hard campaigns and the sun of Virginia, aided by the gathering shades of an autumn twilight, would, as he conceived, sufficiently enable him to accomplish. His locks were scanty and silvered; his countenance, once fair and ruddy, was now harsh and bronzed; a scar was visible on his brow; and several deep-indented lines traversed a face to which nature had originally given an expression of openness and generosity, and invested it with an appearance of sternness altogether foreign to its former character. He was now forty-five years of age, and judging from his appearance, he might have been of ten or fifteen more; for his person was bent, his gait crippled, and his muscularity converted, by repeated attacks of fever, into tropical nervousness and debility.
His dress, though studiously of English fashion, was, notwithstanding, indicative of the foreigner; a conjecture which his long gold-headed bamboo walking-stick, the silver seals of his watch-chain, and his curiously-wrought snuff-box, conduced to countenance. His trunk, which he had given into the charge of the landlady of the only hostelry of which the village could boast, was exteriorly cased in brass, and secured by a ponderous padlock of the same metal; both of which, in the estimation of the hostess and sundry of her gossiping neighbours, were of an unnecessary strength for a peaceably disposed stranger, and nothing like which had, in their judgment, ever been seen in that part of the country before.
The toil-worn soldier strode as lightly over the rough pebbles of the beach as his strength would permit, and accosting the ferrymen, desired to be conveyed across the estuary. They expressed their willingness to comply with his request, but said that they had occupations which would prevent their setting out until half an hour later, when they proposed to call for him at any house in the village he might be pleased to mention.
As he wandered along the strand, partly to wile away the time, he observed a boat land a female upon the beach, and again bear off in the direction of a king’s revenue cutter, which rode at anchor about a mile below. The woman eyed him with earnestness and interest, and he bent his steps in a different direction to avoid her scrutiny; for it was impossible to say by what accidental circumstance his intentions might be defeated, and his identity discovered. By this time the sun had gone down, the allotted half-hour had nearly elapsed, and, moreover, the dull twilight was fast descending upon the beauty of the landscape, enshrouding, at the same moment, his own cogitations with a corresponding gloom. He was about to enter the little inn to inquire after the boatmen, when the same woman, as it appeared to him, whom he had before encountered on the strand, accosted him, and, in a low voice, demanded to speak a word with him.
“What would you with me?” inquired Malcolm, scarcely able to suppress his agitation.
“They are coming to apprehend you,” whispered the woman, looking around her with visible trepidation, “and unless you fly to the hills, you will be a prisoner before the morning!”
Lennox had only time to ejaculate—“apprehend me?” when the woman suddenly disappeared; and as her parting words—“God help the stranger; he may be innocent,” which she uttered as if to herself involuntarily, still echoed in his ear, he saw, at the farther end of the village, a party of men apparently armed, and approaching him.
The idea that some one, to whom his conduct in America was familiar, had seen him, and that he was about to be seized as a deserter, and perchance made to suffer condign punishment on the very spot where all, if any, to whom his memory might still be dear resided, rushed over his mind in a flood-tide of agony. And yet it was a consolation, he thought, that if he should be so disgraced, it could scarcely be in the character of Malcolm Lennox, for that name he had never known coupled with his guilt.
The party which approached consisted of four persons in the dress of sailors, headed by a young man who, from his uniform, appeared to be an officer of the revenue cruiser before mentioned. They were preceded a few steps by a short, self-important looking personage, in a black suit, who bore the semblance of a country magistrate; and who, stepping slowly up to Lennox, gravely informed him that as, in his official capacity, he had received information that a suspicious person, alleged to be a French spy, and answering to his description, was making his surveys along the coast, he considered it his duty to cognosce and examine him, as to his name, character, profession, means of subsistence, and particularly the nature of his business in that part of the country.
“I am a native of this neighbourhood—have returned from the United States of America—and my business is to find out my relations,” answered Lennox.
“You landed at Greenock, a few days ago, from the ship Ranger, did you not?” interrogated the magistrate.
“And your name is—?”
Lennox bethought himself for a few seconds, for he at once saw the peril of his situation, and the difficulty there would be in reconciling his connexion with Argyleshire and the fictitious name he had assumed, and by which he was rated in the ship-papers of the vessel by which he had arrived.
“It may appear strange,” at length he said, addressing the magistrate, “that one of the clan Grant should seek for relatives among the Campbells, but so it is in the present case.”
