« VorigeDoorgaan »
therefore, for mouldy passages, for passed through a door at the top of it rooms of impossible shape and dimen- before going from the hall into the sion, for tumble-down staircases, and offices on the ground floor ; and, iu for pitiful accommodation everywhere ; doing so, came upon rooms evidently and I was already rehearsing the con intended for sleeping-chambers, but of troversy I should have to conduct with much lower pitch than those in the Veronica on this thorny question. But, front of the house, and bearing an altoin company with Father Time and his gether different character. Still thinkwife, who had now joined us, and wlio, ing of Veronica and her shapely exactwith the exception of her raiment, ing mind, I was a little discoucerted by seemed the very double of himself, in the narrow space of the rooms in this hue, age, manner, and toothless speech, portion of the tenement. But when I I found myself, to my astonishment, emerged from them into the kitchenpassing through the various parts of a garden of which I spoke, I more than dwelling in excellent condition, cased recovered courage, and resolved to deiu exceptionally stout walls, and show- fend my future home against all the iug nowhere sigu either of damp or feminine objections in the world. For decay. The hall was little more than a there before me stood a real old manorpassage ; but there was a savor of an- house of the end of the fifteenth ceutique taste in its dark-stained oaken tury, made more watertight since, no staircase and in its three ancient door- doubt, with brick here and tile there, ways (through one of which there was but retaining its pristine character, and access to the offices, while the other looking at you with its strong, unaftwo opened on dining-room and draw- fected Tudor face. Clearly, the building-room respectively), which gave it ing consisted rather of two houses than an aspect of dignity too often wanting of one, built “ back-to-back," the grey in balls of much larger dimensions. stone tenement, with its greater elevaAn old cottage clock ticked slowly and tion and ampler pretensions, having solenruly in the dining-room, its de- been joined on to its older and humbler liberate measurement of time sound- companion at a later date. Thus what ing all the louder because it was the now was back had once been front, and only piece of furniture in a room whose what had originally been complete in boards, too, were bare. Old Mistress itself had not only been added to, but Time had one cardinal virtue at least : subordinated to its younger companion. she loved cleanliness, and there was no I could not then, por can I now, make corner where one could not have sate up my mind which of the two I prefer down to a hearty meal with uncon- to gaze on. I waver in my liking accerned appetite. Over the dining-room cording to my mood, and just as I revert and drawing - room were two other unconsciously, I suppose, to the temroons, resembling them in size and per of this century or of that. I kept character, and possessing an unusual walking round from one to the other, aspect of cheerfulness, notwithstand- and felt ineffable peace in musing upon ing their heavy mullioned windows, by both. The quiet August afternoon, reason of the cross-light which they with its long, motionless shadows, its enjoyed. I observed with satisfaction slight intimation of silver haze, and its that the house looked almost exactly soothing noise of neiglaboring rooks
S; south-east, to my thinking the proper the music of a mill-stream I could just aspect for an English country-house. overhear, the melodious monotone of Such an aspect ensures morning cheer- contiguous ringdoves, the color of the fulness all the year round, the full ad- nectarines on the wall, the recollection vantage of whatever sun there is in of the ripe and ruddy orchard ; all of winter from dawn practically to sun- these seemed to imbue my mind with a. down, and the exquisite effects of the sense of autumnal mellowness, when rising of the moon.