The magistrate intimated that he could not permit a stranger, in these times (for the war with the republic of France had just broke out in all its fury) to traverse the country without having the assurance of some known and respectable person that he was what he described himself to be.
“I am a free citizen of America,” observed Lennox in reply, “and am entitled to the protection which this government has already guaranteed to the subjects of the republic; and, besides, it is a hard case that, after spending twenty-five years in a distant country, and returning to end my days where I was born, I should be thus unnecessarily molested and annoyed upon my landing.”
This appeal made no impression on the cool temperament of the man of law—for the magistrate, it appeared, was none other than the procurator fiscal of the county—who replied, that as for his American citizenship, he knew of no privileges that belonged to it; in the warmth of his zeal and loyalty, sarcastically hinted that he had never before heard of the title; and concluded by remarking, that unless he could instantly refer to some responsible resident, as to the purity of his intentions, he had no alternative but that of seizing his papers, and sending him on board the king’s cutter in the firth, till he should be released by more competent authority.
The exile gazed around him, evidently disappointed and perplexed at finding his plans thus defeated, and was searching with his eye, among the few persons near him, for some well-known face, to whom he could make known his name and circumstances without being necessiated to confess the fictitious patronymic he had adopted, when the young man who acted as commandant of the magisterial escort, desired to know whether his recognizance for the stranger would be accepted.
“What!—yours?” interjected and interrogated the official, with a glance of astonishment not unmixed with indignation.
Lennox stared upon his strange friend with a degree of surprise scarcely less obvious, although of a somewhat different complexion.
The young man repeated his willingness to give the requisite personal security.
“I cannot peremptorily reject your recognizance,” at last stuttered the fiscal; “but, Sir,” continued he, “I would bid you beware what you do,—it will be my duty to report you to your superior officer.”
The other still persisted in becoming bound for the stranger, and the parties retired to the parlour of the inn; the fiscal prescribed the necessary form, it was immediately signed, and the man of criminal law departed.
Lennox, when he recovered from his surprise, and had power to thank this unknown friend, offered to place his trunk and papers in his hands, until he should return to release them, which he promised to do in three days. This the young seaman declined; but expressed a hope that he would lose no time in discovering his friends and releasing him from his obligations.
The evening had now quite closed in, the ferry-boat had long since passed to the opposite bank, and as there was no other regular conveyance across the firth, Lennox resolved on spending the night at the inn. Previous, however, to the return of the party in the boat, the fiscal himself had boarded the cutter, and explained to the master in command the conduct of his officer; who, irritated at this act of insolence, as he termed it, on the part of an individual in his majesty’s service, ordered the delinquent to his berth, placed a guard over his person, and after having hurriedly penned a sea-epistle to the admiral of the station, intimated that he would go ashore in the morning himself, and bring the “skulking Frenchman” aboard, at his own hazard.
But the fiery loyalty of the old schipper did not at all prove that his authority on board his own vessel was considered as imperative. The crew, zealous as they were in the performance of their nautical duties, felt indignant at seeing the chief mate so harshly treated for what they deemed an act of laudable generosity, and they accordingly did not hesitate to communicate with him, and offer him such assistance as might be instrumental in procuring his liberation. The young man, however, sought nothing on his own account; but, without assigning any reason for his mysterious disobedience of orders and discipline, requested two of his comrades to convey a letter to the suspected person at the inn, and afterwards conduct him, if he manifested any disposition to accompany them, to the other side of the estuary, and to a certain house, the situation of which he minutely described to them.
The sailors were soon ashore, and Lennox was apprised of the nature of their visit just as he was in the act of retiring to rest. He read over the letter of his unknown benefactor, and deeming that the advice he gave him was the best he could, under the circumstances, adopt, communicated to his visitors his readiness to attend them. He accordingly summoned his hostess, paid his bill, and mounting his brass-cased, suspicious-looking trunk upon the shoulders of one of his companions, proceeded to the boat.
The stars shone clear in the bright blue sky, and their reflecting rays danced on the gentle ripples of the loch, as the boat swiftly receded from the strand. The radiant haze of the young moon, as she peered above the rugged mountains before them, displayed the distinct outline of many a well-known landscape; whilst no sound arose to disturb the deep tranquillity of the scene, save the dripping of the suspended oar, and the far-distant notes of the bagpipe, borne wildly and fitfully upon the breeze. Anon a twinkling light was here and there discernable on the opposite coast, and the nature of the sensations which thrilled the heart of the wanderer may readily be conceived, when he remembered that so gleamed the lights, and so echoed the mountain music, and so shone the stars, on that night of nights, when he fled in despair from his home, and from his engagements to Heaven; “and who knows,” his heart responded to his recollections, “but this music, and these lights, may proceed from some hearts once to me familiar—besides which my father and my mother, my wife and my child, have been exposed to all the accumulated horrors of sickness, poverty, and desolation.” He felt the tears trickle down his cheek, as the boatmen announced that they had reached the landing-place.
So exclusively had his mind been absorbed with these mournful contemplations, that it had never once occurred to him whither his guides intended to conduct him. He relied that as improvements had taken place during his absence on one shore they would have occurred also on the other, and that some house of entertainment would be found close at hand. The sailors were allowed, therefore, to pilot the way untroubled by any queries whatsoever, until they had travelled upwards of a mile, not along the shore, as he expected, but towards the interior of the country; a route with which he was somewhat acquainted, as it led in the direction of the spot where once stood the house of his father-in-law.
At length, after diverging from the main path, they reached a handsome cottage of two stories, surrounded on three sides by a high turf and stone fence: its front looked upon a smooth slope, that commanded an extensive view of the sea. No ray of light issued from chink or casement; no smoke from a single chimney-top; nor was the silence that prevailed disturbed, until the sailors tapped at the door; when the gruff bark of a sheep-dog aroused the slumbering inmates and in due time a female voice desired to know the business of the intruders.
“A letter from the Sparrowhawk,” answered one of the sailors, in a tone that might have been heard at the main-top of a man-of-war in a storm.
The door was speedily opened, and a red-haired, half-dressed Gael, in the capacity of a maid-servant, admitted the strangers to the dark hall, while she went to procure a light, and apprize her mistress of their arrival.
In a few moments a candle was brought in, and a genteel-looking female, apparently not more than twenty years of age, entered, bearing the introductory letter open in her hand. She bade the stranger welcome, ordered him some refreshments, and having intimated that there was a bed at his disposal, and that she would be glad to meet him at the breakfast-table in the morning, wished him a “good night,” and withdrew.
The sailors having quaffed a few bumpers of the “mountain-dew,” and received a dollar each from the stranger for their services, betook themselves again to their boat, in order that they might reach the Sparrowhawk before its then oblivious captain should have started for the second watch. Lennox accepted the proffered hospitality, and having partaken, rather from a feeling of courtesy than inclination, of the refreshment that was set before him, requested to be conducted to his chamber.
In the morning he presented himself, at the appointed hour of breakfast, in the lower apartment. As he entered he saluted an aged man, apparently blind, sitting in a high-backed chair, and who made no return whatever to the salutations either by speech or gesture. The same young person he had seen on the preceding evening was seated opposite; but before he had time to even commence a conversation with her, a matronly female entered, whom she introduced to him as her mother, and whose eye had scarcely encountered the gaze of the stranger, as he turned towards her, when she shrieked and fell senseless on the floor!
Lennox hastened to assist her; but the reader may guess how ill qualified he was for the task when he discovered it was his wife, his long deserted wife, who was stretched pale and emaciated, and seemingly lifeless at his feet. She was immediately conveyed to bed, where, by the united exertion of the young female, and a lady and her daughter who happened to come in at the moment she was at length restored to animation.
It was not, however, till her spirits had been composed by the administration of a cordial, that procured her some hours’ sleep, that she was able to see Lennox again; and when she did, she had scarcely sufficient self-possession to enable her to comprehend his brief and hurried explanation of the causes of his absence and unlooked-for return. This painful, but pleasing duty having been performed, he was made acquainted with the situation of the respective families. The old man was the remains of his proud father-in-law, at the age of ninety, reduced to the extremity of dotage, and wholly insensible to every thing around him. He had survived all his family but his injured daughter, to whom, in his old age, he had made all the reparation in his power for the sorrows he had occasioned her in former years.
“And who may this young maiden be, who was my hostess last night?” inquired Lennox, turning to the pretty mistress of the mansion.
“The wife of a son who has also married without his father’s consent,” replied the elder female with a smile.