everything one longs for awaits the I had wounted the staircase, and plucking, and there is nothing more to be desired. The outhouses were nu- rafters, have passed through the same merous, and it was evident that the doors and up the same staircases, older dwelling had once been a farm- drunk out of the same cellars and eaten stead. But they were in excellent re- out of the same larders I now call pair, and red-tiled like the house itself; mine. I like to think that I am not and the tiles were silvered here and the first to bring life and
death, there with the growth and stains of sigh and laughter, merry-making and unremoved lichen. There was accom- mourning, into a human habitation. It modation for more horses and carriages is necessary for my contentment, indisthan Veronica and I should ever be pensable to my sense of kinship withi likely to want, though the stable and the past, that I should know that baby coach-house fittings were a little rude ; feet have, generation after generation, and there were sheds and stalls for kine toddled along the passages, and chiland beasts, and lodges for wagons and dren's vacant voices gladdened the corcarts we should never need. But there ridors which I now tread. I have no was not an eyesore anywhere. The desire to invent anything, but only to l'oad by which I had come ended at the preserve and perpetuate those things house ; and at the back of the kitchen- which have long been found good. garden there ran a country lane, prodi. The society of days gone by is the most gally overhung with the foliage of trees friendly and congenial of all forms of in the very heyday of their English companionship, for one peoples and vigor. On the other side of the lane composes it according to the humor of was another park. How wrong Ve- one's imagination. I have never been ronica had been ! and what a triumph able to understand why, seeing that I should have over her! Suam quisque one's mother is the most sacred of all domum spatio circumdat, I reiterated to human figures, people's grandmothers myself, with a contentment rivalling should have become a theme for poor that of the cooing wood-pigeons. There and profane wit. Grandmothers, greatwas no sound of crowing cock, of bark- grandmothers, great-great-grandmothing house-dog, of screaming child. I ers, I know, and delight in knowing, could see the grey, square tower of a bad sate in the ingle-nooks of what I village church about a mile and a half that day resolved should be my home; away ; but that was the only indication all comely, all with spotless lace caps of social life within the range of vision. and cuffs and 'kerchiefs, all kindly, all Retirement, seclusion, and old-world deferred to, all the real guardian angels charm — had I not found them all ? of the place. Beautiful young girls Through a nail-studded, oaken door, must there have loved and longed, black as ebony with the years, I had kissed and wept, clapped their hands descended into the cellars, and had sat- for joy, and performed innumerable isfied myself that Veronica, who, from offices of domestic helpfulness and taste not from fanaticism, never touches charity. A new house would be to me wine, would have water of extraordi- as intolerable as a new world. Even narily fine quality to drink. Moreover, in restless and changeful days like though clear as crystal, and brisk to these, the most powerful influence in the taste, it was as soft to the hands as the present is the influence of the past; velvet or oatmeal.
just as the influence of our thoughts, I do not know how people consent, actions, and decisions will be felt more save under dire compulsion, to build a a hundred years hence than they are house for themselves or to live in one to-day. Living under the shade of the newly built for them by others. For past, we feel . peaceful and secure. I my part, I like to think that a long line wonder how many generations of swalof ancestors, either in blood or senti-lows have built their nests and reared ment, have slept under the same roof, their broods under the broad, deep have trodden the same boards, have eaves of the hinder portion of the old genially entertained under the same l manor-house I that day contemplated with such forward-looking affection. I worked myself almost into a fever over Four hundred generations of swallows the uncertainty of her verdict upon my and house-martins and starlings 1 newly found treasure. Talk of sudden Think of that! They were building enthusiasms ! Veronica fell in love there when Shakespeare wrote the with it fully as promptly as I had done, lines
and a load was lifted off my heart. I
never knew her so impulsive, so indisThis guest of Summer,
posed to criticise, or averse to investiThe temple-hunting martlet, does
approve, By his bold mansionry, that the heaven's gate. breath
“No, no l” she replied to anything Smells wooingly here ; no jutty, frieze, but- I wished to show her or consult her tress,
about. “It is just what we want. Let Nor coign of vantage, but this bird hath us go and see the agent at once. You made
hear it was looked at the day before His pendent bed and procreant cradle. yesterday by some one else.” Where they
Only too well pleased to find her in Most breed and haunt, I have observed, the this mood, I gladly consented to drive air
at once to the house of the agent, who Is delicate.