“My own boy, who is—what?” eagerly demanded the agitated exile, nearly sinking to the ground from the intensity of his feelings.
“First mate of the Sparrowhawk— —”
“Merciful Heaven!” exclaimed the father, dropping on his knees.
“Yes,” continued his wife, “and as little did I know that the stranger whom I last night warned to fly to the hills was my husband, as my dear boy Malcolm could have been aware that he whom his kindness has protected was his own father.”
All this really occurred precisely as we have narrated it. The mother of the young Malcolm had, the day before, been on a visit to her son in the king’s cutter; and having casually ascertained from him that he had received orders to go ashore and arrest a suspicious-looking gentleman who was supposed, on very insufficient grounds, to be a French spy, she became involuntarily interested in his fate; and encountering him, accidentally, had accosted him as we have already described. The gloom of the twilight prevented them from recognizing each other; and she was afterwards ferried over the firth in the very boat which would have conveyed her husband across, but for the vexatious interruption he experienced from the Procurator Fiscal.
The story is scarcely worth pursuing further. Malcolm Lennox found only one of his sisters, and a brother’s family alive; but he disturbed not the settlement of his father. Young Malcolm is still in existence—a distinguished and active officer in the British navy.
THE BROKEN HEART.
————— I never heard
Of any true affection, but was nipt
With care, that, like the caterpillar eats
The leaves of the spring’s sweetest book, the rose.
IT is a common practice with those who have outlived the susceptibility of early feeling, or have been brought up in the gay heartlessness of dissipated life, to laugh at all love stories, and to treat the tales of romantic passion as mere fictions of novelists and poets. My observations on human nature have induced me to think otherwise. They have convinced me, that however the surface of the character may be chilled and frozen by the cares of the world, or cultivated into mere smiles by the arts of society, still there are dormant fires lurking in the depths of the coldest bosom, which, when once enkindled, become impetuous, and are sometimes desolating in their effects. Indeed, I am a true believer in the blind deity, and go to the full extent of his doctrines. Shall I confess it?—I believe in broken hearts, and the possibility of dying of disappointed love. I do not, however, consider it a malady fatal to my own sex; but I firmly believe that it withers down many a lovely woman into an early grave.
Man is the creature of interest and ambition. His nature leads him forth into the struggle and bustle of the world. Love is but the embellishment of his early life, or a song piped in the intervals of the acts. He seeks for fame, for fortune, for space in the world’s thought, and dominion over his fellow men. But a woman’s whole life is a history of the affections. The heart is her world: it is there her ambition strives for empire; it is there her avarice seeks for hidden treasures. She sends forth her sympathies on adventure; she embarks her whole soul in the traffic of affection; and, if shipwrecked, her case is hopeless—for it is a bankruptcy of the heart.
To a man the disappointment of love may occasion some bitter pangs: it wounds some feelings of tenderness—it blasts some prospects of felicity; but he is an active being—he may dissipate his thoughts in the whirl of varied occupation, or may plunge into the tide of pleasure; or if the scene of disappointment be too full of painful associations, he can shift his abode at will, and taking, as it were, the wings of the morning, can “fly to the uttermost parts of the earth, and be at rest.”
But woman’s is comparatively a fixed, a secluded, and a meditative life. She is more the companion of her own thoughts and feelings; and if they are turned to ministers of sorrow, where shall she look for consolation? Her lot is to be wooed and won; and if unhappy in her love, her heart is like some fortress that has been captured and sacked, and abandoned, and left desolate.
How many bright eyes grow dim—how many soft cheeks grow pale—how many lovely forms fade away into the tomb, and none can tell the cause that blighted their loveliness! As the dove will clasp its wings to its side, and cover and conceal the arrow that is preying on its vitals, so is it the nature of woman to hide from the world the pangs of wounded affection. The love of a delicate female is always shy and silent. Even when fortunate, she scarcely breathes it to herself; but when otherwise, she buries it in the recesses of her bosom, and there lets it cower and brood among the ruins of her peace. With her the desire of the heart has failed. The great charm of existence is at an end. She neglects all the cheerful exercises which gladden the spirits, quicken the pulses, and send the tide of life in healthful currents through the veins. Her rest is broken—the sweet refreshment of sleep is poisoned by melancholy dreams—“dry sorrow drinks her blood,” until her enfeebled frame sinks under the slightest degree of external injury. Look for her, after a little while, and you find friendship weeping over her untimely grave, and wondering that one who so lately glowed in all the radiance of health and beauty, should so speedily be brought to “darkness and the worm.” You will be told of some wintry chill, some casual indisposition that laid her low; but no one knows of the mental malady that previously sapped her strength, and made her so easy a prey to the spoiler.
She is like some tender tree, the pride and beauty of the grove; graceful in form, bright in its foliage, but with the worm preying at its heart. We see it suddenly withering when it should be most fresh and luxuriant. We see it drooping its branches to the earth, and shedding leaf by leaf; until wasted and perished away, it falls even in the stillness of the forest; and as we muse over the beautiful ruin, we strive in vain to recollect the blast or thunderbolt that could have smitten it with decay.
I HAVE seen many instances of women running to waste and self-neglect, and disappearing gradually from the earth, almost as if they had been exhaled to heaven; and have repeatedly fancied that I could trace their death through the various declensions of consumption, cold, debility, languor, melancholy, until I reached the first symptom of disappointed love. But an instance of the kind was lately told to me; the circumstances are well known in the country where they happened, and I shall but give them in the manner in which they were related.
Every one must recollect the tragical story of young E——, the Irish patriot; it was too touching to be soon forgotten. During the troubles in Ireland, he was tried, condemned and executed, on a charge of treason. His fate made a deep impression on public sympathy. He was so young—so intelligent—so generous—so brave—so everything that we are apt to like in a young man. His conduct under trial, too, was so lofty and intrepid. The noble indignation with which he denied the charge of treason against his country—the eloquent vindication of his name—and his pathetic appeal to posterity, in the hopeless hour of condemnation—all these entered deeply into every generous bosom, and even his enemies lamented the stern policy that dictated his execution.
But there was one heart whose anguish it would be impossible to describe. In happier days and fairer fortunes, he had won the affections of a beautiful and interesting girl, the daughter of a late celebrated Irish barrister. She loved him with the disinterested fervour of a woman’s first and early love. When every worldly maxim arrayed itself against him; when blasted in fortune, and disgrace and danger darkened around his name, she loved him the more ardently for his very sufferings. If, then, his fate could awake the sympathy of his foes, what must have been the agony of her, whose whole soul was occupied by his image! Let those tell who have had the portals of the tomb suddenly closed between them and the being they most loved on earth—who have sat at its threshold, as one shut out in a cold and lonely world, from whence all that was most lovely and loving had departed.
But then the horrors of such a grave—so frightful, so dishonoured! There was nothing for memory to dwell on that could soothe the pang of separation—none of those tender, though melancholy circumstances, that endear the parting scene—nothing to melt sorrow into those blessed tears, sent like the dews of heaven, to revive the parting hour of anguish.
To render her widowed situation more desolate, she had incurred her father’s displeasure, by her late unfortunate attachment, and was an exile from the paternal roof. But could the sympathy and kind offices of friends have reached a spirit so shocked and driven in by horror, she would have experienced no want of consolation, for the Irish are a people of quick and generous sensibilities. The most delicate and cherishing attentions were paid her by families of wealth and distinction. She was led into society; and they tried by all kinds of occupation and amusement to dissipate her grief, and wean her from the tragical story of her loves. But it was all in vain. There are some strokes of calamity that scathe and scorch the soul—that penetrate to the vital seat of happiness—and blast it, never again to put forth bud or blossom. She never objected to frequent the haunts of pleasure: but she was as much alone there as in the depths of solitude. She walked about in a sad reverie, apparently unconscious of the world around her. She carried with her an inward woe, that mocked at all the blandishments of friendship, and “heeded not the song of the charmer, charm he never so wisely.”
The person who told me her story had seen her at a masquerade. There can be no exhibition of far-gone wretchedness more striking and painful than to meet it at such a scene. To find it wandering like a spectre, lonely and joyless, where all around is gay—to see it dressed out in the trappings of mirth, and looking so wan and woe-begone, as if it had tried in vain to cheat the poor heart into momentary forgetfulness of sorrow. After strolling through the splendid rooms and giddy crowd with an air of utter abstraction, she sat herself down on the steps of an orchestra, and looking about for some time with a vacant air, that showed her insensibility to the garish scene, she began with the capriciousness of a sickly heart to warble a little plaintive air. She had an exquisite voice; but on this occasion it was so simple, so touching, it breathed forth such a soul of wretchedness, that she drew a crowd mute and silent around her, and melted every one into tears.