lived, Father Time told us, but a mile I had surrendered myself so entirely away. He received us with all the to the mellow sunshine and afternoon heartiness of a retired captain of horse, shadows of the place, that I fear I had but at once told us that the house was attended but ill to the kindly, if some- let ! Who had let it ? He himself, what inarticulate, observations made the agent for the estate, but two days by Father Time, as he dutifully accom- previously. If we liked to go and see panied me in my devious saunterings. the owner of the property, we were But at length it did dawn upon me, as free to do so ; but it was obvious, he something not undeserving of my at- said, we should only be wasting our tention, that he had more than once time. intimated to me that the house had Nevertheless we went; taking anbeen vacant for two years, but that other and a shorter railway journey to yesterday " another gentleman " had a place about fifteen miles off, where been to see it and appeared greatly he was staying on visit. I do not like taken by it. But I had so completely to say overmuch concerning the grace appropriated it in my own mind that and attractiveness of Veronica ; but I this last piece of information troubled could see plainly enough they were me but little. To-morrow I must bring thoroughly well appreciated on this Veronica to see it, and then the matter occasion. For our new acquaintance would be as good as settled.
at once said he should vastly like to I consumed the better part of the have us for tenants. But what could evening in chanting its praises to Ve- he do? We had received a most ronica, while cautiously avowing that kindly welcome, but no practical consosome of the rooms were rather small lation. and somewhat low. I saw I was not Still I was not cast down; for, producing all the effect I intended. though it seemed absurd to Veronica, I Veronica has always chosen to con- felt an unshakable conviction that I sider me subject to dangerous impulses should live for the rest of my days unof enthusiasm, and I suppose she der the shadow and protection of that deems it to be her duty to put water venerable oak. I wrote to the country into my wive. We were off betimes agent, enclosing two cheques, each for together on the morrow; and I hardly the same round
and authorizing ever made a more anxious journey. It him to offer one, and then, if necessary, was impossible for her not to admire both, to the tenant who bad anticipated the two-mile drive through the park me, to be off his bargain. He wrote and its stately mansion ; but I had l back saying that what I suggested was
VOL. LXXXIV. 4355
not possible, and returning my drafts. and all of them equally welcome. It Two more days — days of unutterable is a matter of uncertainty whether she disappointment and depressiou - passed will charm our listening ears with the away ; and then there came a note from music of the future ou the piano I my future landlord, to the effect that bought expressly for her consummate he had “put his foot down,” and that touch, will sing Tuscan Storuelli by the he had written to say, as was perfectly score, or will play havoc with Verontrue, that he had two agents, one in ica's guitar as she invents some madcap the country and one iu town, that some accompaniment to the latest producconfusion and rivalry of claims had tion of the Shaftesbury Avenue. Nor arisen in consequence, and that, in is it within the bounds of prediction order to determine the matter in one to say whether she will lead me into way or another, he had decided in my labyrinthine dialogues concerning the favor. “Of course," he added, you riddle of the universe, or turu all will pay him any sum in reason for his one's most settled convictions topsydisappointment."
turvy with perfectly sincere paradoxes. But this had been my very own Sometimes she will dote on my flowers, proposition. A few days later he en- and make herself the very Flora of the closed me a note from the disappointed garden; sometimes she seems hardly house-hunter, saying that he had been to know that it is there, and rambles put to a good deal of trouble and ex- discursively, yet always with suggestive pense, and he could not ask, by way point, through all the picture galleries of compensation, for less than ten of Europe. She has no opinions, or, at pounds!
any rate, they are held provisionally, Veronica says this is my favorite and until further notice. But, indeed, story, and that I have told it too often. it is too much to say that they are But I never get tired of telling it; and “held” – except in solution, for she I tell it again to myself whenever any does not seem anxious to solve anypiece of small ill-fortune happens to thing. Her mind points to the four me, and I still want to think myself a quarters of the wivd, and, like it, veers favorite of the gods and to have a unaccountably. Nor was I quite accuhearty laugh over that ten pounds.
rate when I said she has every mood, Spring is tidy, of herself. She has for she is always exhilaratingly cheerthe natural finish and clean-looking ful; delivering herself sometimes of bloom of youth. She sheds no dead the most gloomy prophecies concerning leaves for you to sweep up, Alings the future of mankind in the highest about no rotten branches for you to spirits. carry away. She is spick-and-span in I cannot quite make out what she her new raiment. She has none of the thinks of the Poet; but I suspect she redundant growth of summer, and the somewhat resents his unco
compromising blossoms she sends floating on the good sense, and Veronica's occasionally breeze make less litter even than au- unfortunate championship of him. I tumn gossamer. Thus I was unusually have never been able to understand untroubled concerning the reputation why such a fuss should be made about of the garden that I love and Veron- what is called fame, and how any raica's mild reprehensions, and had just tional human being can desire to obtain settled down in a bend of the South it. In the porch of the little church Enclosure to a perusal of M. Martha's of Kermaria, near Perros-Guirec, in “Les Moralistes de l'Empire Romain,” Brittany, I once read the words in. when I heard her calling: “Here they scribed on a tablet to a deceased priest,
Amavit nesciri et pro nihilo reputari. I never know what aspect Lamia will That seems to me the utterance of a be pleased to present when she brings sage as well as a saint. But our men her radiant presence to our roof; she of the time appear to think differently. has so many and such various moods, I must confess, in justice to Veronica's
poet, that I see no indication of his with his neighbor's wife, and to be troubling himself concerning his posi- perpetually calling attention to himself tion in this world. Perhaps that only by some extravagant utterance. causes her to be more solicitous on the “But I think,” urged Veronica, subject, and, I suppose, she shares the could name poets that have achieved general desire of her sex to see some considerable celebrity in their lifetime, solid and practical evidence of success. yet who were, on the whole, perfectly She reverted to her favorite theme last respectable members of society.” night, when, as the twilight was deep- Happily the conversation at this ening, she sate with me and Lamia ou point was arrested by the subject of it the fixed rude seat that girds the bole joining us. But Lamia was not disof my primeval oak, for Lamia inad- posed to allow it to be diverted altovertently let fall the observation that gether into another channel. the Poet's writings seem to be compar- “We were saying that poets have atively little known. He is the least fewer readers now than formerly.” solitary and most companionable of “I did not say so,” observed Vemen ; but it happened that at that mo- ronica. ment he was not of our company.
“Yet, if you did," replied the Poet, “ If his works are comparatively little “ I almost think you would have been known as yet," said Veronica, “and right. Poetry is the delight, as it is every day they are acquiring a wider the expression, either of very simple or circle of readers " what a character- of very elevated natures. The present istic touch was that !- “it is because age has several marks of distinction; he owes nothing of what reputation he but it is not simple, and it is not lofty. has acquired to factitious circumstance. It is practical and pedestrian, caring Born neither in a lofty nor in a humble for astronomy only as an auxiliary to position of life, he does not interest the navigation, and for chemistry only as it world by the lustre of his descent or promotes light, heat, or locomotion. by the romance of his self-achieved It has no disinterested interest in anyelevation. There is nothing peculiar thing. It is exceedingly enquiring, but either in his antecedents or in his ca- it asks for demonstration, and poetry
He has written nothing sensa- demonstrates nothing. Neither has it tional, and done nothing sensational. any literary interest in literature ; and He does not excite wonder by being books, no matter of what calibre, and rich or compassion by being poor. He literature, are to it one and the same bas no patrons and no clients. In all thing. But why should it be otherthe external conditions of his life he is wise ? And has it often been other. a very ordinary person. His hair is no wise ? Fit audience, though few, was longer than that of his neighbors, he is good enough for Milton; and the poet scrupulously well-dressed, he lives with who wants more is surely very prehis mother, whom he adores, earns his sumptuous and very unreasonable. Inbread by inspecting elementary schools, deed, why should he have an audience and pays his debts with prosaic punctu- at all now that he no longer wanders ality.”
from manor-house to manor-house re" It does not sound poetical,” ob- citing his verses ? Surely, reading served Lamia.
verse to oneself soon palls." Precisely. Your view is the view
" Don't talk nonsense,”
,” said Veof the public at large. I know, dear ronica. Lamia, what you would like him to be 6 Don't talk sense, I was going to and do. You would like him to have say,” said Lamia. been born either in a palace or in a “Suppose you do neither," I vengarret, to dress in picturesque velveteen tured to observe, “but recite, instead, rather faded, to have an eye in a fine some of your own verses to this particfrenzy rolling, to look on evening dress ular audience, at this particular manoras the mark of a Philistine, to run away' house."