The story of one so true and tender, could not but excite great interest in a country remarkable for enthusiasm. It completely won the heart of a brave officer, who paid his addresses to her, and thought that one so true to the dead, could not but prove affectionate to the living. She declined his attentions, for her thoughts were irrevocably engrossed by the memory of her former lover. He however, persisted in his suit. He solicited not her tenderness, but her esteem. He was assisted by her conviction of his worth, and her sense of her own destitute and dependant situation, for she was existing on the kindness of friends. In a word, he at length succeeded in gaining her hand, though with the solemn assurance that her heart was unalterably another’s.
He took her with him to Sicily, hoping that a change of scene might wear out the remembrance of early woes. She was an amiable and exemplary wife, and made an effort to be a happy one: but nothing could cure the silent and devouring melancholy that had entered into her very soul. She wasted away in a slow but hopeless decline, and at length sunk into the grave—the victim of a broken heart.
She left one child, a lovely daughter, by whom, and a faithful servant, she was most anxiously and tenderly nursed in her last illness. It would be impossible to describe the grief of this affectionate and afflicted child on the death of her gentle and beloved parent; nothing but the exercises of religion seemed capable of soothing her, so deep and heartfelt was her sorrow.
It was on this too sensitive, but unfortunate lady, that Moore, the distinguished Irish poet, composed the following lines:—
She is far from the land where her young hero sleeps,
And lovers around her are sighing;
But coldly she turns from their gaze and weeps,
For her heart in his grave is lying.
She sings the wild songs of her dear native plains,
Every note which he loved awaking—
Ah! little they think who delight in her strains,
How the heart of the minstrel is breaking!
He had loved for his love—for his country he died,
They were all that to life had entwined him—
Nor soon shall the tears of his country be dried,
Nor long will his love stay behind him:
Oh! make her a grave where the sun-beams rest,
When they promise a glorious morrow;
They’ll shine o’er her sleep, like a smile from the west,
From her own loved island of sorrow.
NATHAN AND DAVID.
THE Monarch knelt, and, in the dust,
Confessed his sin and shame;
And God forgave the guilty one,
Who called upon his name.
He won by tears, he won by prayers,
A pardon from on high;
Though scarce he dared to raise to heaven
His dim and pleading eye.
God grant that never we may bow
So low to guilt’s control,
As did that King who had the weight
Of blood upon his soul.
But seeds of sorrow and of crime
Are sown each heart within;
And who can look upon his soul,
And say he knows not sin?
Then teach us, Lord, to weep and pray,
And bend the suppliant knee;
For what but penitence and prayer
Can hope for grace from thee?
THEY sin who tell us love can die!
With life all other passions fly,
All others are but vanity,
In heaven ambition cannot dwell
Nor avarice in the vaults of hell;
Earthly these passions of the earth,
They perish where they have their birth:
But love is indestructible,
Its holy flame for ever burneth,
From heaven it came, to heaven returneth:
For oft on earth a troubled guest,
At times deceived, at times opprest,
It here is tried and purified,
Then hath in heaven its perfect rest:
It soweth here with toil and care,
But the harvest time of love is there.
Oh! when a mother meets on high,
The babe she lost in infancy,
Hath she not then, for pains and fears,
The day of woe, the watchful night,
For all her sorrows, all her tears,
An over-payment of delight?
THE BOY OF EGREMOND.
“SAY, what remains when Hope is fled?”
She answered, “Endless weeping!”
For in the herdsman’s eye she read
Who in his shroud lay sleeping.
At Embsay rung the matin-bell,
The stag was roused on Barden-fell;
The mingled sounds were swelling, dying,
And down the Wharfe a hern was flying;
When near the cabin in the wood,
In tartan clad and forest green,
With hound in leash and hawk in wood;
The Boy of Egremond was seen.
Blithe was his song, a song of yore;
But where the rock is rent in two,
And the river rushes through,
His voice was heard no more!
‘Twas but a step! the gulf he passed;
But that step—it was his last!
As through the mist he winged his way,
(A cloud that hovers night and day),
The hound hung back, and back he drew
The master and the merlin too.